September 24, 2014
ROUGH WATER: Princeton University running back DiAndre Atwater carries the ball in 2013 action. Last Saturday, junior Atwater rushed for a game-high 80 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 39-29 at the University of San Diego in its season opener. The Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they host Davidson on September 27 at Princeton Stadium.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROUGH WATER: Princeton University running back DiAndre Atwater carries the ball in 2013 action. Last Saturday, junior Atwater rushed for a game-high 80 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 39-29 at the University of San Diego in its season opener. The Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they host Davidson on September 27 at Princeton Stadium. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University football team having lost the season opener in each of his four years at the helm of the program, Bob Surace sensed that things would be different this fall.

As the Tigers prepared to kick off the 2014 campaign at the University of San Diego last Saturday, head coach Surace liked what he was seeing from his players in the build-up to the contest.

“We had a good week of practice,” said Surace. “We got on the bus after Friday’s practice, feeling good. In practice there had been very few corrections.”

But practice didn’t make perfect as the Tigers shot themselves in the foot on several occasions in falling 39-29 to San Diego before a sun-splashed crowd of 3,324 at Torero Stadium.

The Tigers dug an early 14-0 hole, forcing them to fight an uphill battle the rest of the afternoon.

“We get off to a slow start and gave up a 90-yard drive, that hurt,” lamented Surace.

After the teams exchanged punts in the first two possessions of the contest, San Diego got rolling as quarterback Keith Williams hit Reggie Bell for an 82-yard pass play that got the Toreros to the Princeton 11-yard line. Two plays later,  Williams hit Brandon White for a 10-yard touchdown.

Princeton went three and out on its next possession and Bell struck again with a 55-yard punt return that gave San Diego the ball at the Tiger 31. Williams ended up scoring on a one-yard quarterback plunge as the Toreros extended their lead to 14-0.

With senior quarterback Quinn Epperly finding a rhythm, Princeton went on the march. The reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the year hit 4-of-8 passes and then ran 12 yards for a touchdown to complete a 15-play, 78-yard march as the Tigers narrowed the gap to 14-6 in the waning seconds of the quarter.

It seemed like Princeton was righting the ship in the second quarter. Getting the ball at the San Diego 36, the Tigers started moving again. Connor Michelson came on in a multi-quarterback set and hit Epperly with a 12-yard pass to get the ball to the Torero 11. Two plays later, Joe Rhattigan found paydirt for the Tigers on a 12-yard touchdown scamper to make it a 14-12 game.

The Toreros answered two possessions later as Williams hit White with a 25-yard pass and then found that man Bell again for a 26-yard scoring strike to push the San Diego advantage back to 21-12.

Princeton fought back putting together a 58-yard drive that culminated in a 34-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck and cut the Torero lead to 21-15 at the half.

Surace, for his part, was happy with what he saw after the shaky start. “We were playing well in the second quarter, we had more consistency,” said Surace. “In the first quarter, we didn’t tackle well but after that we had only a handful of missed tackles. We played better on all three sides of the ball.”

Building on the progress in the second quarter, the Tigers nosed ahead 22-21 early in the third quarter. Dre Nelson returned the second half kickoff 35 yards to give Princeton the ball at its 36. Running back DiAndre Atwater then broke loose for a 54-yard gallop to get the ball to the San Diego 10. Two plays later, Epperly hit Matt Costello for a 4-yard TD pass and Bieck hit the extra point to make it 22-21 in favor of the Tigers.

But the Princeton offense sputtered from that point, doomed by a series of mental miscues.

“We got the ball back and had a third and one and they stuffed us,” recalled Surace.

“We had six drives in a row without a first down. It was a number of errors. One time it was a missed block, then it was a missed throw, and then a missed catch.”

While Princeton stalled, Bell kept rolling, scoring on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 5:25 left in the third quarter as San Diego regained the lead at 29-22.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Toreros got their advantage back to double digits as Williams hit D’Angelo Barksdale for a five-yard touchdown strike as San Diego extended the margin to 36-22. Minutes later, the Toreros added a field goal to make it 39-22.

The Tigers kept battling and Epperly found Seth DeValve for a 22-yard TD pass with 2:25 remaining as Princeton closed the gap to the final score of 39-29.

“We better concentrate on detail or we are going to struggle,” said Surace, reflecting on the loss which marked the eighth straight opening day defeat for the program.

“To go into a game and not play the coverage the way we played in practice, that makes no sense to me.”

Although disappointed by the result, Surace did see some positives coming out of the afternoon.

“There were a number of things,” noted Surace, who got 237 yards passing for two touchdowns from Epperly with DeValve making nine catches for 123 yards and Atwater rushing for 80 yards.

“We didn’t have the typical first game penalties. We stopped the run very well, they averaged 2.2 yards. The effort was good, not great. DiAndre and DeValve ran hard.”

The Tigers will need to take care of the little things as it hosts Davidson (1-3) in its home opener with a big crowd expected at Princeton Stadium as the program celebrates community and staff day with a postgame fireworks display to cap off the festivities.

“We need to fix things; we need to work on being more exact in the details,” said Surace.

“The veterans did some things that were uncharacteristic. It will be good getting that game film. We need to make a good leap from the first to the second game.”

ON TARGET: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron ­Porter controls the ball in recent action. Senior forward Porter leads Princeton with four goals, helping the Tigers to a 1-2-2 start. In upcoming action, Princeton plays at Drexel on September 24 before hosting Binghamton on September 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON TARGET: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron ­Porter controls the ball in recent action. Senior forward Porter leads Princeton with four goals, helping the Tigers to a 1-2-2 start. In upcoming action, Princeton plays at Drexel on September 24 before hosting Binghamton on September 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University men’s soccer team had trouble keeping the ball against 13th-ranked Georgetown last Wednesday, Tiger forward Cameron Porter made the most out of the limited possession.

Late in the first half, senior star Porter found the back of the net on a feed from Andrew Doar to give Princeton a 1-0 advantage going into halftime.

“I saw the ball going wide from Myles [McGinley] with a quick switch and once I see that coming in I know I have to get myself in a good position in the box,” said Porter. “Once it comes in to me, it is my job to finish it.”

In the second half, Princeton didn’t do a good job as Georgetown scored three unanswered goals to pull away to a 3-1 win.

In Porter’s view, the Tigers need to learn from the setback. “It was challenging to keep the ball, they had the best of the possession and I think it was a good lesson for us,” said the 6’1, 175-pound Porter, a native of Centerville, Ohio.

“It really teaches us that if we are going to be out here and we are going to compete against the top teams, we are going to have to learn, when we have the ball to make connections that make sense. What it seems like was happening is that we would win the ball and lose it right back. We need to learn how to keep the ball and learn how to go forward with meaning.”

With a team-high four goals this season, Porter has emerged as the team’s most dangerous player going forward.

“I am feeling good; I think it’s important as a senior that I score consistently,” said Porter, a two-time All-Ivy League performer who now has 20 goals in his Princeton career.

“The last few seasons it has kind of eluded me to score the goals in the big games and now it is coming along. Hopefully as the season develops those can turn into game winners.”

Getting moved inside on the field has helped Porter be more of a scoring threat.

“Last year I played more of an out wide position and now I am getting to play more of the center forward position,” said Porter. “You get those services and the opportunities to finish more often.”

Porter is hoping the experience of playing against Georgetown will help Princeton down the road.

“It is really all about preparing for the Ivy League and that’s why we play teams like this,” said Porter.

“They are going to be better than any team we play in the league so it is important to learn from this and take it to the other Ivies.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow concurred, acknowledging that Georgetown proved to be a handful for Princeton.

“They are all athletic and good on the ball, they stretch you out,” said Barlow.

“I thought we were a little disappointed that more guys didn’t have a better game. When you are playing a team that good, everyone has to have a good day. We had a lead and we felt like we could still raise the level at the start of the second half in terms our ability to go forward and making it harder for them to possess. We struggled in both of those areas. We had a few big breakdowns defensively and we couldn’t keep it when we wanted. Credit them, they put so much pressure on you. They press hard; we just felt like we could never get it going.”

Barlow credits Porter with getting Princeton going offensively. “He has done well with his opportunities,” said Barlow. “He didn’t have many chances tonight, he didn’t have the ball much either but he still winds up with a goal. He is off to a good start. Hopefully he can keep it going in this next stretch of games.”

As Princeton girds for Ivy League play, Barlow is hoping to get it going as it wraps up its non-conference slate.

“We don’t have much time now, we have three more games now before we get to the Ivy League,” said Barlow, whose team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie Boston University 2-2 last Saturday in moving to 1-2-2 and plays at Drexel on September 24 before hosting Binghamton on September 27.

“We want to try to continue to improve and get some momentum as we get into the Ivy League season.”

Porter, for his part, believes the Tigers can make a run for the Ivy title after coming up just short the last two seasons.

“We have a lot of seniors and juniors in the starting lineup and that is something we haven’t had in a while,” said Porter.

“The team has a sense of maturity and a sense of urgency. I think we are all learning from these games.”

NO DOUBTING THOMAS: Princeton University men’s water polo player Thomas Nelson looks for the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star Nelson has tallied 14 goals this fall, helping the Tigers to an 8-1 start. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts George Washington and Bucknell on September 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO DOUBTING THOMAS: Princeton University men’s water polo player Thomas Nelson looks for the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star Nelson has tallied 14 goals this fall, helping the Tigers to an 8-1 start. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts George Washington and Bucknell on September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things started on a down note for the Princeton University men’s water polo team as it competed in its first full weekend of Southern Division action.

The Tigers fell 10-9 at Johns Hopkins on Saturday morning, suffering their first loss this season after a 6-0 start.

“We had chances to get up but we missed,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao.

“Alex Gow had a good game in goal for us but they know how to play in their pool. The mistakes are compounded in a smaller venue.”

Princeton, though, rebounded from the setback and took advantage of its chances the rest of the weekend, topping Navy 12-7 on Saturday evening and then edging George Washington 14-12 on Sunday.

“We were a little upset with some of the mistakes we made Saturday morning,” said Nicolao, whose team scored six unanswered goals in the second quarter against the Midshipmen.

“Any time we play Navy, we know it’s going to be a battle and the guys are always up for that. We got a jump on them and then we steamrollered them. We missed some chances in the first quarter. We came out in the second quarter and put away some opportunities and capitalized on their mistakes. Our lefty freshman Connor McGoldrick had a good game against GW. It is another smaller venue and it is one of those games you have to get through. We capitalized on their errors.”

Having lost heartbreakers in the CWPA semis in 2012 and in the finals last year, the team’s core of veterans are primed for battle.

“The senior class, in general, is excited to go out on top,” said Nicolao, whose Class of 2015 includes Drew Hoffenberg, Sam Butler, Kayj Shannon, and Kevin Zhang.

“They are doing everything they can to not end the season like the last two years.”

With the Tigers at 8-1, Nicolao believes things are headed in the right direction.

“We have depth,” said Nicolao, who has gotten 22 goals from Hoffenberg already with freshman Jordan Colina adding 16, junior Thomas Nelson chipping in 14, junior Jamie Kuprenas tallying 11, and sophomore Jovan Jeremic with 10.

“Drew has always been an amazing player for us. Jordan and Thomas are having big years. Jamie Kuprenas has stepped up. Kayj Shannon is out for a while and it seems like every game, someone else steps up. I think our team defense overall has been a strength, particularly in our big wins over Irvine, Navy, and Cal Baptist. We have two quality goalies (junior Gow and freshman Vojislav Mitrovic), we are playing both of them a lot. We have balance, guys are coming off the bench and helping us.”

Despite the promising start, Princeton has plenty of room for improvement.

“We need to learn each other better; we have some big games coming up and we go to California in three weeks,” said Nicolao, whose team hosts George Washington and Bucknell on September 28.

“It is just the first phase of the season. If we can stay healthy, it could be a special year.”

 

September 17, 2014
HAPPY DAYS: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace is all smiles at the program’s recent media day. Last fall, Surace had a lot of smiles about as the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, tying Harvard for the league crown. Princeton will be looking to build on that success as it kicks off its 2014 campaign by playing at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAPPY DAYS: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace is all smiles at the program’s recent media day. Last fall, Surace had a lot of smiles about as the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, tying Harvard for the league crown. Princeton will be looking to build on that success as it kicks off its 2014 campaign by playing at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2013, the Princeton University football team answered the question of whether it was ready to compete for an Ivy League title in resounding fashion.

Overpowering its foes by scoring 43.7 points a game, the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, tying Harvard for the league crown.

As Princeton looks ahead to its 2014 campaign, the issue now is whether the program can handle prosperity.

Speaking recently at the team’s annual media day, Princeton head coach Bob Surace said that his staff is invoking a bit of Japanese philosophy to inspire his players as they prepare for their season opener at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20.

“We use the word, “kaizen,” which means continuous improvement,” said Surace, a 1990 Princeton alum and All-Ivy center who is bringing a 15-25 record into his fifth year at the helm of his alma mater.

“Instead of competing and worrying about all the things down the road, you compete against Princeton to see how good we can be. So Quinn Epperly (star senior quarterback) is competing to be a better Quinn Epperly. I love that.”

Surace and his staff have gone out of their way to stifle any feeling of complacency among their players.

“Our guys went right back to work,” asserted Surace, whose team was picked to finish first in the Ivy preseason media poll.

“Last season ended and we had our final meeting and our banquet and before that meeting we told them they will get a few days to celebrate and do the bonfire and some of those good things that came with last year. On that next Monday, we are back in the weight room and we are 0-0. They have done a great job with that approach and working to get better.”

In Surace’s view, the team’s season-ending 28-24 loss at Dartmouth last November has helped reinforce that mentality.

“We put ourselves in a hole a number of times last year and that’s tough to do repeatedly,” said Surace.

“There was Brown, Lafayette, Penn and then you get to Dartmouth and at some point it is going to catch up to you. It caught up to us, they are a terrific team and we’ll worry about them when we get there. I think that it just shows all year long we were great at executing certain things — not having penalties in the red zone and we had them that game, catching the ball, we had some drops, being aligned in the right gaps and they had a few long runs where we were misaligned. Those types of things are huge things.”

Princeton is looking for even better execution from senior quarterback and co-captain Epperly even though he is coming off a huge campaign which saw the 6’3, 215-pound lefty throw 25 touchdown passes and rush for 18 more on his way to being the 2013 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year.

“Quinn’s a guy who has played a lot of snaps and no matter how much he has played and how much experience he has, he wants to get better,” said Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry of Epperly, who passed for 2,137 yards and rushed for 570 last fall.

“That was true in the winter and that was true in the spring and in camp it has been true so far. He has been an extremely hard worker and his intention this fall will be to play better than last year and I know he played very well. I think he can play better but he left some room for improvement there and I expect him to with the work he has put in. He clearly had a tremendous year from an accuracy standpoint and he did a lot of things very well last year throwing the ball but we expect him to be able to read defenses like a guy who has played a ton of football.”

Epperly will have a corps of good receivers to target in a quartet of seniors, Matt Costello (48 catches for 534 yards in 2013), Seth DeValve (49 catches for 527 yards), Connor Kelley (44 catches for 444 yards) and Robby Templeton.

“We have got four seniors at wideout who have all played a ton of football,” said Perry. “It’s as hard a working group as you will find. That’s a position we have leadership and some things that, especially the way we play, are very beneficial.”

The Tigers also feature depth at running back with the return of juniors DiAndre Atwater (457 yards rushing in 2013) and Dre Nelson (287 yards rushing) along with senior Will Powers (215 yards rushing).

“Atwater has done well, we have a lot of returners, it is not just coach speak,” said Perry.

“That is a position we are extremely deep in. Will Powers has been playing for 4 years; he is a guy who has played a ton of football and is doing very well. Dre Nelson is another guy who has played a ton of football and probably had the best offseason you could possibly have. You can’t be in better shape than he is right now, he has done everything we have asked for.”

With five senior starters on the offensive line in Spenser Huston, Jack Woodall, Joe Tull, Taylor Pearson, and Mike Ramos, Princeton should be in good shape in the trenches when it has the ball.

“At the line position, we are fully committed to playing guys,” said Perry. “If you are really going to play fast the way we want to, you are going to have to play them. Those guys really embrace it because not many lines in the country are going to play eight or nine people with the regularity that we do. If you are the 10th guy you know you are one guy away from getting on the field against San Diego. We have a lot of guys who have played and know the drill so they know if they can get into the mix, they are going to play.”

On the defensive line, however, the Tigers don’t feature a lot of guys who have played, losing all three starters, most notably All-American Caraun Reid, now playing in the NFL for the Detroit Lions.

As a result, defensive co-coordinator Steve Verbit will be mixing and matching things with that unit.

“We have a lot of guys who are doing some good things, both young and old alike,” said Verbit, noting that his DL rotation currently includes senior Victor Prato, juniors Dan Dreher, Evan Kappatos, and Ian McGreary, sophomores Ty Desire and Brannon Jones, along with freshmen Kurt Holuba and Logan Dziak.

“All eight of those guys are working extremely hard and taking it one day at a time and we are seeing improvement in each of them. I am sure at one point during the course of the season, and it may be as early as San Diego, all eight of those guys may be in the mix.”

At linebacker, Princeton will be depending on two battle-tested seniors, co-captain Mike Zeuli (72 tackles in 2013) and Garrit Leicht (61 tackles), to hold the fort on the inside.

“Mike has played a ton of football so has Garrit; they are having a solid camp and we are leaning on those guys,” said defensive co-coordinator Jim Salgado, who will be using junior Marcus Stroud and sophomore R.J Paige at outside linebacker.

“They have got to make sure they get everybody lined up, make the proper call, and the proper checks. They have been doing a good job of it in training camp so far.”

The secondary figures to be a very good unit for the Tigers with junior and two-time All-Ivy performer Anthony Gaffney (22 tackles and two interceptions in 2013) starting at corner along with classmate John Hill (36 tackles and three interceptions) and the pair of juniors, Matt Arends (61 tackles and one interception) and sophomore Dorian Williams (43 tackles and one interception), at safety.

“It is nice to have guys that have played a lot of football for us at the back end; we have got guys who have played at the corner position and the safety position,” said Salgado.

“It definitely gives us comfort back there if we need to get somebody down in the box, maybe to stop the run or to send pressure, because you feel comfortable with guys who have done it and can cover.”

The return of junior Khamal Brown, who missed last season after having brain surgery in 2012 when he suffered an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, a tangle of blood vessels connecting to arteries, that had ruptured and sent blood pooling into his brain, provides inspiration and depth in the defensive backfield.

“He looks good, he’s made some plays now in practice in camp,” said Salgado.

“Obviously being out for a year, he has to get used to playing again. All in all, he is ready to go. He is as physical a defensive back that we have as a corner or if you put him in at safety. There is no worry about him going in there and making contact. I am real excited to have him back. I love that kid, he was with me up in the box all last year and that helped him. When you are sitting up there and watching a game and really absorbing what we are trying to get done, it has given him a great understanding of what our defense is all about.”

This week, the Tigers are all about beating San Diego. “I know that these guys are totally focused on starting the season well, in four years now we haven’t won that opener,” said Perry.

“When we go out and play that opener, we have got to go out on that first drive and perform well. Come September 20, they will be ready for that first drive.”

Surace, for his part, vows that his team will be ready to throw everything at its foes this fall.

“I like the way we have been progressing throughout the practices, we have got a long ways to go before San Diego.” said Surace.

“We are going to play the best players and the best plays. Whatever we think is the best personnel for a given play, that is who will be in on all three sides of the ball.”

 

SERIOUS BUSINESS: Princeton University football co-captains, senior linebacker Mike Zeuli, left, and senior quarterback Quinn Epperly, strike a serious pose during the program’s recent media day. The Tigers kick off their 2014 campaign at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SERIOUS BUSINESS: Princeton University football co-captains, senior linebacker Mike Zeuli, left, and senior quarterback Quinn Epperly, strike a serious pose during the program’s recent media day. The Tigers kick off their 2014 campaign at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After playing defensive back in his first two seasons with the Princeton University football team, Mike Zeuli was switched to linebacker last fall.

It didn’t take long for Zeuli to make an impact in his new spot, making 18 tackles in a season-opening loss to Lehigh.

“There was definitely a couple of challenges as far as learning a new spot, being more physical and playing more in the box,” said Zeuli, reflecting on the move. “I feel like I got more comfortable and I really liked it.”

As the fall unfolded, Zeuli made things uncomfortable for Princeton’s foes, recording a team-high 72 tackles and earning second-team All-Ivy League honors.

Shifting Zeuli to linebacker helped shore up a defense that came up big as the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy to share the league title with Harvard.

“Once we would see our offense get rolling we would get off the field so we can get them back on the field and they can score some more points,” said the 6’2, 230-pound Zeuli, a native of Marlton, N.J. “It was definitely feeding off of each other.”

For Zeuli, helping the Tigers win the title was a high point, particularly considering that Princeton went 1-9 in his freshman season.

“You come in and it was just one of the toughest years being a freshman, with a lot of work, a lot of everything,” said Zeuli.

“All of a sudden you are losing every game and it was bad but last year was awesome. It made up for it.”

This fall, Zeuli is looking to enjoy an awesome senior campaign, taking a leadership role as team co-captain as the Tigers are primed to win a second straight league title.

“You only have 10 games left and you have to make the best of all of them,” said Zeuli, who is fired up to kick things off in 2014 when Princeton plays at the University of San Diego (1-1) on September 20.

Serving as co-captain along with classmate and star quarterback Quinn Epperly, Zeuli is determined to be the best leader he can be.

“It was just humbling to think that guys on the team look to me as a leader,” said Zeuli, reflecting on being voted captain.

“I hope that I can live up to that and do a good job. I am definitely more lead by example. Guys have problems or questions, they come to me. I am trying to be more vocal as a leader on the defense. I still just have to go out there and do the job and play.”

Assessing how things have gone in the preseason camp, Zeuli believes the Tigers are putting in some good work.

“It has been going well, we are out here working, trying to make plays, trying to get better everyday,” said Zeuli.

While the Princeton team has a bull’s eye on its back as a defending league champion and being picked to finish first this fall by the preseason media poll, Zeuli said the Tigers aren’t feeling pressure to repeat.

“I don’t know if we think about that,” said Zeuli. “You just take every game as it comes and just try to win every game. It’s no different than any other year.”

As Zeuli and his teammates gird for the season, their focus is on seizing the moment.

“You are always trying to fight complacency, whether you are up 20 in a game or coming off an Ivy League championship,” said Zeuli.

“You always still want to play your best. You need to just relax, play, and have fun.”

SISTER ACT: Princeton University field hockey player Annabeth Donovan brings the ball upfield in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore defender Donovan played a strong game in a losing cause as Princeton fell 1-0 to visiting Bucknell in overtime to drop to 0-4. Donovan is the third member of her family to star for the Tiger field hockey program as older sisters Kaitlin ’10 and Amy ’13 played before her. Donovan and the Tigers will look to get on the winning track this weekend as they host Dartmouth on September 20 in their Ivy League opener and then play at American University a day later.(Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

SISTER ACT: Princeton University field hockey player Annabeth Donovan brings the ball upfield in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore defender Donovan played a strong game in a losing cause as Princeton fell 1-0 to visiting Bucknell in overtime to drop to 0-4. Donovan is the third member of her family to star for the Tiger field hockey program as older sisters Kaitlin ’10 and Amy ’13 played before her. Donovan and the Tigers will look to get on the winning track this weekend as they host Dartmouth on September 20 in their Ivy League opener and then play at American University a day later. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Annabeth Donovan was initially looking to buck the family trend when she started looking at college options.

Although her grandfather, both parents, and two older sisters are Princeton University alums, Donovan wanted to go elsewhere.

“When I was little I looked forward to going to Princeton but when I was actually looking at colleges, I said I was never coming here because of my sisters,” said Donovan.

But the school’s excellence in field hockey and academics swayed Donovan to follow in family tradition.

“Once you know Princeton, it is hard to turn it down, especially in the field hockey aspect because it is one of the best programs,” said Donovan, a native of Unionville, Pa. “It is such a good school.”

Joining the field hockey program last fall, Donovan got a good education, soaking up lessons from senior star Julia Reinprecht on the way to making first-team All-Ivy League and being named the league’s Co-Rookie of the Year.

“The biggest things I learned from her is her sense of leadership and her composure on the field and the way she was able to motivate and lead the team,” said Donovan, whose sisters, Kaitlin ’10 and Amy ’13, also starred for the Tiger field hockey program.

“I think she really taught me a lot about playing in that central position. I learned a lot, just how to organize and control a game.”

As a sophomore, Donovan is looking to apply what she learned from Reinprecht.

“It is definitely more calm but it is a new team and we are figuring out our new dynamics,” said Donovan. “There is still a lot of things that we have to work out, it is early in the season.”

Princeton is definitely a work in progress as it fell 1-0 in overtime to Bucknell last Sunday to drop to 0-4.

“I think we definitely improved, we have been working on our mentality during practice and I think it is starting to show,” said Donovan, reflecting on the loss which came two days after a 5-2 defeat to No. 8 Penn State.

“We are just trying to be tougher, trying to stay on marks, recovering back into lines and having the feeling of urgency. I think we showed that today, which is a big improvement.”

Noting that Princeton faced nationally ranked Duke, Virginia, and Penn State in its first three contests this fall, Donovan said that experience has toughened up the squad.

“We are lucky enough to play three top-10 teams early in the season and those top 10 teams are really going to exploit our weaknesses and show us what we have to work on,” said Donovan.

“So while yes it is hard going in and playing such highly ranked teams and maybe not winning, we learn exactly what we need to do because they capitalize on every mental breakdown or tactical error that we make. It just helps improve and recognize what we need to work on.”

Donovan acknowledges that the Tigers need to sharpen up their finishing around the goal.

“We have lots of freshmen and young players filling in there so right now it is just working on that dynamic,” said Donovan.

“Up front, especially, learning how players move and where they go is a big aspect so it is working on that chemistry and that will come in games. We are  getting it up there, we are getting chances. It is just learning how each other plays.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn concurred, frustrated by her team’s failure to score on a day when it outshot Bucknell 10-7 and built a 5-2 edge in penalty corners.

“We had a lot of pretty good opportunities but you have to find a way to finish,” said Holmes-Winn. “I know that sounds simple but when you have opportunities you have to find a way to put them into the net.”

In assessing the loss, Holmes-Winn said her team has to find a way to maintain possession.

“We gave the ball up a ton in our midfield and that is something we just have to fix,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is more mental errors than really a lot of physical stuff. We just have to get into a groove and we haven’t found that groove yet.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, Donovan has found a groove along the back line.

“She has energy and she is consistent,” said Holmes-Winn. “She is mentally very strong and sharp. It just has to be a balance between that energy and that composure. I really think she has that balance right, just having that role model in Julia was really key. We need other players stepping up and providing a little more direction.”

Princeton also needs to play more directly. “We have to attack the game mentally,” said Holmes-Winn.

“When, for example, we are defending and the ball hits their foot we know it’s our free hit, get on the ball instead of wondering whose free hit is it. Mentally, we are not engaged enough in the moment and understanding how we can manipulate the moment to our advantage.”

While Princeton, which won its 19th Ivy League title in the last 20 years last season on the way to the NCAA quarterfinals, is not happy with its 0-4 start, Holmes-Winn is far from discouraged about the Tigers’ prospects.

“It is a long season and we just have to find a way to win the mini-moments throughout the match and capitalize in the form of a finish,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens its Ivy campaign by hosting Dartmouth on September 20 and then plays at American University a day later.

“We certainly have the capability, we absolutely do. I think the belief is there; it is just on game day being able to show what we are capable of.”

Donovan, for her part, believes the Tigers are capable of doing some big things this fall.

“We have definitely been improving every game, slowly but surely,” maintained Donovan. “It is not where you start, it is where you finish.”

 

HEAD GAMES: Princeton University men’s soccer players, Andrew Mills. left, and Thomas Sanner use their heads during Princeton’s scoreless draw with St. John’s last Wednesday. The Tigers, who edged Seton Hall 5-4 last Sunday to improve to 1-1-1, host Georgetown on September 17 in a game to be televised on ESPNU before playing at Boston University on September 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEAD GAMES: Princeton University men’s soccer players, Andrew Mills. left, and Thomas Sanner use their heads during Princeton’s scoreless draw with St. John’s last Wednesday. The Tigers, who edged Seton Hall 5-4 last Sunday to improve to 1-1-1, host Georgetown on September 17 in a game to be televised on ESPNU before playing at Boston University on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Mills is shouldering additional leadership responsibility for the Princeton University men’s soccer team, by necessity.

With fellow senior and All-Ivy League defender Josh Miller having been sidelined by injury, Mills, a midfielder at times during his college career, is spearheading the Princeton backline.

“I played center back in all of my youth so it is nothing new,” said Mills. “I played a little center mid last year so that was kind of a switch up. I am pretty comfortable back there.”

Last Wednesday evening, Mills showed his comfort level in the central defender role, helping Princeton battle St. John’s to a scoreless tie through two overtimes as the Tigers tightened things up after a 3-2 opening day loss to Fairleigh Dickinson University on September 5.

“On Friday, we gave up three soft goals off of set plays and today we
really limited their chances on restarts,” said the 6’2, 195-pound Mills, a native of Sacramento, Calif.

“We gave up a couple of corners that could have been avoidable but we seemed to deal with them pretty well. There were only a couple that I felt they were really getting dangerous. Beyond that, we were just tighter with our line. We were making sure that we were more organized, keeping our communication high.”

There is good communication between Mills and his eight classmates on the squad.

“We are a really tight knit group, just among ourselves as a friend group,” said Mills, a team tri-captain along with classmates Miller and Myles McGinley.

“We have had a lot of experience on the field so one of the things we are really stressing is our leadership between all of our seniors. We have three captains right now, it shows that our team is really geared towards leadership up and down. Our senior class is leading from the guys who are playing and the guys who aren’t playing a lot, all nine.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow likes the leadership he is getting from Mills.

“Mills has done a great job being a leader in the back,” said Barlow. “He is keeping the team connected and has a good way of keeping shape and starting the team attack.”

In Barlow’s view, the team’s defensive unit did a great job collectively in the draw with St. John’s.

“That was about as well as Joe Saitta has ever played,” asserted Barlow. “He was really solid, plugging holes and getting all of his passes right, winning balls in the air. Patrick Barba was solid. Andrew Doar must have run 20 miles, he doesn’t get every play right but he gives you so much in terms of competing, mobility, and covering ground.”

Even though Princeton didn’t find the back of the net on the evening, Barlow was encouraged by his team’s offensive energy as it outshot the red Storm 13-11.

“I think we are going to get goals,” said Barlow, whose team piled up the goals last Sunday as it edged Seton Hall 5-4 with Julian Griggs and Cameron Porter each scoring twice as the Tigers improved to 1-1-1.

“I liked Cam’s play tonight, he is such a handful. Thomas [Sanner] had a very good first half. Brendan McSherry had his moments. Nico [Hurtado] had his moments. I think we are going to be a tough team for teams to deal with. We just got to keep trying to push it and keep getting results as we are doing it.”

While Barlow had hoped that the game would result in a win, he drew plenty of positives from the effort.

“It is a step in the right
direction, we still have a ways to go,” said Barlow, whose team hosts Georgetown on September 17 in a game to be televised on ESPNU before playing at Boston University on September 20. “I think we all feel good about the team we have and where it can go from here.”

Mills and his classmates are hoping to go on an Ivy title run this fall. “This is our last chance, the last two years we were one game away,” said Mills.

“We let the Harvard game and the Penn game both slip away from us last year and this year, I don’t feel that we are letting those slip. I look back toward the year we went 7-0, that was the year before our senior class came in. We are looking to replicate something like that special team did.”

 

September 10, 2014
OPENING MOVE: Princeton University men’s soccer player ­Cameron Porter goes after the ball in a 2013 game. Last Friday, senior star Porter scored the Tigers’ first  goal of the season as Princeton fell 3-2 at Fairleigh Dickinson University in its season opener, squandering a 2-0 second half lead. The Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they host St. John’s (0-3-1) on September 10 at Roberts Stadium.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING MOVE: Princeton University men’s soccer player ­Cameron Porter goes after the ball in a 2013 game. Last Friday, senior star Porter scored the Tigers’ first goal of the season as Princeton fell 3-2 at Fairleigh Dickinson University in its season opener, squandering a 2-0 second half lead. The Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they host St. John’s (0-3-1) on September 10 at Roberts Stadium. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, the Princeton University men’s soccer team opened its season by giving up two first half goals at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) on the way to a 3-0 defeat.

Kicking off its 2014 campaign by playing at FDU last Friday evening, Princeton flipped the script, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on a tally by Cameron Porter early in the contest and a goal by Andrew Doar at the 55-minute mark.

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow liked the way his squad got out of the gate.

“We started well, we scored a nice goal about 4-5 minutes into the game; there was a good build-up and a lot of players touched the ball,” said Barlow.

“We felt that we were not only getting forward, we were solid defensively. We were not letting them get any chances. We were on top of things for a long stretch. In the last 20 minutes, they picked it up and had some half-chances. We felt we were in pretty good shape at halftime. We scored a goal about 10 minutes into the second half. It was a little flukey, Andrew Doar meant to cross it but it went in.”

But, stunningly, FDU produced an encore performance, repeating history by scoring three unanswered goals to pull out a 3-2 win in double overtime.

In assessing the harrowing finish, Barlow acknowledged that his squad let things slip away.

“It ended up being a really, really disappointing ending,” said Barlow. “We conceded goals on some silly mistakes.”

The Knights scored twice within a 15-minute stretch to force overtime, tallying at 64:00 and 78:58.

“On the first one, we let a guy make a run through the midfield and then we committed a foul,” said Barlow.

“The free kick deflected off of our wall and into the corner. The second was a penalty kick. Patrick Barba and their forward were running side by side; they were both looking at the ball and got tangled up. The ref called a foul on Patrick; we were disappointed but those things happen and you have to deal with them. They scored and that got them psyched up. It was a big goal.”

Despite that sequence, Barlow didn’t think the Tigers were hanging their  heads as the game went into overtime.

“I still feel like we bounced back from that,” said Barlow. “We went into the second overtime still tied and we made a silly foul in the midfield. On the free kick, our goalie, Ben Hummel, got his hands on it but it bounced off and they scored on rebound.”

While Barlow declined to blame the defeat on the fact that FDU had two games under its belt coming into the evening, he acknowledged that the Tigers lacked game sharpness.

“We were not looking at each other and saying we had to get fresh legs in; we were still getting chances and going forward,” said Barlow.

“We certainly have fitness but we need to manage the game and get all of the little details right and that only comes with playing games.”

The setback didn’t dim Barlow’s belief that Princeton can win a lot of games this fall.

“I think the biggest positive is that we feel that we have a really good team,” asserted Barlow.

“We are strong at every part of the field. We are explosive. We are athletic, we have some speed and strength. We put together a lot of good plays and kept tight in the back.”

The loss, though, did expose Princeton’s need to improve on set pieces.

“We have to be better on the restarts,” said Barlow.

“We did well in the air and on corner kicks but we have to focus on not making fouls and giving up free kicks and penalties. Every game is close so you have to lean on experience and leadership to get through stretches when the other team is throwing the kitchen sink at us.”

A quartet of veterans, seniors Andrew Mills, junior Brendan McSherry, junior Nico Hurtado, and senior Porter, displayed leadership on Friday night.

“Andrew Mills had a really good game at center back,” said Barlow, noting that senior defensive star Josh Miller is still being hampered by injury.

“Brendan McSherry was very good in the midfield; he was an engine for us. He was a leader and organized the team and had a lot of good passes. Hurtado and Porter did a solid job of getting dangerous up top.”

In Barlow’s view, the players have done a good job of rebounding from Friday’s loss.

“You could make the case that this morning’s session was the best one of the season so far,” said Barlow.

“They bounced back and showed intensity; they are feeling a lot of optimism. We would have liked to get a 1-0 start and be growing while we are winning. That didn’t happen, the game is over, and we have to move forward.”

The Tigers will look to make some good things happens as they host St. John’s (0-3-1) in their home opener on September 10 at Roberts Field.

“They are an attacking, exciting team,” said Barlow, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 14.

“They have a great history and we always have exciting matchups. It is the first day of school and we are hoping for a big crowd; that makes Roberts an exciting place for us.”

SCARLET FEVER: Princeton University women’s soccer player Alessia Azermadhi, left, battles Samantha Valliant of Rutgers for the ball in action last Friday evening. Freshman midfielder Azermadhi played well in her college debut as Princeton fell 5-0 to the Scarlet Knights in its season opener. On Monday, the Tigers moved to 0-1-1 as they battled Seton Hall to a scoreless draw through two overtimes. Princeton will look to get into the win column as it plays at LaSalle on September 12 and hosts Villanova on September 14(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SCARLET FEVER: Princeton University women’s soccer player Alessia Azermadhi, left, battles Samantha Valliant of Rutgers for the ball in action last Friday evening. Freshman midfielder Azermadhi played well in her college debut as Princeton fell 5-0 to the Scarlet Knights in its season opener. On Monday, the Tigers moved to 0-1-1 as they battled Seton Hall to a scoreless draw through two overtimes. Princeton will look to get into the win column as it plays at LaSalle on September 12 and hosts Villanova on September 14 (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julie Shackford knew that her Princeton University women’s soccer team faced a major challenge as it hosted Rutgers last Friday evening in its season opener.

Rutgers came into Roberts Stadium with three games under its belt and a sparkling 3-0 record while Princeton had been practicing for just two weeks.

“You are playing a team that has been in camp since July 30th,” said Princeton head coach Shackford.

“It is very hard. I always struggle with this, do you play a pansy in the first game instead. I still think at the end of the day that a game like that will help us down the road.”

It turned out to be a hard evening for the Tigers as they saw a 1-0 halftime deficit deteriorate into a 5-0 loss.

“I thought we did well in the first half,” said Shackford, whose squad matched Rutger in shots at 5-5 over the first 45 minutes of the contest, generating some good chances including a Tyler Lussi volley that hit the crossbar.

“I think there is still a lot of inexperience on the field for us. There is no question that we are not game fit and so then it is trying to suss out how much of it is real soccer breakdowns or how much of it is the fatigue.”

Princeton got some good soccer from its trio of freshman starters, midfielders Vanessa Gregoire and Alessia Azermahdi along with defender Natalie Larkin.

“They did well,” said Shackford. “I thought Alessia played well. I thought Alessia, from a defensive perspective, did a lot of dirty work for us.”

Taking a long-term perspective, Shackford believes taking lumps against Rutgers will help Princeton later in the fall.

“I still think at the end of the day that it is a good first test, it is a starting point,” said Shackford.

“We have a lot of things to work out. I think on the day we lost to a very good team and we just have to learn from it going forward. Ultimately our goal is to put ourselves in position to win the league and so how does this step prepare us for that.”

On Monday, Princeton showed progress as it battled Seton Hall to a scoreless draw through two overtimes, achieving the main goals Shackford set coming out of the Rutgers game.

“I just want us to be a little bit more organized defensively and a little bit more active up top,” said Shackford, whose team outshot the Pirates 16-6 and will hope for even more improvement as Princeton plays at LaSalle on September 12 before hosting Villanova on September 14.

SUMMER FLING: Princeton University rising junior Julia ­Ratcliffe displays her form in the hammer throw. In June, Ratcliffe, a native of Hamilton, New Zealand, won the NCAA championship in the event with a throw of  219’ 5. A month later, representing her homeland, Ratcliffe took silver in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland with a heave of 229’ 6.25.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

SUMMER FLING: Princeton University rising junior Julia ­Ratcliffe displays her form in the hammer throw. In June, Ratcliffe, a native of Hamilton, New Zealand, won the NCAA championship in the event with a throw of 219’ 5. A month later, representing her homeland, Ratcliffe took silver in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland with a heave of 229’ 6.25. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

As students flood back to Princeton University this week for the start of school, few will have accomplished as much over summer break as Julia Ratcliffe.

In June, the rising Princeton junior and native of Hamilton, New Zealand, won the women’s hammer throw at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., marking the 43rd straight year that Princeton has produced at least one team or individual national champion.

A month later, representing her homeland, Ratcliffe took silver in the hammer throw in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, a prestigious international competition held every four years that features athletes from countries with ties to the British Empire.

Speaking from her summer training base in Wimbledon, England, Ratcliffe believes that her experience this summer will have a long-term benefit.

“I have competed at a high level so when I feel young and under-prepared, it is just to look back and say, I can do this,” said Ratcliffe.

“In high pressure situations like that where there are a lot of distractions, I know that I have the ability to stay focused while still enjoying myself.”

After having finished 11th at the NCAA meet in 2013, Ratcliffe showed an intense focus in taking the title this year.

“I was a bit nervous, I didn’t really want a repeat of last year,” said Ratcliffe. “I knew I basically had to hold it together and not try anything fancy or try too hard and I would probably come away with a different result.”

Ratcliffe was proud of how she kept things together when the finals turned into a two-woman contest between Colorado’s Emily Hunsucker and her.

“I am not in a position often where I have to chase people so when Hunsucker was ahead of me, she threw and then I threw one that beat her and then she threw one that beat me,” recalled Ratcliffe.

“It was oh man, this is going to be a rough one so that was quite cool. I was quite glad that I managed to hold it together through that, it was a novel situation for me. I was glad that I could keep improving on all of my throws because I kind of knew I was going to get one of the top three at least.”

Getting the NCAA title meant a lot to Ratcliffe. “I wasn’t prepared for how big it was,” said Ratcliffe.

“I knew it would be big but everyone went crazy about that, especially people from Princeton. They came up to me and all of my friends from school were so supportive and so proud of me. It means a lot, it made all the training and all the hard cold days worth it. It was more doing it for Princeton and the girls on my team.”

Days after the NCAAs, Ratcliffe headed to England to train for the Commonwealth Games, staying at her aunt’s house in Wimbledon in south London.

“It was a perfect set-up, my dad came over to coach me,” said Ratcliffe. “He was with me twice a day training so we just went down to the local track and threw down there and went to a gym and did some lifting. We had beautiful weather. It was basically ideal training conditions; everything was really accessible and convenient to get to. I could just get out there and train.”

After a training camp with the New Zealand team in Wales, Ratcliffe arrived in Scotland in late July.

“I have been to a few games where there is a village situation but the  Commonwealth Games was definitely the biggest one I have been to,” said Ratcliffe.

“It was just huge. The people of Glasgow and the volunteers, especially, were so helpful. They were falling over themselves to help you out, it made the experience awesome. It just really brought the city together. In the stadium, the noise was phenomenal. It was great because they were cheering for everyone but when a Scottish person came out, it was 10-fold, the noise was overwhelming.”

Despite her relative youth and inexperience on the international level, Ratcliffe was not overwhelmed by the atmosphere once she got into action. She achieved the qualifying standard for the final on her first throw in the preliminary round and then battled Canada’s Sultana Frizell tooth and nail in the medal round. Ratcliffe’s best throw was 69.96 (229’ 6.25), just 2.01 meters short of Frizell’s gold medal throw of 71.97.

“I got the automatic qualifier so that was a huge confidence builder,” said Ratcliffe.

“I was just ready to get out there and throw, I was training for this for all year basically, this and the NCAAs were my big competitions. I was ready, not to get it over with, but to get out there and enjoy myself. I was gutted that I couldn’t hit 70 again. To get on the world stage and throw that consistently, there are only good things to come from that.”

Succeeding on the world stage was a surreal experience for Ratcliffe. “We watched the Commonwealth Games as kids, it is kind of you like you watch the Olympics on TV,” said Ratcliffe.

“It was oh that is so cool, people are doing their country proud and winning medals. You feel so proud to be part of your country and to think that people are watching me on the TV is just something that is hard to believe. It seems not real, the competition that I went to in Glasgow where I got a medal, is it is the Commonwealth Games that you watch on TV?”

Ratcliffe’s medal-winning performance made her a TV star for a week in New Zealand.

“People didn’t know who I was before this so it was quite cool because there wasn’t a big media pressure on me to do well,” said Ratcliffe, who got in some travel during her time in England, going to Paris with her family for her 21st birthday and then traveling around Europe for two weeks with some friends after the Commonwealth Games.

“I did a lot of interviews straight after the competition and following. One of my friends e-mailed me the next day after the final and said you are on basically every news channel.”

As she looks ahead to her junior season at Princeton and beyond, Ratcliffe plans to keep making news.

“I would really like to get the meet record at NCAAs, that would be quite cool,” said Ratcliffe, who has her sights on the World Championships and World University Games in 2015 and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I want to keep the consistency up and keep moving forward rather than looking back and saying that was a great year. I can’t sit back and keep doing what I was doing so I am keeping hungry for more improvements.”

September 3, 2014
POWERBALL: Princeton University field hockey star Teresa Benvenuti powers the ball down the field in a game last season. Junior midfielder Benvenuti, a two-time first-team All-Ivy League performer, provides good punch in the midfield for the Tigers. No. 7 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at fourth-ranked Duke on September 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POWERBALL: Princeton University field hockey star Teresa Benvenuti powers the ball down the field in a game last season. Junior midfielder Benvenuti, a two-time first-team All-Ivy League performer, provides good punch in the midfield for the Tigers. No. 7 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at fourth-ranked Duke on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University field hockey team, its daily theme comes down to one word — work.

The Tigers are working on playing faster, being better off the ball all over the field, playing more directly on offense, touching every ball on defense, and being more physical, among other things.

To monitor the players’ work rate, Princeton is employing state-of-the art Firstbeat technology, a software tool providing an advanced analysis of beat-by-beat heart rate data and oxygen capacity for each player as she goes through practice.

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn likes the way her players have embraced the heavy workload.

“I am most pleased with how unified the team is,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to a 14-5 record in 2013 with an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals and the program’s 19th Ivy league title in the last 20 years.

“I give so much credit to the seniors, they worked this spring to see what kind of leaders they were going to be. They are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. You see the energy in a strong way. They are setting the tone and it has transferred to the rest of the team and the freshmen are blending in. We are seeing a level of work.”

Even though Princeton is ranked No. 7 in the Monto/NFHCA preseason poll, the focus is squarely on daily improvement rather than where the Tigers stand nationally.

“I think for us it is not to prove something but to play our best hockey and maximize the group’s potential,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We focus on daily goals in a powerful way, looking to achieve our phase one goals right now. It is all about action.”

The Tigers should get plenty of goals from its group of strikers which includes senior and All-Ivy performer Allison Evans (11 goals and 6 assists in 2013), sophomore Cat Caro (9 goals, 4 assists) and junior Maddie Copeland (5 goals, 1 assist).

“Evans is so feisty, she plays with a chip on her shoulder even though she doesn’t really have one,” said Holmes-Winn.

“She has such energy. She’s utterly effective inside the attacking third. She has quick hands and makes great decisions in there. Cat Caro is so strong and physical but she plays with a beautiful touch on the ball. We are looking for Maddie to provide leadership on the front line.”

Two freshmen, Lexi Quirk and Rachel Park, could provide a spark up front.

“Lexi Quirk is so fit, she can literally run all day,” said Holmes-Winn. “She can chase and run and is a great finisher. Rachel Park has a good physiology and great touch on the ball.”

Junior star Teresa Benvenuti (8 goals, 8 assists), a two-time first-team All-Ivy performer, provides good punch in the midfield.

“Teresa is so, so powerful and her decision-making has improved every year,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We want her to overlap in the front third. She is also a phenomenal defender. She can intercept and tackle. She sets a tone; she has that aggressive mentality.”

Holmes-Winn is looking for senior Sydney Kirby (2 goals, 4 assists) to display a special work ethic in the middle of the field.

“Kirby has such an engine, she ran 2.4 miles in a 15-minute block in practice the other day and the next closest player was at 1.3 miles,” said Holmes-Winn of Kirby, an honorable mention All-Ivy choice last year.

“Her work rate is in the ball park of Katie Reinprecht ’13, she is off the charts. It has been a challenge to keep Sydney healthy. If she is, she will do some serious damage. I am excited to see her evolve this fall.”

The Tigers have several other players who will get work in the midfield. “We also have Ryan McCarthy, Cassidy Arner (2 goals), Ellen Dobrijevic, and Debi-Michelle Jantzen in the midfield,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have a nice complement of players in the midfield, they can come in and provide support. We are going to need a lot of legs this year.”

Buoyed by the support of star defender and Olympian Julia Reinprecht ’14, Annabeth Donovan (1 goal, 4 assists) enjoyed a superb debut campaign last year, earning first-team All-Ivy honors and being named the league’s Co-Rookie of the Year.

“Donovan is even better than last year, she has refined her ball skills and has much more control,” asserted Holmes-Winn, who will also be using junior Kate Ferrara, senior Colleen Boyce, junior Saskia deQuant, and freshman Sarah Brennan, a former Princeton Day School standout, on defense.

“She has a great level of understanding of that we want to do. Having AB being able to learn from Jules was so crucial. She can come in and play center half, she has big shoes to fill. When Jules got hurt against Penn State in the NCAA tournament, she had to step in and play center half and did a great job; that is part of Julia’s legacy. AB has confidence and brings leadership, she is really a commander out there.”

Holmes-Winn is seeing some commanding efforts from her two goalies, junior Anya Gersoff (a 1.81 goals against average in 13 starts last year) and senior Julia Boyle (4.33 goals against average in two appearances).

“We are lucky to have two of the best goalies in the country, both of them have looked pretty exceptional in preseason,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Our goalie coach, David Williamson, has been working with them. They have really benefitted from him. Anya has been exceptional, she played a lot this summer and it shows. We will look at each week and see who we are playing.”

As usual, Princeton faces a challenging first week of the season, playing at No. 4 Duke on September 5, at No. 6 Virginia on September 7, and at No. 8 Penn State on September 12.

“The beginning of the season is a crap shoot, you play a deep rotation and get players some time to see what you have,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to the 2012 NCAA crown.

“There are a lot of internal questions and we are trying to glean answers. It is a great way to find out who you are. We want to play teams with a level of talent and pace who will be standing at the end. You get used to playing against your own players in practice, it is good to go against other players. All three opponents have different styles and philosophies, different strengths and weaknesses.”

Princeton’s philosophy centers on being strong with the ball and working hard all over the field.

“For us, it is focusing on being more comfortable on the ball,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We want confidence, poise, and more directness in the attacking third. On defense, we want to show poise and physicality and try to get a touch on every single ball.”

KICK-START: Princeton University men’s soccer player Brian Costa prepares to boot the ball upfield in a game last season. Sophomore Costa, an honorable mention, All-Ivy League choice in 2013, should provide energy and production in the midfield for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2014 campaign by playing at Fairleigh Dickinson University (0-2) on September 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KICK-START: Princeton University men’s soccer player Brian Costa prepares to boot the ball upfield in a game last season. Sophomore Costa, an honorable mention, All-Ivy League choice in 2013, should provide energy and production in the midfield for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2014 campaign by playing at Fairleigh Dickinson University (0-2) on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In each of the last two seasons, the Princeton University men’s soccer team came agonizingly close to winning the Ivy League.

In 2012, Princeton posted a 4-1-2 league record but Cornell had a 6-1 mark to earn the crown. Last fall, the Tigers went 4-2-1 in the Ivies only to see Penn go 5-1-1 and wrest the title away from them.

Led by a group of nine seniors, Princeton is determined to get over the hump this fall.

“There is a hunger, they are into it,” said longtime Princeton head coach Jim Barlow, assessing the mood around the team in preseason.

“We are seeing energy, spirit, and chemistry. I think we have a nice balance in the senior class positionally. We have vocal leaders and guys who lead by example spread over the field.”

The senior leadership has translated into better communication on the field. “We saw in our scrimmage with Columbia how much more chatter there is,” said Barlow.

“They have a good way of pushing themselves and problem solving without waiting to hear from the coaches. The guys have been through a lot of hard, tough games.”

At forward, the Tigers should make things tough on their foes with a pair of All-Ivy performers in senior Cameron Porter (9 goals and 3 assists in 2013) and junior Thomas Sanner (7 goals, 1 assist) along with senior Julian Griggs (1 assist) and junior Nico Hurtado (2 goals, 2 assists).

“We feel we should be a little more explosive in our attack,” said Barlow.

“We are returning two first-team All-Ivy forwards and if Griggs had been healthy last year, he would have been in contention. Hurtado is creative and clever with the ball. We have some depth and some explosiveness, we are hungry to get them the ball. We are trying to figure the best positions and who should be paired with whom. We may mix and match and have different looks for different games.”

There figures to be a lot of mixing and matching in the midfield as Princeton boasts a number of options there, including junior Brendan McSherry (2 goals, 4 assists), sophomore Brian Costa (1 assist), senior Joe Saitta (1 assist), junior Jack Hilger, and sophomore Bryan Windsor (1 goal).

“We have a lot of depth in the midfield and there is not a lot separating them,” said Barlow.

“McSherry and Costa started the scrimmage, they will see a lot of playing time. There are a lot of guys who are really close. We have to figure out our top group. Some guys are trying to get fit and win a spot so some days they have heavy legs and it is tough to judge.”

Another returning All-Ivy standout, senior Myles McGinley, looks to fill the spot as a link between the defense and the midfield.

“In the spring, we played Myles wide on the right,” noted Barlow. “With Chris Benedict leaving a hole in that spot, we need someone who can defend and attack. We may have Myles at midfield/defender as a guy who gets forward a lot.”

Princeton has a lot of talent on defense, featuring first-team All-Ivy performer senior Josh Miller along with senior Andrew Mills (3 assists), sophomore Patrick Barba, sophomore Mark Romanowski, and sophomore Greg Seifert.

“Miller gives us athleticism and leadership; he keeps the back line committed,” said Barlow of Miller, the only Tiger to start all 17 games last fall.

“He is so tuned in, he reads plays and he helps others get in position. Mills came on at the end last year and he has done well. Barba has been excellent. Romanowski and Seifert are strong athletic defenders. I think we are going to be OK in the back.”

The Tigers look OK in goal with the emergence of 6’6 junior Ben Hummel. “Hummel had an excellent spring, he’s huge and athletic,” said Barlow of Hummel who made two starts last fall and had a goals against average of 1.00.

“He’s athletic for a guy that size, he played a lot of basketball in high school. He has quick movement and is good at changing direction. We are comfortable with the way he plays balls in the box. With his height, he is able to pick off balls that other keepers can’t get to.”

Barlow is hoping his squad gets things going in the right direction when they open regular season play with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson University (0-2) on September 5.

“We remember last year when things were going well in preseason and we went up there for opener and got pummeled 3-0,” said Barlow. “We never could get into a rhythm. The guys are excited for the game. FDU has done well year in, year out. I saw they lost their first game so they will be hungry.”

After going 3-7 in non-conference games last fall, Princeton is hungry to do better in that part of its schedule.

“We have a lot of guys who have been on the field a lot in the last two years,” said Barlow, noting that the team’s freshman class boasts several players who could see playing time as the season unfolds, noting that newcomers Matt Mangini, Daniel Bowkett, Michael Chang, James Reimer, Nicholas Badalamenti, and Chase Bishov all have a good pedigree.

“We want to play stronger in our non-conference games. We all struggled in the league last year except Dartmouth and then they couldn’t win in the conference. For us to get more than one team from the league in the NCAA tournament, we need to have a better RPI (Rating Percentage Index).”

Barlow, for his part, believes his team just has to be a little bit better around the goal at both ends of the field to produce a strong campaign.

“I think we can create chances with our athleticism, experience, and talent up the field,” said Barlow.

“We had chances last year but we didn’t put them away at a high percentage. The last part was not sharp enough. We can’t be panicking when we get behind defense; we need to be composed at the finish. We need to be better on re-starts, attacking, and defending on corner kicks and on throw-ins. Being rock solid defensively is the starting point.”

ON THE LOOSE: Tyler Lussi goes after the ball last fall in her freshman season season with the Princeton University women’s soccer team. Lussi made an immediate impact for the Tigers, scoring a team-high 10 goals. She will be looking to keep up her scoring as Princeton opens up its 2014 campaign by hosting Rutgers (3-0) on September 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE LOOSE: Tyler Lussi goes after the ball last fall in her freshman season season with the Princeton University women’s soccer team. Lussi made an immediate impact for the Tigers, scoring a team-high 10 goals. She will be looking to keep up her scoring as Princeton opens up its 2014 campaign by hosting Rutgers (3-0) on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julie Shackford feels like a college senior again as she looks ahead to coaching the Princeton University women’s soccer team this fall.

In August, Shackford announced that her 20th campaign at the helm of the program would be her swan song, something that has linked her with the team’s Class of 2015.

“I wanted to tell them before the season so they could experience it with me,” said Shackford, who is getting remarried and relocating to Virginia.

“I told the team and the seniors are calling me one of them. They have all been supportive and really phenomenal about it.”

In making her decision to retire, Shackford is entering the last lap of a phenomenal run.

“It has been 20 years at Princeton and 25 years in coaching,” said Shackford, who has a 196-109-26 record at Princeton with an appearance in the 2004 College Cup Final 4 and six Ivy League titles and posted a 42-21-4 in five years at Carnegie Mellon before taking over the Tigers.

“I have given almost half my life to a great institution. I wanted to go out now, it feels right.”

Shackford believes the team’s group of nine seniors can help get the Tigers back on the right track as the program looks to rebound from going 7-6-4 overall last year and 1-5-1 in Ivy play.

“We have a big senior class and historically those have been the teams that have done well in the Ivy League,” said Shackford. “The senior class is pretty intent; they have guided the group.”

The Tigers appear to have a pretty good attack group, paced by sophomore Tyler Lussi, who had a team-high 10 goals along with four assists in her debut campaign. She will be joined by senior Melissa Downey (3 goals and 1 assist in 2013), senior Gabrielle Ragazzo (1 goal, 2 assists), senior Liana
Cornacchio, and freshman Beth Stella.

“Lussi is looking good,” said Shackford, noting that she plans to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation this season.

“I think Melissa is ready to do her thing, she was coming off a knee injury last year. I moved Ragazzo up top from the back. We are going to play a target, I have Liana and freshman Beth Stella in that spot.”

In the midfield, the Tigers will have a distinctive Canadian flavor as sophomore Nicole Loncar (1 assist), freshman Vanessa Gregoire, and freshman Alessia Azermadhi all hail from north of the border.

“We will have some holding midfielders,” said Shackford. “Nicole had a compartment injury last year and she is really doing well. Vanessa played for the Canada U-20 team. She is a good player, she is already leading that group. Alessia will be in that spot. We will have players rotating through that middle spot, including Jessica Haley (3 goals, 2 assists).”

Shackford has rotated two key players, sophomore Jess McDonough (1 goal, 1 assist) and senior Lauren Lazo (5 goals, 7 assists), to the back of the field in order to shore up the defense.

“McDonough is going to be playing in the middle of the back line so she needs to make a big jump,” said Shackford, who will also use junior Emily Sura (1 assist) and freshman Natalie Larkin on the back line.

“I have moved Lazo to the back. She is so quick and can still get points from that position. She played there all spring and looked really good.”

At goalie, senior Darcy Hargadon (1.42 goals against average in 12 starts last year) has been looking good as she heads into her final campaign.

“Darcy has done well in the preseason, I think she is ready to really step up,” said Shackford, whose reserve keepers are sophomore Hannah Winner and senior MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti.

The Tigers will need to step up from the start as they open the 2014 campaign by hosting Rutgers on September 5.

“That is a tough opening game, they have already won two games and they are good up top,” said Shackford of the Scarlet Knights, who topped Seton Hall 1-0 last Friday to improve to 3-0. “We have never backed away from a challenge.”

While Shackford knows it will be a challenge for Princeton to return to the top of the Ivies, she thinks the squad has the ability to make her farewell tour memorable.

“We will be a talented team,” said Shackford, who guided the Tigers to the 2012 Ivy title as they went 7-0 in league play for the second time in Shackford’s tenure.

“I think we will be good on attack but we will need the younger kids in the back to mature and stay in position. If the defense and goaltending is good, I think we will be a contender.”

August 27, 2014
BACK IN THE FLOW: Heidi Robbins gives her all in a 2013 race for the Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 during her senior season. Robbins made the U.S. women’s 8 for the 2013 World Rowing Championships but was unable to compete after suffering a back injury. Recovering from that setback, Robbins regained her spot on the 8 and is competing this week for the U.S in this year’s World Championship regatta, which is taking place in Amsterdam, Netherlands from August 24-31.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Rowing)

BACK IN THE FLOW: Heidi Robbins gives her all in a 2013 race for the Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 during her senior season. Robbins made the U.S. women’s 8 for the 2013 World Rowing Championships but was unable to compete after suffering a back injury. Recovering from that setback, Robbins regained her spot on the 8 and is competing this week for the U.S in this year’s World Championship regatta, which is taking place in Amsterdam, Netherlands from August 24-31. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Rowing)

Starting rowing as a walk-on to the Princeton University women’s open crew program in 2009, Heidi Robbins has enjoyed an astonishing rise up the sport’s ladder.

Robbins, a native of Hanover, N.H., made the Tiger varsity 8 as a sophomore and helped the boat win the NCAA championship in 2011. She then earned a spot in the U.S. U-23 program and was on the U.S. women’s 8 that earned gold in the 2012 U-23 world championships.

After ending her Princeton career in 2013 by helping the varsity 8 to a win in the Ivy League regatta and a second place finish at the NCAAs,  Robbins joined the U.S. senior national team.

In her first race with the U.S. women’s 8, she competed from the stroke seat as the boat set a world record of 5:54.16 for 2,000-meters in a world cup race in Lucerne.

Robbins was later chosen for the U.S. women’s 8 to compete in the 2013 World Rowing Championships at Linz, Austria.

But then Robbins hit the first roadblock of her rowing career. “We were over there and training and I hurt my back,” said Robbins.

“I had a herniated disc, it was sudden and it was pretty definite that I was going to be sidelined. It was a devastating loss, I had been so excited to be part of something.”

After months of rest and rehab, Robbins got back in the flow this year and made the U.S. women’s 8 that will be competing this week in the 2014 worlds, which is taking place in Amsterdam, Netherlands from August 24-31.

For Robbins, the injury setback helped give her a new perspective on the sport.

“It shifted the way I thought about things; it is a long haul and things aren’t always going to go well,” said Robbins.

“I know there are going to be blows and that I can come back. I know it is going to be a long haul and I still have a long way to go. I talked to some of the older rowers and it hasn’t been a straight line for them. The trajectory for everyone has been up and down; everyone has been there.”

Robbins ended her PU career on an up note in 2013, helping the Tiger varsity 8 to first in the Ivy regatta and second at the NCAAs.

“As a senior, to have that kind of race at the NCAAs was a good way to finish,” said Robbins.

“It was quite a race. It was a long season and there were races that we won but didn’t have the speed we wanted. We came together in that last race. We were up on the other boats at 500 meters. We threw it all down and Cal came through at the end.”

Things came together in college for Robbins through her decision to take up rowing. “I think the Princeton program has given me a lot of support,” said Robbins.

“It gave me confidence and helped me find myself in college. It gave me the feeling that I mattered, that I had a role and that people were invested in me. When you leave college, you realize you are on your own.”

It didn’t take long for Robbins to grasp that she was going solo after college.

“I had graduation and then the next day I was at national team practice,” recalled Robbins.

“The train kept rolling, the more I thought about it, the more scared I got. It was a very different system. There was a sense of loss, there was a little grieving. I couldn’t believe college was over and I was going to miss it terribly but there is a time and place for that.”

Despite ultimately getting chosen for the U.S. women’s 8, Robbins still harbored some fears.

“When I made it, it was oh my god, this is the two-time Olympic gold medalist,” said Robbins. “I was really intimidated. I put my head down and continued to do what I knew.”

Helping the U.S. boat set a world record in her debut at the senior level was a heady experience for Robbins.

“Lucerne was my first race, you talk about having some nerves,” said Robbins.

“I was at stroke. You just have to do what you know, I put my blinders on. It was a tremendous race, it was a lot of fun. You are so in a zone. At 1,000 meters, the cox, Katelin Snyder, told us the split and it was like an out of body experience the rest of the race. It was just driving and driving as hard as you could.”

Displaying her drive, Robbins has worked hard to get back up to full speed in rehabbing from her injury.

“It took time for me to get my strength back,” said Robbins. “It took three months before I felt I had my old self back again. I have gotten stronger physically, so hopefully I won’t get hurt rowing. I am better at taking care of my body and recovering.”

For Robbins, regaining her place on the 8 for the worlds left her with a feeling of redemption.

“I am so grateful to have another chance,” said Robbins. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity. The majority of last year’s boat is back with some new additions. There is a fun dynamic.”

That dynamic mixed with some arduous training has Robbins excited about the boat’s prospects in Amsterdam.

“The training has been good; they told us to expect to feel tired getting on the plane for the flight over there,” said Robbins.

“There are always expectations. You have to take it like it is your first time and take your best shot. It is my first time; I can’t wait to be out there.”

Now, Robbins is hoping to ascend to the summit of rowing by competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“That is the goal,” said Robbins, who has been keeping busy off the water by working in a lab with the Princeton biology department and hopes to go to medical school someday.

“When I first got rowing with the national team I was asked how long I was going to be rowing and I said my dream would be the Olympics. I was quiet about it at first. It is my goal, it is my dream so I don’t need to be quiet about it.”

DOUBLE TAKE: Erin Reelick pulls hard in a race this spring for the Princeton University women’s open rowing varsity 8. Last month, rising junior Reelick pulled off a rare feat, earning double gold at the World Rowing U-23 Championships. She helped both the U.S. 4- and 8+ prevail in the regatta at Varese, Italy.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Rowing)

DOUBLE TAKE: Erin Reelick pulls hard in a race this spring for the Princeton University women’s open rowing varsity 8. Last month, rising junior Reelick pulled off a rare feat, earning double gold at the World Rowing U-23 Championships. She helped both the U.S. 4- and 8+ prevail in the regatta at Varese, Italy. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Rowing)

Erin Reelick was originally on the outside looking in this spring when it came to the U.S. U-23 rowing program despite emerging as a star for the Princeton University women’s open squad.

“I was initially wait-listed,” said Reelick, who made the varsity 8 as a freshman and helped the boat place second at the 2013 NCAA championships.

“There was one big camp for the 8, 4, pair, and quad. I was not one of the 18 or 19 invited.”

But after helping the Princeton varsity 8 win the Ivy League championship this spring in her sophomore campaign, Reelick got her chance to try out for the  U.S. team.

“After the Ivy regatta, I got an e-mail from the coach asking me if I wanted to come out and I said of course,” said Reelick.

Once in the training camp, Reelick focused on giving her best everyday.

“Going into it was a little tough, I was the last person invited,” said Reelick. “I had the mentality of just trying to get through each day. A few of the other girls felt that way and that helped.”

Reelick got through the camp and ended up getting named to both the U.S. 4- and 8+. She went on to help the U.S. earn gold in both events last month at the  World Rowing U-23 Championships in Varese, Italy.

“I never expected to make it there and we were able to pull it off,” said Reelick.

“It was such an amazing experience as a whole, meeting different people and rowing for a different coach.”

Reelick’s rowing experience has been intertwined with her older sister Kelsey, who graduated from Princeton this June after starring for the Tiger women’s program.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Reelick took up the sport as a sophomore in high school although it wasn’t love at first sight.

“It wasn’t really huge fun for me as a sophomore, I still liked other sports more,” said Reelick, a native of Brookfield, Conn. who also played basketball and soccer.

“I became captivated with rowing in my junior year. The fact that it combines technical emphasis with being in top physical shape kept me mentally into it.”

When it came to rowing in college, Reelick was influenced by her older sister’s example.

“I was considering Princeton, Harvard, and Yale,” said Reelick. “My sister played a big role, the idea of her being there was a plus. I had a campus overnight visit and I met Lori (Princeton head coach Lori Dauphiny) and the girls and I liked the dynamic in the boathouse.”

Dealing with the new dynamic of college as a freshman proved to be a challenge for Reelick.

“To be honest, balancing everything, school, rowing, and social life was a big change,” said Reelick.

“The pure volume of workload increased in every area. I struggled a little bit in the fall to get my priorities straight. I was helped by Kelsey on prioritizing.”

By the spring, Reelick was on the varsity 8, helping it to gold in the Ivy regatta and silver at the NCAAs.

“It was pretty amazing to row with those seniors, they were all amazing athletes,” said Reelick. “It was really fun being along for the ride

As a sophomore, Reelick had a smoother ride. “I was not the confused, scared freshman,” said Reelick.

“I had been there and done that and it was let’s do better. I knew what to expect and that made the year easier.”

Things didn’t come easy for the varsity 8, though, as the boat lost its first two races of the spring before going on a late-season run that saw it win its last four regular season races and then place first at the Ivy regatta.

“I think we definitely made progress,” said Reelick. “My reaction at the beginning was that the boat was not quite as fast as last year. We made huge improvements throughout. After the first dual races, we had put things in perspective. We realized that we had to work our butts off all spring.”

The spring ended on a bit of a down note as the Tigers failed to qualify for the NCAA grand final. Princeton did rebound from that setback to win the B final and place seventh overall in the country.

“The NCAA semis was very disappointing,” said Reelick, reflecting on the race which saw the Tigers take fourth, one place away from earning a spot in the grand final.

“Lori played a big part in how we did in the B final. She said that was disappointing but let’s come back tomorrow and crush it and we did. It was a good way to go out, especially for the seniors.”

This summer, Reelick wasn’t sure if the U.S. boats were going to crush it in Italy.

“The 8 was the priority boat; the 4 didn’t practice as much as the 8,” said Reelick.

“There was a lot of pressure on the 8 because of performance in past years. We didn’t feel we were quite ready. We dedicated a couple of days just to the 8 and then we had a change in the lineup and a new girl was going to stroke. That made it a little nerve-wracking.”

After a strong effort in its heat, the 4 rode a strong start in the final to earn gold.

“It was one of those moments where I was holding my breath and then settling into a rhythm,” said Reelick, who rowed from the stroke seat in the coxless boat.

“We got up and held the lead. I was waiting for the other boats to make a recovery. We wanted to keep chugging along, I was really expecting one of the other boats to come back. We did a really good job of staying ahead and the amount of time we had was enough. At 250 meters to go, I remember New Zealand coming up, they had an amazing sprint.”

While the win in the 4 was heartening, Reelick was concerned that the effort could sap the 8 since half the boat was involved in both events.

“It gave me confidence but hoped we didn’t spend everything on the 4,” said Reelick. “The training was brutal and that prepared us well for those four races. The girls in the other 8s hadn’t raced since Thursday.”

Following a similar script to the 4, the 8 charged into an early lead and held on for victory.

“At 1,000 meters, our cox made a call for fresh legs; the race announcer was saying we didn’t have fresh legs,” said Reelick. “The 8 race was pretty similar to the 4; we got up at the start and held them off.”

For Reelick, the magnitude of her racing achievement took a while to process. “I was in shock actually,” said Reelick. “It didn’t quite hit me that I had double gold until few hours later.”

Turning her focus to her junior season at Princeton, Reelick believes the Tigers have what it takes to go for gold.

“I think we have the potential to be a pretty fast boat,” said Reelick. “We have a good group of girls coming back. We have a cool group of freshmen coming in who could really help us. We learned from last year. The goal is the NCAAs; we will never forget that race.”

Princeton men's and women's crew

AMPED UP: Jamie Hamp displays his focus in action this spring for the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8. This summer, rising senior Hamp excelled on the international stage, earning a bronze medal for the U.S. men’s 8 at the World Rowing U-23 Championships. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

For Jamie Hamp, getting cut from the U.S. Under-23 team in 2012 after his freshman year with the Princeton University men’s heavyweight rowing program proved to be a blessing in disguise.

“I was on a pair that didn’t make it, we were second to the boat that went on to get fourth in the worlds,” said Hamp.

“I got coached by Justin Farrington, he knew a lot about the pairs. It improved my skills and helped me move the boat faster. The experience in small boats really helped me as I went into my sophomore season.”

During his sophomore campaign at Princeton, Hamp made the varsity 8 and helped the Tigers make the grand final (top 6) in both Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championship regatta.

That summer, Hamp tried out again for the U-23 squad and stuck around this time, getting picked for the men’s 8 and earning a silver medal at the World Rowing U-23 Championships.

As a junior, Hamp helped the Tigers earn a bronze medal at the Eastern Sprints and last month he medaled again at the U-23 worlds, competing for the U.S. men’s 8 that earned bronze at the competition held in Varese, Italy.

While the U.S. boat didn’t match the silver earned in 2013, Hamp was proud of the boat’s effort.

“Any medal at world championships is tough to get,” said Hamp. “There were six fast boats in that race. New Zealand and Australia both had great races and good boats. We led the race at 500 meters. I am proud that we went for it. We threw it all out there.”

Hamp, a native of North Tonawanda, N.Y., threw himself into rowing from the time he started the sport in his freshman year at Canisius High.

“I wanted to go and do something in the spring to stay in shape,” said Hamp.

“I talked to the coach and he said he thought I could be good. I enjoyed rowing a lot. We won nationals as a freshman; that was pretty fun. I rowed high school in the fall, winter, and spring and did West Side Rowing Club in the summer.”

It didn’t take long for Hamp to start thinking about rowing at the college level.

“I didn’t know much about rowing when I started, especially college rowing,” said Hamp, who also played kicker for the Canisius football team.

“As a sophomore, we had a lot of senior guys who were good and getting recruited. I talked to them and learned what was going on.”

As Hamp got into the recruiting process himself, he eventually realized that Princeton was the best fit. “I wasn’t so high on Princeton in the beginning,” said Hamp, who also considered Harvard and Cornell.

“When I did my official visit at Princeton, I really had a good time and liked the guys. Princeton was third at that point but after I did my official visits, I did a lot of thinking. I also really liked the academics at Princeton.”

Upon arriving at Princeton, Hamp relied on the more experienced guys on the team to help him adjust to college rowing.

“You have to learn to keep a level head through the season,” said Hamp, crediting teammate Will Gillis, a U-23 star himself and team captain this past season, with being a stabilizing influence.

“There are a lot of ups and downs. You can be really fast one day and then have a bad day. It was a lot of learning from the other rowers.”

Hamp had plenty of good days in his sophomore year, moving up to the varsity 8.

“I was familiar with the system and the workload,” said Hamp “I understood the course load and was better at time management. I knew what to expect.”

The Princeton top boat was better in 2012, advancing to the grand final in both the Eastern Sprints and IRA regattas.

“I felt we had some good speed and we were confident going into sprints,” said Hamp.

“We made the final and got fourth. At IRA, we were seeded seventh and got sixth. It was good to make the grand final but there was a little bit of frustration. We thought we were faster than the years before and we didn’t do that much better.”

This spring, Princeton redoubled its efforts to become even faster. “I think we made a lot of progress, I give a lot of credit to the coaches for being willing to make changes and really push us,” said Hamp.

“We had a great group of seniors. We have changed the culture, we are not holding back in the training. We are going for it more in the training.”

That training paid dividends as the Tigers placed third at the Eastern Sprints and fourth at the IRAs.

“We were happy to get a medal,” said Hamp, reflecting on getting the bronze at the Sprints.

“It is a great event; it is an emotional day. We were seeded fifth at the IRAs and we got fourth. It was the best finish for the varsity since ’06. I think it was a huge stepping stone for us going into next year.”

The strong finish, combined with Hamp’s experience this summer at the U-23 worlds, has him brimming with confidence as he looks ahead to his senior year with the Tigers.

“As far as racing, we want to continue what we started last year,” said Hamp.

“We have turned the corner, we have a group of guys who want to work hard and win. I think we want to improve from the sprints and IRAs. I want us to improve as a team. We are headed in the right direction.”

August 20, 2014
TWO GOOD: Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game last fall for the Princeton University football team. Junior defensive back and return specialist Gaffney, a Pennington School alum and two-time All-Ivy League selection, is looking to build on the superb start to his career this fall as Princeton defends its Ivy League title. The Tigers start preseason practice next week as they prepare for their season opener at San Diego on September 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TWO GOOD: Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game last fall for the Princeton University football team. Junior defensive back and return specialist Gaffney, a Pennington School alum and two-time All-Ivy League selection, is looking to build on the superb start to his career this fall as Princeton defends its Ivy League title. The Tigers start preseason practice next week as they prepare for their season opener at San Diego on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Anthony Gaffney hit the Community Park basketball courts this summer to help prepare for his junior campaign with the Princeton University football team.

Playing for King’s Pizzarama in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League, Gaffney made quite an impression in his debut season, helping King’s to the championship series and earning Newcomer of the Year honors.

Flying all over the court, Gaffney displayed the athleticism and the will to win that has made him an All-League performer in the first two years of his Tiger career.

For Gaffney, playing hoops served as a natural complement to the conditioning and football drills that he underwent as part of the Princeton offseason regimen.

“It is a good way to stay competitive; I play basketball all the time anyway,” said the 6’3, 200-pound Gaffney, a native of Columbus, N.J. in Burlington County and an All-Prep performer and 1,000-point scorer in his high school basketball career at the Pennington School.

“I play pickup, I go to open gym. It is that extra conditioning, making sure I am active.”

Gaffney proved to be competitive from day one for the Tigers, starting against Lehigh in the 2012 season opener and going on to make All-Ivy League honors that fall at defensive back and return specialist. In 2013, Gaffney earned All-League honors at defensive back as Princeton tied Harvard for the league crown.

With the Tigers kicking off preseason practice next week as they prepare for their season opener at San Diego on September 20, Gaffney and his teammates are looking to stand alone atop the Ivies.

“We want to run the table this year so there are no questions,” said Gaffney. “We want to dominate everybody.”

For Gaffney, his run to stardom started at Pennington, where he made an immediate impact.

“There were a group of guys I knew from basketball who went there and that helped,” said Gaffney, who was an all-state football player at Pennington and broke triple jump and 4×400 records in track.

“I was given the opportunity to play early, I started as a freshman in both basketball and football. It is a small school.”

At the suggestion of the Princeton football coaches, Gaffney did a post-graduate (PG) year at the Taft School (Conn.) to solidify his spot in the Tiger program.

“Physically I got more mature, I developed as an athlete,” said Gaffney, reflecting on his year at Taft which saw him win state Class A Player of the Year honors and set a school record with 18 receiving touchdowns.

“There was better competition, every team had post-grads. I had to hone my skills. Academically it was a little more challenging, I took a couple of harder courses. I wanted to build my resume for Princeton. Being away from home is different, you are on your own. You don’t have your mother cooking your meals.”

Hitting the field for Princeton in 2012, Gaffney saw the dividends of his year at Taft.

“Truth be told, physically and athletically, I was good,” said Gaffney. “After the PG year, my body was ready. I wasn’t a 17-year-old, I was 18 turning 19. I could hang with the older guys.”

While Gaffney could keep up physically when he started in his debut against Lehigh that fall, he wasn’t up to speed with the nuances of the college game.

“Mentally, I had to learn a lot,” said Gaffney. “We play a lot of different schemes. Plus I was playing a pretty foreign position. I was recruited as a receiver so my main focus was offense. I played some corner and safety at Pennington and some corner at Taft the last three games when another guy got hurt. The first game was wild. I played both ways, it was a challenge.”

Two weeks later, Gaffney produced a breakthrough performance in a 33-6 win at Columbia, starring in the return game and in the secondary. “That was the first game where I felt I belonged and started to get the hang of things,” said Gaffney.

“I returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and made two interceptions. There was a snowball effect from there.”

With the Tigers improving to 5-5 from back-to-back 1-9 campaigns, Gaffney received the rare accolade of being named first-team All-Ivy at both defensive back and return specialist.

“Making All-Ivy was really good for first season,” said Gaffney, who made three interceptions and 35 tackles that fall and led the league with a 25.9-yard return average on 20 kickoffs.

“I wasn’t expecting that; it showed that the league and coaches recognized that I had a good year. It means a lot.”

In 2013, Princeton had a great year, rebounding from a season-opening 29-28 loss to win eight straight games on the way to going 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

“We lost that tight game to Lehigh, the Georgetown game (a 50-22 win) was a good game all around,” said Gaffney.

“We did a few things wrong but we won by a big margin. We did the same thing to Columbia. It was not just that we were winning, it was the way we were winning. The offense was really playing well and the defense was coming on; we were playing off of each other.”

In reflecting on the championship season, Gaffney points to a pair of road triumphs, a come-from-behind 39-17 win at Brown and a bruising 38-26 victory at Penn, as critical moments.

“The Brown game was key; we were in a big hole and we were on the road in a night game and it was a little chilly,” said Gaffney, noting that the Tigers were behind 17-0 early in the second quarter against the Bears.

“We said we have got to make plays and make it happen now. We got it together and from there we really played well. It is tough to win at Penn. It is always a physical game, that was another step forward.”

Earning the league title along with Harvard was a huge step for the program. “It may have meant more to the older guys because of what they had been through, starting 2-18 and then going 5-5,” said Gaffney.

“That progression meant a lot to them. It was good to be able to help them do that; it is just the beginning for the younger guys.”

This summer, Gaffney has been working hard to build on the superb beginning to his college career.

“For me, it is technique and doing what I can to be a better cornerback,” said Gaffney, who had 22 tackles and two interceptions last fall and a 21.0 return average.

“I am doing the conditioning workouts with some guys at home. I am going over to Princeton for 7-on-7s. A lot of guys are doing that, we are doing a lot of fine-tuning now.”

Gaffney is hoping to earn recognition this fall as one of the top cornerbacks in the country.

“I want to replicate what I have done and then some,” asserted Gaffney, when asked about his personal goals for the upcoming season.

“I have been All-Ivy, I want to take it to the next level and be an All American and one of the best players in the country.”

STRIKING PRESENCE: Maddie Copeland prepares to strike the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team. The former standout at Stuart Country Day and the Peddie School is heading into her junior season with the Tigers and figures to play a bigger role this fall after totaling 10 goals in her first two college campaigns. Princeton starts preseason practice this week as it prepares for its opener at Duke on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STRIKING PRESENCE: Maddie Copeland prepares to strike the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team. The former standout at Stuart Country Day and the Peddie School is heading into her junior season with the Tigers and figures to play a bigger role this fall after totaling 10 goals in her first two college campaigns. Princeton starts preseason practice this week as it prepares for its opener at Duke on September 5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Maddie Copeland relished the challenges she faced as she joined the Princeton University field hockey program in 2012.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking; in the first two days, we ran fitness tests,” said Copeland, a former standout at Stuart Country Day and the Peddie School.

“The level of play was much higher; it was nice to be in an intense atmosphere like that. I jumped right into things, the team was welcoming.”

Thriving in the highly-charged atmosphere, Copeland scored five goals in 17 appearances that fall before breaking her arm when she got hit by a shot from Tiger star Kat Sharkey. Princeton went on to win the NCAA championship that fall with Copeland waving her cast in support.

Fully recovered from her injury, Copeland took a greater role last fall, making 19 appearances and five starts, contributing five goals and an assist to help the Tigers go 14-5 and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.

As the 5’6 striker looks ahead to her junior campaign, she is feeling a comfort level with the college game.

“I definitely understood the systems that Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] wants us to run,” said Copeland. “It is more of a team sport in
college. You have to use each other more, there is a lot of passing. It is definitely a faster game.”

It didn’t take long for Copeland to show her offensive game in her debut campaign as she scored her first career goal in a 10-2 win over Delaware in the team’s sixth contest in 2012.

“It is always great to score a goal but it is even better to win,” said Copeland, who tallied a career-high two goals in a win over Yale in late September that season.

Although the broken arm sidelined her for the rest of 2012, Copeland relished the memories from Princeton’s national championship campaign.

“It was a bummer to not play in the tournament; it was nerve-wracking on the sidelines,” recalled Copeland, who ended up having two operations on her arm.

“It was an an unreal experience, it was incredible and hard to put into words.”

Last fall, Copeland got the chance to play in the NCAA tournament and she responded with aplomb, tallying a goal and an assist as Princeton overcame an injury to star defender Julia Reinprecht to edge Penn State 5-4 in the opening round and avenge a regular season defeat to the Nittany Lions.

“When Julia got hurt, I played the rest of the game,” recalled Copeland. “We were all like we have to win this game for Julia. It was so exciting; we were so happy with the end result. We wanted to play them again, we knew we had developed a lot since the first game.”

Developing deep bonds with her teammates and coaches has impacted Copeland’s total Princeton experience.

“The team does everything together on and off the field,” said Copeland. “It is like a family and the coaches are like our second mothers. They are intense at the right time. Off the field, they couldn’t be nicer, you can talk to them about anything. They want to know everything that is going on with you.”

Taking courses at the University of Miami this summer has led Copeland to be creative about her training.

“The focus is showing up in shape,” said Copeland. “I brought my stick so I am doing things on my own.”

With Princeton starting preseason practice later this week as it prepares for its opener at Duke on September 5, Copeland knows the Tigers will be bringing their customary fervor.

“The season is going to be difficult because we lost a lot of good players,” said Copeland.

“Everyone has to step up, we are really intense and really motivated. We will have trouble scoring as much as in the past.”

MAJOR PROGRESS: Star goalie Tyler Fiorito guards the net during his stellar career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. This summer, Fiorito, a  2012 Princeton alum, took over as the starting goalie for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) after an injury to Kip Turner. Fiorito ended up making eight appearances and six starts with a goals against average of 12.35 in more than 398 minutes of action. He was named the MLL Defensive Player of the Week after recording 15 saves in a 12-11 win over the New York Lizards on July 27. In his first two seasons with the Bayhawks, Fiorito had made just one appearance for 15 minutes.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAJOR PROGRESS: Star goalie Tyler Fiorito guards the net during his stellar career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. This summer, Fiorito, a 2012 Princeton alum, took over as the starting goalie for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) after an injury to Kip Turner. Fiorito ended up making eight appearances and six starts with a goals against average of 12.35 in more than 398 minutes of action. He was named the MLL Defensive Player of the Week after recording 15 saves in a 12-11 win over the New York Lizards on July 27. In his first two seasons with the Bayhawks, Fiorito had made just one appearance for 15 minutes. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tyler Fiorito started the season opener in his freshman year with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team in 2009 and seemingly never left the field over the next four years.

The star goalie made 59 starts and played 3,396 minutes for the Tigers, recording 624 saves, the second-highest total in program history, and compiling a sparkling goals against average of 7.47.

Fiorito earned All-American and All-Ivy League honors all four years of his career and was the Ivy Player of the Year in 2012 as a senior.

After graduation, Fiorito joined the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse and found himself in an unusual position — mired in the bench. In the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Fiorito made no starts and had one appearance for a grand total of 15 minutes of playing time.

Reflecting on his first two seasons in the MLL, Fiorito knew that he had to pay his dues.

“It is a very different game; you come in and you are playing with guys that are 10-12 years older and are veterans in the league,” said the 6’2, 200-pound Fiorito, a native of Phoenix, Md.

“I just wanted to get to know my teammates and the league. I got to practice five weeks in 2012, they suited me up for championship weekend so I would get a taste of things. Last year, I suited up for half the games so there was progress for me. You can only suit up 19 players — 2 goalies and 17 field players so having the ability to suit up is a privilege.”

This summer, due to an injury to starting goalie Kip Turner, Fiorito got the privilege to start and emerged as a standout. He was named the MLL Defensive Player of the Week in late July after making 15 saves in a 12-11 win over the New York Lizards.

For Fiorito, the award was validation of his toil over the last two summers.

“I was doing this full out the last two years and it was great to earn the respect,” said Fiorito, who ended up making eight appearances and six starts this summer with a goals against average of 12.35.

“Guys doubt your abilities and whether you can be more than a backup. I proved to myself that I can play in this league. It was great to have others recognize that I have the ability to play in this league.”

For Fiorito, who works on the investment equity sales desk for UBS in New York City, keeping his lacrosse skills sharp has been a challenge.

“It is difficult to take shots during the week, there are not too many fields in the city and it is hard to find guys that can come out after 6 p.m. and shoot on you,” said Fiorito, noting that he typically misses one Bayhawks practice a week as the team trains on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“You love the game so you make it work. You stay late on Friday and take shots. You hop in when the team is doing shooting drill, it is good for them to have a live goalie.”

Goalies, in general, don’t have it easy in the MLL. “This is a difficult league for goalies, the shooters are all good,” said Fiorito.

“It is the progression from high school to college to the pros. In high school, there were a bunch of good players but usually one or two shooters that you had to worry about. In college, there would be four or five that you had to worry about. In this league, every guy can shoot and is dangerous. In college, you had a week to prepare for a game. You had film study and two days of walking through. You had a game plan; you knew the other team’s plays and recognized them. In this league, you have film but you don’t have as rigid a game plan. It is a lot of 1-versus-1 matchups and relying on general defensive principles.”

Fiorito got his first taste of action this year when starting goalie Kip Turner was injured during an April 27 contest at Boston. Fiorito came in and made seven saves in a 15-9 loss.

“Kip got hurt in the game and I came in the first half, which was tough,” recalled Fiorito.

“I didn’t have the mentality of starting and going through the process of warming up. I didn’t do a good job.”

Fiorito did a better job two months later when Turner suffered a season-ending thumb injury in a June 21 game at Denver.

“In Denver, the second time he got hurt, he told me at halftime that he couldn’t go,” said Fiorito.

“Confidence is a big part of this. I was ready to go and I got a good warmup at halftime. We were down 6-1 at halftime, I didn’t have a lot to lose. The best I could do was to give my team a spark with some big saves. I did well. We ended up losing 9-7 but it was an exciting confidence builder for me. I made some good saves.”

As Fiorito saw more action this summer, he developed a comfort level guiding the Bayhawk defense.

“I can be more of a leader on the field,” said Fiorito. “Before, I was the new guy not playing and it is hard to assert yourself. Now I have shown I can be a starter.”

In the business world, Fiorito had gotten off to a good start at UBS. “The job comes first, you don’t make money playing in the MLL,” said Fiorito, who has spent much of his spare time this year preparing for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, necessitating studying in hotels when the Bayhawks were on the road and catching 10:40 p.m. trains out of Baltimore after home games to get back to New York to study on Sundays.

“I am two years into my job with UBS and I am 24. This has been a big year in terms of having more responsibility. I am starting to pick up my own accounts, which is a big deal. Perception is reality at this job. I need to continue to put in the time at work. It is a balancing act if I want to continue to do what I love.”

In the wake of his breakthrough campaign, Fiorito plans to continue his MLL career.

“I am confident in my abilities and my place in the league,” said Fiorito.

“I love the game; it was hard not playing for two or three years. I had to decide whether taking all of this time, being away 18 weekends out of New York. It makes it all worth it, seeing the team win the championship the last two years and then getting to play this year. It is reaping the benefits of the hard work and sacrifice.”

August 13, 2014
UNION LEADER: Liz Keady looks for the puck during her stellar career with the Princeton University women’s hockey team.  Keady, a 2008 Princeton alum who scored 79 points in her Tiger career, was recently hired as an assistant coach for the Union College women’s program.(Photo courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

UNION LEADER: Liz Keady looks for the puck during her stellar career with the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Keady, a 2008 Princeton alum who scored 79 points in her Tiger career, was recently hired as an assistant coach for the Union College women’s program. (Photo courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

During her playing days with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Liz Keady gave her heart and soul to the program.

Statistically, the Braintree, Mass. native showed her passion for the game by tallying 79 points on 38 goals and 41 assists in 118 games in her career that ran from 2003-8 with one year away (2005-06) to compete with the U.S. national team.

Keady’s production helped her earn second-team All-Ivy League and honorable mention all-ECAC honors. She was a co-recipient of the team’s Elizabeth English Trophy as Most Valuable Player and the team’s Most Improved Player Award for the 2004-05 season. Keady won the 2008 Sarah Devens Award, a joint award between the ECACH and Hockey East for a player who demonstrates leadership and commitment both on and off the ice.

But beyond the points and accolades, the most graphic demonstration of Keady’s devotion to hockey and the Tigers came when she kept playing in an ECACH playoff game against Yale in 2005 after skating hard into an open door in the bench area and suffering what turned out to be a cracked rib, ruptured spleen, and collapsed lung.

After college, Keady stayed in the game, taking part in the Pre-Olympic residency Program from 2008-10 in Minnesota. When her playing career ended, Keady became the general manager and director of hockey training at the Institute of Performance and Fitness (IPF) in Andover, Mass.

Soon, Keady was back on the ice, coaching at the North Shore Vipers club and then taking the helm of the Andover High girls’ hockey program.

Now, Keady has returned to the world of college hockey, having been recently hired as an assistant coach for the Union College women’s program.

For Keady, taking the job at Union gave her the vehicle to best express her devotion to the game.

“Jeff and Amy (Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal and Brown head coach and former Tiger assistant Amy Bourbeau) brought it to my attention, they knew I wanted to make the jump,” said Keady.

“I wanted to work with more elite, more dedicated players. I loved the kids I worked with but I wanted to work with players who are 100 percent dedicated to the sport.”

Keady is looking to make an impact beyond helping Union do well. “It is something I have always wanted to do,” said Keady. “I have had a lot of great coaches but not a lot of great female coaches and I think that is something the sport needs.”

In working her way up the coaching ladder, Keady sees her time at IPF as a valuable starting point.

“I worked and ran a structured fitness program, working with athletes everyday,” said Keady.

“I loved that, there were a lot of group sessions so that helped with the transition to coaching.”

Taking the post with the Vipers gave Keady the chance to deal with a variety of situations on the ice. “It is one of the up and coming club programs,” said Keady.

“I did skills for all of the groups. I coached the U-19 and U-12 teams. The U-19 group was half season that started once the high school season was over. The U-12 team was a bunch of crazy 11-year-olds. It was completely different, even within team, it is different. I had to communicate six different ways.”

Moving on to Andover forced Keady to develop a wider coaching perspective. “I had a range of players; I had to work on different things with different kids,” said Keady, who also coached lacrosse at the school.

“It depends on how committed they are, some dream of playing D-1 hockey and others see hockey as a hobby. The high school girls are a unique breed. In terms of coaching, it was the first time I had to look at the whole season and think about short term and long term. You might sacrifice a win early in the beginning of the season to be better at the end.”

While the competitive Keady wanted to get wins, she was also looking to instill some deeper principles in her players.

“I would like to think, regardless of talent, we will outwork anyone and be tougher than anyone,” said Keady.

“It is a good goal for the team and it is a good goal for life, to never stop trying and try to get a little better every day.”

That mindset reflects qualities that Keady displayed during her Princeton career, according to head coach Kampersal.

“Lizzie has a tremendous work ethic, she is good at developing players and she will inspire them,” said Kampersal.

“I told the coaches at Union that she is someone who will work hard and is loyal. She gives her heart and soul to everything she does, as a player she was the same way.”

In Kampersal’s view, Keady is a natural at coaching. “She has so much passion for the sport,” asserted Kampersal. “She was always a kid who would give back. She ran a couple of summer programs for us as part of the Princeton camps. She worked as a counselor and related well to the kids.”

Keady, for her part, is ready to give her all for the Union program. “I will help with pretty much anything they need,” said Keady.

“I will do extra skills work and conditioning. I worked six years with IPF so I would like to think I know something about conditioning; I will work with the strength coach. I think the biggest challenge has been recruiting. I found so far that I really like it. I like being able to offer a player this kind of opportunity. It also helps that I believe in the school and the program.”

DRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE: Greg Jarmas displays his driving form during his superb career with the Princeton University men’s golf program. Jarmas, who took first at the 2103 Ivy League Championship during his junior year, turned pro after graduating from Princeton in June and made the cut in his first four events.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE: Greg Jarmas displays his driving form during his superb career with the Princeton University men’s golf program. Jarmas, who took first at the 2103 Ivy League Championship during his junior year, turned pro after graduating from Princeton in June and made the cut in his first four events. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Greg Jarmas produced one of the more decorated careers in the history of the Princeton University men’s golf program by the time he graduated this past June.

In 2013, the native of Wynnewood, Pa. took first at the Ivy League Championship, becoming the first player in the program to do so since 2005. This past year, he led or co-led Princeton in six of seven events on the way to making GCAA PiING All-Northeast Region for a second straight year. He was a second-team All-Ivy pick and made Academic All-Ivy and was named a Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar for the second time.

But while Jarmas is proud of those honors, that isn’t what drives him. “It’s really awesome to get those awards but that is not why I play,” said Jarmas. “I play to get better and see how good I can be.”

Although Jarmas tied for ninth at the 2014 Ivy tourney to fall short of defending his crown, he was proud of his senior campaign.

“I look at it from the standpoint that I saw myself getting better every year,” said Jarmas, noting that he fired a 69 in the final round of the Ivy championships at storied Baltusrol Golf Club to make a late charge up the leader board.

“I would have liked to have done better at the Ivy championships this year but I made strides in my game and I got closer to my teammates and coach Will Green. My ball striking has gotten better the last two years, I have been working with Brian Quinn, the coach at Temple, and he has really helped me. Mentally I have gotten a lot stronger.”

This summer, Jarmas is putting his game to a stern test, having entered the professional ranks.

He made his pro debut at the Southern Open from July 9-11 on the eGolf Professional Tour, making the cut in a field of 116 players as he fired a 70 and 66 over the first two rounds. Jarmas placed 48th in the event at The Club at Irish Creek outside Charlotte, N.C., carding an even-par 284 over four rounds to earn $1,020.

“I was so excited when I got to the tee in that first pro tournament,” recalled Jarmas.

“I had been thinking about that first shot since last round of Ivies and much longer than that. I turned pro to play against the best, that is the only way to find out how good I can get. I was nervous all day. I hit a really good first shot. It was a confidence builder. I didn’t know what to expect. In my mind, I could play with these guys but until you tee it up, you don’t really know. It was amazing to get paid.”

The successful debut left Jarmas encouraged about his prospects. “My goal was to make the cut,” said Jarmas. “What I found is that I could really compete with these guys. I have a lot of room to get better. I got a very good piece of advice from the Dartmouth coach, Rich Parker. He said first you have to learn how to make the cut, then you have to learn how to contend, and then you have to learn how to win.”

In his second pro appearance, Jarmas made the cut at the Cabarrus Classic at the Cabarrus Country Club in Concord, N.C., finishing the three-round event in T-37 with a one-under score of 215 and a purse of $1,075.

“I was more comfortable the second week; I knew I didn’t have to play my best golf to make the cut,” said Jarmas, who recently placed T23 at the Greater Bangor Open and was T32 at the Maine Open before missing the cut at the New Hampshire Open.

“I didn’t play as well as the first week but I still made the cut and actually got more money. My comfort level and confidence have gone up.”

Jarmas is planning to move to Florida and live there from November through April to hone his game and maximize his chances to catch on with a pro tour.

“I am right out of college and I am playing with guys that have been out two, three, or four years,” noted Jarmas.

“I have a lot of time to learn and get better. I want to see how good I can get. I am going to go to as many Q (qualifying) schools as I can, Web.com (the second-level of professional men’s golf in the U.S.), European PGA tour, Canada PGA, and Asia PGA tours. Hopefully, I will play well enough in one of them to qualify and have a spot.”

Acknowledging the ups and downs of pro golf, Jarmas knows that overnight success is unlikely.

“You learn to take things one day at a time, one week at a time; it is tough to plan long term,” said Jarmas, whose ultimate goal is to win a PGA tournament.

“If I am on the Web.com within three years, I will feel like it has been a good three years.”

With his good start this summer, Jarmas is showing he could be in the pro game for the long haul.

August 6, 2014
CIAO TIME: T.J. Bray looks for an opening last winter during his senior season with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. After playing well for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Summer League last month, Bray has signed to play for Pallacanestro Trapani in Italy’s second-level pro league.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CIAO TIME: T.J. Bray looks for an opening last winter during his senior season with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. After playing well for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Summer League last month, Bray has signed to play for Pallacanestro Trapani in Italy’s second-level pro league. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When T.J. Bray started his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team in 2010, he didn’t see the Ivy League as his last stop in the game.

“Coming into college, I knew that the better players got to play pro,” said Bray. “It was always in the back of my mind.”

After averaging 1.5 points a game as a freshman and 7.2 as a sophomore, Bray’s ambitions seemed far-fetched.

But after scoring 9.9 points a game as a junior with 102 assists and 51 steals to earn second-team All-Ivy league honors, the 6’5, 207-pound native of New Berlin, Wisc. stamped himself as one of the better players in the Ivies last winter. Leading the Tigers in scoring (18.0 points per game) steal (34), assists (133) and field goal percentage, (.537) Bray was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy choice.

“Things worked out well as the seasons progressed,” said Bray. “I had a good senior year and this season, I settled into not going to look for a job but playing basketball as long as I could.”

By the end of his superb senior campaign, it became clear that Bray’s pro dream could become a reality.

“Agents were talking to me saying the same thing, you are having a great year and we can get you into NBA workouts,” said Bray.

After completing the season and turning in his thesis, Bray put himself through some grueling workouts to get ready for his shot at the next level.

“I was going to the gym working with coach [Brian] Earl and coach [Marcus] Jenkins, shoring up my game, playing four-five times a week,” said Bray, who ended up with 1,024 points in his Tiger career. “I did full-court 2-on-2 with the coaches to stay in shape.”

Playing the Toronto Raptors for the NBA Summer League last month in Las Vegas, Bray turned heads.

“I thought I was pretty solid,” said Bray. “I have plenty of room for improvement but I adjusted to the NBA game pretty well. I talked to the Raptor coaches and they said thanks for coming and playing and they told me I was going to be a successful pro.”

Now, Bray is going to get his shot to be a pro, signing last week with Pallacanestro Trapani in Italy’s second-level league, called Serie A2 Gold.

“Trapani seemed to have the best situation, so we negotiated for a week and I signed last Friday,” said Bray, noting that his agent has a colleague from Italy with extensive knowledge of the leagues there.

“It was one of the better organizations in the league in Europe, it is about getting paid and paid on time. They have a good coaching staff, the head coach has coached in Milan and Rome so he has been at a higher level. He likes to develop younger players. The location is great, it is a seaside town.”

Bray’s experience with the Raptors organization should serve him well as he had a number of practice sessions with the team before taking part in the summer league.

“We got to Vegas on Monday and had 2-a-days on Tuesday and Wednesday and a single practice on Thursday,” said Bray.

“The Raptors coaches were high on my Princeton background; they were looking for me to make smart plays. The transition from the Raptors to Princeton went smoothly; they played a similar system.”

Bray enjoyed a smooth debut in summer action, going 3-of-3 from the field, all from beyond the arc, and hitting 3-of-4 from the foul line for 12 points in an 88-78 win on July 11 over the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I told myself to stay calm and make the right play,” said Bray. “I got some shots and I got to the free throw line, I can make that 15-foot shot. It was almost surreal how well things went.

In his five summer games with the Raptors, Bray averaged 4.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 18.2 minutes played.

“I played off ball,” said Bray, reflecting on his role with the team. “We had four point guards and a couple of shooting guards and one got hurt. It was anything to get on the court.”

After seeing time on the court at the pro level, Bray said the biggest difference from college is the length of the players.

“Everyone is taller and their arms are longer, the gaps that you see in college are closed,” said Bray. “The speed of the game is not that different.”

In order to get up to speed for his stint in Italy, Bray will be focusing on fundamentals.

“My ballhandling has to get shored up,” said Bray. “I will be working on that a lot in the gym as well as floaters, mid-range jumpers, and the in-between game. At Princeton, it is 3s and lay-ups.”

At Trapani, Bray will be called on to display his versatile game. “I will do whatever they need,” said Bray.

“I am penciled in as the 2 guard, to be a playmaker and score a little, like my role with Princeton last season. I am also the backup point guard. Chris Evans from Kent State is the 3. We are the two pieces that they brought in.”

With Bray leaving for Italy on August 18, he is looking forward to an adventure on and off the court.

“I want to soak up as much as possible from the experience and learn on the court,” said Bray, noting that the team takes care of his apartment and car and that he will be getting Rosetta Stone to learn some Italian.

“I want to get to a higher level. Everything has gone perfectly the last few months; I am very excited to go over there.”

July 30, 2014
BEND IN THE ROAD: Chris Bendtsen heads to victory at the 2012 Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championship meet during his junior season at Princeton.  This spring, Bendtsen ended his Tiger career on a high note as he took ninth in the 10,000 at the 2014 NCAA championships, earning second-team All-American honors in the process. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEND IN THE ROAD: Chris Bendtsen heads to victory at the 2012 Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championship meet during his junior season at Princeton. This spring, Bendtsen ended his Tiger career on a high note as he took ninth in the 10,000 at the 2014 NCAA championships, earning second-team All-American honors in the process. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Princeton University men’s track star Chris Bendtsen was thrilled to make the 10,000 meter run at the 2013 NCAA championships as a junior, he was bitterly disappointed by how the race unfolded.

“I was in awe, being in Eugene and running at Hayward Field,” recalled Bendtsen.

“I got a cramp in the first mile. I finished 22nd of 25 runners. I think the best thing that came from that was that it motivated me for the next year. All I was thinking about was getting back to Eugene. I made it but that wasn’t enough.”

In making that effort, Bendtsen didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “My teammate Michael Franklin got fifth,” said Bendtsen. “I had a picture of him finishing at the meet that I put on my locker for more motivation. I thought if he could do it, I could do it.”

Last month, Bendtsen proved he could compete with the best, taking ninth in the 10,000 at the 2014 NCAAs, earning second-team All-American honors in the process.

“The top 8 made first-team All-American so I was very close,” said Bendtsen, a native of Wolcott, Conn.

“I can’t help but feel good; the guys that beat me were very good and the guys I beat were good. To be able to finish 9th, I was very satisfied. It was a great way to end my Princeton career.”

Bendtsen’s running career began at an early age. “Both of my parents were runners in college, on mother’s side of family, all six kids were runners,” said Bendtsen. “I did road races in kindergarten. There was a 4th of July 5k in town that I ran; I would just jump into road races.”

Jumping up the Connecticut running ladder at Wolcott High, Bendtsen was determined to compete at the college level.

“It was really a natural progression; I was pretty good starting out as a freshman and I just kept getting better,” said Bendtsen.

“I didn’t know how good I would be or what school I would end up in. I narrowed it down to all the Ivy League schools. I figured why not get the best education and run for a good program in a very good league. Also I wanted to stay in the northeast.”

Bendtsen ended up deciding that Princeton was the best fit for him. “Princeton had everything I wanted; it had great academics and the teams were very good,” said Bendtsen.

“There was a lot of talent on the team and a lot of good runners coming in with my class. I felt like I fit in with the other runners.”

In his first college season, Bendtsen lagged behind the other runners. “It was definitely a little tough that freshman fall in cross
country,” said Bendtsen.

“I was getting used to training as a collegiate runner. There were a lot more miles and you are running the miles faster. I found myself tired all the time. The time management was tough.”

Learning the ropes from such stars as Donn Cabral, Brian Leung, and Joe Stilin, Bendtsen got up to speed athletically and academically.

“The guys on the team helped me develop as a collegiate runner and a student-athlete,” said Bendtsen. “Once I was able to manage everything, things started to come together. These guys not only helped me develop as a better runner, they helped me become a better leader and a better teammate.”

As a sophomore, Bendtsen started developing into a key member of the Tiger distance running corps.

“Having a year under my belt helped me get better,” said Bendtsen, noting that he broke 14 minutes in the 5k that season.

“I was running in a lot of races. One of the things that helped was my consistency; I was never hurt so I was bound to improve.”

Improving by leaps and bounds as a junior, Bendtsen became a cross country star, placing first in the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championship meet and competing in the NCAA championships.

“Junior year was definitely a breakout year for me in cross country, everything was clicking,” said Bendtsen, who served as a cross country team co-captain as a junior and senior.

“I wanted to win Heps; everything came together. We always shoot for Heps because that is a very big meet for us but I was ready for the bigger meets after that. I got 43rd at nationals, everything was going right. It was one of those days where as I was doing it, it didn’t seem like it was hard.”

In the spring, Bendtsen kept going well, taking second in the 10,000 and third in the 5,000 at the Outdoor Heps to help Princeton win the team title. He placed fifth in the 10,000 at the NCAA East Regional before ending the season with the disappointing effort at the NCAA championships.

Smarting from that finale, Bendtsen was primed for a big senior year.

“I went out to Boulder, Colorado to train at altitude,” said Bendtsen. “I shared a house with some other guys on the team, it was great.

His final college campaign, though, didn’t get off to a great start. “In the fall, I felt like I did everything right but I was not putting it together in cross country,” said Bendtsen, who slipped to seventh in the Heps.

“Maybe I did too many miles. I had a foot injury that sidelined me for five days before regional so that was a little setback. I didn’t put it together, something wasn’t right. It may have been an iron deficiency.”

After placing fourth in the 5,000 and 13th in the 3,000 in the Indoor Heps, Bendtsen hit his stride in the spring.

“I had a better outdoor season,” said Bendtsen. “I was 4th in the 10,000 at the Heps, I was very disappointed with that race. I had to show up the next day and score points for the team. I had a good race and I won the 5,000. I was disappointed that our team didn’t win. It was really close.”

Bendtsen raced well in the 10,000 at the NCAA East Regionals, taking third in a time of 29:51.08 to book his return trip to Eugene.

“I wasn’t nervous going into the regionals, the way that [Jason] Vigiliano and [Fred] Samara coach us, I knew I was going to Eugene,” said Bendtsen.

“I went into the race saying I was going to do it. I needed to be in the top 12 and I got third. I wanted to win the regional but the top guys got out a little too far.”

In the NCAA championship race, Bendtsen got out slowly but picked up the pace.

“I want out in the back, I was one of the last guys in the first couple of miles,” said Bendtsen, who clocked a time of 29:14.86.

“I kept feeling better gradually, it got to the point where I was leading a pack of runners and was alone. I was trying to catch up with the top group.”

Bendtsen feels great about his Princeton experience, on and off the track.  “As a runner, I learned what worked for me, running a lot of miles and staying as consistent as I could with time management and training,” said Bendtsen.

“I was able to focus on a long term plan and goal; I had my mind on NCAAs for a year. I don’t think I could have done that in high school. As a person, being around a great group of guys was special. They were my closest friends for four years and those friendships will last for a lifetime. I feel like Princeton is really special; no one lives off campus; we all live together. We help each other with school, training and other things.”

After graduation, Bendtsen competed one more time in orange and black, making his debut in in the USA Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif. where he finished 14th in the 10,000 with a time of 30:05.18.

“I was very tired; my muscles started tightening up,” recalled Bendtsen, who experienced travel issues in getting west as his initial flight was cancelled and he arrived on the day of the competition after spending the night in the airport.

“I didn’t race that well. I was running against professional runners. I was proud to run in Princeton singlet for one last race and represent Princeton at the biggest stage. I tried hard but it wasn’t a good race.”

Working for eMarketer, a market analysis company in New York City, Bendtsen plans to continue his running career and hopes to make it back to the USA championship meet next spring.

“I am going to keep running,” said Bendtsen.  “I am joining the New York Athletic Club. I am in process of getting the paperwork. I will run road races. I will keep trying with 10k. Similar with NCAAs, I was excited about going to the USA championships. It was an incredible experience but I want to get back next year and do better.”

Drawing on his Princeton experience, Bendtsen figures to keep getting better and better.

 

FUN RUN: Princeton University women’s distance running star Megan Curham enjoys the moment after taking fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships last fall as a freshman. In the spring, Curham set a program record in the 10,000 meters and ended up making the NCAA championships in the event, where she finished 11th and earned All-American honors. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FUN RUN: Princeton University women’s distance running star Megan Curham enjoys the moment after taking fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships last fall as a freshman. In the spring, Curham set a program record in the 10,000 meters and ended up making the NCAA championships in the event, where she finished 11th and earned All-American honors. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When it comes to running, Meghan Curham has come a long way in a short time.

Curham, a native of Warren, N.J, only joined the track team during the spring of her sophomore year at Villa Walsh in 2010.

By her senior year, Curham won the state Prep B cross country title.

She came across the state to Princeton University last fall and established herself as the top runner on the women’s cross country team, placing fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal championship meet.

This spring, she set a program record in the 10,000 meters and ended up making the NCAA championships in the event, where she finished 11th and earned All-American honors.

While Curham got into track as a break from swimming, she quickly realized that she had found her passion.

“I was in competitive swimming since I was four; I had a lot of friends doing spring track as a away to get into shape for summer,” said Curham.

“I definitely liked it right away; it made me feel better than swimming. You got to socialize when you were doing it and you can’t do that in swimming. I like going out for a run, better than going into the pool.”

Deciding that she wanted to run in college, Curham decided to make up for lost time in the winter of her junior year.

“The recruitment process was beginning and I wanted to be in the pool,” said Curham.

“I got on my treadmill in the basement and I ran as hard as I could. I wasn’t even thinking about mileage. With the treadmill, you know how fast you are going and how far you are going.”

For Curham, her victory in the Prep B cross country championship meet represented a major breakthrough.

“The most exciting thing about that was the time, I wanted to break 19 because I couldn’t break 20 as a junior,” recalled Curham.

“I broke 19 pretty quickly that fall and that was the first race where I broke 18. I know it wasn’t a public school meet but there were definitely a few people in the prep schools that had talent.”

Once Curham was on the radar of college programs, she didn’t have to think twice when Princeton started recruiting her.

“Princeton has always been my dream school,” said Curham. “I have been going to swim meets there since I was young. We would walk around campus and town and I loved it. I wanted to go there my whole life.”

Upon arriving at Princeton, Curham had to go a lot harder than she was used to in terms of her training.

“I think definitely the workouts were different,” said Curham, noting that she increased her mileage to 60 miles a week from the 50 she was doing in high school.

“Workouts in general were more tougher; they were a shock. I asked the other girls and they said I would get used to them. We were doing long hard runs. We were doing 7 milers rather than 4-milers like in high school. The workouts were tailored to the actual event; they were a lot more focused.”

Continuing her rapid rise in the running world, Curham proved to be a quick study, winning in her college debut as she placed first at the Delaware Cross Country Invitational last September.

“It was crazy; I went out with my teammates,” said Curham, who clocked a time of 21:39.39 over the 6k course.

“There was one big hill on the course. I don’t like hills so I try to run as fast as I can to get it over with. I assumed my teammates would go with me. I got to the top of the hill and I was alone I was so nervous beforehand; it was so exciting.”

Curham went on to take fourth in the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships and qualify for the NCAA championship meet, where she finished 34th to earn All America honors.

Competing indoors for the first time in her career, Curham kept up her run of success, taking second in both the 3,000 and 5,000 at the Indoor Heps.

“In the 5000 we went out really slowly and then we were completely sprinting the last mile,” said Curham.

“The last 200 was better than what I do in workouts; it gave me confidence in my speed. It was great coming in second in the 3,000 a day later.”

Coming into the spring season, Curham was ready to take a step up distance-wise.

“Peter [Princeton women’s track head coach Peter Farrell] asked me if I wanted to do the 10,000,” said Curham. “He usually doesn’t let freshmen do it because it is a long race and it can break you down.”

Not backing down from the challenge, Curham made history, setting a  program record of 33:24.79 in taking second in the 10,000 at the Outdoor Heps. Her time was 7.26 faster than the previous record set by Emily Kroshus ’04 a decade ago when she clocked a 33:32.45.

“My first real 10,000 was the Heps, that was really exciting,” said Curham, who also placed third in the 5,000 at the meet.

“I still can’t describe it in words. I had looked at records and I didn’t really think I could do that this year. I feel like I am a purely endurance runner. With the 10,000, the race is so long you can make up for mistakes. I go into it more relaxed.”

Building on that effort, Curham placed fourth in 10,000 at the NCAA East Regional to book a spot in the national championship meet.

“In the east regional, we ran about the same time but it was a very even race,” said Curham, who cruised to a time of 33:25.12. “It was really exciting to qualify. I thought I would be in the back. When I saw where I was late in the race, that felt really good.”

While Curham did really well in the NCAA championships, she had hoped to race even better.

“I wanted to get a personal record and I didn’t do that,” said Curham. “You don’t know how a 10k is going to go and whether it is going to be a tactical race. It was a good learning experience. I know what I did to not run a PR.”

This summer, Curham is applying some of the lessons she learned in her debut campaign.

“Over the season, I kept my strength,” said Curham. “I want to keep up my base but have room to get better in the fall. I don’t want to peak in the summer. We are not supposed to race, we are just supposed to do strides to help with speed. I was lifting real weights multiple times a week this year which I hope will keep me from getting injured.”

In looking ahead, Curham believes she has the strength to go much further down the road.

“I would really like to try racing a marathon someday,” said Curham. “I did the Disney half marathon as my Christmas present one year.”

 

July 23, 2014
BIG CHIEF: Mike Catapano celebrates after a big play last fall in his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. After making four tackles and a sack in 15 games during his rookie campaign, former Princeton University standout Catapano is looking to have a greater impact this season for the Chiefs.(Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

BIG CHIEF: Mike Catapano celebrates after a big play last fall in his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. After making four tackles and a sack in 15 games during his rookie campaign, former Princeton University standout Catapano is looking to have a greater impact this season for the Chiefs. (Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

It reads like something out of a Hollywood script — a late-blooming player from a smaller school gets picked near the end of the NFL draft and goes on to become a contributor for an unheralded team that rises from last place to the playoffs.

But that is the story that former Princeton University football star Mike Catapano wrote last fall as the fullback turned defensive lineman was chosen in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and went on to help the club go from 2-14 to 11-5 and an appearance in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

As Catapano prepared to start his second training camp this week, he was drawing on a silver screen hero for inspiration.

“I tune out all distractions, it is Rocky 4 mode,” said Catapano, a native of Bayville, N.Y. who will be arriving at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo. this week with camp slated to kick off on July 24.

“I turn off my cell phone and computer. It is getting ready for war. I take it really seriously, preparation is everything. Everybody in the NFL is strong and fast. It comes down to who is preparing the hardest and I am confident that I am doing that.”

Learning that he had survived the team cuts last summer and made the NFL was a special moment for Catapano.

“That was a huge step, it was another rung on the ladder,” said Catapano, 2012 Bushnell Cup recipient as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 12 sacks.

“I was confident that I had done enough to stick with the team. Each time you knock down one of your goals, you look to the next one. That is what you have to do to become great at what you do.”

Seeing action in the 2013 season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Catapano had a great time in his NFL debut.

“It was welcome to the NFL, it was a blast,” recalled Catapano. “I had so much fun. I played pretty well. I hit the quarterback a few times. I was like a scared kid out there.

Growing into a special teams starter and rotation player on the defensive unit for the Chiefs, a highlight for Catapano came in week six when he got to the quarterback in a 24-7 win over the Oakland Raiders.

“I think that sack in the Raider game when we broke the decibel record was big,” said Catapano, referring to a day when the Arrowhead Stadium became the loudest crowd at an outdoor sporting event as the volume reached 137.5 decibels in the closing moments of the contest, breaking the record of 136.6 set by Seattle Seahawks fans earlier in the season.

“My parents were there and a lot of my Long Island friends were there. It was special. I pointed up to the crowd.”

A low point of Catapano’s rookie campaign came in the Chiefs’ 45-44 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs when he committed a penalty as Indy overcame a 38-10 deficit to pull out the win.

“I learned I couldn’t help the team from the sidelines,” said Catapano.

“I got caught on offside, Andrew Luck (Colts quarterback) saw I was all excited. It showed that I have some growing and development to do. I was dying standing on the sidelines.”

Catapano credits Chiefs head coach Andy Reid with helping him develop as a player.

“Coach Reid is great; he is such a professional,” said Catapano, who appeared in 15 games last fall and was credited with four tackles to go with his sack. “He treats everybody on the team like men. He gives us space. He has high expectations for us but gives you leeway. He doesn’t micromanage things.”

Things went well for Catapano this spring in the club’s offseason mini-camps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

“It is about just being confident and knowing what I am doing,” said Catapano. “I can see the difference already, having done the technique and being in the system for a year. I want the coaches to be confident in my being out on the field.”

As Catapano enters his second NFL campaign, he is being moved up the field.

“I was drafted to play outside linebacker, they see now that I am a better fit at defensive end in the 3-4 alignment with my ability to rush the passer,” said the 6’4 Catapano.

“I had to gain weight. I wanted to get stronger but keep my speed. I want to play every down, not just on third and long. I am weighing a little over 290 (up from 270 pounds at the start of last season), somewhere around 293-294.”

In order to maximize his pass rushing skills, Catapano has undergone some varied and rigorous training. He has worked with Mixed Martial Arts expert Derek Panza and Justin Miller of Power Fitness on Long Island as well as Chuck Smith’s Defensive Line Inc. in the Atlanta, Ga. area.

“It is about exploding and blowing out of my stance,” explained Catapano. “I am doing a lot of mixed martial arts training, trying to stay strong and be explosive.”

After the Chiefs’ bounce back season in 2013, the team is looking to be even stronger this fall.

“We have got great talent from top to bottom, our mindset and heartbeat are one,” said Catapano. “We are a tight group. We had a great season but we also had to learn some lessons. Culminating with that loss is motivating us to do well.”

Catapano, for his part, is determined to have a greater impact for Kansas City.

“I want to be a dominant player in the AFC West,” asserted Catapano. “I want Mike Catapano to be a name they are talking about.”

If Catapano can achieve that goal, it will be quite a sequel.