April 24, 2013

#4 turns a double play. Please run photo full frame.As the Princeton University baseball players gathered for their post-game huddle after falling 10-2 to visiting Columbia to split a doubleheader last Sunday, their heads dropped in unison.

The Tigers brought high hopes into the weekend, trailing the Lions by just a game in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division standings with a pair of home doubleheaders.

On Saturday, Princeton lost 4-0 and 7-1 to fall three games behind. Needing a sweep on Sunday to get back to where it started the weekend, the Tigers got off to a good start, winning the opener 2-0 behind a five-hit shutout from junior Mike Ford, a former Hun School star.

In the nightcap, the teams were knotted at 2-2 in the sixth but then things started to fall apart for the Tigers. In the top of the frame, Columbia got a two-run single to go up 4-2. Princeton appeared to have tied the game as John Mishu knocked the ball over the right field fence for a two-run homer but the ball was called foul. The roof fell in on the Tigers as the Lions tacked on six unanswered runs to pull away to a 10-2 win.

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley reflected the mood of his players as he assessed the weekend.

“It was disappointing, they outplayed us,” said Bradley, whose team ended the weekend at 12-25 overall and 9-7 Ivy while Columbia improved to 20-17 overall and 12-4 Ivy with just four league games remaining.

“It is not how often you get hits and how many hits, it is when you get them. I thought our pitching was pretty good; it kept us in. But when you score five runs in four game series, you are not winning. They got some big hits and we were not able to.”

Bradley tipped his hat to the Lions, who just need to win two of four games against Penn next weekend to eliminate Princeton no matter what the Tigers do in their season-ending four-game set with Cornell.

“They pitched the daylights out of it,” said Bradley. “They are good, Columbia plays the game really well. Coach [Brett] Boretti does a really good job with them. They have really developed a knack for getting big hits in big situations. It came down to them making a big two-out hit in a tied ball game to make it 4-2 in the sixth inning.”

Princeton thought it had a big hit when Mishu blasted the ball over the fence but it never recovered from the controversial call. 

“I thought the ball was fair from where we were,” said Bradley. “It is a tough call, it is probably the toughest call umpires have to make. I sit almost on the line and I thought it was a fair ball and so did the other guys. It changed the tone a bit. Again, you have to turn it around. At that point, we were in the game but we let the game get away from us.”

While barely alive in the title chase, Princeton is looking to keep the heat on the Lions as the Tigers play a home-and-home four-game series with Cornell this weekend.

“It is nice playing games that mean something,” said Bradley, whose team hosts Cornell (21-14 overall, 9-7 Ivy) for a doubleheader on April 26 before heading up to Ithaca, N.Y. for a twinbill against the Big Red on their home field two days later.

“We get to play on Friday; we need to come out and throw up a couple of wins and at least get them to the point where they are going to think about us. We want to put pressure on them so that they are going to have to come out and earn it.”

As the Princeton University men’s lightweight first varsity crew learned the hard way in a loss to Cornell earlier this month, there are no shortcuts in the process of reaching top speed.

“I think we got ahead of ourselves in the race with Cornell which is something I haven’t seen before,” said Princeton head coach Marty Crotty.

“We were trying to race with late season cadence and late season fitness. I don’t think we were ready for that yet. The message was to get back to basics; we need to build a better foundation and a sustained base.”

The top boat came back with a better performance last Saturday as it won the Wood-Hammond Cup by beating Penn and Georgetown. Princeton covered the 2,000-meter course on the Schuylkill River in 5:32.4 with Penn next in 5:38.4 and Georgetown taking third in 5:44.2.

“We had a great week of practice,” said Crotty, reflecting on the victory. “Every race you win in the league is something to savor. Any win should be savored in this league. With the youth of our crew a win like that is a step forward. I think the best thing is that it came after a really good week of practice. We have to keep building because the competition gets stiffer and stiffer.”

In Crotty’s view, his program is building something special. “The whole team as a group, all 39 oarsmen and four coxswains have improved during the year and from year to year,” asserted Crotty.

“We were coming into the spring in a good spot. It gave a lot of guys an opportunity. We had 14 or 15 guys with a chance for the first boat and 20 for the second. We also had the permissibility of the freshmen to row in the top two boats. That gave me a lot of options and permutations.”

Senior captain Tyler Nase has given the program a lot in and out of the water.

“It has been a tradition with the lightweight program to have one senior captain and he is it,” said Crotty. 

“He is a great captain. He leads in training and he is excitable on the water. He brings enthusiasm and energy to every single practice. He is down at the boathouse all the time and the guys gravitate to him. He has the ability to communicate with me and lets me know what some of the guys are feeling. I put a lot of trust in him, he helps dictate some of the training.”

With the fourth-ranked Tigers hosting No. 1 Harvard and No. 2 Yale this Saturday on Lake Carnegie for the Goldthwait and Vogel Cups, Crotty is feeling good about his top boat’s mindset as it faces the key test.

“Harvard and Yale are the two best crews in the league,” said Crotty. “We have to be at our best and then some to beat them. The guys are up for the challenge, they can’t wait. We will take a crack at them this week and whatever happens, we will see them in three weeks. It is going to give us a chance to see where we stand against the best and see what we have to do in the next three weeks.”

sports6In the early stages of its game at Steinert last Wednesday, the Princeton High baseball team had its chances to seize momentum.

PHS started the game with a single by Ellis Bloom but didn’t push him across. In the bottom of the first, PHS pitcher Andrew Frain retired the Spartans 1-2-3.

After Steinert scored three runs in the bottom of the second, the Little Tigers got two runners in the top of the third as Colin Frawley and Bloom delivered singles.

PHS didn’t convert and things went downhill from there as the Little Tigers lost 12-0.

Afterward PHS head coach Dave Roberts acknowledged that an ill-timed miscue helped turn the tide of the contest.

“We held our own,” said Roberts. “We started the second inning with an error. It kills you; you can’t do that against those guys. You can’t give them outs.”

While the Steinert game turned out to be one-sided, PHS has given most of its foes tight battles.

“They haven’t to be able to clear the hurdle,” said Roberts of his team who fell to 1-9 with a 9-0 loss to WW/P-S last Monday. 

“All I can do is put who I think the best nine to 10 guys out there and they have to be able to perform. I can call steals, hit-and-runs; they have to be able to execute.”

The Little Tigers have been getting some good execution from its mound corps.

“The pitching has been fantastic, I can’t say enough about the pitching,” said Roberts.

“From Rohit Chawla to Ben Gross to Ellis coming in every now and then, it has been fantastic.”

A lack of clutch hitting has been an ongoing issue for the Little Tigers. “Our weakest thing is hitting with runners in scoring position and leaving people on base,” said Roberts. “The hits are not getting strung together.”

Senior star third baseman Bloom has been a standout for the Little Tigers. “Ellis has been on a hot streak here the last couple of days,” said Roberts, noting that Ben Gross and Zach Tesone have also given PHS some hitting punch.

“We started 1-6 and he had seven stolen bases. He is on track to probably get to 20, which is a heck of a job. The problem is that he doesn’t have enough runs to back that up, which is the job of everybody else behind him.”

Roberts believes that the Little Tigers have what it takes to get on a good run.

“I hope they are keeping their heads up,” said Roberts, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26 and at Nottingham on April 29. “There are still a million winnable games on the schedule.”  

 

#13 slides safely into 2ndHannah Gutierrez is willing to do whatever she can to help the Princeton High softball team succeed.

The senior star has moved up to the leadoff position in the batting order and has switched to shortstop from third base on defense.

For Gutierrez, assuming different roles has been challenging but rewarding. “It is tricky going up first and having to hit off the pitcher without seeing other players do it,” said Gutierrez.

“I like it. You get up more, which is really good. I have been playing third since my sophomore year and I just recently switched to short. It is a lot more thinking and having to know what to do on different plays. I definitely like it; it is more work. I like getting the ball more.”

Last Thursday against visiting Princeton Day School, Gutierrez got the ball rolling as she hit a leadoff double for the Little Tigers.

“It felt really good,” said Gutierrez. “I wasn’t sure about the pitching. I am glad I hit that.”

Gutierrez’s hit helped ignite an offensive outburst as the Little Tigers proceeded to beat PDS 16-1.

Having suffered defeats to Robbinsville and Steinert coming into the game, Gutierrez and her teammates enjoyed the lopsided win over the Panthers.

“We still came out playing our hardest,” said Gutierrez, who went 1-for-3 with two runs and a walk in the win. “We wanted to get them out early; I think we did a good job of that. This game was definitely needed.”

Gutierrez believes PHS has a good shot at winning 10 games in a season for the first time in program history.

“We have had a good start; we still have a lot more games to play in the season,” said Gutierrez.

“I definitely think we have a lot of time to win more games and just get better as a team. We have played some of the best teams in the CVC so far.”

PHS head coach Dave Boehm likes the way Gutierrez has played as she has taken on new responsibilities for the Little Tigers.

“Hannah has better range than anyone we have and she has a stronger arm,” said Boehm.

“Putting her at leadoff was one of those things, she has good speed, she is probably one of our best bunters so when she lays one down early she gets on and we have Marisa [Gonzalez] and Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], who has been hitting the ball pretty solid too, to bring her in.” 

Senior star and Wisconsin-bound Gonzalez, the program’s all-time hit leader, has been a constant for the team.

“It is one of those things where you sit there and say that is my dependable one,” said Boehm who got two RBIs from Gonzalez in the win over PDS with Helen Eisenach and Stephanie Wu chipping in four RBIs apiece.

Sophomore Sarah Eisenach is emerging as a dependable pitcher for the Little Tigers.

“Sarah has been consistent, she is not walking as many batters,” said Boehm of Eisenach, who struck out eight and gave up four hits in the victory over the Panthers.

“She is around the plate. She changes speeds pretty well; she has improved this year.”

The addition of freshmen Wu and Kelli Swedish has helped improve the Little Tigers.

“We gave the freshman kid Stephanie Wu a chance at third base,” said Boehm.

“She had a nice hit today; she played a great defensive game against Steinert. Kelli Swedish plays a steady left field. She is not going to give you anything flashy. She looks awkward but she catches everything out there. You don’t want to change anything with the kid because it is working. I am pretty happy with her and she is a freshman.”

With PHS moving to 4-6 with a 3-2 loss WW/P-S last Monday, Boehm believes the team has a good shot at breaking into double digits in wins for the first time ever.

“We have been capable of jumping out to a lead,” said Boehm, whose team hosts WW/P-N on April 24 before playing at Hightstown on April 26, taking part in a one-day tournament in Teaneck on April 27, and then playing at Nottingham on April 29.

“In Florida, we would score a run or two in the first inning and we would get a lead. We have to hold leads now. We have been playing better defense now. I think we can we do it. We have five games next week.”

Gutierrez, for her part, is looking to end her PHS career with a bang. “This is my last year and I want to win as many games as possible,” she said.

“I think it will be good. It is a big goal (winning 10 games), we have never done that before. I would love to help to make that happen.”

sports7It didn’t seem like much but a bad-hop single by Morrisville High (Pa.) in the first inning turned out to be the only thing that kept Princeton Day School pitcher Cole McManimon from making some history last Monday.

The sophomore hurler didn’t allow another runner to reach base the rest of the day, striking out nine, as PDS rolled to a 15-0 win in five innings.

Afterward, McManimon acknowledged that he was disappointed to just miss a no-hitter.

“In the first inning I wasn’t really thinking about that but as the game went on it was pretty upsetting,” said McManimon.

There was nothing else for the hard-throwing right-hander to be upset about as he assessed his mound gem.

“I felt sharp, a couple of my pitches were up but I had pretty good location on the ball,” said McManimon, who also knocked in three runs at the plate to help his cause. “My fastball had some zip; I was throwing pretty hard. My curveball was pretty good.”

The victory improved McManimon to 4-0 on the season and gave further evidence that he is a rising star.

In McManimon’s view, his progress has come down to being more of a power pitcher. 

“I think striking out kids has been my biggest improvement this season,” said McManimon, who has grown three inches and gained 25 pounds since last season and is now 6’5, 190 pounds.

“Last year, I didn’t really have as high a strikeout total. I was only a freshman and I wasn’t throwing that hard. My walk total is down.”

McManimon is relishing his new role as the ace of the Panther staff. “I like the feeling a lot,” said McManimon, who has already posted wins over Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) powers Hill and Peddie this spring. “It is nice knowing that your team has a lot of faith in you.”

PDS head coach Ray O’Brien has plenty of faith in the precocious McManimon.

“Cole has been great all year; he is really coming around,” said O’Brien.

“That kid is really going to be special. He is still so young. He is bigger and stronger, he is a little more mature. He really has an idea out there. He has always had a presence. He has that mentality where nothing bothers him. He is quiet on the outside but he is a competitor. That kid has got unlimited potential, the sky is the limit.”

O’Brien liked the way the Panthers competed against Morrisville as they improved to 6-3.

“When we had the opportunities to make plays we did,” said O’Brien. “It was all in all a good team effort, we played pretty well.”

Pitching is a group effort for PDS when McManimon isn’t on the mound. “The pitching has been coming around,” said O’Brien. 

“After Cole, pretty much the rest of the guys are position players first, pitchers second. Everyone is getting in some bullpen work and we are breaking guys in. We are going to have to space it out and get our way through the season. Hopefully when the tournaments come, our arms will be ready to pitch our way through two tournaments but it is coming around.  J.P. Radvany has been throwing the ball pretty well. We also have Ford Schneider and Ben Weiner. Jake Alu is basically our No. 2 pitcher. He can close games for us if we need him to, I just hate to take him away from shortstop.”

The Panther hitting attack has the punch to close out foes. “Offensively from top to bottom, they have all hit in spurts,” said O’Brien, who got two doubles from senior star B.J. Dudeck in the win over Morrisville with sophomore standout J.P. Radvany contributing four RBIs. 

“Most of the guys have been consistent. Jake Alu, B.J. Dudeck, and J.P. Radvany, the Coltons, Ross and Rob, have been hitting. We put Dom Gasparro in the nine hole and we have just left him alone. He is having a great year; he has been playing really well for a freshman.”

While O’Brien acknowledges his team doesn’t have a lot of depth, he is confident that it beat anyone on its schedule.  

“We know the way that we are set up for pitching it is tough for us to go out there and play four or five games in a week” said O’Brien, whose team plays at Pennington on April 24, at Delran High on April 25, at the George School (Pa.) on April 27, hosts Hopewell Valley on April 29, and then plays at Hamilton on April 30. 

“But when we are settled and we have the right lineup and everybody is fresh, we feel we are as good as anybody. We have quality and the kids are into it. It is a good group of guys. I like the way we are progressing. We are using the season to hopefully be ready for tournament time.”

McManimon, for his part, believes PDS can be dangerous come tournament time.

“We have a good hitting group and our pitching is there,” he said. “If we keep those two things together, we should be OK.”

sports8The Panthers fought back from a 3-1 halftime deficit to make it 3-3 with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

In the waning moments of regulation, PDS found itself trailing 6-4 but didn’t fold. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo scored with 23.9 seconds left and then the Panthers achieved one last possession. They were unable to find the back of the net as they lost 6-5 in the April 16 contest.

While PDS head coach Rob Tuckman was disappointed to see his team fall just short against Hun, he saw no reason for his players to hang their heads.

“I think we take a couple of things from this,” said Tuckman. “Number one, we were two goals down and we came back. Our kids can play with any team on any level. I think they saw that today and we will go with that and move forward.”

Tuckman sensed that his team was in for a nailbiter when it played at its crosstown rival Hun.

“I knew this was going to be a tough one for us,” said Tuckman. “They have an outstanding program; they have some real good lacrosse players and real good athletes. They have got MV (new head coach MV Whitlow) and MV does a nice job.”

Although the Panthers only scored five goals against the Raiders, Tuckman thought his team did a good job offensively considering that it had trouble getting possession with Hun’s Zach Bicho dominating in the face-off circle.

“I would argue that our percentage in the offensive end was very, very good,” said Tuckman, who got three goals from Triolo with Taran Auslander and Jacob Shavel adding one apiece.

“We scored five goals and I would argue that we weren’t on the offensive end that much today.”

Tuckman was also pleased with his team’s work at the other end of the field. “I think they played great; we went at them with a game plan,” said Tuckman.

“Our guys held to the game plan. Our kids played some sound D. They have some real threatening kids; the Reynolds kid [Corey Reynolds], the Blacks [Brendan and Owen] and [Zach] Bicho can score. I thought our kids did really well with that.”

Junior goalie Nelson Garrymore helped snuff out some Hun scoring threats.

“Nelson has been solid,” added Tuckman. “He is getting strong as a distributor. I thought we did really well on our clears. When we stopped them, we were able to transition into the offensive end. We rushed the ball a couple of times but otherwise I thought we did a great job.”

In Tuckman’s view, going against tough competition will help PDS be strong when it matters most.

“For me, it is all about postseason play,” said Tuckman, whose team moved to 4-3 with a 16-8 loss to Somerville last Friday and plays at Chestnut Hill (Pa.) on April 25 before starting play in the state Prep B tournament.

“I think this is all in preparation for that. We have got a really tough schedule, by design, to get these kids ready. I think if you look at the county and the state Prep B tournaments, we have a good shot. I think by the time we get there, we will have plenty of reps.”

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE VALUE: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Zach Bicho controls a face-off in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder Bicho’s dominance on face-offs has helped Hun produce a 6-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Zach Bicho and his teammates on the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team had plenty of motivation as they hosted Princeton Day School last week.

“We lost to them last year in overtime and we have been looking forward to this game since the beginning of the season,” said Hun senior midfielder Bicho. “We knew it was a big one, we knew they were a good opponent.”

The annual meeting between the cross-town rivals turned into a very good game, as the teams were never separated by more than two goals throughout the April 16 contest.

With the game knotted at 4-4 late in the fourth quarter, Bicho fired in the go-ahead goal for the Raiders who held on for a 6-5 victory.

“That was our man-up play and I wanted the ball and defense was slow to ride and I got my hands free and, as coach [MV Whitlow] would say, I stuck to the fundamentals and just stuck it,” said Bicho, reflecting on his clutch tally. “That was the important one, the important one went in.”

Bicho played a vitally important role for Hun throughout the game as he dominated in the face-off circle, winning virtually every draw on the afternoon.

For Bicho, who started facing-off in middle school, becoming so accomplished in that aspect of the game has come down to hard work and savvy.

“It is just a lot of repetition, knowing the different guys that go out there, quick hands, just getting that ground ball,” said Bicho, who is headed to McDaniel College where he will continue his lacrosse career.

In Bicho’s view, Hun’s defensive effort made the difference in the win over PDS.

“Our offense was a little slow today; we weren’t getting what we really wanted,” said Bicho, who also picked up an assist in the contest.

“But they won us that game. Our captain Greg Flood got the game ball today because of his leadership.”

The Raiders have also benefited from the leadership of new head coach Whitlow.

“Coach Whitlow has changed the team around tremendously,” said Bicho. “He wants things perfect, he sticks to the fundamentals and he knows how to win.”

Whitlow, for his part, credited Bicho with playing a major role in the victory over the Panthers.

“What Zach gives us is consistency on the face-off; it is about strength and desire,” said Whitlow. “When the game was on the line, he wanted the shot and he made it.”

In Whitlow’s view, a strong defensive effort proved critical for the Raiders.

“No. 29 [PDS senior star and Lehigh-bound Cody Triolo] is a really good player and we tried some different things on him to try to slow him down,” said Whitlow. “We performed well on defense; this was a defensive win.”

Hun got some good offensive performances as well with Corey Reynolds and Brendan Black each scoring two goals and Zach Winterstein adding a goal and an assist.

“Brendan Black had a big game, he may only be a sophomore but he is a leader out there for us,” added Whitlow. “Zach Winterstein is playing well; he has been working very hard on his offense.”

Winning six straight games after an opening day loss, the Raiders have shown the benefit of hard work.

“We have been executing well,” said Whitlow, whose team lost 10-4 to Rutgers Prep on Monday to drop to 6-2 and will look to get back on the winning track as it hosts Peddie on April 25, Notre Dame on April 27, and Somerville on April 30.

“We were already confident but this was a very good win. We are very excited to come away with this game.”

Bicho, for his part, is excited about Hun’s prospects this spring. “This is the best team I have been on in my four years here,” asserted Bicho. “We have great guys; we have really been coming together and executing.”

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Briana Barratt tracks the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Barratt tallied two goals and four assists to help Hun edge Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20. The Raiders, now 3-4, play at the Hill School (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though her Hun School girls’ lacrosse team started the season with four losses in its first five games, Haley Sanborn wasn’t discouraged.

“You can always tell a team’s character when they are losing,” said Hun head coach Sanborn.

“We were in a losing streak and the girls were having team meetings, talking about what they needed to do to come out of it.”

Last Thursday, Hun came out of its early slump in a big way, cruising to a 21-7 win at Peddie.

“I think it was a great win; the girls were pumped up coming into the game,” said Sanborn.

“Everyone played their best game of the year. Every single player got in and they all played well. I am hoping it will propel us into the rest of the season.”

Senior star and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks helped propel the Raiders in their win over the Falcons, tallying 12 goals and two assists.

“It is the type of player she is; she wants it and she goes for it,” said Sanborn of Weeks, who recently scored the 200th goal of her career. “She has such a drive for the game.”

Last Saturday, Weeks produced another 12-goal effort to give her 58 for the season as Hun edged Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 21-20.

“It takes four hours to get there and we have a one and half hour wait; it took us a little while to get going,” said Sanborn, who got three goals and five assists from Maddie Schade with Brianna Barratt adding two goals and four assists and Erica Dwyer tallying two goals and an assist as the Raiders improved to 3-4.

“It was a back-and-forth game. It was not one of our best games in terms of passing, shooting, and getting ground balls. To compensate, they worked twice as hard. We got up three, they were up three, and no team had a bigger lead than that. It came down to possession. We had to stop with sloppy play; we were smart with the passing and the draw controls at the end.”

The Raiders have been showing some smart play on the defensive end. “Our defense has been jelling well; Lauren Apuzzi is controlling things there for us,” said Sanborn.

“We dropped Francesca Bello to defensive wing and she has been fantastic. Taylor Nehlig and Lucy Morgan are starting to step up; they are starting to understand the pace of the game. Emma Consoli has also been playing well there. They are coming together well, they are playing as a unit.”

Sanborn is confident her team can keep coming together as it heads into the homestretch.

“It was a good sign, we are on a good streak but we have a tough week ahead with Hill and PHS,” said Sanborn, whose team plays at Hill (Pa.) on April 24 and at Princeton High on April 27.

“Winning two in a row shows them that even when they are playing sloppy, hustle and heart can help you win. I am proud of them; every single player has stepped up, especially the younger players. It is about discipline, being clean on passing and shooting. The season is so short; I hope we hit our stride at the end. I have a lot of faith in them.”

April 17, 2013
MAKING A FUSS: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Caroline Rehfuss leads the defense in a game earlier this season. Senior co-captain Rehfuss has provided consistent play and a vocal presence as the Tigers have gone 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play. No. 13 Princeton, which topped Harvard 11-9 last Saturday and has clinched a berth in the upcoming Ivy tourney, plays at Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) on April 17 and at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on April 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A FUSS: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Caroline Rehfuss leads the defense in a game earlier this season. Senior co-captain Rehfuss has provided consistent play and a vocal presence as the Tigers have gone 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play. No. 13 Princeton, which topped Harvard 11-9 last Saturday and has clinched a berth in the upcoming Ivy tourney, plays at Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) on April 17 and at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Caroline Rehfuss showed a good finishing touch in her freshman season in 2010 with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, scoring 13 goals as a midfielder.

But when Rehfuss was switched to defense as a sophomore, it didn’t require much of a transition.

“I was always more of a defensive midfielder,” said Rehfuss. “I actually like defense a lot better than attack.”

Rehfuss made an immediate impact on defense in 2011, getting 23 ground balls with 19 draw controls and 18 caused turnovers.

Last year, Rehfuss served as a team co-captain and earned honorable mention All-Ivy League recognition.

This spring, Rehfuss is the unquestioned quarterback of the Tiger defensive unit.

“I try and be a vocal leader when we are down there on the eight, telling people who is hot, who is going to be sliding next, and just reminding people on the one-on-ones that their hips have to be square,” said the 5’7 Rehfuss, a native of Latham, N.Y. who is a team co-captain for a second straight year. “I do feel like I do a lot of the talking.”

On Saturday against visiting Harvard, Princeton needed Rehfuss’ leadership as the Crimson utilized a deliberate offensive style to put the Tigers on their heels.

“We haven’t faced an offense like that which stalls through the whole game,” said Rehfuss, reflecting on the contest which was knotted 4-4 at the half.

“Usually we are used to it in the last 10 minutes. Typically we do a really good job with it. We threw in a couple of plays to try to send the early doubles but it was definitely very tiring.”

Princeton fought through the fatigue to pull out an 11-9 victory, improving to 8-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play.

While the win wasn’t pretty, it beat the alternative. “It was a little bit of a struggle but at the end of the day a win is good so we are real happy about that,” said Rehfuss, noting that the win sealed a spot for the Tigers in the upcoming Ivy tournament which includes the league’s top four teams.

“I have to give it to our attack who I felt like tired out the Harvard defense so they really helped us. We know what we have to work on to get better.”

The Tiger defense had to work hard at the end when Harvard had possession and could have made it a one-goal game in the last minute of regulation.

“We didn’t want to give them anything else and we knew they were either going to look for a crease challenge or a two-person crease play,” said Rehfuss. “We talked about our high angles and how that had to be that much better.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer acknowledged that Harvard’s patience posed a challenge for the Tigers.

“It was a tough game to play because Harvard was all about ball possession and they wanted the ball for long, long stretches,” said Sailer.

“When you get the ball, you press. We didn’t have that many offensive looks. They beat us on the draw controls. When you are playing a team that beats you in the draw controls and is looking to kill the clock as their main strategy, it is tough. They didn’t turn the ball over; they kept it moving. They wear you down a little bit defensively.”

Sailer credited her team with showing some mental toughness in overcoming the Crimson.

“To play a difficult kind of game that you are not used to playing and then not playing at your best and you are still able to pull out a win, that’s important at this time of the year,” asserted Sailer.

“We are trying to get better every time we step on the field but you have got to get the ‘w.’”

Senior Mary-Kate Sivilli and junior Sam Ellis both played a major role in helping Princeton get the win as they each scored three goals.

“They had big games and that was great,” said Sailer. “They are two kids who haven’t necessarily been biggest producers. Sam probably got almost half of her goal total. Sam had a couple of goals against Maryland and another good day today. She is finishing 8 meters. I thought MK played really well so it was nice.”

Sailer depends on Rehfuss to be a big producer for Princeton at the defensive end.

“Caroline is the one who tries to get kids talking,” said Sailer. “She really organizes things down there, she is such a leader for us on the defense with consistent play and a vocal presence. She is fantastic.”

On Wednesday, 13th-ranked Princeton heads to Penn (7-4 overall, 5-0 Ivy) in a battle for the league lead which could determine who will host the Ivy tourney. Three days later, the Tigers play at No. 16 Dartmouth (8-5 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in another critical Ivy contest.

Sailer knows her team will have its hands full when it takes on the Quakers at venerable Franklin Field.

“They are very athletic, they are pretty deep and they have a lot of offensive firepower,” said Sailer, referring to Penn, that edged Dartmouth 8-7 last Friday to remain undefeated in league play.

“They have really good sticks, they go really hard. We are going to have to be ready defensively. They have a transfer goalie who has been playing pretty well for them. Just like any other game, so much will be dependent upon ground balls, draw controls, keeping our unforced errors down which we did much better this game. We had a bunch of unforced errors against Maryland (a 15-9 loss on April 10) and we didn’t today so that was a step in the right direction.”

Rehfuss, for her part, is confident that Princeton will be ready to go hard when it takes on the Quakers.

“Penn has always been a great matchup and we are really excited for it,” said Rehfuss.

“Our goal is to win the Ivy outright so we have to buckle down on Monday and Tuesday during practice. We need to get out the little kinks that we have and pay attention to detail.”

GREEN DAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro fights off a foe in recent action. Last Saturday at Dartmouth, freshman attacker Froccaro scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 10-9 to the Big Green. No. 13 Princeton, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League, hosts Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 19 at Class of 1952 Stadium. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GREEN DAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro fights off a foe in recent action. Last Saturday at Dartmouth, freshman attacker Froccaro scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 10-9 to the Big Green. No. 13 Princeton, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League, hosts Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 19 at Class of 1952 Stadium.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On the face of things, it seemed like the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team took a step forward when it topped Rutgers 13-8 last week.

But upon closer review, Princeton head coach Chris Bates concluded that the April 9 victory over the Scarlet Knights didn’t actually represent progress.

“It was good to get a win coming out of Syracuse,” said Bates, referring to Princeton’s 13-12 loss to the Orange three days before the Rutgers contest. “Once we watched the film, we saw that we played relatively poorly. We saw a ton of errors.”

Last Saturday at Dartmouth, Princeton continued to make errors, squandering two three-goal leads on the way to a 10-9 loss to the Big Green as it dropped to 7-4 overall and 2-2 Ivy League.

Bates sensed early on that his squad had not learned from the post-game analysis of the Rutgers game.

“After we scored our first goal, I almost called a timeout to dress down the offense,” said Bates, whose team jumped out to a 3-0 lead over Dartmouth.

“They had not taken the next step in terms of decision-making. In our first three possessions, we took the first shot instead of extending possessions.”

Princeton eventually built an 8-5 advantage midway through the third quarter, appearing to right the ship enough to pull out another win. But an inspired Big Green outscored Princeton 5-1 from that point as it rallied for the victory and just its eighth win over the Tigers in 60 meetings.

“Historically, Dartmouth is a team we have pulled away from; I don’t think we gave them the respect that they deserved,” said Bates of Dartmouth, which was sparked by three goals from former Princeton High star Mike Olentine, later named the Ivy Co-Player of the Week.

“It was one of those games where we were looking around and waiting for someone else to make plays. We didn’t make many plays after we were up 8-5. To Dartmouth’s credit, they had a good game plan. They neutralized us and played harder.”

Things were made harder for a Princeton squad as it was missing four key players, Ryan Ambler, Alex Beatty, Jack Strabo, and Chris White, due to injury.

“We were a tired team down the stretch,” said Bates, who got three goals from freshman Jake Froccaro in the loss with junior star Tom Schreiber chipping in two goals and two assists. “When we needed to be fresher and to execute, we didn’t. We are thin on defense; we broke down and made mistakes.”

The breakdown put the 13th-ranked Tigers in a precarious position as it looks to place in the top four in the Ivy standings in order to qualify for the upcoming league tournament. No. 6 Cornell is the frontrunner at 4-0 in Ivy play with Yale (3-2 Ivy), Princeton, Harvard (2-2 Ivy), and Penn (2-3 Ivy) battling for the other three spots.

“That was a punch between the eyes and our backs are to the wall,” said Bates. “We are fighting for our playoff lives.”

Bates is expecting a tough fight when Princeton hosts Harvard (6-6 overall) on April 19 in a game to be televised by ESPNU.

“We are playing a very strong Harvard team that is coming in here playing its best lacrosse of the year,” said Bates of the Crimson, who edged Penn 8-7 in overtime last Saturday.

“We are banged up and not playing our best lacrosse. They have a balanced offense and they are playing with a lot of confidence. They went toe-to-toe with Cornell and Duke in losses. Their defense is sound. They have good scorers and a good distributor behind the net in Devin Dwyer. They know how they play and they don’t beat themselves.”

The Tigers know they have to play better if they are going to qualify for postseason play.

“We need to have possession and we need a more consistent game out of our goaltender,” said Bates.

“On offense, if we are one and done, we are going to lose. On Saturday, we had 15 possessions with one shot and nine with no shots. You are not going to win any game that way.”

Bates, though, still believes his team will find a way to get it done against Harvard. “It was a tough loss, no question,” said Bates. “It comes down to how we respond and I am confident in our guys.”

SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson surveys the action during a game this winter. Henderson was down in Atlanta earlier this month for the NCAA men’s basketball Final 4. While Henderson enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

SURVEYING THE DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson surveys the action during a game this winter. Henderson was down in Atlanta earlier this month for the NCAA men’s basketball Final 4. While Henderson enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

While the Princeton University men’s hoops coach enjoyed the action as he took in the semis at the Georgia Dome, disappointment lingered over the fact that a bad weekend had cost his squad a chance at taking part in March Madness.

Coming down the homestretch of the regular season, Princeton held a one-game lead on Harvard at the top the Ivy League standings. The Tigers were at Yale and Brown on the last weekend with the regular season finale at Penn.

A sweep of the three games would have clinched the league crown and a berth in the NCAA tourney, while two wins would have ensured at least a playoff game against Harvard for the trip to March Madness.

With destiny in its hands, Princeton stumbled, losing at Yale and Brown while Harvard topped Columbia and Cornell to clinch the title and knock the Tigers out of the race.

In reflecting on the lost weekend, Henderson said his team’s struggles came down to some defensive issues and nerves.

“We were a bigger team so how we guard smaller players was an issue,” said Henderson.

“That weekend we got hurt by perimeter shooting. We couldn’t stop the flow of shots. As the games were going on, there was some tightness, which was surprising given the experience of our group.”

Going forward, Henderson and his staff will take some valuable lessons from the defeat.

“It is tough to win the league and there are a lot of good teams,” said Henderson.

“Just because you are in the hunt for the league title doesn’t mean that teams are going to roll over. We need to be as flexible as we can; we have to have many ways to play. We weren’t the best pressing team.”

Showing its character, Princeton didn’t roll over in the season finale as it topped Penn 71-58.

“It was a pretty obvious message, we needed to win for the seniors,” said Henderson, reflecting on victory at the Palestra in Philadelphia which left the Tigers with a final record of 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy. “It was bittersweet; we wanted to be playing for a title or a playoff.”

The Tigers do say goodbye to some stalwart seniors in Brendan Connolly, Mack Darrow, and Ian Hummer. Connolly and Darrow were solid performers, who made an impact on and off the court, while Hummer leaves as one of the greatest players in program history.

The 6’7 forward was named the Ivy League Player of the Year this season and ended his Tiger career with 1,625 points, second only for Princeton to the legendary Bill Bradley’s 2,503. This winter, Hummer became the first Tiger since Kit Mueller ’91 in 1991 to lead Princeton in a season in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (6.4 rebounds per game), assists (115), and blocks (23).

“We are losing a great senior class; Ian carried us and helped us in so many ways,” said Henderson.

“We were where we were because of him. He made everyone better. There are a lot of good players in the league. We haven’t celebrated that a lot around here but it is a great award. He is one of the very special players we have ever had here.”

Harvard showed the country something about the talent of the Ivy League as the 14th-seeded Crimson upset No. 3 New Mexico in the second round of the NCAAs.

“It is good for the league, it shows how competitive it is. I like seeing teams in the league do well,” said Henderson.

“We have all the motivation that we need. We don’t talk about other teams much but it does reflect well on the league.”

Henderson believes that Princeton has the foundation in place to do well going forward.

“We are returning four starters; I like the group we have coming back,” said Henderson, who welcomes back two All-Ivy performers in junior T.J. Bray (9.9 points per game in 2012-13) and sophomore Denton Koon (10.5 points) together with junior Will Barrett (9.3 points) and freshman Hans Brase (5.4 points).

“The message is you have to keep improving but don’t lose sight of what got you into first place coming into the last weekend. You have to be hungry to make improvements; they need to focus on getting better in every way.”

The Tigers will be different in some ways from the 2012-13 squad which featured eight players 6’8 or taller.

“We will be smaller but we are still pretty big,” said Henderson, noting that such returners as Clay Wilson, Bobby Garbade, Ben Hazel, and Jimmy Sherburne could emerge as key contributors.

“It will be really competitive, good players are made over the summer. We are doing individual workouts for the rest of the spring until the end of classes.

Henderson is chomping at the bit to get back into competition. “I know I am ready to get going,” asserted Henderson.

“We want to get better and make improvements. We aren’t defined by one weekend; we did a lot of good things this winter.”

A STEP BEHIND: Princeton University softball catcher Cara Worden chases after a ball in a game earlier this spring. Last weekend, sophomore Worden and the Tigers battled hard but dropped three out of four games at Penn in a key Ivy League South series. Princeton, now 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy, finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A STEP BEHIND: Princeton University softball catcher Cara Worden chases after a ball in a game earlier this spring. Last weekend, sophomore Worden and the Tigers battled hard but dropped three out of four games at Penn in a key Ivy League South series. Princeton, now 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy, finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Penn last weekend in a pivotal four-game Ivy League South series, the Princeton University softball team was determined to get off to a strong start.

“They threw A.C. Borden in Game One and we know how talented she is,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose team entered its trip to Philadelphia trailing the Quakers by two games in the division standings.

“We were able to get some hits and some runs. We felt that was a game we needed to win to set the tone for the weekend.”

Princeton seemed to be set for a big weekend as it got to Borden and took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. But then things unraveled as Penn scored four runs to pull out a 10-9 victory.

Sweeney acknowledged that her players faced a challenge in regrouping for the nightcap.

“It was hard to swallow, there are only 20 or 30 minutes between games so it is tough to re-set after something like that,” said Sweeney.

“We told them this doesn’t determine the rest of the weekend. We have to come back and prove that we are a team that is not going down without a fight.”

The Tigers showed their fighting spirit as they prevailed 5-3 in the second game with Maddie Cousens, Tory Roberts, Rachel Rendina, and Candy Button each knocking in a run. Freshman pitcher Shanna Christian came up big in the circle, striking out five and scattering 10 hits in going the distance.

“We showed our true colors in the second game, I was really proud of them,” said Sweeney.

“I was particularly proud of freshman pitcher Shanna, she set the tone, doing everything she could to help us win.”

On Sunday, though, the Tigers failed to get a win as they lost 9-2 and 5-4. “It was one of those things, we came in fairly positive,” said Sweeney, whose team fell to 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy in the wake of the sweep by Penn.

“The hitters went in confident but A.C. threw a great game. She really challenged our hitters. We were able to score runs. The first game got away from us but in the second game we were right there. One hit in a couple of situations would have given us the win.”

Now Princeton finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go.

“We are not losing sight of the things we can control,” said Sweeney. “We have to take care of our business and the things we can control. A lot of things can happen.”

Sweeney is looking for some good things to happen this week as the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21.

“It will be nice to be at home on Wednesday against Lehigh,” said Sweeney. “We are expecting a big crowd this weekend. It will be Senior Day on Sunday and that class is really special.”

While Princeton faces an uphill battle in its quest for the Ivy South crown, it knows it can still enjoy a special spring.

“We talked about fighting the entire season and earning everything,” said Sweeney.

“When you work so hard for something, you can’t let one bad weekend destroy that. They have good confidence, they know this is bigger than any of us.”

SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SCORING DRIVE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal in a game last season. Last Thursday, junior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona scored eight goals and had two assists to help PHS pull out a 16-12 win over WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, who improved to 4-1 with the victory, play at Hopewell Valley on April 18, host Notre Dame on April 20, and then play at Robbinsville on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona was huffing and puffing a bit as she caught her breath after helping the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team edge WW/P-S last Thursday.

The junior star had reason to be winded as she was all over the field, tallying eight goals and two assists to help PHS prevail 16-12.

The Penn-bound Lopez-Ona started the game on fire, scoring six of PHS’s first seven goals.

“With my shot, I feel it is a lot about composure and staying with the fundamentals,” said Lopez-Ona.

“I feel I started out the game pretty focused and I didn’t get frazzled. I was pretty happy I came out strong because they were marking me pretty tight. I have been watching a lot of film when girls are getting marked out and doing stuff like using the crease, popping out, and being physical. They had great defenders on me and I was happy with the way I was rubbing them off.”

Lopez-Ona was happy to see the Little Tigers rally from a 9-7 deficit early in the second half as they improved to 4-1.

“I think it was just about communication of offense and defense because we were lacking the unity on the field,” said Lopez-Ona, reflecting on the PHS rally during which the Little Tigers went on a 9-2 run to seize control of the contest.

“I feel like it really pieced together when some of the low attackers started popping out and yelling for the ball. Everyone got a lot more involved in the offense.”

In Lopez-Ona’s view, junior midfielder Dana Smith helped trigger the PHS offense with her hustle on draw controls.

“Dana Smith on the draw was just insane; her possessions kept us in the game when they started to pull ahead a little bit,” said Lopez-Ona of the Lafayette-bound Smith who scooped up five ground balls in the contest.

“As we started to run a couple more of our plays on offense, we worked the ball around better than before and attacked the goal. It gave us more confidence on offense.”

Coming off a tough 11-10 loss to WW/P-N, the victory over the Pirates was a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.

“The difference between the North game and this game was at the end of the North (WW/P-N) game we were still having trouble controlling the ball,” said Lopez-Ona.

“Today we were working for good shots and we were working for good possessions. I feel like after this game we will be pretty confident with how we can play the end of the game on offense with our stall with the whole team getting involved there.”

PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way her team grew from the defeat to WW/P-N.

“In the end, we are really taking away North as a learning experience,” said O’Gorman.

“We left saying, that was a great lacrosse game. I think both teams came out full force. The girls know that was one of our hardest games. It really prepared us, it was a preparation game. I am really proud of the way of the girls played today.”

O’Gorman was proud of the way Lopez-Ona played against WW/P-S. “We actually had her more on attack today so when she puts her full energy and focus on attack, that is the type of result you are going to get from that type of player,” said O’Gorman.

“She is just a great leader, on and off the field. You know she is always going to be pumping everyone up in the huddle; she is always psyched up for her team.”

Sophomore Gabrielle Gibbons helped pump up PHS in its second half run as she tallied a hat trick.

“She really knows when to show herself and makes consistent cuts to the center,” said O’Gorman of Gibbons.

“You know when her target is up, she wants the ball and she is going to have a nice finish for you at the end. She is learning from these upperclassmen to have a lot of information and a lot of experience.”

The Little Tigers utilized their experience and savvy in pulling away from the Pirates.

“We came back at halftime and said let’s go back to the basics,” said O’Gorman, whose team plays at Hopewell Valley on April 18, hosts Notre Dame on April 20, and then plays at Robbinsville on April 23.

“Let’s play our defense. Let’s be steady and composed. Let’s do what we know how to do on attack; pull it out and start driving hard.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that the composure that PHS displayed down the stretch against WW/P-S will help the team in its drive for titles.

“It is a huge confidence boost because of the fact that we were able to hold on to the lead in the end,” said Lopez-Ona. “It was really telling for us that we have the stick skills all around.”

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NOT STANDING PAT: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player ­Patrick McCormick races up the field in action last season. Junior midfielder McCormick has helped PHS get off to a 2-1 start this spring. The Little Tigers host Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Peter Stanton was disappointed to see his Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team lose to Allentown last week, he liked how his players responded to the setback.

“We certainly had some good moments and we had a couple of bad stretches,” said PHS head coach Stanton, reflecting on the 13-8 defeat which saw junior star Matt Purdy tally three goals and an assist with Kevin Halliday adding two goals and Matt Corrado chipping in a goal and two assists.

“The encouraging thing is that everybody felt they had something to do with it. As a team, everyone shouldered the blame.”

The Little Tigers, who moved to 2-1 with the loss, have had a lot of good moments on offense so far this spring.

“We feel like when we put six guys on the field on offense, all of them can score,” said Stanton, whose squad started the season by beating Nottingham 14-7 and then edged WW/P-S 13-12. “Everyone is a threat and it is tough to defend.”

Junior Purdy has emerged as PHS’s most lethal offensive threat. “Matt set a goal to be a more complete player and the early evidence is that he has done that,” said Stanton of Purdy, who has 18 points this season on 11 goals and seven assists.

“He has had games with multiple assists, he gets ground balls, he is riding, he is controlling the offense at times.”

Juniors Halliday and Corrado have also been riding high for the Little Tigers.

“Kevin Halliday is real dynamic and creative,” said Stanton. “Matt Corrado is another example of somebody who has worked really hard. He spent a lot of time in the offseason training. He comes to practice every day ready to work hard. His habits and dedication are really something to admire.”

Stanton acknowledges that the PHS defense needs to tighten up. “It is interesting with people playing more lacrosse, the stick skills are better and the offensive skills have improved,” said Stanton.

“People used to say that the defense was ahead of the offense at this stage but I think now the offense is ahead of the defense. Team defense takes seven guys to coordinate with each other and be on the same page. We have capable athletes back there; we have to do a good job of coaching them.”

In Stanton’s view, he has a group that is highly receptive to coaching.

“We have some potential but we are a work in progress, they are showing a willingness to improve,” said Stanton, whose team hosts Lawrenceville School on April 19 before playing at New Egypt on April 23.

“I like their attitude. After the loss last Tuesday, they were ready to learn about what they need to do better.”

TALKING POINT: Michael Zhao gets interviewed after he won the 2011 Longines Future Aces Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. This spring, Zhao, an eighth grader, is starring at first singles for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad, helping the Panthers to a 4-0 start. PDS has a match at the Pingry School on April 18 before taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.(Photo by David Martin, Courtesy of Longines)

TALKING POINT: Michael Zhao gets interviewed after he won the 2011 Longines Future Aces Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. This spring, Zhao, an eighth grader, is starring at first singles for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad, helping the Panthers to a 4-0 start. PDS has a match at the Pingry School on April 18 before taking part in the Mercer County Tournament, slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. (Photo by David Martin, Courtesy of Longines)

While the addition of a talented crop of freshmen to a tennis team would normally be a harbinger of good things to come down the road, the arrival of three young stars this spring has immediately changed the fortunes for the Princeton Day School boys’ squad.

After guiding the team to a 5-9 record in 2012, PDS head coach Will Asch knew things would be radically different when highly-touted eighth-grader Michael Zhao and freshmen David Zhang and Scott Altmeyer stepped on the court this March.

“I knew we had a good team as soon as we saw players like Zhao, Zhang, and Altmeyer,” said Asch

Sure enough, the Panthers have produced a sizzling start, going 4-0 and winning each of their matches by 5-0 margins.

The team’s success starts at the top where the precocious Zhao is displaying brilliant talent and skill at first singles.

“I would say that there is no ball he can’t handle, he has great hands, and he is extremely consistent,” said Asch, reflecting on the strengths of Zhao’s game.

“He volleys very well. He has a very big forehand for an 8th grader. He does everything well on the court and he has a great mind for the game.”

Zhao also possesses a maturity beyond his years on the court. “He doesn’t worry about winning or losing,” said Asch, noting that Zhao is coached by Marc Hill and former Princeton University head coach Glenn Michibata.

“He has an idea of what he wants to do and he doesn’t worry about the score. He has a certain shot and sequence of play that he wants to develop and he will work on it even if he is in a national tournament.”

At second singles, Zhang figures to give PDS some very good work. “He is very good,” said Asch. “He is very aggressive on the forehand; he covers the court very well. He is very consistent. He hits hard from the baseline and he is very fast.”

Last season’s top singles player, junior Neeraj Devulapalli, has moved to the  No. 3 spot and should be dominant in that position. “Neeraj is playing well, his serve has really improved,” said Asch. “He is having a great season.”

Altmeyer has also bolstered the PDS lineup as he been paired with junior D.J. Modzelewski at first doubles.

“Scott Altmeyer and D. J. are our strongest team,” said Asch. “They are both very good singles players. Scott is a very strong player; he has a lot of tournament experience. D.J. is someone who we have brought along; he has learned a lot of his tennis from playing on the team.”

Talented sophomore Josiah Meekins will anchor the second doubles pair with Asch tinkering with things to find the best combination.

“Meekins is our next best player,” said Asch. “We have a bunch of guys who are playing at the same level. We are sill working on that.”

Asch is confident that his team can perform at a high level in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament, which is slated for April 22 and 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“The toughest thing is to win in the doubles at the MCT; we have four guys in the school who play in tournaments and some schools have 10 or 15,” noted Asch, whose team also has a match at the Pingry School on April 18.

“In singles, we should be the strongest team. Sometimes that is enough to win and sometimes it isn’t. We won all three singles a few years ago but South (WW/P-S) won the title. In the girls’ tournament two years ago, Sam [Asch’s daughter Samantha Asch] was our only flight winner but we won the team title.”

WELL STRUCK: Hun School baseball player Stevie Wells displays his powerful swing in Hun’s 6-3 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday. Senior first baseman Wells hit a go-ahead two-run single in the victory. Hun, now 6-1, will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WELL STRUCK: Hun School baseball player Stevie Wells displays his powerful swing in Hun’s 6-3 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday. Senior first baseman Wells hit a go-ahead two-run single in the victory. Hun, now 6-1, will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Stevie Wells is a power hitter but he wasn’t looking to crush the ball as he came up for the Hun School baseball team against Hill last Wednesday in the bottom of the third inning with two runners in scoring position.

“My mentality there is to do my job and move the runner,” said Hun senior first baseman Wells, referring to the situation which came with the Raiders trailing 2-1.

“There was second and third and I was thinking I have got to get the ball to the right side and make sure I get that ball through the infield.”

Wells did his job, muscling a flare into the outfield for a two-run single to put Hun ahead 3-2, a lead the Raiders didn’t relinquish as they went on to a 6-3 victory.

For Wells, his clutch hit was the product of an effort to hit to all fields. “The coaches have been trying to get me to hit the ball to center, left, and right and make sure that I am more versatile as a hitter so this way they can’t get me out,” said Wells.

Hun was certainly trying hard in its matchup with Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) rival Hill.

“They are a good team; unfortunately last year we didn’t do that well against them in the playoff game in our park,” said Wells.

“This year we came out with a lot more power and a lot more fire. I think we really put ourselves out there and did a good job today.”

With the Raiders off to a 6-1 start after beating Rutgers Prep 13-4 Monday, Wells senses a special spirit around this year’s team as it looks to rebound from a 9-14 season in 2012.

“We are more together as a family,” asserted Wells, who had two RBIs in the win over Rutgers Prep. “This year, I think we are really together. We work on and off the field to make sure that we are doing what we need to do.”

As a starter since his sophomore season, Wells knows that he has to take a major role in holding things together for the Raiders.

“It is my third year with program; I try to make sure that I am positive,” said Wells.

“At first base, I make sure that everyone knows the situations and I encourage people.”

Hun head coach Bill McQuade wasn’t surprised that Wells came through in the pressure situation against Hill.

“Steve Wells got a huge hit because he battled,” said McQuade. “Everybody knows that Stevie has power, what they don’t realize is that he has a really good understanding of the strike zone. So therefore, he fights off the hard pitches and doesn’t try to overpower it. He took a high pitch, which is hard to get your bat on, and he had enough strength to get it over the infield.”

Wells’ strength of character also powers Hun. “He is the nicest man in the world,” asserted McQuade. “He is the captain of the team for a reason, everyone respects him.”

McQuade respected the way the Raiders overcame a 2-0 deficit in topping Hill.

“We showed some character,” said McQuade.  “We played a great game against Hunterdon Central the other day, they are an outstanding team. We started out a little lethargic today; they got two runs as a result of a couple of errors. We got some runs; some of our guys are scuffling a little bit at the plate and they battled.”

Hun ace Austin Goeke showed a battling spirit as he pitched in and out of jams in the win over Hill.

“He didn’t have his greatest stuff but when he had to make the big pitch, he did,” said McQuade of the Wagner College-bound Goeke who pitched a complete game in improving to 2-0 on the season.

“I think his command was good. As the weather warms up he is getting looser and throwing more breaking stuff.”

McQuade is hoping that the Hun bats warm up with the weather. “We are still trying to find the right lineup, the correct batting positions,” said McQuade.

“We are solid in the first six or seven and in a couple positions in the field. We are going to go as far as Goeke and [Jason] Applegate and a couple of others take us. Our hitting is coming around. Brett Ender had a good game the other day. Shane Adams is a player, he and Devo [senior star Devan Birch] are tablesetters. Bailey Hammer has gotten off to a terrific start. He has gotten bigger, he is lifting weights. He is a star.”

In McQuade’s view, his players have developed a terrific chemistry this spring.

“It is more a family feeling this year, without a doubt,” said McQuade, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on April 17 and Pennington on April 18 and then plays a doubleheader at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20.

“Down in Florida, the key for us is that everyone gets to know each other because we have so many new faces. We have Mike Edenson, who is an outstanding catcher and hitter. He got a concussion yet he still comes to the games and supports the team. He is a class act. We are still carrying 22 people; we could have a bunch of kids ticked off because they are not playing but we haven’t seen that yet. That is a credit to this team.”

Wells, for his part, believes the Raiders are poised for an outstanding season.

“I think we let a lot of people know we are here to play and we are ready,” said Wells, who will be continuing his baseball career on the college level at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“We are ready to go. I hope that we win our league, I hope we make a good run in the states and also in the Mercer County Tournament.”

GO TIME: Hun School softball pitcher Alexis Goeke fires the ball in recent action. freshman Goeke has been dominant in the circle, helping Hun produce a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GO TIME: Hun School softball pitcher Alexis Goeke fires the ball in recent action. freshman Goeke has been dominant in the circle, helping Hun produce a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexis Goeke started her softball career as a catcher but eventually decided that she didn’t want her older brother to be the only star pitcher in the family.

“I started pitching three years ago, I used to be a catcher,” said Goeke. “With my brother, Austin, pitching all the time, I also wanted to be a pitcher. I like being in the head of the game and having the leadership position.”

Austin, for his part, has earned a position at the top of the rotation for the Hun School baseball team and the senior is starring this spring for the Raiders on his way to the Wagner College program.

The younger Goeke meanwhile joined the Hun softball team this season and immediately assumed the role of ace. She made her impact felt in her debut against the Hill School (Pa.) in late March, striking out 12 and giving up two hits in a 9-0 win.

For Goeke, having the responsibility of being the team’s top pitcher is something she relishes.

“It doesn’t feel like I have a lot of pressure on my hands but I have a lot to prove,” said Goeke.

“With the upperclassmen’s help, it makes it much easier on me. All I want is to be in the circle. As a freshman, it feels good to have that opportunity to be out there and pitching.”

Things came easily for Goeke last week as she pitched a three-inning no-hitter in a 17-0 win over Rutgers Prep, striking out eight of the nine batters she faced.

“My focus was to really buckle down and pitch strikes and pitch really well,” said Goeke.

“The team was good with the bats today. It helps support us when we are on defense when you have runs behind you. I worked really hard over the winter to get all six pitches working really well so I tried to move it around the strike zone as much as I could. It is great practice.”

Goeke helped herself with the bat in the win over Rutgers Prep, pounding out a double and getting five RBIs.

“I like both parts; a lot of people say pitchers can’t bat but I really think the opposite,” said Goeke. “It is a great break. You get off the field and you go hit.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk likes the way Goeke has started her career.

“I am very impressed with her,” said Quirk, whose team improved to 5-1 with a 15-4 win over Lawrenceville last Monday.

“I think she is a very composed freshman and she wants to be out there. She knows what her role is, she knows what her job is. She doesn’t say to herself I have to strike everyone out. She knows she has good fielders behind her and she depends on them and if she gets a strikeout, she gets it.”

Quirk is also impressed with Goeke’s good hitting. “Today, she had two really nice drives,” said Quirk.

“I haven’t been getting that power hit out of her, I have been getting hits but not the power she had today. I think it is a boost to her confidence.”

With Hun having produced a superb start, Quirk is gaining plenty of confidence in her club.

“I am happy with their attitude,” said Quirk. “I think they are a good bunch of girls who want to come out and play and have fun. Sometimes I worry that they are not focused but I know that they are focused.”

In Quirk’s view, her trio of seniors, Carey Million, Danielle Beal, and Joey Crivelli, has helped keep the team focused.

“The seniors are doing a nice job with the leadership,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Hopewell Valley on April 18 before playing at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on April 20 and Peddie on April 23.

“Carey is doing a great job behind the plate. She is having fun with it. Dani Beal is the same way; she has been solid for us at third base. I took her out of No. 4 in the batting order and put her up to No. 1 because she gets on base and she is smart. Joey, who we didn’t know if she was going to play because of her knee injury, has just come in and stepped it up as a second baseman.”

Goeke, for her part, believes she and Hun will keep stepping up.

“I am looking to limit hits, do my best, and stay focused,” said Goeke “We need to make sure we just play as a team and it will lead to our success.”

April 10, 2013
DUEL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton University senior fencing star Jonathan Yergler smiles in a team shot. Senior Yergler recently helped Princeton win the NCAA team title, a year after he won the collegiate men’s epee individual championship. (Photo Courtesy of PU Office of Athletic Communications)

DUEL ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton University senior fencing star Jonathan Yergler smiles in a team shot. Senior Yergler recently helped Princeton win the NCAA team title, a year after he won the collegiate men’s epee individual championship.
(Photo Courtesy of PU Office of Athletic Communications)

It didn’t take long for Jonathan Yergler to make an impact on the national scene in fencing.

Taking up the sport at age seven after showing a propensity to play with sticks as a toddler, Yergler shot up the national ladder in epee.

“I started in local competitions and I did my first nationals at 10 and I got third,” said Yergler, a native of Winter Park, Fla.

“There were only 40 people in my group but it was still a big confidence builder. I was loving the competition. The higher level I competed, the more fun it was.”

During his high school years, Yergler made multiple national teams and competed in the Junior World Championships.

He joined the Princeton University men’s fencing team in 2009 and distinguished himself as one of the top college epeeists in the nation, taking second in the NCAA championships as a sophomore and winning the title as a junior.

Last month in San Antonio, Texas, he helped Princeton earn its first-ever joint men’s/women’s NCAA team title under the format adopted in 1990.

For Yergler, helping Princeton to the team championship triggered a deeper sense of satisfaction than winning his individual crown.

“When I won the individual title, I was really happy and my teammates came over and congratulated me but it wasn’t the same as having 30 or so people so excited,” recalled Yergler, who took second in the individual epee competition.

“It was great having that team trophy and having the bus rides and that plane ride together with all of us celebrating.”

Yergler has traveled a long journey to become accomplished in epee. “It was pretty intense, I would go to school all week and then my parents would drive me 200 miles to Boca Raton and I would spend the whole weekend training with my coach,” said Yergler, who has been training with coach Mario Jelev since his sophomore year in high school. “I was also getting on a plane and going to national and international events.”

When it came time to choose a college program, Yergler concluded that Princeton would offer him a good chance to keep moving up in the fencing world.

“In my weapon, Princeton had a great team, it was one of the strongest,” said Yergler, who was recruited along with another top epeeist, Ed Kelley.

“I thought the only way to get better was to go against these guys in training everyday. Zoltan [Princeton head coach Zoltan Dudas] was very welcoming; he answered all of my questions on my visit. I could picture myself at Princeton; I felt that connection.”

Once at Princeton, Yergler had to work hard to get himself into the picture for a starting spot.

“It was great, going to training everyday; I loved sparring with those guys,” said Yergler.

“I was trying to make the starting squad. I was told by others that I wouldn’t make it because the epee team was at such a high level. I was thinking that anything worth doing isn’t going to be easy. It was a struggle to get better than the rest. I was clawing my way, working everyday to get better and better.”

True to form, the precocious Yergler didn’t waste any time in showing that he could make Princeton a better team.

“Our first dual meet was at Harvard against North Carolina,” said Yergler. “Zoltan didn’t have Ed or I in the starting lineup; we lost six matches and Zoltan subbed Ed and me into the match and we won our matches. That was a proving point. I didn’t want to leave the starting lineup after that.”

Yergler ended up earning All-American honors that season as he took ninth in the epee at the NCAAs, helping Princeton finish sixth in the team standings. In his sophomore year, he placed second in the epee at the NCAAs with the Tigers moving up to fourth overall.

As a junior, it didn’t look like Yergler was headed to the podium at the NCAAs.

“I did really well in the regular season but I had a terrible tournament at the regional; I didn’t even make the round of 12,” recalled Yergler.

“Because of my scores and getting second in the NCAAs the year before, I got an at-large bid. I felt really lucky to be there and have a chance to see what I could do. I lost some matches but I was able to squeeze into the bottom part of the top four. I had the experience from the year before.”

Utilizing his extensive experience, Yergler topped Columbia’s Alen Hadzic 15-8 in the finals to win Princeton’s first individual NCAA crown since Soren Thompson ’05, also an epeeist, accomplished the feat in 2001.

“In the final, I went against the guy who I had beaten in the semifinals the year before,” said Yergler.

“It is a good matchup for me. I felt really good, I was able to pull it out. I felt great. I was thinking OK, I have accomplished one of my big goals. I was very close to being counted out of it so that made it more satisfying.”

With Princeton having taken second in the team standings in the 2012 NCAA championships, Yergler was confident the Tigers could take the next step.

“We have improved mightily as a team; we knew the women were incredibly strong,” said Yergler, reflecting on the format which consists of the two days of competition each for the men and the women with the school winning the most matches in the four days earning the team title.

“The men’s team hadn’t proven itself at this level. We have been doing better each year but compared to Penn State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State we weren’t there; they have the Olympians and the national team guys. We wanted to put the team in a position to win. If we were close to the No. 1 team; we knew the women would pull out the title.”

The Tiger men took care of business, putting the women in prime position to close the deal.

“We ended up second, a few points behind Penn State but six points ahead of Notre Dame,” said Yergler. “I am really proud of the men’s team for stepping up like that.”

During the women’s phase of the competition, Yergler and his male teammates provided emotional and logistical support.

“We were cheering; we were being caddies, serving them and doing whatever we could to help them,” said Yergler.

“We were watching Notre Dame and keeping tabs in the scoring. I knew before they did that they clinched it because they were in the middle of the matches. It was really exciting finding out. I was super excited.”

Now that his college career is completed, Yergler is looking to make a big impact on fencing’s international stage, setting his sights on the World and Olympic championships.

“I will work to do whatever I need to do to make the Olympics in Rio,” said Yergler, who has set up a twitter page, @yerglerj, and an athlete account on facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Jonathan-Yergler-athlete/410272639010116 to chronicle his efforts on the international stage.

“I need to get my job situation taken care of, I want to end up in New York City. I want to keep doing national and international competitions to get the experience I need. I still love the sport.”

CLOCKWORK ORANGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Froccaro scored four goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 13-12 to visiting Syracuse. The defeat to the Orange left Princeton at 6-3 overall. Ninth-ranked Princeton, who is 2-1 in Ivy League action, was slated to play at Rutgers (2-9) on April 9 and at Dartmouth (2-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOCKWORK ORANGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker Froccaro scored four goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 13-12 to visiting Syracuse. The defeat to the Orange left Princeton at 6-3 overall. Ninth-ranked Princeton, who is 2-1 in Ivy League action, was slated to play at Rutgers (2-9) on April 9 and at Dartmouth (2-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Chris Bates reflected on how his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team fell 13-12 to Syracuse last Saturday, he felt a little like boxer Joe Frazier after he lost to Muhammad Ali in 1975’s bruising “Thrilla in Manila.”

“It was a 15-round fight and we took too many body blows,” said Princeton head coach Bates, whose team dropped to 6-3 with the setback.

“We got tired at the end. We didn’t face off well and we played a lot of defense. Our defense bent and we did break at times.”

Like Frazier, Princeton was valiant and entertaining in defeat. “It was a heck of a game from a fan’s standpoint, but it was tough to lose from a coach and player perspective,” said Bates.

“We were real proud of the team, they competed hard. I shook hands with coach [John] Desko and we agreed it was a great game; it was tough that someone had to lose.”

The Tigers faced an uphill battle as they fell behind the high-powered Orange 3-0 in the early stages of the contest which was played before a crowd of 4,610 at Princeton Stadium and a national TV audience on ESPNU.

“We had gotten off to a fast start against them the last two years but the three goals put us on our heels,” said Bates, whose team did claw back to knot the game at 5-5 at halftime.

Princeton outscored the Orange 4-2 in the third quarter and held a 12-10 lead with 6:57 remaining in regulation. But Syracuse won the next three face-offs and forged ahead 13-12.

The Tigers got the final face-off of the game and were able to generate a shot by Ryan Ambler that went just wide as time expired.

“It wasn’t really a possession, it was a frenetic transition opportunity,” said Bates, referring to the final sequence.

“Ryan got his hands free. We wanted to get the ball in Tom Schreiber’s hands and let him create something but we couldn’t get the ball to him.”

While Bates was happy with his team’s scoring output, he acknowledged that Princeton misfired at some critical junctures of the contest.

“If you had told me we scored 12, I would think we would have won,” said Bates, who got four goals from Jeff Froccaro with Mike MacDonald adding three, Jake Froccaro adding two and Schreiber chipping in a goal and three assists.

“We were pretty efficient but we didn’t get anything out of our first four possessions when they built a lead. We were up two goals and we had a short possession in the fourth quarter. We took the first shot which we didn’t need to do. I kick myself a little bit and I hope we learned something from that.”

With each of No. 9 Princeton’s three losses having come by one goal, Bates sees the setbacks as mixed bags.

“Carolina and Syracuse are in the top five or six in the country, so we are encouraged by playing close to them,” said Bates, whose team fell 16-15 to No. 6 North Carolina on March 9 and 11-10 at No. 16 Penn a week later before the loss to No. 7 Syracuse.

“It is tough not getting over the hump. The Syracuse loss stings, it could have NCAA implications if we don’t win the Ivy tournament.”

But since Princeton is at 2-1 in Ivy play, trailing only No. 2 Cornell (10-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy) who it plays on April 27, the Tigers are very much in the hunt for the league title.

“We have to move past it,” said Bates, referring to the disappointment after the loss to the Orange. “We told them all of our goals are still in front of us and we control our own destiny.”

With Princeton slated to play at Rutgers (2-9) on April 9 before heading north to play at Dartmouth (2-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 13, Bates is looking for his players to dwell on things they can control.

“We need to focus on ourselves and getting back to fundamentals and playing good lacrosse,” said Bates.

“If we do that, we will be fine. I told them we want two more wins in the bag after this week with two games to go.”

NAVAL ENGAGEMENT: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight first varsity 8 powers through the water in a race earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the top boat edged Navy as the programs resumed their regular season series after a six-year hiatus. Princeton’s second and third varsity 8s also posted victories in the regatta that took place on Lake Carnegie. In upcoming action, Princeton faces Penn and Columbia at Ridgefield Park, N.J. this Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

NAVAL ENGAGEMENT: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight first varsity 8 powers through the water in a race earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the top boat edged Navy as the programs resumed their regular season series after a six-year hiatus. Princeton’s second and third varsity 8s also posted victories in the regatta that took place on Lake Carnegie. In upcoming action, Princeton faces Penn and Columbia at Ridgefield Park, N.J. this Saturday.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

It was a renewal of hostilities that had been eagerly anticipated by the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew team.

After a six-year hiatus in its series against Navy, Princeton was once again facing the Midshipmen in a regular season regatta last Saturday on Lake Carnegie.

“It is the race that used to always start the season,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes.

“It is traditionally the first race for the lightweights and it was too for the heavyweights until six years ago. Navy had some conflicts with their schedule. They dropped the race to travel to some other races. The guys were really excited, they know the history and they knew the guys before them always started with this race.”

Making some history of their own, the Tigers produced a superb effort as the first varsity 8, the second varsity 8 and the third varsity 8 each posted wins in their races.

“We saw great intensity from the entire team this weekend,” said Hughes. “Having Navy back on the schedule is great, we know they are really tough competitors. They really work hard and you have to be on your game against them.”

The first varsity got pushed hard as it covered the 2,000-meter course in 6:08.0 with Navy just behind in 6:11.3

“It was a solid piece,” said Hughes. “It was challenging conditions, it was a simple race. We were not trying to focus on any one part of the race. We wanted to just go out and race on our body of work. There are spots in the race we need to talk about and work on.”

Hughes credited senior captain Mike Evans and the top boat’s veterans with setting a positive tone.

“Mike Evans is doing a great job,” said Hughes. “I like the personality of the boat, there is solid character. They have realistic goals, short term and long term. They are willing to work hard. There is something there to work with.”

A rule change in men’s rowing which allows freshmen to compete at the varsity level has given Hughes more to work with. Last Saturday, the first varsity included two freshmen, Patrick Eble and P.K. Konttinen.

“They are freshmen but they are varsity-caliber racers,” said Hughes, reflecting on their debut.

“That was a real varsity race with real shots being taken. You can’t get that racing in high school. They were good enough athletes to be able to step in.”

Having freshmen in the mix for varsity boats has injected a new competitiveness into the program.

“There has been a change in the dynamic with the change in the freshman rule,” said Hughes.

“It has been a great positive in terms of focus and intensity for the rowers. It is great for me as a coach, it is the first time I am looking at every kid. We always trained together but there was a defined separation. We were thinking about having a freshman 8 which we could still have under the rules. We saw the freshmen could help the 2V and the 3V so that has been fun.”

The Tiger first varsity will be looking to have more fun this weekend as it competes for the Childs Cup against Penn and Columbia at Ridgefield Park, N.J.

“I think they need a little more experience together with the execution of the race,” said Hughes.

“There are little components of races, starts, moves, the final part. We spend a lot of time on boat speed, now we need to work on transitions within the race.”

READY POSITION: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack waits for the ball in a match last spring. Sophomore Hack has displayed his versatility, playing at singles this spring as PHS works through some early season injuries. The Little Tigers, who topped Trenton 5-0 last Monday to improve to 3-1, are slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

READY POSITION: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Tyler Hack waits for the ball in a match last spring. Sophomore Hack has displayed his versatility, playing at singles this spring as PHS works through some early season injuries. The Little Tigers, who topped Trenton 5-0 last Monday to improve to 3-1, are slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sarah Hibbert, the die is usually cast by the time the regular season rolls around for her Princeton High boys’ tennis team.

The preseason is devoted to challenge matches and figuring out who is going to play in the three singles spots and who will be combining to form the two doubles combinations.

But when the 2013 season started last week, PHS was in a state of flux with two of its top players, junior Brock DeHaven and sophomore Adib Zaidi, out with injuries.

“It has been quite difficult; usually I spend the preseason making sure I have things right with the lineup,” said PHS head coach Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 13-3 record last spring.

“I don’t like scrambling; it can make it tough for the seedings for the counties and the states. Brock fractured his ankle after a week of preseason. Adib is out with an elbow injury. We were not able to finish the challenge matches due to injuries. I hope they both come back at the same time  so we won’t have to change up doubles twice. We have a lot of transition this year, we graduated four and we got two new players that weren’t freshmen and we have some freshmen.”

Despite having players out of position, PHS has shown plenty of mental toughness this spring, getting off to a 3-1 start.

Hibbert pointed to the team’s 4-1 loss to defending Group III Central Jersey sectional champion Hopewell Valley on April 2 as a positive.

“We were pretty competitive considering that we were missing two of our top players,” said Hibbert, whose team’s lone victory in the HoVal match came from sophomore Tyler Hack at third singles. “Tyler had a great match. He didn’t let the cold or wind bother him.”

While the first doubles team of junior Zach Hojelbane and freshman Lucas Mitchell and the second doubles pair of junior Zack Kleiman and senior Eddy Zheng both lost to HoVal, Hibbert liked the competitive fire they displayed.

“They haven’t been together long; I was pleased with the way they hung in there against HoVal,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Allentown 5-0 last Friday and then defeated Trenton 5-0 last Monday and is slated to host Robbinsville on April 10 and then play at Hamilton on April 12.

“They fought hard against guys with a lot more varsity experience. They had one match being paired together and they were thrown in against one of the toughest teams. The first doubles went to a tiebreaker and the second doubles lost 3 and 4, they were in the match the whole way.”

The addition of senior Feeney and DeHaven makes PHS a tougher team.

“Michael is a senior, he was previously devoted to soccer and he has played tennis outside of school,” said Hibbert.

“As a senior, he decided that he wanted to come out and be a part of the team. He is very quick, he runs everything down. He has good ground strokes and he is quick around the court. Brock is a junior. He was in Princeton through middle school and then his family moved out to Colorado. Now they have moved back. He hits the ball well, he is willing to mix up his style of play. He is consistent and steady.”

Once Hibbert gets her lineup set, she believes the Little Tigers will show the consistency that has made the program a traditional local power.

“I will be grateful for the guys who do come back,” said Hibbert, who is expecting to have DeHaven and Zaidi back in action this week.

“There is a lot of talent. The sophomores bring experience and depth. The new additions give us strength at the top of the lineup. I am looking forward to getting everything finalized so we can have clarity and put our attention on tennis.”

GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING FOCUSED: Princeton Day School baseball player B.J. Dudeck gets set in the batter’s box in a game last spring. Last Monday, senior centerfielder and Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck contributed a double to help PDS defeat the Pennington School 5-0 and improve to 3-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ray O’Brien is doing some juggling with his Princeton Day School baseball squad, he is confident things will fall in place as the spring unfolds.

“It is going to be a fun year; we have a bunch of people playing new positions,” said PDS head coach O’Brien who guided the Panthers to a 12-9 record in 2012. “We have a lot of talent but not a lot of depth.”

A lot of that talent is concentrated in the Panthers’ group of sophomores, which features J.P. Radvany, Jake Alu, Cole McManimon, and Ross Colton.

“We had that good freshman class that got a lot of experience last year, both as position players and pitchers,” said O’Brien. “We don’t have a lot of experienced upperclassmen.”

The squad did get a chance to pick up some valuable experience on its annual preseason trip.

“In Florida, we got to look at guys playing a lot of different positions, which was good,” said O’Brien, who is in his fifth year at the helm of the program. “We hit the ball well down there, that is a good sign.”

In the early going up north, there have been more good signs as the Panthers have produced a 3-1 start, edging
Hill 3-2 last Wednesday, falling 12-6 to St. Augustine on Friday, and then beating Gill St. Bernard’s 10-8 last Saturday and blanking Pennington 5-0 on Monday.

O’Brien believes he has some good arms on his pitching staff in senior Greg Auerbach, sophomores McManimon, Alu, and Radvany together with senior Ben Weiner and junior Ford Schneider.

“Greg is our most experienced pitcher; we expect him to be at the top of the rotation,” said O’Brien, who received a superb effort from McManimon in the victory over Pennington as he struck out 11 and gave up six hits.

“He is nursing a shoulder injury but should be back in early April. Cole threw the ball well in Florida, he got some innings last year. Alu and Radvany will also see some time on the mound. We also have Ben Weiner and Ford Schneider who can pitch. The pitchers are not overpowering so they will have to locate the ball well. We have to play good defense behind them.”

The team’s defensive alignment will feature senior Rob Colton at catcher, Radvany at first base, Ross Colton at second, Alu at shortstop, senior Alec Jones, Schneider or freshmen Dom Gasparro and Sam Guarino at third with senior Brad Freid in left field, senior B.J. Dudeck in center and either Jones or Gasparro in right.

PDS has the potential to win games through outslugging its foes. “B.J. has been improving; he has been a consistent hitter for us,” said O’Brien of the Virginia Military Institute-bound Dudeck.

“He and Radvany will be in the middle of the lineup. We have Ross Colton and Jake Alu at the top of the order. Rob Colton and Fried will be further down in the order. McManimon has been hitting well, he will be at DH and play some first base. We can put seven quality hitters up there; I think offense will be a strong point for us.”

In O’Brien’s view, the Panthers could produce a strong season with some patience and a little luck.

“We have so many kids in new positions that it is going to take a while for us to get settled,” said O’Brien, whose team hosts Blair Academy on April 10 and Lawrenceville School on April 12 before playing at Peddie School on April 15.

“As the season goes on, I think that we can be dangerous if we jell together. We have to stay healthy.”

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse Morgan Foster heads up the field in action last week. Sophomore attacker Foster scored four goals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day 16-6 in its season opener on April 2. Foster added four more tallies in a 13-10 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Panthers, now 1-2, play at the Pennington School on April 12 before hosting the Hun School on April 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Morgan Foster was never able to get into a groove last spring in her freshman season with the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

Hobbled by a groin injury, Foster was sidelined for much of the campaign.

“I played the first few games and the last few games so I missed a majority of the season,” said Foster.

In the offseason, Foster worked hard to get up to speed. “I did a lot of training with Darius [PDS strength coach Darius Young] and a lot of work with Luke [former PDS trainer Luke Hensel],” said Foster.

“I was in the Philly showcase last winter where I was featured as a Fab 40 all star.”

As PDS opened its 2013 campaign last week at Stuart Country Day, it didn’t take long for Foster to emerge as a star.

The sophomore attacker scored the first goal of the game 1:35 into the contest and went on to tally four goals on the day as PDS pulled away to a 16-6 win in the April 2 contest.

Understandably, Foster was chomping at the bit to make an impact after last season’s frustrations.

“I was very excited to get back and get going and help the team,” said Foster.

In reflecting on her big game, Foster credited teamwork with paving the way to the scoring outburst.

“I just saw the ball coming down and my teammates were setting up great opportunities for me, letting me get open,” added Foster. “I was just happy I was able to finish.

After starting the 2012 season 0-5, the Panthers were thrilled to post an opening day victory this spring.

“It was a great way to start the season,” said Foster. “We were all really excited to get out there.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas is excited to have Foster back at full speed. “Morgan is just a great player with a great shot,” said Thomas. “She makes good decisions with the ball.”

The Panther offense made a lot of good decisions as junior Sarah Brennan had three goals and two assists with senior Zeeza Cole scoring three, Corinne Urisko tallying two, and senior Hannah Levy scoring a goal and chipping in three assists.

“I think everyone stepped up,” said Thomas. “You could see there were a lot of nerves in the first game but everybody seemed to step up. We got some good minutes from a lot of people.”

Thomas was also happy with the team’s defensive effort. “I think Trigg stepped up,” said Thomas, referring to senior goalie Sarah Trigg who made nine saves in the win.

“Louise [Hutter] was tough back there as was Cami [McNeely] and Lizzie [Frieder]. They are reading it well, they know when to double, they are making good slides.”

After last season’s tough start, Thomas liked the way her team got out of the gate against Stuart.

“It is a new year so it was a great way to start,” said Thomas, whose team did hit some bumps in the road after the Stuart game as it fell 13-12 to Hill School (Pa.) last Friday and then lost 13-10 to Hopewell Valley on Monday. “They did a great job today.”

Thomas believes the Panthers can make 2013 a special year. “It is a great group of girls to work with, they are a lot of fun,” said Thomas, whose team plays at Pennington on April 12 before hosting Hun on April 16.

“Liz [assistant coach Liz Cook] and I are really enjoying them and we have since the beginning.”

Foster, for her part, is enjoying being on the field with the group. “This team is great; I think we can go really far,” said Foster, who tallied four more goals in the defeat to HoVal.

“Everyone is working so hard. If people keep working hard, I think everyone’s opportunities will open up and everyone will shine.”

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Conrad Denise controls the puck in action this winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team. Last week, Denise helped the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team advance to the quarterfinals of the USA Hockey Nationals in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division. Denise tallied three goals and five assists in Princeton’s four games at the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conrad Denise has plenty of experience being around the USA Hockey National Championships.

“I have watched nationals four times when my older brothers played,” said Denise, whose older brothers, John Garret and Will, starred for local club teams and the Princeton Day School boys’ program. “I felt like I was part of their teams.”

Last week, the younger Denise hit the ice for the first time at the nationals as his Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) Tigers 18AA midget team competed in the boys’ 18-and-Under Tier II 3A division in the Hartford, Conn. area.

“Just getting to the nationals is a huge success for any team,” said Denise, a PDS senior star forward and Princeton resident who helped PYHA sweep the Freeze in a best-of-three series to earn the organization’s first-ever berth in the nationals.

“Our goal was to go up there and enjoy ourselves and do the best we can. There are lot of variables, you have no idea about the teams you might play. We could control our effort. We focused on ourselves and representing the team, Princeton and the PYHA.”

Denise showed his focus right from the start of the tournament as the Tigers topped Weymouth (Mass.) Wildcats 6-2 in its first game of pool play.

“I scored on my first shot, that was a huge confidence builder,” recalled Denise. “I got loose on a breakaway, it was a great pass from Rob Colton. That set a tone.”

PYHA kept up its determined play, losing a 5-4 overtime thriller to Team Ohio and then blanking Milwaukee Phoenix 2-0 to qualify for the national quarterfinals.

While the Tigers ended up falling 9-5 to the Chicago Bruins in the quarterfinals, Denise believed the squad represented itself with aplomb to the end.

“We were sitting in the locker room after second period, down 6-2,” said Denise, who ended up with three goals and five assists in the tourney.

“We had so much support, for the time our parents put in to text messages and e-mails, we said we had to give everything for those people. We scored three goals in the third period; we made it exciting. We had to pull our goalie so they scored two late goals. It was closer than the score indicated. I was proud of everyone.”

The squad developed a closeness over the winter as it made its run to the nationals.

“There was certainly a bond, we had 10 guys from PDS, that helps,” said Denise. “All the guys connected and pulled together. It was one of the closest knit teams I have ever been on.”

For Denise, pulling his weight as a leader became a major focus. “I am not a huge goal scorer; I am lucky to be on a line with [Sean] Timmons and Colton, I know if I grind I will get points,” said Denise, who has previously played for the Mercer Chiefs and Team Comcast club programs.

“I thought I could contribute something else with all of the different experiences I have had with PDS and other club teams. I have had difficult losses.  I understand the different emotions you feel. Losing is the worst feeling but you have to lose to win.”

PYHA head coach Ian McNally credited Denise with helping to spark the team’s run to the national quarters.

“In the Freeze series and the nationals, he was the catalyst on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room,” asserted McNally, a former player at Princeton University who is also the coach of the Hun School boys’ hockey team. “He took it upon himself to put the team on his shoulders.”

McNally realized last summer that he had a special team on his hands. “It was the very first practice in August, I blew the whistle to end the practice and guys went down to one end of the rink to pick up pucks and I saw them in a mass huddle, telling jokes and laughing,” said McNally.

“It was indicative of how the year would go. It was a special group of kids. They noticed it and their parents did too. They felt like they did this together. I have never been a part of a group that was together like that, most teams have some small factions.”

The Tigers were also fueled last week by the support they received from friends and family.

“There was a buzz; people were really taking interest in how we were doing,” said McNally.

“People were coming into town and people were watching on line. I told the players everyday that this was bigger than us. I had them share the texts of support they were getting.”

While PYHA didn’t get the big prize of a national title, it gained special satisfaction from its run.

“It was a great experience,” said McNally. “We lost that last game and there were some long faces in the dressing room. It was tough to take the jersey off for the last time. But afterward, it was all smiles. They realized that we made it past the first round and that was a great place to be. There was red carpet treatment afterward, 40 parents, grandparents, friends taking pictures.”

In McNally’s view, the 18AA team has made an impact that will be felt at the PYHA long past this winter.

“When I started with this group four or five years ago, the goal was to get into the state playoffs and be in the top 4 in the state,” said McNally. “We opened the doors to something bigger. Now the kids are saying let’s go to the nationals.”

Denise, for his part, leaves PYHA with indelible memories of his big week at nationals.

“Coach said to us afterward you will always remember this experience,” said Denise, who is headed to Babson College where he will be playing for the men’s hockey team.

“The nationals patch is sewn on your jersey. You will never forget each other, all the kids’ jersey numbers and who scored the goals. Our motto became champions walk together and we are still state champions. It was great to accomplish so much for the team and PYHA.”

Meanwhile across the country, another local hockey club team, the Princeton Tiger Lilies (PTL) 16U team, was creating some unforgettable moments of its own as the squad competed in the girls’ Tier II 16-and-Under nationals in San Jose, Calf.

For PTL, which finished third in the regular season standings before winning the Atlantic District tournament, getting the chance to head west was special.

“It was a complete shock that we won at the districts,” said Katie Alden, a goalie for the Tiger Lilies (and this reporter’s daughter.)

“That was always the goal but we couldn’t believe that it actually happened. We went from having four girls at tryouts to making the nationals.”

While the Tiger Lilies didn’t make it out of pool play, losing to the San Jose Junior Sharks, the Potsdam (N.Y.) Icestorm, and the Chicago Bruins, teams that all advanced to the quarters with Potsdam making the national title game and San Jose going to the semis, being on the ice with such competition was meaningful.

“At nationals, it was surreal how many good teams there are in the country,” said Alden, a PDS sophomore who also plays for the Panther girls’ hockey program.

“It was uplifting to see how the sport is expanding. Although we might not have done as well as we wanted, it was great to compete against those girls.”

Like the PYHA team, the Tiger Lilies were carried to the nationals by a special team chemistry. “There are often divides among teams, but we didn’t have that,” asserted Alden.

“We all respect each other and play for the person sitting next to us in the locker room as much as we play for ourselves.”

April 3, 2013
FACE TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Justin Murphy heads up the field in recent action. Sophomore Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has given the Tigers a big lift, helping Princeton win three of its last four games as it has improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The No. 7 Tigers, who beat Brown 15-8 last Saturday, host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium on April 6 in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FACE TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Justin Murphy heads up the field in recent action. Sophomore Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has given the Tigers a big lift, helping Princeton win three of its last four games as it has improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The No. 7 Tigers, who beat Brown 15-8 last Saturday, host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium on April 6 in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Early in his lacrosse career, Justin Murphy seemed destined for obscurity.

“Basically in high school, I was a sophomore trying to make varsity and trying to get on the field any way I could,” said Murphy.

“I wanted to play but I wasn’t good enough. I was going to the Landon School (Md.) and there were a lot of good guys ahead of me.”

But Murphy discovered a talent that put him in the limelight. “They saw that I was small and undersized but they liked how scrappy I was facing off,” added Murphy.

“I was a backup second string and I got a shot to go out there and I started having success and it became the thing that I was going to work at. I decided to make it my goal to be a face-off guy and dedicate my time to that.”

Murphy’s dedication paid off as he joined the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last year as a face-off specialist and he won 15-of-30 draws last year as he saw his first college action.

This spring, Murphy has emerged as a key performer for the Tigers, catching fire in mid-March when he won 12-of-16 face-offs in a 15-2 win over Manhattan.

The 5’9, 160-pound Murphy proceeded to go 15-of-22 in a loss to Penn and then outduel Yale’s Dylan Levings with a 13-of-22 performance in a 10-9 win over the Bulldogs.

Last Saturday, Murphy’s excellence on face-offs helped Princeton top Brown 15-8 as he went 9-of-11 in the first half as the Tigers seized momentum in the contest and led 7-2 at halftime.

In reflecting on his effort against Brown, Murphy credited his practice duels against Princeton’s three other face-off men with honing his skills.

“The good thing about going here is that everyone facing off has a different style,” said Murphy, a native of Vienna, Va.

“We have four different guys, we are all really even and they can throw any of us out there. So in practice I get three different looks with three different guys whether it is Bobby Lucas, Jake Froccaro, or Jeff Froccaro. Having that variety in practice enables me to adapt or change as the game goes on to see what other guys are doing because I have faced a lot of different styles in practice.”

Murphy, though, had to change his style earlier this season to emerge as Princeton’s primary face-off guy.

“After the first couple games, our group and me personally weren’t doing enough,” recalled Murphy.

“We weren’t doing our job necessarily and the coaches came over and said things need to change. So basically I took that and changed up my stance, I used to be going knee down early in the season. The coaches were saying that things need to change. From a coaching standpoint, they were looking at what we were doing so I tried changing my stance. I was accepting the fact that maybe I was being too stubborn so I am standing up now. I think that has actually helped a lot. I did that right before the Manhattan game.”

While Murphy and the Tigers struggled a little bit in the fourth quarter as Brown went on a 5-1 run to narrow the lead to 12-7, Princeton made a last stand and pulled away to the win in improving to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

“I didn’t do the best job in the second half but you can’t worry about the past, you need to focus on the next one,” said Murphy, who is now 60-of-105 on face-offs this season.

“The Ivy League is crazy and anything can happen. So even though we had a lead in the second half, anything can happen. That team has an explosive offense and they could get on a roll. Every game is a must win because we only play each team once in the season.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was thrilled to see his team hold off the Bears.

“It is good that we won this one,” said Bates. “We would rather control our destiny and if we can go get two more and if Cornell holds serve, then we have an opportunity to win an Ivy League championship. At the end of the day, that is the easiest way. We want to win our Ivy tournament and our Ivy championship. We control our own destiny and that’s all you want.”

Murphy’s emergence as a face-off star has helped Princeton take control of games.

“It has been the biggest difference for us clearly,” asserted Bates, referring to Murphy’s contribution.

“Early in the games, he has been strong. This week, we thought we would be effective facing off. Brown is not as strong as Yale or Penn. I think Murph was 9-for-11 in the first half and gave us a buffer, gave us an ability to generate some shots and it also gave us ball possession. For a relatively young defense, it is still the less you play, the better. If you are giving up face-offs and giving the defense too much time on the field, offenses at this level are going to score goals. It has been huge for us, he has been great.”

The Tigers got some great offensive production against Brown from the Froccaro family as senior Jeff scored four goals and had an assist while freshmen Jake had three goals.

“Jeff is a leader; he knows where we are supposed to be,” said Bates of the older Froccaro who passed the 100-point mark in his Princeton career with his output on Saturday.

Jake is a young guy; he has figured it out. Obviously he can play.  He has  got a great lacrosse IQ and puts the ball in the back of the net. I think it is good to have a big brother to help you along the way. Both of those guys can play. Jeff is having a good year, he has that knack and desire to put the ball in the back of the net; that’s what he does. Any time Brown got a little momentum today, Jeff stood tall and got one for us.”

The seventh-ranked Tigers have a big game this Saturday as they host No. 8 Syracuse (6-2) at Princeton Stadium in a contest that will be televised on ESPNU.

“It is an historical game; there is a tradition to the game that you can’t avoid,” said Bates.

“Even in the locker room the guys were saying it is ‘Cuse week and let’s get ready for it. It is one of those opportunities to get a big out of conference win at this time of the year which is unique. It fits right in our conference schedule which isn’t the norm so to have that opportunity, it is one we get excited for. They are a good team and they came off a tough loss. They rebounded and beat Canisius 17-5. It is big game for them for their playoff chances. I expect it to be a heckuva game.”

Murphy, for his part, is excited to take on the Orange. “Last year I was hurt and the first game that I was actually able to travel to with the team was the Syracuse game,” said Murphy.

“I got to go to the Carrier Dome; I didn’t get in or anything but it was a cool experience to watch. It is such a great rivalry. The first game I ever watched on TV was Princeton-Syracuse.”

Now Murphy will be getting watched by a national television audience as he looks to keep making an impact through his hard-earned face-off skill.