January 8, 2014
DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Courtney Banghart, the point of the non-conference schedule is more about exposing her Princeton University women’s basketball team to a wide range of competitive situations than piling up wins.

But as Princeton girds for its Ivy League opener on January 11 at Penn, the Tigers have gained both victories and experience as they bring a 9-5 record into their clash with the Quakers and start their drive for a fifth straight league crown.

“This team is making its own mark,” said Princeton head coach Banghart. “The difference between rebuilding and reloading depends on the approach of the players and I like the way this team is responding.”

Playing in the Cavalier Classic in late December, Princeton certainly made an impression as it topped Alabama 79-59 to earn its first-ever win over a Southeastern Conference foe and then battled valiantly before falling to 69-57 to host Virginia in the title game.

“Alabama played man-to-man so we had to be more physical,” said Banghart.

“That was a good experience for a young team. We knew that UVa would zone us. The zone required us to move the ball and make shots. It was good for us, it showed us what we need to work on.”

Last Saturday at Drexel in its final tune-up before Ivy play, the Tigers worked on dealing with a zone. Trailing 25-23 at half to the reigning WNIT champs, Princeton outscored the Dragons 43-34 over the final 20 minutes to earn a 66-59 victory.

“We worked on a new zone continuity last week,” said Banghart. “We knew it wasn’t going to work right away. We got it figured out and scored 43 points in the second half.”

A lot of that offense came from Michelle Miller, who poured in a career-high 23 points and was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for the second time this year, sharing the honor with Penn’s Katy Allen.

“She is a sophomore but it doesn’t matter how old you are, it comes down to can you contribute,” said Banghart of Miller, who went 5-of-7 from three-point range in the win.

“She didn’t shoot like she can at Virginia. Against Drexel, she was shot ready and played really well.”

Junior guard Blake Dietrick has been playing really well lately, scoring 18 points last Saturday and having recently been named the Ann Meyers Drysdale Women’s National Player of the Week by the USBWA (U.S. Basketball Writers Association), becoming the first Tiger to ever collect the national accolade.

“Blake is settled,” said Banghart of Dietrick, who is averaging a team-high 15.4 points a game.

“She is so competitive, that can get in the way sometimes. She doesn’t like being bad at anything. She has settled in; she is a good lead guard and she is trusting her teammates.”

Banghart knows her team faces a competitive challenge in Penn, who is currently 7-2, having won seven straight games, including a victory over Miami, the program’s first-ever win against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.

“They have the most experienced returning team in the league,” said Banghart of the Quakers.

“They are playing at home and our kids have inherited the target on their backs. The other teams are going to throw everything at us, they know that beating us can make a season even if they don’t win the title.”

The Quakers boast the talent to make things difficult for Princeton in senior guard and two-time Ivy scoring champion Alyssa Baron, freshman center Sydney Stipanovich, senior guard Meghan McCullough, and sophomore guard Keira Ray.

“Baron is one of the best players in the league and she has been since day one,” said Banghart.

“She has more pieces around her now so she doesn’t have to do everything. Stipanovich has a lot of size, she is 6’3 and long. They have a very experienced point guard Meghan McCullough, who is back from an injury. Keiera Ray is a good player. They have played together forever.”

The Tigers will be working overtime to get ready for the Quakers. “We have the rest of the week to prepare for them,” said Banghart.

“The Ivy season requires consistency, either the consistency of a few top players or the group. We are more of a team. It is a league for seniors so we need Kristen [Helmstetter] and Nicole [Hung] to make contributions. We are going to see a variety of things, zone, man and junk. We have to get enough from our pieces and be able to adjust.”

In Banghart’s view, her young squad has the mindset to roll with the punches it will receive in Ivy play.

“This team has a great personality,” asserted Banghart. “They are humble and there are no expectations. They just expect to battle everyday. Their job is to play hard and listen and our job is to coach them.”

January 2, 2014
HALE AND HEARTY: David Hale fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Hale, who starred for the Tigers from 2007-09, made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves this past September. Hale struck out nine in his first outing, setting a franchise record for most strikeouts in a debut. Hale went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during the regular season and also made an appearance in the National League Division Series. He is looking to spend all of 2014 in the majors.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

HALE AND HEARTY: David Hale fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Hale, who starred for the Tigers from 2007-09, made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves this past September. Hale struck out nine in his first outing, setting a franchise record for most strikeouts in a debut. Hale went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during the regular season and also made an appearance in the National League Division Series. He is looking to spend all of 2014 in the majors. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Heading into 2013, David Hale was just hoping to get a chance to pitch for the Atlanta Braves.

“I wanted to put myself in a position for a September call-up since I was on the 40-man roster,” said Hale, a former Princeton University baseball standout who started the season at Gwinnett, the Braves Triple-A affiliate. “I improved on my command and developed a sinker.”

After going 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA at Gwinnett, Hale got the call and made his first major league outing for the Braves on September 13, pitching five innings and recording nine strikeouts, breaking the franchise record for strikeouts in a debut.

Hale made another regular season appearance and also pitched for the Braves in the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now as Hale enters 2014, he is determined to spend the whole season with the Braves.

“I am looking to keep up everything I do,” said Hale, a 2011 Princeton alum who recently returned to his alma mater along with fellow Tiger major leaguers Ross Ohlendorf ’05, Will Venable ’05, and Chris Young ’02 for the Jake McCandless ’51 Princeton Varsity Club Speaker Series.

“I want to stay in shape and keep my pitches sharp. I need to keep the sinker sharp, it is a new pitch to me. I am happy to see that my stuff can work at the major league level.”

As he wrapped up his season at Gwinnett, Hale wasn’t sure that he was going to get the chance for a shot at the next level.

“The season ended and they told me I wasn’t going to get called up,” said Hale, 26,  a 6’2, 205-pound native of Marietta, Ga. who was taken in the third round of the 2009 MLB draft by the Braves.

“Then 24 hours later, they told me I was getting called up. I ran the whole gamut of emotions. I couldn’t wait to call my dad and mom.”

As he made his debut against the visiting San Diego Padres on September 13, hometown hero Hale had some extra support on hand.

“Being from Atlanta and being lucky enough to put on the Braves uniform, there were so many people there to watch me,” said Hale.

“There were teachers from high school, people I hadn’t talked to for years. I think there were 200-300 people there. It added to my nerves. I told myself to not look in the stands but of course I did immediately. As I got on the mound, those feelings went away.”

Overcoming those nerves, Hale proceeded to strike out nine in five innings of work to set the team record for most Ks in a first outing. He also added a footnote to Princeton baseball history as he faced fellow Tiger and Padres star Venable.

“He is the only Princeton hitter in the major leagues at the moment, it was unbelievable to be going against him,” said Hale. “I didn’t even realize that I had set a record, I was just relieved to get that one under my belt.”

After earning his first big league win as he struck out five in six innings in a 7-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on September 26, Hale thought his work for the season was done as the Braves girded for the playoffs. But like earlier in the month, he got a pleasant surprise.

“I was pretty positive that I was not going to be on the playoff roster,” said Hale, who went 1-0 overall with 14 strikeouts and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work in the regular season.

“I thought they were kidding when they told me. They needed a long reliever and I was able to fill that role. I was really happy but I had to be reserved because there were some good players and older guys who didn’t make the roster.”

As the Braves lost the NLDS 3-1 to the Dodgers, Hale did see action in Game 3, facing a batter in the eighth inning and getting a groundout in a 13-6 loss.

“That was pretty cool; it was great to pitch in such a historic place,” said Hale. “I ended the year well; I am bringing confidence into the offseason.”

For Hale, it was cool to come back to Princeton in December. “It is nice to be here on campus and not have any school work,” said Hale. “I can see guys who don’t have problem sets to do. The place is fantastic.”

Playing baseball at Princeton was a key step in Hale’s path to the majors. “From a baseball standpoint, coach [Scott] Bradley was a professional coach,” said Hale, who played three seasons at Princeton from 2007-09, going 7-9 on the mound with a 4.74 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 127.1 innings pitched and batted .291 with 7 homers and 46 RBIs.

“He stayed out of your business and knew you would do your work. I was pretty much a baby pitcher at the time; I was learning the role of pitcher. I was also a hitter/infielder.”

During his time at Princeton, Hale developed on and off the field. “There is no better way to test your limits than to be playing a sport and doing the academics at a school like Princeton,” said Hale.

In 2014, Hale will be applying those lessons as he looks to succeed at the highest level of his sport.

 

MANPOWER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Kesselman scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to New Hampshire in a consolation contest at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. The Tigers, who dropped to 3-14 with the defeat, are heading west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where they will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MANPOWER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Kesselman scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to New Hampshire in a consolation contest at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. The Tigers, who dropped to 3-14 with the defeat, are heading west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where they will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Heading to the Sunshine State as it returned to action after the holiday break, the Princeton University men’s hockey team competed last weekend in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.

But while the clouds remained over Princeton as the Tigers lost twice at the competition in falling to 3-14 overall, there were rays of hope coming out of the weekend.

“I thought we played pretty well,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier, reflecting on his team’s effort.

“We played with more pace. We generated a lot of chances. We ran into a hot goalie on Saturday and had penalty problems on Sunday. As the weekend progressed, we competed better. We did a better job of staying above checks. We had a lot of offensive plays on the rush; the defense did a good job on the breakout.”

In its opening round contest against Maine on Saturday, Princeton lost 4-0 to the Black Bears, even though it was only outshot 36-33.

A day later against New Hampshire in a consolation contest, Princeton jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Mike Ambrosia and Aaron Kesselman, respectively, only to lose 3-2. In battling the Wildcats, the Tigers were sparked by a superb performance from senior goalie Sean Bonar, who made a career-high 43 saves.

The return of senior star Andrew Calof from injury helped the Tigers as he assisted on Ambrosia’s goal and was a threat all weekend long.

“I think the line of Calof, Ambrosia, and [Ryan] Siiro generated half of our chances, they definitely made an impact,” said Prier.

The play of goalie Bonar gave Princeton the chance to stay in the New Hampshire game. “Sean played very well, 15 or 16 shots were on the power play and he did a good job of fighting through traffic to make some of those saves,” said Prier. “He did a good job on rebound control.”

In upcoming action, Princeton heads west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where it will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3.

In Prier’s view, the trip should help the Tigers come together as they look to do some damage in their ECAC Hockey stretch drive.

“We have four guys with roots out there,” said Prier. “We are playing two good teams. I think the guys feel better about the way we are playing as we go into the second half.”

December 27, 2013
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Princeton University athletics, the beat went on in 2013 as the Tigers won a slew of Ivy League championships and added to their impressive haul of NCAA titles. On the local high school scene, the year saw a number of championship firsts.

As for Princeton, the winter brought two NCAA titles as the fencing team won the joint men’s/women’s national crown while the men’s distance medley relay placed first in the indoor national meet. Women’s basketball won its fourth straight Ivy championship while men’s and women’s swimming along with men’s and women’s squash earned league crowns.

In the spring, Princeton excelled on the track as the men’s team won the Ivy Heptagonal Outdoor Championships. On the water, the women’s open crew took its second straight Ivy title at the league regatta and the varsity 8 ended up placing second in the NCAA grand final. Junior Greg Jarmas won his first Ivy men’s golf individual title and helped Princeton earn its first team crown since 2006. Junior star Kelly Shon won the Ivy women’s golf crown and advanced to the NCAA championships. The women’s water polo team won the Eastern Championships and placed fifth at the NCAAs.

The Princeton football team turned heads in the fall, going 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, to tie with Harvard for the title and give the Tigers their first championship since 2006. Defending its 2012 NCAA title in style, the Tiger field hockey team won its ninth straight Ivy title on the way to the national quarterfinals.

As for local high schoolers, the Princeton High swimming program enjoyed an historic season as the girls’ team won its first ever Mercer County Championship meet while the boys’ squad took its third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey sectional title. Hun School teams produced a championship winter as the boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship and the boys’ basketball team won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team shared the state Prep title on the way to a 21-3-1 campaign.

In the spring, longtime head coach Peter Stanton guided the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team to a pair of milestones as he won his 200th game at the helm of the program and the Little Tigers earned the first Mercer County Tournament crown in program history. The PDS boys’ tennis team also had a championship season as it shared the state Prep B title with two other schools.

History was made on the tennis court in the fall as PHS sophomore Christina Rosca won the program’s first NJSIAA state singles title. Rosca also helped the Little Tigers make their second straight trip to the state Group III team finals. The PDS girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B title while the Panther girls’ soccer team produced one of the more heartening reversals of fortune as they went from 4-9-4 in 2012 to 17-2-1 this fall on the way to winning the program’s first MCT title.

Winter Wins

Led by a quartet of stellar seniors, Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen, the Princeton University women’s basketball team won its fourth straight Ivy League title. Head coach Courtney Banghart’s Tigers went 22-7 overall and 13-1 Ivy. During the regular season, Princeton established an Ivy record as it extended its league winning streak to 33 before falling to Harvard in March. The Tigers were seeded ninth in the Oklahoma City regional at the NCAA tournament where they fell 60-44 to eighth-seeded Florida State.

While the season ended on a down note, that was a mere blip in one of the greatest four-year runs in league annals as the seniors went 54-2 in Ivy play, tying them as winningest class in Ivy men’s or women’s history with Penn’s men’s basketball Class of 1996 (1992-93 to 1995-96).

Rasheed was named Ivy Player of the Year for a second time and earned AP All-America Honorable Mention, the first player to do so in program history. The league’s scoring leader at 16.9 points a game, Rasheed was also named a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection, her third first-team honor. She finished with 1,617 career points for fourth-best in program history. She also is all-time No. 5 in scoring average (16.7), No. 5 in field goals made (604), No. 3 in rebounds (860) and No. 6 in rebounds average (8.7). Polansky was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Year for a third time while Miller and Bowen were key starters in their final campaign. The latter was a second-team All-Ivy pick along with junior teammate Kristen Helmstetter.

The men’s hoops team nearly matched their female counterparts as they stood first in the Ivy standings heading into the final weekend of the season. Coach Mitch Henderson’s club, though, stumbled on the road, losing at Yale and Brown as Harvard passed the Tigers to win the title.

Senior star Ian Hummer put together one of the greatest seasons in program history for Princeton, which went 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy. The 6’6 forward Hummer was named Ivy Player of the Year and led Princeton in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists, the first Tiger since Kit Mueller ’91 in 1990-91 to top the team in all of those categories. Hummer made first-team All-Ivy with junior guard T.J Bray getting second-team honors and sophomore Denton Koon being named as an honorable mention selection.

The Princeton fencing program made history as the Tigers won their first-ever joint men’s/women’s NCAA fencing championship under the format that began in 1990.

Coach Zoltan Dudas’ team edged Notre Dame by seven bout victories, 182-175, for the team title.

Four of the six Tiger men earned All-America honors, and senior epeeists Jonathan Yergler and Edward Kelley made it to the medal round and faced each other in the semifinals. Yergler won, coming in second in the nation.

All six Tiger women earned All-America honors and three qualified for the medal round, including the Stone sisters and saberists Gracie, a freshman, and Eliza, a senior, and junior epeeist Susannah Scanlan.

Junior forward Andrew Calof lit up Baker Rink and picked up a slew of honors for the men’s hockey team. Calof finished third in the ECAC Hockey in scoring with 13 goals and 23 assists for 26 points and earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy honors. Despite Calof’s heroics, coach Bob Prier’s team went 10-16-5 overall and was swept by Cornell in a best-of-three ECACH opening round playoff series.

Struggling down the stretch, the women’s hockey team failed to make the ECACH tournament, ending an 11-year streak of having qualified for postseason play. Coach Jeff Kampersal’s club posted an overall record of 11-16-2. Seniors Corey Stearns and Kelly Cooke ended their careers on a high note as Stearns led the team in scoring with 31 points on 5 goals and 26 assists while Cooke tallied 27 points on a team-high 15 goals and 12 assists.

Over at DeNunzio Pool, the men’s swimming and diving team continued its domination of the Ivy League, winning its fifth straight league title. Coach Rob Orr’s squad was led by senior diver Stevie Vines along with such star swimmers as junior Daniel Hasler, junior Michael Strand, sophomore Harrison Wagner, freshman Byron Sanborn, and freshman Teo D’Allessandro.

Junior star Lisa Boyce produced a dominant performance to help the women’s swimming and diving team win the Ivy championship meet. It was the 11th title in the last 14 seasons for the Tigers and the 16th overall for coach Susan Teeter.

Boyce won three individual Ivy titles and was part of one relay winner along with two relay runners-up. She went on to earn All-America honorable mention in the 100 free at the NCAA Championships as she placed 15th.

It was the end of an era for the men’s squash team as legendary Hall of Fame coach Bob Callahan stepped down after 32 years at the helm. Callahan guided the Tigers to a tie for the Ivy title with Harvard and third in the College Squash Association (CSA) national team championships. Senior Todd Harrity finished second in the CSA individual championship.

Callahan, a 1977 Princeton alum and former Tiger squash star, led the program to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012) in his 32-year tenure. Sean Wilkinson, a former Bates College squash star and assistant coach at Drexel, was named to succeed Callahan.

Under its legendary coach, Gail Ramsay, the women’s squash team won the Ivy title and placed fourth in the Howe Cup team championships. Senior Julie Cerullo and junior Libby Eyre earned All-Ivy honors for Ramsay’s squad.

The men’s track and field team came within a whisker of winning the Ivy Heptagonal indoor title, finishing second to Cornell by a single point. The runner-up finish ended a streak of three straight indoor titles for coach Fred Samara’s squad. Senior Peter Callahan was named co-Most Outstanding Track Performer and junior Damon McLean was named co-Most Outstanding Field Performer at the 2013 Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships.

A few weeks later, Callahan ended the indoor season in a blaze of glory as he ran the anchor leg for the men’s distance medley relay team that won the NCAA title. He was joined in the victorious quartet by Michael Williams, Austin Hollimon, and Russell Dinkins.

Senior Tory Worthen won her seventh consecutive Ivy League Heptagonal pole vault title to provide a highlight for women’s track. Coach Peter Farrell’s team took fourth in the Indoor Heps meet with its other victory being produced by the 4×800 relay team of senior Greta Feldman, senior Alexis Mikaelian, junior Molly Higgins, and junior Kristin Smoot.

The wrestling team made progress under coach Chris Ayres. Princeton placed three wrestlers in the top 8 at the EIWA Championships with junior Ryan Callahan taking sixth at 174 pounds, freshman Scott Gibbons taking seventh at 184 and senior Zach Bintliff placing eight at 149.

Spring Steps

Fueled by the combination of freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson and junior star Katie Rigler, the Princeton women’s water polo team won the Eastern title.

Coach Luis Nicole’s squad ended up taking fifth at the NCAA tournament, the highest finish program. Johnson and Rigler were both named All-Americans to climax a season that saw Princeton finish with a final record of 28-6.

Over at Weaver Stadium, the men’s track team enjoyed a championship season of their own. Coach Fred Samara’s team won the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championship. It marked the third consecutive Outdoor Heps title for the Tigers and 15th overall.

The Tigers were paced at the Heps by Peter Callahan, the winner of the 1,500, and Michael Franklin, who won the 5,000 and the 10,000. Austin Hollimon won the 400 and helped the 4×400 relay to victory while Tom Hopkins joined him in the relay and also win the long jump. Russell Dinkins won the 800 and also competed on the 4×400 relay. Franklin went on to take fifth in the 10,000 at the NCAA championship meet.

Senior standout Feldman starred as the women’s track team took fourth in the Outdoor Heps. Feldman won the 800, placed second in the 1,500 and was part of the winning 4×800 relay for Peter Farrell’s team.

Other winners at the Heps meet included Imani Oliver in the triple jump, Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer throw, and Tory Worthen in the pole vault. Worthen made Ivy League history as the victory marked her eighth career Heps pole vault title.

Led by sophomore Erin McMunn and senior Caroline Rehfuss, the women’s lacrosse team returned to the NCAA tournament for the 21st time in program history. Coach Chris Sailer’s team fell to Duke 10-9 in double overtime in the NCAA opener to finish the spring at 10-7.

Junior midfielder Tom Schreiber added another chapter to his storied career for the men’s lax team, posting his second straight 60-point season and making first-team All-America for a second time. Despite Schreiber’s heroics, the Tigers fell just short of making the NCAA tournament as coach Chris Bates’ team fell 12-8 to Yale in the Ivy title game and finished the spring at 9-6.

Coach Lori Dauphiny guided her women’s open crew program to another successful season. The Tigers won their second straight Ivy team title and then took third at the NCAA regatta as the first varsity eight placed second in the grand final. The top boat was led by a quartet of seniors, Gabby Cole, Molly Hamrick, Liz Hartwig, and Heidi Robbins.

Sparked by senior star Alex Morss, the Tiger women’s lightweight crew enjoyed a solid campaign. Coach Paul Rassam’s top eight took second at the Eastern Sprints and fifth at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship grand final.

Seniors Michael Evans, Brian Wettach, and coxswain Keanan Clark helped the Princeton men’s heavyweight crew finish on an encouraging note. The trio helped the varsity eight take fourth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA national championships. With a number of solid rowers returning, coach Greg Hughes is optimistic that the program can build on that performance in 2014.

Led by a group of freshmen and sophomores, the men’s lightweight crew gained some valuable experience. Coach Marty Crotty’s top eight placed fifth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth at the IRA national championship regatta.

Mike Ford produced a season to remember for the Princeton baseball team as he became the first player in Ivy history to be named both the league’s Player of the Year and its Pitcher of the Year. The Belle Mead, N.J. native and former Hun School standout hit .320 for second-best on the team. He ranked in the top-10 in the Ivy League in 10 categories, including No. 1 in walks (31), No. 2 in home runs (6), No. 3 in RBIs (38) and No. 4 in on-base percentage (.443). On the mound, he went 6-0 with a league-leading 0.98 ERA, third-best in a season in program history. In nine starts, he tallied five complete games, all in Ivy play, and a shutout victory. Ford ranked first in earned runs allowed (7), opposing batting average (.191) and home runs allowed (0) to place in the top-10 in 10 statistical categories in the league. He signed with the New York Yankees over the summer and player for their Staten Island Single A affiliate.

Despite Ford’s heroics, it was a disappointing year for coach Scott Bradley’s team as the Tigers went 14-28 overall and 11-9 Ivy as they tied for second in the Gehrig Division. Junior Alec Keller joined Ford as a first-team All-Ivy selection.

New head coach Lisa Sweeney injected a burst of energy into the softball program, guiding the Tigers to a 27-19 record, its most wins since 2006. Princeton finished second in the Ivy South division with a 12-8 league mark. Alex Peyton, Maddie Cousens, Alyssa Schmidt, and Nikki Chu were second-team All Ivy picks.

Led by junior Greg Jarmas, the men’s golf team won its first Ivy league title since 2006. Jarmas fired a 3-under 216 to win the individual title and help coach Will Green’s squad win the team title by five shots over Yale.

Kelly Shon matched Jarmas’ feat by winning her first Ivy women’s golf crown. Shon edged Christine Lin of Harvard in a playoff to take the title. Shon’s performance wasn’t enough for coach Nicki Cutler’s squad to win the team title as Harvard edged the Tigers by one stroke. Shon went on to place second at the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA championships, where she finished tied for 37th.

Senior Matija Pecotic made an impact on the national scene for the men’s tennis team. The three-time Ivy Player of the Year advanced to the Round of 32 at the NCAA singles championship. He helped first-year head coach Billy Pate’s tie Columbia for second in the Ivy standings.

Former pro star Laura Granville took the helm of the women’s tennis program and led the Tigers to a fourth place finish in the Ivy league race. Sophomore Lindsay Graff earned first-team All-Ivy honors in singles, while junior Katherine Flanigan was a second-team All-Ivy honoree in singles.

Sparked by first-team Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) performers, sophomore Cody Kessel and junior Pat Schwagler, the men’s volleyball team made the EIVA semis. Coach Sam Shweisky’s team went 13-10 as they ended the year by falling to perennial power Penn State in the EIVA tourney

Fall Feats:

Coming off an encouraging 2012 season that saw it win five games after going 1-9 in the previous two seasons, the Princeton football team was still seen as being a year away from contending for an Ivy title. But with junior quarterback Quinn Epperly putting together a season for the ages, the Tigers moved up the timetable.

Coach Bob Surace’s squad went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in league play, tying Harvard for the Ivy crown, giving Princeton its first title since 2006.

Epperly, for his part, rewrote portions of the Princeton record book en route to one of the greatest seasons in program history. He matched the single-season passing touchdown record of Doug Butler ’86 (25, 1983), and he came within one of matching the single-season rushing touchdown record of Keith Elias ’94 (19, 1994). He missed the single-season completion percentage record by the slimmest of margins; his 68.0 percent finished second to Jason Garrett ’89 (68.2 percent, 1988).

He set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s 53-20 victory over Cornell; that followed Princeton’s 51-48 triple-overtime win at Harvard, when Epperly set Princeton single-game records for both completions (37) and passing touchdowns (six). He set an Ivy League record by earning the Offensive Player of the Week honor six times, including five in a row; all six of his honors followed Princeton’s six Ivy League victories.

He made first-team Ivy League along with receiver Roman Wilson, defensive back Anthony Gaffney, center Joe Goss, offensive tackle Spenser Huston, and defensive lineman Caraun Reid.

To add icing to the cake, Princeton got to celebrate a second straight bonfire, emblematic of beating Harvard and Yale in the same season.

Despite dealing with some heavy graduation losses and a rash of injuries, the Tiger field hockey team made a spirited defense of its 2012 NCAA title. Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s squad won its ninth straight Ivy title and advanced to the NCAA quarters where it dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Maryland.

Princeton ended the fall at 14-5 and senior Michelle Cesan was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year while classmate Julia Reinprecht was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year. Freshman Annabeth Donovan was picked as the co-Rookie of the Year. The Tiger trio earned first-team All-Ivy honors along with sophomore Teresa Benvenuti.

The men’s soccer team fell just short of an Ivy crown, finishing third with a 4-2-1 league mark, one win behind champion Penn, which posted a 5-1-1 record. Coach Jim Barlow’s squad went 7-9-1 overall and had four players, junior forward Cameron Porter, sophomore forward Thomas Sanner, junior midfielder Myles McGinley, and sophomore defender Josh Miller, earn first-team All-Ivy honors.

Unable to recapture the magic of a 2012 campaign that saw it go undefeated in Ivy play and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament, the women’s soccer team had a down year. Coach Julie Shackford’s squad went 7-6-4 overall and 1-5-1 Ivy.

Senior midfielder Gabriella Guzman made first-team All Ivy while Tyler Lussi, an honorable mention All Ivy performer, became the first Tiger freshman to reach 10 goals since Linda DeBoer ‘86 in 1982.

Spending most of the season in the top 20, the men’s water polo team narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament as it lost 11-9 to St. Francis in the CWPA Championship finals. Coach Luis Nicolao’s squad went 22-6 overall with junior Drew Hoffenberg getting named as a first-team All-CWPA Southern Division performer and freshman Jovan Jeremic being picked as the Southern Rookie of the Year.

A one-two punch of senior stars Tyler Udland and Chris Bendtsen helped the men’s cross country team take second at the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships. Udland and Bendtsen finished sixth and seventh, respectively in the race as coach Jason Vigilante’s squad was edged by Columbia. Princeton went on to finish 22nd in the NCAA championship meet.

Freshman Megan Curham enjoyed an impressive debut season for the women’s cross country team, emerging as a frontrunner for the Tigers. She placed fourth at the Ivy League Heps to help Peter Farrell’s squad take fourth in the team standings. The Tigers ended the season by coming in 30th at the NCAA championship meet with Curham earning All-American honors with her 34th place finish.

Rebounding from some early season struggles, the women’s volleyball team played well down the stretch as it won four of its last six matches to finish the season at 10-14 overall and 6-8 Ivy. Freshman Cara Mattaliano, who led the league in both kills and points in league matches, earned first-team All-Ivy League honors for coach Sabrina King’s squad.

Hun

It was a winter of championship breakthroughs at the Hun School. Sparked by senior star defenseman Eric Szeker and rock-solid junior goalie Devin Cheifetz, the Hun boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship. Coach Ian McNally’s squad topped Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the IHL championship game and ended the winter with final record of 16-5-4. Stellar seniors Fergus Duke, Hashim Moore, Jake Newman, and Grant Mackay helped the Hun boys’ hoops team followed suit as it won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Coach Jon Stone’s team had to rally from a late deficit of 10 points in the MAPL opener to top Hill (Pa.)and then gathered steam, rolling past Lawrenceville 46-31 in the title game. The Raiders later advanced to the state prep A title game and ended the winter with a gaudy 20-6 record.

Coach Bill Holup guided the girls’ team to another solid campaign as the Raiders went 14-11, advancing to both the MAPL and Prep A semis. Hun was sparked by the play of junior center Johnnah Johnson who provided a dominating inside presence.

In the spring, the Hun boys’ lax team caught fire under new coach M.V. Whitlow and advanced to the state Prep A title game where it fell to perennial champion Lawrenceville. The Raiders were led by seniors Zach Bicho,  Greg Flood and Zach Winterstein as they posted an 11-6 record.

Prolific senior standout and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks passed the 300-goal mark in her career with Hun girls’ lax team, helping the Raiders go 6-9 under new head coach Haley Sanborn.

Senior star catcher Carey Million saved her best for last, hitting over .500 as she helped Hun softball advance to the Prep A title game where it fell 5-3 to archrival Peddie. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 11-7 and has plenty of hope for the future as freshman ace Alexis Goeke established herself as one of the top pitchers in the area.

Guided by legendary head coach Bill McQuade, the Hun baseball team fell short of a Prep A title by an eyelash, falling 2-1 to Blair in the championship series. The Raiders were led by seniors Stevie Wells, Shane Adams, Devan Birch, and Austin Goeke as they posted a record of 16-7 in McQuade’s 43rd spring guiding the program.

Under coach Todd Loffredo, the boy’s tennis team went through a rebuilding season as several young players gained valuable experience in a 3-12 campaign.

It looked like it was going to be a long season when the Hun girls’ soccer team got off to a 0-7 start under new head coach Joanna Hallac. But with a corps of freshmen coming of age and some key veterans returning from injury, the Raiders got on a roll down the stretch.

Led by senior Olivia Braender-Carr, junior Ashley Maziarz, and sophomore Jess Johnson, Hun pulled two upsets on the way to the state Prep A championship game against perennial power Pennington. Hun fell 2-0 to the Pennington and ended the season at 7-12-1. While the title game defeat stung, the future looks bright as most of the squad will be back in 2014.

The boys’ soccer team also stumbled out of the gate as it started 1-4. But under the steady hand of coach Pat Quirk, the Raiders righted the ship and made a stirring run in the Mercer County Tournament. Hun was seeded 11th in the MCT and topped No. 6 Princeton High, last year’s state Group III co-champion and third-seeded Allentown, the eventual 2013 Group III co-champion on the way to the semis. Battling valiantly, the Raiders fell 2-0 to second-seeded Hightstown. The run, which helped Hun finish with a record of 7-12, was triggered by a core of senior stars, Felix Dalstein, Bailey Hammer, Chris Meinert, and Andres Gonzalez.

With John Law taking the helm of the football program just weeks before the season started, Hun took a while to get in synch. Bouncing back from a 0-4 start, Hun won two of its last four games and has plenty of hope for the future with the return of quarterback Donavon Harris and running back Chris Sharp.

Led by a pair of seniors, Francesca Bello and Alex Kane, the field hockey team had a competitive fall. Under coach Kathy Quirk, the Raiders posted a 6-14 mark.

Featuring a young squad without one senior on the roster, the girls’ tennis team made good progress. Under longtime coach Joan Nuse, the Raiders went 6-7 and placed fourth in the MAPL tournament.

PDS

Davon Reed capped his brilliant career with the Princeton Day School boys’ hoops team by eclipsing the 2,000-point mark, ending up with a program record total of 2,102. The senior guard led the way as coach Paris McLean’s team went 19-8 and reached the Mercer County Tournament semis and the state Prep B title game where they lost a 47-45 heartbreaker to Pennington. Reed went on to University of Miami where he averaged 9.0 points a game through the first 10 games of his college career.

Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team produced one of the best seasons in program history. Coach Scott Bertoli’s team went 21-3-1 and tied Morristown-Beard 2-2 in the state Prep championship game to share the title.

The team’s Class of 2013 included Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Eddie Meyercord, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

Sparked by senior goalie Daisy Maze and junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer, the girls’ hockey team continued to make progress. Coach Lorna Gifis Cook led her squad to a 10-8 mark.

Hurt by a thin roster, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. Coach Mika Ryan led her squad to an 8-14 season. After the season, Ryan headed to WW/P-S to guide its girls’ program and was replaced by Kamau Bailey.

It was another big spring for the PDS boy’s lacrosse team as it advanced to the Prep B title game and the MCT semis. Coach Rob Tuckman’s team posted a final record of 11-6 and was paced by Lehigh-bound senior standout Cody Triolo with classmates Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brendan Shannon, Andrew Phipps, Bump Lisk, and Tucker Triolo also making valuable contributions.

Senior star and MIT-bound Hannah Levy triggered the offense for the girls’ lacrosse team as she passed the 150-goal mark in her career. Levy’s prowess helped coach Jill Thomas’ squad go 6-7.

A core of talented young players helped the baseball team produce a promising spring. Sophomores Cole McManimon, Jake Alu, and J.P. Radvany starred as coach Ray O’Brien’s team went 9-12. Senior star and VMI-bound B.J Dudeck ended his career on a high note, hitting a team-high .406 with 18 RBIs.

Junior Neeraj Devulapalli and a pair of freshmen, David Zhang and Scott Altmeyer, came up big at singles as the boys’ tennis team shared the state Prep B team title along with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley. Coach Will Asch’s team went 10-3 on the season and placed second in the Mercer County Tournament.

The softball team hung together despite a lack of depth, going 0-6 under coach Paul Lano.

Coming off a disappointing 4-9-4 season in 2012, the PDS girls’ soccer team was hungry to regain its winning ways this fall. Cultivating a positive team chemistry to get the best out of its talent, the Panthers enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, Coach Pat Trombetta’s squad lost just once in regular season play and then topped Hamilton, Robbinsville, Princeton High on the way to the MCT title game against Hopewell Valley. With the teams knotted in a scoreless tie late in the second half of the championship contest, PDS broke through with goals by Eloise Stanton and Kirsten Kuzmicz to earn a 2-0 victory and the team’s first-ever MCT title. The Panthers also advanced to the state Prep B title game where they fell to Morristown-Beard 2-0.

PDS posted a final record of 17-2-1 and Trombetta credited senior co-captains Brit Murray and Lily Razzaghi with providing positive leadership that got the team on the same page. With such returning stalwarts as Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, and the Soltesz twins, Stef and Alexa, the Panthers seemed poised to be title contenders again in 2014.

Sparked by singles stars Renee Karchere-Sun, Maria Martinovic, and Emily Dyckman, the girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B team title. Junior Martinovic won the Prep B second singles crown with classmate Dyckman following suit at third singles. Sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles. Coach Ed Tseng’s squad also took third in the team standings at the MCT.

A quartet of senior stars, Mary Travers, Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, and Emily Goldman, helped the field hockey team stay on track as it went through some ups and downs. Playing its best hockey in the final weeks of the campaign, coach Tracey Arndt’s squad went 9-10 and advanced to the state Prep B semifinals.

Skilled junior Marco Pinheiro stood out at midfield as the boys’ soccer team struggled through a rough fall, Coach Malcolm Murphy’s team posted a final record of 3-11-3.

Led by a pair of talented freshmen, Ian Moini and Sam Noden, the boys’ cross country team made strides. Coach Merrill Noden’s team finished fourth in the Prep B championship meet with Moini placing sixth individually and Noden taking 11th.

Another freshman standout, Morgan Mills, made an immediate impact for girls’ cross country. Mills was the team’s top runner from day one and set the pace as coach Noden’s Panthers took ninth in the team standings at the county meet and ended the season by placing third in the Prep B championship meet.

PHS

It was another big winter in the pool for the Princeton High swimming program. The PHS boys’ team won its third straight county crown and fifth straight Public B Central Jersey sectional championship. Coach Greg Hand’s team was led by a stellar group of juniors, Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Matt Purdy, and Scott MacKenzie, as it went 15-1.

Coach Hand guided his girls’ squad to a breakthrough season as the Little Tigers won their first-ever county title. Led by the senior duo of Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio along with a pair of precocious freshmen in Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, PHS advanced to the sectional final and posted a final record of 13-1.

Under new head coach Mark Shelley, the boys’ basketball team enjoyed a promising campaign. Sparked by seniors Lior Levy and Scott Bechler, the Little Tigers went 12-11 and advanced to the second round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Led by the trio of junior Liz Jacobs, sophomore Mary Sutton, and freshman Julia Ryan, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. The Little Tigers posted a 4-14 record and coach Steffanie Shoop stepped down after the season. Dan Van Hise, the PHS JV boys’ hoops coach, was named to replace Shoop.

Sparked by senior Matt DiTosto along with juniors Patrick McCormick, Spencer Reynolds, with sophomores Jackson Andres, John Reid and Connor McCormick, the boys’ hockey team maintained its winning tradition. The Little Tigers posted a 10-9-1 record under coach Tim Campbell. After the season, Campbell stepped down and was replaced by longtime assistant and former PHS standout, Terence Miller.

Sophomore Lucy Herring was a standout for the girls’ hockey team, providing the main highlights as the team went winless under coach Christian Herzog.

The winter track team produced some fine individual efforts for coach Ben Samara. Senior Tim Brennan took third in the shot put at the state Group III meet while classmate Ian McIsaac placed third in the 1,600. On the girls’ side, junior Michelle Bazile finished third in the shot put at the state Group III meet at Toms River.

Senior star David Klinges proved to be a standout for the PHS wrestling team. Klinges took third at 160 pounds District 17 tournament to lead the way as coach Rashone Johnson’s squad placed eighth of nine schools in the team standings.

It was a breakthrough spring for the PHS lacrosse programs. Coach Peter Stanton passed the 200-win mark at the helm of the boys’ program and led the Little Tigers to their first-ever county crown. Led by such veteran stars as Adam Ainslie, Matt Corrado, Matt Purdy, Matt DiTosto, Jack Persico and the Halliday brothers, Zach and Kevin, the Little Tigers routed Allentown 10-4 in the MCT championship game. PHS also produced a good run in the state tournament, advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals where it fell to powerful Shawnee 5-4. The Little Tigers ended the spring with a final record of 16-4.

With the one-two punch of juniors Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs triggering the offense, the girls’ lax team made some history of its own. Coach Kelsey O’Gorman’s squad went 18-4 and made it to the sectional final for the first time this century.

Riding the pitching of sophomore ace Sara Eisenach and the hitting production of senior star and Wisconsin-bound Marisa Gonzalez, the PHS softball team reached new heights. Coach Dave Boehm’s club hit double figures in wins for the first time in program history, going 11-12 on the spring.

Senior infielder Ellis Bloom and senior pitcher Rohit Chawla had big years as the baseball team rebounded from a tough start to finish in a high note. After losing 10 of their first 11 games, the Little Tigers ended the season at 9-15 for head coach Dave Roberts.

The boys’ tennis team enjoyed another superb spring, finishing fourth in the MCT and advancing to the Central Jersey Group III finals. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad posted a final record of 16-2 and was sparked by the doubles duo of Tyler Hack and Zach Kleiman together with singles stars Rishab Tanga and Brock DeHaven.

Senior star thrower and Dartmouth-bound Tim Brennan starred for boys’ track, winning the discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet. Brennan, along with running standouts Anders Berg, Matt Wong, Conor Donahue, and Jacob Rist, helped coach Rashone Johnson’s team place fifth at the sectional meet.

Another throwing star, junior Michelle Bazile, stood out for the girls’ track team. Bazile won both the shot put and discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet to help coach Jim Smirk’s squad place ninth at the meet. The quartet of Paige Metzheiser, Lou Mialhe, Julie Bond, and Amelia Whaley also performed well at the sectional, placing fifth in the 4×800 relay.

Girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca produced one of the highlights of the fall season as she rallied to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final. It was the first-ever state singles crown for a PHS player. Rosca helped the Little Tigers reach the Group III team championship match where they fell 4-1 to Montville. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s club, which placed second in the MCT with Rosca winning the first singles crown, posted a final record of 16-1.

Led by senior Emilia Lopez Ona and a pair of juniors, Julia DiTosto and Lucy Herring, the field hockey team continued it recent run of success. Coach Heather Serverson’s squad went 13-4-2, reaching the county semis and advancing to the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals.

Junior striker Shannon Pawlak provided the offense while Dana Smith and Haley Bodden controlled the midfield as girls’ soccer produced another outstanding campaign. Coach Greg Hand’s squad advanced to the county semis and the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals and finished the fall at 14-4.

Seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair along with junior Chase Ealy stood out as the boys’ soccer team experienced a bumpy ride this fall. After starting 7-1-1, the Little Tigers slumped over the last few weeks of the regular season and lost to Hun in the opening round of the MCT. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team showed its quality in the state tourney as it advanced to the Group III Central Jersey sectional semis where it fell 1-0 to eventual state Group III co-champion Allentown. PHS ended the fall with a 10-6-3 record.

Paced by Jacob Rist and Conor Donahue, the boys’ cross country team continued to make strides. Under new coach Mark Shelley, PHS placed fourth in the county meet and second in the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Sophomore Lou Mialhe raced to the head of the pack for girls’ cross country and helped the Little Tigers enjoy another superb campaign. Coach Jim Smirk’s took second at the county meet and third at the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Senior Liam Helstrom did it all for the PHS football team, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery at linebacker. Despite Helstrom’s heroics, it was a long year for the Little Tigers as they went 0-10 under new coach Charlie Gallagher.

Stuart

The arrival of new head coach Dana Leary gave the Stuart Country Day School basketball team a fresh start. Although the Tartans went 2-13, such young players as freshman Harley Guzman, freshman Kate Walsh, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and sophomore Harlyn Bell showed progress.

Lacey-Ann Wisdom led the way as Stuart track finished third of eight teams at the state Prep B championship meet at Gill St. Bernard. Wisdom won the long jump and the triple jump for coach Len Klepack’s squad. Olivia Vande Woude placed fourth in the 400-meter hurdles while Paul-Anne Robb was fifth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the triple jump. Queen Johnson took sixth in both the 100 hurdles and the 100 dash. Kate Walsh took fourth in the discus and fifth in the high jump. The quartet of Annaliza Carey, Robb, Vande Woude and Wisdom placed second in the 4×100 relay.

A trio of freshmen, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, and Tori Hannah, provided a slew of highlights in the spring for the Stuart lacrosse team. Maser had a team-high 45 points on 36 goals and 9 assists with Hannah chipping in 20 goals and 14 assists, and Servis tallying 24 goals and 7 assists as coach Caitlin Grant’s squad went 4-10.

Julia Rourke starred at second singles as the tennis team went 3-6 in dual match play. Coach Katherine Stoltenberg’s squad placed 12th in the MCT.

The trio of Maser, Servis, and Hannah along with seniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret LaNasa starred as field hockey was much improved. Coach Missy Bruvik guided the Tartans to the state Prep B semis and a 7-14 record, more than doubling the program’s win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1.

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Taylor Williams heads to the basket in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore center Williams contributed eight points, three rebounds, and two assists to help Princeton top Illinois State 65-39. Princeton, now 7-4, is next in action when it plays in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Taylor Williams heads to the basket in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore center Williams contributed eight points, three rebounds, and two assists to help Princeton top Illinois State 65-39. Princeton, now 7-4, is next in action when it plays in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s basketball team trailing Illinois State 9-3 in the early going last Wednesday, Taylor Williams made her presence felt in helping to turn the tide for the Tigers.

The 6’3 sophomore center scored six points to trigger a 15-0 run which broke the game open for Princeton as it cruised to a 65-39 rout of the Redbirds.

For Williams, who played just 84 minutes for the Tigers last winter, the lowest total on the team, just being present on the court is a joy.

“It is a lot of fun being out there,” said Williams, a native of Warren, Ohio.

“We have a fun group of girls this year. The chemistry on and off the court is unreal. Getting to play with these girls and fulfilling whatever role I am placed in on this team, especially with the Ivies coming up, is really important.”

Williams is carving out a role as a key reserve down low, averaging 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game this winter for Princeton, which improved to 7-4 with the victory over Illinois State.

The center’s progress is the product of some rigorous offseason training. “Last year, I knew what to do but I wasn’t as confident with it,” said Williams.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer with individual coaches and playing pickup. I worked on post moves and a lot of one-vs-one against other players. My main focus was being dominant on the low block and now it feels good to be somewhat of a presence down low against the other team’s defender.”

Williams’ diligent approach is emblematic of Princeton’s collective mindset.

“This is a group that definitely wants to get better and consistently comes to practice with a mindset that we want to get better,” said Williams of the Tigers who are taking a four-game winning streak into the holiday break.

“Losing last year’s seniors, we knew this year wasn’t going to be easy and everybody has stepped up to their role. Everyone is prepared to work hard for the success we want in the Ivies coming up.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is pleasantly surprised by how quickly Williams has stepped up.

“Taylor Williams is critical to our team and I would never imagine saying that so quickly in her career,” said Banghart.

“She is playing with confidence and has a post presence. She really wants to be helpful and she doesn’t care how.”

The Tigers got help from rapidly improving freshman guard Taylor Brown in the win over Illinois State as she contributed nine points and eight rebounds.

“Taylor Brown is gaining her collegiate sea legs and you guys are now seeing the type of lead guard that I recruited,” said Banghart. “She has adjusted to our pace, we have been pretty hard on her.”

While Banghart wasn’t thrilled with the type of performance Princeton produced against Illinois State as it committed 28 turnovers, she is happy with the bottom line.

“I think they were a little bit bored tonight, which worries me because in the league I think there are times where you have to fight that,” said Banghart.

“We knew we wanted to play a lot of kids so I think that got us out of rhythm too. We could make a lot of excuses or just say we are 7-4 with a very, very tough schedule and just four home games.”

Upon returning from the holiday break, the Tigers will be thrown right back in the fire as they compete in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29 where they face Alabama in the opening round and either Coppin State or Virginia in their next game.

“This doesn’t get any easier,” said Banghart, whose team will stay on the road with games at Drexel on January 4 and its Ivy League opener at Penn on January 11.

“I think we do need this mental break from each other because I have really been pushing them hard and I think you are seeing why, they are getting a lot better. I have been pushing them harder than I have pushed any other team. I think they need a few days away from my voice and I think I need a few days away from critiquing them.”

Williams, for her part, is ready to keep pushing when the Tigers head to Virginia.

“We are really excited for that, Alabama is a really good team and the other opponents in the tournament are awesome,” said Williams.

“Away trips are really good experiences for all of the players. It is a good feeling for preparation going into the Ivies; we know we worked harder than anyone else.”

December 18, 2013
FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Amanda Berntsen was an afterthought for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last winter in her freshman campaign, playing a total of 152 minutes in 23 appearances.

Determined to be a bigger contributor for the Tigers as a sophomore, Berntsen put her nose to the grindstone during the offseason.

“Last year I got some minutes but not too much,” said Bentsen, a 5’8 native of Chatham, N.J.

“I worked hard over the summer. I just took tons of shots. I have just been able to develop poise and confidence being the point guard and I think that has carried me a long way. Now I am able to do things that I just didn’t have the confidence to do on the court last year. Defensively, I just learned how to play college defense.”

Last Sunday, Berntsen did some big things down the stretch to help Princeton rally for an 84-80 win in overtime against visiting Delaware. With 2:29 left in regulation, Berntsen hit a three-pointer to knot the contest at 70-70.

In overtime, Berntsen made a bucket on a beautiful left-handed layup through traffic and then delivered a deft touch pass that led to a three-pointer by Blake Dietrick. The sophomore canned a free throw with seconds left to help seal the victory.

Noting that Princeton had lost 59-58 at Delaware last season, Berntsen saw the dramatic win over the Blue Hens as a big step forward for the 6-4 Tigers.

“It was a great test and that is what our coaches want us to do with this schedule they have given us,” asserted Berntsen, who ended the game with eight points, six rebounds, and two assists.

“We definitely showed today that our team is coming together and playing together. We showed enormous toughness and enormous heart to come together.”

Berntsen showed some courage in nailing the crucial three-pointer, her first basket beyond the arc all season.

“I saw I was wide open and I needed to catch and shoot and that’s what I did,” recalled Berntsen, who is now averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

“It was a good time for it to come. It felt really good. Blake [Dietrick] did a great job of drawing two people to get the open shot so credit to her. I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t hitting that much from the outside. I lost a little bit of my confidence but coach [Courtney Banghart] and I talked last week and she said they are going to fall, you just need to get confidence now.”

On her layup in overtime, Berntsen did what comes naturally to her. “Driving to the basket is my favorite thing to do, I have been doing that my whole life,” said Bentsen.

“If I can get into the paint and people don’t converge, I am going to take it myself. If not, I am going to look to kick it out for my teammates. Coach has challenged me to do that to open up for my teammates and that’s what I have been working on.”

Growing up about an hour away from Princeton, Berntsen is drawing a cheering section at Jadwin Gym.

“My high school coach was here and I also have teammates that are a couple of years younger than me,” said Berntsen.

“I didn’t get a chance to play with them but they all came out. My parents come. It really helps having that home support group come out. We have a lot of people on the team from the west coast and it is just nice to get fans here for them. It is also really encouraging.”

Princeton head coach Banghart was encouraged by her team’s performance against Delaware.

“That is a game we would not have won two weeks ago,” asserted Banghart.

“We talked about process with a young team the whole time. You have seen how much this team has grown. There is a little bit of a makeover for both teams but they are two championship cultures so we knew it was going to come down to a combination of tactical play and toughness.”

Princeton needed a combination of good inside-out play to pull out the victory which saw the Tigers trailing 74-70 with 1:30 left in regulation.

“I thought the key was that we had pieces of everybody,” said Banghart, who got a game-high 22 points from Dietrick with Kristen Helmstetter chipping in 18 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Wheatley contributing 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

“Wheatley had a big steal late and made two big free throws. Amanda made a big 3, I think it was her first of the year and a nice finish. Kristen and Blake were so consistent throughout the game. I thought they were what we needed when we needed it.”

In Banghart’s view, the consistent work ethic displayed by Berntsen has led to her improvement.

“She is a kid who didn’t waste one second of her freshman year and the same thing with Taylor Williams,” said Banghart. “Those are kids you didn’t see a lot last year but they gave us everything they had for every practice, all 112 practices last year. The way we practice is why our kids get better.”

Having won five of its last six games, the Tigers are getting better and better,

“In order to challenge ourselves to get better, you have to play really good teams,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Illinois State on December 18.

“I went in there and said I don’t have a lot to say because I want to hear what you have to say. One of the kids who didn’t even play said it was 1 through 14, it was a team win. That’s how we practice and that’s how we play.”

Berntsen, for her part, liked the way the team played as one in the win over Delaware.

“In the past few games, we played really well together too and we have had moments but I think this was just a game where we won it off of playing together,” said Berntsen. “It just feels awesome. It is a great home win.”

And with Berntsen feeling more and more at home on the court, she should be experiencing plenty more great moments this winter.

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The snowstorm that hit the area last Saturday may have kept the crowd down at the “Celebration of New Jersey Wrestling” held at Jadwin Gym in conjunction with the Princeton University-Rutgers match but it didn’t dampen the spirit of those who did brave the inclement weather.

“It was an awesome environment to compete in,” said Princeton wrestling head coach Chris Ayres, who estimated that a crowd of around 700 turned out for festivities which included a youth wrestling match, a clinic conducted by a Princeton and Rutgers assistant coaches, and a parade of former New Jersey state high school champions during halftime of the college match.

“The upper deck was closed so all the fans were in the big bleachers down by the floor. The best thing was recognizing the state champions; that piece was due to coach [Joe] Dubuque and he has gotten so many e-mails thanking him for that.”

Unfortunately, the Tigers, who came into the day with a 3-0 record in dual matches, didn’t compete as well as they had hoped, falling 27-9 to their local rivals.

“We didn’t perform very well,” said Ayres. “I have to credit Rutgers, they wrestled harder. In five matches we scored first but we weren’t finishing strong. It is a young team and we are still figuring some things out.”

Princeton’s two wins against the Scarlet Knights came from junior Adam Krop at 141 pounds and from sophomore Abe Ayala at 197. Krop pinned Tyson Dippery while Ayala outpointed Hayden Hrymack 6-4.

“Krop has been on and off; he has been injured a bit,” said Ayres. “In the Rutgers match, he was on. He is fun to watch. He saw an opening and he got that pin which is what good wrestlers do. Ayala keeps getting better; he lost to the kid from Rutgers in the Binghamton tournament and came back and really controlled the match. It is exciting to see.”

The Tigers have produced some exciting results in the first month of the season.

“We have competed really well,” asserted Ayres, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the program.

“We were third in the Navy Invitational ahead of such schools as Bucknell, Kent State, and Ohio. At Madison Square Garden, we went 2-0 and beat Army for the first time in 40 years, we think. We are still checking on that. We then beat Binghamton for the first time.”

With a lineup featuring a number of freshmen and sophomores, Princeton has room for plenty of growth.

“Everyone has been doing their duty,” said Ayres, who had three freshmen (Jordan Laster, Matt Gancayco, and Brett Harner) and four sophomores (Kevin Moylan, Scott Gibbons, Cole Lampman, and Ayala) wrestling in the Rutgers match

“Matthew Gancayco beat a guy in Army who had been 3rd in EIWA. Brett Harner is having a great season. Chris Perez (a sophomore) won the Drexel match for us with a big pin. Guys have stepped up at different times.”

Although Princeton didn’t step up against Rutgers, Ayres believes the loss will prove to be a good learning experience for his young team.

“That was the hard thing about Rutgers,” lamented Ayres, whose team will compete in the Wilkes Open in Wilkes, Pa. on December 28 before heading to the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. from December 29-30.

“We felt like we could win the match or be in a position to win the match. I think we will make another big jump. We have Midlands coming up and two years ago we got a third there.”

No matter what happens as the team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule, Ayers believes the program has already made a big jump.

“I think the commitment level and the competition in the room are the biggest areas of progress,” said Ayres.

“In the past if we had a starter out, there was no one to really step in. We have talent and depth. If we have to sit someone, we feel the next guy can come in and do a good job. Last year, we knew our starting lineup by now. This year we still have three or four weights up in the air.”

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team bringing a 3-12 record into its holiday break, the numbers don’t lie.

Among the 12 teams in ECAC Hockey, Princeton is last in goals scored (2.07) in all contests and has given up the second most goals per game (3.87).

In the wake of its final action before the hiatus, which saw Princeton lose 3-0 at No. 11 Union and 5-2 at Rensselaer, Tiger head coach Bob Prier didn’t hesitate in pinpointing his team’s biggest issue.

“We need to work better in the defensive-zone,” asserted Prier, whose team is 2-8 in ECACH play and tied with Dartmouth for last in the league standings. “We are on the wrong side of checks; we are trying to pickpocket the puck and do it the easy way.”

In Prier’s view, getting stingier on defense will go a long way towards helping the team be more productive offensively.

“If we play stronger defensively, the offense will come,” said Prier. “I am not worried about us scoring goals. It’s not that we can’t score goals.”

Prier is also looking for his players to be tougher all over the ice. “We need to play with more pride and work ethic,” said Prier, whose team went 1-5 in its last six games before the break, getting outscored 31-12 in that span.

“We need to work extra hard around the puck. We are working hard in the open ice, flying up the rink but that is easy. We need to battle harder in 1-on-1 situations. Our breakout needs to be better. We need to play more fundamentally sound and stay between our opponents and the net.”

Having dealt with injuries to such key players as Andrew Calof, Alec Rush, Tommy Davis, Tyler Maugeri, and Ben Foster, it has been hard for the Tigers to go full throttle in practice.

“We haven’t had the bodies and we have barely had contact in practice because we want to keep the guys healthy,” said Prier.

“It’s harder work to stay low and knock guys off the puck. We are not able to battle in practice and that is carrying over into the games.”

But with plenty of games left, Prier believes his team can use the break to regroup.

“We need to get the guys fresher so we can battle more,” said Prier, whose team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule by playing in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.

“We have lots of the season left. After the RPI game, I said to the guys that we have faced just about everybody in the league and there is no one we played where we thought we have to figure out a way to beat them. The league is so tight. We need to clean up some things and we have as good a chance as anyone to win these games.”

December 11, 2013
WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Spencer Weisz brought a reputation as a heady player to the table in joining the Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

During his senior season at Seton Hall Prep in 2012-13, Weisz averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals on the way to earning second-team New Jersey All-State honors.

Stepping into the starting lineup at Princeton from day one this season, Weisz has focused on honing his basketball IQ.

“I just wanted to come in and play within the offense and stay solid on defense,” said the 6’4, 180-pound Weisz, a native of Florham Park.

“I think the detailed scouting report helps a lot. The coaches do a great job of preparing us in the practices before games. It allows me to really understand what is going to come. The ability to know ahead of time really benefits myself and the team as a whole.”

Last Saturday, Weisz showed the benefits of that detailed preparation, achieving his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65 before 1,952 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming into the game, Weisz was looking to hit the boards. “I just want to stay aggressive offensively and defensively,” said Weisz, who is averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game in his debut campaign and was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his effort against FDU.

“I struggled with boxing out a little bit in the beginning but some of our key rebounders are out right now so you just want to step up and be where the opportunity is present.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson acknowledged that the precocious Weisz is progressing even faster than he had hoped.

“I knew he was a good player but I think I underestimated his ability to get to the rim and make tough layups,” said Henderson, whose team extended its winning streak and improved to 6-1 with the win over the Knights.

“What is important is that he listens. When we say this is important, he is right there with you. He doesn’t like it when you tell him he has done something wrong, which is a good thing. I say he is an underrated passer, he makes people better, similar to T.J. [Bray].”

With Princeton missing Bray and Jimmy Sherburne, who weren’t allowed to compete on Saturday due to violations of athletic department rules, it did a few things wrong against FDU as it went on a 12-3 run to build a 36-28 halftime lead and then started the second half by outscoring the Knights 21-10 to break the game open.

“I think they understood what we wanted them to do on offense and defense but they needed to be on the court to understand it,” said Henderson.

“I think that is when it started clicking. FDU does some tricky things on defense. You have to keep your composure which I thought we did nicely. Spencer was getting some drives to the basket and some kick-outs. I think it was just moving the ball.”

Junior forward Denton Koon was on the ball against the Knights, scoring 18 points with six rebounds and three assists.

“Denton established himself inside a few times and then we had a huge 3 from Denton in the corner which I thought was a really nice play,” said Henderson, whose team will look to keep on the winning track when it plays at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.

“I thought he was terrific tonight. It reminded me of Denton last year. He is a very, very difficult matchup. He banged two 3s, so he is versatile. I thought he brought a lot of balance to our team tonight. He had some huge offensive rebounds as well.”

Koon, for his part, gained rhythm from his work in the paint. “I had a lot of opportunities near the rim and I got myself going a little bit,” said Koon. “We had some open slips to the rim and that helps to get a couple  of easy looks.”

With Princeton off to its best start since the 1997-98 season, when it was 7-0 through seven games, Koon likes the way things are looking for the Tigers.

“We are moving the ball really well; I am excited with the way we are playing,” said Koon.

“Since I have been here, this is definitely the best we have felt early in the season. We are playing together, playing as a team; it just feels good. A lot of guys are contributing well to the system. We feel good about the way things are going right now.”

In Weisz’s view, the Tigers’ intelligent play in the second half against FDU exemplified the team’s ability to run its system.

“Everyone’s ability to see the floor and read cuts showed tonight,” said Weisz.

“I think that contributed a lot to the second half run. We were able to get some open 3s and some timely baskets and we were able to push the lead to a point where we didn’t want to let up but it was a little more comfortable.”

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Jaimie McDonell, her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team turned out to be a lost year.

McDonell tore a ligament in her knee before the 2012-13 season began. She was later diagnosed with a hip injury that required surgery. As a result, McDonell never saw a minute of playing time.

“I just tried to be a positive, supportive teammate the best I could even though I was a little miserable by myself,” said McDonell.

“I got back on the ice in the end of April, beginning of May. It wasn’t full contact until August.”

Back to full speed this season, sophomore forward McDonell has been a positive force for the Tigers, as she has scored nine points in four goals and five assists and is tied for third on the team in scoring.

McDonell is savoring her return to action. “Especially after an injury, it makes you so grateful for every time you get out there,” said McDonell. “You don’t realize how fast it can all go away. The seniors are starting to feel that now.”

Last Friday, McDonell helped Princeton get off to a fast start against Rensselaer as she scored a first period goal to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead on the way to a 4-1 victory.

In reflecting on her tally, McDonell acknowledged she was in the right place at the right time as she deflected the puck past the Rensselaer goalie.

“I saw [Ali] Pankowski taking a one-timer and I just braced myself a little bit,” recalled McDonell, a 5’8 native of East York, Ontario. “I was pretty confident from where it hit me.”

Bouncing back from losing two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota over Thanksgiving weekend, Princeton showed confidence against RPI from the opening face-off.

“We had our mindset, we knew what we wanted to do, we had a game plan and we just stuck to the basics and got the job done out there,” said McDonell of the Tigers who got the job done a day later as they completed a weekend sweep by topping Union 4-1.

“I think we set the tone in the first and we kept sticking to our game plan. We didn’t fall apart, we kept doing it and eventually we just kept going.”

While McDonell is thrilled to be doing well this season, she is quick to credit her linemates, junior Brianna Leahy and freshman Hilary Lloyd, with helping her produce.

“I feel good but it is also who I am playing with,” said McDonell. “My line is really clicking; I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wingers and defensemen.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the way his team clicked in the win over Rensselaer.

“We played solidly in the first and still played well as the game continued,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from Denna Laing and one from Olivia Mucha in the triumph.

“The shorthanded goal by Laing was huge and even the second one coming before the first period was up was big. I think that was just the second game all year that we have scored the first goal so that was a big goal, no question.”

Having McDonell on the ice this season has been a big plus for the Tigers. “We thought we would get Jaimie back by Christmas time last season but that didn’t happen so that was a bummer,” said Kampersal.

“She is a heart and soul player, she is a good kid in the middle. She works really hard. She has been consistently good for us all year.”

Senior captain Laing has been a consistent force all season long for Princeton.

“Denna played solid for us as well,” said Kampersal of his senior captain who now has a team-high 11 points on four goals and seven assists. “That shorthanded goal was good and she got that third one. She is a big, strong kid. She skates hard and she works hard. It takes a lot to bring her down. She is a player who has endurance and can last. She can play good strong minutes for us.”

Kampersal was hoping for a strong weekend from his team in its last action before a holiday hiatus.

“We need a strong day tomorrow and then we need a break,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the weekend at 7-6-2 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey and is next in action when it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.

“It will be nice to get a whole healthy lineup out there. The focus is just getting our power play better.”

McDonell, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“I think this could be a turning point in the season,” asserted McDonnell.

“After the past two weeks, we really needed to bounce back and show the league who we are and get back to how we were playing before. We had a rough patch, it is all about adversity.”

And McDonell certainly knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.

December 4, 2013
ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team opened its season last month, T.J. Bray cut a forlorn figure.

The senior captain and star guard was sidelined due to a fractured hand suffered during the preseason and sat grim-faced  on the bench wearing a cast.

Despite being out of action, Bray was able to stay sharp as he recovered from the injury. “I did a lot of conditioning with our strength and conditioning coach when I had my cast on,” said Bray.

“I got my cast off a couple of Wednesdays ago and I was able to start slowly doing things then. I have probably been playing 1-on-0 for about a week now. In terms of live stuff, it has been less than a week. I put a lot of time in over the summer so I didn’t lose too much of that.”

Bray returned to action for limited duty in a 70-56 win over Rice on November 23 and then showed a hot hand three days later in a 71-66 victory over visiting George Mason. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray hit on 7-of-10 shots for a team-high 18 points.

“It was obviously one of my better games as a player here,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc.  who passed for a career-high 10 assists in the victory over the Patriots and had six rebounds and no turnovers in the win as he achieved his first career double-double.

“My teammates were great too, they were knocking down shots which makes my job easy. I know if I throw it to them, they are going to catch it and make a good play. They help me out so much.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no bones about how much it helps the Tigers to have Bray back on the court. “I thought he was just terrific,” said Henderson of Bray, who scored 15 points and had a career-high nine rebounds in a 66-53 win at Bucknell last Saturday and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“Once again he had a line that I would have dreamed of having as a player here. I always wanted to have lots of assists and no turnovers. This is a helluva of a line including the last shot to put us up four which I thought was just huge. We missed T.J. in our first few games and I am really happy to have him back.”

In assessing Bray’s strengths, Henderson pointed to his versatility. “T.J. is taking the ball out of bounds; he has got energy to play another half or two,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 5-1 with the win over Bucknell and will look to extend a four-game winning streak when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.

“He is coming up with huge rebounds, he is telling everybody what to do. He makes a huge shot going to his right off the glass and he is a lefty. He just does a little bit of everything and I am glad he is on our team.”

Bray’s court vision is possibly his best attribute, in Henderson’s opinion. “He sees the game, he sees things,” said Henderson. “I don’t think you have to teach somebody that, I think you just show them what to look for.”

Henderson liked what he saw from his team collectively as it held off a George Mason charge that saw the visitors tie the game at 66-66 after trailing 40-23 at halftime. “I am never comfortable with a lead, I knew they were going to come at us,” said Henderson, who got offensive balance against the Patriots as Ben Hazel scored 14 points with Hans Brase adding 12 and Denton Koon chipping in 10.

“They just started going to the rim. I think with the way the games are called now, you have got to be prepared for that. We got into some foul trouble with Hans and all of a sudden the lead starts to chip away. I really liked that we maintained some aggressiveness. One team becomes very aggressive and the other team has to match that aggressiveness and I thought we did that nicely at the end of the game, including making a huge couple of stops there defensively.”

Bray, for his part, sensed that Princeton could outfight George Mason in crunch time.

“I have played in enough games here that it has happened before,” said Bray. “It was nice that we were able to come out on top. I knew that we had to keep battling and that’s what we did. We were able to get some nice buckets inside. Coach drew up some great plays. If we just kept battling, I knew we would be on the right side of things at the end of the game.”

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Alex Wheatley, moving into the starting lineup for the Princeton University women’s basketball team this winter has given her an increased sense of urgency.

“That is different, that is fun,” said the 6’2 sophomore from Upper Holland. Pa. reflecting on her promotion which comes in the wake of a freshman season that saw her come off the bench in all 29 of her appearances. “It makes you be ready for when the whistle first blows.”

Wheatley and her four classmates on the team put in extra time as they prepared to make a bigger contribution this winter.

“We all worked a lot over the summer and really tried to get stronger in preparation for this year,” said Wheatley, whose fellow sophomores include Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, and Taylor Williams.

“Just mentally, not being freshman, I think it helps to be able to run the plays and to understand the game a little bit better on defense. I am really trying to bring something new to the team.”

Last week, Wheatley brought a lot to the Tigers in a 74-65 loss to St. Joseph’s as she scored a team-high 14 points and contributed three rebounds and two assists.

“I was happier with how I played,” said Wheatley. “I have a lot more to work on, but just like the game for the team, I thought it was a step forward for me.”

Wheatley acknowledged that the Tigers need to step things up at the defensive end. “I think defensively we need to communicate more,” said Wheatley. “St. Joe’s is a very good team. They shot really well, they are very good at moving on offense with screens and all of that. We were learning as we went.”

The Tigers have been good learners as they strive to get on the right page in the wake of losing four starters to graduation.

“I think we are getting better with every practice,” said Wheatley. “I think we have good chemistry. I love my teammates.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart saw improvement in her squad against St. Joe’s, even in defeat.

“I like where we are today based on where we were on Saturday,” said Banghart. “We were much better at getting the ball inside. We were much more aggressive off the dribble. We are getting the ball out in transition better. They have made major steps from last Saturday and last Tuesday’s games.”

The Tigers do have to get much better on defense. “Defensively, there is not a lot of trust yet,” said Banghart.

“It starts with yourself, trusting that you can guard off the dribble and then next to that is trusting that your teammates will be there. We are just not there defensively yet but I would rather know that now. There is lots of time to fix it and they have to see it.”

Banghart acknowledges that she has yet to figure out her best lineup. “I would say we are still trying to find the right combinations,” said Banghart, whose team headed to Oregon last weekend where it topped Portland State 94-76 in Saturday before falling 110-90 to the University of Oregon a day later in moving to 3-4.

“We are still trying to find what the matchups are. We don’t have our fighting eight, we are kind of a fighting vague 10.”

Although the Tigers may be still be trying to find themselves, they haven’t lost the fighting spirit that has helped the program win four straight Ivy League titles.

“I think there is a little bit of a heavy heart because they don’t like to lose,” said Banghart of the Tigers who will stay on the road as they play at Navy on December 6.

“I think fortunately with this group, that hunger to get better overrides the heavy heart. This is no reason to hang your heads. I told them if you wanted to win a guaranteed 20 games, I should have scheduled differently. I care about being really good in January with a really young team.”

Wheatley, for her part, isn’t fazed by the challenging slate of non-conference games.

“I think, like coach is saying, our schedule is one that give us experience, not necessarily wins,” said Wheatley.

“They are meant to be tough games and we are supposed to get better after every one. We still have games left in the preseason and we are going to give them our all.”

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University men’s water polo team had the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship tournament in late November circled on its calendar from day one.

“We were excited; our whole season is geared to those three days,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team entered the tourney, formerly known as the Eastern Championship, seeded sixth and ranked 18th nationally.

The Tigers produced an exciting opening day at the competition held at Brown University as they topped Iona 16-12 and then edged Harvard 9-7 to reach the semifinals.

“The Iona win was good; we had two games that day and we wanted to get an early lead so we could play some of our other guys and give the top 10 players a rest,” said Nicolao, who got nine goals on the day from sophomore star Thomas Nelson and a total of four from junior standout and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg.

“We knew we were in for a dogfight in the second game; Harvard played really well. We were flat in the first half; our shots weren’t going in. I give Harvard credit, that was due to the way they were playing. We started playing better in the second half and we were able to pull it out.”

In the semis, the Tigers faced a nemesis in third-seeded Navy, who had topped Princeton 12-10 in the semifinals of the Southern Championship.

“There were five to eight teams that could win the title and Navy was one of them,” said Nicolao, a former Navy star.

“They had a great weekend at Southerns. They are a deep team and they are good swimmers. It was the fourth time we played them and we were 2-1.”

With Nelson tallying four goals, including the game winner, the Tigers were able to edge the Midshipmen 9-8.

“We wanted to control tempo and keep them from getting into their run and gun game,” said Nicolao. “The fourth quarter could have gone either way and we were lucky to get out of that.”

Princeton’s luck ran out in the final against St. Francis College Brooklyn as the Tigers lost 11-9, falling short of earning the NCAA berth at stake in the contest.

“That was just a battle; they shoot the ball so well and they have one of the best goalies in the country,” said Nicolao, who got two goals from Nelson in the final with Hoffenberg adding a goal and two assists and freshman Jovan Jeremic tallying three goals.

“We wanted to keep it a low-scoring game and have it even in the second half and then hope to wear them down with our conditioning. It was 9-9 with three and a half minutes left, whoever got the next goal was going to win. We made a mistake and they capitalized.”

While Princeton ended the tournament on a down note, Nicolao had high praise for his players.

“I am really proud of our guys,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the fall with a 22-6 record.

“Our goal each year is to get to the eastern championship game and play for the NCAA bid. We know anything can happen when you get to that game. We just came up just a little short this time.”

The team’s group of seniors, co-captain Kurt Buchbinder, Matt Pugliese, A.J. Galainena, Alex Rafter, Constantine Nakos, Ben Dearborn, and Tyler Amina, have made some good things happen for Princeton over their careers.

“We have a large number of them and they won a championship and played in two finals,” said Nicolao, reflecting on his senior class. “They did a lot for the program. Kurt was a great leader, he was a positive kid.”

With such returning players as Nelson, Hoffenberg, Kayj Shannon, Sam Butler, Jovan Jeremic, Jamie Kuprenas, Curtis Fink, and Alex Gow, the Tigers have the potential to do some great things in the future.

“I am really excited,” said Nicolao, who has guided the Tigers to three Eastern titles (2004, 2009, 2011).

“In the years past when we won the title it was precede by a tough loss in the finals. I am hoping we can springboard this to a title. We just need to do that little extra.”

November 27, 2013

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 21-0 at Dartmouth last Saturday, it wasn’t fazed.

After all, Princeton had rallied from a 17-0 deficit at Brown in October and roared back for a 39-17 win and had dug a 16-0 hole against Penn at Franklin Field in early November only to thump the Quakers 38-26.

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Tigers’ ability to score in bunches through its hurry-up, no-huddle offense had thrust Princeton into the limelight as it had already amassed an Ivy League record 413 points and clinched a share of the league crown coming into the contest against the Big Green at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, for his part, was confident that another eruption was forthcoming.

“We had our best Wednesday of the year,” said Surace, whose team came into the game ranked 19th nationally among FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs.

“As the week progressed, I thought we were really peaking. We were hoping to play our best game of the year.”

Sure enough, Princeton started to chip away, narrowing the deficit to 21-14 at halftime as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter and then did a one-yard quarterback plunge for a score in the waning seconds of the half.

On the Tigers’ second possession in the third quarter  Epperly found Matt Costello for a 30-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 21-21.

Surace had a sense of deja vu at that point. “We needed to get moving forward; we were off on third down conversions,” said Surace. “But like the Brown and Penn games, we got on a roll. We got it to 21-21 and it looked like we were going to do it again.”

But this time, Dartmouth stemmed the tide, regaining the lead late in the third quarter as quarterback Dalyn Williams raced 17 yards for a touchdown. Princeton responded with a field goal midway through the fourth quarter but as a snow squall hit the field, the Tigers went cold and ended up losing 28-24.

The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

In analyzing the defeat, Surace said it came down to big plays. “They had four really long explosive runs; they had 150 yards on four runs,” said Surace whose team was outgained 239 yards to 140 on the ground.

“They also had a 56-yard TD pass. We had 55 plays of terrific defense, a few decent ones, and five bad ones. Offensively, we struggled to get chunk yardage plays. We had bad field position. We grinded out a lot of first downs.

On Princeton’s last possession, the Tigers couldn’t overcome bad field position as an Epperly pass was intercepted with 24 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Big Green.

“We had punted it to them deep in their territory,” said Surace. “They hadn’t gotten a first down in a while but they were able to get it to our 20. We got it at the 20 and there was a blizzard at that time. We needed some luck; it was tough sledding with the weather.”

While the defeat was a tough way to end the fall, Surace went out of his way in his post-game comments to focus on what had been accomplished in a special season as the program won its first league crown since 2006.

“We gathered them together and told them how proud we were of the season,” said Surace, a Princeton alum who became just the third person to ever win an Ivy League title as a player (1989) and a head coach along with his counterpart on Saturday, Buddy Teevens, who accomplished the feat for Dartmouth as a player in 1978 and as the Big Green’s head coach in 1990 and 1991, and Dartmouth’s Jake Crouthamel, a player for the 1958 championship team and a head coach with three Ivy championships for the Big Green from 1971-73.

“We thanked the seniors for all that they have done. They will never play for Princeton again and it was the last football game for most of them. It is a disappointing way to end but we came into the season with three goals to win the Big 3 (beating Harvard and Yale), win the Ivy, and get nationally ranked. The last one might be hard now but we accomplished the other two. We had two tough losses but we had eight wins in between and we have to remember those games. It is a long time since we have won the title and we have to be proud of that.”

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s success this fall came down to a collective effort.

“For me, what sticks out is how many people contributed to this,” said Surace.

“We have some players like Caraun [Reid] and a few others who are going to get some accolades but there were so many guys who stepped up. It really was a team thing. They do things the right way.”

With a good foundation in place, the Tigers are headed in the right direction. “Last year, all the games were battles that went down to the wire,” said Surace.

“This year we were lucky enough to get some separation in some games. We showed that we could compete with the Browns, Penns, and Harvards, week in, week out. We will give the players a week off and then after Thanksgiving, we will start getting ready for 2014. It is great to get this title in a league that is so good where there is such parity.”

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colton Phinney faced a big challenge last Friday as he made the third start of his career for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.

The freshman goalie was between the pipes as the Tigers hosted a No. 5 Quinnipiac squad that came into Baker Rink riding an 11-0-1 unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats put Phinney under the gun from the opening face-off, generating 13 shots in the first period. The 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J. was up to the challenge, turning away all the shots as the teams headed into the second period knotted in a scoreless tie.

“I was definitely excited,” said Phinney, reflecting on his mindset heading into the contest. “We were ready to go. We came out well, it was a 0-0 game. It was tough but we battled. I felt more comfortable as the game went on.”

In the second period, Phinney and the Tigers had a bad 30-second stretch as Quinnipiac scored a power play goal with 11:38 left and then added a second tally with 11:08 left. Princeton kept battling but ended up falling 3-0 as the Bobcats added a third period tally.

“You can’t be giving up two in a row,” said Phinney, who made 31 saves on the evening.

“We did a good job of settling down and keeping it 2-0. We had a good third period and they just had a another power play goal, I thought we battled hard.”

A night later as Princeton played at Quinnipiac in the home-and-home series between ECAC Hockey rivals, the Tigers showed a battling spirit, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a dramatic 4-3 win and snap the Bobcats‘ unbeaten streak. Phinney stood tall in the net again, making 32 saves to earn his first college victory.

“The whole game is a battle, every single play,” said Phinney in assessing the biggest challenges he has faced in moving up to the college level.

“Anything can happen. You blink once and it is in the back of the net. It is battling from the first minute to the last minute; you have to keep focused.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier liked the way Phinney stayed focused against the Bobcats.

“Colton had a good game; he was composed,” said Prier. “I thought he held on to a lot of the pucks that were shot from the outside. I thought he kept it simple. He didn’t have to make too many big saves; I thought he controlled his rebounds pretty well.”

The Tigers kept Quinnipiac under control for most of the contest. “We got better defensively through the week and tonight,” said Prier. “Our defense did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice. It is something to build on.”

In the wake of the loss on Friday, Prier was optimistic heading into the Saturday rematch.

“I was proud of the way the guys battled and hopefully we will continue to make strides here; I thought that was one of our better games,” said Prier, who got goals from Eric Carlson, Jack Berger, Mike Ambrosia, and Andrew Ammon in the triumph on Saturday as the Tigers improved to 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECACH.

“We just have to have a good practice in the morning and make a couple of adjustments and get after them tomorrow night.”

In Prier’s view, Princeton needs to keep getting after it. “The guys are playing hard; we still have some instances where we overskated pucks and didn’t stop the puck,” said Prier, whose team plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. “Things like that have to be sharpened; those habits have to be constant.”

Phinney, for his part, is getting sharper through competing on a daily basis against senior goalie Sean Bonar.

“It definitely makes me better, having to go hard every day in practice,” said Phinney. “He is unbelievable, so trying to compete with him has made me better. It makes it fun too.”

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ben Hazel and the Princeton University men’s basketball team got off to a slow start last Wednesday against visiting Lafayette.

Princeton trailed the Leopards 36-31 at halftime as junior guard Hazel was held scoreless in 12 minutes of action with only a turnover and a missed shot on his stat line.

Hazel acknowledged that it wasn’t the best half for the Tigers. “I definitely feel like we were sleepwalking, especially in the first half,” said Hazel, who was making his third career start after taking a year off from Princeton in 2012-13.

“We weren’t talking, we had missed communication and mental lapses, giving up open shots. That is more stuff that we need to correct than our offense. They made shots but we didn’t make it as tough as we should have.”

Hazel and the Tigers woke up in the second half. The 6’5, 181-pound native of Bowie, Md. scored 11 points in a 2:29 span to help the Tigers go from trailing 45-43 to up by 54-51.

Princeton built its lead to 66-57 before Lafayette rallied to force overtime with the teams knotted at 68-68 at the end of regulation. In the extra session, the Tigers forged ahead 77-72 and were able to hold on for an 81-80 win.

Hazel, who ended the evening with a career-high 14 points, was more focused on the team’s success than his breakthrough performance.

“I don’t really think it means so much for myself; it was a good win,” said Hazel, who produced another good effort last Saturday, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 to improve to 3-1.

“My team called on me to make a few more shots so that is just what I tried to do in the second half. It is more of a team win than  just me shooting the ball. Guys contributed throughout the second half.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t surprised that Hazel made a big contribution in the win over Lafayette.

“In all the shooting stuff that we do in practice, Ben is one of our top guys,” said Henderson. “He’s got a good feel for the game. I think that going forward, this is the third game in almost two years. Unfortunately I am not cutting him any slack for that. I have high expectations for Ben, I think he can be a very good player. I expect to see improvement game to game.”

Henderson expects to see the Tigers bring more passion to the court than they displayed in their uneven effort against Lafayette.

“I think we were very fortunate tonight,” said Henderson. “That’s a huge understatement. I think we were a little bit happy with the way that we played on the road against a Butler team. A really good Lafayette team had us and we were very fortunate to get the victory. That’s where I am going to leave it. There were some positives on our end but for the most part, we just didn’t approach the game the right way.”

Princeton is getting a positive contribution from freshman Spencer Weisz, who had 14 points in the win over Lafayette and then chipped in eight points and six rebounds in the victory over Rice.

“I think Spencer has an understanding, a feel for the game,” said Henderson.

“We really work hard on that and Spencer does that naturally, making reads, making the right plays. I like the way he talks, he can talk to these guys and tell them what he thinks and what he sees. That is important for us and I don’t care if he is a freshman. There are freshmen all over the country playing well. If he is good enough, which he is, he is going to play.

With senior guard T.J. Bray having been sidelined for the first three games due to a hand injury, other players have gotten the chance to show their game.

“It is a huge opportunity; I see it as a huge positive for us,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Bucknell on November 30.

“T.J. does so many things that we rely on and that’s taken away from you so what are you going to do when you really need a basket or you really need to come together and you really need someone to step up and say this what we are doing and this is how we are going to do it. I’d like to think there have been some really good positives from it.”

Hazel, for his part, has honed his shooting touch so that he can do well when offense is needed.

“I have been working pretty hard on it in practice and the offseason so when the time does come I am able to step up and do what I have to do to help the team win,” said Hazel.

It didn’t take long for things to go awry when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted No. 8 Clarkson last Friday.

The Tigers yielded a goal 29 seconds into the contest and found themselves trailing 4-0 after the first period. Things didn’t get much better after that with Princeton falling 7-0 as their five-game unbeaten streak was snapped.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal didn’t mince words.

“We didn’t show up to compete whatsoever,” said Kampersal. “We were bugs and Clarkson was the windshield. They basically crushed us from the opening shift on.”

As a result, Kampersal viewed the game against visiting St. Lawrence on Saturday as a referendum on his team’s character.

“Today was a test to see if we could bounce back and I think we did play hard,” said Kampersal.

While the Tigers trailed the Saints 1-0 in the early going on Saturday, they fought back to knot the contest at 1-1 on a goal by freshman forward Cassidy Tucker with 11:26 left in the first period. But St. Lawrence responded with a go-ahead goal 10 minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory.

Although Kampersal was happy with the resolve shown by his team, he was disappointed to see his players whistled for seven penalties on the afternoon.

“We showed heart today,” said Kampersal, whose team was outshot 31-28 by the Saints.

“We need to play a little bit smarter; we need to be better disciplined. We had too many penalties.”

The Tigers surrendered two power play goals as playing shorthanded seemed to wear them down.

“The penalty killing was not good so we need to figure that out,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who dropped to 5-4-1 overall and 4-4 ECAC Hockey with the loss to St. Lawrence.

“Most teams score on scrums in front of the net on us. Somehow the puck ends up in the back of our net. We need to do a better job of clearing out and just being tough in general.

Princeton also needs to do a better job on the offensive end. “We had a couple of good chances here or there,” said Kampersal.

“I don’t know what happened; we just need to be a little bit stronger on the puck and more opportunistic.

As the Tigers look to get back on the winning track, the focus will be on being strong mentally and physically.

“They have to be tough, they have to be disciplined and they have to be competitive,” said Kampersal.

“So today, we were competitive but we weren’t very tough or disciplined. Yesterday, we were none of the three.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to display all three qualities in abundance as they play a two-game set on November 30 and December 1 at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (15-1).

“They are incredible, they had an incredible streak there (winning 62 straight games) and it should probably get more publicity than it did,” said Kampersal.

“They are obviously very well coached and they have great players. It will be a great rink with great fans. It will be a fun atmosphere to play hockey in.”

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University field hockey team had a bull’s eye on its back this fall as defending national champions, the players didn’t view that as a burden.

“They are not fazed by pressure; they have so much pressure in the classroom that field hockey is an outlet,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“They have the right perspective, they are into it but they are not consumed by what other teams are doing. They go on their own path and it doesn’t seem to be important what’s happening externally.”

While that path included ups and downs this fall as the Tigers dealt with injuries and struggled to find the best combination, the players kept on task as the program won its ninth straight Ivy League title.

“They kept working throughout the process,” said Holmes-Winn. “We had injuries and other things that didn’t allow us to put our best team out there. It is about playing your best hockey at the end of the season. You have to be rested and ready to put everything into it.”

Riding a seven-game winning streak coming into the NCAA tournament, Princeton started its title defense facing a Penn State team that handed the Tigers a tough regular season loss.

Showing skill and resilience as Princeton All-American senior star Julia Reinprecht got knocked out of the game with a head injury, the Tigers prevailed 5-4 to avenge the regular season setback.

“As we prepared for the second game against Penn State, we realized there was nothing we could extract or gain from the first one because we had totally changed,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from senior star Amanda Bird in the win over the Nittany Lions with Allison Evans, Cat Caro and former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland adding one apiece.

“We were able to put out our very best lineup. We thought we would match up well and we did. We peaked at the right time. We really improved in the front third, that reflected the work of the girls and the coaches.”

In its quarterfinal matchup against host and top-ranked Maryland, the Tigers fought hard to overcome the loss of Reinprecht but fell just short. Princeton led the Terps 1-0 and 2-1 before falling 3-2.

“When you take Julia out, we had to move a striker into the midfield; she is so influential at both ends of the field and on our corners,” said Holmes-Winn, who got goals from Evans and Sydney Kirby in the defeat as the Tigers ended the season with a 14-5 overall record.

“The team really rallied. I think the girls were inspired to get through the weekend so Julia would get to play again. Julia talked to the team and told them to believe, that they could do this. It is a marker of her character and who she is as a sportsman that she put the team first even though she was suffering. In order to compete effectively against Maryland, every single player had to lift her game.”

Holmes-Winn was proud of how her team lifted its game as it dealt with a regular season schedule that included eventual national champion Connecticut along with such other national powers as Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse, Penn Sate, and Maryland.

“The season put us in a position to play our best,” said Holmes-Winn. “They were focused at each phase and stayed in the moment. Every player gave her best effort in practice and in training.”

Princeton’s group of seniors, which included Allegra Mango, Michelle Cesan, Kelsey Byrne, and Christina Maida in addition to Bird and Reinprecht, gave a great effort over their stellar careers.

“They are irreplaceable in many ways, as a class they balance each other positionally and from a leadership perspective,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Each handles a different piece. Some are more off field leaders, others lead by their work rate on the field, others raise their voices, and some are more connected to the freshmen. It was great that the underclassmen got to learn from such a special group.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, her group of returning players has the chance to do some special things.

“I think we have a lot of exciting playmakers; we have speed from top to bottom,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They just need to be more comfortable with the ball. When that happens, they can take information under pressure and assimilate it in games. If we can get that taken care of over spring and summer, we can be up at the level we want.”

November 20, 2013
BULL RUSH: Princeton University football player Max Lescano battles some Yale defenders on a punt return last Saturday. Sophomore defensive back Lescano and the Tigers enjoyed a big day, topping the Bulldogs 59-23 to win a share of the Ivy League title and earn a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season. Princeton, now 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, can secure the league title outright by winning the season finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BULL RUSH: Princeton University football player Max Lescano battles some Yale defenders on a punt return last Saturday. Sophomore defensive back Lescano and the Tigers enjoyed a big day, topping the Bulldogs 59-23 to win a share of the Ivy League title and earn a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season. Princeton, now 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, can secure the league title outright by winning the season finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Prior to the kickoff against visiting Yale last Saturday in their final home game, the 20 seniors on the Princeton University football team were introduced one by one to the cheers of the throng on hand.

About three and a half hours later, those seniors were hugging their teammates and fellow students on the field as they basked in the glow of Princeton’s 59-23 rout of Yale before a crowd of 14,824 at Princeton Stadium, a win that capped one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the annals of Ivy League football.

Two years removed from a second straight 1-9 campaign, Princeton improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, clinching a share of the league crown, its first title since 2006. The Tigers, who earned a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season, can secure the outright Ivy title by winning their finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23.

For senior safety and co-captain Phillip Bhaya, the glorious Senior Day scenario was hard to believe, considering that the class started its career with a 2-20 record.

“It was more than I could ask for, especially with my teammates in the senior class,” said Bhaya, who had nine tackles in the victory and made a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

“Obviously we didn’t have too much success in the beginning but we have come a long way. We stayed together as a group. I am so proud of my teammates, so humbled to be part of this class. To go out like this is really something special. We came to this school to win a championship and we got it done today. It is special and we are going to carry this for a long time.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, who took the helm of the program when the seniors were in their freshman season, beamed as he reflected on the team’s accomplishment.

“I just told them in the locker room that I am proud of them,” said Surace, a 1990 Princeton alum who was a star center on the 1989 Ivy championship squad.

“They work so hard. They work hard from the day the season ends all the way through. A lot of it is on their own. You are just proud, they earned this. We are going to get back tomorrow and get ready for the next game. We are going to celebrate this one. I hope they have fun tonight and enjoy it, it has been a long time.”

Surace tipped his hat to the seniors and the leadership they have provided in helping the program ascend to the top of the Ivy heap.

“When somebody said who are your senior leaders going to be and my response was is who aren’t they?” said Surace, noting that the bonfire is slated for this Sunday evening.

“You can go down that entire list. Malik Jackson, who signals our plays, gets into the game and our sidelines is going nuts for Malik. He comes in everyday and works as hard as Quinn [Epperly], he works as hard as Connor [Michelsen], he works as hard as Kedric [Bostic], he works as hard as Chad [Kanoff]. The guys love him. That whole group, they all share in the success we were having.”

That success was also due to some players who kept the Class of 2014 on track during some lean times.

“What was even more exciting is when you are in the locker room and Steve Cody is in there, Andrew Starks is in there, Andrew Kerr, on and on,” said Surace, referring to stalwarts for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 squads.

“There is a whole group of guys that you are celebrating with that are part of it. When you are not winning games and the results are not what they are supposed to be, your team is either going to pack it in and fold or they are going to buy in. Those guys bought in every day and that allowed these guys to carry the torch and have some success.”

The Tigers produced a performance to be proud of in dismantling Yale as the archrivals met for the 136th time.

After falling behind the Bulldogs 6-0, the Tigers jumped into the lead when sophomore running back Dre Nelson juked his way 42 yards for a touchdown to help Princeton take a 7-6 lead.

“I can’t wait to see his first touchdown. I don’t know what he did, you are watching and the next thing you know coaches are going he is going to score,” said Surace of Nelson, who ended up with 77 yards on five carries and another touchdown.

“It was like Dante Hall of the Kansas City Chiefs, he is spinning, he is moving and the next thing you know he is out. He is a ball of excitement and he works really hard.”

The excitement was just beginning for Princeton. Tiger quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Connor Kelley for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:08 in the quarter to extend the lead to 14-6.

Yale then responded with a touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Logan Scott to Morgan Roberts. The Bulldogs tried to catch Princeton off guard with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff but the gamble backfired as Tiger junior defensive back Jakobi Johnson scooped up the loose ball and bolted 46 yards for a touchdown to put Princeton up 21-13.

“Coach Aurich [Andrew Aurich, Princeton’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach] has been messing with us a long time; he pretty much made us paranoid of an onside kick on every play,” said Johnson. “We just had to be ready for it. The ball popped up and I saw an opportunity so I just took it.”

The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 10-3 in the second quarter to take a 31-16 lead into halftime.

The third quarter started with a bang for Princeton as Epperly ran for a 4-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the half to make it 38-16. Minutes later, Bhaya made his interception return to break the game open as the Tigers went up 45-16 and never looked back.

Epperly, for his part, viewed the early sequence in the third quarter as pivotal.

“The pick six by Phil was a huge turning point in the game,” said Epperly, who passed for three touchdowns and rushed for one to give him 23 TD passes and 17 rushing touchdowns on the season.

“We had just scored. We felt we needed a stop to get right back on the field and to get a pick six like that was huge. To play in this offense and to engineer it, is just a dream come true and it is a blast to be a part of.”

Bhaya was the beneficiary of some good play by Princeton’s front seven on his interception.

“I didn’t notice at the time because I saw their tight end tip it but Jason Ray was coming off the edge and he got his hands up and actually tipped it the first time so I have to take my hat off to him for that one,” recalled Bhaya, referring to his classmate and star linebacker. “It just fell right into my hands so I didn’t do too much on that one.”

In Epperly’s view, the Tigers still have more to do as they go after their first outright Ivy crown since 1995.

“I think everyone is very well aware that we don’t want to share this title in any way or form,” said Epperly, whose brilliant play had helped Princeton score a program and Ivy record 413 points this season as it has hit the 50-point mark five times.

“I think there would be no better way to send these seniors out on top of a senior day like this. That has been the goal since day one to win a championship and I think it would leave a very bitter taste in everyone’s mouths if we had to share that. Tomorrow we are going to come to work, just like we have all year, and we are going to take this next game seriously because we want to get a win.”

Surace’s vision for the program extends beyond the championship. “We are building something and hopefully building something that is strong with the way we work, the way we operate, and the way we function,” said Surace.

“We want smart, tough, disciplined, team-oriented guys. If we have smart, tough, disciplined, team-oriented guys and they have enough talent, that is really fun. I have been places where you have guys that are selfish and have ego and you are dealing with that kind of stuff. I get to deal with great kids.”

Bhaya, for his part, believes he and his classmates have held up their end of the deal.

“With Princeton football, there have been thousands of student athletes who have come before us,” said Bhaya.

“There are going to be thousands more after us. We are really just one small part of a bigger program here and I think our duty is to leave the program and this university a better place than when we found it and I think, especially for our senior class and this team in particular, we have done that.”

NEW DYNAMIC: Princeton University women’s basketball player Vanessa Smith dribbles upcourt last Sunday as Princeton topped Marist 81-58 in its home opener. Freshman guard Smith made an impressive Jadwin Gym debut, scoring 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist to help the Tigers improve to 1-1.  Princeton plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEW DYNAMIC: Princeton University women’s basketball player Vanessa Smith dribbles upcourt last Sunday as Princeton topped Marist 81-58 in its home opener. Freshman guard Smith made an impressive Jadwin Gym debut, scoring 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist to help the Tigers improve to 1-1. Princeton plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Vanessa Smith experienced some jitters as she made her debut for the Princeton University women’s basketball team when it played at Rutgers in its season opener earlier this month.

The 6’1 freshman guard scored seven points with a rebound as the Tigers fell 79-65 to the Scarlet Knights on November 10.

Last Sunday, Smith showed an increased comfort level in just a week as she tallied 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist as the Tigers pulled away to an 81-58 win over visiting Marist before 712 at Jadwin Gym.

“We are just trying to push forward everyday and get better,” said Smith, a native of Twinsburg, Ohio, reflecting on her progress.

“We definitely improved on the rebounding. We were more in the groove today, playing our game and we are really happy about that. I think it was just the home environment. We just were all feeling comfortable in our own skin again, playing together as a team really well. Everyone contributed.”

There was a special environment at Jadwin on Sunday as updated banners including last year’s fourth straight Ivy League title and NCAA appearance were unfurled prior to the game. At halftime, the program’s storied Class of 2013, Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen, were honored.

The celebrations inspired Smith in her first Jadwin outing. “For sure, it was really humbling, almost a majestic moment, seeing the banners come down,” said Smith.

“I am humbled by the work that has been done in the past, I am just looking to continue that tradition and work hard everyday to get better.”

In reflecting on her progress, Smith knows she has to get better at both ends of the court.

“I would say one adjustment is getting used to playing defense against people that are D-1 athletes,” said Smith.

“It is definitely different than high school, it is a faster pace defensively,

Offensively, it comes down to knowing what to do and how to work with your team and knowing how to contribute.”

In Smith’s view, Princeton’s work on the defensive end helped spark a 23-10 run over the last 10 minutes of the first half as the Tigers seized control of the contest and built a 41-32 lead by halftime.

“We had a lot of hustle plays in the first half and I think that contributed to the momentum,” said Smith. “So our defense pushed our offense and we were able to convert that into points.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the defensive effort she got from the Tigers in the win over Marist

“I would say the growth that we have made on the defensive end in the past two weeks has been pretty spectacular,” said Banghart. “What I am pleased about is that they were able to adjust through a timeout. Defensively, we needed to get through screens, we needed better ball pressure. We had to have urgency. They were making a lot of shots; I thought we stayed poised for a young team through that.”

The Tigers also showed urgency on the boards, outrebounding the Red Foxes 49-23.

“We were great on the glass; Annie [Tarakchian] had eight boards in 13 minutes,” said Banghart.

“Rebounding is important to us, it shows that we have a blue collar and it shows that we are willing to gut out and play with toughness.”

Banghart also saw progress at the other end of the court. “I thought in the Rutgers game we lost poise with our offense part way through the second half and so we really worked hard on diversifying our looks and sticking with our system and I thought they showed that over 40 minutes.” explained Banghart.

“When we share the ball like that we can score. We didn’t share the ball really well against Rutgers. We did a lot of standing around as we got fatigued. I thought we were able to use more poise today. People are getting more and more ready. It is a young team and we’ll get more and more ready as we go.”

Freshman Smith has already shown that she is ready to be a big contributor to the Tigers.

“Vanessa can a do a little bit of everything; she gives us a unique dynamic to our game,” added Banghart. “She is a willing rebounder, tough off the dribble, and can score. She is long so she can guard. When she is adjusts to the college game, she is going to be really special.”

Senior star Kristen Helmstetter gave the Tigers a special effort on Sunday, scoring a game-high 18 points with  with five rebounds and two assists.

“I think Kristen is Princeton basketball right now,” asserted Banghart. “Her versatility and how much she has developed here has been pretty remarkable. She is a leader, we have to give her some blows so she can get some rest. All she cares about is winning and I am glad she contributed to it today.”

In Banghart’s view, her callow squad has the potential to pile up a lot of wins this season.

“It’s just a team that is still playing a little inexperienced,” said Banghart, whose team plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26.

“They are ahead of where I thought they would be defensively and they are about where I thought they would be offensively. I told them how much better they got in one week; get that much better again in one more week. Princeton basketball has been about the process and I think you are seeing that with this young team.”

Smith, for her part, is determined to get better and better. “I will do anything they need me to do,” said Smith.

“I am just going to work hard, hustle and get rebounds and anything I can do to help us win.”

LEADING ROLE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing, right, crashes the boards in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Laing has provided leadership and production as Princeton has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games. In upcoming action, the Tigers, now 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22,  St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEADING ROLE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing, right, crashes the boards in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Laing has provided leadership and production as Princeton has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games. In upcoming action, the Tigers, now 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22, St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Denna Laing, serving as the captain of the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team for a second year is proving to be a pleasure.

“It definitely makes a difference coming from last year to this year; I definitely have a better handle on things,” said senior forward Laing.

“Honestly, the team is making it easy for me. Nobody is disappointing me and it is making it really easy for me and very enjoyable. I am very proud of everyone.”

Laing certainly enjoyed herself last Friday, tallying a goal and an assist to help Princeton top University of New Hampshire 3-1.

The senior line of Laing and classmates Olivia Mucha and Sally Butler sparked the Tigers, generating a slew of chances and accounting for two of Princeton’s goals as the Tigers broke a scoreless tie by scoring three straight goals in a two-minute span from the end of the second period into the start of the third.

“We definitely know what is at stake,” said Laing, reflecting on the connection between the trio of classmates.

“We know if we are working hard out there, then everyone else will see that and follow our lead. That’s not to say that other lines are doing the exact same thing.”

Laing helped Princeton open the scoring as she fed Mucha for a goal with 1:06 remaining in the second period.

“It all started when we were forechecking down low and we put a lot of pressure on them and things kind of worked out for us,” said Laing.

“We were working hard so we were hoping that one would go in, Mucha had a couple of chances before that were so close. I am glad that she did get that one in and got us rolling.”

The Tigers kept rolling after the second intermission as they scored two goal in the first 59 seconds of the third period as Ali Pankowski and Laing found the back of the net.

“It definitely picked up the momentum for us,” said Laing, reflecting on the third period flurry.

“We were up 1-0 and it is easy to come back on that so we knew to come out hard for the third period.”

On her goal, Laing went hard to the net. “We were working hard down low and the puck was just sitting there for me on a rebound,” said Laing, who now has two goals and five assists in the season. “It was nice work by my linemates to get it there.”

Laing likes the way the Tigers are handling their work this season. “I definitely would say this year compared to other years, everyone is buying in,” asserted Laing, a 5’9 native of Marblehead, Mass. who has 57 points in her Princeton career on 24 goals and 33 assists.

“Everyone is following the rules. Everyone wants it, from the freshmen who came in here and have really made a difference to our sophomores who really worked hard over the summer and have picked it up. The junior and seniors have come back off of injuries and we are really firing. Everyone is working hard from the freshmen up. I think that is really making a difference.”

In the view of Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, the senior line made a huge difference for the Tigers in the win over UNH.

“They worked so hard; they got it done,” said Kampersal. “All year,
they are going to get it done for us. We are going to rely on them to come up big at the big times. They have been together for the most part for four years and there is some familiarity, no question.”

Kampersal is placing heavy reliance on Laing to spark the Tigers. “Denna brings a lot of heart and soul every time,” said Kampersal. “She did a good job on the penalty kill. She has always played super aggressive. She is strong. She is a workhorse for us.”

Princeton was strong defensively in the victory over UNH. “I thought our defense played well in the absence of Gabie [Figueroa] so it was good that they stepped up in her absence,” added Kampersal, who got another good defensive effort on Saturday as the Tigers tied No. 5 Boston College 1-1 to move to 5-2-1 overall.

“I thought Brie Mahoney was really good in the back as was Pankowski. They did a good job. Kim Newell was really solid in goal, she was solid physically, and solid mentally.”

Having gone 4-0-1 in its last five outings, Princeton is playing some solid hockey overall.

“I think we just focus on the conditioning and the practice,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who are fourth in the ECAC Hockey standings with a 4-2 league mark. “We are working on playing hard for five minutes at a time and restarting the next five minutes. I think that has been a good focus for us.”

The Tigers will have to keep that focus as they are facing a challenging slate of games over the next two weeks.

“We have a tough stretch coming up,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22, St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26 before heading to the midwest for two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (13-1 overall) over Thanksgiving break. “This is the heart of it. We have to prove our worth in the next five games.”

Laing, for her part, believes that Princeton has the heart to compete with the toughest foes.

“I honestly feel really confident with this team, more so than I have in past years,” said Laing.

“It is a great feeling to be a senior right now. Hopefully, we continue our path. It has only been seven games; we haven’t done anything yet. We are not satisfied yet. We are still looking to make a big impression and hopefully we can keep rolling like we are rolling.”

QUALITY AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Ammon scored two goals, including the game winner, last Friday as Princeton overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Dartmouth 5-4 in overtime. The Tigers, now 2-7 overall, 1-5 ECAC Hockey, host No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

QUALITY AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Ammon scored two goals, including the game winner, last Friday as Princeton overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Dartmouth 5-4 in overtime. The Tigers, now 2-7 overall, 1-5 ECAC Hockey, host No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost six straight games and trailing Dartmouth 3-0 in the first period last Friday, it would have been easy for the Princeton University men’s hockey to get discouraged.

But Princeton senior forward Andrew Ammon and his Tiger teammates were unfazed by the situation.

“We just kept working,” said Ammon. “We knew we were never out of it. It was early in the game there. We knew we had a lot of time; we weren’t going to panic.”

Princeton got itself back in the game, narrowing the gap to 3-1 late in the first period on a goal by Ryan Siiro and then getting two unanswered goals from Tyler Maugeri and Mike Ambrosia in the second period to knot the game at 3-3.

Ammon got the Tigers ahead, scoring 1:06 into the third period as Princeton took a 4-3 lead.

“We came into the zone; Mike [Ambrosia] took a shot and it ended up behind the net,” said Ammon.

“[Jonathan] Liau picked it up and I had no one on me and I was calling for it. He made the pass and I just had all day and took my time with the shot.”

Dartmouth, though, made a comeback of its own, scoring midway through the period to force overtime. With just seconds remaining in the extra session, Ammon scored his second goal, deftly deflecting a Tommy Davis shot into the back of the net to give the Tigers a win and snap their losing streak.

“It came in the zone and squirted out to Tommy,” said Ammon, reflecting on the game winner.

“It was a broken play. I saw him winding up for the net and I just went to the net. I didn’t even think I would be there for a tip but I just stuck my stick out and tipped it and I saw the back of the net.”

After finding the back of the net in dramatic fashion, Ammon was mobbed by his teammates behind the goal.

“It was just exciting, nothing feels better than scoring an overtime game winner,” said Ammon. “I had my whole team come out there. It was an awesome feeling.”

While Ammon now has a team-high five goals on the season, his focus is more on effort than finishing.

“My role is not necessarily scoring but just being there all 60 minutes, bringing the energy and burying the chances that we get,” said Ammon, a 6’0, 185-pound native of Aldie, Va. who has 46 points in his Tiger career on 27 goals and 19 assists.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier was not surprised that Ammon came through in the clutch for the Tigers.

“Ammo is just a warrior; he has been playing so hard, so well,” asserted Prier.

“He has learned to control his game yet still play hard. He is going to get a lot of hard-working, ugly goals but that first one was pretty. He caught it and went top shelf there on a nice play from Liau. The OT winner was just great; he crashed the net and it hit his stick. It was a great tip and he just willed it. He is as hard a worker as you will come across and he earned it.”

In Prier’s view, his players showed an iron will collectively in rallying for the win over the Big Green.

“The guys battled as hard as they could,” said Prier, whose team fought hard a night later but came up short in losing 5-3 to Harvard to move to 2-7 overall and 1-5 ECAC Hockey.

“They stuck to the process. They kept above checks. There were a couple of times it took funny bounces and the next thing you know it is on their stick somehow. We battled through a lot of that. There was a lot of resilience out there.”

Freshman forward Siiro is battling hard on a nightly basis for the Tigers.

“Siiro is big, tough, and skilled,” said Prier of Siiro who has two goals and two assists in nine appearances.

“He is a gem; I just love him. He is as coachable as they come. He is a great kid to be around; a great kid to coach. He is always positive. He is high energy. He is only going to get better every single day.”

Junior forward Tucker Brockett, who had three assists in the win over Dartmouth and then added two more helpers in the loss to Harvard, has gotten markedly better this year.

“Tucker has improved tremendously, he is playing with more confidence,” said Prier of Brockett, who has 11 points this season on two goals and nine assists after totaling just two points in his first two seasons.

“He is also not banged up. The poor kid has had some sort of nagging injury ever since he has been on campus and now he is healthy. He has got skill, he has got poise and he is starting to use it.”

Prier is hoping his team uses the win over Dartmouth as a springboard to more success.

“You want to start winning but then this one is behind you and you move on,” said Prier, whose team hosts No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day.

“That is kind of what we did with our start tonight. We said hey, it’s behind us. The record tells us where we have been, not where we are going. Let’s stop talking about it and try to get it going here.”

Ammon, for his part, believes the win over Dartmouth could get Princeton going in the right direction.

“That is huge,” said Ammon. “It feels like it has been a while so this is big for us. We try not to look at our record. We try to improve everyday. It is about where we are going, not where we are at.”

November 13, 2013
CRUNCH TIME: Princeton University defensive stars Philip Bhaya, left, and Anthony Gaffney, right, help corral a ballcarrier in action earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior safety Bhaya had a team-high seven tackles while sophomore cornerback Gaffney made a key interception as Princeton rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat Penn 38-26. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, host Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRUNCH TIME: Princeton University defensive stars Philip Bhaya, left, and Anthony Gaffney, right, help corral a ballcarrier in action earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior safety Bhaya had a team-high seven tackles while sophomore cornerback Gaffney made a key interception as Princeton rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat Penn 38-26. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, host Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Connor Kelley hasn’t forgotten how much it stung when the Princeton University football team was crushed 52-10 by Penn in 2010 as the Quakers rolled to the Ivy League title.

“I was there in Coach [Bob] Surace’s first year back when I was a quarterback and so I felt a pretty good beating that year and we have all taken it these past three years,” said Kelley.

Surace, for his part, still feels the pain from that dark afternoon. “They were kind in the game, it was 52-10 and they took it easy,” said Surace. “It could have been a lot worse.”

But when Princeton found itself trailing 16-0 at defending champion Penn last Saturday, it wasn’t about to take another whipping in a series which had seen it lose six straight.

“I think our guys believe if we just keep playing and playing, that eventually we can get this game back to where it is manageable,” said Surace.

“There is no panic, there is no infighting. We use that phrase, ‘hold the rope.’ Our guys hold the rope together, coaches and players. Penn is a really good team, they have won three of the past four championships. You are not going to walk in and put up 35 at halftime, especially at homecoming and all week long they are getting corrected on mistakes they made the week before. We knew we were going to get a championship bout.”

Getting off the canvas, the Tigers delivered some knockout blows to the Quakers as they rallied and pulled away to a 38-26 win over Penn before 21,214 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

In so doing, Princeton kept its place atop the league standings, improving to 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy to stay ahead of Harvard (7-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy) while Penn’s title hopes were dealt a serious blow as it dropped to 4-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy. The win helped the Tigers break into the national polls as Princeton is ranked No. 25 in the Sports Network’s FCS College Football Poll, its first ranking since being voted as the No. 18 team in the final 2006 poll.

The high-powered Princeton offense sputtered in the early going, as its first five possessions resulted in three punts, a safety, and an interception.

Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly acknowledged that the Tiger offense was out of synch.

“I think that was the worst display we have had passing the ball,” said Epperly.

“We have got a lot of corrections to make. Yeah, credit to them but I think also credit to our guys, especially the guys up front on being able to grind some things out. I think it just shows our effort and our work ethic. It was definitely not a pretty game on the offensive side but we were able to get a win.”

By contrast, the Tiger defense produced some beautiful moments, generating six turnovers, including three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. The critical turnover was a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter by senior defensive back Elijah Mitchell that put Princeton ahead 17-16.

“We blitzed on the play and fortunately we got a really good amount of pressure and I felt what I thought was the running back releasing or a screen of some type and I pulled up a little bit and that just put me in position to make the play,” recalled Mitchell. “I got the ball and tried to do something with it.”

When Princeton surrendered a touchdown just before the half to go into intermission trailing by 23-17, Mitchell inspired the team by his words as well as deeds.

“I didn’t have to say much at halftime,” said Surace. “Elijah took over the halftime speech. Sometimes these guys are a little shy about those things. He got the guys up; I had chills. He had the guys rocking and rolling and bouncing off the walls as we went out for the second half.”

The Tigers proceeded to control the second half. They regained the lead at 24-23 as Epperly scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 6:52 left in the quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Epperly found the end zone on a one-yard plunge as Princeton went ahead 31-23.

After a Penn field goal narrowed the margin to 31-26 with 9:37 remaining in regulation, converted senior receiver Kelley came up big, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown pass as Princeton increased its advantage to 38-26 and never looked back.

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s victory came down to a willingness to mix it up physically with the Quakers.

“I felt it was two really tough teams,” said Surace, noting that the Tigers had to battle to get 98 yards rushing in 44 carries.

“This is the least we have rushed for this year. They rushed for 60-70 more yards (161 yards on 32 carries) than us. They pressured our quarterback; we pressured their quarterback at times. It was a good football game. The thing you have to do is to match their toughness. From 1987 when I first played them through now and probably before then, they have been a tough, physical team. You can’t go and allow them to push you around. I felt, especially in the second half, we at least held our own.”

Epperly showed his toughness as he overcame a hard hit to his throwing shoulder in the first quarter to hit on 32-of-45 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

“He didn’t come back in the next series and the trainer said he was fine,” said Surace, referring to Epperly’s temporary absence from the contest after he was  slammed to the ground after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Sam Chwarzynski,

“You look at him, that one touchdown run he had at the end where he is hit at the line of scrimmage and just fights his way into the end zone. He is another 220-pound guy and for all the good touch and accuracy he has as a quarterback, there is a physical side to him that is pretty impressive.”

While Princeton’s turnaround from back-to-back 1-9 seasons in 2010 and 2011 is certainly impressive, Mitchell and his teammates aren’t satisfied yet.

“First off, I think it is a testament to every single player that we have and the  job that has been done recruiting but also the coaching,” said Mitchell, who will try to help Princeton stay on the winning track as it hosts Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16.

“We feel like we are trying to rise from the bottom and we are not done. It definitely feels amazing, I am not going to lie to you. But we also feel that what we are still trying to accomplish has not been done yet.”

Kelley, for his part, basked in the glow of finally beating Penn. “Right from the beginning, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Kelley, who ended the day with six receptions for 75 yards.

“We knew that coming in. We had a similar experience at Brown where we were down at the beginning (overcoming a 17-0 deficit to win 39-17 on October 19) so we just kept battling. Everybody on the offense knew that it was coming and that we just had to keep doing what we do and how we practice. It really feels great.”

REPEAT BUSINESS: Princeton University field hockey star ­Michelle Cesan controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Cesan tallied two goals and an assist to help Princeton top Penn 5-1 to clinch outright the Ivy League title. It was the ninth straight Ivy crown for Princeton and the 19th in the last 20 years. Defending national champion Princeton, now 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy,  will begin its quest for a title repeat when it plays Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in an NCAA opening round contest on November 16 in College Park, Md.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REPEAT BUSINESS: Princeton University field hockey star ­Michelle Cesan controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Cesan tallied two goals and an assist to help Princeton top Penn 5-1 to clinch outright the Ivy League title. It was the ninth straight Ivy crown for Princeton and the 19th in the last 20 years. Defending national champion Princeton, now 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy, will begin its quest for a title repeat when it plays Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in an NCAA opening round contest on November 16 in College Park, Md. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the outright Ivy League title was up for grabs as the Princeton University field hockey team played at Penn last Saturday, the Tigers maintained their business-as-usual approach coming into the contest.

“For us, every league game feels similar,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“Our preparation and mentality never wavers and that is a reason why we have been so successful. We take the single-game approach.”

Showing its championship mentality, Princeton pulled away to a 5-1 victory over the Quakers, winning the program’s ninth straight Ivy crown and 19th in the last 20 years.

The game was tied at 1-1 midway through the first half but the ninth-ranked Tigers seized control after that as senior star Michelle Cesan scored one goal and assisted on another to help Princeton take a 3-1 lead into halftime. In the second half, Cesan added another goal along with Allison Evans as the Tigers moved to 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy.

“There was never a point in the game where I felt Penn had control,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team outshot the Quakers 28-6 and built a 13-4 edge in penalty corners.

“The teams in the league play a very direct game. It is a lineal game and not a lot of transfers. There can be random chances. I thought we played our lines well. We got a tip or touch on every one of their outlets. It was a very controlled game for us, we were able to dominate. You look at the league stats, we gave up five goals in seven league games and had more than 20 shots in each game.”

Now the defending national champion Tigers will get a chance to defend their title as they face Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at College Park, Md. with the victor likely facing host and top-ranked Maryland (20-1) on November 17 for a spot in the Final Four.

Princeton will bring a special motivation to the clash with Penn State as it fell 4-3 to the Nittany Lions on September 15 to snap a 17-game winning streak.

“From my perspective, the one game I would like to have back is the Penn State game,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We are a very different team now. We have grown and evolved since September. We are playing great hockey. We are going to attack the match.”

Senior midfielder Cesan has been on the attack recently, tallying five goals and two assists in her last four games to give her a team-high 10 goals and nine assists on the season.

“Cesan is getting good looks,” said Holmes-Winn. “We changed up our press and we are opening up space in the midfield. We are getting more depth from our forwards.”

Princeton is getting contributions from a variety of players and has overcome some health issues and is riding a seven-game winning streak coming into the NCAA tourney.

“Annabeth Donovan has grown massively, she is marshaling things from out of the back field,” said Holmes-Winn, noting that such stars as Kate Ferrara, Amanda Bird, Sydney Kirby, and Teresa Benvenuti are all at 100 percent after dealing with various ailments over the fall.

“It helps that she has two of the best midfielders in the country in front of her in Julia [Reinprecht] and Michelle. Anya Gersoff in goal is playing well, she has been communicating so well. We are at full strength for the first time this season.”

The Tigers will have to play strong hockey in order to survive the weekend and advance to its third Final Four in the last four seasons.

“It is a classy bracket, the teams and coaches have a lot of experience,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We are grateful to have this opportunity. To me, when it’s hard, its better. It will be a huge challenge for us. We are a team of winners. I said to the girls last week that in every aspects of their lives, they are hard working, detailed, and accountable. They put everything out there and from a coaching standpoint, that is a good feeling.”

Holmes-Winn is feeling good about her team’s prospects. “We played the third strongest schedule in the country and that underpins the disciplined approach we take every day,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It adds a rawness to the environment. You are going to elevate and rise to it or crumble under it. We have done the right thing to this point. I think we are coming together at the right time. Everyone is healthy and we are in a great spot as a team. We are absolutely committed and focused on the moment. Each player is prepared to do what she is asked under pressure. Physiologically, we are in a taper phase, the girls are very fit. We are very excited for Saturday.”

HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After more than a month of preseason practices, the wait was over for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Florida A&M last Sunday to tip off the regular season.

Two of the Tigers, though, had to exercise some extra patience in connection with the opener.

Senior guard Jimmy Sherburne was returning to action after being sidelined for a year due to a shoulder injury while junior star Denton Koon was utilized in a sixth man role off the bench.

Looking like he hadn’t missed a beat, Sherburne scored a career-high 13 points with Koon producing a double-double on a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds as Princeton cruised to a 67-50 win over the Rattlers.

Sherburne, for his part, enjoyed his return to action. “It feels good to be back, it has been a while,” said Sherburne, a 6’3, 197-pound native of Whitefish Bay, Wisc. who also contributed five assists and four rebounds.

“I was just telling the guys before the game, we have waited a long time for this, some of us longer than others. I fall into that category. It was everything I thought it would be. I took that year off for a reason and this was it. It definitely feels good.”

While the sixth-man role was an adjustment for Koon, who made 24 starts last winter, he made the most of the assignment.

“It was a little different,” said Koon, a 6’8, 210-pound native of Liberty, Mo. who averaged 10.5 points a game last winter.

“I just think it is about, especially early in the season, just getting things moving. We got a lot of new pieces this year, a couple of new freshmen in the lineup with Pete [Miller] and Spencer [Weisz] so I think it is just important to play the right way and get a new flow. We have a new look, a new lineup, and a new way that we are playing things.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson liked the way the Tigers handled their business on Sunday.

“It is a nice opener for us and I just told the guys that I think there are a lot of positives and some things to work on,” said Henderson, whose team jumped out to a 38-23 halftime lead and cruised to victory over the 0-2 Rattlers.

“I really liked some of the things that were happening on offense. We had a little bit of a slide there on defense but they do that to you. They spread you out, they are very fast. Overall, I am fairly pleased and I think there are a lot of positives for us to work on.”

Henderson pointed to the play of Sherburne and Koon as two of the major positives on Sunday.

“I am really happy, Jimmy made his first three, that was good,” said Henderson, whose team went 12-of-31 from the three-point range in the victory.

“I will say that it is really important that our program is defined by the way Denton did things today. I am pleased and proud of the way he played because he made other guys better. He got two assists, a big one in the corner to Jimmy. I am putting a little less stock in who is starting right now and more about the way we are doing things.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz started his Princeton career in style, scoring five points with six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of action.

“Spencer is really advanced for a freshman in terms of the game,” said Henderson, who also got 12 points from senior Will Barrett in the victory.

“He had consistently been one of our top rebounders in scrimmages and practices and he gets six tonight which I think is important for us. He sort of plays the game like a 40-year old man, unfortunately he also moves like a 40-year-old man sometimes. He really knows how to play.”

With Princeton heading to Indiana on November 16 for a game at Butler University, an NCAA finalist in 2010 and 2011, Henderson is looking for his team to build on its promising start.

“We are going to a really tough place to play in a week,” said Henderson, of the contest which will be a homecoming for him as he was a three-sport star at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. during his high school days.

“We appreciate things like that. We feel that Jadwin is a special place to play so we are really excited getting out there. It is just about the day to day and getting better. It is process coaching. We have an opportunity to be very balanced and I think that is the emphasis.”

Koon, for his part, appreciates the chance to get on the court, no matter what role he assumes.

“It’s more just game by game and being where the team needs me,” said Koon.

“I am just looking to contribute in any way I can, help the other guys get better,  and help us win.”