March 27, 2013

As Charlie Gallagher takes the helm of the Princeton High football program, he has some good coaching role models around him.

“We have a lot of great programs at high school, the swimming with Greg Hand and the soccer with Wayne Sutcliffe and Greg Hand, and the lacrosse with Peter Stanton,” said Gallagher, an assistant for PHS, who is taking over for Joe Gargione after he posted a 5-25 record guiding the Little Tigers over the last three seasons.

“Winning programs attract the kids. We need to create a culture of winning. We need to start winning games.”

Having spent five seasons as an assistant at PHS and a stint with the Princeton University sprint football team, Gallagher felt he was ready for the promotion to head coach.

“I have a really good rapport with the football players; I have a good foundation for football,” said Gallagher, who teaches television/filmmaking and multi-media at PHS.

“I have coached the freshman team the last three years. A lot of those kids didn’t have much or any experience. I have experience on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively. I have also coached all defensive backs and wide receivers for the varsity team.”

Gallagher is looking forward to the experience of leading the Little Tigers. “I told the players when I met with them that it is a dream come true,” said Gallagher.

“I am terribly excited. I am forever indebted to John Miranda [Athletics Director] and Gary Snyder [PHS Principal] to be given an opportunity like this. I want to take the bull by the horns.”

With PHS coming off a 2-8 season, Gallagher is hitting the ground running.

“We have 10-12 guys in the weight room this spring, which is good, but I would like to have more,” said Gallagher.

“I may institute some morning workouts. Some of the spring sports guys have come to me saying they would be excited to lift. We are getting the playbook together. It is pretty extensive. It is good to get it started in March, putting it on paper is good.”

Another item on Gallagher’s to-do list is putting his coaching staff together. “Scott Goldsmith will stay on the staff,” said Gallagher. “We are looking outside for some good football coaches with character.”

While the Little Tigers have displayed plenty of character over the years, Gallagher knows his players have to execute better on both sides of the ball to get back on the winning track.

“One of the things we need to do is to score more points; we need to get after the quarterback on defense,” said Gallagher.

“We scored about 100 points last season and gave up around 300. I am more of a triple option guy on offense, I think it is a big threat with three guys who could get the ball. We will still do power football with traps, dives and off tackle plays. I am not sure what our defense will look like. I have an idea; I like the 50-front. Most high school teams run first so we need to be able to stop the run.”

In order to bolster the PHS program, Gallagher knows he has to get out in the community to spark interest.

“I am focused on the high school but I need to be a liaison, an ambassador of football in Princeton,” said Gallagher.

“We need more kids on the middle school playing football. Even if they are not playing in Princeton, they can play in Montgomery, Millstone, or wherever. We need more kids playing in seventh and eight grades.”

Getting more kids playing on the varsity is a key priority for Gallagher.

“We had 41 kids at our preseason meeting,” said Gallagher.

“If we can keep those kids and get 10-15 freshmen in here that would be good. We need 22 to have a full offense and defense. We aren’t going to have that in the near future so the expectations are that a lot of kids are going to have to go both ways. We want to change that eventually.”

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOOMING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Ellis Bloom strokes the ball in a game last year. Battle-tested senior third baseman Bloom will be a key player for PHS as it looks to improve on the 4-18 record it posted in 2012. The Little Tigers start regular season play this spring by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High baseball team has struggled in recent years, its players are excited for the 2013 season.

“There is a lot of renewed enthusiasm,” said Princeton head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 4-18 record last year.

“A lot of the guys love baseball and really focus on it. They play a lot in the summer and in the fall.”

Roberts has a lot of arms at his disposal to handle the pitching duties this spring with senior Mike Dunlap, senior Rohit Chawla, junior Ben Gross, senior Andrew Frain, junior Jeff Gleason, and junior Austin Taylor.

“Mike Dunlap will return as a starter; Rohit pitched 35-40 innings last year,” said Roberts, whose team opens the season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 2.

“Gross is a welcome addition. Frain will round out the rotation. We can use four different starters depending on the week. Gleason and Taylor will be first out of the gate in weeks where we need relievers. I think the staff is very good. It is one of our strengths. They have a lot of experience and lot of talent in the junior class.”

The Little Tigers will need to use experience and creativity to manufacture runs. PHS will feature seniors Ellis Bloom and Zach DiGregorio at the top of the order with juniors Zach Tesone, Gross, senior Frain, and junior Colin Frawley providing punch in the middle.

“We will rely on Bloom and DiGregorio to be the tablesetters,” said Roberts.

“Tesone and Gross will be in three or four, they can get the ball to the gaps. Frain or Frawley in the five spot. We are going to need singles, stolen bases and sacrifice bunts to get runs.”

Around the diamond, the PHS defensive alignment will include Frawley and John Reid at catcher, Tesone and Taylor at first base, senior Matt Farinick at second, Chawla and Gleason at shortstop, Bloom at third with Christian Giles, DiGregorio, Gross, and Frain in the outfield.

The PHS players are hoping that their love of the game will translate to more wins this spring.

“We talked about goals the other day,” said Roberts. “They think of themselves as a .500 team and I tend to agree. If we could get to 10 wins, that would be a great step forward. They have more lofty goals this year.”

In order to achieve those goals, the Little Tigers have to execute better than they have in recent years.

“We need to win the games we are supposed to win or think we should win,” said Roberts.

“We have to close out one-run games; we lost five one-run games last year. If we steal a couple of those, that would be a big help. We need to prevent the bad inning.”

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BENEFIT OF EXPERIENCE: Hun School head coach Bill McQuade surveys the action last spring. McQuade has high hopes for the Raiders this spring as he enters his 43rd season guiding the program. Hun is slated to play at Lawrenceville on March 27 in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of a disappointing 2012 season, Bill McQuade senses a renewed hunger around his Hun School baseball team this spring.

“They think they could have done better,” said Hun head coach McQuade, whose squad went 9-14 last spring after surging to the state Prep A title in 2011.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t have enough pitching depth and that hurt us. This team has a different feel. We have five or six newcomers who can really play. This is shaking the cobwebs off because people know they could lose their position. We are going to be as good as we can be as a team, not individuals.”

McQuade believes that this year’s team boasts a powerful one-two pitching punch in Wagner College-bound senior star Austin Goeke and sophomore Jason Applegate.

“Goeke is terrific, he looked great in Florida,” said McQuade, who took his team on its annual spring training trip earlier this month in preparation for his 43rd season at the helm of the program.

“Jason Applegate is a kid who has made a big jump. He really opened some eyes in Florida. He is vastly improved, his control and curveball are much better.”

The Raiders have plenty of arms to back up Goeke and Applegate. “We are still figuring out the rest of the staff,” said McQuade, whose team opens the 2013 season by playing at the Lawrenceville School on March 27.

“Mike Manfredi is not a power pitcher but he throws strikes. The freshmen, George Revock and Rob Huselid, throw strikes. Andy Douglas has a funky motion but he is effective. Brett Ender had some shoulder problems and was rehabbing in the fall. He can get it over 90 m.p.h. so he could be another power pitcher for us. If I had to say what our strength is, I would say it is depth on the mound.”

The Raiders have some depth around the diamond to provide defensive support for its pitchers.

“We have multiple people who can play multiple positions,” said McQuade. “It is causing the coaches a dilemma. We have a couple of people for each position and we may need to make cuts. We have a lot of moving parts.”

McQuade should have the ability to make a lot of moves defensively. “We have Stevie Wells at first, Shane Adams at second, Devon Birch at shortstop, and Eddie Paparella at third when he is healthy; we will have Nick Perez and Douglas at third for now,” said McQuade.

“In the outfield, we have Applegate, Manfredi, Douglas, Zach Roberson, and Bailey Hammer. We have five or six guys who could play in the infield and four or five in the outfield.”

The Raiders also have depth at catcher as Mike Edenzon, Gideon Friedberg, and Ryan Hayes are vying for time behind the plate.

“All are better than the other in one area, hitting, throwing, or blocking pitches,” said McQuade in analyzing his catching situation. “We have to figure out who will be the catcher.”

Hun’s batting order boasts a good balance of speed and punch that figures to give its foes fits.

“Birch and Adams can both lead off, they are identical to each other, they are both special players with a lot of speed,” said McQuade.

“Wells gives us a lot of power. It is a mistake to pitch him inside so we have him working on going to the opposite field. We just need him to get singles or doubles to left to keep the line moving. Applegate is better and Manfredi has a good bat. Paparella at third is a special player, a lot of college scouts were looking at him last year. When he gets healthy, he will bat third. He is a switch hitter.”

In order to rebound this spring, the Hun players will have to come together as a unit.

“If we can get the right people in the right places and work together, we could be good,” said McQuade.

“The kids can’t worry about individual statistics. We have a lot of kids going on to play in college but it is about what are you going to do now. Some kids may have to play different positions if that is what is best for the team. These are the little things that we have to do well and we talk about them everyday.”

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DIAMOND JEWEL: Hun School softball shortstop Julia Blake makes a play in a game last spring. Sophomore Blake is looking to build on a superb debut season for the Raiders, which saw her star in the field and with the bat. Hun opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk didn’t have to wait until this spring to see something special in her Hun School softball team.

“They did a weightlifting program over the winter with our new trainer,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk.

“The kids are pumped up. The three seniors [Carey Million, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal] are good leaders on and off the field. They were getting people to come in for the weightlifting.”

Quirk is confident she has two starting pitchers in freshman Alexis Goeke and Beal who will get a lot of people out this spring.

“Goeke is going to help us,” asserted Quirk, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting the Hill School (Pa.) on March 28.

“She is strong and young and can only get better. She wants to be out there, she is a competitor. Beal pitched well in Florida. We are going to use both of them. They complement each other and are supportive of each other.”

The Raiders should be able to provide good defensive support to the pitchers. Hun will feature Elon University-bound Million at catcher with sophomore Caitlin Hoagland at first base backed up by Goeke and junior Kameron McNair, Crivelli at second, sophomore star Julia Blake at shortstop, and Beal at third. Across the outfield, Quirk will use junior Alexa Fares in left, junior Kristen Manochio in center, and junior Lauren Moonan in right.

Over its recent preseason trip down south, Hun showed some hitting punch that impressed Quirk.

“In Florida we were hitting very well, we swung the bats as well as I have seen us do down there,” said Quirk, whose team went 9-7 in 2012 and advanced to the state Prep A semis. “We will lead off with Blake, followed by Beal, Goeke, Million, and Manochio.”

The Raiders will be relying on its trio of seniors to take the lead this spring. “They have the desire,” said Quirk.

“Our seniors have been in the semis or the finals the past few years and we have lost by a run or in extra innings. They have to believe in themselves and that they can do it.”

Quirk, for her part, believes the squad can do some special things this spring. “I have high hopes, I hope they meet my expectations of going for Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state championships,” said Quirk.

“We have to stay focused. We won all seven games in Florida. I know it wasn’t the greatest competition. We have to take that experience and build on it and get better.”

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISKY BUSINESS: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Corinne Urisko, left, heads to goal in a game last spring. Senior star Urisko should be a force this spring for the PDS, which gets the 2013 campaign underway when it plays at Stuart Country Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling to a 0-5 start last spring, the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team caught fire and ended with a 9-9 record.

PDS head coach Jill Thomas believes her team can build on last season’s late surge.

“We want to start where we left off last year and work on getting better everyday,” said Thomas, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Stuart County Day School on April 2.

Thomas believes her corps of nine seniors will make sure that the team works hard on a daily basis.

“These seniors are bound and determined, “ asserted Thomas, whose Class of 2013 includes Ellen Bartolino, Zeeza Cole, Lizzie Frieder, Louise Hutter, Carolyn Kossow, Hannah Levy, Cami McNeely, Sarah Trigg, and Corinne Urisko.

“They have really brought the group together. The juniors have responded really well.”

Thomas likes the way her offense is coming together. “We have six guys who will be on attack or midfield,” said Thomas.

“Hannah Levy had almost 100 points last year and she is looking good. She is heading to MIT, I think she will be a star there. Corinne Urisko is building on last year; she has got a shot that just rips the net. Lucy Linville had a good offseason; she has worked really hard. Sarah Brennan is looking good in the midfield; she will score goals. Kirsten Kuzmicz will be key in the midfield. Morgan Foster is 100 percent and she is looking fine. We have a lot of balance.”

The Panthers feature some battle-tested veterans at the other end of the field.

“The low defense will be Louise Hutter, Cami McNeely, and Lizzie Frieder,” said Thomas. “Zeeza Cole will move between midfield and defense.”

Senior goalie Sarah Trigg is looking good as PDS’ last line of defense. “Sarah gets better everyday; she is committed to going out on top,” added Thomas.

The Panthers will look to start the season at top speed, having displayed their commitment to excellence by going to Florida earlier this month for a preseason trip.

“We have already had two weeks of preseason up here,” said Thomas. “The trip is a good opportunity to get things going. It is an exciting group; it is going to be a lot of fun.”

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SO READY: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Isabel Soto, right, fights off a foe in action last spring. Senior attacker Soto figures to be a key offensive threat for the Tartans this spring. Stuart opens the 2013 campaign when it hosts Princeton Day School on April 2.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Caitlin Grant, things are running like clockwork in her second season as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team.

“I think last year was a lot of learning for me and the players,” said Grant, who guided Stuart to a 4-11 record last spring.

“This year there is no messing around. At 3:15, the kids are ready to go and run laps. The captains took it upon themselves to have captain’s practices before the season so that was a big help.”

In Grant’s view, her team should get some big help from its group of freshmen.

“Last year none of the freshmen had played lacrosse,” said Grant, whose squad hosts Princeton Day School on April 2 in its season opener.

“This year we have five freshmen who have played outside lacrosse before. We have two freshmen who are new to the game but are picking it up so quickly that I can’t believe it.”

Grant is confident the Tartans will pick it up offensively this spring. “Isabel Soto played well last year and is at attack again,” said Grant.

“Amy Hallowell is always going to be a good one for us. We have three freshmen, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser and Sam Servis, who are doing well and are going to be really good. Rose Tetnowski is also doing well.”

The Stuart defense will be spearheaded by two veterans. “Isabel Lapuerta and Meghan Shannon are the two starters coming back there,” said Grant.

Sophomore Harlyn Bell came on strong last year at goalie and Grant is expecting her to be even better in 2013.

“Harlyn just tried out for a travel team and made it; she played over the summer too,” said Grant. “She is really quick and is able to clear the ball a long way down the field.”

In Grant’s view, the Tartans have the potential to come a long way this spring. “I think this group is going to do well,” asserted Grant.

“We are young but we are going to be tough to beat. They push each other hard in practice and hold each other accountable. I am really excited for the season.”

March 20, 2013
TEXAS TWO STEP: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team jump for joy after they learned their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament in a selection show party at the Triumph Brewing Company. The Tigers (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) were seeded ninth and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TEXAS TWO STEP: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team jump for joy after they learned their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament in a selection show party at the Triumph Brewing Company. The Tigers (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) were seeded ninth and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last March, the Princeton University women’s basketball team took a ninth seed into the NCAA tournament and lost a 67-64 heartbreaker to No. 8 Kansas State.

On Monday evening, four-time Ivy League champion Princeton (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) learned that it has earned a ninth-seed in the NCAA tourney for the second straight year and will be heading to Waco, Texas to face No. 8 Florida State (22-9 overall, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday in the first round of the Oklahoma City regional. The winner of that game will likely face defending national champion Baylor (32-1) in the next round as the No. 1 Bears are heavily favored to defeat 16 seed Prairie View (17-14) in their NCAA opener.

Senior forward Kate Miller, for her part, believes that last year’s disappointment has laid the foundation for success this March.

“Going in as a nine seed last year and playing the 8-9 matchup and losing by three, although it is a heartbreaker, it definitely gives us a ton of confidence going forward,” said Miller.

“Coming off the loss last year, that’s where we were and that’s where we want to be. I think that is the best seed we can ask for.”

In Miller’s view, having suffered a loss in Ivy play this winter for the first time since February, 2011 along with surviving a couple of close calls should help the Tigers.

“We had the loss against Harvard, we had the tough games against Penn and Dartmouth; to not just breeze through like we have been, that’s been great prep for us,” said Miller, a 6’0 native of Rumson, N.J. who is averaging 5.8 points and 3.4 rebounds a game this season.

“I think what we learned from the past three trips to the tournament is that it is not going to be an Ivy League game. You have to remind yourself how it feels to play from behind and to value every possession. That is something that we lose sight of once we get out of the preseason; we have had those tough games.”

With Princeton having lost in its previous three trips to the Big Dance, Miller believes it needs to be tougher mentally to prevail this time. “We need to be poised and treat it like any other game,” said Miller.

“You know we are going to be playing far from home so we are not going to have the fan group we are used to but to just treat it like it is nothing different.  One thing our coach has been telling us is execute first and emotion second. I think that is going to be huge. It is such a big stage and there is so much excitement going into it. If we let that take us out of our stuff, it is not going to go the way we want. I think we need to get down there and get settled the first two days we are there and then really just focus on us.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart likewise believes that tasting defeat in Ivy play and going 9-5 in a challenging non-conference slate will work to Princeton’s advantage.

“We are not going to be winning by 20 at half, I promise you that,” said Banghart.

“So to have played in close environments and close games, I think that will help us. I told this team at the end of the Penn game, we are more battle-tested than we have been and we are deeper and those two things are important in the NCAA tournament.”

The Tigers will face a deep and talented team in Florida State. “They are pretty guard-oriented; they are pretty senior-oriented,” said Banghart in assessing the Seminoles who is coached by Sue Semrau and features three All-ACC performers in senior guards Alexa Deluzio and Leonor Rodriguez and junior forward Natasha Howard.

“Their two leading scorers are guards. Their coach is one of the best in our game. You are not going to get a bad team in the NCAA tournament and they are certainly no exception.”

In the wake of Princeton’s season-ending 60-44 win over Penn on March 12, the Tigers have been focusing on speeding up their offense. “We have worked entirely on the pace of our offense,” noted Banghart.

“I thought we were playing too slow the last two weeks of the season so we worked on getting the east and west side of the court to play together and improve our pace. We have to just make sure that we don’t get going too fast now.”

Banghart knows her team can’t afford to get carried away emotionally when it returns to the big stage of March Madness.

“I thought when we played the home Harvard game, I wrote on the board, let’s execute first and be emotional second,” said Banghart.

“I think that is an important thing to carry into the tournament. The emotions are natural but we have to execute well. We are not going to change who we are, we don’t execute perfectly. We are going to play hard, we are going to defend, we are going to share the ball, we are going to celebrate each other. We are going to try to make some plays.”

Princeton is looking for some big plays from its corps of seniors which includes two-time Ivy Player of the Year Niveen Rasheed,  three-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Polansky, and Meg Bowen, together with Miller.

“I think the athletic mortality of seniors is something that can’t be overstated,” asserted Banghart.

“It is win or go home now for the seniors; I hope I can manage it well with them. I think what they took away from it last year is that some of their best friends were done. That’s hard, that it is over for you.”

Miller, for her part, doesn’t think things are going to end on Sunday for her and fellow seniors.

“This is it,” said Miller. “We have our preseason meetings and we set our goals and the No. 1 thing now is no longer just getting to the tournament, it is getting that first round win. I know for us seniors there is so much pride, heart, and dedication. We put four long years into this team, to go in with this much confidence, to get the win is the only outcome we are going to push for.”

ANCHORMAN: Princeton University men’s track star Peter Callahan sprints to the finish in a race earlier in his career. Earlier this month, senior Callahan produced a blistering 1,600-meter anchor leg to help the Tigers win the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

ANCHORMAN: Princeton University men’s track star Peter Callahan sprints to the finish in a race earlier in his career. Earlier this month, senior Callahan produced a blistering 1,600-meter anchor leg to help the Tigers win the distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

As Peter Callahan waited to get the baton for his 1,600-meter anchor leg in the distance medley relay (DMR) earlier this month at the NCAA Indoor Championships, he went through a mental checklist.

“What is important for me is that I have so much faith in the other guys; I am just trying to stay loose and look up a few times to keep up on the race,” said senior star Callahan.

“You have five and a half minutes, it is stressful. I just focus on my race strategy and my plan. What is unique is that you don’t know where you are going to be when you get the baton. In an individual race, you have control over where you are. You try to prepare for all the possibilities in the relay and then you just go and race hard.”

Once Callahan got the baton on the track at the University of Arkansas, he went hard and produced a blistering kick that gave the Princeton quartet the national title.

Princeton was in third when Callahan took off on his anchor leg. He kicked into high gear in the last 300 to pull out the win, running a 4:01.11 split as the Tigers finished at 9:33.01, with Penn State placing second in 9:34.00 and Minnesota taking third at 9:34.21

For Callahan, winning the title, Princeton’s first at the national indoor meet in 11 years, was extra special because he got to share it with teammates Michael Williams (1,200 meter leg), senior Austin Hollimon (400 meters), and senior Russell Dinkins (800 meters).

“I went to the meet as an individual last year and that was great,” said Callahan, who took sixth in the mile at the 2012 NCAA indoor meet.

“This is a whole other level. You are racing for something more than yourself. You are racing for the three other guys and for the team and you are racing for the whole school. It is something the four of us will share forever as a group.”

Callahan’s chances of racing to an NCAA title this winter were nearly dashed by injury. Suffering from problems in his left ankle and foot, Callahan was sidelined the last two springs and skipped cross country this past fall to concentrate on training himself back to health.

“I took a gradual approach this fall, I didn’t worry about cross country,” said Callahan, who sprained the ankle as a sophomore and later suffered a stress fracture and tendinitis in the foot.

“I stayed consistent over the fall. From the beginning of the year, we had sat down with Coach Vig (head cross country and distance coach Jason Vigilante) and set a goal of doing well in the DMR at the NCAA meet. I had that inside my head when I was training in the fall. It gave me a focus on what I needed to be doing.”

That plan paid dividends at the Indoor Heps as Callahan won the mile and anchored the DMR to victory to get named the co-Most Outstanding Track Performer at the meet.

“I didn’t know what to expect; I had faith in my coaches and faith in my training,” said Callahan, reflecting on the Heps.

“There is pressure to put up big times early for the NCAA. My fastest time was 4:18, 20 seconds off of what I did last year.  Coach Vig was very confident; he said we have a plan and we are sticking to it. It was big for me to be able to come out with wins and race well. It was a confidence builder.”

Coming to Princeton in 2009 from North Shore Country Day School in Evanston, Ill., it took a while for Callahan to develop confidence on the college level.

“For me, the biggest challenge was the training load and trying to balance academics and athletics at a different level,” said Callahan.

“Coming from a very small school where we had a strong team and then go into this bigger group with all these great runners, it can be a tough environment. All of a sudden, you are traveling to races. Every freshman is trying to prove himself.”

The transition was eased by the help of the Tiger veteran runners. “It can be competitive but it was collaborative,” said Callahan.

“The upperclassmen were very helpful, they wanted you to do well. I am running with 25 great runners everyday and learning from them. I found everybody very open and willing to help each other.”

Callahan experienced a key breakthrough in the Indoor Heps during his freshman campaign.

“When I won the individual title in the Indoor Heps at the 800; I was thinking I can do this college thing,” said Callahan. “It is still running. You put on your spikes and get out and try to run as hard as you can.”

That progress nearly got derailed, however, when Callahan sprained his left ankle before the Indoor Heps the next winter.

“I taped it up before Indoor Heps sophomore year,” recalled Callahan. “After those three races, I had to shut it down, I had tendinitis and then it turned into a stress fracture.”

Despite spend a lot of time rehabbing in the pool and on the bike over the next two years, Callahan was able to achieve a memorable milestone in his junior year as he ran two sub-4 minute miles.

“As a miler, that is the dream,“ said Callahan, who ran a 3:58.86 mile at the Sykes-Sabock Meet at Penn State on February 4, 2012 and then came back a week later to clock a 3:58.76 in the Husky Invitational in Seattle, Wash.

“That has been my goal for years. I have been spending time on the bike and in the pool all spring. I was watching everyone else do well and I was excited for them. I was gratified to be able to get out there and get the two sub-4s in a week. I had always hoped it would happen. I ran with my teammates in the races and had good competition.”

Things came together just in time for Callahan and his DMR teammates this winter as they qualified for the NCAA meet with a Princeton and Ivy record of 9:27.74 at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame on March 1 before their NCAA triumph a week later.

“We were seeded as a ‘B’ squad at the Alex Wilson meet but that didn’t bother us,” said Callahan.

“At the NCAAs, we were seeded second. When the gun goes off, the seeds and predictions go out the window and it is all about competing. You are racing to try to beat the guy next to you, you have to show up on race day. All four of us were confident.”

Callahan is confident he can keep racing well as he heads into his final spring season at Princeton.

“You always have goals,” said Callahan, who plans to keep competing after graduation. “But for me, first and foremost, I want to stay healthy and do consistent training. If I do that, I will be able to do some good things.”

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CENTURY CLUB: Princeton University men’s lacrosse head coach Chris Bates exhorts his players. Last week, Bates earned the 100th win of his coaching career as Princeton beat Manhattan 15-2 on March 12. The 10th-ranked Tigers, who fell 11-10 to No. 7 Penn last Saturday in their Ivy League opener as they dropped to 4-2 overall, host No. 18 Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Strabo knows that he is not going to draw the spotlight through his role as a shortstick defensive midfielder for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team but he isn’t complaining.

“It is a lot of fun to be able to defend a team; I really like playing within that unit of our team,” said junior Strabo, a 5’10, 170-pound native of Arlington, Va.

“It is something that you might not get necessarily as many accolades but working together with the other five guys and the goalie on the field. It is something that requires a lot of communication, a lot of teamwork. It requires all of us to be on the same page because if one of us isn’t on the same page, it is a goal or an opportunity at least.”

After Princeton fell 16-15 at North Carolina on March 9, Strabo and his fellow defenders were looking to tighten things up as the Tigers hosted Manhattan last week.

“Carolina was a tough loss for us, especially on the defensive end,” said Strabo.

“It is always good to have an opportunity to come back right away on a Tuesday and turn the page really quickly. Giving up 16 goals is something we can’t afford to do as a defense. That is one of the things that we really emphasized coming into this game and moving forward. One of the big keys for us is trying to stop transition offense and not give up any extra man opportunities on a 6-on-5 fast break.”

Strabo and the Tigers took a step forward against the Jaspers in the March 12 contest, locking down Manhattan as they cruised to a 15-2 victory.

“I was really proud of our defense, the way our goalies played, the close defense guys,” asserted Strabo.

“I thought everybody played well and we played well as a unit and executed our game plan.”

Coming into the season, there were plenty of questions surrounding a Princeton defensive unit that lost nearly all of its 2012 starters to graduation, including All-Americans Chad Wiedmaier, John Cunningham, and Tyler Fiorito.

Strabo, though, was confident that the rebuilt group could provide the right answers.

“We knew we graduated a lot of guys and that some people would need to step up,” said Strabo.

“I think a lot of guys have done an excellent job of filling spots. That was something coming in that I know a lot of people were worried about but me personally and most of the people within the program, we weren’t worried at all because we knew the guys that we had in the pipeline already. We knew that they would step up given the opportunity and I think they have done that so far.”

Strabo has played a key role in helping one of the new players step up as he has mentored his younger brother, freshman defenseman Mark.

“It is a lot of fun being out there with my brother; we played together for one year in high school and we were on the field together at times,” said Strabo, who didn’t have a lot of fun last Saturday as Princeton lost 11-10 at Penn in its Ivy League opener to fall to 4-2 overall.

“I gave him some advice over the summer. I would say that the biggest thing is adjusting to the pace and the speed of the game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates, for his part, liked the way his defense adjusted in the wake of the Carolina loss.

“We want those guys to continue to build confidence and just get used to playing together as a unit,” said Bates.

“Communication is such a big deal on that end of the field. So any time you get game experience and you do well and you react to a little adversity, it is good. Our starters gave up one goal and that’s a good night’s work.”

The win over Manhattan made it a special night for Bates as the triumph marked the 100th win of his college coaching career.

“I am happy to do it with these guys,” said Bates, who won 70 games in his 10-year tenure at Drexel and has posted a 30-20 record at Princeton,

“We have come a long way with growing up here at Princeton with some of these guys and it is a really likable team that works hard. I was pleased that they were happy for me and it was nice to share it with them.”

It is nice for Princeton to have a player like Strabo holding down the shortstick middie spot.

“He is a leader, he knows the defense,” said Bates. “He is starting to become more vocal, which we need. He and Chris White both give us a lot of minutes there and Bobby Lucas does too. So those guys are the unsung heroes and any time we can give them credit, we do because it is the hardest position on the field.”

Bates acknowledges that his squad is heading into a hard part of its schedule which will continue when the 10th-ranked Tigers host No. 18 Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22 in a rematch of the 2012 Ivy League title game won by the Bulldogs.

“We understand the way the schedule is structured,” said Bates. “Our early season is non-conference games and now this is go-time for us. These next few weeks are really going to be important. I think we are playing well. I think we will be ready. We are looking forward to it.”

Strabo, for his part, is looking forward to doing the dirty work required of his position.

“I would say my role is to do my best on the ball to get into the spots where we can to slide to it and recover,” said Strabo, who has four goals and an assist in his career along with 33 ground balls.

“I also need to play within our team’s defense and pick the spots I need to be at. In terms of clearing the ball, to try to get the ball and get it up the field.”

HEATING UP: Princeton University pitcher Zak Hermans fires a pitch in action last spring. Senior star Hermans has pitched well in the early stages of the season, going 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. Princeton, now 1-10, is on its annual spring break trip and is slated to play at Elon on March 20, at UNC-Greensboro on March 21, and then head to Navy for a four-game set from March 22-24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEATING UP: Princeton University pitcher Zak Hermans fires a pitch in action last spring. Senior star Hermans has pitched well in the early stages of the season, going 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. Princeton, now 1-10, is on its annual spring break trip and is slated to play at Elon on March 20, at UNC-Greensboro on March 21, and then head to Navy for a four-game set from March 22-24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton University baseball team dropped three of four games at Stetson earlier this month in its second weekend of action this season, Scott Bradley drew a lot of positives from the his squad’s effort.

“The starting pitching was phenomenal, it was fantastic,” said Princeton head coach Bradley, referring to his rotation of senior Zak Hermans, senior Kevin Link, junior Michael Fagan, and junior Mike Ford, a former Hun School standout.

“I wanted each pitcher to go 90 pitches. Hermans didn’t give up a run until the sixth in the first game. Link threw seven shutout innings. Fagan had five shutout innings. Ford gave up two unearned runs in five innings.”

Bradley saw progress offensively as the Tigers were outscored at Stetson by 17-15 (losing a pair of 7-6 decisions and splitting a doubleheader with each game ending at 2-1), a marked improvement on its first weekend of the season which saw it get outscored 40-9 by Maryland in losing four games to the Terps.

“We saw some good at-bats,” said Bradley. “Mike Ford hit a two-run homer. Peter Owens is off to a good start; he is fast and can get on base. Stevie Harrington is coming off of squash and he is showing signs of getting it going.”

With Princeton squandering leads in each of its defeats to Stetson, Bradley acknowledged that his bullpen needs to be sharper.

“We are still trying to figure that out,” said Bradley, referring to his relief corps.

“Nick Donatiello threw three and a third innings on Friday so I knew I couldn’t use him again; Sunday’s game would have been his. A.J. Goetz had pitched well. He hit a bump in the road but he had pitched three good innings. We have some freshmen, Luke Strieber, Cam Mingo, Chris Bodurian who could help. Tyler Foote gave us some good innings.”

While Princeton did break through with its first win of the season at Stetson, Bradley was disappointed to see his team fail to come away with another victory or two on the trip.

“In the first game we had a 1-run lead in the ninth and a 2-run lead in the 11th,” recalled Bradley.

“We split a pair of 2-1 games on Sunday. In the last game, we had a three-run lead in the ninth. No doubt we should have had a second win or even three. We have to learn from that.”

With Princeton heading south for its annual spring break trip, Bradley knows his team has to get healthier to be competitive.

“The most important person for us right now is our trainer,” said Bradley, whose team went 0-3 against Georgetown last weekend to move to 1-10 and will play at Elon on March 20, at UNC-Greensboro on March 21 and then head to Navy for a four-game set from March 22-24.

“We are a little banged up, nothing major. Alec Keller didn’t play last weekend, he has a shoulder problem, he should be ready to go on the trip. Danny Hoy is one of our talented freshman and has been bothered by tendinitis, so we had him at DH but not in the field. Blake Thomsen has a chance to start at shortstop but has not played yet.”

For Bradley, the trip will be a dress rehearsal for Ivy League play, which features weekends with back-to-back doubleheaders.

“Starting with Georgetown, everything is going to be geared to how we want to play on weekends,” said Bradley, “We need to start putting things together and winning series. If a starting pitcher is feeling good, we may let him go for a complete game.”

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EPIC RUN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed heads to the basket in action this winter. The Miami-bound Reed produced a senior year to remember, averaging 23.2 points a game as the Panthers went 19-8 and advanced to the county semifinals and the state Prep B title game. Reed ended up with a program-record 2,102 points in his brilliant career. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, Davon Reed had to deal with a lot of hoopla as the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star was the object of an intense recruiting battle among several top college programs.

A number of big-time college coaches made their way to the PDS gym and Reed ended up receiving around 20 offers from D-I teams.

This past September, Reed committed to the University of Miami, clearing his plate to focus solely on his senior season with the Panthers.

“The foot is still on the throttle; I still have personal goals I want to achieve at the high school level,” said the 6’6 Reed in December.

“I am not looking to college, that is there and we know where that is. I am just here to encourage my team and look for us to get better and finish this season out on top. The goal is to win a state championship and to win a Mercer County Tournament so we are looking to do that.”

Reed kept his foot on the gas all winter, producing a senior campaign that solidified his status as one of the greatest players ever to play in Mercer County high school circles. He averaged 23.2 points this season and helped the Panthers take second at the Hill School tournament in December and win the PrimeTime Shootout’s Flight I title after Christmas.

After passing the 2,000-point mark in his career, making him just the third player in county annals to achieve that milestone, Reed led PDS on a memorable postseason run.

In the county tournament, the Panthers topped Steinert and defending state champion Ewing before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame in the semis.

Reed helped the Panthers go one step further in the state Prep B tournament. After taking down Golda Och and defending champion Rutgers Prep, PDS earned its second straight title to the Prep B title game where it faced archrival Pennington in mid-February.

Giving his all in his final high school game, Reed scored a game-high 24 points. His heroics weren’t enough as PDS fell short 47-45 as a last-second layup rolled off the rim to clinch the win for the Red Raiders.

In the wake of the disappointing loss, Reed was able to put things in perspective.

“We weren’t always down, we weren’t always up,” said Reed, who ended his career with a program-record 2,102 points. “I am glad about the way the program is headed. It is headed in a good direction; people really care about basketball at Princeton Day School.”

PDS head coach Paris McLean credited Reed with putting the program back on the map.

“You could go with numbers and points and wins and losses but what he has done has brought respectability back to the program,” said McLean, whose team posted a final record of 19-8.

“He has made other players say OK PDS is an option. He has been fantastic for us as a school leader, as a basketball leader. He has made his team better. He himself has became a better person.”

For making his senior season a shining final chapter in an epic career, Reed is the Town Topics’ choice as the top male performer of the winter high school season.

Top Female Performers

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio have been a lethal one-two punch since joining the program together as freshmen in the 2009-10 season.

In their debut campaign, the pair emerged as key contributors, piling up wins from the start for the Little Tigers.

With Deardorff focusing on the sprint events and Giglio concentrating on the breaststroke and individual medley, the pair complemented each other and gave coach Greg Hand balance in putting his lineup together.

In addition, they fed off of each other when they joined forces in relay events, often giving PHS an edge right from the start in the meet-opening 200 medley relay.

Over the years, their blend of talent, composure, and consistency made them akin to a swimming version of the former pair of aces for the Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavin.

In their sophomore year, the pair helped the Little Tigers go 12-2 and earn a sectional title. Last season, they starred as the Little Tigers went 13-2 and made it to the sectional finals.

This winter, Deardoff and Giglio saved their best for last, sparking the Little Tiger girls to one of the best seasons in program history.

In early January, they helped PHS beat powerful WW/P-S in a dual meet for the first time this century. In topping the Pirates 94-76, Deardorff took first in the 50 and 100 freestyle races and helped the 200 medley relay to victory. Giglio, meanwhile won the 100 breast, took second in the 200 free and helped the medley relay to victory.

“We have never beaten them but instead of coming into the meet planning on winning, I think the upperclassmen focused on just getting the underclassmen psyched to do their best,” said Deardorff, reflecting on the breakthrough win. “We wanted them to do their best times in the pool and just have fun with it.”

The triumph set a positive tone for the Little Tigers as they headed into postseason action.

“This definitely got the girls’ team psyched for what is to come,” added Deardorff.

“Now we know we can go really far and hopefully to states and just see how things go. We are not going to go into any meets focused on winning.”

The Little Tigers kept on winning, posting an undefeated regular season and entering the Mercer County Swimming Championships as a top contender.

After a few near misses in recent years at the county meet, PHS came through with the title, tallying 200 points to beat 12-time champion WW/P-S by 36 points.

Afterward, the understated Giglio acknowledged that the Little Tigers weren’t sure if they could pull off the county victory.

“We knew we were strong this year but again, we have never done it before so we really wanted to just try our best and see if we could do it for the first time,” said Giglio, who placed third in the 200 individual medley and second in the 100 backstroke at the county meet while Deardorff took third in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 butterfly.

The Little Tigers showed their championship intent by opening the meet with a resounding victory on the 200 medley relay, setting a school record in the process.

“We really wanted to get another first in the relays,” said Giglio, reflecting on the quartet’s mindset as they approached the race.

“We weren’t completely confident that we had won. We wanted to break the record again. We were all filled with nervous excitement and energy. We were ready to go.”

PHS kept going in the state Public B Central Jersey sectional final where it fell to Chatham to suffer its only loss of the season in producing a 13-1 campaign

After that defeat, Hand acknowledged the key role played by his pair of senior standouts.

“Serena and Marisa have been real stars, they are very fast swimmers who have trained with a club for many years,” said Hand.

“They have put a lot into the sport and I hope it continues to give a lot back to them, they have earned that.”

For giving so much to PHS together and leading the Little Tigers to a breakthrough season, Deardorff and Giglio are the joint choice as the top female performer of the winter season.

Top Newcomers

As Mark Shelley took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ varsity basketball program this winter, he recognized that a major challenge would involve melding the team’s veterans with its new faces.

“The biggest thing is mixing the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley.

“There is chemistry within each group and now I need to develop chemistry between them.”

Having coached the JV team the previous season, Shelley knew he had something special in junior forward Peter Mahotiere.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley. “He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three.”

Mahotiere stepped up all winter long for the Little Tigers, developing into a solid performer who played a key role at both ends of the court.

The 6’1 Mahotiere ended up averaging 8.2 points a game and was among the team’s leaders in rebounds. His athleticism also helped make PHS zone defense stifle foes as the Little Tigers led the CVC in fewest points allowed per game during the regular season.

Playing in his first state tournament game, Mahotiere produced one of his best efforts of the season as PHS topped visiting Hopewell Valley 62-42 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. Mahotiere scored 15 points to help the Little Tigers pull away to the win.

In assessing Mahotiere’s effort that night, Shelley summarized what the junior brought to the table this winter for the Little Tigers.

“He finishes well,” said Shelley. “He is the kind of player who once he scores a little bit, he gets some confidence and that elevates his game. I can’t tell you how many deflections he had tonight. Even when he didn’t get a rebound, his hands were on things.”

Mahotiere’s all-around contribution in his debut campaign for PHS makes him the pick as the top male newcomer this winter.

Madeleine Deardorff didn’t wait long to make an impact this winter in her freshman season on the PHS girls’ swim team.

The precocious Deardorff helped the 200 medley relay to victory in the first event of PHS’s season-opening win over Nottingham. In the Little Tigers’ next meet, Deardorff won the 100 butterfly in a 108-62 victory over Robbinsville.

Deardorff kept piling up wins all season as PHS went undefeated in regular season dual meets.

For Deardorff, learning how to keep calm in the blocks helped pave the way to her superb campaign.

“The biggest challenges were that I knew a lot of the swimmers on the other teams; I knew that they were fast and that some of them were older,” said Deardorff, who also competes for the X-Cel swim club.

“I think that was really challenging and just nerves. Having two meets per week is definitely different.”

Deardorff played a key role in helping PHS win its first-ever county title, taking second in both the 400 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

Even in PHS’s only defeat of the season, a loss to powerful Chatham in the state Public B sectional final, Deardorff was outstanding. She took first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 breast.

Getting the chance to swim with her older sister, senior star, Serena, helped inspire Deardorff.

“It has been great,” said Deardorff. “I have seen her go throughout the years at PHS and I have always been excited to come here and have this season with her. It was really exciting.”

For providing excitement and wins in her first season with PHS, Deardorff gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the winter season.

Top Coaches

Scott Bertoli acknowledged that his Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team faced a minefield of challenges this winter.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts and the Hill School (Pa.) tournament.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

The senior-laden Panthers proved that they were one of the best teams in the state. After winning their Henry Rulon-Miller Invitational in early December, PDS placed third in the Barber Invitational in Massachusetts over the holidays.

Over the course of the regular season, PDS posted a string of impressive victories, knocking off such high-powered foes as Kinnelon High, LaSalle Prep (Pa.), Notre Dame, Portledge School (N.Y.), and Don Bosco.

The Panthers tied for the state Prep title, skating to a thrilling 2-2 overtime draw against rival Morristown-Beard. The Panthers ended the season by taking second in the Hill tourney, topping Portledge and Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on the way to the title game.

PDS ended its stellar season with a 21-3-1 record and the knowledge that it could compete against all comers.

Bertoli tipped his hat to his core of seniors. which included Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Eddie Meyercord, Andrew Clayton, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

“They have brought this thing back to prominence and there is no question about that,” said Bertoli.

“It is one of the top two or three programs in the state for the last two years. You are never going to replace what they have brought to the program yet they are not taking the program with them. There are a number of quality kids that are here and interested in coming here that will take this and further it. That’s a credit to these kids that are in that locker room. Playing hockey for PDS means a lot to them and they are very proud kids. They should walk around with their heads up high.”

For being the architect of the program’s renaissance, Bertoli is the top coach of a male team this winter.

Last winter, Greg Hand guided the Princeton high boys’ swimming team to a breakthrough campaign as the Little Tigers went undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B state title.

While much of the attention this season centered on the boys’ team and its quest for a title repeat which fell short with a loss in the state semis, Hand performed a brilliant coaching job with his girls’ squad, which thrust its way into the limelight as the winter unfolded.

After cruising to some routs in December meets, the Little Tiger girls faced perennial nemesis WW/P-S in early January. Having not beaten the Pirates this century, PHS ended that jinx in style with a 94-76 triumph.

Hand was hoping the win would prove to be a harbinger of good things to come.

“The more you get into the season, the more you pay attention to who is slightly faster than somebody else,” said Hand.

“There was just a lot of learning going on today because the great thing about our rivalry is that we always come to swim fast on that day. We always know that the other team is going to be classy and they are going to come to race.”

PHS kept racing well, going undefeated in regular season dual meets. In the Mercer County Championships, PHS broke through again, winning its first county title and breaking WW/P-S’s 12-year stranglehold on the meet.

“To win a championship is always going to depend on who else was there that day,” said Hand, reflecting on the county crown. “To swim to win it is a very special thing.”

While PHS didn’t win a sectional title as it fell to Chatham in the Public B Central Jersey championship meet to suffer its only loss of the season, Hand liked what he saw from his girl swimmers to the end.

“We were looking for a team attitude, an individual attitude that says the right thing about what the season meant to us and what the team means to us,” said Hand, whose team finished with a 13-1 record.

“We saw that tonight. The girls were happy during the meet, the score notwithstanding, because everybody was into it. We really have some ferocious competitors on this team, no matter how fast they go. Today there was real excitement in the water.”

Hand’s role in helping PHS produce one of the most exciting seasons in its history makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team this winter.

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE LOOSE: Princeton High School girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring heads up the ice in action this season. Sophomore forward Herring emerged as a star for PHS, leading the team in scoring and earning its MVP award. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ hockey team went winless this winter, Christian Herzog saw a special toughness in his players.

“We were like the Joe Pesci character (Nicky Santoro) in Casino, if you beat us with fists, we come back with a bat,” said PHS head coach Herzog, noting that his team played some of its best hockey in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) tournament where it fell 4-0 to Shady Side Academy (Pa.) in its final game of ‘B’ bracket play.

“If you beat us with a bat, we come back with a knife. If you beat us with a knife, we come back with a gun. We take a licking and keep on ticking.”

Sophomore star Lucy Herring proved to be PHS’s top gun this winter. “The MVP was Lucy Herring; she took the brunt of everything,” said Herzog.

“I felt bad because she had a lot on her shoulders. I told her that she had that role because I know she is an athlete and can handle it. She thrives under pressure. She had around 15 points, she was our leading scorer.”

Senior defenseman Hanna Kostenbader emerged as a key leader for the Little Tigers this winter.

“Hanna Kostenbader won our Abby Hunter head, heart, hustle award,” said Herzog.

“She texted me before the playoffs saying she slammed her hand into a door and she didn’t know how much she could help but that she would be there. She is a righty and she played with her left hand. I don’t think many other players would have tried that. She came out and fought through it. She was a good leader. She was willing to work hard and throw her body around.”

The team also got an emotional lift from seniors KC Read-Fisher and Brooke Solomon.

“KC and Brooke really helped off the ice as well,” added Herzog. “They were spirit motivators for the team.”

PHS features some spirited returning players in sophomore Brittney Coniglione, freshman Isabel Sohn, junior Molly O’Brien, junior Merritt Peck, and junior Kate Sohn.

“Coniglione was angrier than I was when someone scored; she takes it seriously,” said Herzog.

“She would say to me that one is on me and it is not going to happen again. Izzy Sohn came out strong, I like her style, she really goes after the puck. Molly O’Brien was our second leading scorer, she came on. Merritt Peck was becoming a menace in the corners at the end of the season. Kate Sohn put forth a good effort. She was the epitome of good sportsmanship and won our sportsmanship award.”

The team’s tandem of goaltenders, junior Breanna Hegerty-Thorne and freshman Callie Urisko, also made good improvement.

“Both goaltenders played well and made progress; I think they had 500 saves between them over the season,” said Herzog.

“Breanna is good at coming out on breakaways, Callie is good on the angles. They really jelled with the team.”

In Herzog’s view, the squad has the potential to really jell into something special going forward.

“The girls are gung ho and ready for next year,” said Herzog. “We have some good girls coming back and I am looking for a stronger year.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA).(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Colby Triolo goes after the puck in a game this winter. Junior Triolo’s move to forward from defense helped spark the Panther offense as PDS went 10-8 and finished in the top 4 in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team won 10 games for the second straight season, Lorna Gifis Cook believes her squad made progress this winter.

“Overall, I was happy,” said second-year head coach Cook, whose team posted a final record of 10-8.

“I thought we played well. I thought we were competitive in just about every game. We stayed competitive against the better teams, we only lost 3-0 to Rye Country Day and 6-3 to Morristown-Beard.”

The Panthers proved to be more competitive in the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA), finishing in the top four to move up to the league’s “A’ bracket after winning the ‘B’ bracket the year before.

While PDS fell 6-1 to Portledge School (N.Y.) in the ‘A’ semis, Cook thought the score was deceiving.

“I was very happy with the effort, we played them three times and we made improvement each time,” said Cook.

A key factor in PDS’s consistently good effort this winter was the contribution of the team’s trio of senior captains, forward Zeeza Cole (12 goals and 8 assists this season), defenseman Louise Hutter (1 goal, 3 assists), and goalie Daisy Mase (480 saves, .897 save percentage).

“They made the contribution that I expected,” said Cook. “Having a senior at each position, every one of the younger players had a captain they were comfortable talking to. They showed a strong work ethic on the ice. The program is moving forward and a lot of that is due to them.”

In Cook’s view, her team’s come-from-behind victory over Pingry in early January exemplified the progress PDS displayed this winter.

“I look at our home game against Pingry where we went down 3-0 and then came back to win 4-3 as an example of our attitude all season,” said Cook.

“We never gave up, we were always working hard, and we concentrated on scoring one goal at a time. In that game, we moved Colby [Triolo] to forward and moved Mimi [Matthews] back to defense. Mimi reinforced our defense and Colby had a lot of big plays on offense, she made her teammates better. Seeing her score her first high school goal on her first shift at forward was cool. Mary [Travers] getting a hat trick showed what kind of player she was. She got big goals for us, she had two against Shady Side and the game winner against Summit.”

With a group of juniors that features Lexie Fairman (1 goal, 5 assists), Abby Sharer (3 assists), and leading scorer Robin Linzmayer (19 goals, 7 assists) in addition to Triolo (4 goals, 7 assists), Matthews (2 goals, 9 assists), and Travers (10 goals, 5 assists), Cook sees better things ahead for the program.

“I am excited about having a big senior class next year,” said Cook. “They are important to us and we have players on the way to help them and give them as good a senior year as possible.”

In Cook’s view, PDS is on track to be a major player in the WIHLMA.

“I want us to consistently finish in the top four in WIHLMA and to be able to compete for the title,” said Cook. “It is within reach if we add more depth.”

March 13, 2013

 

GOING FOURTH: Princeton University women’s basketball player Lauren Polansky looks for an opening. Last Saturday, senior point guard Polansky helped Princeton top Brown 80-51 as the Tigers clinched a fourth straight outright Ivy League crown in their Jadwin Gym finale this winter. Princeton, which improved to 21-6 overall and 12-1 Ivy with the victory, was slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (16-11 overall, 9-4 Ivy) on March 12. The Tigers will find out their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament on March 18.                              (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING FOURTH: Princeton University women’s basketball player Lauren Polansky looks for an opening. Last Saturday, senior point guard Polansky helped Princeton top Brown 80-51 as the Tigers clinched a fourth straight outright Ivy League crown in their Jadwin Gym finale this winter. Princeton, which improved to 21-6 overall and 12-1 Ivy with the victory, was slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (16-11 overall, 9-4 Ivy) on March 12. The Tigers will find out their assignment for the upcoming NCAA tournament on March 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In one respect, Lauren Polansky has experienced an agonizing winter in her final season with the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

The gritty point guard and two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year has been slowed by stress fractures in both feet.

“It was really hard sitting out so many games and not practicing,” said the 5’8 Polansky, a native of Mill Valley, Calif., who was sidelined for four games due to injury and was relegated to a reserve role for several others.

“Getting back into it you lose some of your confidence and aggressive mentality so that was hard to turn around.”

Last Saturday, it was hard for Polansky to hold back the tears as she and her classmates went through the Senior Night ceremony when Princeton hosted Brown in their final Jadwin Gym appearance.

“It hadn’t really sunk in, the depth of it, until right before the game when we are all putting our stuff on in the locker room and we were about to walk up and it all kind of hit me at once,” said Polansky, who was honored along with teammates Niveen Rasheed, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen together with team manager Amanda Roman.

“I thought I was going to be crying and then I saw my mother crying. I was like you have enough emotion for the both of us; I am going to have to keep it together. I thought I was going to be the one senior bawling. The beginning of the game was a little hard, emotions were running tough. We were thinking more about that than the actual game. Our heads were kind of in the clouds a bit.”

The Tigers settled down, pulling away to an 80-51 win over the Bears and clinching their fourth straight Ivy League title in the process. As a result, the players’ heads ended up high above the Jadwin floor as they climbed a ladder one by one to cut down the net in celebrating the crown.

“There is no better way to go out,” said Polansky, reflecting on the victory which improved Princeton to 21-6 overall and 12-1 Ivy.

“We are really fortunate that it ended today. We were upset by the loss [a 58-55 defeat to Harvard on March 1] but it gave us the opportunity to finish it in this way. It was an incredible way to go out; I wouldn’t have it any other way with the families, friends here. It was an amazing atmosphere.”

It has been been an incredible journey for Polansky and her fellow seniors who are the winningest class in Ivy women’s hoops history with an overall record of 95-19 and and an Ivy mark of 53-2.

“We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” said Polansky. “We were the first class to have all of the players stay and nobody quit since we have been here. I just think that says a lot about the heart and the commitment that everyone has and the true love of the game and each other. The one surprise is that it hasn’t been easy this entire time. You think you are dominating but there have been some ups and downs and I think we have really been able to pull each other through it together. There is a huge bond. One day I will be down and the others will pull me up and the next day, it will be the other way around. I couldn’t be happier ending it with these girls tonight.”

That bond drove Polansky to be a positive force even as she was benched by her foot woes.

“As a captain, that’s what you have to do, you have to put the team first and you do what you need to do to help everyone out,” said Polansky.

“I am feeling good, the time off really helped and this is the time to get going.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, for her part, feels very good about what her senior class has accomplished.

“They took a real risk on me as a young head coach; they bought in right away to what I was doing,” said Banghart.

“It is easy in this type of moment to think how fun it is but it is a long season, there are a lot of ups and downs to competitive sports where you battle each other everyday, you fight for playing time. The way these guys have stayed cohesive, stayed competitive, and stayed successful is unbelievable.”

In Banghart’s view, it is pretty unbelievable to have won four straight Ivy crowns.

“It is rare because it is really hard to do and it involves a lot of moving parts,” said Banghart, a former star guard at Dartmouth who helped the Big Green win two Ivy crowns during her playing days.

“It involves trusting a long process and patience when things are hard; getting punched in the face and bouncing back. I know how hard it is to do it and I am just really happy for them.”

Banghart is not surprised by how Polansky bounced back from her foot problems.

“I think all of the seniors have their own mantra and for her, it is just that in a lot of ways she is the glue for the team,” said Banghart.

“That is a special quality of hers and it has never been about her but it has been about cutting the nets down and she has done it four times.”

The team’s special qualities were lauded by Princeton basketball legend Bill Bradley, who spoke to the Tigers on Friday after they topped Yale 77-44 to clinch a share of the league title.

“I thought what was neat was that over about 15 minutes he said three things,” recalled Banghart.

“He said the way that this team shares the ball is really special, which coming from someone like him that means a lot. The second thing he said is the toughness that we showed on the defensive end was a pleasure and is the best he has seen. Then the third thing he said is watching the team on the floor and watching their replacements on the bench celebrate each other is what athletics is about.”

Having seen Princeton go 0-3 in its previous NCAA tournament appearances, Banghart is hungry to celebrate a win in March Madness.

“I don’t think we have played well yet in the NCAA tournament so we have to play well,” said Banghart, whose team was slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (16-11 overall, 9-4 Ivy) on March 12 and will learn its NCAA assignment during the March 18 selection show.

“It is a 40-minute game. We don’t have to be the better team over the course of the year, we have to be the better team for those 40 minutes. So far, we are 0-for-3 in being the better team for 40 minutes. I think we will play better, we are more experienced. We are also deeper which helps.”

In Polansky’s view, the Tigers are primed for an NCAA breakthrough. “In the first couple of years I think it was the big stage that really got us and not really knowing what to do, the inexperience of the group,” said Polansky, who has piled up 389 rebounds, 278 assists, and 203 steals in her career.

“I think with four out of five senior starters along with Kristen [Helmstetter] who has come on in a huge way, there is experience. You never know who you are going to get matched up against, where you are going to be, and how you are going to play that day but I am really liking the group we are coming into it with. I think that having our past three years experience is definitely going to work in our favor.”

It certainly works in Princeton’s favor to have the resilient Polansky up and running again at point guard.

PARTING SHOT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Rob Kleebaum heads up the ice in a game earlier this winter. Senior forward Kleebaum saw his Tiger career come to an end last weekend as Princeton fell 2-0 to visiting Cornell in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. The defeats left the Tigers with a final overall record of 10-16-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PARTING SHOT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Rob Kleebaum heads up the ice in a game earlier this winter. Senior forward Kleebaum saw his Tiger career come to an end last weekend as Princeton fell 2-0 to visiting Cornell in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. The defeats left the Tigers with a final overall record of 10-16-5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Rob Kleebaum and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team worked hard to earn home ice for the opening round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

“I thought our last three games we were doing the things that we needed to do to be successful,” said forward Kleebaum, reflecting on a 1-1-1 stretch which helped Princeton clinch eighth place in the ECACH standings and the right to host No. 9 Cornell last weekend in a best-of-three series.

“I thought we showed that coming into tonight, that definitely gave us momentum.”

For senior Kleebaum, it was special to get some more action in the friendly confines of Hobey Baker Rink.

“I wanted to get back to Hobey; it is nice to play some more games here,” asserted Kleebaum, a 6’0, 210-pound native of Sherwood Park, Alberta.

“The more important thing is that we get home ice, that is a huge advantage, especially against a team like Cornell. You don’t want to go play in their rink.”

Unfortunately, Princeton squandered that advantage as it fell 4-0 on Friday and 4-2 the next night to get eliminated from the playoffs and end the season with a a 10-16-5 overall record.

In Game 1, Princeton looked like it was continuing its spirited play of late, playing Cornell to a scoreless tie midway through the season period.

“I thought we played well,” said Kleebaum, who was all over the ice and generated several scoring chances for the Tigers.

“We were jumping on pucks and reloading hard. We need to be harder around the net though. When we get chances, we have to put them in and bury a team.”

The Big Red finished their chances, scoring two goals in the last 8:51 of the period and then adding two more in the third.

As Kleebaum looked ahead to Game 2, he knew that the Tigers needed to show a sense of urgency in the offensive zone.

“We need to get hungry around the net,” said Kleebaum. “Everything needs to be a life-or-death chance if you are in the slot or anywhere around the net.”

Early in Saturday’s contest, the Tigers showed that hunger, outshooting the Big Red 13-7 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead on a Will MacDonald goal at the 12:27 mark.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier, for his part, liked the way his team got out of the gate.

“I thought we started pretty well; I thought we started like last night,” said Prier.

“It was good to get that first goal. It was a pretty good start; it looked like it was going to be our game.”

The game started to unravel for the Tigers in the second period as they were outshot 18-6 and got whistled for three penalties as the Big Red knotted the contest at 1-1.

“We took some poor penalties and lost momentum, it is as simple as that,” said Prier, reflecting on the period.

“It is a lesson that I had hoped we had learned throughout the year, obviously we didn’t and it came back to really bite us in the tail here this weekend. When you get less power plays than the opposition two games in a row against the third penalized team in the country, you do that and it is tough sledding.”

After Princeton fell behind 3-1 in the first 5:57 of the third period, the Tigers got a tough break as they had an apparent goal waved off with 10:59 remaining in regulation.

“It was a high stick or a high glove,” said Prier, when asked about the sequence.

“That is what review is for; it is a good call. It would have been nice to have it but at the same time, the technology is used to make sure that we get the right calls and it’s the right call.”

Undeterred, Princeton kept battling as Andrew Calof scored with 45 seconds left in an extra attacker situation. The Tigers made a final push in the waning seconds but Cornell was able to get possession and tally an empty net game to seal the end of the series.

“It is tough to end a team’s season; these kids want to play together, they want to keep it going,” said Prier.

“Cornell did a really good job of playing trap hockey for the whole second half of the game. We had a tough time penetrating that, they did a good job. It was probably boring to watch but hey, a win is a win.”

It will be tough for Prier to say goodbye to Kleebaum and his fellow seniors. “It is a great group of guys, an awesome group of guys,” asserted Prier, whose Class of 2013 includes Eric Meland, Will MacDonald, James Kerr, Michael Sdao, and Mike Condon in addition to Kleebaum.

“I wish them the best of luck. I know that a lot of them are going to play hockey beyond here and some may not. They are all class act kids, good men.”

In Prier’s view, the progress his freshman class made this winter gives the program cause for optimism.

“I think we got a lot better; we had a beat up freshman
class, unfortunately a lot of guys were injured but a lot of them came a long way,” said Prier.

“I thought Michael Zajac had a terrific game today. He really showed up for both games, he really moved his feet really well. If he has a big summer, he could certainly propel himself. It would have been nice to have Kevin Liss all year, that’s for sure. Once he gets healthy, he’ll be really strong. Mike Ambrosia and Kyle Rankin came a long way this year. They have all certainly had a chance to develop. On this team, the young guys get a lot of ice time. I think the future looks bright; it is promising.”

GOING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore attacker McMunn scored a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener. The Tigers, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4) on March 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore attacker McMunn scored a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener. The Tigers, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4) on March 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team last spring, Erin McMunn utilized her passing skills to make an immediate impact.

The attacker passed for a team-high 30 assists on the way to being named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

Coming into the 2013 campaign, McMunn was looking to diversify her game.

“I liked to focus a lot on feeding last year but this year I have switched my focus a little bit,” said McMunn, a 5’8 native of Westminster, Md.

“I just go out there and have fun everyday and see what happens and see what kind of game it turns out to be. That’s what I am looking for. I think coming in as a sophomore and just really relaxing and wanting to expand and do new things is something that is really fun and exciting for me this year.”

Last Saturday, McMunn had a lot fun with her shooting, firing in a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener.

“I think it was just seeing what was opening up on attack,” said McMunn, reflecting on her scoring outburst.

“If I had it, I wanted to be able to take it. But at the same time, if a couple of girls were getting hot on attack and things were opening up for them, we were just trying to get it to the open spots and see what we could create when we are moving.”

While Princeton didn’t open up well against Brown, trailing 4-2 midway through the first half, McMunn and her teammates weren’t fazed. “I don’t think there were any concerns, I think we were just very excited to be out here on a nice day and we were a little jittery to get off to a good start,” recalled McMunn.

The Tiger offense, though, started working well after that, closing the half with an 8-1 run with McMunn scoring four goals in that pivotal stretch.

“I think the biggest thing is that we just calmed ourselves down, took a breath, and focused on executing the little things,” said McMunn.

“We really started stringing some plays together in transition, getting some solid one-on-one looks in the settled offense, and I think just the little things we were doing right made a big difference for us.”

Princeton played a solid second half as it pulled away to the victory and improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy.

“I feel like in the second half we just came out confident and we wanted to have a good time and finish the game,” said McMunn, who now leads Princeton in points (16) and goals (11).

“I think we did a good job. They started to come out a little more and get excited but we weren’t letting their pressure waver us or letting their hype bring our level down at all. I think we did a really nice job of responding to that and just playing our game and doing what we do on the field.”

For McMunn, the performance was even more heartening, considering that it came in the Ivy opener.

“I think this was a huge game for us; for our attack to be able to put up 18 goals was huge,” said McMunn.

“Our defense came up with some big defensive stands. We did a really great job of putting together all the things we have been working on in practice in the game today. It is really starting to come together for us. We wanted to start with a strong showing in the Ivy League. I think this was a great confidence booster for us.”

The Tigers will need another strong effort this Saturday as they head south to take on 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4).

“We are hungry to get back into NCAA competition,” said McMunn.

“We felt like we could have played better against Georgetown [an 11-6 loss on March 1]. We have really been working on little things in practice and trying to up our game to that next level, so I think playing against UVa is going to be a great chance for us to really see where we are and how far we have come.”

AMBLING ALONG: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler heads up the field last week against Villanova. Freshman attacker Ambler contributed five points on three goals and two assists as the Tigers rallied for a 14-11 win in the March 5 contest. Sixth-ranked Princeton, which fell to 3-1 with a 16-15 loss at No. 8 North Carolina last Saturday, was slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AMBLING ALONG: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler heads up the field last week against Villanova. Freshman attacker Ambler contributed five points on three goals and two assists as the Tigers rallied for a 14-11 win in the March 5 contest. Sixth-ranked Princeton, which fell to 3-1 with a 16-15 loss at No. 8 North Carolina last Saturday, was slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team trailed Villanova 10-8 heading into the fourth quarter last week, Ryan Ambler and his Tiger teammates weren’t feeling any sense of panic.

“The coaches said keep fighting,” said freshman attacker Ambler, recalling the message the players received in their huddle after the third quarter of the March 5 contest.

“We were getting opportunities on offense. On defense, I thought we did a pretty good job. Villanova is a great team; they ran around and threw picks at us. They were pretty unconventional and I think coach [Chris] Bates said keep playing our game offensively, keep moving the ball and keep working off ball.”

In the fourth quarter, Ambler raised his game. scoring two goals in the first four minutes to spark a 6-1 Princeton run.

“I took my chances; I let the game come to me,” said the 6’1, 180-pound Ambler, a native of Rydal, Pa. who ended the game with five points on a career-best three goals and two assists.

“One time I had a shorty, they didn’t slide to me and I took my chance. On the other one, Jake [Froccaro] made a great play and fed it to me inside and I capitalized.”

For Ambler, playing in the same line with sophomore Mike MacDonald and senior Jeff Froccaro has helped his production.

“It is great; Mike MacDonald moves the ball really well and Jeff is a great veteran leader,” said Ambler of the trio which combined for nine goals in a losing cause last Saturday as Princeton fell 16-15 at North Carolina.

Both of those guys are dynamic as well as first line and second line middies. I think we can throw six, seven guys at people, maybe more. I think we are pretty dangerous. When we play together and work the ball, I think we are a very hard team to guard.”

Princeton head coach Bates, for his part, liked the way his team kept working in the win over Villanova.

“We stayed composed,” said Bates, who got three goals from Jeff Froccaro in the win with MacDonald, Kip Orban, and Jake Froccaro adding two apiece.

“Being down most of the game, I give  our guys credit, we took the next step in terms of getting ground  balls. We started to face off a little bit better and then offensively, we honestly felt like if we had the ball, we were going to be able to score goals.”

Putting Jeff Froccaro on face-off duty in the fourth quarter of the Villanova game turned the tide as he won 5-of-7 face-offs.

“We wanted to try to save Jeff, his knees are old,” said a smiling Bates of Froccaro, who went on to score four goals in the loss to North Carolina with MacDonald tallying five and junior star Tom Schreiber contributing four.

“Just tying the ball up and winning some forward, he gave us the ball and he gave us momentum. You could tell that was the difference in the game. We started to feel a little bit better offensively. We started to generate some shots and goals. We planned on not using him at all today. We were struggling so much there that we absolutely needed to get another look. Every time that kid gets into a game, he is a gamer, scoring big goals. He doesn’t always make the best decisions but I’ll take them.”

Bates certainly likes the game that Ambler has displayed so far in his freshman campaign.

“He is great; Ryan keeps making plays,” asserted Bates of Ambler, who now has 10 points on four goals and six assists for the 3-1 Tigers.

“He doesn’t back down from the stage. He shares the ball, he sees the field so well. Our guys love playing with him; he really makes us better. He finished some plays, he made some great feeds. They shorted him early which is a slap and he ran right by them. I give that kid credit. He had a whale of a game. He and Jeff were the differences really.”

Ambler, for his part, credits Bates, who coached his older brother, Colin, at Drexel, with paving the way to his sizzling start.

“He knows what he is doing when he is recruiting,” said Ambler, who will look to keep up his good play with sixth-ranked Princeton slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“He brought me in, the transition has been pretty smooth with these guys. That is probably the best part, working on the chemistry with these guys.”

HARD TO SAY: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson instructs freshman Hans Brase in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, Princeton saw a chance at an Ivy League title slip out of its grasp as it fell 71-66 at Yale on Friday and 80-67 at Brown the next night. Those defeats combined with two wins by Harvard clinched the title for the Crimson as they improved to 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy while Princeton dropped to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy. The Tigers were slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (9-21 overall, 6-7 Ivy) on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HARD TO SAY: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson instructs freshman Hans Brase in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, Princeton saw a chance at an Ivy League title slip out of its grasp as it fell 71-66 at Yale on Friday and 80-67 at Brown the next night. Those defeats combined with two wins by Harvard clinched the title for the Crimson as they improved to 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy while Princeton dropped to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy. The Tigers were slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (9-21 overall, 6-7 Ivy) on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend, the Princeton University men’s basketball team controlled its own destiny.

Sitting in first place in the Ivy League standings with a one-game edge on second-place Harvard in the loss column, Princeton needed to post wins over Yale and Brown over the weekend and then finish the deal with a victory at Penn in the regular season finale on March 12 to clinch the outright league title and a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

On Friday, though, Princeton couldn’t slow down Yale as the Bulldogs hit 60.5 percent of their shots to earn a 71-66 win and complete a season sweep of the Tigers.

Even with the loss to Yale, Princeton still was in play for a shot at March Madness as a win over Brown on Saturday combined with a victory against Penn would send the Tigers into a one-game playoff with Harvard for a spot in the NCAAs.

But Princeton ran into more trouble against Brown, falling behind early as news came in that Harvard was pulling away to a victory at Cornell. With things looking bleak, the Tigers did a get a jolt of momentum as Denton Koon hit a halfcourt three-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Tigers within four at the half against the Bears.

“I thought Denton’s three at the end of the half was going to be a boost for us because we were really struggling,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson in his postgame comments on the Princeton athletics website.

The struggles, however, continued as Princeton found itself trailing 62-50 with 3:36 left in regulation. The Tigers got the Brown margin down to four points on five occasions in the last 1:28 but couldn’t get closer as the Bears pulled away to an 80-67 win and extinguished Princeton’s chances for an NCAA bid.

“I thought they did some nice things defensively but once again it was us, that was a major concern,” said Henderson, whose team moved to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy in the wake of its lost weekend with champion Harvard ending the regular season at 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy.

“If we could make more free throws or a three in there and it could have been a totally different game. We just couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

The team’s defensive struggles against Yale and Brown were particularly perplexing since the Tigers entered the weekend leading the Ivy League in scoring defense, giving up 57.0 points per game.

“We were hanging around a little too much; there was less substance,” said Henderson.

“I think that is what happens when you are not defending. This hurts, this is not where we want to be. It is not what we hung our hat on all season. You have to be the aggressor on the defensive end, we have been good at that most of the season but we lost sight of a couple of guys. We just couldn’t find our way.”

It also hurts to see the Princeton seniors fall short of what they saw as their destiny.

“I am really disappointed for our seniors,” said Henderson, whose group of seniors features the program’s second all-time scorer, Ian Hummer, together with Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly.

“We have one game left and we are going to prepare for that but to be officially out of the race is tough; this is why those guys came to school here. It is a very special senior class and I am very disappointed right now.”

Lisa Sweeney had a good feeling about her Princeton University softball team before it even played a game this spring.

“We went into the first weekend with confidence,” said first-year head coach Sweeney, referring to the team’s season-opening appearance at the North Florida Osprey Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla. from March 1-3. “We knew we had put in the work in February to be ready for games.”

The Tigers went 3-2 in the Florida event and then improved on that last weekend as they posted a 3-1 record at the UMBC Dawg Pound Invitational in Baltimore, Md.

In action last Saturday, Princeton fell 4-3 to Seton Hall before bouncing back to top Coppin State 6-3.

“Seton Hall is a good team; we had a freshman [Shanna Christian] pitching and it was a good test for her,” said Sweeney.

“It came down to one pitch, a good hitter for them hit a home run. It was a good test to go against competition like that. Coppin State is a very good hitting team, they are consistent and have power. Alex Peyton threw very well.”

A day later, Princeton was clicking on all cylinders as it defeated Mt. St. Mary’s 4-2 and then routed host UMBC 11-2.

“There are still things we need to work on but we can take away a lot of positives,” said Sweeney, reflecting on the Sunday sweep which lifted the Tigers to a record of 6-3.

“Up and down the lineup, we are hitting well. This week, we are talking about not leaving runners on. When we get runners in scoring position, we have to capitalize.”

Sophomore Alyssa Schmidt has been capitalizing on her opportunities so far this season as she is hitting at a .514 clip with a team-high 19 hits in nine appearances.

“I can’t say enough about her,” said Sweeney, referring to Schmidt. “Her approach in the box is beautiful. She is relaxed in every situation; her approach to each at-bat is the same. She is really confident right now.”

Sweeney is developing confidence in her batting order as five players besides Schmidt are hitting .300 or better in Kayla Bose (.529), Sarah McGowan (.438), Maddie Cousens (.333), Peyton (.321), and Tory Roberts (.300).

“I think that is due to all the hard work we are putting in and confidence,” said Sweeney, who team is hitting .313 overall and has scored 47 runs in nine games. “We are not just working on the physical part of hitting, we are working on developing confidence mentally and taking a positive approach.”

Pitching has been another positive for the Tigers in the early going as Princeton has a team ERA of 2.55 spreading innings among several hurlers.

“Liza [Kuhn], Alex, and Shanna are all doing well; Meredith Browne is a sophomore and she will also help,” said Sweeney, a four-time Patriot League Pitcher of the Year at Lehigh during her college days.

“The pitchers have all been working hard, they are some of the grittiest players on our team and some of our hardest workers. We have a real pitching unit. When someone is on on the mound, the others are happy for her and want her to do well. When you are on the mound, it is great to know that everyone is behind you.”

Princeton has been getting some great leadership from its corps of seniors which includes Candy Button, Nikki Chu, and Lizzy Pierce in addition to Peyton and Kuhn.

“All five seniors bring it everyday,” said Sweeney, “They are relentless. They set the tone for the team; what we are about and where we are heading. Their time is limited, every senior goes through that. They fall in love with the program and they want their time to be meaningful.”

Sweeney feels that she and her players have wasted little time in getting on the same page.

“I think we are melding very well; they have shown a willingness to embrace a new coach,” asserted Sweeney.

“They are good people; they are willing to learn and to do things a little differently. My assistant coach, Jen Lapicki, is unbelievable. In terms of the culture we want to create and our values, we match up perfectly. The players see that we are a united front.”

LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LONG TOSSING: Princeton High boys’ track star Tim Brennan throws the discus in previous spring action. This past winter, senior Brennan came up big for the PHS indoor squad. He won the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and went on to place second at the Central Jersey Group III sectionals and third at the state Group III championships.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Ben Samara had an eye on the spring as he coached the Princeton High boys’ winter track team, his athletes made the most of the indoor season.

“I think it was really good,” said PHS head coach Samara. “The main goal is to develop a good base for the spring and we did that. We also accomplished a lot of good things along the way.

Senior standout Tim Brennan solidified his status as one of the more accomplished throwers in the area, winning the shot put at the Mercer County Indoor Track Championship and then going on to place second at the state sectional and third at the state Group III championships.

“He went back and forth with the guy from North all season and he really got jacked up for the county meet,” said Samara of Brennan, who posted a personal best of 53‘11.75 in winning the county title.

“He is a gamer. He was training and lifting weights all through the winter so for him to throw like that was really impressive.”

Another impressive performer for the Little Tigers was senior runner Ian McIsaac, who finished second at the county meet in the 800 before taking third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800 at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet and then placing third in the 1,600 at the state Group III championships.

“It started at the Lavino Relays when he anchored our sprint relay and splitted a 1:58; I knew Ian was going to do some big things this season,” said Samara.

“He broke the school record in the 1,600 at successive meets. He has 4:25 at the sectional and 4:23 at the group meet. He trained through the season and has been doing his base training, he is gunning for PRs in both the 800 and 1,600 this spring. He is training hard.”

PHS also got some good contributions from junior Conor Donahue, sophomore Jacob Rist, and sophomore Joe Gray.

“For Conor Donahue to get sixth at the county meet in the 1,600, he came up with one of the best kicks I have ever seen,” asserted Samara.

“He showed so much heart; I am hoping he builds off of that this spring. Rist is really training hard; he is getting to where he wants to be. Another guy who had a great season was Joe Gray, who is a sophomore. His indoor best last year was 54 and his outdoor best was around 51. To run 52 on 200-meter tracks shows a lot of progress. He should get close to 50 seconds outdoors.”

Samara saw progress across the board from his athletes. “We have a lot of good young guys,” added Samara.

“Jeremy Cohen is a freshman and he was keeping up with all of the upperclassmen in their workouts. He has the kind of work ethic you like to see. We have two other guys, Alex Henry, a sophomore, and Noah Chen, a freshman, who came in on the distance side. They were
running 5:10 in the 1,600 at the beginning of the season and they were down to 5:00 by the end. It shows what hard work can do.”

In the final analysis, Samara is more focused on developing work ethic than winning medals.

“It’s not about blowing people away at the county meet; it is about developing guys and their character and hoping that they will get something out of the experience besides wins and losses,” said Samara.

“If you are doing winter track, it is because you want to be there. It isn’t easy training outside in the cold like we do.”

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SIR DUKE: Hun School boys’ basketball player Fergus Duke lofts a jumper in a game this season. Sparked by senior guard Duke’s clutch play and leadership, Hun went 20-6 this season and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, the Peddie School gym became its home away from home this winter.

Between three tournaments and a regular season appearance, Hun ended up playing eight contests this season at Peddie, more games than it played in its own gym.

The Raiders prospered in Hightstown, winning seven of those eight games, including an inspiring run to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

In its final game at the gym, Hun topped Peddie 65-53 in the state Prep A semis, producing a performance that exemplified the Raiders’ outstanding campaign.

“I think we came out and we struggled a little bit early; I think we were lethargic after the MAPL,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone reflecting on the February 13 contest.

“It is hard to play a team a few days after you have already beaten them. We battled through it. We took a two-point lead at halftime, which was big since we didn’t play too well. We had a good stretch in the third quarter; we got it going. We were balanced on offense and got contributions from everyone who came in; that was the story of our season.”

The Hun season ended three days later when it fell to eventual champion St. Benedict’s 65-37 in the Prep A semis. “We were down 6-0 and battled back; we were ahead 16-15 after one,” recalled Stone.

“We really struggled in the second and third quarter. We had trouble defensively with their fast break. They were getting easy shots. It was unfortunate; we didn’t play as well as we have been. I think we were a little bit tired and they are a very good team.”

Notwithstanding that setback it was a very good season for Hun, which posted a final record of 20-6.

“Those two things, a 20-win season and a MAPL title stand out,” said Stone.

“We showed resolve and mental toughness; we showed the ability to win a lot of close games. We were down 11 points in the 4th quarter against Hill in the MAPL opener and won. We were down 13 points at halftime to Notre Dame, came back, and won. Those two games stick out.”

Another thing that will stick out for Stone when looking back at this season was the team’s upbeat mentality.

“It was a great group of kids, they listened, learned, and were accountable,” said Stone. “Some of our most fun practices were our hardest. Our chemistry was excellent on and off the court. You see that with good teams.”

The Raiders boasted some good chemistry in the backcourt with its pair of seniors, Fergus Duke (11.8 points and 2.6 assists a game) and Princeton-bound Hashim Moore (8.7 points, 2.4 assists, 5.9 rebounds).

“We had six games in a row where we had a lead and lost it and Fergus had a flurry and we were back up,” said Stone, noting that both Duke and Moore were first-team All-MAPL picks.

“He hit big shot after big shot. He made a lot of big plays on the defensive end as well. He blossomed into a great leader. Hashim had the ability to control a game even when he wasn’t scoring. His big hands got many a loose ball or steal. He is an exceptional passer; he has the ability to see the floor. I think half of Fergus’s baskets came on assists by Hashim; they were a great combination.”

The combination of 6’7 senior Grant MacKay (7.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2-0 assists) and 6’6 classmate Jake Newman (7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds) gave Hun an inside-out punch.

“Down the stretch, Grant played as well as anybody,” asserted Stone. “He made honorable mention All-MAPL. He worked hard; he shot 45 percent from 3-point range. He has the ability to stuff the stat sheet, getting rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. Newman didn’t shoot the ball as well down the stretch as he did earlier but he really handled the ball well. He was defending guards, his length and quickness made it tough on them. He is a smart player.”

With the quartet of Josh McGilvray (7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds), Michael Bourke (5.8 points), Jason Geter (2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds), and David Li (2.7 points, 1.2 rebounds) slated to return, Hun should be plenty tough next season as well.

“We are excited to have four of our top eight back; McGilvray really developed into a good big man,” said Stone.

“We played better when he was in the starting lineup. He is very unselfish, and has the ability to change shots. Bourke was playing his best ball at the end of the season; he developed nicely. Geter is our glue guy. He make plays at both ends of the floor; he is the kind of guy that every team needs. Li gives us energy. When he makes a play, everyone is happy, the crowd, the guys on the bench and the coaching staff. He is a real presence for us. We lose a lot of scoring but if the younger guys develop and we get a couple of new players we should be right up there again.”

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER LEAVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Hannah Levy looks to pass the ball in action this winter. Senior star Levy provided versatility and leadership this season as PDS posted an 8-14 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team, its late-season victory at Hamilton provided a glimpse of the squad’s potential.

“To beat a very athletic team like that in their own gym was a good win, especially late in the season,” said PDS head coach Mika Ryan, reflecting on the 34-25 triumph over the Hornets. “The underclassmen had a good game, that was very encouraging.”

Unfortunately, the Panthers didn’t produce enough performances like that this winter as they posted a final record of 8-14.

“It was a difficult season,” acknowledged Ryan, whose team was knocked out in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and fell in the state Prep B quarterfinals.

“One reason we struggled is that we didn’t compete in practice like we needed to. That is where you get better, competing against each other everyday.”

Ryan is hoping that an emphasis on competitive fire will pay dividends down the road.

“My approach is that you compete as hard as you can, no matter who you are playing,” said Ryan.

“We don’t talk about wins and losses, we talk about competing. The underclassmen think like I do, they get it, they understand my approach. I am looking forward to next season.”

The graduation of the team’s trio of seniors, Hannah Levy, Daniela Levitan, and Lauren Johnson, will leave a void next season.

“Hannah was a jack of all trades, she willingly played any position we asked,” said Ryan.

“She always gave her best. Daniela was in the program for four years and she contributed to PDS athletics and the team. LJ was on the varsity for three years, she was a really tough on-ball defender. She was scrappy, she was a hustler. She has an energy we will miss.”

Going forward, the Panthers should draw plenty of energy from sophomore Erin Murray, freshmen Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu, together with juniors Emily Goldman and Tess Zahn.

“I am excited about the returning players,” said Ryan. “It is hard to ask inexperienced players to be responsible for intangibles. They learned a lot and improved a lot. We have Erin Murray at point guard, Morgan Van Liew and Olivia Okorodudu inside, and Emily Goldman is a good swing player. Emily comes late from field hockey and it takes her a while to get her legs under her. She is a versatile player. I want to see her spend more time on basketball this summer.”

Ryan is looking to make sure her players spend a lot of time honing their competitiveness on and the court over the offseason.

“I strongly encourage all my players to play a spring sport; it is good for their cross training and it is good for them to be around other coaches,” said Ryan.

“In the summer, we are going to be doing conditioning and agility drills. We will be playing in the summer league in Moody Park, which is two nights a week. We are also going to the Princeton University team camp in the first week of August. You are guaranteed five games, they offer clinics. It is a real good experience. It is a chance to play and work on team building skills. We didn’t go last year, I am so excited that we are going back.”

March 6, 2013

 

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer celebrates in the waning moments of Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard last Friday. Senior star Hummer contributed 23 points and 14 rebounds in the victory as he moved into second on Princeton’s career scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 13 points to help the Tigers beat Dartmouth 68-63. That win combined with Harvard’s 75-72 loss at Penn left Princeton atop the Ivy standings as the Tigers moved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy and Crimson fell to second at 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy. Princeton wraps up regular season action by playing at Yale (12-17 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 8, at Brown (12-14 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 9, and at Penn (8-20 overall, 5-6 Ivy) on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer celebrates in the waning moments of Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard last Friday. Senior star Hummer contributed 23 points and 14 rebounds in the victory as he moved into second on Princeton’s career scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 13 points to help the Tigers beat Dartmouth 68-63. That win combined with Harvard’s 75-72 loss at Penn left Princeton atop the Ivy standings as the Tigers moved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy and Crimson fell to second at 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy. Princeton wraps up regular season action by playing at Yale (12-17 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 8, at Brown (12-14 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 9, and at Penn (8-20 overall, 5-6 Ivy) on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In its two Ivy League losses this season, the Princeton University men’s basketball team showed plenty of heart but failed to make enough big plays to avoid defeat.

Falling short against Yale on February 9 in a 69-65 defeat, the Tigers couldn’t get off a shot in the waning seconds when a three-point bucket could have won the contest. A week later at Harvard, Princeton misfired down the stretch, hitting just 31 percent of its second half shots on the way to a 69-57 setback.

Last Friday in a showdown with Ivy frontrunner Harvard, it looked like Princeton was letting another game slip away as it squandered a 46-36 second half lead to find itself trailing 51-48 with 2:44 left in regulation.

But this time, Princeton came up with the clutch plays in crunch time and pulled out a 58-53 win over the Crimson to delight a Jadwin Gym throng of 4,413.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was proud of how his team came through when it counted against the Crimson.

“At times this season when we have been down, we haven’t been able to find that moment where we can kind of push through something,” said Henderson.

“I thought tonight was just a huge thing for our program. At 51-48 Will Barrett gets fouled and makes both free throws. We get a huge stop and then Ian [Hummer] comes down and gets the tip-in. Not to mention the tip out on the missed free throw and T.J.’s diving play. That was a big moment for us. I am just really happy.”

Henderson was even happier a night later when Princeton topped Dartmouth 68-63 and Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn, leaving the Tigers in first place in the league standings at 16-9 overall, 9-2 Ivy with the Crimson next at 17-9 overall, 9-3 Ivy.

While Princeton’s win over Harvard wasn’t a thing of beauty, Henderson was impressed with his team’s grit.

“The box score doesn’t look that pretty on our end and it didn’t look pretty the first time,” said Henderson.

“I thought the game was won on the free throw line and with our defense. We didn’t give up too many second chance points.”

Senior star Hummer effectively ended Harvard’s chances for a win when he punched back a missed Mack Darrow free throw in the waning seconds that a diving T.J. Bray batted to Denton Koon, who was then fouled.

“I knew I couldn’t get it; [Steve] Mondou-Missi is a handful but the miss was so perfect, it just came off the back iron and popped right back and I tried to just hit it right out. I was afraid I hit to too hard but luckily TJ was right there to make a diving play.”

After Koon drained two free throws to make it 58-53, Hummer turned to the Princeton student section and gleefully pumped his fist.

“I knew it was going to go our way, the way we were shooting the ball on the free throw line,” said Hummer, recalling his impromptu celebration.

“I wasn’t really worried; whoever was going to be on the line was going to make them. The excitement got the best of me and I went in the opposite direction, I had no idea what I was doing. It is what it is, I got caught up in the moment.”

The Tigers realized that Friday was a pivotal moment of the season, having entered the game trailing Harvard by one game in the loss column.

“We know it is a must-win,” said Hummer, who ended the evening with 23 points and 14 rebounds and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for the seventh time this season and ninth time in his career.

“I think the way we played last weekend, we were pretty confident coming into this game. I thought we didn’t play our best game up at Harvard. I thought the way we were playing, we could really give them a good run. It is always a good game when we play Harvard and it is always a dogfight. I am just so glad that we came out on top.”

Henderson, for his part, is glad to have Hummer on his side. “He was just terrific; I am an alum here too and I think first, I have to say I am so happy for him because he cares about winning,” said Henderson, a 1998 Princeton grad and former Tiger basketball star.

“But as alum it is just fun to watch him play. I am proud that he wears the orange and black. He just does everything for us; 23 and 14, 7-of-7 from the line. He has really worked at those things, especially the free throw shooting. That is huge for us. That is what we want to be, constantly improving and he is a walking example of that.”

Hummer has improved into one of the greatest players in Princeton history, becoming the second leading scorer in Tiger history, passing Kit Mueller (1,546 points) and Douglas Davis (1,550) on the career list with his output on Friday and ending the weekend at 1,577 points.

That milestone, though, wasn’t nearly as important to Hummer as the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of Friday evening.

“It means nothing if I didn’t get the win tonight,” said Hummer, who will be looking for more wins this week as the Tigers wrap up regular season action by playing at Yale on March 8, at Brown on March 9, and at Penn on March 12.

“It is just icing on the cake. First and foremost, I want to be in contention for an Ivy League title and whatever happens, happens. I am just happy it came in a win.”

STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s  58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Barrett started his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team as a member of the Class of 2013 but a foot injury set him back a year.

Brendan Connolly, meanwhile, has been a stalwart of the class, providing yeomen’s work in the paint over the last four years.

On Saturday, both played key roles as the Tigers celebrated Senior Night with a 68-63 win over Dartmouth before 3,167 at Jadwin Gym.

The 6’10 forward Barrett scored a game-high 24 points, including 18 in a second-half outburst which saw him hit five three-pointers, while the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly clogged up the middle getting six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

In reflecting on his big performance, Barrett said he was fired up to help things go well for his original classmates in their final Jadwin appearance.

“I work my butt off day in, day out for my teammates so it is nothing really different but just losing five of my best friends, it changes everything for me,” said Barrett.

“I have 15 other best friends that I get to have after this but we were all a little teary eyed in the locker room after the game, we went up and hugged each other.”

Connolly, for his part, admired Barrett’s effort Saturday and on a daily basis.

“It was special,” said Connolly. “He is right when he said he has worked his butt off, he is down here all the time, getting shots up. I was hoping that Will and Jimmy [Sherburne] would be there tonight with us. That was part of the initial plan. I am really happy for Will and I am happy Jimmy is back and he says he is doing well and his shoulder is healing up. I am really happy for them and what they are going to be able to do next year.”

In reflecting on his last game at Jadwin, Connolly is happy for the experience he has enjoyed over the last four years.

“Mack [Darrow] and Ian [Hummer] are two of the best friends I have ever had and I think they always will be,” said Connolly.

“I trust those guys with my life and I think they trust me with theirs. It is  pretty amazing; coming in here, you have no idea that is what the result is going to be four years later. I just thank God that I have those guys and some other guys on campus too that I can always turn to. It is just special, there is not one way to pinpoint how exactly it is, it just is. I think anyone who has gone here and played with the same guys for years will tell you that.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson pinpointed Barrett and Connolly as key contributors in the win over Dartmouth.

“Will made some huge shots, I think it was a five-point lead and it went to eight; it might have gone to 10 or 11 once,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy League and got a huge lift when it found out later that Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn in dropping to 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy, prompting roars from the Tiger locker room.

“He shot the ball with confidence, you have got to make shots. I think it is indicative of how our team is; we have different ways to beat people which is good. I thought Brendan was important because [Gabas] Maldunas was hurting us. A couple of times they were really looking for him and Brendan took away six rebounds tonight which was important.”

In Henderson’s view, his senior players have made a huge impact on the team.

“It is a special group,” said Henderson, whose senior corps also includes reserve guards Ameer Elbuluk and Isaac Serwanga.

“When I first got here, I thought Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox and Bobby Foley and those guys in that class, had to do something that no Princeton class has ever had to do, which is take the program back to where it needed to be. This class, Ian, Brendan, and Mack, have been very successful. They have kept it where it needs to be and that is really important too.”

Barrett and his teammates know that the weekend sweep, which started with a 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday, doesn’t guarantee success in the Ivy title race which sees Princeton play at Yale on March 8, at Brown on March 9, and ending the regular season at Penn on March 12.

“After the game last night, we were talking to each other and we said this game means absolutely nothing if we don’t take care of what we have to take care of tomorrow and the next weekend,” said Barrett. “We just have to stay focused.”

While Connolly is focused on ending his Tiger career on a high note, he has already gained memories that will last for a lifetime.

“It is a good way to reflect back on everything and just remember how special things have been and some of the things we have been able to do here,” said Connolly.

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

All good things must to come to an end and so it was for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last Friday at Harvard.

After winning 33 straight Ivy League games, Princeton fell 58-55 to the Crimson, suffering its first league defeat since a 73-67 loss at Harvard on February 4, 2011.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart had no qualms with her team’s effort in defeat.

“We expected Harvard to play well, they have nothing to lose,“ said Banghart.

“They know they are playing for the NIT. I thought we came prepared. We shot 7-of-35 in the second half and still had a chance to win so that tells you how hard we played. It was not from lack of effort, we had a lot of free throws and we hit the glass.”

It was Princeton’s misfiring, though, that proved to be the difference as the Tigers made just 16-of-62 shots (25.5 percent) on the evening.

“We missed more open shots than in any game I can remember since I have been here,” said Banghart, whose team outrebounded Harvard 47-39 and made 20-of-28 free throws.

“We are used to getting good looks and winning by 30. When they didn’t go in, it made us tense. We missed two uncontested layups in the second half.”

In reflecting on the winning streak, Banghart takes pride in what it says about the way Princeton takes care of its business.

“What the streak means is that the program is doing something right on a daily basis,” said Banghart.

“As graduation falls, the program is not falling. The people not getting time are still getting better. You have seen that with our sophomores this year like Blake [Dietrick] and Mariah [Smith]. I don’t believe that the players think that much about the streak. I don’t think they felt under pressure to continue it. We are just a part of their day at Princeton.”

In Banghart’s view, the loss could lead to some good things down the road. “It means that if we don’t shoot well in the NCAA, we have done that before,” said Banghart.

“It was the first time all year that we didn’t shoot well and we weren’t able to right the ship. The more times you do something, the better you get at it. When you are in so many games where you win by 30, that doesn’t help you. We are not going to be up by 20 at half in the first round of the NCAAs. We will need to grind through possessions and this will make us better able to do that.”

A night later at Dartmouth, Princeton handled the grind well, overcoming a 36-33 halftime deficit to pull out a 68-60 win and improve to 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy.

“Their hearts were heavy and we didn’t know how they would respond,” said Banghart, reflecting on the mood around the team as it took the court against the Big Green.

“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot. We didn’t shoot that well again. We were playing like we were scared to lose rather than going for the win.”

Seniors Niveen Rasheed and Meg Bowen each scored 21 points to key the Princeton rally.

“They were huge, this is a league for seniors,” asserted Banghart. “Meg commanded presence inside. Niveen willed us to win, she was making the hustle plays. She had three offensive rebounds in the last few minutes. She knew that the bench wasn’t playing as well as it has been and she said I’ll take care of this tonight.”

With Princeton leading the Ivy race over Harvard (17-8 overall, 8-3 Ivy) and Penn (15-10 overall, 8-3 Ivy) by two games with three to play, the Tigers can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later for its last weekend this season at Jadwin Gym.

“I told them after the Dartmouth game, we are going home to win a fourth Ivy title and that’s pretty cool,” said Banghart.

“We got what we needed last weekend. You don’t get used to winning the Ivy League title, it isn’t an easy thing to do. We are just going to enjoy it. Hopefully, we get to cut down the nets on Senior Night against Brown, we couldn’t script it any better than that.”