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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SERVING NOTICE: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devullapalli blasts a serve in action last spring. Senior standout Devullapalli is playing at second singles this spring for PDS as it looks to build on a 2013 campaign that saw it earn a three-way tie for the state Prep B title. The Panthers started the season with a 4-1 win over Pennington last Thursday and are slated to host Hun on April 9 before playing at the Blair Academy on April 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SERVING NOTICE: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Neeraj Devullapalli blasts a serve in action last spring. Senior standout Devullapalli is playing at second singles this spring for PDS as it looks to build on a 2013 campaign that saw it earn a three-way tie for the state Prep B title. The Panthers started the season with a 4-1 win over Pennington last Thursday and are slated to host Hun on April 9 before playing at the Blair Academy on April 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team hasn’t been on the court much so far this spring, Will Asch is cautiously optimistic.

“I think we are going to be pretty good,” said PDS head coach Asch, whose team started the season with a 4-1 win over Pennington last Thursday.

“We were supposed to have four matches last week and we had only one. We got some indoors time over the vacation. We got nothing out of the first two weeks because the courts were unplayable.”

Asch knows he has a special player at first singles in freshman Anupreeth Coramutla.

“Anupreeth is a very good athlete and he is very fast,” said Asch. “He is a highly-ranked Middle States player. He has got a lot of potential. He likes to compete and he seems mentally tough.”

The presence of senior star Neeraj Devullapalli at second singles helps make the Panthers tough to beat.

“It is a pretty nice luxury having Neeraj at second singles,” said Asch. “He is playing well. It is nice to have a senior in the lineup. He is a very nice person, the boys all like him.”

At third singles, the Panthers have a nice option in sophomore Scott Altmeyer.

“He was very good last year and I think he will be very good this year,” said Asch of Altmeyer. “He has grown a lot and is a lot stronger. I think he will have more success this year.”

A key to the team’s success will be the play of the first doubles pair of junior Josiah Meekins and senior D.J. Modzelewski.

“Josiah is one of the better doubles players we have had in the last few years,” said Asch. “I think of D.J. as more of a singles player; his game has improved and he has gotten better at the net. They like each other.”

Asch likes what he is seeing from his second doubles team of seniors Hari Rajagopalan and Andy Erickson.

“They are experienced, they played together with the JV for a few years,” noted Asch.

“They are both athletic and they play well as a team. We will see how well they compete against kids who have played in tournaments. I think they will win a lot of matches.”

With its depth, PDS hopes to be in the running to win some titles. “We certainly have a good shot at Prep B; we had a three-way tie last year and Pennington was in the 3-way tie,” said Asch, whose team hosts Hun on April 9 before playing at the Blair Academy on April 11.

“To win the Mercer County Tournament, we will need a lot of luck. It is very tough for a school like us. I think we will be one of the teams in the mix. We could be one of the better teams in the area but I don’t know a lot about the other teams yet.”

April 2, 2014
DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the rain pelted the area last Saturday afternoon, Anna Doherty found herself in a slippery situation for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The high-scoring freshman attacker repeatedly misfired as Princeton hosted Cornell at the Class of 52 Stadium, missing all five of her shots in regulation as the teams headed into overtime knotted at 7-7.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Doherty, a 5’5 native of nearby Bernardsville who starred for Kent Place in high school. “I had some good looks but I wasn’t putting it in the back of the net like usual.”

Early in overtime, Doherty got a good look near the goal. “I saw [Alex] Bruno get shooting space and then we both realized I was wide open with my left hand up in the crease,” recalled Doherty.

“She was looking at the cage but saying my name so I knew she was going to pass it. I just knew I had to finish that one so I closed my eyes and prayed that it went in.”

Doherty’s prayer was answered as the ball hit the back of the net to give Princeton an 8-7 lead, The Tigers tacked on two more goals in the extra session to earn a 10-7 victory, improving to 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

In Doherty’s view, the victory, which extended Princeton’s winning streak to five, was an important step forward for the squad.

“It was awesome; we lost a couple of overtime games in the beginning of the season so we just knew we really wanted this one,” said Doherty.

“We executed and got the draw and we did what we needed to do. I think the upperclassmen and the sophomores lost a lot of tough OT games last season so facing that adversity really helped them lead us.”

Having emerged as a leading scorer for the Tigers with a team-high 18 goals, Doherty is developing a comfort level with the college game.

“I think I have just built up my confidence a lot more,” said Doherty, who has Tiger bloodlines as her father, Kelly Doherty (Princeton ’81), was the captain of the 1981 Princeton men’s lacrosse team and mother, Susan (Princeton ’83) Doherty [nee O’Connor], was a member of the soccer, cross country, and track and field teams.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the season but the coaches really believed in me and gave me a shot. That really boosted my confidence and it has just been building with every game.”

Exploding for a career-high five goals in a 14-7 win over USC on March 19 was a major confidence builder for Doherty.

“That was a bit of a turning point,” said Doherty, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for her production. “I think I realized that I have a big impact on the team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer wasn’t surprised to see Doherty have a big impact in overtime.

“It just wasn’t a great day for her shooting-wise,” said Sailer. “When it counted, she had the opportunity and she buried it. That was huge. She is a tough kid. She is fast and quick. She normally shoots really well. She is definitely giving us a boost offensively.

Sailer acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t shoot well collectively as they fought through the downpour.

“It wasn’t pretty, it was definitely hard conditions today for both teams,” said Sailer, who got four goals from junior star Erin McMunn in the victory with freshman Olivia Hompe contributing a goal and five assists.

“It wasn’t close to our best game. Offensively, we struggled today. We didn’t shoot well. We didn’t make great decisions all day long but when it mattered we were able to tie the game up.”

Princeton did produce a good defensive effort, containing a high-powered Big Red attack that came into the afternoon averaging 11.9 goals a contest.

“I thought defensively, for the amount of the time they had the ball, we did a good job of holding them to seven goals,” said Sailer. “Jenn (assistant coach Jenn Cook) was calling in different slides for the defense and they were executing really well.”

Junior goalie Annie Woehling executed in the clutch for the Tigers. “Annie had an awesome warm-up but in the first half I don’t think she was seeing the ball really well,” said Sailer of Woehling, who made six saves on the day and was later named the Ivy co-Defensive Player of the Week. “In the second half, she came through with some really key saves for us.”

In the wake of the OT losses to Georgetown and Brown earlier in the season, Sailer saw the marathon win over Cornell as a key breakthrough for her squad.

“I think what we learned is that we couldn’t just wait before we attacked,” said Sailer, reflecting on the lessons the team learned from its previous extra session contests.

“Your normal strategy in overtime is to hold the ball for the last shot in the first period and that just hasn’t really worked well for our kids. We allowed them to attack earlier and see what they could create.”

With a logjam having developed in the Ivy title race as Penn is at 2-0 in league play and the quartet of Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton are all 2-1, Sailer knows her team has to keep attacking when it hosts Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.

“Today was a great example that every Ivy game is a battle this year,” said Sailer.

“Yale beat Dartmouth by seven and then Dartmouth beat Brown. Every team in the league can beat any other team in the league on any given day. That is what I have taken away from it so you have just got to come ready to play.”

Doherty, for her part, believes the Tigers are ready to keep rolling. “I think we had a bit of a rough start to our season, losing those two overtime games against Georgetown and Brown,” said Doherty.

“Now we are on 5-game streak. We know that we can be the team that we want to be and execute under pressure.”

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Brown last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team got lulled to sleep a little bit.

“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “We didn’t win face-offs and Brown did a good job with long possessions. It was one of those games that was slow and sleepy.”

Bates tried to shake things up in the second half. “It was 6-3 at half and because of how they were playing and the face-offs, we decided to change the tempo,” recalled Bates.

“We did a 10-man ride with the goalie coming out: it is an aggressive play. They got a goal from three-quarters of the field to make it 7-3. It backfired on us and gave them life.”

Despite falling behind 10-5 early in the fourth quarter, Princeton still showed life.

“We stayed poised even when we were down two late,” said Bates. “We needed to make a big stop when it was 10-8. They got their 11th goal from the 18 and that’s one we would like to have back.”

Narrowing the gap to 11-10, Princeton had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation but misfired and Brown held on for the one-goal win.

“We drew up a play with 40 seconds left and Mikey [MacDonald] got a point blank shot but it was from a tough angle,” said Bates.

The loss was a wake-up call for the Tigers, coming one week after they fell behind Yale early on the way to a 16-15 loss.

“At the end of the day we were disappointed but we hope the game can be a catalyst,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League with the setback.

“This is forcing us to change the way we practice. Just about all we have been doing is scrimmaging and focusing on fundamentals. This team always plays hard, we don’t have to worry about that.”

The defeat also led to some soul-searching upon the team’s return to Princeton on Saturday evening.

“It was not a quiet meeting when we got home; we made challenges to the the captains and the leadership,” said Bates, who got three goals from senior captain Tom Schreiber in the defeat with sophomore Jake Froccaro and junior MacDonald chipping in two apiece. “I have to look at myself first to be constructively critical.”

Fueled by the disappointment, the Tigers made a constructive response a day later.

“We came out on a miserable rainy night on Sunday and scrimmaged hard, it was a good practice,” said Bates.

As the Tigers prepare to host Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual battle for the Meistrell Cup, Bates will keep them working hard in training.

“We are having open tryouts at practice,” said Bates. “We are not paying attention to Rutgers yet, we are paying attention to Princeton. We are mixing and matching teams and we are grading them with pluses and minuses. The guys like that.”

In Bates’ view, his players still like their chances to do some big things this spring.

“Nobody is panicking,” said Bates. “We know we can play. We are down but we know we control our destiny. Everybody is becoming closer; we are focusing on the little things.”

CATCHING ON: Princeton High baseball player Colin Frawley pauses during an at-bat last spring. Senior catcher Frawley is primed to put together a big final campaign as PHS aims to improve on the 9-13 record it posted in 2013. The Little Tigers start regular season action by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then playing at Princeton Day School on April 2, at Hights­town on April 4, and at Allentown on April 5 before hosting Trenton Central on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CATCHING ON: Princeton High baseball player Colin Frawley pauses during an at-bat last spring. Senior catcher Frawley is primed to put together a big final campaign as PHS aims to improve on the 9-13 record it posted in 2013. The Little Tigers start regular season action by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then playing at Princeton Day School on April 2, at Hights­town on April 4, and at Allentown on April 5 before hosting Trenton Central on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High baseball team, winning eight of its last 11 games last year has given its returning players a lift coming into this spring.

“I think all the varsity guys who got playing experience last year are very confident,” said PHS head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 9-13 record in 2013.

Roberts is confident that senior Ben Gross will have a big year on the mound.

“Ben is no doubt our No. 1 pitcher,” said Roberts. “He threw 50 innings last year and we are looking to get the same or more this spring. We need to get him to finish games.”

Noting that the Little Tigers lost a lot of pitching from the 2013 squad to graduation, Roberts is looking for senior Jeff Gleason, sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt, senior Austin Taylor, and junior Ben Danis to fill that void.

“We have 80 innings to replace,” said Roberts. “Jeff Gleason was out last year but had a nice first scrimmage. Joaquin also had a nice first scrimmage. He is a sophomore but he is big and he has some velocity. Austin Taylor will be in the back end, he can go one or two innings. He knows his role. Ben Danis should get some innings. The focus is on location and not walking people.”

The Little Tigers will be focusing on fundamentals. “We are a pitching and defense team,” said Roberts, whose defensive alignment will include senior Colin Frawley at catcher, senior Austin Taylor at first base, senior Gleason at second, sophomore Hayden Reyes at shortstop, and sophomore Colin Taylor at third with junior John Reid in left field and Danis, sophomore Micah Daly-Harris, senior John Lebeau and senior Jack Buyski in the mix for the other outfield spots. “We need to bunt, hit and run, and steal bases.”

PHS is looking to Reyes to be an offensive catalyst, coming off a freshman campaign when he emerged as a .300 hitter. “Reyes is staying at the No. 2 spot again; he’ll get plenty of at-bats,” said Roberts, whose squad was slated to start the 2014 season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then playing at Princeton Day School on April 2, at Hightstown on April 4, and at Allentown on April 5 before hosting Trenton Central on April 7.

“That can be a big RBI spot when the lineup turns over. He will have to come up big. He will be seeing situations with runners on and two outs. Colin Taylor did well at leadoff in our scrimmage, he is an aggressive batter and can steal some bases. Gross will be in the 4-spot like he was last year. Reid, Frawley, Austin Taylor, and Danis are in the mix for the other spots.”

In Roberts’ view, PHS can build on last year’s success. “I think as a group we are looking for no drop-off in terms of the win total,” said Roberts.

“We would be disappointed if we had less than nine wins. We will emphasize pitching and defense, looking for no errors and no walks. We can control those aspects.”

BRINGING THE HEAT: Princeton High softball pitcher Sarah Eisenach fires a pitch in action last season. Junior ace ­Eisenach will be carrying the pitching load this spring for PHS as it looks to build on its 11-12 campaign in 2013, the program’s first-ever double-digit win season. The Little Tigers get regular season play underway this week as they were scheduled to host Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then play at Allentown on April 3 and host Trenton Central on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BRINGING THE HEAT: Princeton High softball pitcher Sarah Eisenach fires a pitch in action last season. Junior ace ­Eisenach will be carrying the pitching load this spring for PHS as it looks to build on its 11-12 campaign in 2013, the program’s first-ever double-digit win season. The Little Tigers get regular season play underway this week as they were scheduled to host Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then play at Allentown on April 3 and host Trenton Central on April 7.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost six seniors from a 2013 team that posted the program’s first-ever double-digit win season, the Princeton High softball team is going to have a different look this spring.

But PHS head coach Dave Boehm believes this year’s squad can pick up where things left off from the breakthrough 11-12 campaign last spring.

“We have six newcomers to the lineup so they have to gain confidence,” said Boehm.

“I told the girls at the beginning of the season that I think they can be in double-digits in wins.”

Boehm is expecting junior pitcher Sarah Eisenach to pile up a lot of wins this spring.

“Sarah will see most of the action in the circle,” said Boehm, whose team was slated to open the 2014 season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then playing at Allentown on April 3 and hosting Trenton Central on April 7.

“She has gotten a little faster and a little stronger. I think she has gotten a little tougher.”

PHS may also get some innings from a pair of freshmen, Kayla Volante and Nancy Gray.

“If needed, Kayla and Nancy are both capable of handling the job,” added Boehm.

“Volante has good movement on her pitches. She is a younger kid so she will have to get used to the varsity level.”

The talented Volante will be counted on to get the PHS offense moving. “Kayla will be leading off,” said Boehm.

“We will need senior captain Jess Campisi to have a better year than she did last year. We will be looking for Sarah to step up. Sarah, Kelli Swedish, and Nancy Gray will be in the middle of the lineup. Rounding out the lineup will be speedy Stephanie Wu, Katie Kanter, and Lucia Matteo. Hopefully we won’t have to play station-to-station offense. We may need to play some small ball to go from first to third.”

The Little Tigers will need to play good ball on defense. “The fielding has been very good in two of our three scrimmages,” said Boehm, who has sophomore Matteo at catcher, sophomore Emily DiLella at first, Campisi at second or shortstop with Gray also seeing time at short, sophomore Wu at third, sophomore Swedish in left field, Volante in center field and senior Kanter in right.

“I think we have gotten a little quicker in the infield. I am happy with how this young team has responded.”

Boehm, for his part, is confident that the Little Tigers will keep responding as the spring unfolds.

“I’m optimistic that we will be competitive throughout the season,” said Boehm. “We may struggle against some of the powerhouses but we’ll show up and battle tough.”

TRIGGER MAN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse attackman Jacob Shavel heads upfield in a game last season. Junior standout Shavel will be triggering the PDS offense this spring. The Panthers are scheduled to open regular season action with a game at Voorhees on April 1 before playing at Delaware Valley High on April 4 and hosting the Hun School on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TRIGGER MAN: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse attackman Jacob Shavel heads upfield in a game last season. Junior standout Shavel will be triggering the PDS offense this spring. The Panthers are scheduled to open regular season action with a game at Voorhees on April 1 before playing at Delaware Valley High on April 4 and hosting the Hun School on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team didn’t get the  chance to get outside much before its spring trip to South Carolina, the players looked sharp once they arrived in Hilton Head.

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman, for one, was not surprised by the high level of play he saw down south.

“We are really happy,” said Tuckman, who coached the Panthers to an 11-6 record in 2013 and appearances in the state Prep B championship game and the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“It is a credit to the senior classes, most recently last year’s; what we are seeing is a seriousness and a commitment to the sport. The kids are not waiting until March to pick up a stick. The kids are getting prepared and they are getting physically stronger.”

The Panthers have a strong attack group, led by junior Jacob Shavel, junior Chris Azzarello, and sophomore Joey Levine.

“They are working well as a unit; one of the key components is that we are getting production from everyone,” said Tuckman, whose team was scheduled to open regular season action with a game at Voorhees on April 1 before playing at Delaware Valley High on April 4 and hosting the Hun School on April 7.

“Jacob is looking great. One of his areas of progress is recognizing that he has five players behind him. He is captaining the ship with that perspective. Chris is establishing himself as a leader on attack. Joey is filling in that third spot.”

In the midfield, sophomores Jonah Tuckman (the coach’s son) and Connor Fletcher are bringing a mature perspective.

“Jonah is our face-off middie, we are looking for him to do well,” said Tuckman, whose midfield unit will also include seniors Connor Bitterman and tri-captain Lewie Blackburn together with freshman Will Brossman and sophomore Chris Chai.

“Connor is a big, strong body out there. Their real strength is that they play beyond their years. Jonah is a coach’s son and Connor is going to be playing D-I lacrosse.”

In Tuckman’s view, the Panther defense may be its biggest asset, featuring senior tri-captain Ben Levine together with juniors Kevin Towle and Christian Vik. “Our defense is probably the strongest part of our team,” asserted Tuckman.

“Towle was a longstick midfielder last year and he has gained 15 pounds of muscle. Both Levine and Vik are leaders out there, between the two of them, they have established something special.”

The Panthers have two good options at goalie in senior tri-captain Culver Duquette and junior Chris Markey.

“Both are committed to the position, they have worked with Rich in the midseason,” said Tuckman, referring to assistant coach Rich D’Andrea, a former star goalie at Georgetown.

“They are both looking excellent. I am not sure what we are going to do there, they could split time. It is a good problem to have, we are just trying to figure it out.”

If PDS can figure things out, it has the potential to enjoy a banner spring. “If we stay healthy, we can make runs,” asserted Tuckman.

“We want to hang banners. We are going for the state Prep B title and the county championship. I am looking forward to seeing us in games in New Jersey. We have a tough schedule by design. We are playing a brand of lacrosse we haven’t played in a while. We have strength in all areas of the field and we have confidence in all areas of the field.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Lucy Linville tracks a ball in 2013 action. Senior attacker and Lafayette-bound Linville figures to be a key offensive weapon this spring for the Panthers. PDS gets the 2014 regular season underway this week as it was slated to host Stuart Country Day on April 1 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 and hosting Princeton High on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Lucy Linville tracks a ball in 2013 action. Senior attacker and Lafayette-bound Linville figures to be a key offensive weapon this spring for the Panthers. PDS gets the 2014 regular season underway this week as it was slated to host Stuart Country Day on April 1 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 and hosting Princeton High on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The ingredients are in place for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team to produce some fireworks this spring.

“We have speed, we have athletes, and we have good players in the skill positions,” said longtime PDS head coach Jill Thomas, who guided the Panthers to an 8-9 record last spring.

“We will do what we can to get out and run. We will run with a purpose, we will gun with a purpose.”

The Panthers’ top guns on attack figure to be junior Morgan Foster, Lafayette-bound senior Lucy Linville, and sophomore Hope Anhut.

“Foster is a real leader; she has great athleticism and stick skills,” said Thomas, who will also be using the Soltesz twins, juniors Alexa and Stef, on attack.

“She is the quarterback of our offense. Lucy has been working all year on her game. She is fit and we are expecting good things from her. Hope made a lot of progress last year and she is doing well this spring.”

In the midfield, PDS is expecting good things from such veterans as junior Kirsten Kuzmicz and seniors Allison Mascioli and Mary Travers.

“Kirsten can go up and down the field,” said Thomas, noting the seniors Sarah Brennan and Mimi Matthews are in the mix at midfield.

“Allison is back; she played as a freshman and then had double ACLs. Mary is working to get her stick skills after playing two other sports. She’s an athlete and will be a presence.”

The Panther defensive unit features plenty of athleticism in junior Erin Hogan and sophomores Tess Gecha and Rowan Schomburg along with Mascioli, Travers, and Matthews.

“Erin Hogan is an athlete and should help us on defense,” said Thomas, whose squad gets the 2014 regular season underway this week as it was slated to host Stuart Country Day on April 1 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 and hosting Princeton High on April 7.

“Allison, Mary, and Mimi can play there. The experience that Tess and Rowan got last year is serving as a good foundation for them.”

Thomas is confident that junior Sara Dwyer will provide a good last line of defense as she steps into the starting goalie spot.

“Sara is in goal for us, she is an athlete and she is doing well,” said Thomas.

“She has played JV for two years and she knows what she is doing.”

PDS has three freshmen, Abby Atkeson, Hannah Bunce, and Morgan Mills, on the squad and they know what they are doing.

“The three freshmen are good,” said Thomas. “I wouldn’t bring them up to varsity if I didn’t think they could help us.”

While the Panthers have talent, they need to develop the right mindset.

“I think we have a lot of potential and potential is a terrible thing to waste,” said Thomas. “A lot of it is up to them in terms of developing a team chemistry, having a goal, and believing.”

In Thomas’ view, the players took some major strides in that direction during their preseason trip to Florida.

“It has been a really great trip,” asserted Thomas. “We have been getting really good senior leadership, we have 11 new players on the varsity with people moving up and freshmen coming in. It is great to be outside and doing full field practices. I think they are coming together. Seeing your teammates 24/7 is different than seeing them in the hall at school. You are living together.”

If PDS can come together on the field, it could produce a great spring.

“We will look to move in transition and play tough defense all over the field,” said Thomas.

“We have high expectations. We are expecting these athletes to step up. We want to get back to where we have been. I am looking forward to the season.”

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu delivers a pitch in a game last spring. Junior pitcher/shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu should help PDS on the mound and at the plate. The Panthers, who opened the 2014 season with a 5-4 win over Centennial High (Ill.) last Friday in a game played in Florida, will look to keep on the winning track as they host Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THE RIGHT STUFF: Princeton Day School baseball player Jake Alu delivers a pitch in a game last spring. Junior pitcher/shortstop and Boston College-bound Alu should help PDS on the mound and at the plate. The Panthers, who opened the 2014 season with a 5-4 win over Centennial High (Ill.) last Friday in a game played in Florida, will look to keep on the winning track as they host Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A central theme this spring for the Princeton Day School baseball team will be all hands on deck.

With a roster of just 14 players, the Panthers will get ample chances to do some multi-tasking.

“Everybody has to be versatile and play different positions,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien, who guided PDS to a 10-12 record last spring. “Everybody has to pitch. In numbers, we are a small team. We have a lot of young guys who are going to play.”

The team got to play a lot last week on its annual Florida trip. “The temperatures were great; we did have rain on and off,” said O’Brien. “We got in everything we scheduled. We played three scrimmages. We played an official game last Friday night against Centennial High from Champaign, Ill., we won 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh.”

O’Brien is counting on four veterans, junior tri-captains, Jake Alu, James Radvany, and Cole McManimon along with senior captain Ford Schneider, to set the tone.

“At the top of the team are the three juniors, Jake, J.P., and Cole,” said O’Brien, noting that Alu has already committed to play baseball at Boston College while Radvany is heading to the Villanova University baseball program.

“Ford is the senior captain; he brings that leadership and the intangibles. He has played baseball four years and he’s done a little bit of everything for us. He is helping with the younger guys; he plays the game the right way. We have him in center field this year and he will be doing some pitching.”

McManimon is the Panthers’ top pitcher. “Cole got six wins last year and he has grown some more; he is 6’6, 220-pounds,” said O’Brien of McManimon, who is currently sidelined with an injury. “He pitched very well in Florida. We are looking at him as our No. 1.”

O’Brien has several other arms at his disposal. “J.P. stepped up last year on the mound, he will be our No. 2 starter,” added O’Brien, whose team will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton High on April 2 and the Hill School (Pa.) on April 4 before playing at Northern Burlington on April 7.

“Jake will be the closer. Ford will pitch. Freshmen Chase Fleming and Ryan Sparks are both left-handers and they will pitch. Sparks came in and pitched four solid innings in our opener; he was looking good in Florida. He will have a spot in the rotation. Junior Sean Flahive may see some innings.”

O’Brien believes that PDS should be good defensively with a lineup featuring freshman Paul Franzoni at catcher, Radvany at first base, sophomore Sam Guarino at second, Alu at shortstop, sophomore Dom Gasparro at third, Schneider in center field, and Sparks in right, with freshmen Zach Dudeck, sophomore Ryan Augustus, sophomore Kevin Hagan, and junior Davin Bialow in the outfield mix.

Alu figures to get the offense going at the top of the batting order along with Gasparro.

“Jake will be leading off, he led us in a lot of offensive categories last year,” said O’Brien. “Dom hit in the 9 hole last year and did well and we left him there. We have moved him up to No. 2.”

O’Brien is counting on Radvany to provide some punch. “J.P. is in the middle of the order, he hit OK last year after a great freshman year,” said O’Brien. “He is coming off a solid Florida trip. Ryan and Ford will be in the middle half.”

While the Panthers may lack quantity in terms of its roster, O’Brien believes that his squad possesses the quality to compete well this spring.

“If we are healthy and fresh, we are capable of beating anybody,” said O’Brien.

“When we are playing three or four games a week, our depth is going to be an issue. The season is going to be determined by how the younger guys mesh with the older guys.”