May 2, 2012

MULLING IT OVER: Princeton University baseball star Sam ­Mulroy is at bat in a game earlier this spring. Last weekend, Mulroy and his teammates fell just short of winning the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division title, going 3-1 against Cornell when they needed to sweep the doubleheaders to pass the Big Red in the division standings. Senior Mulroy ended his career on a high note this season, leading the Tigers in batting average (.351), homers (eight) and RBIs (32) as Princeton finished the spring at 20-19 overall and 13-7 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sam Mulroy’s eyes were red and his uniform was streaked with dirt, signs of the valiant but ultimately unsuccessful fight waged by the Princeton University baseball team last weekend as it looked to earn a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series (ILCS).

Coming into Friday’s action, Princeton had a 10-6 league record and needed to sweep two doubleheaders from Cornell, 13-3 in league play, to pass the Big Red and win the Ivy’s Gehrig Division title.

In the opener of a twinbill at Ithaca on Friday, senior star Mulroy slammed a homer and had two hits and two RBIs to help Princeton win 13-3. Sparked by a magnificent 14-strikeout effort from junior pitcher Zak Hermans, the Tigers eked out a 1-0 win in Game 2 to stay alive.

In Game 1 on Sunday at the friendly confines of Clarke Field, the Tigers rode the shutout pitching of Matt Bowman and some clutch hitting from Steve Harrington and Blake Thomsen to prevail 6-0 and set up a winner-take-all showdown in the nightcap.

In the pivotal game, Princeton jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a first inning homer by John Mishu. After Cornell answered with a run in the top of the fifth, the Tigers forged ahead 2-1 an inning later on a Mike Ford RBI single. The Big Red took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on a Matt Hall homer.

With its season on the line heading into the bottom of the ninth, Princeton scratched out a run on a bunt single and a throwing error to tie the contest at 3-3 and force extra innings. Ben Swindford struck the decisive blow, smacking a solo homer in the top of the 12th that proved to be the game winner for Cornell as it held on for a 4-3 victory and the division title, advancing to a matchup against Dartmouth in the ILCS.

Despite the disappointment, Mulroy was still proud of the character displayed by the Tigers as they fought to the final out.

“We came to play all four games,” said Mulroy. “We battled, we scrapped. I think the last game is indicative of the whole series. We had to come back a couple of times and we just came up short which is really too bad.”

While it was a bad ending for the Tigers, Mulroy was able to put his stellar career in perspective.

“It is weird; I am proud of what we accomplished over my career but at the same time, you hate to see it end, especially like this,” said Mulroy, who led the Tigers this spring in batting average (.351), homers (eight) and RBIs (32).

“I have mixed emotions. For right now, I wished we could have won. As coach [Scott] Bradley said afterward in the huddle, there are a lot of years where 13-7 is good enough. It just happened that this year Cornell got off to a hot start and won enough games to hold us off; 13-7 is the second best we have done in my four years and is nothing to hang your heads about.”

Playing at catcher, center field and third base, Mulroy did his best to help the Tigers in any way possible.

“It has been a lot of fun,” said Mulroy. “This year with Tyler coming in, he deserved to catch as much as he did. I am happy to be in the lineup wherever. I am fine being behind the plate because I like to be in on every play, I like being in center field and running around a little bit.”

Mulroy is hoping to stay in the game a little bit as he has his eye on a career in professional ball after graduation from Princeton.

“At this point, it is a bit of a waiting game because the [Major League Baseball] draft isn’t for another month,” said Mulroy, a 5’11, 205-pound native of Bethesda, Md. “It is something I have always wanted to do and I am going to try to make it work.”

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley like the way his club worked its way into the decisive contest.

“It was great to be able to play out these games that mean this much instead of playing out a string when one loss would have put us in the situation,” said Bradley. “I am proud of them.”

The Tigers, though, just couldn’t string together enough clutch hits to pull off the sweep.

“It is hard to beat a good team four times in a weekend,” said Bradley, whose club finished with a 20-19 overall record. “Our pitching was just unbelievable. We struggled with our bats; we couldn’t score runs when we needed to.”

It will be hard for Bradley to deal with the loss of Mulroy and his classmates, Andrew Whitener, Tom Boggiano, Stephen Elmore, and Ryan Makis.

“It is a great group and they play hard,” asserted Bradley, who held a Senior Day ceremony at home plate after the game.

“They play hard and they care. They have a passion for baseball at Princeton. We are going to miss them desperately; that is for sure.”

Mulroy, for his part, is certainly going to miss playing for the Tigers.

“It has been awesome,” said Mulroy, who ends his Princeton career with 25 homers, the second most in program history.

“It is an honor to have played four years with these guys on this field and for these coaches. I couldn’t be happier with the way the four years went.”

MIDDLE MAN: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Zach ­Halliday races up the field in a scrimmage this spring. Last Saturday, junior midfielder Halliday chipped in a goal and three assists in a losing cause as PHS fell 11-7 at Notre Dame. The Little Tigers, who dropped to 5-6 with the loss to the Fighting Irish, play at WW/P-S on May 3 before hosting Northern Burlington on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

From the beginning of his freshman year at Princeton High, Zach Halliday distinguished himself as a savvy midfielder on the soccer field.

Utilizing anticipation, hustle, and ball skills, Halliday quickly became a mainstay for the Little Tigers and has developed into one of the top players in the area.

Transferring those qualities to the lacrosse field, junior Halliday is emerging as a go-to player this spring for PHS.

“I am used to seeing the whole field in soccer so I am able to see the field in lacrosse,” explained Halliday, who also plays midfield in lacrosse. “I am able to distribute and get my teammates involved.”

Last Saturday at Notre Dame, Halliday was involved all over the field, tallying a goal and three assists along with picking up several steals and ground balls.

Halliday’s all-around effort wasn’t enough, though, as PHS fell 11-7 to the Fighting Irish.

While Halliday is proud to be taking a bigger role for the Little Tigers, individual stats are not his primary focus.

“I have been able to contribute more on both offense and the defensive end but really it is all about what the team does and if we win or lose,” said Halliday. “So today overall was a disappointment for me.”

With Halliday picking up an assist and a goal in a one-minute span to help PHS rally to a 5-5 tie with the Fighting Irish midway through the third quarter, he was hoping for a win.

“I was thinking that the team had a chance to come back and make some plays,” recalled Halliday.

“We got a goal and then a man-up opportunity but unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize and make the plays that they did today.”

In Halliday’s view, PHS can take a valuable lesson from the Notre Dame loss in terms of maintaining intensity.

“I think we have to learn to always play hard because if you have a three-minute letdown, your team is going to be put in a hole that you may not be able to recover from,” said Halliday.

PHS has shown the ability to recover collectively, bouncing back from a 0-4 start to win four straight games coming into the contest against the Fighting Irish.

“The coaches really changed things at practice; they really started drilling us and the whole team started buying in,” said Halliday.

“We are taking things one play at a time. I think going step-by-step and keeping things simple helped us get to where we are.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton likes the way his squad has stepped up over the past few weeks.

“I feel like we have gotten a lot better,” asserted Stanton, whose team dropped to 5-6 with the defeat to the Fighting Irish.

“The guys have learned to use their teammates and trust their teammates. We move the ball a lot better and we get assisted goals. We have just gotten a lot more cohesive offensively.”

Stanton credits Halliday and senior midfielder Alex Rifkin with helping to jump start the PHS offense.

“Zach is somebody who can play defense; he can get ground balls and he can start transitions,” said Stanton, who got two goals from Rifkin in the loss to Notre Dame with Matt Olentine, Coleman Preziosi, Matt Purdy, and Kevin Halliday chipping in one apiece.

“He understands the game very well; he plays all over the field. Alex has been unbelievable; he has been outstanding.”

In Stanton’s view, the loss to Notre Dame showed that the Little Tigers need to further sharpen their game.

“We have to learn how critical mistakes are,” said Stanton. “We feel that we outplayed them for long stretches at a time. Many of their goals came after we made a bad pass or dropped the ball. They are a very opportunistic team who made us pay for those mistakes.”

With tournament time around the corner, PHS still has the opportunity do some special things this spring.

“We have to know that we are capable of playing better; sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t,” said Stanton, whose team plays at WW/P-S on May 3 before hosting Northern Burlington on May 8. “Today was a day when things didn’t go our way.”

Halliday, for his part, believes things can go the right way for PHS if the team maintains its work ethic.

“To get back on the winning track I think the team is just going to have to take it hard at practice and put this in the back of our heads,” said Halliday. “We need to remember it but try to learn from it and really try to move on.”

MATCHING UP: Princeton High softball player Angela Matchum throws the ball in recent action. The play of senior outfielder Matchum has helped tighten up the PHS defense as the Little Tigers have gotten off to an 8-8 start. PHS, which fell 9-8 to Hightstown last Monday, hosts Nottingham on May 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High softball team produced an encouraging 6-5 start, the squad has yet to prove that it can beat the elite teams in the area.

After falling to such powers as Robbinsville, Allentown, and Steinert, PHS was looking for a breakthrough when it hosted WW/P-S last Wednesday.

Through five innings, the Little Tigers were right there with the twice-beaten Pirates, trailing just 3-0.

But in the top of the sixth, PHS gave up four runs on the way to a 9-0 defeat.

PHS head coach Dave Boehm was frustrated by his team’s sloppiness in the setback.

“We had too many walks today and too many errors,” said Boehm. “It is a tough loss, they are a good team but we weren’t really a threat to them today. That girl is a good pitcher; she throws hard, she throws inside and outside.”

Although PHS has been on the outside looking in against the top teams, it has shown it can be a threat on most days.

“We have played some real good games and then we have a game like today where we had five good innings and then the wheels came off,” said Boehm, noting that freshman Sarah Eisenach and junior Charlotte Gray have developed into an effective one-two pitching tandem.

“We have to knock off one of those big teams. We have got to beat a big boy on the block but we are not going to do it when we make that many mistakes.”

In Boehm’s view, the Little Tigers need to be more aggressive to get over the hump.

“They have to have more confidence; they have to get their bats off of their shoulders,” said Boehm.

“The one inning today where we put the bat on the ball, they made good contact.”

The play of junior star outfielder Marisa Gonzalez has given PHS plenty of confidence as she was hitting at a .595 clip through the team’s first 12 games.

“Marisa is making plays for us,” asserted Boehm of Gonzalez, who passed the 100-hit mark in her career last Saturday as the Little Tigers beat Ridgefield 8-4 and Teaneck 15-3 to win the Teaneck  Highwaywoman Tournament.

“She can make things happen. If we are going to push a run across, we have to get her on base or she has to drive it in.”

All in all, good things are happening for a PHS program that is on the rise.

“For the most part, I am happy with the way the team has played,” said Boehm, whose team hosts Nottingham on May 2.

“They have just got to get it through their heads that they can make the plays and hang with these teams. I think sometimes in the past teams would come off the bus and we knew we were beat. That hasn’t happened this year; it’s a good team.”

DANI GIRL: Hun School softball pitcher Dani Beal fires the ball in recent action. Junior Beal’s progress this spring has helped Hun go 8-4 after a shaky 1-2 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders host Steinert on May 2 and Northern Burlington on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Hun School softball team lost two of its first three games this spring, Kathy Quirk liked the work ethic she was seeing from her players on a daily basis.

“We practice hitting everyday; we have stations and we hit basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls,” said longtime Hun head coach Quirk.

“We play little games, the girls have been working really hard. When we separate into teams for practice games, it is intense. Neither team wants to lose.”

In the wake of losing 7-3 to Blair in early April to fall to 1-2, that intensity started to pay dividends as the Hun bats came alive. The Raiders hit double figures in wins over Princeton Day School (11-1) and Lawrenceville (11-6) and have proceeded to go on a roll that has seen them win seven of their last nine games.

“We had a tough loss against Blair; we have been playing well since that game,” said Quirk. “We got rolling with the win over Lawrenceville; we have been improving everyday.”

The team’s improvement was graphically demonstrated last week when the Raiders hosted Peddie. After having fallen 13-2 to the Falcons in the season opener on March 28, Hun topped Peddie 5-3 in the rematch.

“We had the game of our life against Peddie,” said Quirk, whose team jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. “Dani [Beal] putting them down in the top of the first gave her confidence.”

The progress of junior pitcher Beal has been a key factor in Hun’s hot streak.

“She stepped up on the pitching mound; she has confidence in her teammates,” said Quirk of Beal who pitched well in a losing cause last Saturday as Hun fell 3-2 at Blair to move to 8-4.

“She knows she is not going to strike out everybody and that her teammates will make the plays behind her.”

Junior catcher Carey Million has been making plenty of big plays for the Raiders. “Million has done a nice job behind the plate and at bat,” said Quirk.

“She has home runs in back-to-back games. They were not inside the park; they were line drives over the fence. It is nice to see.”

Hun has been getting some nice work in the infield from Julia Blake and Joey Crivelli.

“Julia Blake, for a freshman, is playing great at shortstop,” said Quirk. “She had 10 assists and four putouts in the win over Peddie. She is playing with confidence; she has also been hitting well. Crivelli doing a solid job at third base, she is coming through with big plays.”

Sophomore outfielder Kristen Manochio has emerged as another big plus for Quirk’s squad.

“Manochio is doing a nice job; she’s making contact and moving people around the bases,” said Quirk. “She is solid for us in the outfield.”

Quirk is confident her team can keep up its solid play when it competes in the state Prep A playoffs later this month.

“No matter where we play, we have to have the same intensity,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Steinert on May 2 and Northern Burlington on May 8. “I am very happy with how we are playing, I am hoping we can keep on track.”

GOING TO THE MATT: Princeton Day School baseball star Matt Cook delivers the ball in a game earlier this spring. Senior pitcher Cook came up big last week, getting the win in a 3-2 victory over Peddie. The Panthers, now 10-6, plays at South Hunterdon on May 2 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Ewing on May 5 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Day School baseball team, routing Rutgers Prep 18-3 last Friday was a measure of how far the squad has come since last spring.

“Last season we played them three times and they beat us up pretty good; that was a sweet win,” said PDS head coach Ray O’Brien, whose team improved to 10-6 with the victory, already more than doubling its win total from 2011 when it went 4-14.

The sweet swing of freshman JP Radvany helped trigger the rout for the Panthers as he smacked a three-run homer and piled up six RBIs in the contest.

“JP has been great; we knew coming in that he was pretty good,” said O’Brien.

“But he is only a freshman and he still had to come in and hit ball at the varsity level. I was really impressed with him in our first game back from Florida; we were playing a really good St. Augustine team and he was seeing the ball and taking pitches. He was recognizing pitches while some of our other guys were getting fooled. He is playing well above his years. He has really been good in the four-hole for us; he is hitting .529 with 27 RBIs.”

PDS has playing well collectively over the last few weeks. “We have won five out of six; we made a few changes to our lineup and the guys have settled in,” said O’Brien.

“We moved guys around. We have Rob Colton at catcher and moved Bradley Freid to his spot in the outfield. We moved Sean McCoy to first and we have JP at designated hitter. We moved one of our freshmen, Jake Alu, to third. We have kept the batting order; we have kept it the same the last seven or eight games. We can play small ball if necessary and the guys are comfortable banging away.”

O’Brien is growing increasingly comfortable with his pitching rotation. “Greg Auerbach, a junior, has given us the most innings; Matt Cook and Jacob Eisenberg are two seniors,” said O’Brien,

“Eisenberg has thrown some real good ballgames. Cook is 3-0 and pitched well against Peddie (a 3-2 win) last week. Cole [McManimon] has had a couple of victories. The pitchers have settled in and are throwing strikes and we are playing good defense behind them.”

The Panthers’ play has benefitted from blending battle-tested veterans with some precocious newcomers.

“It is a good mix,” said O’Brien. “Cook, Eisenberg, McCoy, and Beau Horan are giving us good senior leadership. Beau is playing good defense and hitting .407; things are coming together for him. We also have an influx of some good young players. Rob Colton has come in and is hitting at .500. He is a tough kid; we can’t have enough of those.”

In O’Brien’s view, the team has shown a toughness stemming from a  9-6 loss in extra innings to Pennington on April 14.

“In that first Pennington game; we were down 5-0 and then we came back,” said O’Brien. “We thought we let it slip away. We came out the next day and pounded Lawrenceville and we have been playing well ever since.”

With postseason action on the horizon, O’Brien is hoping that the Panthers can keep up its hot play.

“Right now we are playing consistently,” said O’Brien, whose team plays at South Hunterdon on May 2 before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where sixth-seeded PDS will host No. 11 Ewing on May 5 in a first round contest.

“Hopefully we are peaking at the right time. If we play well, we can beat anyone.”

WELL DONE: Stuart Country Day senior lacrosse star Ani ­Hallowell heads up the field in recent action. Last Thursday, midfielder Hallowell scored five goals in a losing cause as Stuart fell 18-8 to the Lawrenceville School. The Tartans, who lost 13-7 to Rutgers Prep last Monday in the state Prep B tournament to drop to 1-8, play at Hamilton on May 2. Later in the week, Stuart starts action in the Mercer County Tournament where the 15th-seeded Tartans play at No. 2 Princeton High on May 4 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ani Hallowell didn’t waste any time displaying her offensive skills last Thursday as the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team hosted Lawrenceville.

The Stuart senior star midfielder snatched the first two draws and snaked through the Lawrenceville defense to score two goals in the first 1:38 of the contest.

In reflecting on her hot start, Hallowell acknowledged that she had a little extra jump in her step against the Big Red.

“I guess I had a lot of energy today; my head was definitely in the game today,” said Hallowell. “I try to do that every game and I try to keep focused and in the game.”

With Hallowell triggering the attack, the underdog Tartans led Lawrenceville 6-5 with 10 minutes left in the half.

“We have a lot of new players and we know they have been trying to step up and today, we all stepped up and came together,” said Hallowell. “It really looked great in the first few minutes; we had a lot of confidence.”

Things didn’t go so great for the Tartans after that as the deeper Big Red gradually wore down Stuart. Lawrenceville reeled off a 6-0 run to take an 11-6 lead at halftime.

The gritty Tartans kept battling but couldn’t find a rhythm in the second half as they ultimately fell 18-8.

“We don’t tend to get discouraged when we get down; we try to answer back and fight back with as many goals as we can,” said Hallowell, who ended up with five goals on the day.

“There was just a little bit of miscalculation on passes and things like that but we definitely fought hard. I am proud of my team for that because there are a lot of new players on our team and we have definitely stepped it up a lot.”

As Stuart’s most battle-tested performer, Hallowell goes out of her way to encourage the team’s new players.

“I definitely try to be more of a leader of the team as a captain and as a senior,” asserted Hallowell.

“It is my fourth year on varsity so I know what it takes to play. I try to help the younger and the less experienced players more, so that our team can get better.”

Stuart first year head coach Caitlin Grant believes that Hallowell carries more than her share of the load for the Tartans.

“Ani is just an awesome player all around; she goes through everyone,” said Grant.

“I think the team relies on her too much sometimes. They watch her; they need to realize they can all contribute in a great way.”

Grant had fun watching her team push Lawrenceville in the first 15 minutes of the contest.

“We started out great; our passes were connecting,” said Grant who got a goal from Isabel Soto and two from Hallowell’s younger sister, sophomore Amy Hallowell. “Our girls played great together; we were winning the draws.”

The Tartans eventually ran out of gas against the Big Red. “We don’t have any subs; sometimes we have just one extra player,” said Grant, whose team fell 13-7 to Rutgers Prep last Monday in the first round of the state Prep B tournament to drop to 1-8.

“It’s hard because these midfielders run the whole game. They don’t get any breaks. These girls give it their all and they don’t give up.”

Freshman goalie Harlyn Bell has been giving her all as she has quickly picked up the game and her position.

“It is her first year playing lacrosse; she has only been playing for the past two months,” said Grant.

“I think she is great; she is aggressive. She clears the ball. Now, she is loud on defense. She really stepped it up this year.”

The future looks bright for Stuart as several young players have been stepping up this spring.

“Meghan Shannon as a defender has really stepped it up and on low defense,” added Grant.

“Isabel Soto is going to be one of the stars of the team next year; I am just waiting for her to burst out. I think we have some great girls on this team, a lot of them are young. Amy is a sophomore, Meghan is a sophomore. Harlyn is a freshman. So that makes me really happy.”

Grant is happy with the progress she has been seeing in her debut season at the helm of the program.

“I think we make small improvements every game and I wish that the season was longer,” said Grant, whose team plays at Hamilton on May 2 and then starts action in the Mercer County Tournament when the 15th-seeded Tartans play at No. 2 Princeton High on May 4 in an opening round contest.

I believe that in our Prep conference, us included, it is any team’s game on any day. It is whoever comes out wanting to win it.”

Hallowell, for her part, believes the Tartans can do some big things down the stretch.

“Going forward, we just need to keep our heads up and know that we can win games,” said Hallowell.

“We just have to keep our heads in the game and be on our game everyday.”

NEXT STEP: Paul Johnson, right, and Chad Bridges are all smiles in a recent shot. Johnson, a former Hun School and University of Virginia soccer star, has teamed up with Bridges to run the Next Level Soccer Academy (NLSA). With NLSA thriving, now including seven teams and approximately 150 players, the organization is looking to take the next step and build a year-round facility to serve as its headquarters and a training center for local athletes.

Paul Johnson knows the value of combining soccer with academics.

In the late 1990s, Johnson put together a legendary high school soccer career for the Hun School, earning All-American and All-State honors and playing with the U.S. U-17 and U-19 programs.

Utilizing his soccer prowess and Hun education, Johnson went on to the University of Virginia where he became a starter and a key performer for the school’s 2003 ACC championship squad.

Returning to the Princeton area after graduation, Johnson formed FC Trenton United club in 2007 to instill values of soccer, education, and community service.

Two years later, Johnson teamed up with longtime friend Chad Bridges, merging his operation into Bridges’ Next Level Soccer Academy (NLSA).

For Johnson, becoming involved with Bridges and NLSA was a natural step.

“Chad wholeheartedly goes after it and he wants the best for the kids,” said Johnson, who coaches the Pennington School boys’ soccer team with Bridges, the school’s Dean of Students.

“He tends to be an extension of me, sharing my values and my goals. I kind of shut down what we were doing and pulled it over to him. He does a lot of community outreach and we decided to join forces.”

With NLSA thriving, now including seven teams and approximately 150 players, the organization is looking to take the next step and build a year-round facility to serve as its headquarters and a training center for local athletes.

“From the beginning I knew there was a need for a facility in the Mercer County area,” said Johnson, who is the NLSA Director of Training and Player Development while Bridges serves as the executive director of the organization.

“We saw the need, whether it was for under privileged kids or those that were privileged. They clearly have nowhere to train year round so stuff was being lost.”

As a high school star, Johnson saw how a year-round facility can aid development.

“I had the good fortune to go to IMG, now the Bollettieri Sports Academy, when I was with the national team during my high school career,” said Johnson, referring to the famed training facility for athletic, academic, and personal development in Bradenton, Fla.

“I kind of wanted to replicate that up here. It gives the kids an opportunity to stay off the streets and gives them an outlet to further their careers. We know the percentage of high school athletes that get to go and play in college and get scholarships is less than 4 percent. It is really minimal so every minute and every training session means something.”

Noting that the proposed structure will be modeled after the Philadelphia Eagles Nova Care training center featuring a bubble covered by steel and fabric, Johnson said it will be a multi-purpose facility.

“It will be 350,000 square feet with soccer fields, basketball courts, and pyramid seating so you’ll be able to sit on both sides and watch,” said Johnson.

“It is going to have a full gym and a training room where you will be able to do rehab. It will also have a classroom for tutoring, homework, and SAT preparation. We are not saying that we are only soccer. There will be soccer lines on the fields but we are also open to lacrosse, field hockey, and flag football. We are open to the community for rentals as well.”

In order to jump start fundraising for the project, NLSA is holding its Banquet/Gala on May 19 at Dave and Busters near the Franklin Mills Mall.

“It is called ‘Goals to Gold,’ the ‘goals’ is an acronym for giving objectives to achieve leadership skills,” said Johnson, referring to the function which is open to the public with tickets costing $125 for adults and guests 18 and over and further information available on the organization’s website at

The NLSA is also launching another fundraising initiative, “10 Million People Who Care,” in which it is seeking donations of $1 or more from millions of donors.

“We realized at the end of the day that so many people say they care and want to help,” explained Johnson, noting that the club is looking to get the word out through social and mainstream media.

“We decided we could raise money from all of those people. We are looking for 10 million people to donate a dollar essentially. The actual funding is a little more. We figure once we get there; we can bridge it with a bank.”

Johnson sees the NLSA as a bridge between sports and the community.

“At the end of the day you have to sell a product that is going to help the kids and have the kids in mind,” said Johnson, noting that NLSA has been giving back to the community through working at soup kitchens, donating balls to Haiti, doing food and clothing drives and holding a Trenton World Cup day where the organization provided soccer instruction and T-shirts.

“We see a need in the area; we are hoping that people will buy into it and want to donate to us. The kids need to have good facilities.”

Making that vision a reality can help kids achieve their dreams. “We want to grow the game as well as grow the kids in the area; our goal is to do it the right way,” added Johnson, who pointed out that the NLSA will be hosting camps this summer and will be running the Turning Wheels College Showcase Camp from July 8-11 at the Golden Goal Soccer Complex near Lake George in New York.

“We want to help as many kids in the future that we can; hopefully the sooner the better. We have been told it is going to be hard and how are we going to raise this money. There have got to be people in this world that care; we trust the human heart.”

April 25, 2012

STAYING ALIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Cassie Pyle races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Pyle scored four goals to help Princeton top Dartmouth 12-9 as the Tigers stayed alive for a berth in the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 19 Princeton faces another must-win situation this Wednesday evening when it hosts 15th-ranked Penn (7-5 overall, 5-1 Ivy). A loss by the Tigers would drop them to fifth place and out of the Ivy tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Cassie Pyle and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team knew they faced a must-win situation when they hosted Dartmouth last Saturday, they didn’t dwell on the big picture.

“We knew we had to win this game; it was a huge game to get into the tournament and just for our team in general,” said senior midfielder Pyle, reflecting on the contest against the No. 7 Big Green which Princeton needed to win to stay alive for a berth in the four-team Ivy League tournament.

“We are better than we have been playing so we really wanted to prove that to ourselves. But the one thing that we didn’t want to do was come in thinking that we had to win and all the negative aspects of that. We just wanted to focus on how big of an opportunity this was for us.”

In the early going, Dartmouth seized opportunity, jumping to a 3-1 lead before the game was six minutes old.

“You are a little bit worried but you stick with your game plan,” said Pyle, reflecting on the early deficit.

“We knew that if we stuck to it we would be good and we didn’t get on each other. We didn’t yell at each other; it was a good feeling all the way around.”

Pyle got the Tigers feeling really good, scoring three goals over the next 10 minutes as Princeton went on a 4-1 run to forge ahead 5-4.

“It was the roll we got on; it really pumped us up and got us excited,” said Pyle.

“I  think better than ever, we really got excited about the little things that people did. We just fed off that.”

The Tigers took a 7-5 lead into halftime and then took care of things after that, posting a 12-9 win in improving to 7-6 overall and 4-2 Ivy.

No. 19 Princeton faces another must-win situation this Wednesday evening when it hosts 15th-ranked Penn (7-5 overall, 5-1 Ivy). A loss by the Tigers would drop them to fifth place and out of the Ivy tourney.

Pyle liked how Princeton responded Saturday down the stretch as it built on the momentum it seized in the first half.

“Our halftime was getting excited about what we did but really focusing on the fact that they could easily come back,” said Pyle, a 5’4 native of Alexandria, Va. who ended up with a team-high four goals on the day.

“They are a great team, they had such an impressive attack and defense and everything. We didn’t want to let them come back. They did get a few goals in the beginning but we wanted to keep pushing and never let up or get timid.”

With only a handful of games left in her career, Pyle is looking to push hard to the end.

“It is definitely sad; I want to have as many games as I can,” said Pyle, who now has a team-high 36 goals this season and a total of 106 in her superb career.

“You definitely want to end the season stronger than when you started it and I definitely think we have a strong possibility of doing that at the end of the day. If we finish the season strong, I will be so happy.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was happy with the strong performance her team produced in the win over Dartmouth.

“I think it really shows our resilience; we knew our backs were, and will continue to be against the wall,” said Sailer.

“It is clear that we want to get to postseason so you really saw that fight today. In a competitive game, we haven’t really put together goalkeeping, offense, and defense. Today we did that; every single kid stepped up and that is what we needed to beat a very talented Dartmouth team.”

In Sailer’s view, Pyle stepped up in a big way for the Tigers. “Cassie is a competitor too; she did so well,” added Sailer. “She is so quick; she is so hard to defend. She had an awesome day.”

Freshman goalie Annie Woehling had some awesome moments in the win, making nine saves, including several point-blank stops.

“When she is making saves like that, it gives you so much momentum and the team so much confidence,” said Sailer, referring to Woehling, who was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week. “We have got to work on the clears a little bit but I felt she had a great day.”

A pair of freshmen came through on the offensive end as Erin McMunn tallied three goals and two assists while classmate Erin Slifer chipped in two goals and two assists.

“They raised their games, no question,” asserted Sailer, who also got two goals from junior midfielder Charlotte Davis with junior attacker Sam Ellis chipping in one.

“McMunn has always been a feeder but today she comes through with three goals and two assists. She and Slifer played on the same club team so they definitely have that connection. They had some gorgeous goals out there today.”

The Tigers will have to keep making connections in order to beat Penn.

“Penn is an experienced team; they have been in these type of situations a lot of times,” said Sailer.

“They have a great goalie [Emily Leitner]; she is a big kid who takes up a lot of the cage and is really talented. They have got Erin Brennan, who is now a senior. They have players that are able to do some damage, both off the challenge and off the feed. They are always known for their defense.”

In the wake of Princeton’s performance against Dartmouth, Sailer believes her team is up for that challenge.

“If we can play like we played today, I like our chances there,” said Sailer. whose team beat Penn twice last year, prevailing in the regular season and in the Ivy semifinals. “We just gained a ton of confidence and really played smart lacrosse and executed well.”

Pyle, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can execute in a second straight grudge match.

“We are really happy to have these two games at the end because they are such big rivalries; it is so exciting,” said Pyle.

“We are going to try to do the same thing that we did today, not focus on the negative aspects but focus on the opportunities. We need to really ride the momentum from this game and just keep pushing and getting better.”

TOM TERRIFIC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber flings the ball upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Schreiber tallied four goals and an assist as Princeton topped Harvard 12-5. The 12th-ranked Tigers, now 9-3 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play, host No. 7 Cornell, 9-2 overall and 4-1 Ivy, on Saturday night in a pivotal clash. The winner will host the upcoming Ivy tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Bates vowed that he was not going to let his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team look past

But with a showdown against Cornell looming on the horizon, the Princeton head coach wasn’t sure if his players were getting the message as they prepared last week to face the Crimson on Saturday.

“We were not happy with how they practiced; I think they were tight,” said Bates. “Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were average practices. They were a little sloppy; they didn’t execute well.”

But showing that practice performance isn’t necessarily a harbinger of things to come, the Tigers roared out of the gate in Cambridge last Saturday, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after the first quarter and bringing a 7-2 advantage into halftime.

Princeton sophomore star Tom Schreiber scored two goals in the first nine minutes of the contest with freshman Kip Orban adding two more and classmate Mike MacDonald chipping in one as the Tigers seized the momentum in the first quarter.

“I was surprised at how they came out like gangbusters,” said Bates. “We learned that we have to trust these guys to perform when the lights go on. Schreiber got the first two. They came off a couple of broken plays; he sensed the magnitude of the game. Orban got the next two. We scored on six of our first nine possessions.”

Getting the early edge got Princeton into a flow that continued until the final whistle.

“That gives you breathing room; it loosens you up,” said Bates, who got four goals from Schreiber on the day with Orban scoring two and MacDonald, Jeff Froccaro, Forest Sonnenfeldt, Tucker Shanley, Chris White, and Derick Raabe chipping in one apiece. “If we hadn’t gotten off to a start like that, we may have gotten tight like we were in practice.”

With its defense tightening the screws after intermission, the Tigers never looked back, pulling away to a 12-5 win over the Crimson before a crowd of 1,809 at Harvard Stadium.

The victory improved 12th-ranked Princeton to 9-3 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League play, setting up the long-awaited clash against rival Cornell this Saturday night at Class of 1952 Stadium. The No. 7 Big Red, who fell to Brown 10-9 last Saturday, bring a 9-2 overall record and 4-1 Ivy mark into the contest that will be nationally televised on ESPNU. The winner of the showdown will host the upcoming Ivy tournament.

In stifling Harvard, Princeton got a winning effort from senior defender and tri-captain Chad Wiedmaier, who produced a monster game with three caused turnovers, seven ground balls, and one assist.

“Wiedmaier didn’t play particularly well against Harvard last year,” said Bates. “He was playing like a man possessed last Saturday. He was sliding well; he caused turnovers, got ground balls and even got an assist. The defense played well as a whole; it was one of our better games of the year.”

One of the better-kept secrets on Princeton this season has been the play of senior defender Jonathan Meyers.

“Meyers has been in Chad’s shadow; he has had a really solid year and an on-ball defense,” said Bates, of a defense that was anchored superbly again by senior goalie and tri-captain Tyler Fiorito as he recorded 15 saves.

“He is key on the man-down unit; he is a big reason why we are doing well there. He is leading the team in ground balls.”

Sounding a cautionary note, Bates pointed out that Princeton didn’t do well on face-offs in the win over Harvard.

“One area of concern was that we didn’t face off well,” said Bates. “Their guy did a good job. If you had told me that we would be 5-of-21 on face-offs and win by seven, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

As Bates looks ahead to Cornell, he is concerned about the impact of the Big Red’s stunning loss to Brown (6-7 overall, 2-3 Ivy) last weekend.

“Cornell is very good; they got caught against Brown,” noted Bates, whose team clinched a share of the Ivy crown through the combination of its win over Harvard and Cornell’s loss to Brown.

“That could serve to motivate them even more since everything is still on the line for them. We have a share of the title but if we lose to Cornell, it won’t feel too good.”

Princeton would feel very good to be at home for the Ivy tourney which will be held on May 4 and 6.

“Heading into the tournament having beaten Cornell, and being in friendly confines, and having people come to us would be a lift emotionally and psychologically,” said Bates.

Bates acknowledges that Cornell has plenty of people who can pose problems for his squad. The Big Red are averaging 12.45 goals a game and have six players with at least 14 goals.

“Cornell gets scoring from a lot of different players; we expect that [Rob] Pannell may be back,” said Bates, referring to the Big Red senior star who has been sidelined since early March due to a broken foot.

“They have two good offensive midfield lines and an attack that produces. It is easier to prepare for a team that has one or two main scoring threats. They are solid defensively, they play good team defense, some of the best we have seen in a while. It is just a good all-around team.”

The Tigers will need a good all-around effort to overcome Cornell. “We need to face off well; Tyler has to play a Tyler game,” said Bates.

“We need to minimize turnovers and have good decision-making on offense. The defense has been solid; we have been consistent in that area. We know what we are going to get.”

DOUBLE CLICK: Princeton High boys’ tennis first doubles players Kevin Qiu, left, and Adib Zaidi chat between points last week at the Mercer County Tournament. The duo of Qiu and Zaidi took third place in their flight, helping PHS tie Peddie for fifth in the team standings of the 18-school event which took place at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Qiu knew he had to assume the role of mentor in his partnership with freshman Adib Zaidi at first doubles for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team.

Having played two years at doubles for the Little Tigers, Qiu has helped neophyte Zaidi learn the ropes on working in tandem.

“It is tougher because Adib is a singles player so he always feels like he needs to cover everything,” said Qiu.

“When you play doubles, you have got to remember it is not about believing in yourself but believing in each other. You have to trust each other to carry the work and to just play to the best of your abilities.”

Last week at the Mercer County Tournament, the duo showed a lot of ability in the opening rounds, posting two straight-set wins on the way to the semifinals.

Qiu and Zaidi thought they had a good chance to top John Hu and Peter Ku of WW/P-S in the semis.

“Coming in, we really expected to win,” said Qiu. “We practiced new things to try to counter how they play. I had played them last year so we knew to really work on our poaches and volleys. We kept on telling ourselves point by point.”

Unfortunately for Qiu and Zaidi, they didn’t get enough points as they fell 6-3, 6-3 to the WW/P-S pair, who went on to win the title.

Showing their growing trust, Qiu and Zaidi overcame the disappointment from the semis loss to beat Brandon Kumar and Rohan Gupta of Peddie 6-1, 6-4 to take third place.

“We were pretty sad from our South match so we just went in there and told each other to work hard,” recalled Qiu.

“We can get a medal and get points for our team; that was pretty much the mindset going in.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was happy to see her first doubles tandem fight for that third place medal.

“They have the potential to be a great team; they both have really strong shots and good doubles knowledge,” said Hibbert, whose team ended up in tie for fifth with Peddie in the team standings of the 18-school competition that was won by WW/P-S.

“The key for them is just playing well at the same time; I think these last couple of matches have really helped. They were right there in the semis; it was a real close match. They had some chances that they were unfortunately unable to capitalize on. I was proud of the way they were able to turn it around and still come back and get third today.”

The PHS second doubles pair of freshmen Tyler Hack and Rishab Tanga battled valiantly for third place but came up short as they fell 6-3, 6-2 to Dan Wang and Sanandh Ravu of WW/P-N.

“They fought hard; there were some really long points and some exceptionally long games and they were right there,” said Hibbert.

“They are both freshmen and this is a first experience for them. I am really proud of the way they got through their first round against Peddie; it was a real tough team. They were playing more experienced teams. I think another few matches here the rest of the season and next year they have the potential of doing great things.”

The PHS singles players experienced some frustration as they were knocked out on the first day. Eddie Percarpio fell in the opening round at first singles while Robert Zhao and Julian Edgren were eliminated in the second round at second and third singles, respectively.

“We had some tough matches; we had some tough draws, “ added Hibbert, reflecting on the performance of her singles players.

“The guys all lost to either a No. 1 or 2 seed so there is no shame in that. They put up good fights; sometimes that is all you can ask for.”

In Hibbert’s view, the experience gained at the MCT should toughen PHS for the fights ahead.

“I hope these matches will help us moving forward,” said Hibbert, whose team has a match at Allentown on April 26, hosts Steinert on April 27, and then plays at Ewing on April 30.

“Our doubles will be a little more experienced and our singles will have good competition as well. We start the meat of the season next now; four matches a week and states. It all happens quick.”

Qiu, for his part, believes that he and Zaidi will be even more competitive going forward.

“I think after this tournament, we improved dramatically,” said Qiu. “All that stuff is going to translate well.”

BLACK MAGIC: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player ­Louie Blackburn heads up the field in recent action. Last week, sophomore midfielder Blackburn scored two fourth quarter goals as PDS edged Hun 9-8. The Panthers, now 4-3, are next in action when they host the Ranney School on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team falling behind Hun 8-7 early in the fourth quarter last week, Louie Blackburn decided to take matters into his hands.

Even though the sophomore midfielder had been held scoreless for the first three quarters, Blackburn thought he could make a difference.

“I just told myself that someone had to step up,” recalled Blackburn. “We needed to put a few in the back of the net; we hadn’t been shooting a lot earlier in the game. Our coach [Rob Tuckman] said just ‘get it on net boys and it will go in.’”

Blackburn took those words to heart, scoring with 6:47 left in regulation and then finding the back of the net nearly ninety seconds later in what turned out to be the game winner as PDS pulled out a 9-8 nailbiter.

In reflecting on the rally, Blackburn acknowledged that the Panthers needed to wake up down the stretch.

“I was laying back a little bit; I wasn’t happy with how non-aggressive we were playing as a whole team,” said Blackburn.

“I thought we were letting up a little bit but our coach always tells us to never stop, never let off the gas pedal. We just kept going there and finished strong in the fourth quarter.”

With a season of high school lacrosse under his belt, Blackburn feels he is a stronger player.

“I think I have grown a bit into my own body,” said Blackburn, who also stars for the PDS boys’ hockey team.

“I have been getting mentally stronger which is the most important thing on the field. I have gotten a lot of help from the older guys on the team in stepping up.”

Blackburn has gotten some help from his older brother, Peter, a 2011 PDS grad, who starred in lacrosse and hockey.

“My brother always says the confidence will come as you get older,” said Blackburn.

“Hopefully that is what I have been seeing here in the past couple of games and hopefully it will continue throughout.”

PDS head coach Rob Tuckman liked the confidence his players displayed as they staged their late rally.

“I thought possession was the difference,” said Tuckman. “When we had the ball on our stick and we were on the offensive end, we played well and we played confident. We put it in the back of the net.”

In Tuckman’s view, Blackburn will continue to put more in the net if he keeps getting mentally stronger.

“For Louie, it is all about confidence,” said Tuckman. “If we can get him feeling good, he plays well.”

Having junior star Cody Triolo patrolling the midfield gives Tuckman an additional dose of confidence.

“Cody is solid all the way around; even when they were sliding quick on him, he still managed to be a force on the field,” said Tuckman, whose team ran into a force last Friday as it fell 13-3 to undefeated Somerville to move to 4-3. “He is great to have.”

PDS freshman goalie Griffin Thompson is proving that he has the potential to become something special.

“Griffin had a good second half today; he is coming off injury and he has to get his sea legs,” said Tuckman, who credited senior captain Zac Higgins and junior Derek Bell with spearheading the Panther defense in front of Thompson.

“He is getting there; he is a freshman so the hooting and hollering can get to him at times.”

The Panthers have been getting better as they go through the season.

“I think as we are moving forward, we are playing well,” said Tuckman, whose team hosts Ranney School on April 27.

“We have some adjustments that we have to continue to make but I think, all in all, I feel pretty good about it.”

Blackburn, for his part, feels that PDS can do some good things if it makes those adjustments.

“I always think there is room for improvement; never stop and never accept a loss,” said Blackburn.

“I think if we continue to improve as much as we should, we’ll finish up with a really strong season and record.”

HARD LESSON: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse head coach Jill Thomas makes a point during her team’s 19-5 loss at Lawrenceville last Thursday. Learning some lessons from that defeat, PDS rebounded to beat George School (Pa.) 13-5 last Saturday and Stuart Country Day 14-5 on Monday. The Panthers, now 7-6, play at Princeton High on April 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After not making much of an impact last spring in her debut season on the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, Lucy Linville decided to do something about it.

“I didn’t play very much freshman year,” said Linville. “I worked really hard in the summer. I went to a lot of clinics and worked on it.”

She supplemented that work by training sessions with older sister and former PDS star, Cammie, now a junior standout for the Lafayette College women’s team.

“Over breaks and when she comes home, we go out and play lacrosse,” said Linville.

Last Saturday, Linville did a pretty good imitation of her older sister, tallying four goals and an assist to help PDS top George School (Pa.) 13-5.

The offensive outburst was critical for Linville and the Panthers as they were looking to bounce back from a deflating 19-5 loss at Lawrenceville two days earlier.

“We had a lot of confidence and the Lawrenceville game really shot us down,” said Linville.

“We have been working so hard in practice, especially yesterday after that loss. We needed to get back.”

In Linville’s view, the Panthers got back in the flow offensively in the win over George.

“It definitely gave me confidence,” said Linville. “I think it gave the whole team confidence because many of our goals did not come from our top scorers and there were a lot of assists.”

PDS head coach Jill Thomas came into the game with a basic message. “I told them today that our goal was one word, ‘rebound,’ and they did,” said Thomas.

The Panthers didn’t waste any time bouncing back, jumping out to a 9-1 halftime lead.

“I  think we were good in transition,” said Thomas, whose team was good again last Monday as it topped Stuart Country Day 14-5 to improve to 7-6.

“There was a lot of communication; a lot of young kids stepped up today. We got out of the gate well. We didn’t even show up on Thursday but we got over it.”

Thomas likes the way Linville has been stepping up. “Lucy is figuring out how to not have those ups and downs and move forward,” added Thomas, who also  got a big day in the win over George from another sophomore as Emma Quigley contributed a goal and two assists.

“She has been more consistent day-to-day-to-day. She made some nice connections on the field today. That’s good because the more people who can put the ball in the net or pass the ball or catch it down low, it only adds to our play on offense.”

The PDS defense was spearhead by the combination of freshman Kirsten Kuzmicz and junior Louise Hutter.

“Kirsten just leads by example; we have her almost playing a center field position,” said Thomas.

“With her getting those interceptions and knocking those balls down, everyone gets a little more confidence watching her. Hutter just reads it; she sees it coming and is there when the ball gets there and is there when the ground ball gets there. We count on her to be the captain of the defense. She stepped up and got more people communicating.”

Thomas is counting on her team to get better and better as it heads down the homestretch.

“We still have a lot of people who are injured and a lot of people who aren’t in game shape yet from injuries,” said Thomas, whose team plays at Princeton High on April 27.

“They are getting the idea of what it means. So if they can keep doing all the little things, I think they’ll be alright.”

In Linville’s view, things will go well for PDS if it can maintain the scoring balance it displayed in the victory over George.

“I think building more confidence and getting everybody in the offense is key,” said Linville.

“I think definitely having people who don’t normally score get in there will help us, the defense doesn’t know who to cover.”

CONSOLATION PRIZE: Hun School boys’ tennis star Chris Seitz hits a forehand last week at the Mercer County Tournament. After absorbing a painful 7-6, 7-6 loss to eventual champion Robbinsville’s Ramy Bekhiet in the first singles semifinal, Seitz bounced back to take third place. The Villanova-bound senior star topped Pennington’s Jerry Jiang 6-2, 6-3 in the third place match held last Wednesday at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Seitz ended his final appearance at the Mercer County Tournament with a victory.

But for the Hun School boys’ tennis senior star, the triumph wasn’t the one he wanted as it came in the third-place match at first singles rather than in a championship showdown.

After taking second at first singles in his first three appearances at the MCT, Seitz was primed to end his county run in a blaze of glory with a crown.

Seeded No. 2, Seitz cruised through the opening rounds of the competition on April 16 with two straight-set victories.

In the semifinal last Wednesday, Seitz came up on the short end of a straight-set decision, falling 7-6, 7-6 to Robbinsville’s Ramy Bekhiet, who went on to win the title.

Seitz acknowledged that he had to overcome disappointment as he took the court for the subsequent third-place match against Pennington’s Jerry Jiang.

“It is definitely hard to go out an hour later after that match,” said Seitz. “It was really tough.”

Displaying his mental toughness, Seitz gutted out a 6-2, 6-3 win over Jiang.

“I definitely had to fight through things in the opening set but it was a good match,” said Seitz.

“I think the ball Jerry was giving me was just a lot more friendly than the semis match. I could take it higher and control the points more.”

While Seitz would have liked a higher finish in his county finale, he leaves with some indelible memories of the competition.

“It is still good to do so well at this tournament,” said Seitz, reflecting on his third-place finish.

“I will always remember freshman year, just coming in and taking second. It was so good; the four years were amazing.”

Seitz’s game has shown good improvement over the last four years. “I have definitely gotten a lot stronger,” said Seitz. “I am able to control the points and play defense if I have to.”

Next year, Seitz will test his strength at the college level as he heads to Villanova University where he will compete for the school’s men’s tennis program.

“I really like their business program and the fact that I could play Division I tennis too,” said Seitz, in reflecting on his college decision.

Hun head coach Todd Loffredo liked the way that his senior star took care of business in the third place match.

“I think he was upset because he thinks he let the team down,” said Loffredo, referring to Seitz’s semifinal loss.

“We were happy to see him come out here and play against Jerry, who had a really good match against Kenny Zheng [in the quarterfinals] and then played a really close first set against Michael Song. Chris was ready to play here; he wanted third place.”

Over his Hun career, Seitz showed he could play with the best in the county.

“I remember his first year when he almost beat out [Neil] Karandikar [of Princeton Day School],” said Loffredo.

“I am proud of him. We are both a little disappointed but he did his best and that’s all you can ask.”

In Loffredo’s view, he got all he could ask from his players collectively as the Raiders tied for seventh place in the team standings at the 18-school competition.

“I feel like at the MCT we always hit our stride,” said Loffredo. “The kids have played with each other enough where they are finally used to playing with each other. It is a lot of tennis and they come together as a team and I really like how they support each other. All of them played really well.”

With Hun having produced a 4-2 start in dual match play, Loffredo sees some good tennis ahead for the squad.

“We are going to do our best; we are just looking forward to finishing the season strong,” added Loffredo, whose team has home matches against Rutgers Prep on April 26 and Lawrenceville School on May 1. “Hopefully we can keep a winning record going and keep spirits high.”

Seitz, for his part, believes Hun can produce a spirited finish. “We are doing really well right now,” asserted Seitz.

“We have a lot of confidence going into dual matches and we just have to stay positive. The Prep A will be a good opportunity to finish the season strong.”

CELEBRATION TIME: Hun School girls’ lacrosse star Kate Weeks, right, and Bri Barrett celebrate after a goal in a recent contest. Last Saturday, junior star Weeks scored seven goals to help Hun top Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 16-4. The Raiders, now 4-3, host the Hill School (Pa.) on April 25 before getting into postseason play. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Weeks is not one to rest on her laurels.

After scoring 61 goals last spring in her sophomore season with the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team and recently committing to Boston College and its women’s lacrosse team, Weeks hasn’t gone on cruise control.

“I just work on every aspect of my game,” said junior midfielder Weeks, who plays for the Ultimate Lacrosse club program and New Jersey’s U19 national tournament team. “I practice, practice, and practice.”

The fruits of Weeks’ labor were on display last Thursday even as Hun lost 21-12 to visiting Peddie. The junior standout scored eight goals, showing some elusive moves and powerful shots from a variety of angles as she tormented the Peddie defense.

Despite being the clear go-to player for the Raiders, Weeks isn’t dwelling on her stats.

“Whatever it takes to win, just do it,” said Weeks, who scored seven goals last Saturday as Hun topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 16-4 in improving to 4-3.

“Whoever gets the goal is whoever gets it. I just want to do what it takes to win the game.”

In the early going against Peddie, it looked like Hun was going to stay in the game against the powerful Falcons.

The Raiders trailed 7-6 with 5:45 left in the first half with Weeks having tallied five to that point.

“I think we started really strong,” said Weeks. “Peddie is a great team. I think we came out and did very well against a hard team.”

The Falcons, though, scored the final two goals of the half and then went on a 9-2 run after halftime. Hun didn’t stop fighting, outscoring Peddie 5-3 over the last eight minutes of the contest.

“I think we played really, really strong, especially over the last three minutes,” said Weeks.

“Our true athletic ability comes out with our double teams and everything. We fought until the end; there was no laziness.”

For Weeks, ending her college search with the decision to attend Boston College isn’t going to make her lazy.

“I just picked the school that I fell in love with but also had a top team,” said Weeks.

“I went with my gut. I got an athletic scholarship and that helped a lot. I basically got down to five from my top 10 and chose from there. Now I am working 10 times harder since I committed.”

Hun head coach Beth Loffredo admires Weeks’ commitment to the game.

“Kate is just so driven and focused,” said Loffredo. “She puts in the work that is required to be as good as she is and she makes people around her better. She makes coaches better.”

Loffredo was hoping that Hun would give Peddie a better game. “I thought we would come out a little bit stronger but I always set my expectations really high, especially for this group,” said Loffredo. “We didn’t adjust well enough or quickly enough. It really hurt us.”

While Hun may not have initially adjusted to the Peddie onslaught, Loffredo was proud of how her team kept battling.

“Even though we were still behind by nine goals, once we get our momentum and we know what works for us, we are hard to stop,” added Loffredo. “A couple more minutes and it could have been a different score.”

Loffredo credits senior defensive star Emily Decicco with making a big difference for the Raiders.

“Emily is one of those people where you get her going and she can can get everybody else going and get that momentum,” said Loffredo.

“It is not easy to be a 17 or an 18 year old kid and trying to be a captain and hold everyone accountable. She is doing a great job. She really makes it clear to them, ‘I am staying positive, we are still in this.’ She does a great job with transition. She is smart; she works hard.”

Hun has the chance to do some great things down the stretch if it can smarter all over the field.

“Going forward, we need to be playing solid through our lowest attacker to our goalie,” said Loffredo, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on April 25 before getting into postseason play.

“There are just little pieces where we are falling apart. I think when we do come together, we will be a force. I am just waiting for it all to click.”

In Weeks’ view, the Hun players are clicking on and off the field. “We are strongly bonded; we are like a family,” said Weeks.

“You win together, you lose together. We are 10 times better than last year. You have to work hard everyday and that’s what we are going to do.”

ON THE MARK: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Mark Burke fires the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder and team captain Burke tallied three goals to help Hun top Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 12-3. The Raiders, now 5-4, play at Peddie on April 26, at South Brunswick on April 28, and at Somerville on May 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing some inexperience, the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team found itself trailing Princeton Day School 7-4 in the third quarter last week in the annual meeting between the local rivals.

But with the game seemingly slipping away, the Raiders summoned some youthful energy to make a spirited rally, scoring the last three goals of the period to even the game at 7-7.

Hun forged ahead 8-7 in the first minute of the fourth as Iain Alexandridis found the back of the net. The Raiders, though, never scored again as they dropped a 9-8 nailbiter to PDS.

In assessing the setback, first-year Hun head coach Don Green saw the game as a valuable learning experience.

“We showed tremendous composure; we haven’t been behind and able to come back yet,” said Green, who is using a number of freshmen and sophomores in key roles this spring.

“So the fact that we were able to do that and be competitive in a tight game was great to see. It is building and that is our goal for this year. We want to build for the future, having the seniors help the young guys and start a tradition.”

Green pointed to senior midfielder Mark Burke as a veteran who is really helping the Raiders.

“I have really been impressed with Mark Burke; he has really stepped up as a senior captain and a leader,” asserted Green of Burke, who tallied three goals last Saturday as Hun topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 12-3 to improve to 5-4.

“He is playing as hard as anyone I have ever seen and his leadership is showing through.”

Burly junior midfielder Zach Bicho has been giving Hun some hard work in the critical face-off area.

“Bicho has been dominating the face-offs and making very intelligent decisions with the ball after the face-off,” said Green of Bicho, who contributed four goals in the win over Mercersburg to go with his outstanding face-off work.

“That is keeping us in games and keeping us competitive so what he is doing is invaluable.”

Freshman attacker Brendan Black exemplifies the wave of young stars that are coming up through the ranks for Green’s squad. Black tallied a team-high four goals in the loss to PDS and added a goal and an assist in the victory over Mercersburg.

“Brendan Black is an extremely intelligent lacrosse player; he plays a lot and that is the thing,” added Green, who is getting major contributions from sophomores Matthew Bruno, Cameron Dudeck, and Devin Cheifetz together with freshmen Matteo Favalaro, Jameson DeMarco, and Tucker Stevenson.

“He looks like a freshman because he is tiny. If it weren’t for that, you would think that he is a senior from the way he plays. His field IQ and lacrosse IQ are tremendous. When he is a junior and senior, he is going to be a big-time impact player.”

In Green’s view, the Raiders have the potential to develop into a big-time team.

“We see tremendous progress, leaps and bounds,” said Green, whose team plays at Peddie on April 26, at South Brunswick on April 28, and at Somerville on May 1.

“Right now we are talking about getting over the hump. Some of it is experience in a game like today; it was two teams that were going back and forth. The bottom line is that if we just get a little better in every aspect, we are going to jump over that hump.”

April 18, 2012

ARMOUR PLATED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Luke Armour fires the ball up the field in a game last season. Junior attacker Armour was on target last Saturday, tallying three goals and an assist to help Princeton top Dartmouth 21-6. No. 13 Princeton, now 8-3 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, plays at Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a kid, Luke Armour became a fan of the New Jersey Pride of Major League Lacrosse, developing a greater appreciation for the fine points of the game.

“Growing up, I was watching the greats,” said Montclair native Armour.

“I was watching Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess, and Chris Massey when they played on the Pride.”

Looking to follow in the footsteps of that trio of Princeton lax legends, Armour came to the nearby Lawrenceville School and emerged as a star.

In 2009, he joined the Tiger men’s lax program and was assigned No. 16, the number worn by Hubbard.

For Armour, just donning a Princeton uniform is a dream come true.

“It is extremely special; it is really an honor to be out there,” said Armour. “To wear No. 16 is a total honor.”

Last Saturday, junior attacker Armour brought honor to the Tigers and that No. 16, tallying three goals and an assist as Princeton dismantled Dartmouth 21-6 before a sun-splashed crowd of 1,618 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

While Armour was proud to make a solid contribution as Princeton improved to 8-3 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, he credited his teammates with putting him in a position to succeed.

“To be honest, I think on the goals that I scored, the credit should really go to the guys who set it up,” said the 5’11, 190-pound Armour, who now has six points this year on three goals and three assists and is up to 21 points in his Tiger career with 13 goals and eight assists.

“We had great movement off ball and great ball movement. My goals were the easy part.”

It was great for Armour to be in action as he been hampered by injury this spring.

“I tore my plantar fascia in my right foot,” said Armour, who was sidelined after Princeton’s loss to North Carolina on March 10 and returned to action on April 10 in the Tigers’ 13-4 win over Rutgers.

“I have just been working to get my shape back and get back in the swing of things. I feel really great out there and I think that if I can give us a little boost and some energy on the offensive side that would be great.”

For Armour, that month on the sideline was spent working hard to get back up to speed.

“I took four weeks off,” recalled Armour, noting that his stint Saturday was his first substantial action of the season.

“I was in a boot and I took all the pressure off my foot. Then I started running around and strengthening and doing rehab. Our training staff has been great; now I feel pretty much back to normal. I started practicing a week and a half ago. It has been great to be back with my friends. It was really hard watching from the sidelines, particularly on days like today when it is pristine. It is great to be be back.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates liked having Armour back. “We have played relatively well offensively and when you are out, it is tough to break a lineup,” said Bates.

“Luke is always ready. He will always let us know he is ready and we appreciate that he wants to play. It was nice for him to come out and put a couple of goals in the back of the net and just get back into the flow.”

After falling behind 1-0 on a goal by former Princeton High standout and Dartmouth sophomore Mike Olentine, the 13th-ranked Tigers got into the offensive flow, outscoring the Big Green 10-1 over the rest of the half.

“It was a pretty slow first quarter in some regards but we possessed the ball well,” said Bates, whose team clinched a spot in the upcoming Ivy League tournament with the win and can host the tourney if it prevails in its April 28 clash against No. 3 Cornell (9-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy).

“On the offensive end, we stayed balanced and poised and didn’t try to do too much too early. We systematically broke down their defense which is what we  wanted to do.”

Against Dartmouth, the Tigers excelled on both fast breaks and extended possessions.

“It is kind of who we want to be,” said Bates, who got three goals and two assists from sophomore star Tim Schreiber with Jeff Froccaro and Mike MacDonald also registering hat tricks.

“We want to take advantage of early offense because that has been very good to us but also be smart and understand the time and tempo. We need to understand how much defense we have played and what risk we are taking with our pass. That was our main thrust of the week and I thought we did a good job of it.”

As it won its second straight game since a 10-9 loss to Syracuse on April 7, Princeton appears to be in good shape to put together an inspired stretch drive which will see it play at Harvard (6-6 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on April 21 before the showdown a week later against Cornell at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“We are still smarting or hurting, I don’t know what the word is, from Syracuse a little bit but the hope is that it can serve as a motivation going forward,” said Bates.

“That is one that we really wanted back but at the end of the day, we control our destiny. We have Harvard. We need to do what we need to do there and then it’s Cornell. We are where we need to be. Our belief is that our best lacrosse is ahead of us so hopefully today was a good step in that direction.”

Armour, for his part, believes the Tigers are heading in the right direction.

“We are really excited for Harvard,” said Armour. “I think the coaches do a great job preparing us each week for the different matchups. Everyday, the focus is on doing what we do and running our system. We think we are in a really great spot right now and we are very confident. We are really looking forward to not only these next two weeks but also the Ivy tournament.”

GREAT BRITTANY: Princeton University women’s water polo player Brittany Zwirner prepares to fire the ball in a recent game. Last Sunday, junior star Zwirner scored the game-winning goal with 2.4 seconds left as Princeton edged Brown 9-8 in the CWPA Southern Division Championship game. The Tigers, now 25-4, will be competing in the Eastern Championships at Brown from April 27-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last spring, the Princeton University women’s water polo team developed a penchant for losing the close games.

The Tigers lost four contests by one goal and six by two goals in 2011 on the way to an 18-11 record.

In the first weekend of the 2012 season, the Tigers pulled out a 6-5 win over Colorado State, setting a different tone in the view of longtime head coach Luis Nicolao.

“We got off to a good start,” said Nicolao. “We had a 1-goal win over Colorado State and won some games easily after that; that was a good sign.”

Indeed, the Tigers reeled off 14 wins before a loss to No. 12 San Jose State. Heading into last weekend’s CWPA Southern Division Championships at Bucknell, Princeton stood at 22-4 and ranked 14th nationally.

“We were excited to get to the end of the year,” said Nicolao, reflecting on his team’s mood as it looked ahead to the Southerns and the Eastern Championships to follow. “We are not taking anyone lightly but we are confident.”

Last Saturday, Princeton showed its confidence was justified as it beat George Washington 11-8 and host Bucknell 14-6 in opening day action.

“We came out slow against George Washington but we had a nice second quarter,” said Nicolao.

“Playing Bucknell in their pool was a challenge. We had a lot of girls scoring and the defense played well. We held them to two goals in the second half, you don’t see that too often.”

In the finals, Princeton faced a Brown team it had beaten 18-8 in regular season play. The rematch, though, turned into a nailbiter and Princeton continued its habit of winning the close games this year, edging the Bears 9-8 to win the title.

“Brown is no doubt a quality team; our first game was not a true measure of their team,” said Nicolao. “They play a zone defense and all of our shots were falling that game. On Sunday, the shots weren’t going in.”

Junior star Brittany Zwirner hit the biggest shot for Princeton in the win over Brown, scoring the game-winning goal with 2.4 seconds left. Zwirner finished the game with four goals while sophomore Katie Rigler chipped in three.

“Brittany was out with an injury before; it is important to have her back,” said Nicolao.

“Rigler can dominate; she is a great player. As a sophomore, she has gained more confidence and she realizes she can dominate.”

Longtime coach Nicolao has been taken aback by the dominance his team has shown this spring.

“No doubt, I am surprised,” said Nicolao, who is in his 14th year at the helm of the program.

“I didn’t expect to have only lost four games to this point. We have a lot of depth and lot of balance. We have eight girls who have scored around 30 goals. All year, we have had a nice balance of scoring. If two girls are off, two others will step up.”

That balance paved the way to Princeton’s first Southern crown since 2008 and its seventh overall.

“Any time you get a title, it is great,” said Nicolao, reflecting on the championship. “Our ultimate goal is to win the Easterns and go to the NCAAs.”

In order to achieve that goal in that competition, which is being held at Brown from April 27-29, Princeton will need to tighten things up.

“We have to play really good defense,” said Nicolao. “We are going to see some tough opposition. We can’t rely on offense. If we string together three good defensive games, we have a chance. There are three or four teams that can win.”

GRAND PRIZE: Princeton University baseball player Blake Thomsen takes a cut in recent action. Last Sunday, freshman third baseman Thomsen hit a grand slam homer to help propel Princeton to a 13-7 win over Penn in the finale of a four-game set between the teams. The Tigers, who went 3-1 over the weekend, are now 16-13 overall and 9-3 in Ivy League play. Princeton has a game at St. John’s on April 18 before heading to Columbia for doubleheaders on April 21 and 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After falling in extra innings to visiting Penn in the opening game of a doubleheader last Sunday, Blake Thomsen and his teammates on the Princeton University baseball team were looking to get off to a good start in the nightcap.

“We definitely needed to bounce back strongly and get ourselves going in this tough division,” said freshman third baseman Thomsen.

“Everyone is playing well. Cornell is playing really well; we knew to keep pace with them we had to get back in it.”

With one swing of the bat in the bottom of the first inning, Thomsen helped set a torrid pace for the Tigers, smashing a grand slam over the wall in left center field to give Princeton an 8-1 lead.

The Tigers cruised to a 13-7 win as they improved to 16-13 overall and 9-3 in Ivy League play. In the wake of going 3-1 in the four-game set with Penn, Princeton stands second in the Ivy’s Gehrig Division, trailing Cornell (24-8-1 overall, 10-2 Ivy).

For Thomsen, his grand slam was a matter of anticipation paying off.

“I was just thinking it was a new pitcher and I thought he would try to get ahead with a first pitch fastball,” said Thomsen, a 5’11, 180-pound native of Newport Beach, Calif., recalling the blast. “He did and I was ready for it.”

After getting off to a relatively slow start in his college career, Thomsen was ready for a break-out moment.

“I was in a bit of a slump; I feel like I have my comfort level back at the plate,” said Thomsen, who went 5-for-11 with five RBIs and three runs scored in the four-game set with Penn to raise his batting average to .267.

“I am seeing the ball a little better, I am having some better at-bats. I’d say this weekend is when I really started to feel kind of similar mentally to back when I played high school ball.”

For Thomsen, making the transition from high school ball to college has involved some growing pains.

“The biggest adjustment is that every guy has got something at just a little higher level than high school,” said Thomsen, who now has two homers and 12 RBIs on the season.

“So whether they locate their pitches better or they throw harder, everyone  is tougher. The balls are hit a little harder defensively; there is definitely a pretty sizable jump.”

The Tiger veteran players have helped Thomsen as he makes that jump.

“They have helped me a lot; these guys have been through everything I am going through, whether it be a freshman slump, making a couple of errors, or dealing with a big Ivy weekend,” said Thomsen.

“They have been there, they have done it and they have been really helpful explaining what is going on and all of that.”

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley liked the way his team came back to win the fourth game of the Penn weekend which saw the Tigers sweep the Quakers 7-3 and 4-3 in Saturday’s action.

“We probably got what we deserved this weekend,” said Bradley. “We got some breaks yesterday and then caught some breaks in the first game today and got ourselves back into it. We then caught a couple of bad breaks with the ball that Sammy Mulroy hit in the bottom of the seventh. It was huge for us to come back and win this.”

In Bradley’s view, Thomsen’s grand slam should be a huge confidence builder in his development. “Blake had a good day, he was good in the first game too,” said Bradley.

“We sort of have a spot at third base where we run a few different guys out there. It was big for Blake. We think he is capable of swinging the bat and helping us out offensively and we need that. We have struggled with the bats a little bit.”

Junior Steve Harrington helped the Princeton batting attack over the weekend, going 7-for-16 with six RBIs.

“Stevie, we know, is a very good hitter; he does a lot for us,” asserted Bradley.

“He has a great feel for hitting. He is a squash player so it takes him a little bit longer to get going out of squash. We did the same thing last year; we got him at-bats and got him into it. We played him mostly against righties and then as we got going he started playing more against lefties. He is a very, very good solid college hitter.”

Princeton has to keep playing solid ball if it is to keep pace with Cornell before the teams clash in doubleheaders on April 27 and 29.

“Every weekend is huge,” said Bradley, whose team has doubleheaders at Columbia (14-19 overall 6-6 Ivy) on April 21 and 22.

“Cornell just keeps winning; they are terrific right now so all we can do is go out and just try and win the games that we can. Hopefully, when we go face-to-face with them, we are still in a position where we can control our own destiny.”

Thomsen, for his part, believes that Princeton has to keep in control mentally to be in a position to succeed.

“For the team we just have to come to play every game,” said Thomsen. “We can’t afford mental lapses. Everyone is going to make physical mistakes but we have got to be at our best mentally every game. We can’t take a game off. For me it is the same thing, just keeping concentrated and keeping my approach.”

RALLY TIME: Princeton University softball player Nicole ­Ontiveros, right, celebrates after scoring a run in action earlier this spring. Last Saturday, senior centerfielder Ontiveros stroked a key RBI single to help Princeton rally for a 4-3 win over Penn and a doubleheader split. A day later, though, the Tigers were swept by the Quakers 4-1 and 5-1 as they fell to 12-23 overall and 6-6 in Ivy play. In upcoming action, Princeton hits the road for doubleheaders at Lehigh on April 18 and at Columbia on April 21 and 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Nicole Ontiveros is trying to get the most out of every moment this spring in her final campaign with the Princeton University softball team.

“It adds an extra element to the game, knowing this is the last time I am going to play,” said senior centerfielder Ontiveros. “I just try to go all out in everything I do.”

Last Saturday in the third inning of Game 2 against visiting Penn, Ontiveros faced a big time at-bat.

With Princeton having lost to the Quakers 8-0 in Game 1 and trailing 2-0 in the nightcap, Ontiveros came to the plate with a runner on second and the Tigers in danger of falling out of contention for the Ivy League South Division title.

“I just wanted to get that run home,” recalled Ontiveros. “I was up there and I was thinking I need to get a hit, there was no other option. I had to do it.”

Ontiveros came through, slapping a single up the middle to narrow the gap to 2-1. Her clutch hitting changed the tone of the contest as Princeton scored two runs in the fourth and added another in the fifth on the way to a 4-3 victory.

“Everyone started getting right on her, line-driving everywhere,” said Ontiveros, reflecting on the comeback win. “We definitely know there is a sense of urgency because we have to win these games. It is really important right now.”

A day later, though, the Tigers weren’t able to come through as they got swept by Penn 4-1 and 5-1 to move to 12-23 overall and 6-6 in Ivy play. Princeton now stands third in the Ivy’s South Division, trailing Cornell (19-16 overall, 10-2 Ivy) and Penn (23-14, 8-4 Ivy).

Coming off a 2011 season which saw Princeton stumble to a 7-13 league mark, Ontiveros sees a renewed intensity around the Tigers this spring.

“I think the heart on the team this year is a lot different,” said Ontiveros, a native of Laguna Niguel, Calif. who is hitting .319 with a team-high 36 hits.

“We have a lot of freshmen that are really aggressive and really love the game. We are just a lot louder this year. Everyone really, really wants to win.”

For Ontiveros, the journey from her freshman year to this spring has been special.

“It’s awesome being a senior, starting freshman year and going through all the years so differently,” said Ontiveros, who is planning to go to medical school after graduation and aspires to be a plastic surgeon.

“It is great being a leader on the team and just getting to help my teammates with the experience I have had.”

As she heads into the final weeks of her college softball career, Ontiveros is hoping to go out with a great

“I am really proud of us that we came back and we didn’t let the first loss get us down which I think shows a lot about this team,” said Ontiveros, who will look to keep up her hot hitting when Princeton hits the road for doubleheaders at Lehigh (28-16, 11-1 Patriot League) on April 18 and Columbia (10-25 overall, 4-8 Ivy) on April 21 and 22.

“The fight is there and I think that is the main difference between last year’s team and this year’s team. We won’t give up ever.”

GOAL ORIENTED: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Emilia Lopez-Ona heads to goal last Friday in PHS’s 11-9 win over Allentown. Sophomore star Lopez-Ona scored eight goals in the contest which matched teams who came into the day undefeated. Last Monday, Lopez-Ona fired in 10 goals as PHS edged Hopewell Valley 18-16 in improving to 6-0. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on April 18, play at WW/P-N on April 21, and then have a rematch at ­Allentown on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman last spring on the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team, Emilia Lopez-Ona didn’t attract a lot of attention from opposing defenders.

“I was playing behind two upperclassmen attackers and they were both amazing scorers,” said Lopez-Ona.

“They got the top defenders on them and I was able to score that way with the weaker defenders.”

Coming into her sophomore season, the willowy Lopez-Ona knew she would have to carry more of the offensive load for the Little Tigers and she prepared accordingly.

“This year, I definitely have to step up on the offense and in the midfield; it is a bigger role,” added Lopez-Ona. “I worked a lot in the offseason. I play for Building Blocks lacrosse.”

Last Friday, Lopez-Ona’s work paid huge dividends for PHS as she scored eight goals to help the Little Tigers edge Allentown 11-9 in a battle of teams who came into the day undefeated.

When PHS fell behind 8-5 late in the first half, it looked like Allentown was on the verge of pulling away from the Little Tigers.

But Lopez-Ona took matters into her own hands, scoring three unanswered goals as PHS knotted the game at 8-8 heading into halftime.

“I think being down and being able to come back with another few goals and work on it as a team, chipping away at that, really psyched us up coming into the second half,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

In the second half, the Little Tigers showed patience, holding the ball for long stretches and picking their spots as they took a 10-8 lead and then held off the Redbirds down the stretch.

“We knew Allentown was going to be our toughest game,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied two of PHS’s second half goals and assisted on the other.

“It definitely gives a lot more confidence and our confidence builds through the season. We thrive off of that.”

Lopez-Ona’s on-field connection with senior star and Amherst College-bound Mia Haughton gives her additional confidence.

“I think a lot of it is that we have compatible skills,” explained Lopez-Ona, who scored 10 goals last Monday in an 18-16 win over Hopewell Valley as the Little Tigers improved to 6-0.

“She is an amazing feeder, she can feed from any release point. She knows where to put the ball. I am pretty good at getting open and finishing.”

PHS head coach Christie Cooper felt pretty good about her team’s chances even when it was on its heels in the first half.

“I wasn’t concerned; we might have gone up two and then they came back and I said to my assistant coach, this is going to be a game of ups and downs and that’s OK,” said Cooper.

“You have those in lacrosse and that’s good. It is what you can do when you are down that determines what the outcome is going to be.”

Having Lopez-Ona can certainly tilt the outcome in PHS’s favor. “Emilia is a smart player,” said Cooper, who got a goal and three assists from Haughton in the victory over Allentown with Elizabeth Jacobs and Chiara Favalaro chipping in the other goals.

“We can utilize all of our players on attack but it is always nice to know  that you have girls you can go to in a big game. It is not like I was telling her to do anything special. She finds that ball and gets it into the cage because she knows that is what we need at any given point.”

The performance of freshman goalie Mira Shane in the cage was another key factor in the Little Tigers’ win over Allentown.

“What makes her a good goalie is that she doesn’t follow steps, she just reacts to the ball,” said Cooper of Shane who had nine saves, including some point blank stops down the stretch.

“She isn’t trying to think I have to step here or I have to step there, she just reacts and that makes a great goalie. Every game she rises to the challenge; her age is not a factor at all. It is ‘OK who are we playing, who are their best players, where do they shoot, OK, ready.’ That is her mentality.”

While Cooper was excited by the way her team rose to the challenge collectively against Allentown, she knows there is a lot of lacrosse still to be played this spring.

“It is a great win but we play them again and there is a chance that we will see them in the Mercer County Tournament,” added Cooper.

“So it is great to win but it doesn’t mean much in the long run. It means a lot to them right now and it feels really good. It will help propel us into the next half of the season but it doesn’t make or break the rest of the season.”

In Cooper’s view, PHS has the ability to do some special things in the second half of the season.

“I think we have a lot of potential because we play like a team,” asserted Cooper, whose team hosts WW/P-S on April 18, plays at WW/P-N on April 21, and then has a rematch at Allentown on April 23.

“We work from our goalie down to our lowest attackers; that’s really important. It showed today with different players stepping up when other players were getting marked. You need to be able to do that in a tight game like that.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes the team’s special chemistry could make the difference in the tight games ahead.

“We have lost a lot of seniors; I think we knew this was going to be a whole new year with a mix of returning players and new players,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We all know how big of a role team chemistry off the field is. So I think that using that knowledge from last year, we are able to put it into place this year, and it is definitely helping. These are my best friends. I think we have got a team with a lot of young potential mixed in with some older leadership.”

WILL POWER: Princeton High baseball star Will Greenberg surveys the scene in action last spring. Senior catcher Greenberg has been swinging a hot bat for the Little Tigers, producing eight RBIs in four games last week as PHS went 2-2. The Little Tigers, now 2-6 on the season, are playing at Allentown on April 19, hosting Steinert on April 20, competing in the Papa Bear Invitational at Delran High on April 21, and then playing at Ewing on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After knocking in a total of four runs in two wins earlier last week, Will Greenberg kept up his hot hitting as the Princeton High baseball team hosted Trenton High last Wednesday.

The senior catcher smacked a two-run triple in the first inning to help PHS jump out to a 4-0 lead over the Tornadoes.

“It was an outside fastball and I just went the other way,” said Greenberg, reflecting on the triple.

“Luckily it went right down the line. It actually bounced on the line and bounced by the rightfielder. I was happy with it.”

By the end of the afternoon, though, Greenberg wasn’t too happy as the Little Tigers squandered their early lead and went down to a 6-5 defeat,

“We got a lot of runs in the first inning; we just weren’t able to keep going after that,” lamented Greenberg. “We thought it would hold up but it clearly wasn’t enough.”

After the Tornadoes tied the score at 4-4 in the top of the sixth, PHS got it going in the bottom of the frame as Matt Hoffman stroked an RBI single to put the Little Tigers back in front. But Trenton rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh to pull ahead.

Greenberg liked the way the Little Tigers battled after losing their lead. “We definitely didn’t want to lose this game,” said Greenberg. “We did show a little bit of fight to get that run in the sixth.”

In assessing the show he has been putting on offensively so far this season, Greenberg pointed to patience as a key factor.

“I think I am swinging at the right pitches and that is the difference right now,” said Greenberg. “Last year I might have swung at the 1-1 curveball and this year, I am taking it and hitting the next pitch.”

PHS’s large group of seniors has been making a difference in the early going as the Little Tigers topped Hightstown 3-1 on April 9 before routing crosstown rival Princeton Day School 13-3 a day later.

“We think with the group of seniors that we have this year, that we can win more games than we used to,” said Greenberg, whose classmates on the team include Hoffman, Nico Mercuro, Ben Harrison, Clay Alter, Alex Mitko, Mike Dunlap, and Nick Bowlin.

“We have been winning; the Hightstown and PDS games were pretty big for us. The win over PDS was amazing; it was the first time in a long time.”

PHS head coach Dave Roberts was concerned that his club could experience a letdown after the high of the victory over the Panthers.

“Yesterday was obviously a huge emotional game for us; now the one thing I made sure to remind them immediately after that game yesterday was that Trenton beat us last year,” said Roberts.

“We are not surprised at the fact that they are good and competitive. I was definitely concerned about this game.”

Those concerns proved valid as PHS appeared to lose intensity after grabbing the early lead against the Tornadoes, showing lapses in the field and on the basepaths.

“I thought we shut it down mentally after that and it really came back to haunt us,” said Roberts, whose team had another down day as it fell 6-2 to Hamilton last Monday in dropping to 2-6.

“We picked a bad time to play our worst defensive game. Our baserunning was pretty bad today. We got picked off at first; we got thrown out stealing. Things we hadn’t been doing this season.”

Roberts is depending on his crew of seniors to pick things up in the wake of the disappointing defeat.

“The seniors are carrying the load; they are doing a good job,” asserted Roberts, whose team is playing at Allentown on April 19, hosting Steinert on April 20, playing in the Papa Bear Invitational at Delran High on April 21, and then playing at Ewing on April 23.

“They are doing everything they are supposed to be doing, you can’t ask for much more. I just hope it continues going in the right direction and hopefully they guide these guys into realizing that today was just a bad day and that we can move forward.”

Greenberg, for his part, believes that PHS can use the lessons learned from the loss to keep going in the right direction.

“We had a lot of confidence going into this game,” said Greenberg, who knocked in two more runs in an 18-8 loss to Robbinsville last Friday.

“This game killed us and it can go either way after this. We can take it as something to make us play better or it can devastate us. Hopefully, it is not the second, You can’t stop playing; you can’t get four runs and think it is over and expect them to lay down.”

FREID UP: Princeton Day School baseball player Bradley Freid lays down a bunt in recent action. Junior Freid’s offensive production and play at catcher has helped PDS produce a 4-5 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Hun on April 18, play at Blair on April 20, play at Notre Dame on April 21, and then host Bound Brook on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been easy for the players on the Princeton Day School baseball team to hang their heads last Thursday as they fell behind visiting Pennington.

Coming off a disappointing 13-3 loss to Princeton High the day before, PDS found itself trailing Pennington 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning.

But the Panthers didn’t fold, breaking through with two runs in the fourth on a single by senior star Matt Cook. An inning later, PDS narrowed the gap to 5-4 on a two-run single by freshman JP Radvany.

In the sixth, the Panthers tied the contest as freshman Ross Colton served an RBI single into right field. An inning later, PDS kept threatening, getting a runner to second only to have him thrown out at the plate on a single by Sean McCoy.

The game went into extra innings and the Red Raiders tallied four runs in the top of the eight. Still, the Panthers didn’t give in, scoring on a single by senior Beau Horan who advanced to second but was stranded there as the Panthers went down to a 9-6 loss.

Afterward, PDS head coach Ray O’Brien was proud of the resolve shown by his club.

“I am happy with the way the kids hung in and the way they battled back,” said O’Brien.

“We are a work in progress; we have a lot of young guys. The guys battle; we were down 5-0 to a good team and we put the winning run on a couple of times. I am happy with their effort.”

O’Brien acknowledged that his team needs to pay more attention to detail.

“We are making too many little mistakes that are costing us those close games,” said O’Brien. “There is some stuff that we just have to tighten up.”

Last Friday, PDS tightened things up considerably, rolling to a 10-0 win over Lawrenceville as senior pitcher Jacob Eisenberg got the win and Horan chipped in three extra-base hits.

In O’Brien’s view, his group of seniors have the winning background to help get the Panthers on the right track.

“These guys played on a championship team so they know what needs to be done,” said O’Brien, who guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title in 2010.

“They know that we need a little tweaking here or there. They need to get some guys on board and we’ll be OK.”

The Panthers have some good young guys in the freshman quartet of Ross Colton, Jake Alu, JP Radvany, and Cole McManimon.

“They are playing and they are helping,” said O’Brien, whose team went on to lose 13-3 to Gill St. Bernard’s last Saturday to move to 4-5.

“Ross Colton had a big hit today. Jake [Alu] finished the game today on the mound. He did a great job; he battled the whole time. JP Radvany is our starting first baseman and Cole is one of our main pitchers.

With PDS having already matched last year’s win total when it went 4-14, O’Brien is confident the team can produce a good finish.

“It is definitely a different situation than last year,” said O’Brien, whose team hosts Hun on April 18, plays at Blair on April 20, plays at Notre Dame on April 21, and then hosts Bound Brook on April 23.

“We just need everybody pulling the rope in the same direction. We are getting there.”

RUNNING INTO TROUBLE: Hun School baseball star Devan Birch shows his speed on the basepath in recent action. Hurt by some key injuries, Hun has gotten off to a slow start this spring, falling to 1-6 in the wake of a 10-4 loss to Rutgers Prep last Monday. The Raiders will look to get on the winning track when they play at Princeton Day School on April 18 and at Pennington on April 19 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) for a doubleheader on April 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School baseball team, a couple of injuries have put a cloud over a promising spring.

The Raiders lost senior star catcher and key hitter Gavin Stupienski to a shoulder injury in the second game of the season while junior pitching ace Austin Goeke has been working through some arm problems.

As a result, Hun head coach Bill McQuade has been forced to juggle his batting order and his pitching rotation.

“When we lost Stupienski, it takes our No. 2 or 3 hitter out of the lineup and it takes a very good catcher out,” said McQuade.

“Goeke has had some arm struggles and he hasn’t pitched much for us this year so that backs everyone else up. It leaves Alex Fabian and Mike Manfredi for league games. Some kids that haven’t pitched much get other games and if they throw strikes and we catch the ball, we are fine. Sometimes we don’t throw strikes very well or catch it very well so it puts pressure on the whole team in different ways.”

Hosting powerful Germantown Academy (Pa.) last week, things didn’t go well for Hun right from the start. The Raiders fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning and never got closer than that on the way to suffering a 14-3 loss. “I told the guys we had to play a perfect game to beat them,” said McQuade.

“They are better than us in a few of the positions and that is OK. I just wanted to see us compete, that’s all.”

The Hun players did keep chattering in the dugout as the game went on and senior star Dave Dudeck gave his teammates something to cheer about with an RBI single in the third and a titanic homer over the left field fence in the sixth.

“Dudeck just crushes it and he has matured as a hitter,” said McQuade. “He is waiting more on the pitch so he can hit the off speed as well as the fastball.”

The Raiders will need to mature quickly if they are to get on the right track. “It is a tough start and our schedule is hard,” said McQuade, whose team lost 10-4 to Rutgers Prep last Monday in dropping to 1-6.

“We have seven games in the next week and a half and the teams we are playing are good. Our schedule is far tougher than in recent years but it doesn’t matter. I would rather play good teams and I think the kids would rather play tough teams. It starts to test them to see how much they actually love the game and how good they are compared to other teams.”

In McQuade’s view, the focus going forward is basic. “Our goal is just to get better by the end of the year, similar to last year,” said McQuade, referring to 2011 when Hun rode a late surge to state Prep A championship.

“Our pitching staff is fairly inexperienced; they have to grow so we can compete when tournament time comes around in May.”

Hun has the right mentality to keep competing hard. “I think this is a good group of kids; they play the game to win,” said McQuade, whose team plays at Princeton Day School on April 18 and at Pennington on April 19 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) for a doubleheader on April 21.

“If the other team is better than us, so be it. We just need to have fun and compete.”

April 11, 2012

NICKED UP: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Nick Fernandez heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore defensive midfielder Fernandez scored his first career goal but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 10-9 at Syracuse. Princeton, which dropped to 6-3 with the defeat, was slated to host Rutgers on April 10 and Dartmouth on April 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off a 13-2 rout of Brown, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team picked up where it left off as it played at Syracuse last Saturday.

The Tigers jumped off to a 3-0 lead before a crowd of 4,629 in the Carrier Dome on goals by Mike MacDonald, Tucker Shanley, and Tommy Schreiber.

“It was absolutely the way we wanted to start,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“They started a freshman goalie [Bobby Werdwell] who had never played a college game before and that may have been part of it. They struggled covering us. They jumped into a zone because they weren’t matching up well with us.”

That adjustment helped turn the matchup into the latest classic of the storied series that has seen the programs meet in four NCAA championship games and play a number of regular season thrillers.

With Princeton suddenly having trouble clearing the ball out of its defensive end, the Orange rallied to cut the deficit to 5-4 at halftime.

“We had the ball twice in the second quarter,” lamented Bates. “Clearing was the name of the game. They put pressure on us and we didn’t handle it with poise.”

In the third quarter, Princeton regained its poise, outscoring the Orange 2-1 to take a 7-5 lead. But then the roof fell in on Princeton as Syracuse struck for four straight goals in the waning moments of the quarter to go ahead 9-7.

“The last 1:45 was backbreaking; you want to save a timeout for fourth quarter but maybe should have taken it then to slow them down,” said Bates.

“Syracuse plays the way they play. They go on runs and it is a game of momentum.”

While Princeton regained the momentum early in the fourth quarter with two unanswered goals, Syracuse scored with 4:11 left in regulation and hung on for a 10-9 victory.

“We came back and got two goals to tie it up,” said Bates, whose team fell to 6-3 overall as its four-game winning streak got snapped.

“Then there was a clearing error and they made a transition play for their 10th goal. We didn’t execute well after that. We had it a couple of times and threw the ball away. Our extra man opportunity didn’t generate anything. On the last possession, we didn’t run the play the way we should. We weren’t balanced. We got the ball to Tommy [Schreiber] but we didn’t space it right.”

In Bates’s view, the Tigers gave the Orange attack a little too much space. “We got away from some things defensively in wins over Penn and Brown,” said Bates, whose team was outshot 40-28 on the day and made 19 turnovers with Syracuse only committing eight.

“We have not been riding as much. We need communication and intensity on our rides; we need to get back to basics there.”

In the wake of the Syracuse loss, the Tigers took care of some basics in training as they prepared for a big week which included a home clash with Rutgers for the Meistrell Cup slated for April 10 before an Ivy League contest against visiting Dartmouth (2-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on April 14.

“To put a positive spin on things, we had really good practices on Easter night and on Monday,” said Bates, whose team is ranked 13th nationally and 3-0 in league play, locked in a battle atop the Ivies with No. 5 Cornell (8-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy).

“I hope it is eye-opening. This is a loose group; we need an attention to detail and focus on a daily basis.”

ARMED FORCE: Princeton University softball player Kelsey VandeBergh whips the ball to first base in recent action. Senior third baseman VandeBergh came up big last weekend as the Tigers went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown, pounding out two homers with five RBIs. In upcoming action, Princeton, now 9-20 overall and 5-3 Ivy League, hosts LaSalle (6-26 overall) for a doubleheader on April 12 before two critical home doubleheaders against Ivy rival Penn (20-13 overall, 5-3 Ivy) on April 14 and 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton University softball team got off to a 4-4 start in Ivy League play only to go into a tailspin that saw it lose nine of its last 12 league contests.

This spring, Princeton has gotten off to a similar start in league play, posting a 5-3 mark after going 3-1 last weekend by sweeping a doubleheader at Yale on Friday before splitting a twinbill at Brown the next day.

As Princeton head coach Trina Salcido assesses her club, she doesn’t believe last year’s history is going to repeat itself.

“I think we are peaking at the right time, the No. 1-to-6 hitters are solid and we are starting to get help from the 7-8-9 hitters,” said Salcido, whose team is 9-20 overall and will host a doubleheader against LaSalle on April 12.

“The two junior pitchers (Liza Kuhn and Alex Peyton) are clicking and they are working well with both of our younger catchers (freshman Cara Worden and sophomore Maddie Cousens). I am really pleased with that. I feel the confidence level is better than last year.”

The Tigers came out confidently against Yale, scoring a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings to take a 4-1 lead.  Princeton tacked on two more runs in the seventh on the way to a 6-3 victory. In the nightcap, the Tigers jumped out to leads of 3-0 and 6-2 and held off the Bulldogs to post a 6-4 win.

“We started well at Yale,” said Salcido, who got two hits apiece from Kelsey VandeBergh, Tory Roberts, and Cousens in the opener with Peyton going 3-for-4 in the nightcap. “We hit in multiple innings; that builds confidence.”

The Tigers carried that confidence into the opener at Brown, pounding out eight hits with VandeBergh and Roberts each getting two RBIs in a 6-5 win, which saw Princeton score two runs in the top of the seventh to fight back from a 5-4 deficit. In Game 2, the Tigers had nine hits but couldn’t string together a big rally as they lost 2-1 in 11 innings.

“We closed out the first game at Brown; we could have done better in the second game,” said Salcido.

“Neither team scored until the 10th inning. We had opportunities all the way through. We talk about focus all the way through, you can’t wait until the late innings. There has to be a sense of urgency to get on the board first. When you let someone hang around, anything can happen.”

“Our two seniors have done a great job, leading by example,” asserted Salcido.

“They are taking full advantage of every inning of every game. They come out and work hard everyday in practice. They are not letting any moment slip away.”

While Salcido feels that her club has let a couple of wins slip away in Ivy play, she is not dwelling on what might have been.

“I would love to be sitting square with Cornell at 7-1; at 5-3, we have lost a little bit of control over things,” said Salcido, whose team is tied with Penn for second place in the Ivy’s South Division behind Cornell.

“The control we do have is to take one game at a time and not look at the big picture. We have to play our game. The hitters need to make adjustments and the pitchers need to stay sharp.”

The Tigers will need to be sharp this weekend as they host critical doubleheaders against Penn (20-13 overall, 5-3 Ivy) on Saturday and Sunday.

“They have a great freshman pitcher,” said Salicido, referring to Alexis Borden, who is 12-4 with a 1.43 ERA.

“They do a good job of really getting up for Ivy divisional play; you know that they are always going to be great competitors.”