April 23, 2014
TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Katie Rigler got an eye-opening experience this fall in preparing for her senior season with the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

The Fullerton, Calif. native took part in the USA Water Polo Futures 50 Classic and had to push herself to keep up with the nation’s elite.

“It was tough, it was a very good reminder of what I needed to work toward,” said Rigler.

“I saw what players from other college teams were doing and how hard they were working.”

Developing some extra toughness from the experience, the high-scoring Rigler has helped Princeton solidify its standing as one of the top college teams in the country as the Tigers have gone 29-1 this spring and are ranked 11th nationally.

This weekend, Princeton heads to Bucknell to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With the Tigers having won the 2013 CWPA crown on the way to going 28-6 and taking a program-best fifth at the NCAA tourney, Rigler had the sense that this year’s team would be a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we are even better than we were last year,” said Rigler. “It is encouraging and a little scary because we know we have a target on our backs. There is a lot of pressure on us as well.”

In Rigler’s view, the squad possesses a potent blend of chemistry and skill. “I think this is the most positive team I have been on,” asserted Rigler, Princeton’s leading scorer this season with 62 goals and 27 assists. “We have a strong, hardworking team, the recruiting classes get better every year so we are getting more talented.”

As a team co-captain along with classmate Molly McBee, Rigler strives to set a positive tone for the Tigers.

“I try to set a good example,” said Rigler, a two-time Southern Division Player of the Year who now has 260 goals and 69 assists in her career. “I try to be very encouraging. I try to keep things relaxed at practice. My teammates know that come game time, I am extremely serious.”

As Rigler has matured, she has gotten more serious about her training.

“I don’t have statistical goals; I have practice goals,” said Rigler. “I want to work hard on sets and different skills. I also want to get into the pool more and more. There is never a year where I haven’t felt in good swimming shape so I work more on water polo drills.”

Princeton’s lone loss this season, a 10-6 defeat to No. 10 San Jose State on March 15, helped the Tigers ratchet up their work ethic down the stretch of the regular season.

“We weren’t working as hard as we should be; we didn’t play well against UC-San Diego and Michigan but we still won,” said Rigler.

“I think the loss to San Jose State was good. It made us re-evaluate what we needed to do and where we wanted to go. We don’t want to just be good on the east coast. It is important to have the confidence that we can compete with the teams out west.”

Gaining more confidence in her teammates has helped Rigler set a career single-season high in assists this spring.

“As the years have gone by, I am getting more attention from the other teams,” said Rigler, whose previous season-high in assists was 15. “As the team has gotten more talented, I can rely on my other teammates to score.”

As the Tigers prepare for the CWPA tourney, they are paying attention to the basics.

“We are working on our play in 6-on-5 situations; that is important and we are focusing in on that,” said Rigler, who came up big as Princeton defeated Brown 11-4 in the Southern Division championship game, tallying five goals and two assists in the April 13 contest.

“It is also working on mental focus, trying to get everybody on the same track and the same page and making sure the girls all know their roles. We try to tell the freshmen what its about, how exciting the games are. It can seem like an out of body experience and you have to stay calm. We have been behind in the semis for the last two years and we have learned that you can’t give up.”

Having been seeded second behind Indiana at the CWPA, Princeton is fired up about its chances to earn a title repeat.

“We are definitely confident,” said Rigler, noting that the Tigers boast seven player with 20 or more goals. “We are using the disrespect angle as motivation with the way the seeds came out. We are hoping we get to play Indiana in the final.”

No matter how Princeton does in the final days of her career, things have turned out better than Rigler could have hoped when she came east four years ago.

“It’s been an unreal experience, meeting all the different girls and getting to know the different personalities,” said Rigler, who is looking to play professional water polo overseas after graduation, potentially in Italy or Greece.

“The experiences I have had with Molly [McBee] are great, we have become really close friends. Playing sports in college builds up your discipline and patience.”

When the Princeton University baseball team won its first four Ivy League games this spring, Alec Keller wasn’t surprised.

“We knew we were going to be good,” said Princeton senior outfielder Keller. “We are talented.”

But then the Tigers dropped a doubleheader at Yale before suffering through a 0-4 weekend at Columbia to sink in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division.

In Keller’s view, some untimely lapses knocked Princeton off track. “The season is so quick that any bad weekend can kill you and that’s what we had,” said Keller.

“I wouldn’t say it is a complete failure; a lot of guys have had really good years. It is just kind of tough that it is so quick and so unforgiving. Give credit to Penn and Columbia, they have taken care of business.”

Princeton showed a business-like attitude last weekend as it split two doubleheaders with Penn, who is tied for the Gehrig Division lead along with Columbia with 13-3 league marks. The Tigers fell 2-0 to Penn in the opener on Saturday before pulling out a 6-4 win in the nightcap. On Easter Sunday, Princeton won the opener 4-2 and then lost the nightcap 6-1.

“It was important, they came in with one loss but we knew we could stack up with them,” said Keller, reflecting on the 2-2 weekend which left the Tigers at 12-22 overall and 7-9 Ivy.

“I think they are not quite as good as their record and we are better than ours. We knew we could get wins. It was disappointing in the first one but we came back and won two hard-fought games.”

The 6’2, 200-pound Keller, a native of Richmond, Va., starred in the wins, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in the second game on Saturday before going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a homer in the opener on Sunday.

“It felt good to calm myself down,” said Keller. “I just stay loose up there, not think too much, and just react.”

Keller’s cool approach at the plate has helped him enjoy a big spring, hitting a league-best .369 in all games and .440 in Ivy action, the second highest average for league contests.

“I am trying to not put too much pressure on myself,” said Keller who has a team-high 45 hits with two homers and 18 RBIs.

“The worst thing you can do is trying to press and do too many things. I have tried to stay within myself, just know what I can do and play to my strengths.”

With Princeton wrapping up the spring by playing at Rider on April 23, playing a doubleheader at Cornell on April 25, hosting a doubleheader against Cornell on April 27, and then playing at St. John’s on April 29, Keller and his teammates are looking for a strong finish.

“We have to get a lot of young guys that need to finish the season and get some confidence going into next year and that is really important,” said Keller. “And heck it is fun to win, it beats losing. We are playing these games no matter what so we want to win. Hopefully we can get a few more in these next couple of weeks.”

Keller is savoring his final days in a Princeton uniform. “It is bittersweet, I am just trying to have fun everyday,” said Keller.

“I feel you can’t think too much about it, saying it is my last this or that, you just have to live it. I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”

The last few years have been unforgettable for Keller. “It has been great, these guys are a like a family to me,” said Keller, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection who has a career average of .347 (173-for-499).

“It is a great release from school. While school is good in its own right, this is something that is great as a relief. At the same time, it is really fun to focus on something and put your heart into it.”

Keller is hoping to continue his love affair with the game by playing at the professional level after graduation.

“That’s the plan, we’ll see what happens,” said Keller. “Hopefully baseball is not done. I will definitely miss Princeton and playing with these guys for sure.”

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, losing 9-8 at Harvard last Saturday was a punch to the gut.

Falling behind 7-1, Princeton made a valiant rally but came up short in dropping to 7-5 overall and 2-3 Ivy League. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked Princeton out of the four-team Ivy tournament contention, putting a big dent in any hopes the Tigers have of making the NCAA tourney.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Chris Bates didn’t mince words. “It was a devastating loss, we just didn’t do everything we needed to win the game,” said Bates. “We were solid everywhere; we just didn’t solve their goalie.”

A nightmarish first 21 minutes ultimately doomed Princeton as it trailed 7-1 with 9:06 left in the first half. “We got a goal early and then they capitalized on every mistake that we made,” said Bates.

“We had chances but I give their goalie (Jake Gambitsky) a lot of credit, he was lights out and stole a lot of goals. We dug too big a ditch to get out of. We hit a lot of pipes, it was just one of those games. Unfortunately it came at a bad time.”

For the rest of the game, Princeton had the upper hand, outscoring the Crimson 7-2.

“We settled down,” said Bates, who had three goals from Ryan Ambler and two tallies from Kip Orban in the defeat with goalie Eric Sanschagrin making 13 saves. “We played 39 minutes of good defense where we gave up just two goals. On offense we were pretty good. We got plenty of looks, but we hit plenty of pipes.”

Over the course of its Ivy campaign, Princeton has hit a roadblock in tight games, losing three one-goal contests, falling 16-15 to Yale and 11-10 to Brown in addition to last Saturday’s nailbiter.

“In the close losses, we haven’t had the ball a lot,” said Bates. “We haven’t faced off well in those games. The theme is if we have to play a lot of defense with our young guys back there, we make mistakes.”

With No. 20 Princeton ending regular season play by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. this Saturday, Bates believes his squad has plenty to play for, including a potential at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney in view of wins over a trio of nationally ranked teams, No. 11 Hofstra, No. 8 Penn, and 18th-ranked Lehigh.

“It is Cornell and we are not going to lay down for them,” asserted Bates. “We feel like something is still on the line in terms of the NCAAs. It is not a 50/50 chance but nothing stands out about the others and our numbers are not bad. We need Hofstra, Penn, and Lehigh to do well. We still have a puncher’s chance and we are going to keep punching. We know it is a long shot but if we beat Cornell, I will be interested to see our numbers and RPI (Rating Percentage Index).”

April 16, 2014
UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost a pair of one-goal games in the last two weeks of March, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was moments away from another excruciating defeat as it hosted Lehigh last week.

Trailing 9-8 with less than 10 seconds left in the April 8 contest, Princeton had a shot turned back and the ball bounced on the turf at the Class of 1952 Stadium.

Then lightning struck as Tiger junior midfielder Kip Orban took a Mike MacDonald feed and rifled it onto the back of the net to tie the game at 9-9 and force overtime.

Princeton came through with the win on a goal in the second overtime by All-American senior midfielder Tom Schreiber to reverse its fortune and finally come out on top in a nailbiter.

For Orban, the tally was unlike any in his career. “I never had a goal like that; I was fortunate to be the recipient of a really hard play by Mikey,” recalled Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“He got that ground ball. He always has the greatest vision. He skips it through all the time. He found me at the top of the box and I was just fortunate to put it past the keeper.”

The Tigers, though, worked hard to make their luck.  “We executed at the end of the game which is what we have to do moving forward,” said Orban, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Penn goalie Brian Feeney.

“I think we are finally starting to grit it out. Coach is instilling a great work ethic and teaching us to work really hard when we are tired and execute.”

Against Dartmouth, Orban was up to his late heroics again, scoring goals in the waning moments of both the first and second quarters to help the Tigers take an 8-4 halftime lead on the way to a 13-10 triumph.

“I think in the first half, we came out pretty well,” said Orban, reflecting on the victory which improved No. 14 Princeton to 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action.

“Dartmouth played well, they showed some zone. We slowed down the pace of our offense a little bit and I think we were able to adapt pretty well and we were able to win it. We put enough on the board and we were fortunate to win it.”

In tallying those two goals, Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders.

“I don’t really think about it, I just go out on the field and it is just being part of the system,” said Orban, reflecting on the streak.

“When I score those I am generally the recipient of great off ball movement. Our two-man system really forces us to play well together and I think our offensive first six guys work well with each other. Tommy [Schreiber] does a great job finding me. Mikey [MacDonald] does a great job finding everyone. Ryan Ambler is stepping up. I think we all work well together. It is just whoever is in the right spot at the right time.”

With two college seasons under his belt, Orban is better able to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that come his way.

“I am a little older; I definitely feel a little more comfortable than freshman year stepping out there and starting,” said Orban, who has 25 points this season on 18 goals and seven assists and is up to 70 points in his career with 53 goals and 17 assists. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking then.”

Orban acknowledged that the Tigers showed some nerves in the second half on Saturday as the Big Green narrowed the Princeton lead to three goals on three occasions over the last 30 minutes of the contest with former Princeton High star Mike Olentine scoring a third quarter goal for Dartmouth.

“I would say we have to come in the second half as we do in the first with the same amount of energy; we can’t come out flat,” said Orban.

“I feel like sometimes we get a little comfortable and I don’t think that should be the case. I feel after a couple of tough ground balls and some face-offs, we broke the seal in the second half. It started to flow and eventually we closed out on top. The team did well today but we definitely can do better moving forward.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates concurred with that analysis. “I thought we showed some grit on Tuesday night to get that W,” said Bates.

“Today was a little bit lackadaisical. We let them know we didn’t practice well that last two days. We thought we would get a crisper effort today. We’ll take the win but we didn’t feel like it was a real disciplined team effort.”

In Bates’ view, his team needs to develop a better killer instinct. “We talked about that during the week, making the next play and being able to put a team out versus getting a little undisciplined,” said Bates.

“Dartmouth believed they could win until the very end of the game. Frankly, we could  have pulled away and ended this thing a little earlier. It is a credit to Dartmouth. They did a nice job and hung with us.”

The Tigers did do a better job on face-offs, winning 17-of-27 on the day, sparked by the return of Justin Murphy from injury.

“Getting Murph back helped, he grits there; he is our go-to guy,” said Bates. “We struggled a little bit without him, We have faced some pretty high caliber competition over the course of the last few weeks. We created some scoring off the transition and the face-off which was nice but we still gave up a few which is a little bit mind numbing. We don’t communicate real well on the wings. Overall, I think it was a pretty decent day.”

Freshman midfielder Zach Currier had a big day, tallying three goals and an assist and scooping up five ground balls.

“Zach was clearly the star of the game; he gave us a ton of energy, he made some highlight reel plays,” said Bates of Currier who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“He had a big assist so it was nice. We have been waiting for him to break out and if there is a bright spot today, it was Zach. He works hard; he is really competitive. He was fired up before the game, you could tell. He has got that edge and it is nice to see that rewarded.”

Princeton will need to play fired up as it heads to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical Ivy contest.

“We’ll see how we react, it is a team that still fights it a little bit,” said Bates, whose club is riding a three-game winning streak.

“You can’t put the jersey on and expect to win. We control our own destiny. I think there is a clear positive with Harvard losing (8-7 at Penn) but we don’t look at that stuff. We just know that if we win, we are in good shape. The focus here immediately was to start thinking about what we need to do to prepare to beat Harvard with the emphasis on the word prepare.”

In Orban’s view, the Tigers are on board with Bates’ approach. “We just have to take care of what we have to take care of and to put ourselves in the position we want to be in at the end of the season,” said Orban.

“We have got to win out and then all the rest is up to chance. I don’t really focus on that; I don’t think our team does either. We just focus week to week and take care of what is in our hands and that is just Harvard this upcoming Saturday so we have to work hard this week and come out on top then.”

Having guided his Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 to the grand finals in both the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta last spring, Greg Hughes has his rowers going full throttle as they look to get on the medal stand.

“We have changed the way we have practiced, we are doing more work in training,” said Tiger heavyweight head coach Hughes, who is in his fifth year guiding the program and led the Tigers to fourth place in the Sprints and sixth at the IRA regatta in 2013.

“We are doing things I wasn’t able to try before. I am able to take risks. I am getting good feedback and we are working together. We are doing more hard strokes than we would normally do.”

While the frigid winter kept the Tigers off the water until mid-March, Hughes believes that the extra work on the ergometer machines has paid dividends.

“Historically, before global warming, we used to get on the water in mid-March,” said Hughes.

“You get on later and develop speed as you go through the season. Being inside longer allows the rowers to develop a really good base of fitness.”

Based on early returns, that work has paid dividends as Princeton opened its season by defeating Navy on April 5 and then won the Childs Cup last weekend, topping Penn and Columbia.

Hughes credits senior captain Will Gillis with being an ideal role model for his teammates.

“Gillis has done a really good job of leading the team,” asserted Hughes, whose varsity 8 is currently ranked fourth nationally.

“The impressive thing is that while he is obviously a talented athlete, he has rowed for the U-23 team the last two years and got a bronze last summer, he is the full package. He is a top student in his department (politics).When you have a guy who is a top athlete and a top student, it gives such a good message to the younger guys. They see that you don’t have to sacrifice academics for athletics and vice versa.”

Those callow rowers have sent a message of their own. “The younger classes have come in and have pushed up the level of competitive spirit,” said Hughes.

“It has created a positive environment on the squad. They beat each other up everyday in practice and that’s great.”

The Tigers got off to a great start with their win at Navy which saw the varsity 8 speed across the 2,000-meter course on the Severn River in a time of 6:06.2 with the Midshipmen coming in at 6:07.6.

“We were going to Navy and it is a tough place to race,” said Hughes. “They are a good program. We are starting the regular season with three races in a row on the road, it requires attention to detail and focus to be ready to race in different environments. That was a good effort.”

Last Saturday, Princeton produced an even better effort in retaining the venerable Childs Cup, posting a time of 5:33.9 over the 2,000-meter course on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia with Penn next in 5:41.2 and Columbia taking third in 5:42.0.

“That was a step forward,” said Hughes. “Within the varsity boat, we have a couple of returners but we also have a core of new kids. Five are new, a couple are sophomores and one is a freshman. We have to keep learning things and continue to get better each week. We aren’t going to hit top speed in March.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to pick up their speed as they head up to Boston, Mass. to face top-ranked Harvard and MIT with Compton Cup on the line.

“It is a good program,” said Hughes of rival Harvard, the runners-up in the last year’s IRA national championships.

“We are going up there looking to get better. We have had our best piece each week, starting with the scrimmage before Navy.”

Hughes is confident that his rowers can get better and better as the spring unfolds.

“There is a lot of time left,” said Hughes. “There are lot of things that we have to do. I think we are on track. We are in position to have a good May.”

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter.  Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.  (Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter. Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.
(Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

After serving as an assistant coach for the Princeton University men’s basketball team from 2007-10, Scott Greenman left his alma mater and took on another role in the college hoops world, handling basketball operations at Georgetown.

While Greenman had an eye on getting back into coaching, he gained a lot from the operations post.

“I got to see how other people do things, being at the highest level was a good thing,” said Greenman, a former Tiger hoops star who was a first-team All-Ivy selection as a senior in 2005-06.

“I learned a lot from listening into recruiting calls. I was learning from coach Thompson (former Princeton head coach John Thompson III) and good assistants. It was a very productive four years. Even though I was not in coaching, I was seeing things from a different perspective.”

When one of those Georgetown assistants, Mike Brennan, a former Princeton star guard and assistant coach himself, took the head coaching job at American University, Greenman saw an avenue back into coaching.

“When he was interviewing and going through the job process he said if he got the job would I be interested in coming on as assistant and I said I was,” said Greenman.

“All of the offices at Georgetown were close. It was open and there was a lot of interaction. Having played for coach Brennan, this was a different dynamic; I had a level of comfort with him.”

Greenman joined Brennan’s staff as an assistant coach last May and the two former Tigers worked well together over the winter, helping American go 20-13 and win the Patriot League championship.

As Greenman returned to coaching, his main focus was getting his new players used to the Princeton style that Brennan was installing.

“It was getting the players used to a new system and a new everything; working with them to increase their skill sets and doing stuff to educate them on what to expect,” said Greenman.

While American got off to a slow start, going 3-7 in its first 10 games, Greenman could see the players becoming more familiar with the new approach.

“Even when we lost, coach Brennan was seeing signs of improvement, telling the guys you got better at this and that but need to work on that,” recalled Greenman.

“It is about improving so you are good enough to win the games at the end of the year. From day one, there was no push back whatsoever. It was fun for the team, with forwards getting to dribble, shoot and pass and to get as good as they can be.”

The Eagles started looking good in January, going 9-0 in the month. After enduring a bad stretch in February where it went 1-4, American entered the Patriot League tournament with plenty of confidence.

“We won 10 league games and three or four of those could have gone the other way,” said Greenman.

“In the rough patch, things went the other way. We were stagnant for a week but then we started to get better. We had a sharper focus at practice, we focused on a few things and made more adjustments. On the second time around the league, the other teams know you better. Heading into tournament, we thought we had a good shot if we played to the best of our ability.”

After topping Colgate in the Patriot quarterfinals and Holy Cross in the semis, the Eagles produced their best performance of the season in the championship game as they topped host Boston University 55-36 to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney.

“We zoned in on defense, we did a good job of making their shots difficult,” said Greenman, reflecting on the win over the Terriers.

“The guys were unselfish. We had an issue with turnovers and throwing the ball to the other team earlier in the season but they really handled the ball well. I give credit to the guys; they were so open to things and they improved so much. It was great to see them make that transformation.”

It was a special moment for Greenman as the team enjoyed a raucous celebration after the buzzer sounded.

“It is great, you aren’t able as a coach to get too high or too low,” said Greenman.

“Even when you are winning, you are concentrating on the next game and how you can get better. It is an indescribable feeling. Every team in a one-bid league is shooting for that moment.”

For American, its next game proved to be its last as it fell 75-35 to Wisconsin in the NCAA tourney.

“You know going in that there are no good options when going against a No. 2 seed, you are expecting to play a great team,” said Greenman, noting that Wisconsin ended up advancing to the Final 4.

“We knew it was going to be very difficult; they are a well coached team. Everyone can score. They have a 7-foot center (Frank Kaminsky) who can step out to the perimeter and make shots.We started well and made some shots. Once they got on that run, it snowballed.”

Although the defeat stung, Greenman enjoyed making a fifth trip to March Madness.

“It doesn’t lose its luster, I went three times at Georgetown and going as a player was the best feeling,” said Greenman. “Doing it as a coach is awesome.”

Looking back on the winter, Greenman feels he has become a better coach.

“I think in terms of time management, I grew a lot,” said Greenman.

“At Princeton, I had different responsibilities and then I had different responsibilities at Georgetown. Now I have the most responsibility. I want to try to be as organized and as efficient as I can be administratively and with recruiting. I love being in the gym, coaching and teaching and seeing the guys improve.”

April 9, 2014
HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100.  Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a  home game against Dartmouth on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber is known for his laser-like focus on the field so it was out of character to see him wave to the crowd last Saturday as the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team hosted Rutgers.

But with Princeton senior All-American midfielder having just scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, the fans on hand at Class of 52 Stadium serenaded him with cheers and he took a moment to acknowledge the response.

“I have had a lot of support here, my family has made it to just about every game,” said Schreiber, a 6’0, 190-pound native of East Meadow, N.Y..

“The Princeton community has treated me really well. It was a pretty cool experience hearing them roaring and I just wanted to give them a token of my gratitude.”

Schreiber had the crowd roaring all night as he matched his single game career high with seven points on four goals and three assists as the Tigers pulled away to a 15-11 win over the Scarlet Knights and improved to 5-4.

By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. With 101, he is two behind Josh Sims’ record for a Princeton midfielder. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and the first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists.

With Princeton having dropped consecutive one-goal decisions to Brown and Yale coming into Saturday, Schreiber and his teammates showed a heightened sense of urgency.

“We have started every game slow so far and that is something we have been trying to address in practice,” said Schreiber.

“It was just a little shift in our attitude, to be a little more confident and a little more aggressive and I think it paid off for us.”

Trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, the Tigers shifted the tide of the contest, ending the half with a 5-0 run.

“We played smart offensively, we didn’t push it,” said Schreiber, who chipped in three assists in the run.

“I think our defense did a great job throughout the game, especially in that span. I think it was just a full team effort in that part of the game. It helped us build some confidence going into the half. It’s the beauty of our team, we have all been playing together for the most part for two years now and we have been able to build that chemistry. I don’t think it is just one or two guys, it’s all six of us working together.”

Princeton took care of business in the second half, extending its lead to 13-8 late in the third quarter and cruising from there.

“We just continued the momentum from that 5-0 run in the second quarter,” said Schreiber, who now has a team-high 44 points this season on 25 goals and 19 assists.

“I thought our bench kept us up, I thought our D did a good job. Once again, it was the entire team. The attitude of the team from the top to the bottom was great.”

There was a family twist to the win for Schreiber. “My sister actually goes to  Rutgers so I root for them in every game except this one,” said a smiling Schreiber, whose younger sister, Chrissy, is a sophomore midfielder for the Scarlet Knights women’s lax team.

“I follow them and I have been rooting for them and obviously I root for my sister and her team. It was nice to get this one.”

In Schreiber’s view, it was critical for Princeton to get the win over Rutgers and break its two-game losing streak.

“It was huge; I have said it all year, there is no quit in this team,” said Schreiber.

“Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves after our loss to Brown. It was just more about regaining our momentum and regaining some confidence and I think that was a perfect game to do it and we got it done.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates liked the way his team got things done in the victory over the Scarlet Knights as it retained the Harland Meistrell Cup, which goes to the winner of the annual meeting in the local rivalry.

“I thought we focused on playing the body; we focused on getting low and picking up ground balls with two hands,” said Bates.

“I thought we challenged them this week and they responded. I don’t think we are all the way there yet but this was good to get a gritty win and against a good team. We are pleased.”

Bates was pleased to see Schreiber receive the cheers from the crowd after the 100th goal.

“It is a testament to who he is, you see a genuine appreciation, respect and love for his accomplishments because he has earned it,” said Bates.

“He is just such a wonderful young man, people are happy for him. The air is rare; he is putting up some historic numbers. At the end of the day, he is proud of it, we are proud of it. He would probably be the first to tell you that a win is the most important thing and he wants to get this team to where it can get it, whatever that may be. It is something for our program that is nice to celebrate.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber must assume an even greater role if Princeton is to make history this spring.

“This is the time for him to take the next step and help lead this team,” said Bates.

“He can carry a team on his back and, in essence, we are asking him to do that in some ways. He has got the full command of this team and the full respect. His voice goes a long way so we are challenging him to push his teammates around him to finish this thing the way we want to.”

Schreiber’s teammates did some good finishing during the pivotal 5-0 run in the second quarter.

“Ryan Ambler is playing with a lot of confidence and we are challenging him to evolve and be more assertive,” said Bates, who got a career-high five goals from Ambler with Jake Froccaro adding two, and Mike MacDonald, Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt contributing one apiece.

“Last year, he was at times comfortable playing second fiddle and now he is not. I thought Mikey did some good things. We shortened the bench a little bit with our first group but it seemed to work pretty well. Then we got Will Rotatori and Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt in with that second group and to spell those guys which helped us so it was a good 60 minutes.”

Bates will be looking for some more good efforts from the Tigers as they were slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12.

“I think we have all learned that you can’t just put the jersey on; you have to be more accountable,” said Bates, whose team is tied for fifth in the Ivy standings with a 1-2 league mark.

“You have to be better teammates day in, day out and that is not always easy. I think it was a wakeup call and that’s been a good reminder. It is easier to move forward with a win. Everything is ahead of us; we know that. We have got one more non-conference game and then we have three league games. We’ll take it day by day.”

Schreiber, for his part, is confident that some great days are ahead for the Tigers.

“We have been trying to peak at the right time and the first part of our year didn’t go exactly the way we wanted it to,” said Schreiber. “Hopefully we can build on this and peak as time goes on.”

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colleen Smith is not afraid to make some noise on the field for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

“We emphasize the voice a lot,” said senior star defender and co-captain Smith.

“I want to bring a good voice to the defense always, just getting everyone pumped for the game.”

Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Smith and her teammates were pumped up to put the clamps on the Bulldogs.

“Our assistant coach Jen Cook always scouts the other teams and she does a great job,” said Smith. “She probably spends more than five hours on each team, scouting, watching films. We just had a really good game plan in place. She told us basically everything that was going to happen. It is just like studying for a test.”

The Tigers passed last Saturday’s test with flying colors, jumping out to a 9-1 lead at halftime on the way to a 15-8 victory.

“We knew that they were a feeding team so shutting off those feeds was a key,” said Smith, a 5’7 native of Wilmette, Ill. who scooped up three ground balls in the win over Yale and now has 10 on the season.

“We have been working on getting better angles all season. Something that we wanted to emphasize this week was that we know everything that we need to know and now we need to start implementing it. I think we did a great job today, especially on defense, with that. I think it was just one of those days where it came from the start.”

Smith has forged a great bond with co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “We never really get into arguments; we are always on the same page,” said Smith.

“She is definitely a leader by example and shows it every single day. I think we balance each other out a lot which is really nice. We never butt heads and we are great friends off the field which I think is really important as well.”

With Princeton riding a six-game winning streak as it has improved to 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, Smith believes the Tigers could do some really nice things this spring.

“I hope that we can keep ascending,” said Smith. “If we can keep rising, I think this has the potential to be a really special season.”

The Tigers will get a good opportunity to show how special they can be as they host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9.

“I am really, really excited for Maryland,” added Smith. “It is a good chance for us to show the team that we are. It is always great to play a big team. It is a really good opportunity so hopefully we can keep rising through that game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled with her team’s great first half against Yale.

“The first half was just phenomenal; it is one of the best halves of lacrosse that we played in a while,” asserted Sailer.

“Our defense did a phenomenal job. We really knew what they were looking for and we were able to shut it down. The attack had some beautiful scoring plays. I thought our ride was tremendous, we forced them into so many turnovers which was great.”

Sailer credits Smith with sparking the Tiger defense. “Colleen has just been fantastic, you see the level at which she performs,” asserted Sailer.

“She was playing their top kid and she was on every single move. Her angles are great, her understanding is great. She is such a voice kid, she is just such a passionate kid. She puts her heart and soul into everything; she is a physical player and a smart player.”

Princeton’s attack played smartly as well against Yale, displaying its trademark balance with Erin McMunn scoring four goals and the trio of Erin Slifer, Mary-Kate Sivilli, and Anna Doherty chipping in two apiece.

“That is something we have had all year; we have seven players with 20-22 points or something like that,” said Sailer.

“Everybody is capable of scoring and there is not one person who leads the charge. Every game, we have really balanced scoring and that makes us tough to stop.”

Like Smith, Sailer is looking forward to seeing Princeton test itself against powerful Maryland.

“I think absolutely it is a good challenge for us,” said Sailer, whose team plays at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.

“We have got to be ready for the pace of play, they are very athletic, very explosive, and they have great sticks. I think we have been building up the entire season and I think it is a good point for us to take on a team like that and see what we can do and try to give them some great competition that they have to play against.”

Smith, for her part, is determined to give a great effort to the end. “We have two themes this year, the first one is treasure the present where you treasure the gift of playing at Princeton because not many people get to play at Princeton,” said Smith.

“We also treasure the moment which plays into the power of now. Through the homestretch it is just bringing everything to every practice and every game even if we are tired.”

In order to get on the water this spring, the Princeton University women’s open crew had to resort to some self-help.

“The winter was a long one for us, we had to manually break up the ice on the lake,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny.

“We started later than usual, I am mindful that competition like Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell are in the same position.

As the harsh winter gripped the East Coast, Dauphiny knew that her program was in for a bumpy ride.

“This team has challenges this year and I was well aware of that before the spring,” said Dauphiny, who guided the Tigers to a third place in the team standings at the 2013 NCAA championship regatta. “We lost a powerful senior class that provided good leadership.”

The program’s current group of seniors is stepping up to the challenges. “This senior class is doing its job but it doesn’t have as much strength as last year’s,” said Dauphiny.

“The two captains (Kathryn Irwin and Susannah Shipton) are doing an outstanding job dealing with this team in terms of it having more inconsistency in results than in the past. They know what to prioritize and they are not getting hung up on the unimportant things.”

In opening the season on March 29 with a split result, as the varsity 8 fell to Brown but topped Michigan State, the Tigers showed some of that inconsistency.

“I was nervous and rightly so,” said Dauphiny. “Brown did a fantastic job, they looked strong and they raced well, they looked more seasoned than we are. I thought as a program we did well, the varsity program had things they needed to work on, they were not as race ready as Brown.”

Last weekend, Princeton’s top boat narrowly lost to Virginia while topping Columbia.

“I thought it was a step forward,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat came in at 6:44.9, three seconds behind Virginia but nearly 25 ahead of Columbia. “We have a ways to go, some aspects of the race were better for the varsity. The 2V’s win was the highlight.”

In Dauphiny’s view, the Tigers are getting better. “I think we are heading in the right direction; we are farther behind at this point than we usually are,” said Dauphiny.

“I don’t know if it is from the weather or the amount of youth. For many, this is the first racing they have done in college. We have a bit further to go than in the past.”

Princeton is facing some top flight racing in the weeks ahead. “We have a very competitive schedule,” added Dauphiny, whose rowers head to Boston this weekend where they will row for the Class of 1975 Cup against Harvard and Cornell. “We race a top crew every week, there is no weekend where we can take a breath. It does provide valuable experience.”

Over the long haul, the Tigers should grow from that experience. “I believe this group does like to work, they are up for the challenge,” said Dauphiny.

“I do anticipate line-up shifting. I don’t know the freshman class well, they haven’t been on the water. People improve at different rates. I like the attitude of the rowers, they are not rolling over. They are striving. They are standing up and seeing what they can do.”

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University softball team, its doubleheaders at Yale and Brown last weekend represented the chance to reinforce its self-image.

“The team believes that it is going to be contenders,” said Princeton second-year head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose club started its Ivy League campaign by getting swept by Dartmouth in a doubleheader on March 31.

“They had to prove it to themselves to see that we are who we say we are. It was an important confidence builder. We wanted to see more offensive production and we did.”

In the twinbill against Yale, the Tigers displayed some offense in the opener, exploding for a five-run rally in the seventh inning to pull out a 5-2 win. The Princeton bats, though, went silent in the nightcap as Yale rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn a 2-1 victory and a split.

“We left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney. “We left it to the seventh inning in both games, one turned out in our favor and the other one didn’t. It taught us that we need to have a sense of urgency, we need to make things happen before the seventh inning.”

A day later, Princeton swept Brown 7-6 and 8-3, sparked by the heroics of freshman second baseman Haley Hineman, who delivered a game-winning two-run single in the opener and went 6-for-8 on the day with a homer, two runs scored, and five RBIs as the Tigers improved to 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy.

“It was wild, we left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney, reflecting on the opener.

“We had to use three pitchers in the first game and they each did their job. Brown had momentum at various points and each came in and stopped it. Then a freshman, Hineman, stepped up. She had 12 pitches at-bat before she got that hit. You could see her confidence growing and she carried it over to the second game. It was a cool thing to see.”

Sweeney has a lot of confidence in Hineman’s all-around play. “Hineman is so solid defensively; she is getting a lot of balls because our pitching staff forces a lot of grounders,” said Sweeney.

“When the ball is hit to her you can look the other way because you know she is going to make the play. She is so solid and gritty. It was good to see her come through offensively.”

Princeton has been getting good contributions from two key veterans, junior shortstop Alyssa Schmidt and sophomore pitcher Shanna Christian.

“Alyssa is taking on a bigger leadership role this year; she has struggled with some self doubt offensively,” said Sweeney of Schmidt who went 4-for-9 with a run and four RBIs in the sweep of Brown.

“She wasn’t overthinking last weekend and was the athlete we know she can be. The team follows her when she gets clutch hits. Shanna is a good presence on the mound, the team plays well behind her. She always keeps us in games.”

With Princeton slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as it begins Ivy South action, Sweeney is looking for some more clutch play from her team.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Sweeney. “Things haven’t come together but we are showing inklings in places of some really good things. You always want to be playing for something. There can be huge shifts in the Ivy in a weekend. It is so finicky. You never know what is going to happen; you want to control your destiny. We need to draw on the confidence we gained this week.”

April 2, 2014
DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the rain pelted the area last Saturday afternoon, Anna Doherty found herself in a slippery situation for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The high-scoring freshman attacker repeatedly misfired as Princeton hosted Cornell at the Class of 52 Stadium, missing all five of her shots in regulation as the teams headed into overtime knotted at 7-7.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Doherty, a 5’5 native of nearby Bernardsville who starred for Kent Place in high school. “I had some good looks but I wasn’t putting it in the back of the net like usual.”

Early in overtime, Doherty got a good look near the goal. “I saw [Alex] Bruno get shooting space and then we both realized I was wide open with my left hand up in the crease,” recalled Doherty.

“She was looking at the cage but saying my name so I knew she was going to pass it. I just knew I had to finish that one so I closed my eyes and prayed that it went in.”

Doherty’s prayer was answered as the ball hit the back of the net to give Princeton an 8-7 lead, The Tigers tacked on two more goals in the extra session to earn a 10-7 victory, improving to 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

In Doherty’s view, the victory, which extended Princeton’s winning streak to five, was an important step forward for the squad.

“It was awesome; we lost a couple of overtime games in the beginning of the season so we just knew we really wanted this one,” said Doherty.

“We executed and got the draw and we did what we needed to do. I think the upperclassmen and the sophomores lost a lot of tough OT games last season so facing that adversity really helped them lead us.”

Having emerged as a leading scorer for the Tigers with a team-high 18 goals, Doherty is developing a comfort level with the college game.

“I think I have just built up my confidence a lot more,” said Doherty, who has Tiger bloodlines as her father, Kelly Doherty (Princeton ’81), was the captain of the 1981 Princeton men’s lacrosse team and mother, Susan (Princeton ’83) Doherty [nee O’Connor], was a member of the soccer, cross country, and track and field teams.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the season but the coaches really believed in me and gave me a shot. That really boosted my confidence and it has just been building with every game.”

Exploding for a career-high five goals in a 14-7 win over USC on March 19 was a major confidence builder for Doherty.

“That was a bit of a turning point,” said Doherty, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for her production. “I think I realized that I have a big impact on the team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer wasn’t surprised to see Doherty have a big impact in overtime.

“It just wasn’t a great day for her shooting-wise,” said Sailer. “When it counted, she had the opportunity and she buried it. That was huge. She is a tough kid. She is fast and quick. She normally shoots really well. She is definitely giving us a boost offensively.

Sailer acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t shoot well collectively as they fought through the downpour.

“It wasn’t pretty, it was definitely hard conditions today for both teams,” said Sailer, who got four goals from junior star Erin McMunn in the victory with freshman Olivia Hompe contributing a goal and five assists.

“It wasn’t close to our best game. Offensively, we struggled today. We didn’t shoot well. We didn’t make great decisions all day long but when it mattered we were able to tie the game up.”

Princeton did produce a good defensive effort, containing a high-powered Big Red attack that came into the afternoon averaging 11.9 goals a contest.

“I thought defensively, for the amount of the time they had the ball, we did a good job of holding them to seven goals,” said Sailer. “Jenn (assistant coach Jenn Cook) was calling in different slides for the defense and they were executing really well.”

Junior goalie Annie Woehling executed in the clutch for the Tigers. “Annie had an awesome warm-up but in the first half I don’t think she was seeing the ball really well,” said Sailer of Woehling, who made six saves on the day and was later named the Ivy co-Defensive Player of the Week. “In the second half, she came through with some really key saves for us.”

In the wake of the OT losses to Georgetown and Brown earlier in the season, Sailer saw the marathon win over Cornell as a key breakthrough for her squad.

“I think what we learned is that we couldn’t just wait before we attacked,” said Sailer, reflecting on the lessons the team learned from its previous extra session contests.

“Your normal strategy in overtime is to hold the ball for the last shot in the first period and that just hasn’t really worked well for our kids. We allowed them to attack earlier and see what they could create.”

With a logjam having developed in the Ivy title race as Penn is at 2-0 in league play and the quartet of Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton are all 2-1, Sailer knows her team has to keep attacking when it hosts Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.

“Today was a great example that every Ivy game is a battle this year,” said Sailer.

“Yale beat Dartmouth by seven and then Dartmouth beat Brown. Every team in the league can beat any other team in the league on any given day. That is what I have taken away from it so you have just got to come ready to play.”

Doherty, for her part, believes the Tigers are ready to keep rolling. “I think we had a bit of a rough start to our season, losing those two overtime games against Georgetown and Brown,” said Doherty.

“Now we are on 5-game streak. We know that we can be the team that we want to be and execute under pressure.”

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Brown last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team got lulled to sleep a little bit.

“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “We didn’t win face-offs and Brown did a good job with long possessions. It was one of those games that was slow and sleepy.”

Bates tried to shake things up in the second half. “It was 6-3 at half and because of how they were playing and the face-offs, we decided to change the tempo,” recalled Bates.

“We did a 10-man ride with the goalie coming out: it is an aggressive play. They got a goal from three-quarters of the field to make it 7-3. It backfired on us and gave them life.”

Despite falling behind 10-5 early in the fourth quarter, Princeton still showed life.

“We stayed poised even when we were down two late,” said Bates. “We needed to make a big stop when it was 10-8. They got their 11th goal from the 18 and that’s one we would like to have back.”

Narrowing the gap to 11-10, Princeton had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation but misfired and Brown held on for the one-goal win.

“We drew up a play with 40 seconds left and Mikey [MacDonald] got a point blank shot but it was from a tough angle,” said Bates.

The loss was a wake-up call for the Tigers, coming one week after they fell behind Yale early on the way to a 16-15 loss.

“At the end of the day we were disappointed but we hope the game can be a catalyst,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League with the setback.

“This is forcing us to change the way we practice. Just about all we have been doing is scrimmaging and focusing on fundamentals. This team always plays hard, we don’t have to worry about that.”

The defeat also led to some soul-searching upon the team’s return to Princeton on Saturday evening.

“It was not a quiet meeting when we got home; we made challenges to the the captains and the leadership,” said Bates, who got three goals from senior captain Tom Schreiber in the defeat with sophomore Jake Froccaro and junior MacDonald chipping in two apiece. “I have to look at myself first to be constructively critical.”

Fueled by the disappointment, the Tigers made a constructive response a day later.

“We came out on a miserable rainy night on Sunday and scrimmaged hard, it was a good practice,” said Bates.

As the Tigers prepare to host Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual battle for the Meistrell Cup, Bates will keep them working hard in training.

“We are having open tryouts at practice,” said Bates. “We are not paying attention to Rutgers yet, we are paying attention to Princeton. We are mixing and matching teams and we are grading them with pluses and minuses. The guys like that.”

In Bates’ view, his players still like their chances to do some big things this spring.

“Nobody is panicking,” said Bates. “We know we can play. We are down but we know we control our destiny. Everybody is becoming closer; we are focusing on the little things.”

March 26, 2014
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TEN GAUGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake ­Froccaro unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro exploded for 10 goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 16-15 at Yale. Froccaro’s outburst tied a 63-year-old Princeton single-game record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers. Froccaro was later named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when they play at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Starting the week in dominant fashion, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team dismantled Villanova.

Dominating at both ends of the field in the March 18 contest at Villanova, Princeton jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back on the way to a 14-6 triumph.

As a result, the Tigers brought a lot of confidence into their Ivy League showdown at Yale last Saturday.

But Princeton got off to a shaky start before the crowd of 1,650 at Reese Stadium, falling behind the Bulldogs 4-0.

“I was a little surprised at how Saturday went,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“I thought we were clicking on all cylinders. We dug ourselves a ditch but we did claw out of it. We were up 7-6 at half.”

The Tigers kept scratching and clawing for the rest of the afternoon but they could never gain the upper hand as they fell 16-15 to drop to 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy.

“We struggled on face-offs and transition defense on the face-offs, that is a double whammy,” said Bates, noting that Princeton’s top face-off specialist Justin Murphy was unavailable Saturday due to injury.

“We didn’t play as physically as we had planned; we talked about taking the body more. We didn’t get as many ground balls. We weren’t as gritty as we needed to be.”

In falling to Yale, No. 14 Princeton squandered a performance for the ages as sophomore midfielder Jake Froccaro scored 10 goals, tying a 63-year-old single-game program record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers.

“It was something to behold, he kept scoring,” said Bates of Froccaro who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his outburst.

“Nobody was keeping count and then you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and it was oh my gosh. We were surprised that Yale shortsticked him and didn’t slide to him, they kept with the strategy. I feel badly that we couldn’t reward him with a win, he couldn’t really celebrate.”

But the Princeton defense wasn’t strategically sound and that came back to haunt the Tigers in the defeat to Yale, now ranked No. 11.

“We couldn’t find a way to get defensive stops,” lamented Bates. “I am disappointed with our defensive midfield group, they are a veteran group and I am usually the first to sing their praises. The young guys take their lead from them. They had breakdowns in communication and breakdowns in attention to detail from the scouting report. Yale is a good team, the way they know themselves is impressive.”

As Princeton plays at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29, Bates believes his team needs to focus on detail to get back on the winning track.

“We are kicking ourselves watching the film; we had so many opportunities,” said Bates.

“The clear positive is that the goals we gave up are correctible. We just need to take the next step. We have got to lick our wounds from the weekend and concentrate on ourselves. We had a great practice tonight, the guys battled hard and competed. It is an Ivy test, they are a very good team. We are not in a position to look ahead.”

—Bill Alden

 
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QUARTER TURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson looks to pass the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, junior guard Wilson scored six points in a losing cause as Princeton fell 72-56 at Fresno State in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s basketball program, taking part in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) has provided the Tigers with some March gladness.

In 2010, Princeton defeated Duquesne and IUPUI first two rounds of the 16-team tourney before falling to Saint Louis in the semis.

Two years ago, the Tigers topped Evansville in the CBI opening round before falling to Pitt in the quarters.

This March, in its latest trip to the CBI, Princeton edged Tulane 56-55 last Wednesday before falling 72-56 at Fresno State on Monday in a quarterfinal contest.

In reflecting on the victory over Tulane, Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson saw it as a major positive.

“I am happy with the win,” said Henderson, whose team ended the season with a 21-9 overall record.

“It is an opportunity for us to keep playing. I thought we defended well which is what we have been doing the last month and a half. They sort of spread you out; they are a hard team to guard because they are one-on-one based. I thought both Hans Brase and Peter Miller were very good on the inside with the interior defense.”

Henderson also liked how the Tigers played at the offensive end in the triumph over the Green Wave.

“We are a very good shooting team so I think that’s a big part of what we do but it is not everything,” added Henderson, who got 16 points from Brase in the victory, with Bray adding 12, and Clay Wilson chipping in 11.

“When we are at our best, the ball is moving and the guys are cutting. We have got to shoot because the guys can really make them. We had a really nice offensive performance from T.J. [Bray]. I thought there were a couple of huge plays. Clay Wilson came off the bench and gave us a nice lift, making some shots.”

Senior star Bray, who passed the 1,000-point milestone in his career during the Tulane contest, becoming the 30th player in program history to do so, was proud of how Princeton held off a late Tulane run to pull out the victory.

“When teams are making a run you just have to buckle down a little bit,” said Bray. “I wouldn’t call it nerves but just a sense of urgency. I thought we did a pretty good job down the stretch and we were able to come out with the win.”

The win was meaningful for Bray and his classmates as they were determined to extend their careers.

“You only get so many games in a Princeton uniform so if we can keep playing it is awesome,” said Bray, who scored 17 points in the loss to Fresno State in his final Princeton appearance to leave him with 1,024 points and in 29th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. “It was great to get a win here tonight and us seniors just want to keep playing as long as possible.”

Henderson, for his part, had no doubt about the value of another CBI run. “Most importantly, this is about us,” said Henderson. “It is an opportunity for us to get some more practice time and spend some more time together.”

—Bill Alden

 
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ADVANCED KNOWLEDGE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley puts up a shot in a recent game. Last Thursday, sophomore Wheatley scored a career-high 22 points to help Princeton top Virginia Commonwealth University 94-76 in the opening round of the WNIT. The win marked the first time the Tigers had advanced in postseason play in program history. Princeton’s WNIT run ended last Sunday when it lost 75-74 to Seton Hall. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After ending the regular season with a disappointing loss to Penn in a winner-take-all clash for the Ivy League title, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was excited to host Virginia Commonwealth University in the WNIT last Thursday.

“We wanted to show that Tuesday was not us,” said Princeton sophomore forward Alex Wheatley, referring to the 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11.

“I think we just wanted to come out and make a statement and get our first postseason win.”

Wheatley’s classmate, Annie Tarakchian, was equally determined heading into the contest.

“It is tough because you invest so much time and you love the game so much,” said Tarakchian.

“I think everybody realized that we have this opportunity and we should just take advantage of it and we can’t sulk over what we lost.”

Wheatley and Tarakchian took full advantage of their opportunity, producing double-doubles as Princeton pulled away to a 94-76 win over VCU to advance in a postseason tournament for the first time in program history after four previous appearances in the NCAA and one in the WNIT.

Wheatley scored a team-high and career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Tarakchian contributed career highs in points (18) and rebounds (12).

“Coach [Courtney Banghart] said to push it inside and I think she just wanted us all to be really aggressive and that was what I was trying to do,” said Wheatley, reflecting on her effort.

For Tarakchian, coming up so big as she made her first career start was a matter of taking care of business.

“I didn’t feel different; I knew I had to bring and what I had to do,” said Tarakchian.

Losing our senior captain [Kristen Helmstetter] for such a big game is definitely a dagger. We knew that each of us had to bring our own game. We worked really well together so I think we were all able to do what we had to do.”

Wheatley was thrilled about the program’s postseason breakthrough. “We were excited to play and it is great to get our first postseason win,” said Wheatley.

In Tarakchian’s view, the victory wasn’t just important for the current Tiger players.

“We didn’t just do it for ourselves, we did it for the whole program,” asserted Tarakchian, a native of West Hills, Calif.

While Princeton’s postseason run ended when it dropped a 75-74 nailbiter at Seton Hall last Sunday despite a 34-point outburst by sophomore Michelle Miller, Tiger head coach Courtney Banghart saw the win over VCU as a major step forward.

“We always say in the postseason, you play for your program at that point,” said Banghart, whose team finished the winter with an overall record of 21-9.

“There were a lot of kids before them that didn’t get a chance to play in the postseason. There are other kids who didn’t get a chance to own in the postseason. In March, you play for your program and our kids certainly did that tonight. It is so great.”

Princeton did a great job in the second half as it broke open a contest that was knotted 36-36 at halftime.

“I was surprised with how much we were able to own the tempo of the game,” said Banghart, whose team shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field in the second half.

“I am more surprised that the moment wasn’t too big. This is a really young team and that’s a really good team and so are we. It’s hard with our youth to know what to expect.”

Banghart expected the Tigers to improve in the wake of the loss to Penn.

“I think we are just better; we talked about the pace of our passing which I thought was much better tonight,” said Banghart, whose team piled up 20 assists on the evening.

“We were zinging the ball around. We went to some more sets against the zone so that took the freedom out of their hands a little bit and let them settle in. The pieces were better. One of the things we told them after the Penn game was that you all know this, to a man, you were disappointed that your part didn’t help the whole.”

The 6’2 Wheatley, who hails from Upper Holland, Pa., was a big piece for the Tigers against VCU. “She was great, she is growing up,” said Banghart of Wheatley who scored 15 points in the loss to Seton Hall.

“I thought she asked for the ball. We have asked her to be more assertive and I thought she was tonight.”

Tarakchian has been more assertive over the last month, emerging as a key inside threat for the Tigers.

“I am not surprised at all; I am really happy for her because she trusted in the process,” said Banghart of  the 6’0 Tarakchian’s recent surge which saw her average 14 points and 9.2 rebounds a game in Princeton’s last four contests.

“That is real easy to talk about now but it is hard to do when all the rest of the class is playing. I think she will just keep getting better.”

Wheatley, for part, believes the team’s sophomore class, which includes guard Amanda Berntsen and forward Taylor Williams, is poised to have a big impact on the program.

“I love my class; I love our team in general,” said Wheatley. “We have great chemistry. I think the sophomores are a balanced group. I think we have contributed this year.”

Tarakchian is equally optimistic. “It is just so fun to see what will come in the future,” said Tarakchian. “To see the freshmen coming in today and putting their part in. I think we just all know that we bring a different piece.”

—Bill Alden

 
March 19, 2014
MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy,  Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy, Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University men’s basketball team dropped its first four Ivy League games this season, it didn’t look like a team headed for postseason play come March.

But by going 8-2 in its next 10 Ivy games and winning its last five, including a 70-65 victory over Penn last week, Princeton will keep playing in March as it has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.

In reflecting on the win over Penn, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson lauded his players for not folding their tents when things looked bleak in February.

“I am really proud of being the coach of a team that had some reasons to pack it in,” said Henderson, noting that the team declined to play in the postseason in 2012-13 when it dropped two of its final three games to squander a chance at an Ivy title.

“It shows some caring and the culture, and where we are and where we want to be. We weren’t happy with the way things went. Everyone makes a big deal about 20 wins, I care far more about the way we have been playing defensively because earlier in the season we were an open door policy at the rim.”

In Henderson’s view, racheting up the defensive intensity sparked the reversal of fortune for the Tigers.

“I thought defensively we really made some huge adjustments,” explained Henderson.

“We were giving up almost 70 points a game. We really struggled when we were at Dartmouth. We started turning around here against Columbia at home; we didn’t get the win there. I thought at Brown and Yale, that was a terrific weekend for us defensively. To me, it is the defense.”

Another key factor in Princeton’s late surge was the play of senior guard T.J. Bray, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors this winter, averaging 18.3 points a game along with 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

“I had a front row seat at what I think is one of the finest Ivy League seasons and Princeton seasons in a long time,” asserted Henderson of Bray who ended regular season action at 995 career points.

“The consistency has been mind-boggling; every single night, win or lose, he averaged exactly 18 and 7. I had a little bit of a hand in what was said Senior Night but the 10 assists, no turnover game and the 13 assists game were great. I have said this many times, I would have cut my left arm off for games like that as a player here and I think a lot of former players feel the same way. As his coach, a player, and a fan, it was fun to watch.”

“I think we needed to see significant improvement from where we were and we did,” said Henderson. “Plus we are playing some young guys. We have a senior class which has won a lot of games here. I think the most important part of this is continuing to practice and play games in March. We just need more games, we have to play more.”

With getting to play another game virtually assuring that Bray will hit the 1,000-point mark, Henderson said that wasn’t on the minds of the senior guard and his classmates Will Barrett, Jimmy Sherburne, and Chris Clement.

“The really nice thing about T.J. is that I am probably more into that than he is,” said Henderson.

“T.J., the other seniors, and I had a lot of conversations before we did this. I was impressed and humbled by how they approach things. This isn’t where they want to be but that was the end of that conversation and let’s go forward here. This is about team, this is about Princeton basketball and I think that is the right way to think about it.”

Bray, for his part, is just thinking about getting more wins in a Princeton uniform.

“We got our 20th win, team success is way more important to me than individual success,” said Bray in the wake of the win over Penn.

“We’ll remember a 20-win season more than me winning an Ivy League scoring title or scoring 1,000 points. It is a team game, not about me so I can’t complain about that.”

Barrett believes that the seniors have positively influenced the team going forward.

“I think our class this year is a good example of never stopping,” added Barrett.

“Obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. I don’t think we came into this season expecting to be in the position we are right now but as we have shown in the second half of the season, we didn’t stop. We kept working hard and I think that rubbed off on the younger guys a little bit, just with their work ethic and how they held themselves throughout the second half of the season.”

For Sherburne, bouncing back from the slow start to the Ivy season showed the team’s true colors.

“The 0-4 start in general was pretty deflating but we have a strong core of senior leadership and we knew that we weren’t going to go out like that,” said Sherburne.

“It was really important for us to finish on a high note because we are used to winning here. Like I have said before, we have a lot of pride and I think that showed in the second half of the Ivy season.”

Henderson vows that Princeton will play with pride when it faces the Green Wave in New Orleans.

“We are not in the big tournament but you find out at 9:30 that night who you are going to play and you do as much cramming as you can possibly do,” said Henderson.

“I know coach Conroy (Tulane head coach Ed Conroy) just over the years. His teams are always really well coached. They are trying to do what we are trying to do. They are psyched to be
playing in the postseason. We know it is a chance to play in March, which is good.”

While the self-professed basketball junkie Henderson will be keeping an eye on the NCAA tournament and March Madness, he believes the CBI can be a critical step as the Tigers look to get back to the top of the Ivy League.

“We have our own little thing going on here and that is the CBI and this is  a really important tournament for us,” said Henderson, who guided the Tigers to the quarterfinals of the 2012 CBI.

“We didn’t do this just to play in the postseason, we are preparing to win. We have got our own task at hand that requires a lot of focus.”

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On January 11, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was all smiles as it left the court at the Palestra after pounding Penn 84-53 in its home gym.

Two months later to the day, the Tiger players slumped on their bench with blank stares as Penn pulled away to an 80-64 win at Jadwin Gym to prevail in a winner-take-all showdown for the Ivy League title.

“To be honest, I think the moment was a little bit big for my youngsters,” said Banghart, reflecting on the March 11 showdown which saw both teams bring 11-2 Ivy records into the regular season finale.

“I think they went into that environment with a lot of great energy and excitement and not a lot of execution, which you would expect. This is a really young team. We have got a young group and I think that was part of it. I think there is the swag that champions have, we are better than you until you show us you are not. I think this group is very humble, which is a good life skill. I don’t think they came out with the swag that we have come to expect here.”

A raucous crowd came out to Jadwin to view the title clash. “This was a really great environment for women’s basketball and the Ivy League,” said Banghart, who had guided Princeton to four straight league crowns coming into the 2013-14 campaign.

“We celebrate that, we want good teams in our league. I am thrilled for their seniors, I am thrilled for their upperclassmen. I said in there, at the end of the game, what are the learning lessons, what we can we take away from an opportunity like this.”

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will get an opportunity to keep playing as they will compete in the WNIT where they will host Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest with the winner advancing to the second round against the victor of the Seton Hall-American University first round contest.

Coming into the Penn rematch, Banghart had a sense that the Quakers were going to give Princeton a much better game than the January contest.

“I do think that Penn is a really, really good team because they play as hard as us,” said Banghart.

“I don’t think everybody in the league does. They defend. They play two seniors and two juniors a lot, we obviously don’t. I thought it would be a good game. I am not in the business of guessing who is going to win, I never know. We knew we were going to give them a good battle. It was probably the team we have the most respect for.”

In reflecting on the setback, Banghart acknowledged that her team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“I thought defensively we weren’t quite as good as we needed to be but we had a young team, we had a lot to teach,” said Banghart whose team shot 37.5 percent from the field (24-for-64) while the Quakers shot at a 48.2 percent clip (27-for-56).

“Penn zoned us the entire game. We have seen zone straight three games. We scored 161 points this weekend against zone (in beating Cornell 69-46 on March 7 and topping Columbia 92-48 a night later). We played against teams that we knew we were better than and then we played tonight and I guess these guys didn’t think that we were better than them even though we beat them by 31 at their place.”

Princeton senior star and co-captain Kristen Helmstetter acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t display the swagger in the rematch that they had exhibited in January.

“Obviously, that was our first Ivy game of the season and there was a lot of hype going into that,” said Helmstetter, referring to the January 11 game.

“We played really well together and we were really tough. We went into that game confident, knowing that we were the better team, I don’t think that we did  that tonight and it showed.”

Helmstetter was proud that the Tigers made it through the Ivy gauntlet to earn a shot at a fifth consecutive title.

“The great thing about the Ivy League is that it is Friday/Saturday,” added Helmstetter.

“Penn lost to Dartmouth, we lost to Brown; those aren’t typical of either of our teams, we both play really hard. The Ivy League can be any given night and I think that it came down to the best two teams in the league and I am happy that we got to play for it on our court.”

The butterflies were dancing in Helmstetter’s stomach as she took the court for the showdown.

“I was a little nervous, for sure but I don’t think that took away from my confidence,” said Helmstetter, who scored nine points in the loss as junior Blake Dietrick led the Tigers with 14 while sophomores Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian chipped in 12 apiece.

“We are definitely a young team and games like this require a lot of experience and we didn’t really have that much experience. I am happy that each of our sophomores gained so much valuable experience from this season. We have three starting sophomores, which is so rare. Playing Penn in this game is something   special and hopefully they can pay it forward for next year.”

Banghart lauded Helmstetter and fellow senior captain Nicole Hung for inspiring the young Tiger squad that featured five sophomores and three freshmen.

“They took over a team that lost a lot,” said Banghart. “They lost kids who had been their best friends for years and had been teammates for years and they took a really young team. They showed that they believed in it and everybody else believed in it. Playing for an Ivy title the last night with the youth we have is remarkable and it is entirely because of the leadership of my captains.”

In Banghart’s view, the WNIT will provide a good platform for the team to gain some maturity.

“I think it allows us to get more valuable experience,” said Banghart. “It gives us postseason experience, it gives us a chance to win a postseason game. It allows us to cement things; did we get better and can we be proud throughout the season.”

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Jack Strabo acknowledged that the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team won ugly in its 15-12 victory over visiting Penn last Saturday, he saw beauty in the effort.

“I don’t think we played a perfect game by any means; I think it was sloppy both ways,” said senior defensive midfielder Strabo, who scored a first quarter goal in the victory which improved 12th-ranked Princeton to 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League.

“Penn is a very tough team. We had to grind it out so I was proud of our guys today for showing some composure at the end and getting a gritty, tough win.”

With Princeton having lost to No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Johns Hopkins in its last two outings before last Saturday, getting a victory over the 13th-ranked Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams was critical.

“This is obviously a huge game for us, not only coming off two losses but also it is our first Ivy League game and that is what we really want to focus on,” said Strabo.

“League games are huge for us so coming into it we knew we had a lot to prove and on top of that, we knew we had seen flashes where we can put it all together but we hadn’t come together for the whole game yet.”

In Strabo’s view, the Tigers are coming together on defense. “I was proud of our defense, I think we grew up a lot on that end,” said Strabo.

“We made some big stops. Matt O’Connor in the cage made some huge saves in the second half when we needed them, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we were able to put some pressure on and get some stops at the end of the game when we really needed the ball back and we couldn’t afford to give them any goals. I think we are getting better every week. We have got some guys down there but those guys have matured a lot.”

The defensive middie group, which includes senior stars Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts, along with Strabo, looks to provide leadership to the younger players in the unit.

“A lot of it is trying to make sure that we are making the decisions and communicating a lot, especially in practice,” said Strabo, whose younger brother, sophomore Mark, starts on close defense along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“When you are out there on the field starting, it doesn’t matter whether you are a freshman or a senior, you need to make sure you are talking, communicating, and being in position.

Being in the position of team captain has made Strabo focus on communicating on a daily basis.

“I think I have two great co-captains with Derick Raabe and Tom Schreiber; we try to set the tone in practice and in the games,” said the 5’9, 170-pound Strabo, a native of Arlington, Va.

“We try to make sure that everyone is ready in terms of Xs and Os and in terms of mentality during the week so that we are ready to go from the opening whistle.”

For defensive specialist Strabo, getting a goal was a great moment. “It doesn’t happen very often,” said Strabo with a laugh in reflecting on his fifth career tally.

“We did a good job of pushing it in our early offense and that is one of the things we have been kind of stressing in practice. I think we did a pretty good job of putting some pressure on their defense. We got some good movement on the backside and I somehow ended up on the backside pipe in the attackman’s spot and Mike MacDonald made a great feed. I don’t know how he saw me there; that was a nice surprise.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw Strabo’s goal as a good sign. “Jack is the first one to admit that is not his calling in life; he is not a goal scorer but it gives you life,” said Bates.

“If you are going to win big games and close games, you have to get production from different areas of the field and from unlikely sources. That was a nice omen early in the game. I am happy for him. He is as hard working a guy and as good a leader as you could ever want.”

Bates praised the team’s work on the defensive end. “Our man down defense was something we were concerned about out of respect for Penn’s extra man offense,” said Bates.

“They were 1-for-8 against us overall. It was a high caliber opponent and it is more game experience for those guys to live, breathe, and die together on each possession. I think we took some nice next steps there.”

Pulling out a close win was a vital step in the right direction for the Tigers.

“When you lose two weekends in a row it is a grind,” said Bates, who got two goals and five assists from Mike MacDonald in the victory with Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber each contributing four goals and an assist.

“This group is learning how to work through the grind and it is nice to get rewarded because now we have to notch it up. You can’t play like this and win next week. You  always have to take next steps and I think we are happy because this is better than the alternative.”

There is plenty of room for improvement as Princeton faces a critical week as they are slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at No. 16 Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.

“Our message to them afterwards was OK we have to learn how to put ourselves in game situations in practice so we look better than we did at the end of this game,” said Bates.

“If you watched us at the end, it looked like we were trying to give it back a little bit. Hopefully they will understand that and we are only going to turn up the heat in practice because it feels good to win and we need to understand how to practice so we continue to prepare for stressful situations.”

Strabo and his teammates understand that the win over Penn sets up a pivotal week of the 2014 campaign.

“It is a great step in the right direction,” asserted Strabo. “We need to make sure that we turn our focus quickly because Villanova is a very good team on Tuesday and then Yale next Saturday. I think between this game and the next week, that is a very big eight days for us that we need to stress and if we can come out of there 3-0 next Saturday then we are in great shape.”

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off two straight overtime losses, the tactical approach was basic for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as it hosted sixth-ranked Virginia last Saturday.

“We were looking to get the draw controls, because we hadn’t been doing that in the past few games, and take our time on attack, and take a little pressure off our defense,” said Princeton senior star midfielder and co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “In the past few games, they have been playing the majority of time.”

The Tigers were also looking to bring a little more intensity to go with the emphasis on patience.

“We were ready to just give it our all,” asserted Lloyd. “We know we are a good team and so we were just so ready to come out and play the way we knew we could.”

The red-headed Lloyd played with fire and precision against the Cavaliers, scoring four goals, winning three draw controls, and getting four ground balls to help Princeton earn a 15-13 triumph and improve to 2-3.

In Lloyd’s view, the win was the product of sharp execution all over the field.

“I think we all concentrated on sighting the cage and making the keeper move because we know she is really a good goalie,” said Lloyd, a 5’8 native of Severna Park, Md. who now has 9 goals on the season and 60 in her Princeton career.

We just really went all out on the draws. In practice we worked a lot on boxing out because that was our struggle in the past couple of games.”

Lloyd believes that overcoming the Cavaliers should give Princeton a big boost of confidence.

“Virginia is always a great team to play against; I personally love playing against this team,” said Lloyd, a first-team All-Ivy League performer last spring.

“It is always a good game every year. It just feels great to win this as a senior. It shows us that when we play the way we know we can play, we are a great team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer knew her team had to control the tempo to be successful against
Virginia.

“We have been a really great fast break team this year, scoring a lot of goals quickly,” said Sailer.

“But we have been carrying that over into our settled offense and just forcing the first thing that we see. We have put way too much pressure on our defense and our goalkeepers.”

Sailer liked the way that Lloyd put pressure on the Virginia defense.

“She is phenomenal; Sarah is such a competitor,” said Sailer who also got two goals and three assists from Erin Slifer with Alexandra Bruno chipping in three goals and two assists, and Anya Gersoff contributing two goals and an assist.

“She is a quiet kid on the field but she doesn’t play quietly. She plays big and you saw that today.”

A big moment for the Tigers came when freshman Olivia Hompe scored with less than a second left in the first half to give Princeton a 7-6 lead at intermission.

“That was just huge because we had just gone a man down,” recalled Sailer.

“To get that goal at the end of the half was such a great momentum for us heading into the locker room.”

The play of junior goalie Annie Woehling, who was making her first start of the season, gave the Tigers some momentum.

“Annie was great; we didn’t make that decision until just before the game,” said Sailer of Woehling, who recorded nine saves in the victory.

“We knew that we had struggled with that position so far and were looking at all three of our goalkeepers equally this week and seeing who we thought was most ready. We went with Annie and honestly we didn’t give her a lot of time to think about it. We told her before the game that she was in and she just went with it. She did a really good job.”

Sophomores Gersoff and Bruno did a good job of triggering the Princeton offense.

“Anya was getting great looks in the first half but just shooting it high; she has to pick her shots a little better,” said Sailer. “Bruno finished a couple of nice plays near the cage.”

In Sailer’s view, the victory over the Cavaliers could get Princeton on the right track as it heads out to California for games at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22 before getting into the thick of its Ivy League campaign.

“They were ranked sixth; I feel like this is a turning point for us to win a game like this,” said Sailer. “We can’t expect any less of ourselves moving forward.”

Lloyd and her classmates are looking to keep things moving in the right direction.

“As seniors, we want to be a good presence on the field and make sure everybody is communicating and on the same page for everything,” said Lloyd. “We also have to worry about keeping the energy up and we definitely did that today, all the seniors.”

Youth is being served this spring for the Princeton University baseball team.

Saying goodbye in 2013 to a large senior contingent together with junior star Mike Ford, the Ivy League Player and Pitcher of the Year, Princeton replenished its roster by bringing in nine freshmen.

“That group of senior talent played a lot, along with Mike Ford, they had 90 percent of the at-bats and innings pitched,” said Tiger head coach Scott Bradley, whose team dropped three games at UCSB in its opening weekend of the season before splitting four games against Michigan at Port St. Lucie, Fla. from March 13-15.

“We had to recruit a good class. We felt like we got a good class but you never know until they get out on the field.”

Based on the early returns, Bradley attracted a very good class. Over the first two weeks of the season, Tiger freshman stars Nick Hernandez and Danny Baer have been the Ivy League Rookies of the Week. Through seven games, Hernandez led Princeton in hitting at .400 with Baer next at .360 and classmate Paul Tupper third at .348.

“I was impressed by how they looked against UCSB and this past weekend they looked even better,” said Bradley.

“The big thing is that as a group, they are big, physical guys. When you are recruiting it is hard to find guys for the middle of the order. Hernandez, Baer, and Tupper started well and that gives young players the confidence they need.”

The freshmen group has also made an impact on the mound as newcomers Keelan Smithers and Bryce Keller combined for a 6-5 win in the Michigan set with Smithers going five innings in the start and Keller handling the final four innings.

“They made progress between their first and second outings, things were going a little fast for them the first time out,” said Bradley, whose freshman hurlers also include Chad Powers and Luke Strieber.

“Powers is playing third and pitching. I am expecting to give Strieber a start. Keller is very talented. He pitched four innings against Michigan and gave up an unearned run in 4 innings. We will stretch him out.”

A senior, Michael Fagan, has emerged as the ace of the Princeton rotation.

“When he came back to campus last fall we could see that he was more confident and composed,” said Bradley of Fagan, who pitched brilliantly in winning the opening game against Michigan, striking out 10 in six innings of work in the 7-3 triumph.

“He has became a leader. He had good numbers in his first two starts but he really showed composure. He had some wacky things happen and he got out of jams.”

Bradley is looking for good things on the mound from sophomore Cameron Mingo and senior Jonathan York.

“Mingo had a phenomenal freshman year,” said Bradley. “We have been a little cautious with him. He had a little dead arm so we held him out against UCSB and pitched him two innings against Michigan. We will ease him back, I expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league this year. Jonathan York is interesting. He has been a position player for three years and never pitched. He came in against Michigan and pitched three strong innings. He throws strikes and has a live arm.”

After dealing with rain and sloppy fields in the opening set at UCSB, the Tigers got into a groove against Michigan.

“Being at the Mets complex and getting good weather was great,” said Bradley.

“We were able to do batting practice and infield everyday and get into a routine. We played well defensively. While we don’t put much stock into the record at this point, it was was nice to get some wins this early. It was important for a young team.”

With Princeton heading south for its annual spring break trip this week, Bradley is hoping for nice weather and some more wins.

“It is the same thing like every year, we hope the weather cooperates so we can get in a lot of games,” said Bradley, whose team topped UNC-Greensboro 11-1 last Sunday to improve to 3-7 and will play at Duke on March 19, face Maine on March 20 at Annapolis, Md. before playing a pair of doubleheaders at Navy on March 22-23. “We want to get guys experience and put them in different situations. We want to stretch out the pitchers.”

Upon returning from the trip, Princeton will be starting Ivy League play by hosting doubleheaders against Harvard on March 29 and Dartmouth a day later and Bradley will get a better read on whether his freshmen can handle the pressure situations they will face in league play.

“It is too early to tell,” said Bradley. “I am pleased with the young players; it helps for their confidence to start out well. I think the league is going to be very good. Yale beat LSU; Columbia is playing people tough as usual.”

March 12, 2014
HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Nicole Hung suffered articular cartilage damage to her left knee last winter during her junior campaign with the Princeton University women’s basketball team, her hoops career was in jeopardy.

Undergoing surgery and missing all but five games in 2012-13, Hung started this season hobbled with a brace supporting her left knee, not sure when she would be up to game speed.

Diligently going through rehab, Hung got back on the court and became a key reserve as the Tigers have chased their fifth straight Ivy League title.

As Hung was honored along with classmate Kristen Helmstetter in the program’s annual Senior Night last Saturday, her thoughts turned to the knee injury and the test it has posed.

“In a way I have almost come full circle because I feel in some aspects this year mirrored freshman year for me in some ways, just struggling on the court,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles, Calif.

“My dad is always saying if you are not pushed enough and if you don’t have enough stress driving you forward then you are going to remain stagnant in life, not just in basketball. The injury definitely has pushed me and challenged me, probably more than anything has with it being senior year and wanting to be out there. It has also helped me see that you can contribute in different ways off the court.”

Last weekend, Hung made a major contribution on the court, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later.

The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.

For Hung, coming up big was the product of moving better on her injured knee.

“It has been feeling good for the last couple of months,” said Hung, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance, sharing the accolade with Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich. “It has been feeling a lot better in practice and I guess that is where it starts.”

It has felt good for Hung to serve as a team co-captain with classmate Helmstetter.

“We are very different but we are also similar in some ways,” said Hung, who now has 347 points in her Tiger career. “It meshes well, what I am not good at, she is good at and what she doesn’t like to do, I am OK doing. As captains, we fit perfectly together.”

The pair of seniors were hoping for a perfect ending in their Jadwin finale against the Quakers.

“I think the importance of the Penn game, in my mind, is overriding the fact that it is our last game at Jadwin,” said Hung.

“I am just thinking of the game itself, not what it means when the buzzer sounds and it is over. We are just really focused.”

The Tigers brought a heightened focus into last weekend after suffering a stunning 61-58 loss at Brown to begin March.

“It was their senior night last Saturday and I think emotions are elevated always at anyone’s Senior Night,” said Hung.

“Seeing them celebrate everything after that win, we could hear them from our locker room so we were like no one is doing that to us on our Senior Night. We took Cornell and Columbia as seriously as we take any other opponent. Last weekend was really just a reminder that the Ivy League is crazy. It is so unique compared to any other conference.”

For Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, seeing her team experience its Senior Night triggers mixed emotions.

“Senior Night is always bittersweet; I remember recruiting them, I remember going through the ups and downs with them,” said Banghart.

“You watch them grow as players, people, and leaders so it is always bittersweet and you hope that it is the night that they want. We said before the game that we want the other kids to play in honor of them. These two kids have been all about the program, never about themselves. So it was important to the rest of the team to show them what their hard work has given us, which is a young group that is playing ahead of their years.”

Banghart was particularly pleased to see Hung’s hard work result in a senior weekend to remember.

“I told her in my office about a month ago that it is a matter of time until you come up big,” said Banghart.

“I don’t know when that is going to be. I have been in the league a long time, the league is won by seniors and she played like it this weekend. I think there is a rhythm to playing in games and she wasn’t able to get into that because she was hurt so much. I think now she is just getting longer runs on the court. There is probably an element of I am a senior, I have been here before, I know how this works.”

In reflecting on Helmstetter’s contribution, Banghart marvels at her adaptability.

“Kristen just does whatever we have asked her to do,” said Banghart. ”She practices at the post and plays at the guard, she practices at guard and plays at the post. She plays wherever you need her in the zone. We have had some practices where we had nine players; she’ll be whatever we need her to be. She is versatile. I am surprised that she is so willing to stand out and be a star, that is so out of her character. It has been critical to this team’s growth.”

In Banghart’s view, the Tigers have grown from the loss to Brown. “We had 59 rebounds tonight; a major characteristic of our last weekend was that we didn’t go to the glass,” said Banghart.

“We haven’t been as relentless on the glass as we want to be. We changed up our looks offensively to be a little more relentless on the glass, giving us better positions. I think their commitment to the rebounding has showed. Those are toughness points. If you have got a title on the line, no one is going to give it to you and I think they were tough this weekend.”

In making it to the cusp of another league crown, Princeton has exhibited a mental toughness.

“This group has really needed me, they needed each other,” said Banghart. “We have had to really work together; we have had to grow. We have had to take some hits, we have had to get through injuries. It’s always fun to see anyone that you love succeed and they are succeeding.”

Hung, for her part, has enjoyed her personal growth process. “I think people joke that my freshman year I didn’t speak my first words until November or something like that so I guess on a verbal level I have opened up more,” said Hung, who will be teaching in Thailand next year and hopes to go to medical school after that.

“Being a captain, especially under coach Banghart, requires a lot of communication. I think that journey of saying my first words in November freshmen year to having to lead a team verbally, especially since I haven’t been on the court as much this year, has developed me as a person and is what I will need later in life.”

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber scored six points for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last Friday against North Carolina but those offensive heroics aren’t what will stick in his mind when he looks back on the contest.

“I don’t think I will ever forget throwing the ball away on our last possession,” said senior All-American midfielder Schreiber, ever the perfectionist, as he reflected on Princeton’s 13-11 loss to the Tar Heels.

While Schreiber was bitterly disappointed by the result, he acknowledged that No. 16 Princeton made strides even as it fell to 2-2.

“Coach [Chris Bates] said we got better today but we are not where we want to be yet,” said Schreiber. “It is progress; it stings that it is a loss. We’ll keep building from there.”

Princeton fought an uphill battle as No. 5 North Carolina built a 4-1 lead midway through the first quarter.

“We have tended to do that at the start of this year and a little bit last year,” said Schreiber, referring to the Tigers’ penchant for slow starts.

“A lot of times the sidelines are saying it is a game of runs and they’ll get a couple, we’ll get a couple. We knew how talented they were and how they like to push the pace. I think that is exactly what we expected and our defense did a great job of covering a really talented offensive team.”

Princeton, though, displayed its offensive talent as it outscored UNC 9-6 from there to make it a 10-10 game going into the fourth quarter.

“There is no quit in this team, that is one thing I can say for sure,” said Schreiber.

“I wasn’t worried at any point. We felt good on our end offensively. I think Justin Murphy and the face-off team did a nice job in the second half getting us the ball. I think we did a nice job coming back and fell a little short. The beauty of our offense is that if you keep doing it and keep doing it correctly things will open up and I think that happened a little bit.”

For the two-time All-American, the night marked another offensive milestone in his glittering career as his first assist on the evening helped him become just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career, joining Jon Hess ’98 (82 goals, 133 assists) and Dave Heubeck ’80 (83 goals, 99 assists) in the 80-80 club.

“It is cool to see it,” said Schreiber, who now has 168 points on 86 goals and 82 assists and is the top scoring midfielder in program history.

“It’s an honor to be considered with those guys. I am just trying to win games at this point. We got a little better so we want to get to the point where we are pulling out wins. I think we’ll peak at the right time.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw plenty of positives even though he was disappointed by the outcome.

I thought there was a ton to build on but we gave away too many plays and we’ve got to find a way to win and minimize those mistakes,” said Bates.

“Defensively we grew up here a little bit. We showed some character, we showed some grit and that’s got to carry over.”

Sophomore goalie Matt O’Connor showed some growth, making 12 saves as he played a whole contest for the first time this year after splitting time with senior Brian Kavanagh in Princeton’s first three games.

“Matt gave us some life,” asserted Bates. “Early on, he was a little shaky. He just gave us some energy plays and he settled in a little bit. I am happy for Matt, he stood tall and he had a pretty good game. He’s a competitor and he’s fought through. He hasn’t played well but at the end of the day, he keeps coming.”

The team’s young defensive unit of freshmen Bear Goldstein and Will Reynolds along with sophomore Mark Strabo came on as well.

“Bear Goldstein shut down Joey Sankey today, Bear showed that he is a primetime kid,” said Bates. “Will Reynolds gets a lot of hype and he is a very good player. Both of those guys, Will and Bear, grew up today, and Mark as well.”

A quartet of veterans provided a steadying presence in the defensive midfield.

“Derick Raabe, Jack Strabo, Fern [Nick Fernandez], and Hunter deButts do the hard work, it goes a little bit unnoticed,” said Bates. “Derick picked up some huge ground balls. Fern, Jack, and Hunter were really stout. That gives us confidence going forward.”

While Princeton’s defenders held their own against the run-and-gun Tar Heels, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers offense needed to be a little sharper.

“We proved to ourselves that we can defend a team like that, we need those other plays to keep them to a few more goals less,” said Bates, whose team opens its Ivy League campaign on March 15 when it hosts No. 11 Penn (3-1). “We need to cash in a few opportunities. Mikey [MacDonald] has one I am sure he wants back. Tom wants the last turnover back, that is the nature of it.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber’s competitive nature drives the Tigers. “Tom is a playmaker and you can just tell that when the game is on the line, his blood pressure is sky high in a good way,” said Bates.

“He helped get us back in the game. There are times where I look at him and say wow, I didn’t coach that. Tom wants to win games like this; he wants a couple of plays back because that is the type of competitor he is and that is what makes him a special player.”

Schreiber, for his part, is looking to write a special final chapter to his Princeton career.

“I am blessed to be here at Princeton to begin with let alone being on the lacrosse team,” said Schreiber.

“I am trying to continue to enjoy myself here. Whether we are winning or losing, I am going to be smiling. I am going to try to get some more Ws.”

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deck appeared to be stacked against the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it headed up to Clarkson last weekend for an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series.

Princeton was seeded 12th while the Golden Knights were seeded sixth and in the history of the ECACH playoffs, a 12th seed had only prevailed twice in such a matchup.

Moreover, the Tigers had struggled mightily against Clarkson, both recently and historically. Princeton was mired in a five-game losing streak against the Golden Knights and trailed 76-28-5 in the all-time series
between the programs. Princeton was 1-6 lifetime against Clarkson in the ECACH playoffs, having never won a postseason game at Cheel Arena.

In looking to reverse those trends, Princeton head coach Bob Prier wanted his team to keep it simple.

“We just wanted to play more in their face,” said Prier. “We wanted to tighten up gaps in the neutral zone and keep our feet moving on defense.”

Following that blueprint, the Tigers nearly dealt Clarkson a stunning exit, winning the opener 3-2 in overtime before falling 4-0 in Game 2 and dropping a 3-2 nailbiter in the decisive Game 3.

“The guys competed pretty hard,” said Prier, whose team ended the winter at 6-26 overall.

“The last game could have gone either way, both teams played hard. I told the guys I was proud of how they competed.”

Senior forward Andrew Ammon stood out as a top competitor for the Tigers, scoring the game-winning goal in the opener.

“He shoots the puck well and works so hard,” said Prier of Ammon, who was named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this season and was the team’s top scorer with 21 points along with classmate Andrew Calof. “He is a playoff player. He is an honest player who shows a lot of emotion.”

Princeton got some good playoff efforts from sophomores Kyle Rankin and Jonathan Liau, among others.

“Rankin and Liau both put up some good numbers,” said Prier, who got a goal and two assists from Liau with Rankin contributing two goals. “I thought Jeremy Goodwin had a really good game last night. They all generally played well.”

While the Tigers played well in defeat, Prier acknowledged that Clarkson had a slight edge in puck possession.

“They won more stick battles,” said Prier. “They had the puck a little more than we did and that gave them a few more power plays.”

Prier was proud of how his seniors battled to the end. “The class we lose is a considerable group, the record doesn’t always reflect how much a senior class has put into a team,” said Prier of the team’s Class of 2014 which includes two-time captain Jack Berger, Sean Bonar, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, Alec Rush, Ammon, and Calof. “They are outstanding young men.”

In assessing why Princeton didn’t post the record it had hoped, Prier said a rash of injuries held the Tigers back.

“It was hard to have combative practices with the number of injuries that we had and the guys who were playing through pain,” said Prier.

“You play how you practice. Up until a month ago, we couldn’t scrimmage in practice, we just didn’t have the bodies. If you can’t get the intensity in practices, you are not prepared for the intensity you face in games.”

With such returning players as Ryan Siiro, Tucker Brockett, Tyler Maugeri, Tommy Davis, Mike Ambrosia, Aaron Kesselman, Ben Foster, Quin Pompi, Marlon Sabo, Colton Phinney, along with Liau and Rankin, Princeton hopes to inflict some pain on its foes next winter.

“I think we have some pretty good players coming back,” said Prier. “We have a good group coming in. It is a 12-month commitment to be a Division I athlete. They need to train more to be more explosive and stronger physically.”

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It wasn’t exactly a field of dreams but it helped the Princeton University softball team out of an early season nightmare.

After a long-scheduled tournament appearance in Maryland was cancelled due to poor field conditions and a last-minute invite to a tourney in Salem, Va. got iced out due to a Thursday snowstorm down south, Princeton was able to transform its Finney-Campbell field turf facility into a makeshift diamond for a doubleheader Saturday against the University of Hartford.

The program had to jump through some hoops to make the twinbill a reality. “We went into the administration and said is this possible?,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney.

“Thank goodness for the athletics department, so many people had to step in. The facilities people and the administration were such a big help.”

While there wasn’t any dirt or grass in sight, the teams made the best of the facility.

“It was great, we had benches for our “dugouts,” we had stands,” said Sweeney.

“Hartford has a lot of girls from this general area and they had a lot of parents come. We had a lot of students who came down before the women’s basketball game. It felt like a real game; both teams really liked it.”

Sweeney liked the way her team competed as it lost the opener 6-5 in eight innings and then came back and posted a 4-1 victory in the night cap to earn its first victory of the spring.

In reflecting on Game 1, Sweeney credited her pitcher, Claire Klausner, with battling hard in striking out six and walking three on a day when she didn’t have her best stuff.

“We have two freshman pitchers and one of them, Claire Klausner, got the start,” said Sweeney.

“She had a tough first inning and we told her it is important to make adjustments. She grinded through eight innings when she wasn’t feeling her best and found a way. She put the team in a spot to win Game 1.”

The Tigers fell short of the win as they were doomed by some sloppy play. “We made a few mistakes that came back to bite us; we had three outs at third, that is never a good stat,” lamented Sweeney.

“We made some base running mistakes. The first game was a good indicator of growth and getting better from game to game.”

Princeton got better in the second game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning on a grand slam by Marissa Reynolds.

“Marissa has a big presence at the plate, the team trusts her in the box,” said Sweeney. “We were waiting for the first big hit from somebody and that gave us a huge lift.”

In winning its first game of the season after six straight losses, the Tigers got some big hits from veterans Rachel Rendina, Alyssa Schmidt, and Cara Worden.

“Rendina, Schmidt, and Worden all had good at-bats in Florida but they all came up short and felt they could do better,” said Sweeney.

“How they perform at the plate sets the tone. They can be sparks for us and they embrace that role. We were more relaxed in the box overall.”

The pitching trio of Meredith Brown, Shanna Christian, and Erica Noel combined to give up just four hits with Christian getting the victory.

“We split time between three pitchers because we wanted to get all the pitchers some work and one had gone 8 innings in the first game,” said Sweeney.

“They knew they were going to split time. It is an adjustment for college pitchers to learn the relief role since most of them were starters in high school.”

In Sweeney’s view, the hard work Princeton has put in to this point will pay dividends down the road.

“I am happy that we are going to be underestimated,” said Sweeney. “I have uncompromising optimism that we are going to be consistently improving. We have a young team with a lot of new faces so we are going to have growing pains. I think we will keep getting better and peak at the right time for our Ivy games.”

A key step in the process will come next week when the Tigers head west for their annual California swing.

“It will be great for team bonding,” added Sweeney, whose team plays in the San Jose Tournament from March 15-16, has doubleheaders at Sacramento State on March 18 and at Pacific on March 19, and then wraps up the jaunt with the Santa Clara Tournament from March 21-23.

“We have 13 games scheduled and it will be an opportunity to get better everyday. We have a lot of people competing for positions. Everyone is competing with each other but still being good teammates. We are mixing up things and giving people the opportunity to play and show what they can do.”

After guiding the Tigers to a solid 27-19 campaign last spring in her first season at the helm of the program, Sweeney is looking for her players to show a lot in 2014.

“Last year was a get-to-know-you process and about sorting out things,” said Sweeney.

“The seniors are dedicated to improving the program. We have challenged the girls to raise the bar for themselves and the program. Everyone is on board.”

March 5, 2014
FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ryan Ambler and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team liked their chances as they headed into the second quarter of their clash with Johns Hopkins last Saturday.

The rivals were locked in a 4-4 tie after the one period with Princeton holding a 12-7 edge in shots.

“We were moving the ball well, there was good ebb and flow to the game,” said sophomore attackman Ambler. “We made some stops on defense; they made a little bit of a run but so did we.”

But in the second quarter, Hopkins embarked on a decisive run that changed the course of the game. The Blue Jays outscored Princeton 5-1 in the period and extended their lead to 12-5 by midway through the third.

While the Tigers got back on track, responding to the 8-1 run by outscoring Hopkins 4-3 from there, it was not nearly enough as the Blue Jays posted a 15-9 win before 2,540 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In assessing Hopkins’ surge, Ambler acknowledged that Princeton didn’t have much room for error.

“I think that they just got a couple more possessions than we did,” said Ambler.

“I think they capitalized in the second quarter more than we did, it came down to that. We knew that they were a good team. They shot the ball really well, they shared the ball really well. There were some times collectively that we had a lapse as a team.”

In the latter stages of the third quarter, Princeton did capitalize, reeling off three straight goals.

“I had a lot of faith in our defense, offense, and face-off guys, all around the field; the same thing happened with Hofstra,” said Amber, referring to a late rally which saw Princeton go on an 8-2 run to pull out a 12-10 win on February 22. “We knew that we were going to get our run, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t keep it going.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Rydal, Pa. has it going this spring, with 12 points already on three goals and a team-high nine assists.

“I am just a year older and hopefully, a little wiser,” said Ambler, who matched his career single-game high in the Hopkins loss with five points on two goals and three assists.

“The guys on the team do a great job finishing the ball, we move the ball really well. I have got to give credit to the guys finishing the goals. They cut to the ball, I feed them and they finish.”

Ambler has developed a comfort level with senior midfielder Tom Schreiber and junior attackman Mike MacDonald.

“We have a great feel for each other and we are great buddies,” said Ambler.

“We understand the flow of the offense as does the rest of the offense. I think everyone has got a great feel to the offense that we run. We just capitalize on some good plays. I am fortunate to play within this offense.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knew that the Hopkins offense posed some challenges for his young defense which starts a sophomore [Mark Strabo] and two freshmen [Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein].

“Coming into this game, I knew Hopkins is very different offensively this season,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 2-1 with the defeat.

“Some of the things they have shown that they are going to do were going to cause some problems for us. It was not a surprise to me.”

In assessing Hopkins’ decisive run, Bates noted that Princeton was doomed by a number of problems.

“We didn’t have the ball,” said Bates. “It is a game of momentum; we turned it over a few times and we didn’t face off well. I knew coming in if we were forced to play a lot of defense that we were going to give up quality shots and that was the case during that run. Honestly, we needed another save or two to get the ball back and give us a little life, to give us a little momentum and we didn’t get that. We didn’t get the critical plays at critical moments to get it back in our favor.”

Bates credited Ambler with giving Princeton life at the offensive end. “Ryan is playing with confidence; he is strong on the ball, he has such great vision,” said Bates.

“It is nice when the pieces of our offense play together, it is pretty to watch. You just see the ball move around and guys are unselfish. Ryan is unselfish but  he is confident enough to take advantage of his opportunities. You love guys that have equal goals and assists, that’s the way the game should be played. It is nice to see his development.”

Responding with a grimace, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers need their goalies to develop some consistency.

“This was a good test; they are high velocity, high accuracy shooters and we didn’t catch up with balls today,” said Bates, who has been rotating senior Brian Kavanagh and sophomore Matt O’Connor between the pipes.

“We didn’t look like we were on the ball, that is a concern. That is an area that is going to continue to stay under the microscope. I don’t know if you solve it today or next week or when you do. To be where we want to be, we need more consistency and we need the answer there.”

The answer could come, in part, by being more deliberate with the ball. “We still have to do a better job of managing the game on the offensive end,” said Bates.

“In some instances, when you are facing a dynamic offense like Hopkins, you have got to keep it out out of their hands. It is only a matter of time. They are just so slick and so skilled, they know each other really well. We have got to be able to withstand that and tilt the field the other way.”

The Tigers know they are going to have to withstand another high-powered attack as they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.

“We have Carolina coming in here Friday, it is another big-time opponent,” noted Bates.

“You learn lessons and you take the next steps. I really feel like this team is going to be much different at the end of April than it is in the beginning of March. We have to hold on to that thought. It doesn’t feel good right now. I have done this long enough where I have got to remind myself and remind my guys of that. They are not happy right now and I don’t blame them but we have to keep it in perspective.”

Ambler, for his part, is taking a long-range perspective. “We understand that it is March 1, we have plenty of time,” said Ambler.

“Hopkins was a great test, UNC is going to be another great test. All we can do is look forward to one game at a time and that is what we are going to do. We hate losing; we are going to take what we have from that loss and we are going to progress forward, the key word is progress.”