December 21, 2011

Fergus Duke had the hot hand for the Hun School boys’ basketball team in early stages of the fourth quarter last Saturday as it faced WW/P-S in the Tip-Off Classic.

Junior guard Duke reeled off seven points as the Raiders edged ahead of WW/P-S 47-46 in the game played at Rider University.

“I felt good; my shot was feeling good so I just kept shooting the ball,” said Duke.

Hun, though, didn’t hit enough shots down the stretch as it fell 56-54 to the Pirates.

In reflecting on the loss, Duke said Hun’s impatience helped doom it to defeat.

“We took too many quick shots and it turned into easy layups for them,” said Duke, who ended up with 15 points in the contest.

“It didn’t put us in a good situation at the end of the game; we should have worked harder on offense and been more patient for open shots. We also should have done a much better job defending.”

Duke and backcourt mate, senior Bo McKinley, are trying to do a better job of running the Hun offense.

“Going back to last year, we didn’t play as much and we got used to the system,” said Duke.

“This year we have stepped into more of a leadership role so we are hoping that we develop as the season goes on.”

In Duke’s view, the disappointment of the loss to WW/P-S could help Hun develop into a stronger team.

We needed a wake-up call; that was a humbling experience for all of us,” said Duke. “We need to come out stronger and we need to come harder.”

A perturbed Hun head coach Jon Stone hopes his team learns from the setback. “The lesson is that we have got to show up to play every night,” said Stone with a clenched jaw.

“We didn’t show up to play today. They outworked us; they outplayed us, and they deserved to win 100 percent.”

In Stone’s view, his team has struggled to find a rhythm. “We have had close games go our way too but we are just not consistent,” added Stone, whose team bounced back Sunday with a 58-41 win over Paramus Catholic as McKinley scored 16 points with Rashid Epps adding 11 and Will Kelly chipping in 10 as the Raiders improved to 4-5. “We have no consistency.”

Duke, for his part, believes Hun can work through its inconsistency. “We are still learning and getting more comfortable with it,” said Duke. “I am sure that we will get things under control and figure it out.”

After warming the bench last winter for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball teams, Deante Cole put his nose to the grindstone this summer.

“I had to work mainly on my shot,” said sophomore point guard Cole. “I stepped into the weight room, I had to work on my strength a lot.”

Cole also spent a lot of time with his teammates as they worked collectively on becoming a stronger unit.

“We lost seven seniors so coming into this year it was pretty much a whole new team,” said Cole.

“We started early. We played in summer leagues, we played together in the fall. We just all got really comfortable with each other and we started jelling. By the time we got into the season, we were ready to play even though we were starting as a whole new team.”

The fruits of that labor were on display last Wednesday as PDS hosted the American History School from Newark. The Panthers jumped out to a 20-8 lead after one quarter and took a 49-19 advantage into halftime.

PDS never looked back on the way to a 79-46 triumph as it moved to 5-0 on the season.

“Today we started out really well, we came out strong and we had about a 30-point halftime lead,” said Cole, who contributed 16 points and some slick assists.

“We wanted to come out after halftime and start the first four minutes fast and well. We wanted to hold the lead and not let American History come back. We wanted to stay on our game.”

Cole and PDS junior star Davon Reed have developed a partnership that really helps PDS’s game.

“Davon and me have been playing together since were eight years old,” said Cole.

“We know how to play with each other. Playing with Davon is a really big up. I know where he is and he knows where I am all the time.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean had the sense that his team would come together this season even though it was featuring a lot of new faces in the starting lineup.

“We only had Davon and Matt Cook coming back with a lot of varsity playing time so we had to blend early,” said McLean.

“The boys’ commitment to stepping up in the offseason, whether it is in the weight room or open gym is paying off with a 5-0 start. We look like we are in great shape; I think we could run for days.”

McLean likes the way Cole is running the PDS offense from his point guard spot.

“I always knew he was going to be a great player,” said McLean, who got five points from Cole last Monday as PDS topped George School 74-50 to improve to 6-0 with Reed scoring 32 points and passing the 1,000-point mark in his career.

“For a young kid being a freshman and coming into a varsity role it is the speed of the game. Now he has adjusted to that and he feels comfortable. He is crafty; he shoots the ball well. He does a lot of things well. He is a great point guard and he can score.”

Junior guard Langston Glaude is another young kid who is playing well for the Panthers.

“Langston is such a cerebral player; he understands the game well,” said McLean.

“He thinks like a basketball player so it is nice to see him get in on the scoring as well because he can score. We have multiple weapons.”

While Reed, who has been rated as one of the top 100 juniors in the country by several hoops rating services, is the team’s top weapon, the Panthers know they can’t rely on the 6’5 star to do everything.

“One of this team’s mottos is ‘hurt the help;’ if someone comes out to help on Davon, whoever is open has to hurt the help and make them pay,” said McLean.

“So the help will be a little less next time and Davon will be open.”

PDS is dedicated to working together. “The team made another motto –‘everybody eats,’” said McLean, whose team plays at Conwell-Egan on December 21 before competing in the Delran Tournament on December 27 and 29.

“Everybody eats in this family and that means everybody gets a touch on the ball and everybody gets shots when they are open. You don’t see guys pointing fingers saying why did you take that shot or why did you do this because we are comfortable with each other.”

Cole, for his part, believes PDS can make its foes uncomfortable throughout the season.

“I think we are going to surprise a lot of people; we came out strong this year,” said Cole.

“I think we just came in with a chip on our shoulder; we just wanted to prove to everybody that PDS can beat anybody any time. We have the attitude that we can beat anybody who steps on the floor with us.”

Serena Deardorff is not waiting until her senior year to take a major leadership role for the Princeton High girls’ swimming team.

“Every junior is more of a role model for the team, not just the seniors,” said junior star Deardorff.

“We have to be there and show them what they should be doing rather than just sitting there; we should be out there for the team.”

Last week, the Little Tigers were pressed to show their stuff as they edged a tough Robbinsville team 90-80.

“It was a pretty tough challenge, it was a good way to start our third meet of the season,” said Deardorff of the matchup with the Raven squad which is a combined team including some top-flight swimmers from Allentown.

“Everyone’s adrenaline was going; we got everyone cheering for our teammates and it was really exciting, we have all the spirit we need and it really does help in the water.”

Deardorff produced a spirited performance, placing a tight second in the 200 individual medley before coming back to win the 100 butterfly.

“It was a really good race; I loved racing Taylor [Johnson],” said Deardorff, reflecting on the 200 IM race.

“I don’t think getting second had any effect on me; it was just fun. We are both really exhausted because we had a big club meet this weekend. We went all out and that is all that really matters. In the 100, I felt better. I didn’t have Taylor to race there but it doesn’t really matter who I am racing. I am just trying to swim hard.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand saw Deardorff as exemplifying the solid effort he got from his swimmers.

“I thought Serena was a good example of somebody who gave 100 percent today and she’s got so much experience racing. She knows full well that she can’t influence anything except what is going on in her lane.”

Hand, though, acknowledges that Deardorff is having an influence on the team beyond her excellence in the pool.

“As she is getting older, she is just becoming a more confident person and is someone who seems to have a really good sense of herself and is genuinely friendly towards everyone on the team,” said Hand.

“She is injecting a lot of energy on the deck and into the team so that’s sort of automatically happening which is great. She is also conscious that she can have a really big impact because she is somebody who is automatically going to be a role model for the kids on the team. It is nice to see her realizing that there is something that she can do and ought to do and she is doing exactly that.”

In the win over Robbinsville, the Little Tigers followed Deardorff’s lead with their focus on the job at hand.

“I had this sense that the kids seemed to be excited; they were concerned with their own races,” said Hand, who got a win from Christie Samios in the 100 backstroke with Marisa Giglio taking second in both 100 and 200 freestyle races.

“They didn’t seem too worried about the score. I wasn’t getting a lot of questions about the score, which in my opinion is always a good sign. If the kids know that the only thing they can do is perform their best in their own lane, then that will be a scrappy meet. If they are worried about externals then they are really underperforming. I was happy that the kids were really trying to do their best and supporting each other.”

Hand sees that support permeating the team, both on race days and in training.

“We have a big infusion of swimmers across a whole spectrum of experience and ability but the common factor is that they seem to enjoy each other,” said Hand.

“They seem to be buying into the idea that one of the ways to assess how we are doing is how it feels when we are out there training together and how it feels during meets. I really enjoy the team. Having fun is not near the top of my priority list but when we are having fun in the right way, we know we are training better.”

Deardorff, for her part, is confident that the team is headed in the right direction.

“I think we are going to have a great season despite our loss of seniors,” said Deardorff.

“I think we really can surprise some people. Going into this meet, we thought it was going to be a really big challenge and it was. I had this gut instinct that we could pull through. I know there are some meets where we know we are not going to win but I don’t think that should matter. We should go in just trying to improve individually and that will help the team in the end if everyone can do their best and drop their times.”

There were welts on her right arm, her hair was tousled, and her dark brown eyes were blazing as Niveen Rasheed emerged from the Jadwin Gym locker room.

While Rasheed wasn’t happy that the Princeton University women’s basketball team had just lost 78-67 to No. 20 DePaul, her postgame appearance spoke volumes about how the Tigers scrapped on the evening.

“We just knew we had to play hard; we had to bounce back from our Navy game [a 65-52 loss],” said junior forward Rasheed.

“We had to play with intensity. It’s a tough loss but I am proud of everyone. We just made some little mistakes that cost us but we stuck with it and fought to the final buzzer.”

Rasheed didn’t make many mistakes in the December 13 contest that saw her score 23 points and grab a career-high 18 rebounds.

“I just needed to take ownership,” said the 6’0 Rasheed, reflecting on her effort.

“We have to go after every loose ball. It is our gym and we don’t want 50/50 balls to go to them. I just wanted to win, whatever that meant and today it meant me diving on the floor to go for loose balls and rebounds. I fed off my teammates’ energy and they fed off my energy.”

Rasheed and the Tigers have been looking to break through with a win against a top 20 team but have fallen short in an 81-70 loss to Delaware on December 1 and the defeat to DePaul.

“The first half of the Delaware game was not us,” said Rasheed. “In the second half, you saw more of us. The Navy game was all around no effort, we only played in spurts. This game was a tough loss but we played for the full 40 minutes.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart acknowledged that the loss to Navy turned into a wake-up call for her squad.

“We had an important conversation, the upperclassmen and I, about who we are,” said Banghart.

“We asked for a tough schedule and that means we are going to find out where our holes are and we can’t be babies about it. We have got to regroup and hold ourselves accountable. Tonight was a group of Tigers holding themselves accountable.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers gave a good account of themselves, battling valiantly in an 85-66 loss at No. 4 Stanford.

“Defensively, I thought we did a really good job,” said Banghart, in assessing the Tigers’ effort in the setback to the Cardinal as quoted on the Princeton sports website. “Offensively we never stopped attacking. We never quit.”

In the loss to DePaul, Rasheed certainly never quit. “Niveen is a great example of holding herself accountable; I think the way she competes needs to be contagious,” asserted Banghart.

“But it also has to be disciplined; sometimes her desire to win takes over for her ability to stay within a disciplined system defensively and offensively. Tonight, I thought she was very composed and when she does that, she is very effective. To have 23 points and 18 rebounds against a Big East team; that is a pretty super performance by a superstar.”

In Banghart’s view, her team’s performance against DePaul bodes well for the future.

“It is a step forward,” said Banghart. “If this is not only the type of effort but also the discipline and accountability that we have, the sky is this group’s limit. We showed that against a very, very good team.”

Like Banghart, Rasheed believes that playing against very good opposition should help Princeton down the road.

“The last few years we have been yearning to play teams like this,” said Rasheed, a native of Danville, Calif. who had a special homecoming last Monday, tallying 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists as the Tigers won 77-61 at Santa Clara to improve to 8-4.

“A Big East team coming to our gym is great. We are challenging ourselves and that is making us a better team. Hopefully it plays off in the long run.”

Kyle Wente

Kyle Wente

About 10 years ago, Kyle Wente emerged as an indispensable player for the Princeton University basketball team.

The 6’4 Wente, though, didn’t dazzle you with a silky smooth jump shot or flashy moves to the hoop.

Instead, the understated guard gave the Tigers steadiness and filled up the stat sheet by doing a little bit of everything. As a senior in 2002-03, he averaged 5.9 points, 3.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game.

This year’s Tiger squad appears to have found its version of Wente in 6’5 sophomore guard T.J. Bray.

As the season has gone on, the Tigers have been relying more and more on Bray to provide stability and be a jack-of-all-trades.

Last Wednesday evening at Rider University, Bray showed his worth to the Tigers, scoring 11 points with eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals as Princeton rallied for a thrilling 72-71 overtime victory over the Broncs before 1650 at Alumni Gymnasium.

Significantly, Bray didn’t leave the court for a second of the 45-minute contest.

Afterward, Bray acknowledged that he is developing a comfort level in his first season as a starter.

“My teammates have a lot of confidence in me to do good things,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc. who was named the state and conference player of the year as a senior at Catholic Memorial High.

“When my teammates have confidence, it makes my job so much easier. We have shooters everywhere; it just makes life easier when you have good players around you.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said that Bray is making his life easier, asserting that he plans to keep the sophomore on the court as much as possible.

“He’s not coming out,” said Henderson. “We need balance and T.J. is a good part of the balance because he is making all the passes too. He’s making guys better; that is a big key for Princeton players.”

In Henderson’s view, Bray’s style is reminiscent of Wente. “He’s got a mind for the game; any limits that he has physically; he makes up for with brains for the game,” said Henderson, who got another strong game from Bray last Sunday as he scored 12 points with three assists and two steals as Princeton topped Northeastern 71-62 to improve to 6-6 and post its fifth win in its last six games.

“The Kyle Wente comparison is right on. Kyle got his hand on more passes as a Princeton player. He was always in the right spot; he stole more 2-on-1s when he was the one guy back. That is a T.J. Bray thing. The numbers really favor T.J. when we are doing well; he seems to be filling up the stat sheet.”

The numbers didn’t favor Princeton early in the Rider game as the Tigers found themselves trailing 36-20 with just under five minutes left in the half. Stepping up its defensive effort, Princeton went on a 13-2 run to narrow the gap to 38-33 at the half.

“I thought that was a huge key to the game for us,” said Henderson, reflecting on that stretch to end the half. “They didn’t score. and we started playing the way we want to play. We can’t come out the way we did tonight and win many games.

Bray acknowledged that Princeton came out flat. “We got down big early because we didn’t come to play and then coach said ‘hey guys you are not playing defense’ and to be honest we weren’t,” recalled Bray.

“We were not helping each other out. Once we started helping each other out, that’s when things started clicking on offense and that’s when we started to make a run.”

In the second half, both teams made furious runs in the topsy-turvy contest. The Tigers went on a late 19-8 run to go ahead 65-61 with 34 seconds left in regulation but the Broncs responded by scoring four unanswered points to force overtime.

In the extra session, Rider took a 71-69 lead with 20 seconds left and then missed two free throws that could have put the game out of reach. Princeton got the ball with eight seconds left and pulled out the game in dramatic fashion as Douglas Davis kicked the ball out to Mack Darrow who drained a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Henderson recognized that the Tigers were lucky to escape up Route 206 with a victory.

“We were very fortunate tonight,” said Henderson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Siena on December 22. “I thought Rider played very well and we just happened to have the ball in our hands when time ran out and Mack made a huge shot.”

Darrow knew he was fortunate to end up as the star of the evening. “I was kind of expecting Doug to be the hero like always,” said Darrow, who missed his three previous shots in the game.

“I just kind of stood still and let him rub off my screen and I figured I would let him do his thing. I walked in to get a better look at his buzzer beater and it turns out I found one. It was a little bit crazy; that is a good feeling.”

For Bray, it is a good feeling to see his hard work paying off. “Coach has had me coming do for shots; I am getting  more shots up just about every day, “ said Bray. “Confidence comes with that, just working hard and putting the extra time in.”

December 15, 2011

(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski) ROAD TEST: Princeton University men’s basketball payer Ian Hummer makes an inside move in recent action. Last Wednesday, Hummer banged in a last-second lay-up to provide the margin of victory as Princeton nipped Rutgers 59-57. Three days later, the Tigers fell 64-60 at Drexel as Hummer scored a team-high 18 points. Princeton, now 4-6, will continue an extended road swing when it plays at Rider on December 14 and at Northeastern on December 18. Over a two-month span between December 7 and February 4, the Tigers will play 12 of 13 games away from home.

It was the first stop on an extended road swing for the Princeton University men’s basketball team and it exemplified the pitfalls of playing in an unfriendly environment.

Playing at Rutgers last Wednesday in the Louis Brown Athletic Center, commonly known as the RAC, Princeton quieted the normally raucous crowd as it jumped out to a 49-32 lead with 7:38 left in regulation.

But with Rutgers turning up the defensive heat, things started to unravel for the Tigers and the gym was transformed into a caldron of noise as the Scarlet Knight supporters tried to yell their team into the lead.

Amazingly, Princeton found itself trailing 56-55 with 47 seconds left and tied 57-57 seconds later. Junior star forward Ian Hummer saved the day for Princeton, rattling in a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Tigers a thrilling 59-57 win.

Afterward, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no effort to hide his relief at escaping with the narrow victory.

“It was a crazy game but we are really happy to be on this side of it,” said Henderson. “That is a good Rutgers team so we are happy to come here and get a win.”

Henderson acknowledged that his team nearly succumbed to the pressure exerted by the Scarlet Knights. “They were playing as hard as you possibly can and it really affected us,” said Henderson, whose team was outscored 20-3 over a 5:25 stretch as Rutgers clawed back into the contest.

“We were stuck at 52 for what seemed like the whole night but Ian made two free throws down the stretch and we said we wanted to get the ball to him in the post on that last play. Everybody committed to that; we got the ball to him and he made a heck of a play to win us the game.”

In Henderson’s view, it was critical to get off to a good start on a journey that will see Princeton play 12 of 13 games away from Jadwin Gym.

“This is huge because we are starting a pretty brutal road trip and we needed this in a bad way,” said Henderson, whose team had a bad time on the road last Saturday as it lost 64-60 at Drexel to move to 4-6.

“I am very happy for the guys that we had success on what was really 30 minutes played well and 10 minutes not played so well.”

There were some big guys on hand to support Henderson and his players as former Princeton head coaches Pete Carril and Bill Carmody were sitting behind the Tiger bench.

“I have won two games here with both of those guys as head coaches and one of them as an assistant,” said Henderson, who spent a decade as an assistant coach for Carmody at Northwestern.

“It was great to see both of them in the stands. I think Bill was wearing some orange so that was a good sign.”

It was a good sign for the Tigers to have senior guard Douglas Davis find the shooting range in the second half as he hit three 3-pointers on the way to 16 points.

“I really felt like he was a huge factor in us pulling away,” asserted Henderson.

“I think Doug was 2-for-8 in the first half and then 3-for-5 in the second. I was very happy with Doug. We need Doug to do a lot for us, not just score. I think tonight when we were making our leads, it was obvious that Doug was the guy that was pulling away for us.”

Like Henderson, Davis was happy to get out of the RAC with a win. “It is huge like coach said because we have a tough road trip coming up,” said Davis, a former Hun School standout who now has 1,238 points in his Princeton career.

“It was a good confidence builder but the most important thing is just getting a win period. We played hard and Rutgers did too. It is always good to get a win.”

In Hummer’s view, the win spoke volumes about the team’s resilience.

“It is hard, the pressure they were putting on the last five minutes of the game was the longest five minutes of my life,” said Hummer, who had a game-high 21 points and is leading the Tigers in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.8).

“We had a lot of turnovers but I think we stayed in there and that really shows the character of our team. No matter what happens we are going to keep doing our thing and running our offense. We got a good win out of it.”

Henderson saw some good things to build on from the win. “We made free throws down the stretch,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Rider on December 14 and at Northeastern on December 18.

“For the game, we were 12-of-17 on the line which still isn’t great but Ian made his two at the end when it really mattered and I think T.J. [Bray] went 3-for-4 down the stretch. I think you saw what we can be like defensively for 30 minutes. I knew that but we can really defend and this team likes that about themselves and I like it about them.”

PU Women’s Hockey

PANNING OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey defenseman Ali Pankowski, right, goes after the puck in a recent game. Freshman Pankowski has helped to shore up the defense for the Tigers, who are allowing 2.3 goals a game. Princeton, now 6-9-1 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey play, is next in action when it plays a two-game set at Ohio State on December 30 and 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In last year’s ECAC Hockey quarterfinals, the Princeton University women’s hockey team battled Quinnipiac tooth and nail but couldn’t overcome the Bobcats.

The Tigers fell 2-1 and 2-0 to get swept in the best-of-three series. Princeton was tied at 1-1 heading into the last five seconds of game one and the second game was a 1-0 contest until the Bobcats scored with 16 seconds left in regulation.

Last weekend, Princeton got to spend another weekend with Quinnipiac as the teams played a home-and-home set in the last action before the upcoming holidays.

In an unfortunate case of deja vu, the Tigers dropped two tight contests, falling 1-0 at Baker Rink on Friday and 3-0 a day later in Hamden, Conn.

Reflecting on Friday’s loss, Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal acknowledged he could provide little solace to his disappointed players.

“Our kids played well for a majority of the game,” said Kampersal, whose team is now 6-9-1 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey play.

“There is nothing I can really say to make them feel better. They played really hard. They played with a lot of heart. That is all we can really ask of them. We still need to execute better in front of the net.”

Kampersal will be depending on his senior line of Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Heather Landry to help the Tigers find the back of the net.

“They had a lot of oomph tonight,” said Kampersal. “They have played together on and off here for the last four years. Down the stretch, we are going to rely on them.”

The Tiger defense has proven to be reliable. “The defense was solid, their goal was actually a deflection,” said Kampersal, whose team is giving up 2.3 goals a game.

Freshmen Brianne Mahoney and Ali Pankowski have certainly solidified things along the blue line for Princeton.

“Brianne has good vision and was really good last weekend,” added Kampersal.

“She has good vision; there was a play at the end where she fed it back door and our kid couldn’t corral it but it was a perfect play. Pankowski has a presence out there; she is a big, strong kid and she can deliver the puck to the open net pretty well.”

A big issue for the Tigers so far this season has been a propensity for landing in the penalty box.

“We have got a small bench and it does wear you down,” said Kampersal, whose team took five penalties on Friday and then got hit with four penalties the next day.

“You would really like your power play kids to be your power play kids and your killers to be your killers but sometimes we have our power play kids as our penalty killer kids and that doesn’t bode well.”

When the team returns to action after the holiday break, it will need to show a killer instinct in order to get back on the right track.

“It is a mental thing for us,” said Kampersal, whose team isn’t in action again until it plays a two-game set at Ohio State on December 30 and 31.

“We have to be mentally tough. Physically, we are fine. But we have to be mentally tough no matter what; whether we are up or we are down. We are fighting for all the points we can get, for sure.”

PHS Boys’ Hoops

BLACK MAGIC: Princeton High boys’ basketball star Davon Holliday-Black heads up the court in a game last winter. The Little Tigers will be looking for senior guard Holliday-Black to provide some magic in his final campaign. PHS tips off the 2011-12 season by playing at Nottingham on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the past few years, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team has utilized a run-and-gun approach to develop into a consistent winner.

With less depth in the frontcourt, PHS head coach Jason Carter acknowledges that he may have to slow down things a little bit this winter.

“We are going to count on the big guys to play a lot of minutes and we have got to keep them on the court,” said Carter, whose team went 12-13 last winter in making it to the sectional quarterfinals.

“We may not press as much; we will play more of a deliberate game. We will still fast break when we get 2-on-1 opportunities.”

Lanky 6’6 junior Lior Levy could emerge as the key big man for PHS if he can get up to full speed after being sidelined by a knee injury for much of last season.

“Physically he is getting there,” said Carter, whose team tips off the 2011-12 season by playing at Nottingham on December 16.

“He is working his way back to play more, we have modified things for him as to drills. Mentally, he is there with his basketball IQ and his skills. It is a marathon and we would rather have him at full speed in March than doing too much in December. He is dying to get out there.”

The Little Tigers will also be relying on juniors Jordan Phelps and Christian Giles to come up big in the frontcourt.

“Phelps is coming off a good soccer season; I am hoping he can bring his soccer savvy to the basketball court,” said Carter.

“He made some clutch plays this fall. He can finish. Christian Giles has shown some progress; he can really jump. He is really hungry. He was on the JV at the beginning of last year and he has improved dramatically.”

PHS features a trio of guards in seniors Davon Holliday-Black and Matt Hoffman together with junior Scott Bechler who have shown an ability to come through in the clutch.

“Davon can play in the backcourt and we can also post him up,” said Carter, who will also be using juniors Peter Schulman and Ellis Bloom at guard.

“Davon and Matt are seniors and have played in some big games. Matt shot the ball well at times last year. He also had a big fall; he ran well for a cross country team that won a sectional title. Scott made a lot of progress last year; he had a big win over HoVal in our win in the states. He is coming off a fantastic run in soccer where he was an outstanding contributor.”

In Carter’s view, PHS could have a good run if his veterans get on the same page.

“The five starting guys need to play together and step up at opportune moments,” said Carter. “If those guys can trust each other at crucial moments, we could be good.”

That trust will result if the team can develop a resilient nature. “Overall character is the key to the season,” asserted Carter.

“How hard do we work in practice?; can we hit clutch free throws?; can we hold onto the ball when we are up by two points?; can we come back when we are down by four?; and can we persevere through adversity?”

PDS Boys’ Hockey

PANTHER PRIDE: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey star Conrad Denise heads up the ice in a game earlier this season. Following in the footsteps of older brothers John Garret and Will, Denise helped the Panthers win the PDS Invitational hockey tournament. The junior forward tallied a goal and an assist as the Panthers topped Moses Brown (R.I.) 5-3 last Saturday in the title game to improve to 5-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a grade schooler, Conrad Denise went all out as a fan at the Princeton Day School Invitational hockey tournament.

“My whole life, I remember these weekends,” said Denise, whose older brothers John Garret and Will were PDS standouts. “I painted my face blue and white; I spray-painted my hair.”

While Denise had the pleasure of seeing his brothers taste victory at the annual tourney, he suffered through painful losses in the finals the last two winters as he started his career at PDS.

Last weekend, the junior forward took matters into his own hands as PDS broke through for its first title at the invitational since 2007.

On Friday, Denise scored two goals as PDS topped DeMatha Catholic (Md.) 7-2 in the opening round and then contributed a goal and an assist a day later as the Panthers defeated defending champion Moses Brown (R.I.) 5-3 to win the title.

“It is definitely a big deal for me to win the tournament,” said a grinning Denise.

It was definitely sweet for PDS to turn the tables on Moses Brown. “We lost to them last year in the finals so it was a chip on our shoulder that we had,” said Denise, reflecting on the win which improved PDS to 5-0.

“There are some new guys in the room but they understood. We were happy to get the job done.”

Denise was happy to give the Panthers a lead in the championship game, scoring five minutes into the contest.

“We have been known in the first games for really getting off to good starts which is something that we haven’t always been able to do in the past,” said Denise.

“That is definitely something that helps us; getting off to an early lead and then just getting into a groove and taking control of the game.”

The Panthers lost some control as they were clinging to a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.

“The games are going to get chippy; it was going back and forth,” said Denise.

“The play was definitely picking up; we knew what we had to do. We were in the locker room and we were making sure that the young guys and the new guys knew what they had to do. We are just happy to pull out the win.”

PDS head coach Scott Bertoli likes the way Denise is getting it done. “Conrad is just a smart two-way hockey player; he is very passionate about hockey and PDS hockey,” said Bertoli.

“I know he has to make some sacrifices with his travel team to be here and play with us and we all appreciate that. We know what it means to him; the kid just bleeds blue and white. It is pretty evident today that this meant a lot to him.”

Bertoli appreciates the scoring punch he has at his disposal this season. “We have three very capable lines; we have 10 forwards who we play regularly and that can all score and contribute,” said Bertoli, who also got goals from Lewis Blackburn, Robert Colton, Dallas Derr, and Connor Bitterman in the title contest.

“We play good two-way hockey and when we do that, we control the tempo of the game. We are a quick team; we get to pucks. It is fun.”

The addition of the Colton brothers, junior Robert and freshman Ross, has helped PDS pick up the tempo.

“Robert gets it done at both ends of the rink; he adds a physical element that we really haven’t had in a while,” said Bertoli.

“He is not the biggest guy in the world, he like Garret Jensen [PDS senior captain] doesn’t back down from anyone. They are out there to initiate. I have him out there playing the point on the power point which he has never done before but he is doing a great job. And then Ross, he is arguably the most talented kid on the ice every time he suits up. He is just a dynamic offensive player. He is very adept at reading plays and creating scoring opportunities. All that being said from the offensive side, he kills penalties. He is very responsible defensively; he really has a good understanding of the game.”

PDS is also getting solid play at the defensive end. “The one other big thing that has evolved is the play of our defensemen; we possess the puck far more and with more confidence and with more efficiency than we have ever done,” asserted Bertoli, noting that the quartet of Tyler Olsson, Taran Auslander, Grahame Davis, and Ed Meyercord stepped up Saturday with Bump Lisk and C.J. Young not available.

“We do a lot of things on the breakout that we haven’t ben able to do before and it just has to do with the quality of our defensemen. They are willing to make plays. They are willing to get our forwards pucks on the rush and that makes a difference. As a forward, it is fun to play in transition and our defensemen are allowing us to do that.”

In Bertoli’s view, the team could have a fun winter if it plays with a little more discipline.

“I told these kids and it seems like every time I walk into that locker room, we talk about the first period and a half and say it is the best hockey I have seen,” said Bertoli, whose team will look to keep rolling this weekend when it competes at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts.

“That was the same case today. In the first period and a half, we dominated play. We control the game and, for whatever reason, we get into penalty trouble. It gets us out of our rhythm. We are working through that. Once we resolve that issue, I like our chances in most games.”

Denise, for his part, believes the Panthers have found a good rhythm. “I am so proud of our organization and how much we have improved since my freshman year,” said Denise.

“It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my family. I am just really happy that the team is doing so well.”

PDS Girls’ Hockey

FORWARD LOOKING: Princeton Day School girls hockey star Megan Ofner tracks down the puck last weekend at the PDS Invitational. Senior captain and forward Ofner scored three goals to help PDS top Summit 5-0 last Saturday in the opening round of the event and then chipped in a goal the next day the Panthers fell 3-2 to Rye Country Day in the championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its annual invitational tournament, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team had a clear point of emphasis.

“The big thing for the weekend was putting the puck in the net and getting rebounds,” said PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook.

Senior forward and co-captain Megan Ofner took that message to heart.

On Saturday, Ofner scored three goals to help PDS top Summit 5-0 in the opening round of the event. A day later against Rye Country Day, Ofner tallied on a second period power play goal but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers fell 3-2 to the Wildcats.

While Ofner was disappointed by the final result in the title game, she was proud of how PDS competed.

“Rye is always a big competitor; we always look forward to the game,” said Ofner, who now has 94 points in her PDS career.

“Sometimes, we come out on top and other times, like today, it is heartbreaking loss. We left it on a high note in the Summit game so continuing on that high note really helped us get pumped up to play our best today.”

As a two-time captain and leading scorer, Ofner knows that PDS needs her to give her best in every way.

“I am just happy to help the team; my job is to do anything and everything I can for the team,” said Ofner. “We have a short bench so I try to do anything I can do to help them and encourage everyone.”

It has helped PDS to put Ofner together on a top line with classmate and fellow captain Ashley Egner and junior Zeeza Cole.

“Ashley and I have waited three years to be finally able to play together,” said Ofner.

“It is definitely great chemistry out there with Ashley and Zeeza. We have known each other for a while so we know how each other plays and we know how to get it done.”

Ofner and her teammates will be looking to get it done this Thursday when they host Princeton High in the latest installment of the heated local rivalry.

“We are so excited for PHS; they have been our rival for the last four years,” said Ofner. “We are pumped up and ready for that game.”

Head coach Cook likes the way Ofner pumps up the Panthers. “She is definitely the leader on the ice,” asserted Cook. “She always has a lot of energy; she is just very driven.”

The Panthers showed plenty of drive in the clash against Rye as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Lexie Fairman and then rebounded from a 2-1 deficit to knot the game at 2-2 heading into the third period.

“It was a very competitive game,” said Cook, whose team outshot the Wildcats 34-32 in falling to 2-1.

“We had a lot of energy; we just have to get a little more confident with the puck.”

Cook is looking for her veteran line of Ofner, Egner, and Cole to provide the team with a lot of energy this winter.

“I think they still need to fit into their roles a little more and get comfortable playing with each other but they are definitely coming along,” said Cook, who saw Egner notch a goal in the win over Summit.

“They have got chemistry with each other off the ice; they just need to translate that on the ice.”

Sophomores Mary Travers and Mimi Matthews are developing a chemistry as they look to be a one-two scoring punch on the second line.

“I think when Mary and Mimi can get things going and get a little bit stronger on the puck, they are going to make things happen for us,” said Cook who got a goal from Travers in the win over Summit with both of the sophomores picking up assists in the defeat to Rye.

PDS got a strong effort over the weekend from junior goalie Daisy Mase who made 10 saves in earning the shutout Saturday and then had 29 stops in a losing cause against Rye.

“Yesterday’s game for her was really tough; to not face that many shots is really difficult for a goalie,” said Cook.

“Today’s game you could tell she knew she was going to get a lot of shots. She did and she was in it the whole time. She kept us in the game.”

In Cook’s view, PDS should benefit from facing the tough competition provided by Rye.

“I do think the team took a step forward; they needed a game that really challenged them,” added Cook.

“They played well but it gives them something to go into practices with the kind of mindset that we are going to play them again and we are going to get better.”

Ofner, for her part, sees the Panthers getting better and better as the season unfolds.

“We definitely know our strengths and weaknesses better than we did in the beginning of the season,” asserted Ofner. “We are ready to act on them and continue on with a great season.”



December 7, 2011
Princeton University Men's Hockey

GOING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Calof, right, battles for the puck in a game last season. Over last weekend, Calof tallied two goals and an assist, helping Princeton beat Rensselaer 5-3 on Friday and tie No. 9 Union 3-3 a day later. The Tigers, now 4-7-2 overall and 3-5-1 in ECAC Hockey play, host Harvard on December 10 before playing at Quinnipiac on December 11.

After earning Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year honors last winter, Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Calof experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in the early stages of this season.

Through the first 10 games of the 2011-12 campaign, Calof had no goals and five assists, a far cry from 9 goals and 24 assists he produced as a freshman in leading the Tigers in scoring.

In game 11 on November 26, Calof broke through with a goal to help Princeton top Providence 3-1 at the Denver Cup Classic.

Last Friday against visiting Rensselaer, Calof built on that performance, notching two goals, including the game-winner, as Princeton prevailed 5-3 over the Engineers before 1,616 at Baker Rink.

A relieved Calof basked in the glow of his two-goal outing. “It is really nice, it is being at the right place at the right time,” said the 5’10, 165-pound Calof, a native of Nepean, Ontario.

“I have been getting great passes and having great chances and it is definitely nice that they are starting to go in instead of missing them like I was doing in the previous bunch of games.”

It was definitely nice for Princeton to rally from an early 1-0 deficit in the win over the Engineers.

“It was pretty big because we have gotten down quite a bit in games this year,” said Calof.

“We are getting confidence that we can battle back. It is really good that we are starting to produce offensively because that has been our biggest shortfall this year. We have been getting a lot of chances but have not been getting them in.”

Calof knows that playing on the same line with junior Rob Kleebaum and sophomore Jack Berger has helped him become an assist leader for the Tigers.

“It is really not too hard when you are playing with the caliber of players that are on the team,” said Calof who now has 42 points in his Princeton career on 12 goals and 30 assists.

“I know that if I get the puck to Kleebaum or Berger in the slot, nine times out of 10, it is going to be in the back of the net. If they miss it, they are going to be mad and it will create a rebound and somebody else will put it in. We have been playing together for quite a bit now. We know where each other are and we are pretty comfortable with each other.”

In Calof’s view, the team gained a comfort level from its recent trip to Denver where it fell to 3-0 to the University of Denver before posting the win over Providence.

“When we played Denver, they were the 10th ranked team in the country and after playing them, we didn’t feel like they were that much of a better team than us,” asserted Calof.

“We felt we could compete with them on every aspect of the game so it gave us the confidence going into the next game.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier is happy to see Calof playing with confidence.

“Andrew Calof had a couple of goals tonight; he has the monkey off his back,” said Prier, who got two goals and an assist in the win from sophomore forward Jack Berger.

“You see it a lot with a lot of second year guys; it is just a common thing. So now that he has gotten going, with a guy as talented as him, it is not going to stop.”

In the win over Rensselaer, the Tigers showed some grit to go with their talent.

“It was tough on the bench tonight because we were mixing and matching all over the place,” said Prier, whose team showed more toughness on Saturday afternoon when it overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie No. 9 Union 3-3 and improve to 4-7-2 overall and 3-5-1 in ECAC Hockey play.

“When you lose a guy that early in Jimmy Kerr, to a concussion, and you lose a couple of d-men that early to sickness, it was a big grind. The guys responded well. I think Derrick Pallis showed some leadership qualities tonight. He logged a lot of ice, particularly in the third period and he was gassed. He made some really good poised plays while he was in a state of exhaustion and those are plays that your seniors have to do because it settles everyone else down.”

Like Calof, Prier sees the Denver trip as a possible turning point for the Tigers.

“It was huge for us to do that and get some momentum coming back to Baker for three of the next four,” said Prier, whose team hosts Harvard on December 10 before playing at Quinnipiac on December 11.

“You play a team the caliber like Denver and you want to win those games, don’t get me wrong. But you can also take a lot from it and then to beat Providence on the road like that was great for us. Winning breeds winning and winning breeds confidence. You have to get the Ws. I think these guys are starting to learn what it takes little by little and that’s the most important thing.”

It took some time for the Tiger players to adjust to the new systems that first-year head coach Prier has installed.

“Obviously there is a bit of a learning curve but this is an extremely responsive group of young men, more so than any I ever worked with,” said Prier.

“I am pretty sure that they do understand it all, and, at the end of the day, it just comes down to their execution. You can install whatever systems you want with a team but you need all five guys on the ice to do them at the same time. There are no secrets to it; it is just making sure that they are playing together and communicating a lot and knowing what their job is at that time.”

In Calof’s view, everybody around the program is now on the same page.

“It was kind of off and on in games in the past; we weren’t completely buying into the system,” said Calof.

“The problem is that we were doing the systems right some of the time but not right all the time. We just have to focus on making sure that we commit to it all the time. Now that we have been buying into it, things have been going a lot better. We have been getting a lot more chances and we have been seeing the benefits.”

December 2, 2011
PDS Boys Ice Hockey

(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski) caption: LO RIDER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Cody Triolo controls the puck in a game last winter. Junior forward Triolo will provide offensive depth for the Panthers. PDS, the defending state Prep champs, started its 2011-12 season this week. After playing St. Joseph’s Prep on November 29, PDS will host Pennington on December 1 and St. Augustine on December 6.

For Scott Bertoli and the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team, winning the state Prep title last winter was a breakthrough on several levels.

It was the program’s first Prep crown since Bertoli started coaching at PDS in the 2006-07 season and the Panthers beat two thorns in their side, Morristown-Beard and Pingry, on the way to the the championship.

With PDS starting its 2011-12 season this week, Bertoli believes the program can experience more breakthrough moments this winter.

“We have a lot confidence in this team; we think it is a good group,” said Bertoli, whose team was slated to host St. Joseph’s Prep on November 29, Pennington on December 1, and St. Augustine on December 6.

“It is reflected in the schedule; we are adding teams like Lawrenceville, Hill and Malvern Prep. We’re also still playing teams like LaSalle, Portledge, and St. Augustine.”

Bertoli believes this year’s team can more than hold its own with anyone on the schedule.

“We have three balanced lines with seven or eight guys who can score,” said Bertoli, who guided the Panthers to a 16-9-1 record last winter.

“We have five or six good defensemen and we have proven goaltending. We have been overmatched in the past man for man, now we have the talent and depth to play with those teams. We feel better going into those games this year.”

The addition of the Colton brothers, junior Robert and freshman Ross, should help make up for the offensive firepower lost by the graduation of Peter Blackburn and the transfer of Alex Nespor.

“Robert Colton as a junior is a pretty even trade-off for Alex Nespor,” said Bertoli.

“Alex has more dynamic offensive skills but Robert is a better 2-way player. Ross is a heck of a talent. He is a Tier 1 player and will step right in and help us as a freshman.”

The Panthers boast a good group of returning forwards in seniors Garrett Jensen and Dallas Derr, together with juniors Conrad Denise and Cody Triolo, and sophomores John Egner and Louis Blackburn.

“We are depending on Conrad big-time; he is playing for the Team Comcast 16U team,” said Bertoli.

“Sean had a really good freshman year. John Egner has improved more than anybody. I am still juggling lines, I’d like to create a chemistry.”

PDS also has plenty of good pieces to juggle on defense in seniors Tyler Olsson and Taran Auslander, juniors Bump Lisk, Grahame Davis, and Eddie Meyercord, together with sophomore newcomer C.J. Young.

“C.J. is a big, strong kid,” said Bertoli, whose major loss along the blue line was the graduation of Skye Samse.

“He may not be as tall as Skye but he is more stable on the ice. He is a very strong defender. Bump’s game has gone to another level. We expect big things from him, particularly in big games when he is going against Tier 1 players.”

Senior Walker Ward and junior Connor Walker give the Panthers a strong goaltending tandem.

“Those two guys are going to compete; that will help them both get better,” said Bertoli.

“Connor did separate himself down the stretch, he started six of the eight games in the winning streak. Both are capable and the guys have confidence in both. Ward is a calming influence; he has a bigger body than Connor but he is not as athletic. Connor won some big games for us, he stole games for us that we should not have won.”

In order for the Panthers to win a lot of big games this winter, the team will need to display a constant effort.

“I think the key is consistency,” said Bertoli. “We had that when we won eight straight games near the end and played well in the Barber Tournament but we didn’t have that in other games. We lost some games we should have won. We need to win against teams we should beat and then be competitive and win some of the games against the big teams on our schedule. It is one thing to schedule them and say you have played them; it is another thing to win.”

In Bertoli’s view, taking care of the small things on a daily basis is the key to accomplishing the team’s big goals.

“The kids are excited about the year but I don’t want them to get ahead of themselves,” said Bertoli.

“We are going to focus on process and getting better everyday. I want them to stay in the moment and go out and win the hockey game they are playing today. The focus is today; we are living by that motto.”

November 30, 2011
Hun School Football

MAJOR DUDE: Hun School senior football star David Dudeck heads up the field in a game this fall. Dudeck’s heroics at receiver and defensive back helped Hun go 7-1 and win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

When David Dudeck learned last summer that the Hun School football team was bringing in post-graduate star John Loughery to play quarterback, he had every reason to be upset.

After all, Dudeck had been the starting quarterback in 2010 when Hun fell one win short of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

But Dudeck, a stalwart for the Raider program since his freshman season, moved to receiver and went out of his way to get in synch with the strong-armed Loughery.

“When John reached out to us, David said ‘if it would make us better, I will move to wide receiver,’” said Hun head coach Dave Dudeck, recalling his son’s reaction to the situation.

“He and John were working out in the summer; they just connected. They both have a strong work ethic.”

The younger Dudeck provided good work at receiver all fall long, stretching defenses with his speed and route-running and then changing games with his good hands and propensity for coming through in the clutch.

In the Raiders’ showdown with local rival Lawrenceville in early October, the 6’0, 190-pound Dudeck showed how much he meant to the Raiders.

In the first half, Dudeck made touchdown receptions of 20 and 60 yards as Hun built a 21-12 halftime lead. But when Loughery was sidelined for the second half due to a jarring hit late in the second quarter, Dudeck took over at quarterback.

Showing poise and guts, Dudeck triggered the Hun offense with aplomb in the second half, running for two touchdowns and ending up with 117 yards rushing as the Raiders pulled away to a 34-18 triumph.

“John goes down and I get the call; I am ready and I am fully confident that I can lead this team to a win,” said Dudeck, reflecting on his surprise turn at quarterback.

“I think the biggest thing is playing each and every play with confidence. If you do that, it will be a lot better for you.”

In a pivotal 24-17 win over Blair the next week, Dudeck caught a 21-yard TD reception to open the scoring and then made a catch for a critical fourth down conversion to set up the game-winning touchdown.

Dudeck ended the fall in style, making three catches for 106 yards and a touchdown as Hun beat Hill 38-19 to finish with a 7-1 mark and clinch the MAPL crown.

Head coach Dudeck was justifiably proud of what his son gave Hun in his final campaign.

“Honestly, David was a difference maker and go-to guy,” said Dudeck, whose son also starred at defensive back for the Raiders.

“As he went, the team went. He is a special player and special kid. For the last four years, everything was about the program for him.”

For the younger Dudeck, the bonds with the program ran deep this fall. “We have been getting closer and closer each and every day; we are growing as a family which is awesome to see,” said Dudeck, who is considering several Division I programs including Princeton, Navy, and Boston College. “We come out here and work hard.”

For being unselfish as he helped carry the Hun program to a title, David Dudeck is the pick as the Town Topics top male performer of the fall high school season.

Top Female Performer

Coming into the Mercer County Tournament in late September, Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Samantha Asch had a lot on her shoulders.

The slender junior was the defending champion at first singles and was seeded No. 1 for the 2011 competition at Mercer County Park. In addition, PDS needed Asch to come through if it was to have any chance at the team title in what figured to be a wide-open competition.

“I wasn’t worried about it but it is obviously there,” said Asch, reflecting on the bull’s eye on her back. “I just focused on what I had to do.”

Displaying her unerring groundstrokes and unflappable competitive mentality, Asch breezed through the competition, not dropping a set in winning her second straight first single crown.

“I didn’t really come in with a specific strategy,” said Asch, in assessing her a 6-0, 6-1 win over Sneha Rangu of Hightstown in the title contest.

“I just focused on getting prepared early and moving her around and the rest fell into place.”

For Asch, the icing on the cake came when PDS eked out the MCT team title, edging rival Princeton High by one point, 17.5-16.5.

“We came in the season having lost a bunch of valuable seniors so we didn’t really come in expecting much,” said Asch, who went on to win the state Prep B title at first singles in November.

“We have practiced really hard and everyone is coming in with their game face on and playing well.”

For first-year PDS head coach Ed Tseng, it was a pleasure to watch Asch put on her game face this fall.

“She enjoys it and that is the first thing,” said Tseng of Asch, who has been ranked in the top 15 in the nation among high school juniors

“She enjoys it so she works harder. She works harder so she gets better results. She doesn’t like to miss one day of practice and she practices after practice. With an elite athlete like Samantha, the medals and trophies are the tip of the iceberg.”

Asch, for her part, concurs, attributing her success to that unyielding work ethic.

“It reflects all the hard work I have put in,” added Asch, who estimates that she trains four hours a day in the summer when not playing in tournaments.

“After I come off a hard loss, I always try to bounce right back and come back even harder. I want to come back and practice even harder. I have gotten bigger so my serve has gotten better. I have just tried to clean everything up and cut down on unforced errors.”

Asch’s sensational work on the court this fall makes her the choice as the Town Topics top female performer.

Top Newcomers

With the graduation of star Zaid Smart, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team had a big gap at the top of its lineup entering this fall.

In the early going, PHS head coach John Woodside relied on a tight pack and senior Kevin Ivanov as the Little Tigers showed promise, winning the Group III race at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational.

But in the Shore Coaches Invitational, sophomore newcomer Conor Donahue showed that he could be a frontrunner, taking seventh with a time of 17:10 over the 5k course as PHS won the Varsity C title.

Weeks later at the Mercer County Championships, Donahue set the pace again for PHS, taking 14th individually as the Little Tigers placed fifth in the team standings.

“Donahue battled really hard; he is a guy who put himself out there and really went for it,” said Woodside, reflecting on the county meet.

In early November, Donahue really hit his stride, placing sixth individually in 16:59 over the 3.1 mile course as PHS won the team title at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. It was the program’s first sectional crown since 1986.

Woodside was proud of the progress Donahue made this fall. “Conor is new to cross country; he ran track last spring,” said Woodside. “He is just figuring things out; he is just starting to come into his own. He can be a star.”

For emerging as a star and playing a key role as PHS won its first sectional crown in 25 years, Donahue is the pick as the top male newcomer of the fall.

It didn’t take long for freshman Stefany Soltesz to catch the eye of Pat Trombetta during preseason training for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.

“Stefany Soltesz has really impressed me,” said PDS head coach Trombetta, who started four other freshmen this fall, including Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer, and Soltesz’s twin sister, Alexa.

“We are going to have her at starting sweeper as a freshman. That is a lot of responsibility but she hasn’t left the field since we started. She is aggressive.

Once the games started, Soltesz showed a resourcefulness to go with her aggressive mentality.

With Soltesz sparking a stingy defense, the Panthers got off to an 8-2 start, beating the likes of Lawrenceville and Rutgers Prep along the way.

While injuries, including a concussion suffered by Soltesz, derailed the Panthers down the stretch, PDS looks to be a force to be reckoned with in coming seasons.

Trombetta will be depending on Soltesz to patrol the back line as the Panthers look to get back into contention for a state Prep B title.

“Stefany does a great job in the back,” said Trombetta, who guided the program to Prep B crowns in 2008 and 2010.

“She has got a great game sense. She knows when to come up and make a tackle and she knows when to hold back and be a support defender. She plays bigger and older than she is.”

For making an immediate impact in a key position, Soltesz gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the fall season.

Top Coaches

Lacking a go-to scorer, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team struggled to score goals in the early going this fall.

But that didn’t stop PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s well-drilled unit from producing a third straight undefeated regular season.

While Sutcliffe wanted better finishing, he brought plenty of confidence into tournament play.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with where we are at,” said Sutcliffe, as the team looked forward to the postseason “We have great spirit in the group. We are in a good place.”

In the the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals against Notre Dame, the Little Tigers displayed that spirit as they fought back from a 1-0 second half deficit to pull out a dramatic 2-1 win on a last-minute goal by Colin Lamb.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and the poise they showed,” said Sutcliffe, whose team went on to win the MCT crown by edging Pennington 1-0 in the title contest.

“They really had to scramble and put something together to get that tying goal. They believed; we could tell that they believed.”

The team’s belief increased as it produced a glorious run through the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, outscoring its foes 10-3 on the way to the program’s fourth sectional crown in the last eight year.

PHS’s superb run ended with a 2-0 loss to Timber Creek in the state Group 3 semis and afterward Sutcliffe lauded the contribution of his seniors,

“They gave us all they had and they met the demands of every single game including this one,” said Sutcliffe, whose club ended the fall with a 20-1-2 record and won the CVC Valley Division title to go with its county and sectional titles. “I am so proud of Ben [Davis] and Kyle [Ehrenworth], George [Kusserow], Bruce [Robertson], Ajami [Gikandi], and Kellen [Kenny]. Even though this was the first game we lost all season and we were on the wrong end of it, how much more could you do to meet the demands of the game. They had a great run, just fantastic.”

For getting the most out of his players and guiding PHS to three titles in another fantastic season, Sutcliffe is the choice as the top coach of a male team.

PHS girls’ tennis head coach Sarah Hibbert was cautiously optimistic as she looked ahead to the 2011 campaign.

“I would like to have a better year than last year but there are a lot of strong teams,” said Hibbert, whose lineup featured six seniors and one junior.

“WW/P-N and WW/P-S have reloaded and brought in some good freshmen so we can’t take anything for granted in the county. The seniors all know this is their last year and that we have a great chance to be a very successful team. They need to stay focused and work on keeping in the moment in the matches.”

Bringing an undefeated record in the Mercer County Tournament, PHS suffered bitter disappointment as it missed out on the team title by one point, falling to champion Princeton Day School 17.5-16.5.

As a subdued Hibbert reflected on the setback, she vowed that her team would be a force in the upcoming state tournament.

“I think we definitely played well today, we have the potential to do very well in states,” said Hibbert.

“We just have to keep everyone healthy and playing well. Hopefully we will do good things.”

The Little Tigers ended up doing some very good things in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, breezing into the finals where they edged Manasquan 3-2.

“It is really nice,” said Hibbert in assessing the program’s first sectional title since 1999.

“It is almost a relief; being so close and never being able to win sectionals. We ran into some strong teams over the years like Moorestown and Holmdel. With Holmdel getting moved out of sectional this year; we thought we had a chance.”

After PHS’s run ended with a 3-2 loss to Montville in the Group 3 state semis, Hibbert tipped her hat to the team’s strong group of seniors which included Sarah Cen, Vinita Su, Helena Ord, Lena Sun, Keely Herring, and Alyssa Taylor.

“Many of this group made varsity as freshmen and they have been staples in the lineup for so long,” said Hibbert, whose team posted a 16-2 record this fall. “It will be hard to lose them. They are leaders, friends, and good people. It is a great group and I will definitely miss them.”

Hibbert’s steadfast leadership in guiding those seniors to the program’s first sectional title in 12 years makes her the pick as the top coach of a female team this fall.

Princeton University Women's Basketball

RESERVE STRENGTH: Princeton University women’s basketball player Megan Bowen drives to the hoop in a game last winter. Junior reserve center Bowen has provided the Tigers with a big spark off the bench, averaging 8.5 points a game and 3.0 rebounds a game. The Tigers, now 6-0, host No. 24 Delaware on December 1 before playing at Maryland-Baltimore County on December 3.

Megan Bowen admits to being a project when she joined the Princeton University women’s basketball team in 2009.

“I came in freshman year and I wasn’t ready for the collegiate level,” said the 6’3 Bowen, a native of Bath, Pa.

“It was a learning process for me. I defend Devona Allgood in practice everyday; that’s naturally going to make you a better player. You can only take Devona’s hook shot in your face so many times until you learn to defend it.”

Bowen rarely left the bench that winter, playing 88 minutes in 20 appearances and scoring 33 points. As a sophomore, Bowen proved she could succeed at the college level, getting into 25 games and tallying 136 points.

“I take pride that I have gotten better to help Devona everyday,” said Bowen. reflecting on her progress. “We need people who are going to challenge our starters. I take pride in coming off the bench and having that energy.”

Last Friday in a 53-44 win over visiting Davidson, Bowen provided a spark in 13 minutes off the bench, scoring six points with two rebounds and an assist.

“I am in my junior year so I know what coach wants; she wants you to bring in energy,” said Bowen.

“I think everyone was trying; it was a great team effort. We pulled out the win so that is what is important. We have to just keep growing from it.”

Bowen and her teammates have put in extra effort to help their growth. “I think it is putting the extra time in with coach [Melanie] Moore,” said Bowen, who is averaging 8.5 points a game.

“You do a lot in practice but coach only really has 2½ hours. Getting the extra time is great, I think our whole team has been doing that. Niveen [Rasheed] has been working on 3-point shots. It wasn’t something that was huge in her game when she came here but she puts in the extra time on the shot.”

Missing some time due to a concussion had Bowen fired up to get back in action against Davidson.

“I had a concussion; I took an elbow to the head in practice,” said Bowen, who was sidelined two games as a result of the injury. “I passed the concussion test this morning and got clearance. The doctor looked at it and I was good to go this afternoon.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was happy to have Bowen back.

“It was great; she is a competitive kid,” said Banghart of Bowen, who had another strong game Sunday, scoring 10 points with four rebounds and three assists as Princeton topped Rider 75-55 to improve to 6-0.

“She takes a lot of pride in her position and being a spark off the bench. I think her rhythm was a little bit off because she has been out for a week. She has been a big bright spot for our team, for sure.”

Another bright spot for the Tigers has been the return of junior star Niveen Rasheed from a knee injury in last year’s Davidson game that sidelined her for most of last season.

“I think the greatest part about Niveen is that she always plays at that level with that speed, that pace, that desire, that competitive fire,” asserted Banghart of Rasheed who is averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game.

“Whether at practice or a game, it doesn’t matter. She has always been able to change the game on her own very quickly. When you take that away from her, i.e., put her on the bench, she has had to learn the game. She still has that ability to create and change the game instantly but now she understands the game a little bit better so I think she will just continue to get better.”

Utilizing a high pressure approach, the Tigers have gotten better on the defensive end.

“We are way better defensively because we are way better athletically,” maintained Banghart, whose team is giving up just 50.0 points a game and has held foes to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor.

“We are very versatile; we can switch all over the floor, we can trap. These guys have really bought in to being disruptive, both over 94 feet and the quarter court. We challenge every shot, so defensively, we are just giving people fits. If we can buy into that same poise on the offensive end, we’ll be really good.”

With two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton now getting votes in the ESPN coaches’ poll and Associated Press media poll, the rest of the country is getting the idea that these Tigers are really good.

“I think the neat thing about that is that it shows that other people are taking notice,” said Banghart, whose team has a chance to turn more heads when it hosts No. 24 Delaware on December 1.

“I told them after the Marist game [a 68-51 win] that we are writing our own story with this group. The people in the room are what matters. It would be great for the Ivy League to have a team in the Top 25. It would be great for this team to to be recognized nationally for their efforts.”

Bowen, for her part, believes the Tigers can make an impact on the national scene.

“Coach gave us a hard schedule but we prepared for a hard schedule,” said Bowen.

“It gives you confidence going into Stanford, DePaul, Delaware, and those bigger games. I think a few years ago, this program would have looked at playing Stanford as a nice way to get another game in where you will have a lot of media and a big crowd. Now we are looking at Stanford saying they are a great team but we want to have a chance.”

Princeton University Men's Water Polo

YOUNG BUCH: Princeton University men’s water polo star Kurt Buchbinder fires the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Buchbinder has scored 17 goals this season to help No. 14 Princeton advance to the NCAA Final Four this weekend at Berkeley, Calif.

Even though the Princeton University men’s water polo team dropped five of six games on its annual California swing earlier this season, Luis Nicolao saw signs that his squad could play with the best in the college game.

“We had some competitive games; it helped us a lot,” said head coach Nicolao, whose team beat Long Beach State 8-4 and suffered a pair of two-goal losses to Loyola Marymount and a tight 11-7 defeat to UC Davis. “With the youthfulness of the team, we tried some things.”

Upon its return to New Jersey in early October, the Tigers did plenty of good things as it took second in the Southern Championships and then won the Eastern Championships.

By virtue of taking the Eastern crown, Princeton earned a return engagement to California where it will play in the NCAA Final Four this weekend at Berkeley.

The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 21-9, will play top-seeded and three-time defending national champion USC (22-3) on December 3 in one semifinal with UC San Diego meeting UCLA in the other semifinal.

The winners of the semis will play for the title on Sunday while the losers will face each other in the third-place game.

In order to make it back west, Princeton had to overcome a tough Navy team that beat the Tigers 10-5 in the Southern Championships.

While that result was disappointing, Nicolao wasn’t discouraged. “After watching the video of that game, we saw things we could fix,” said Nicolao.

“One guy scored six goals and we had some mental breakdowns. Coming off that loss, we felt if we were fortunate enough to play Navy in the Easterns, we could do some things to win.”

Nicolao acknowledges that his team was fortunate to edge No. 16 St Francis 13-11 in overtime in the Eastern semis.

“That was a gift; we had no business winning that game,” said Nicolao. “We were down three with three minutes left. Things fell our way. Drew [Hoffenberg] played great; Ben [Dearborn] had a big game in goal. We got some breaks.”

That victory set up the rematch with No. 15 Navy in the Eastern title game. “I always tell the guys that the toughest game is the semis on Saturday night,” said Nicolao.

“The season is on the line. Once you get into finals, anything can happen and you can play your game.”

Princeton was able to play its game as it pulled away to a 10-7 win over the Midshipmen.

“We made sure we had the right matchups,” explained Nicolao, who got three goals in the title game from Hoffenberg with Dearborn making 14 saves.

“We knew the two or three guys that we didn’t want to beat us and we shadowed that side of the pool. We shot the ball well. We got up 2-0, 3-1, and then they tied it at 3-3. We ran off five straight goals. Once you get a three-goal lead, so much changes. You are able to take some chances.”

Seizing the chance to win a second Eastern title in the last three years was special for Nicolao, who is in his 14th season guiding the Tigers.

“It was a great feeling; it is a great group of guys,” said Nicolao. “We had it under control, we were able to enjoy it.”

Nicolao has enjoyed this fall, blending a superb group of precocious freshmen with a core of battle-tested veterans.

Freshmen Hoffenberg (43 goals), Matt Weber (44 goals), Kayj Shannon (35 goals) and Thomas Nelson (28 goals) have made an immediate impact while such veterans as junior Tim Wenzlau (38 goals), senior Mike Helou (28 goals), senior Chris Cottrell (16 goals), junior Tommy Donahue (18 goals) and sophomore Kurt Buchbinder (17 goals) have provided stability.

“The young guys added a little swagger and we have great balance,” said Nicolao.

“We have six guys with around 30 goals. We don’t have to rely on a couple of guys.”

With the Tigers having hosted the NCAAs in 2009 and edging Loyola Marymount 6-5 in the third-place game, Princeton does have some national tournament experience upon which to rely.

“We talked about that,” said Nicolao, referring to the 2009 tourney. “The juniors and seniors have played in this; they know what this is like. We have nothing to lose; we want to show our stuff.”

As the Tigers look to thrive on their second trip to California, Nicolao is planning to use the blueprint that former Princeton men’s basketball coach Pete Carril perfected to bedevil foes on the national stage.

“We need to take care of the ball,” said Nicolao. “We can’t make turnovers or let them get on fastbreaks. We have to keep it 6-on-6. We can’t get into a shootout. We have to control the tempo and slow the game down.”