September 11, 2013
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshman forward Tyler Lussi to make an impact for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Playing in the season opener last Friday night against visiting Richmond, Lussi came off the bench and scored the first goal in the contest early in the second half, sparking the Tigers as they went on to a 2-0 victory.

“To get the first goal in the beginning of the second half was really nice,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md.

“It set the pace for the rest of the game and then Lauren Lazo got the goal right after me. It just settled us down.”

The Lazo-Lussi combination paid dividends two days later as Princeton topped Army 3-0 with junior Lazo scoring the first Tiger goal and Lussi chipping in the other two.

“We are definitely playing off of each other and we know where each other are on the field and we are making good runs,” said Lussi. “We are getting it done.”

Reflecting on her debut, Lussi didn’t see herself emerging as the team’s top finishing threat.

“I think I came out wanting to win the game and came out playing strong and hard and wanting to take shots, getting into the goal area,” said Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982.

“It was really good. I thought my teammates did a really good job, they got me the ball and we just put it away.”

Lussi was happy with the way she put away her goals in the win over Army as she scored on a blast to the low corner in the first half and then deftly volleyed the ball over the Army goalie early in the second period for her other tally.

“Lauren and I were both right there but I hit it nice and hard on the ground into the corner,” said Lussi, who won the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big debut weekend.

“I wasn’t trying to go for power. I was going for pace and I put it away. On the second one, I was trying to lift it over nice and easy.”

For Lussi, sharp finishing is a staple of her game. “I have always had good accuracy on the ball,” said Lussi, who played for the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland in the Elite Clubs National League and entered Princeton ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 player in the Mid-Atlantic region. “When you are around the goal, just relaxing is always what I focus on.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford liked the way Lussi and Lazo worked together around the goal.

“They are both just dynamic,” said Shackford. “They are willing to take people on, they are also good at finishing. They  are very similar. They are both workers. They both know how to find space for themselves. They know how to take people on when they are dribbling. They are really confident and they are both gamers. To me, both of Taylor’s goals were upper class goals, they were great finishes.”

The Tigers displayed class all over the field in the win over Army. “We played really good soccer today,” asserted Shackford.

“We let the ball do the work and the speed of play was really good. I think you always worry about that second game, especially with Army having been in camp for so long. I think that we hung in there for two-thirds of the game with our fitness level and I think we got fresh legs in, you saw maybe a little drop in experience but I think they all hung in.”

Princeton’s experienced defense, spearheaded by senior co-captains Diane Metcalf-Leggette and Gabriella Guzman together with junior Gabrielle Ragazzo, played well all weekend.

“They did great; Diane is a good organizer back there,” said Shackford.

“I actually thought Gabby Ragazzo was the star of the game, she kept getting herself into the attack and we were able to switch the point of attack and get her out on the left side. The decision-making was great. You can’t put a price tag on what Guzman does for us. She is literally a rock.”

Junior goalie Darcy Hargadon was a rock for Princeton as she posted consecutive shutouts and stamped herself as first among equals in the four-way competition for the starting job.

“She did well,” said Shackford of Hargadon. “I give her a lot of credit; she organized well. She made saves when she had to. I know there weren’t a lot. I think for the most part she did really well.”

Heartened by her team’s play on opening weekend, Shackford believes that even better things are on the horizon.

“You never know what is going to happen; I am really pleased with our start,” said Shackford, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.

“Going forward, we need more focus on the speed of play. I think our soccer can be really exciting this year, once we get fitter. We can move the ball quicker and create a little more around the box. Their soccer was good today, I was impressed.”

Lussi, for her part, is excited to build on her superb opening weekend.

“I am trying to figure out each player’s position and what their strengths are,” said Lussi.

“I think that is coming together a little more but it is definitely good. Two wins is big. Going into Thursday’s game, I think we are really confident and ready to get another win.”

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Allison Evans and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team were frustrated heading into halftime last Saturday in their game against visiting Fairfield.

Even though third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton had outshot the Stags 12-0 over the first 35 minutes, the teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at intermission.

“I think it is just about mentality at that point,” said junior forward Evans. “We had a few balls that were just kind of sitting on the goal line and we couldn’t find a way to get them in. That’s more of a mental toughness and will to score than anything else because we definitely have the skill to. It was first weekend and less than a 24-hour turnaround from our first game (a 3-1 win over No. 10 Duke on Friday evening) so we definitely had to get the intensity up again.”

Falling behind 1-0 with 30:11 remaining in regulation, the Tigers picked up the intensity as they responded with three straight goals.

“Obviously going down first is always tough, you have to battle back and not only tie it but to go ahead,” said Evans, reflecting on the Princeton rally. “We got a corner and Teresa [Benvenuti] just nailed it at the top of the circle. I think pressure and being more aggressive is what opened up the goals for us.”

Evans showed her aggressiveness, scoring the third goal of that run as Princeton held on for a 4-3 victory over the scrappy Stags.

“My teammate Hailey [Reeves] had the ball on the left side on the baseline and she crossed and I laid my stick out and tipped it into the goalie and it bounced off and I lifted it over,” said Evans, reflecting on her goal. “You have got to get that rebound in.”

With all-time leading scorer Kat Sharkey having graduated after scoring 107 goals in her Tiger career, Evans is looking to pick up the scoring slack.

“I think all the strikers feel this way; it is our job to be effective in the circle,” said Evans, a native of Macungie, Pa. who scored a total of 23 goals in her first two seasons at Princeton.

“It is our job to score; it is our job to get corners. It is spread out among everyone; it is not just me.”

Evans liked the way the Tigers got the job done over opening weekend. “At the end of it, we are 2-0 and I think we are going to learn a lot after the coaches debrief us and look over the film,” said Evans, who picked up an assist in the win over Duke.

“Final results are great but we have a lot to learn and we can only get better from here. We definitely can’t complain about the two wins.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was definitely proud of the way her team fought back after falling behind.

“I think we started attacking; when that happens, things start to open up,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on the second half rally.

“We have to be smart and be able to know when that penetrative moment is and make sure that we take it. I think that the team was really good at that. Teresa in the back was really good at playing those moments. I certainly give Fairfield a lot of credit for grinding the game out; it takes a lot of discipline to do that and I applaud them for being able to bring that for a majority of the game.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that her team struggled to close the game out as it surrendered two goals over the last 17 minutes of the contest.

“It is just about game management and that is something just being so early in the season we haven’t been able to focus on that as much,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals on the day from Benvenuti with Sydney Kirby and Evans adding the other tallies.

“I think the disorganization at the end is the product of just not being able to get everything in during preseason. We’ll be really slick as we move forward with closing out games and everyone understanding their role. We are not quite there yet. We are definitely shifting players around and we are trying to find ideal spots for lots of different players so it is a work in progress.”

A number of players stepped up in the win over Fairfield. “I thought our back three who kind of rotated in there were really steady; Kelsey Byrne, Cassidy Arner, Kate Ferrara, and Teresa were just really, really steady,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“Allison has been really good. Sydney Kirby’s work rate and Julia Reinprecht’s work rate were just phenomenal. They did so much just clearing space and being available, making space important. They really did a good job with that. Sydney has really been great this season.”

Surviving two tough challenges in the opening weekend was also a great step for Tigers, who have a bull’s eye on their backs after the NCAA championship campaign last fall.

“We felt in control of the Duke game which is a great feeling so early in the season against a quality opponent,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.

“I think in this game, for the most part, we felt in control. We just have to get returns. There are going to be games where you just have to persist. It is good to have these games. You have to perform every time you step on the field. I told the girls just now that is one of the great benefits of finishing the previous season as No. 1, you get everyone’s best. That is better than we could ever hope for because it will make us that much better so if we get that kind of effort from every opponent by the time we get to the end of the season we will be battle-tested.”

Evans, for her part, saw the victory over Duke as a harbinger of good things to come this season.

“I think the Duke game was great yesterday for our first game,” said Evans.

“We finally came together as a team, we improved our structure and spacing. We were working together. I think we are connecting pretty well, that will only get better.”

Jim Barlow knew that his Princeton University men’s soccer team faced a stern test when it opened its season at Fairleigh Dickinson last Friday night.

FDU brought a 2-0 record into the clash along with the confidence of having advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Showing some opening night jitters, Princeton fell behind 2-0 some 40 minutes into the contest.

Tiger head coach Barlow acknowledged that digging an early hole was not the formula for success against the Knights.

“You need to get the first goal against a team like that,” said Barlow, reflecting on the early deficit. “We couldn’t find an answer for their center halfbacks, they were both 6’4 or 6’5, good in the air and athletic.”

While Princeton fought gamely the rest of the way, it ended up falling 3-0.

“We didn’t play poorly,” said Barlow. “We were able to get the ball moving and keep them in their end. When we fell behind, we picked up the tempo and got the ball in their end more, creating some half-chances.”

Barlow noted that sophomores Nico Hurtado and Jack Hilger did create some positive energy for the Tigers.

“Nico and Jack came off the bench and helped us be more dynamic,” said Barlow, noting that Princeton lost stars Cameron Porter and Myles McGinley to leg injuries during the game. “Hilger was good at pressing up on the ball, he took a step forward.”

The Tigers did take a step back in one critical area of the game. “I think the big thing is we conceded two goals on the re-starts,” said Barlow.

“The first goal was on a corner, the ball was kicked high in the air and we didn’t have good communication. On the second goal, one of their center halves headed it in right off the corner.”

With the Tigers playing four games in a nine-day stretch starting with a game at Rutgers on September 13, Barlow hopes to get his squad headed in the right direction.

“We need to keep figuring things out,” added Barlow, whose team will host Seton Hall on September 15 in its home opener.

“We have a bunch of games in a row against some very good teams. We will get better and we would like to get some wins while we are improving. We need to be less naive on restarts and be better around the goal. We will have Thomas Sanner back so that should solidify us up front.”

The Tigers will need to get better quickly in order to hold their own in the clash with the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-2-1 and are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 5 Akron.

“Last year’s game with Rutgers is on our minds; I thought we played poorly,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 loss in the 2012 meeting between the local rivals.

“They came in here and really beat us up. This is a good opportunity to play against a good team and take a step forward.”

September 4, 2013
EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton University field hockey team dealt with the absence of four key players who spent the year away from school training with the U.S. national program.

Despite not having the services of Kat Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, Katie Reinprecht, and Julia Reinprecht, a gritty Princeton team got the most out of what it had and won the Ivy League title that season.

Last fall, the program won its first-ever national championship and as the 2013 season approaches, the Tigers need to fill in some big holes left by graduation.

In assessing this year’s squad, Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn sees a parallel to the situation two falls ago.

“The 2011 season was really an interesting thing to go through, the girls had to dig deep within themselves to find their roles and provide leadership,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to a 21-1 record last fall in its run to the NCAA crown. “We definitely are likening that experience to this year.”

The squad’s experienced players have shown Holmes-Winn that they are not about to rest on their laurels.

“I have been very pleased with the team’s temperament,” asserted Holmes-Winn, whose squad is ranked No. 3 in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll and opens its title defense by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6.

“What we saw in the spring is that the players worked very hard and that carried over into the summer. Complacency is not part of our culture. These girls go to Princeton; they are overachievers in every way.”

The squad’s corps of seniors, Julia Reinprecht, Amanda Bird, Kelsey Byrnes, Christina Maida, and Allegra Mango, are setting the tone in terms of work ethic.

“The juniors from last year are stepping into the shoes of last year’s seniors,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are leading by example and making sure that the players keep up to the standards that have been set in the program.”

It is going to be tough for the Tigers to match the standard set by the one-two punch of the graduated Katie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey. Reinpreccht, the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Player of the Year, had 19 assists last season while Sharkey ended her career as the most prolific scorer in Princeton history as she totaled 107 goals in her career.

“We are going to miss what Katie was able to do in the midfield,” said Holmes-Winn. “She could draw defenders, escape defenders and put attackers in position to score easy goals. Kat Sharkey could create offense by herself.”

Senior standout Julia Reinprecht, an All-American and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, should create opportunities for the Tigers this fall.

“Julia can go forward and split the defense,” said Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who had 10 goals and six assists last fall.

“She has a high hockey IQ. She is a critical piece to both sides of the field. She played deep defense for us and we will move her higher up to midfield.”

The Tigers boast plenty of interchangeable pieces on the offensive end of the field.

“We are looking at Allison Evans (12 goals and five assists in 2012), Allegra Mango (1 assist) and Sydney Kirby (9 goals, 3 assists) to create chances on their own,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have a system where the midfielders are expected to overlap. I am not sure where we are going to play Michelle Cesan (8 goals, 8 assists), probably at center mid or reset striker spot. We will have Kate Ferrara (1 assist) and Kelsey Byrne (3 assists) on wing. Julia Reinprecht along with freshmen Cat Caro and Annabeth Donovan will be in a holding role.

On the backline, the Tigers feature a trio of battle-tested performers. “The defense will be Cassidy Arner, Amanda Bird, and Teresa Benvenuti,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Teresa played center half for the U.S. this summer in the Junior World Cup and we will have her in the same place for us.”

While Princeton has a senior All-American goalie in place with senior Christina Maida, Holmes-Winn indicated that junior Julia Boyle and sophomore Anya Gersoff are in the mix to see action.

“We are really fortunate that we have three really good goalies; they push each other,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I don’t know who is going to start; it could depend on our opponent. Julia was right there last year and Anya competed to start some weeks. What separates them is not much, both Julia and Anya have a lot to offer. There will be a battle but the good thing is that I know they will support each other.”

The Tigers will be in for a battle when they face Duke (2-0) this Friday in the opener.

“Duke has a very talented collection of players,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will also play Fairfield on September 7 in the opening weekend of the season.

“When they put it together, they can be dangerous. They will be a top team by the end of the season. I am looking forward to see how we do against them.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, believes that Princeton can again emerge as one of the top teams by tournament time.

“It is always hard to say; we are going to work really hard,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I think we will be a really dynamic team on offense once everyone understands their role. That is going to take some time. I think we will be a good defensive team. A cornerstone of last year’s team was ability to stay in play and squeeze space. I think we can use numbers to our advantage.”

 

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Catalonia region of northeastern Spain is a soccer hotbed, boasting FC Barcelona, one of the top pro clubs in the world, and its legendary superstar Lionel Messi.

This past March, the Princeton University men’s soccer team spent nine days in the area and was fired up to go 3-1 in four friendly matches against Barcelona-area teams.

In the view of longtime Princeton head coach Jim Barlow, the journey should help the Tigers in several respects.

“It has been a long time since we went abroad, our last trip was 2003,” said Barlow.

“We decided to stay in the Barcelona area and that worked out well. We got settled and we got to see the sights. We toured during the day and had games at night. We got to see FC Barcelona play and Espanyol train. It was a great week of culture and sightseeing. It brought the team together. We were able to do more on the field. I think we are further along in the spring than usual.”

Barlow is hoping his team can go further this year than it did last fall when it went 8-6-2 overall and 4-1-2 in Ivy League action, taking third in the league and not getting invited to the NCAA tournament.

“Any time you go through the Ivy League with one loss, you expect to either win the league or be in the tournament,” said Barlow, a 1991 Princeton alum who is in his 18th season guiding the Tigers and has produced a 127-121-44 record with three Ivy crowns.

“We had an opportunity to do a little better in non-league games. In the league, we had nice wins over Dartmouth and Harvard but we let the Cornell game get away from us. The guys are hungry; the league is wide open.”

The Tigers feature a nice one-two punch at forward in junior Cameron Porter (2 goals and 4 assists in 2012) and sophomore Thomas Sanner (4 goals, 6 assists).

“Porter has so many athletic gifts that sometimes he tries to do too much,” said Barlow, noting that sophomore Nico Hurtado, senior Dylan Bowman and junior Julian Griggs should see time at forward.

“He goes fast and gets out of control. He needs to be on the same page with the midfield. He has had two good seasons and is a real scoring threat. Sanner has matured. He makes good runs and he is a good finisher. He is strong and physical.”

Barlow believes the midfield will be a strong unit for the Tigers. “We have a bunch of guys in the mix,” said Barlow, noting that junior Joe Saitta, freshman Brian Costa, freshman Bryan Windsor, freshman Vikram Pothuri,  sophomore Jack Hilger, sophomore Andrew Doar, junior Alex Wetterman, and junior Myles McGinley have been playing in middle of the field. “We have a lot of depth; separating the eight midfielders is going to be hard.”

McGinley has emerged as first among equals, according to Barlow. “Myles has established himself as the guy who we can depend on day in, day out in the central midfield,” asserted Barlow.

Princeton boasts a trio of three dependable seniors on defense in Chris Benedict, Patrick O’Neil, and Billy McGuinness.

“It will be O’Neil and Benedict out wide with McGuinness providing a good presence centrally,” added Barlow.

“I am not sure who is going to be playing with McGuinness in the center. Andrew Mills and Josh Miller are vying for that spot. Losing Mark Linnville [a 4-time first-team All-Ivy performer] is tough; he did so much organizing and communicating. We need the guys to step up leadership-wise with their communication.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan has been stepping up for the Tigers during the preseason.

“Seth has been great so far, he has been our most consistent and reliable player,” said Barlow,

“Ben Hummel has pushed himself athletically and he is getting to balls he didn’t get to in the past. Freshman Josh Haberman has looked good. I am happy with our depth there. Seth is No. 1 right now.”

The Tigers will get pushed hard in their season opener as they play at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.

“They went deep into the NCAAs last year, I think they lost to North Carolina in overtime in the Sweet 16,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 Knights.

“It is always an even, hard game when we play them. We beat them 1-0 in the second game of the Princeton Invitational last year. This is going to be a different atmosphere at their place on a Friday night. We are excited. They beat Drexel in their opener so they are off to a good start.

Barlow believes that his team can produce another exciting season. “I would like to think that we can do really well in the league,” said Barlow.

“We always go into the season feeling that way. We have to continue to improve everyday in training. We need to develop good chemistry and play well together.  How we handle plays in front of both goals will be critical. Last year, we had trouble scoring and the year before we had trouble stopping people. We are concerned right now about where the goals are going to come from for us. We are cautiously optimistic.”

 

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the 2012 season, Julie Shackford was comforted by the fact that her Princeton University women’s soccer team included eight seniors.

Asserting that teams who excel typically have a strong core of seniors, the Tigers added credence to Shackford’s notion, going 14-4-1 overall, 7-0 in Ivy League play, and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

In assessing the upcoming campaign, Shackford acknowledges that the departure of last year’s seniors has left a huge void.

“It is a hard class to replace on so many levels,” said Shackford of the group which had five players earn All-Ivy recognition last fall, led by Jen Hoy, the league’s Player of the Year.

The Tigers do possess some high-level skills at the forward position, starting with junior Lauren Lazo, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall after tallying 11 goals and five assists.

“We need Lazo to pick up Jen’s slack; we are looking for a breakout season from her,” said Shackford, who is entering her 19th season guiding the program and  has a record of 189-103-22 with six Ivy titles and 8 NCAA appearances.

“She was a legitimate threat in the latter half of last season; she scored a lot of goals. We have two other players who are coming back from ACL injuries and are playing phenomenally. Melissa Downey is a junior who is looking really good. Erika Hoglund was just starting to come around last year as a junior and got injured in the Yale game. She has been a leader in preseason. The three of them are a nice combination. Liana Cornaccio is back; she is good on throw-ins and is a presence. We have a freshman, Tyler Lussi, who is slight but strong and fast. We have some good options up top.”

Princeton has some nice options in the midfield, featuring senior co-captain Gabriella Guzman, together with sophomore Jessica Lee, junior Jessica Haley and a pair of promising freshmen, Nicole Loncar and Jess McDonough.

“Gabby Guzman holds the ball really well and wins every 50/50 ball,” said Shackford.

“She is so strong and is a good leader. She is really hard-nosed in those tough Ivy League games. Jess Lee played well last year, she sprained her ankle so she isn’t training right now. We have a player who has been on the U-17 and U-20 teams for Canada, Nicole Loncar, and she will play in the center. Jess McDonough is a shore kid who played for the Wildcats and she will be in the mix. We have Jess Haley back, the Ivy League assist leader last year and she can play in the midfield or up top.”

On defense, the Tigers welcome back a trio of battle-tested veterans. “We have Diane Metcalf-Leggette, Kacie Kergides, and Gabby Ragazzo back,” said Shackford, noting that senior co-captain Metcalf-Leggette, an honorable mention All-Ivy choice in 2012, is a vocal leader along the backline.

“The frontrunner to play in the other spot is Fiona McKenna, who also plays hockey. She is a phenomenal athlete and is tough as nails.”

Shackford acknowledges that the graduation of second-team All-Ivy goalie Claire Pinciaro has left a big hole.

“The big question mark is in goal, we have four players and there is no clear-cut starter yet,” said Shackford, who is looking at senior Cecilia DiCaprio, junior Darcy Hargadon, junior MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti, and freshman Hannah Winner. “We may have to do a rotation with two of them.”

In Shackford’s view, the Tigers can work around the uncertainty at goalie. “If we can defend really well as a team, I think we have enough firepower to outscore teams,” said Shackford.

“This group has potential; I expect us to contend for a title. We have seen some good things in the scrimmages so far but we are not as well oiled as last year when he had all those veterans and everyone knew their spot.”

As the Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8, the team will be in a tough spot.

“Army has been training since July 1; Richmond has had some mixed results so far but historically they always have some good forwards,” said Shackford.

“Every first game is going to be a challenge for us. I am happy to be at home; it is easier to work out the kinks when you are not worrying about traveling.”

 

August 28, 2013
STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2009, Mariel Jenkins headed to Harvard to join the school’s women’s lacrosse team after a stellar career at Princeton Day School.

Two years later, her younger sister, Sydney, followed in her footsteps, becoming a member of the Crimson field hockey team in the wake of her brilliant play for PDS.

So when the youngest of the three Jenkins sisters, Andrea, emerged as a standout for the Panther field hockey squad, her college path seemed clear.

But while the two older Jenkins girls thrived at Harvard with Mariel making second-team All-Ivy this spring in her senior season and Sydney appearing in all 16 games last fall, tallying a goal and an assist, they weren’t pushy when their baby sister started looking at colleges.

“My sisters didn’t pressure me about Harvard,” said the youngest Jenkins, known as A.J. during her PDS career.

“They wanted me to go where I was happy and they said they would be supportive of wherever that was.”

Jenkins didn’t have to go far to find a school that would make her happy as she committed to join the Princeton University field hockey team last fall.

“I was open to any school, I was grateful to have schools interested in me,” said Jenkins, a four-time All-Prep performer at PDS who served as a team captain and earned MVP honors as a senior when the Panther advanced to the state Prep B championship game.

“In Princeton, I had a school where I loved the campus, the coach, and the team. I was exposed to the program through summer camps. I did an official visit; I wanted to see what it was like to spend a night in the dorm and go to some classes. It balances an engaging academic experience and highly competitive athletics. The girls on the team are great, they are so nice.”

Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field with the Princeton girls for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.

While her older sisters were supportive of Jenkins’ choice to buck the Harvard trend, she acknowledges that her decision to join Princeton has sparked a family rivalry.

“My sisters were so excited, they were happy for me,” said Jenkins. “We do have some trash talking. I do have my mom [Princeton alum Lisa Gillespie Jenkins] on my side but she cheers for everybody.”

Since the end of her senior season at PDS season, Jenkins has been working hard to get ready for her Princeton debut.

“I have been playing for the Jersey Intensity; I was involved in club championships in July in Virginia Beach,” said Jenkins, who has played with the Jersey Intensity club program the last five years, helping the squad win gold at the National Festival in 2009 and 2012, while medaling at the Disney tournaments from 2009-12.

“I am also doing the Princeton conditioning program each week to build up stamina and strength.”

With the powerful Tigers boasting such All-American performers as Julia Reinprecht, Michelle Cesan, and Christina Maida along with last Year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Teresa Benvenuti, Jenkins knows that she will have to raise the level of her game.

“I am ready to be coached by the best and play with some of the greatest players in college field hockey,” said Jenkins, whose speed and stick skills should see her play in the midfield and at striker. “When you play with players of that high level, you get better.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn has had plenty of exposure to Jenkins’ high-level play over the years as she noted in comments on the Princeton sports website welcoming the team’s freshman class.

“Andrea lives down the road so I’ve had the pleasure of admiring her abilities up close for many years,” said Holmes-Winn, who is entering her 11th season at the helm of the Tigers, boasting a 131-57 record and an NCAA Final 4 appearance and nine Ivy titles to go along with last year’s national title, the first in program history.

“She is a fluid attacker with pace, field sense, and the ability to eliminate. Andrea comes from a family of athletes; her dad played football at Duke and her sisters, Sydney and Mariel play field hockey and lacrosse, respectively at Harvard. Her mom is also a Princetonian.”

As Jenkins looks forward to Princeton’s season opener against visiting Duke on September 6, she is ready to keep her nose to the grindstone and contribute in any way needed.

“Honestly, I am excited to be part of the team,” said Jenkins. “I will work as hard as I can in the preseason and see what happens from there. Coach Arndt [PDS field hockey coach Tracey Arndt] said you always want to be the hardest worker as a freshman.”

RETURN TRIP: Jesse Marsch surveys the action while serving as the first head coach of Major League Soccer expansion team the Montreal Impact before parting ways with the club last fall. After recently completing a trip around with the world with his family, the former Princeton University soccer star has returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the Tiger men’s squad.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

RETURN TRIP: Jesse Marsch surveys the action while serving as the first head coach of Major League Soccer expansion team the Montreal Impact before parting ways with the club last fall. After recently completing a trip around with the world with his family, the former Princeton University soccer star has returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the Tiger men’s squad. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Jesse Marsch and his young family recently returned from the trip of a lifetime, traveling around the world for five months and visiting 29 countries.

As the former Princeton University soccer star, assistant coach with the U.S. men’s national soccer team, and head coach of the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer considered his next stop, he decided to go no further than his alma mater.

Earlier this month, Marsch joined the staff of the Tiger men’s soccer team as a volunteer assistant coach and took the pitch at Roberts Stadium last weekend as the squad started preseason training.

For Marsch, a 1996 Princeton alum who earned All-American honors during his college career, totaling 29 goals and 15 assists in four seasons, the chance to help guide the Tigers is one he relishes.

“Working with a college team, I can fully enjoy the game and work with guys who are playing for the right reasons,” said Marsch, who went into pro soccer after graduating from Princeton, enter Major League Soccer where he won three MLS Cup titles and four U.S. Open Cup medals during a 14-year career.

“I remember in college, the feeling of going all out for a team and coming together as a group.”

Marsch’s relationship with Princeton head coach, Jim Barlow, a former Tiger star himself, helped pave the way for the homecoming.

“I reached out to Jimmy,” said Marsch, noting that he already owns a home in town.

“When I was with the US, he coached the U-15 team and I was in some of his camps. I already knew him but I had a chance to work with him. We enjoyed the process of working together and talking about the game. I have great respect for Jimmy.”

As Marsch joins the staff, he is happy to assume a supporting role. “Jim and Steve [assistant coach Steve Totten] work well in running the program, they carry most of the weight,” said Marsch.

“I will fill in the holes, I will try to do some of the dirty work around the office to free some time up for them. I will fill in on the field, helping with things I see.”

After concluding his playing career in 2009, Marsch has seen a lot since getting into coaching.

“I felt really lucky to finish my playing career and to go into a situation where I was working with Bob [former Princeton and U.S. men’s head coach Bob Bradley] and his staff,” said Marsch, who was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2009-11, helping the squad win its group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time the team won its pool since 1930, before finishing in 12th place.

“It was incredibly rewarding. The number-one thing I learned is what it is like being on the coaching staff from the inside and how a staff comes together and can set a tone for what the team is doing.”

Marsch headed north in August 2011 when he was named the first head coach of MLS expansion team the Montreal Impact.

“It was a great opportunity to take my theories and apply them in a practical way,” said Marsch, who parted ways with the Impact in November 2012 after leading the Impact to a 12-16-6 record in its inaugural campaign.

“What I believed and what I still believe is the recipe for success and a systematic way of building a team.”

Marsch then decided to build some deeper bonds with wife Kim, daughter Emma, 11, sons Maddux, 9, and Lennon, 6, as they embarked on their journey.

“I was lucky enough to do a lot of traveling with World Cup, youth soccer, and in the pros,” said Marsch,

“I told my wife someday I am going to take you to some of those places and she said oh sure. I didn’t do a good job of balancing my personal and professional life when I was coaching in Montreal. I travelled a lot and when I was home I was thinking a lot about the team. We had this window of opportunity and we learned that more families are doing this.”

The Marsch family began the trip in Hong Kong and hit Singapore, many countries in Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Dubai, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Europe.

Along the way, they gained some new perspectives.

“Number-one was just spending time with us with no distractions other than surviving at times,” said Marsch.

“Some days were good, some days were bad. The kids learned how to deal with adversity and that everything is not just planned out and that you have to stick together. Number-two was that we had 10 friends scattered around the globe. Some of my friends were in new worlds. I had a college friend who is a vet in Hong Kong and knew another family living in Myanamar. One highlight was getting to see Bob [Bradley] in Cairo and seeing what his world is like and how he is perceived. The third was the overall culture.”

Now Marsch is primed to get back into the Princeton soccer culture. “I try to learn and get better everyday,” said Marsch.

“I will look at the way Jim and Steve do things on a daily basis and pick up on what I think works best. I will help in whatever way I can and pick up on what they are good at and what can help me at the next level.”

Marsch acknowledges that he would like to return to the MLS sideline someday.

“I will take things as they happen; I am committed to a season here,” said Marsch.

“I have been around the league a long time and have relationships and experience.”

Experience has taught Marsch, though, not to worry about the next stop.

“I concentrate now more on the work that gets put out everyday and how it makes me feel inside rather than what people on the outside think,” said Marsch.

August 21, 2013
WILL POWER: Will Gillis, second from right, pulls hard in a race for the Princeton University heavyweight varsity 8. Last month, rising senior and team captain Gillis helped the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

WILL POWER: Will Gillis, second from right, pulls hard in a race for the Princeton University heavyweight varsity 8. Last month, rising senior and team captain Gillis helped the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

For Will Gillis, competing at the Royal Henley Regatta in 2009 outside of London with the Green Lake Crew club as a high schooler changed the course of his rowing career.

“It is very special; that’s when I decided I wanted to row in college,” said Gillis, a Seattle, Wash. native, reflecting on his Henley experience.

“In 2009, the Princeton lightweights were there, coached by Greg Hughes and Spencer Washburn. I remembered seeing those guys over there and thinking that is what I want to be doing myself someday.”

Gillis would end up coming to Princeton in 2010 and joining the heavyweight program, which was then being coached by Hughes and Washburn.

This summer, Gillis made an impact on the international scene, helping the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria.

Making it to the medal stand was a special moment for Gillis. “I was really excited,” said Gillis.

“Obviously when you go to these races, you want to win and you are disappointed if you don’t. We put everything we had into that race and got a result that was beyond expectations.”

When Gillis took up rowing, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “I started my freshman year of high school; I had played football before that and I was looking to play something else,” said Gillis.

“I wasn’t completely hooked by rowing right away. The novice team had a lot of different types of people. I looked up to the older guys; I thought that’s what I want to do.”

With his parents having graduated from Princeton in the 1980s, Gillis thought the school was right for him.

“I had always known at some level that I wanted to go to Princeton,” said Gillis.

“Before I left for my freshman year, we were looking through family albums and there I was as a 10-year-old on my dad’s shoulders at a reunion with him wearing some orange and black thing We would go back to visit family and my parents had friends back east. It is what I thought college should be. That being said, I did consider other schools. I let Greg and Spencer know that Princeton was my first choice and that I was committed to the team.”

Upon joining the program in the fall of 2010, Gillis quickly realized that college rowing required an intense commitment.

“It was the same sport as high school but it was at such a higher level, it seemed different,” said Gillis.

“The level of intensity and focus expected on a daily basis was way beyond that of high school. And then you are thrown in with a different group of guys, some of whom are 22 years old, you had to adjust to that. There are also the typical college things, being so far away from home, a different type of academic load.”

While freshmen can now row on varsity due to rule changes, Gillis thrived under the former model where the newcomers were segregated from their older teammates.

“We had a really good freshman boat,” said Gillis. “We went 8-1, we were second at Eastern Sprints and fourth at the IRAs [the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships]. The experience was really enjoyable.”

As a sophomore, Gillis moved quickly into the first varsity 8 and came under the influence of senior captain Ian Silveira.

“Greg paired me up with Ian; we rowed as a pair in the fall,” said Gillis.

“Ian is an intense guy, he is all business. He forced me to perform at a higher level very quickly. I moved up with the boat. It was a transition year. We took some bumps. We were fourth at the Eastern Sprints with a boat that wasn’t as talented as the boat that finished fourth this year. It was a learning experience.”

That summer, Gillis got his first experience with the U.S. national program as he competed in the men’s 4- at the U-23 World Championships in Trakai, Lithuania and helped the boat take fourth.

“I was invited to the sweep selection camp up in Seattle; I got to live at my house,” said Gillis.

“My cox for two years. Keanan Clarke, and Ian lived at my house. That was a lot of fun. I was picked for the coxless 4. We had no idea what we were getting into.”

While Gillis would have liked to come away with a medal, he grew as a rower from his first taste of international competition.

“We raced really well to get fourth,” said Gillis. “We were third with 150 meters to go and Great Britain passed us. That was disappointing but it was a great experience. I had to learn to row in a different kind of boat. It has the speed of an eight and the instability of a pair. It helped my technique and improved me as an oarsman. At that level of rowing, everyone is putting on a uniform with a flag on it. There is a lot on the line; there is a lot of pressure and high-level competition. It was good for my confidence but since we missed out on a medal, I was not fully satisfied.”

Returning to Princeton for his junior season, Gillis applied the lessons he learned from the U-23 worlds to make more of an impact on the program.

“My experience in the summer enabled me to step into more of a leadership role,” said Gillis, who helped the varsity 8 make the grand final at both the Eastern Sprints and the IRAs.

“I was one of the guys in the boathouse who knows what high level competition was about and that helped. Every year I have been at the boathouse, the resolve and the focus of guys has continued to increase. I think it took the biggest jump from my sophomore to junior year. There are a lot of guys committed to hard work. I think we are at the point where we are very good and we are on the verge of being excellent.”

Gillis‘ hard work paid off this summer as he again made the U.S. men’s 4- for the U-23 Worlds.

“I was the only returner on the 4; I had a bit of a sense of how international races play out and how they are different from American college races and what we should expect,” said Gillis.

“It was a fun progression. In the 2½ weeks before we left, we were making progress everyday. Once we got to Austria, we did a good job of building for our best effort.”

The boat came up with a superb effort in the final, clocking a 6:03.86 over the 2,000-meter course to take bronze with Romania winning in a time of 5:58.72 and Australia next at 6:01.18.

“We had some good points on our heat but we had to race the repechage (second-chance race),” said Gillis, whose Princeton teammate, Tim Masters, helped the Australia boat earn silver.

“We had a better race in the rep and made it to final. In the final, we put all of the pieces together. We put forth our best effort when it mattered most. We were in lane 6 and Italy, which took fourth was in lane one. Our 2 seat said we are going to get a medal. We had a length and they weren’t going to get through us. All four of us put our heads down and made it happen.”

With his senior year starting in weeks, Gillis will be shouldering extra responsibility to make big things happen for the Tigers as a team captain for the heavyweights.

“I am excited to get into that role,” asserted Gillis. “I think we are in a spot where we could do some special things. I am excited to be in a leading role to make that happen. It is not just going to happen, though. It is a project of helping the team take it to the next level.”

JERSEY PRIDE: Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice last winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. The Chatham, N.J. native recently skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JERSEY PRIDE: Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice last winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. The Chatham, N.J. native recently skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Growing up as an ice hockey star in Chatham, N.J., Mike Ambrosia closely followed two teams in his home state.

“One of my older cousins went to Princeton and growing up I came to a lot of games at Baker Rink,” said Ambrosia, a star for the New Jersey Colonials travel team and the Delbarton School. “I started playing hockey early and we would go a couple of times a year. I was always a fan of the New Jersey Devils too.”

Ambrosia, who helped Delbarton win three New Jersey state titles, has achieved the rare feat of going from the stands to the ice for his teams.

The 5’11, 180-pound forward joined the Princeton University men’s hockey team last winter, scoring 11 points on six goals and five assists in 21 appearances in his debut campaign. Last month, he skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark.

For Ambrosia, committing to Princeton after his junior year at Delbarton was a no-brainer. “Education is very important to my family and I was looking at the Ivy League schools,” said Ambrosia, whose father, David, played hockey at Cornell, while his mother, Lynn, was a lacrosse player for the Big Red.

“In high school, the focus is working hard on and off the ice and seeing how things play out. Princeton was always my No. 1 choice and when they made the offer I jumped on it. It is a great fit with the academics and and athletics. I had met the coaches and the players and I really liked them.”

Prior to starting college hockey, Ambrosia did a two-year stint in juniors with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.

“It was an awesome experience,” asserted Ambrosia, who was Youngstown’s Rookie of the Year and then served as a captain in his second season, leading the Phantoms in scoring with 65 points in 60 games as the team set a franchise record of 32 wins with its first playoff appearance and series win.

“I was lucky because I was drafted by the team that is farthest east in the league. My family could come to a lot of the games. I know I am biased but I think it is the greatest organization in juniors. The coaches relate to the program. I grew as a player and as a person. We do a lot of work in the community. I took a couple of on-line courses to stay sharp.”

A few months before joining the Princeton squad, Ambrosia took part in his first Devils development camp.

“In any one-week camp, you act as a sponge, taking in as much information as you can,” said Ambrosia.

“You learn nuances, you figure out little things. You don’t get better that week but you work those into your training and game. You are not going to get better that week but you implement the things that you learned. You work on things like where to put your stick on ice and breakouts.”

Ambrosia kept learning as he went through his freshman season with the Tigers.

“Being out of school for two years, time management was a big thing, balancing academics, athletics, and social,” said Ambrosia. “I was really excited to be there.”

An exciting moment for Ambrosia came when he notched his first college goal, scoring in the first period of a 4-0 win over Colgate last November at a packed Baker Rink.

“I remember the play; I passed to [Andrew] Calof, he made a great play and faked his defender,” said Ambrosia. “It looked like he was going to shoot but he made a great pass to me and I was able to put it in.”

During January, Ambrosia put in some of his best play of the season as he was named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Month, tallying three goals and three assists in five games.

“That was the first stretch after I got injured,” said Ambrosia, who was bothered by an abdominal problem and was sidelined for a nine-game stretch from mid-
November into December.

“I was fortunate to have a string of games where our line had chemistry and I was able to score some.”

Ambrosia felt fortunate to get invited back to the Devils camp this summer.

“I was very grateful to attend again,” said Ambrosia, who scored a goal in one of the scrimmages at the camp.

“It was a little different this year because we had the whole NHL coaching staff there. They pass on what they have learned, having coached and played at the highest level. We learned the Devils philosophy and things like on and off ice training and nutrition.”

With Princeton coming off a 10-16-5 season in 2012-13 which saw the Tigers lose 2-0 to Cornell in the first round of the ECACH playoffs, Ambrosia believes the squad is poised to play at a higher level this year from beginning to end.

“The No. 1 goal is to win; every team has to build an identity through the season,” said Ambrosia.

“You want to be playing your best in the playoffs. The process starts in the fall. It comes down to hard work and execution. We have set some high goals; we believe in each other, from the coaches down. Last year we had some injuries but that is not an excuse. It is a long season and it is a grind. Teams get hot and cold. You want to stay pretty even keeled and consistently focus on getting better; that is the way to peak in the playoffs.”

August 14, 2013
BLOCK PARTY: Princeton University women’s water polo star goalie Ashleigh Johnson, left, prepares to block a shot in action last winter during her freshman campaign for the Tigers. Johnson recently made the U.S. squad for the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece. It was the latest achievement for the Miami, Fla. native who was a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and an All-Southern First Team performer in her freshman season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOCK PARTY: Princeton University women’s water polo star goalie Ashleigh Johnson, left, prepares to block a shot in action last winter during her freshman campaign for the Tigers. Johnson recently made the U.S. squad for the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece. It was the latest achievement for the Miami, Fla. native who was a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and an All-Southern First Team performer in her freshman season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashleigh Johnson didn’t waste any time making an impression this past February as she started her career with the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

Starring in her college debut against fourth-ranked Cal, goalie Johnson made 19 saves in a 7-5 loss, setting a new single-game saves record for the program.

“The Cal game was really fun,” said Johnson. “I knew I had to step it up; they are a really good team.”

The Miami, Fla. native kept stepping up all season, amassing 366 saves, a single-season program record, 47 steals, 22 assists, and a 0.668 saves percentage. She was named a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and was selected to the All-Southern First Team.

Johnson helped Princeton win the Eastern Championship, earning its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. She ended her season in style, establishing a new saves record in the NCAA tournament with a total of 38 as the Tigers finished fifth.

Next week, Johnson will get to make an impression on the world stage as she plays for the U.S. squad in the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece.

In reflecting on her superb debut season, Johnson is humbled by the recognition she has received.

“I am really gratified to get those honors,” said Johnson. “I enjoy playing and I want to keep playing this way.”

Johnson started playing water polo when she was 12 as a way to keep busy in the summer.

“My mom wanted my sister and me to do something in the summer instead of just sitting around,” said Johnson.

“She put us in swimming but it was boring. There was water polo at the club and we tried it. I liked it right away; I liked that water polo was a game. I guess everybody starts in the field. My sister wanted to play goalie so I said I wanted to try too. She quit and I kept playing. I felt it was the best position.”

Johnson quickly moved up the ranks, starring for her club team, the Gulliver Riptides through her high school career. She earned All-America Honorable Mention at the U18 Junior Olympics in 2010 and 2011, playing for the U.S. Youth National Team Selection Camp in 2010 and the Youth National Team in 2011. Johnson also starred for Ransom Everglades High School, helping the Raiders to three consecutive Florida state titles.

With that kind of resume, Johnson was sought after by a number of college water polo programs.

“I wasn’t thinking about any one school at first,” said Johnson. “I narrowed it down to Michigan, USC, and Princeton. I had a visit to Princeton and I really liked it. I had a friend on the team from Miami and he introduced me to kids in all grades. I really liked the players.”

In addition to getting used to juggling her classwork and water polo at Princeton, Johnson had to adapt in competition.

“I got more used to my teammates and I adjusted how I play,” said Johnson. “My strength is my weakness. I come out a lot to make steals and intimidate. The problem is people can lob over me.”

Few people, though, got the ball past Johnson, whose precocious talent became a pillar for a Princeton team that posted a 28-6 record.

A major highlight for Johnson and her teammates came when they travelled to the University of Michigan in late April for the Eastern Championship with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line. The Tigers rolled past George Washington 16-3 in the opening round before rallying to beat Hartwick 12-11 in double overtime in the semifinals and then edging host Michigan 7-5 in the title game.

“Those games were really good,” said Johnson, who totaled 35 saves in the competition and was voted Rookie of the Tournament, along with earning Eastern All-Tournament First Team honors. “I was really nervous. I was really excited when we won. Our captains really stepped up and motivated us.”

At the NCAAs, Johnson continued her sparkling play, making nine saves in an 8-6 loss to UCLA in the quarterfinals before making 15 stops in a 12-2 win over Iona in a consolation contest and then making 14 in a 12-10 double-overtime win against UC San Diego in the fifth place game.

“I just wanted us to do well and make a name for ourselves as an eastern school,” said Johnson. “I think we will do even better in the future.”

This summer Johnson has dedicated herself to making a name with the national program. She had to survive two weeks of tryouts and successive cuts to make the U.S. squad.

“I just wanted to do my best,” said Johnson, reflecting on the team selection process.

“At first, I was very nervous; I was out of shape. It is different from the youth national team; you are competing against much better players. I am really happy to be going.”

As the U.S. prepares for the competition, Johnson is confident the team can compete with anybody.

“We want to be first,” asserted Johnson. “The girls that we have on this team are really good, we need to be a team and play together.”

Serving as the last line of defense, Johnson knows that she will play a key role in keeping the team together.

“I have to communicate differently, said Johnson. “It is different than being on my college team, I am used to doing more. On this team, I don’t have to do as much but I have to be constantly talking. It is tiring.”

No matter how the U.S. does in Greece, though, Johnson believes that she can make an even bigger impact this winter in her sophomore season for Princeton.

“I think we will be better,” maintained Johnson. “I think I will be the same; I want to be more of a leader.”

INAUGURAL FLIGHT: Sam Ellis heads upfield in action for Israel in the 2013 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, held last month in Oshawa, Canada. The recently graduated Princeton University women’s lacrosse star helped Israel finish 8th as the squad made its inaugural appearance at the competition. Attacker Ellis scored nine points in the tourney on four goals and five assists.

INAUGURAL FLIGHT: Sam Ellis heads upfield in action for Israel in the 2013 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, held last month in Oshawa, Canada. The recently graduated Princeton University women’s lacrosse star helped Israel finish 8th as the squad made its inaugural appearance at the competition. Attacker Ellis scored nine points in the tourney on four goals and five assists.

Having first visited Israel when she was 10, Sam Ellis came back to the country last month.

The return trip, though, was no vacation as Ellis was in Tel Aviv for a training camp with the Israeli squad as it prepared for the 2013 FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) Women’s Lacrosse World Cup.

“Our week in Israel was great,” said Ellis, a Princeton University women’s lacrosse star who wrapped up her Tiger career this spring with 20 points on 16 goals and four assists in her senior campaign.

“The chemistry was instant from day one. The coaches did a great job of picking the team. No matter how hot and tired we were, we had a good time. We had only 18 players and 2 alternates so we couldn’t scrimmage. We started with basic drills. We did a lot of 7-on-7. We grew a lot as a team over the week.”

Ellis’s appreciation for Israel grew as the team got to do some sightseeing and interact with the people.

“We went to the beach,” said Ellis. “We went to the Dead Sea. We went to Jerusalem, we saw the Wailing Wall and the Holocaust museum. We got to explore Tel Aviv, going to markets and buying souvenirs for our families. We were exposed to religion and aspects of Judaism. We saw what a big event Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) is. On Friday afternoon, the stores start closing down and everything shuts down through Saturday. It is not just a religious thing, it is part of the culture. We saw that everyone does it and that it is a way of life.”

The exposure to Israeli culture helped Ellis and her teammates bring a special spirit into the competition, which took place in Oshawa, Canada from July 10-20.

“It was very interesting to find a spot with a new team,” said Ellis, a 5’5 attacker who hails from Bryn Mawr, Pa.

“You get in and you show what you can do and at the same time you look to work together with other players. There was no rivalry between the players; everyone was happy to play with each other. There was a communal bond; everyone was just wanting to represent Israel. We wanted to make a splash and make a name for Israeli lacrosse.”

Playing in its inaugural World Cup, Israel achieved that goal, turning heads as it went 4-1 in pool play and finished eighth overall in the tourney.

The Israelis got off on the right foot as they topped Germany 15-6 in their opener.

“It was tremendous,” recalled Ellis. “It was the first game for Israel in FIL competition and it was against a country we had a history with. We were ready to show everyone what we were about. It was amazing, it set the tempo for us.”

While Ellis was thrilled to contribute a goal and an assist in the victory over the Germans, she was more focused on the team’s success.

“In college, statistics are seen as a measure of contribution,” said Ellis, who ended up playing in five games at the competition, totaling nine points on four goals and five assists.

“It is a different vibe with a national team. You are representing something more than a university, you are representing a country. It was such a team effort, you want to win as a team.”

Israel did win in the first round of the playoffs, topping New Zealand. 12-9. The team, though, fell 17-5 to Canada in the quarterfinals, and then lost 9-7 to Scotland in a consolation game.

“The Scotland game was tough,” said Ellis, noting that Israel had topped the Scots 13-6 in pool play. “We definitely wanted to do better. I have to compliment them, they were definitely better the second time we played them.”

Due to the loss to Scotland, Israel was slated to play the Haudenosaunee Nation in the tourney’s seventh place game. That contest never took place as Israel forfeited because the game was slated for Saturday, during the Jewish sabbath.

“We were hopeful that the FIL would change the schedule,” said Ellis. “We learned on Thursday that we wouldn’t be playing on Saturday. The team that was playing us was very understanding of our issue. I believe our country did the right thing. It is such a part of the culture; it was the right thing to do for the country. Hopefully, the FIL will be more flexible in the future.”

While Ellis was disappointed that she and her teammates didn’t get the chance to play that final game, she leaves Canada with fond memories.

“It was a really cool experience,” asserted Ellis. “I still think we represented our country to the fullest. If we had been with each other longer, I think we would have done better and cleaned up some things. It was fun being around the greatest players in the world, you not only played against them but you saw them around because we stayed close to each other. It is great to be a part of a sport that is growing and game that I love so much.”

And Ellis’s love for Israel grew as a result of the experience. “I feel much more connected to Israel,” said Ellis, who hopes to keep involved with national program. “I am looking forward to going back there soon.”

GOLDEN STATE: Drew Hoffenberg looks for the ball in action last fall for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Last month, Hoffenberg helped the Team USA take gold in the men’s open competition at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOLDEN STATE: Drew Hoffenberg looks for the ball in action last fall for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Last month, Hoffenberg helped the Team USA take gold in the men’s open competition at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Drew Hoffenberg knew that Team USA had plenty of talent but he wasn’t sure how the squad would stack up against the competition on the eve of starting play in the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

“Before the first game, we didn’t really know how good the other teams were,” said Hoffenberg, a rising junior star for the Princeton University men’s squad.

“We had some days of common training with Italy and Hungary so we got to scrimmage and go up and down the pool with them. We didn’t know about Brazil and Israel.”

By routing Italy 30-2 on July 19 to start the men’s open competition, the U.S. team proved it was very good.

“From that moment, the others were scared and intimidated by us,” said Hoffenberg. “We were the team to beat.”

Nobody beat Team USA as the squad went 5-0 in round-robin play and then topped Israel 9-3 in the gold medal game.

In reflecting on his role for the triumphant squad, Hoffenberg said he tried to be more of a playmaker than a scorer.

“I was more of a facilitator,” said attacker Hoffenberg, a native of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. who has piled up 110 goals and 69 assists in his first two seasons with Princeton in earning All-America Honorable Mention honors both years.

“We had two two-meter guys who were about 6’5, 240 and nobody was able to deal with them, they were scoring five or six goals a game. We wanted to try to get the ball to them as much as possible. We also worked on ball movement and passing when teams sagged on them.”

The team had to work hard to get up to speed as it had only played together in a week-long training camp in San Diego this June prior to leaving for Israel.

“We only had two hours every morning,” recalled Hoffenberg. “We had to swim to get in shape and since we had never played together, we had to work on our plays. It definitely helped us to get to know each other better. We were able to work on little things, knowing where guys like the ball and things like that.

The players got to know Israel when they weren’t in the pool. “The Maccabiah USA had an Israel Connect program,” said Hoffenberg.

“We would practice from 6-8 a.m. and then we would get on a bus and see the country. We saw Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Wailing Wall. The sights were all awesome, there is so much history there.”

The U.S. players also felt a lot of support from the Israeli people. “Everyone loved the Maccabiah Games athletes, they were always coming up and taking pictures with us,” said Hoffenberg.  “We got to hang out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

Defending gold medalist Israel proved to be the main obstacle for the U.S. In round-robin play, the U.S. prevailed 16-6 before meeting up again with the hosts in the gold medal game.

“Israel had beaten Great Britain 22-0 in their first game so we were worried about them,” said Hoffenberg. “We were able to beat them by 10 goals so that gave us confidence.”

Despite bringing that confidence into the rematch, Team USA was not taking anything for granted.

“We knew they were a good team; 10 goals sounds like a lot but the first game felt closer,” said Hoffenberg.

“It was more like a 4-goal game for most of it. We knew they would have more fans for the final and that they would be more psyched. We still had to be prepared.”

The gold medal match was close at the start before the U.S. broke open the contest.

“The game got off to a slow start, I think it was 1-1 after the first quarter,” recalled Hoffenberg.

“We had a 5-0 run and we just took off. Our goalie played great, you are not going to lose too many games when you give up only three goals.”

The close-knit United States team reveled in the victory. “It was really fun; we threw the coach into the pool,” said Hoffenberg.

“It was a really great group of guys. It meant a lot; it was the first big national tournament I have ever won. It was awesome. Everyone was close in age and everyone got along. There was no bickering, everyone was willing to make the extra pass and talk to each other in the water.”

Hoffenberg will be bringing a extra level of conditioning and confidence when he returns to Princeton later this month to start preseason training with the Tigers.

“I know that I will have an advantage over the other guys at the start, I won’t have to worry as much about fitness,” said Hoffenberg, who will be serving as a captain of the Tigers. “I can talk to the coaches about strategy.”

In Hoffenberg’s view, Princeton should be a force in tournament play this fall.

“The team should be really good, we are bringing in four freshmen who are good,” added Hoffenberg. “It should be fun. You never know in the east, there are always four or five good teams. As long as we are in the mix, we have a chance.”

August 7, 2013
LEARNING CURVE: Ashley Higginson races through a curve during her illustrious Princeton University track career. Higginson, a 2011 Princeton alum, fell just short of making the U.S. team in the steeplechase for the 2012 London Olympics. Learning from that experience, Higginson placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.  (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

LEARNING CURVE: Ashley Higginson races through a curve during her illustrious Princeton University track career. Higginson, a 2011 Princeton alum, fell just short of making the U.S. team in the steeplechase for the 2012 London Olympics. Learning from that experience, Higginson placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.
(Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Ashley Higginson’s dream of competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics died in the backstretch at Hayward Field last July as she placed fourth in the steeplechase at the U.S. trials, just missing the top-3 finish required to book a spot to the London Games.

While the former Princeton University standout was disappointed to fall just short of the Olympics, she took positives from the experience.

“There was a mix of emotions,” said Higginson, a 2011 Princeton grad who was an All American in the steeplechase for the Tigers and was an eight-time Ivy League champion, winning the indoor mile, 3,000 and 5,000 as well as the outdoor 3,000 and 5,000 and the steeplechase three times.

“I learned a lot. I set a personal record by so much in the race. I did a lot more than people expected.”

Applying the lessons that she learned from the trials, Higginson recently  placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.

“This year I came in a lot more confident and prepared,” said Higginson,” who clocked a time of 9:46.25 in the 3,000-meter event at the nationals in earning her trip to Moscow. “Last year, it was more of a dream. Now I believe I deserve to be in the top 3 and I wanted to take ownership.”

For Higginson, a native of Colts Neck, joining the New Jersey-New York Track Club after graduation from Princeton helped her take things to another level.

“My intensity went way up,” said Higginson, who was a recipient of the 2011 C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, the
highest senior female student-athlete award at Princeton.

“I have to commend coach Farrell [longtime Princeton women’s coach Peter Farrell] for his ability to cultivate great athletes, students and girls. He keeps them fresh, you need to be balanced in college.”

In working with NJ-NY, Higginson was able to make a greater commitment to her training. “It wasn’t the mileage as much as the intensity,” said Higginson.

“In college, we would have two track workouts a week and a long run on Saturday. We would do repeat 800s and miles. With NJ-NY, we do three days of speed training, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday is a strength day with 800s and 1000s. On Wednesday, we do a four or five-mile tempo run in the morning and then do 200s on the track in the afternoon. On Friday, we do speed work; it is the lactic attack. We do hard 800s.”

Higginson decided to start law school because she didn’t want to have all of her eggs in one basket.

“I made a lot of decisions this year; I decided to stay in New Jersey and start law school at Rutgers,” said Higginson, who had been accepted at the University of Colorado law school in 2011 and contemplated relocating to Boulder.

“It was reaffirming to do things my way and have it all work out. It was hard in the fall, Gags [NJ-NY coach Frank Gagliano] was understanding and changed the schedule around for me. You can always have a bad week of school, running, or social life so it is good if you have something else to focus on instead of one thing.”

Higginson had a good week in Des Moines at the U.S. championships as she cruised to a fourth-place finish in her heat and then coolly executed her race plan to earn her second place finish in the championship race.

“Going into final we thought one or two athletes would take it out fast,” said Higginson.

If one went, I could sit back but if two went out I would have to go with them. Only one went out fast and I stayed in the pack. I made my move with 600 meters to go. I was so relieved to make it.”

Since making the worlds, Higginson has been fine-tuning things. “I am sharpening. I went over to Europe; I had one steeple that didn’t go well,” said Higginson.

“I also did a 1,500 (a 4:11.82 in Heusden, Belgium) and mile (a 4:34.47 in Dublin, Ireland) and had PRs in both. I am doing speed work, lowering my mileage and sleeping more. Tapering is tough, especially going from end of June to mid-August. That is a long time, I needed to have some intensity in the middle of that.”

As Higginson looks ahead to the Moscow competition, she knows it will take mental toughness to make an impact.

“I am shooting for a time and to make the final,” said Higginson. “We had two Americans (Emma Coburn and Bridget Franek) in the Olympic final and I think we will be prepared to medal in 2016. It will be hard for me to medal this year. As coach Farrell always said, just run your seed time in the final and be your best self on the day.”

Higginson, for her part, is prepared to make her dream of competing at the Olympics a reality as she aims for a spot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

“I graduate from law school in 2015; I have a year to train full time,” said Higginson. “I am very surprised and thrilled at how far I have come. It is nice to see what you can do when you really put time into it.”

GOLD RUSH: Holly McGarvie Reilly races upfield for the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team. Reilly, 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the recently held 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall. Reilly was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary. (Photo by John Strohsacker, provided courtesy of US Lacrosse)

GOLD RUSH: Holly McGarvie Reilly races upfield for the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team. Reilly, 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the recently held 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall. Reilly was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary. (Photo by John Strohsacker, provided courtesy of US Lacrosse)

As the U.S. squad underwent its final preparations before starting play in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup, Holly McGarvie Reilly was cautiously optimistic.

“It was definitely go time; it was five or six days of really tough practices and then we tapered,” said Reilly, a 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers.

“We were putting in some new offensive and defensive strategies. It was a mental and physical grind. We were working very, very hard. There were some struggles; some days the defense was not doing well and other times the offense was off. We just wanted to play another team, we were sick of playing against each other. The practices were tougher than games and that’s what you want.”

The U.S. proved to be very tough in the competition held in Oshawa, Ontario, going 7-0 in the way to the gold medal, outscoring its foes 127-34 including a 19-5 rout of host Canada in the championship game. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall.

Reilly, though, will tell you that it wasn’t as easy as it may have looked for the U.S.

“Some people I knew just kept up with the scores but they didn’t tell the whole story,” said defender Reilly, who was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary.

“We still had to work for that. It was due to how we we trained to make that happen. Everyone really bought into what we were trying to do. There were pockets of challenge. We had some ups and downs. We improved as  we went on.”

It was a challenge for Reilly to get up to speed as she has been essentially training on her own since the last World Cup.

“I was ready to go fitness wise,” said Reilly, who resides near San Diego where her husband Brendan Reilly, a former Princeton lacrosse player, is stationed with the Marines.

“For me, the toughest thing was jumping back into a whole game. My stick skills could have been more precise. I struggled at first with the team game. I had to learn that this is my slide and when to talk to people. I had to work extra hard on communication.”

As Reilly took the field for the championship game, she was ready to savor the day.

“I didn’t feel the anxiety that I felt four years ago when I had never been in that position,” said Reilly. “We have got this, we have done this before.

But since this team has really become my team, I wanted to enjoy the moment.”

The gold medal game turned out to be very enjoyable for the U.S. as it jumped out to a 14-2 halftime lead on the way to its 19-5 triumph.

“I remember coming in at half and Ricky [U.S. head coach Ricky Fried] saying we were not going to change much and to just keep playing that way,” said Reilly with a laugh.

“We wanted to show the world the best lacrosse that had been played. I was really happy for the team and the coaches, especially the girls who had never won gold medals before.  Four years ago it was 8-7 and we didn’t know if we were going to win. We were up 19-5 and we knew that we were going to win 20 minutes before the game ended.”

While Reilly acknowledges that the U.S. team was loaded with talent, she points to chemistry as a key factor in its run to the title.

“I think it was the selfless nature of the team; Katie Rowan got eight goals in the final but you wouldn’t even know it,” said Reilly, who played in every game at the World Cup and had one goal, was first on the team in caused turnovers with five, third on the team in draw controls with eight, and third in ground balls with seven.

“It was like we scored again, let’s score another. Everyone was enjoying it and having fun. I give the coaches credit for creating a team culture where everyone wanted to work so hard and became so unified. I wish we could play seven more games.”

For Reilly, the experience of winning a second gold medal will be memorable for more than just the games.

“Four years ago I took as many pictures as I could and wrote down a lot of things in a journal,” said Reilly, who plans to keep playing for the U.S. program on a year-to-year basis.

“This year I took fewer pictures and wrote less. I just wanted to soak it in. I enjoyed being with the team, going on bus rides, being goofy, doing karaoke and inside jokes. Of course, playing was a big part of this. These are some of my closest friends in the world and I will take those memories with me.”

LEGEND OF THE FALL: Dick Kazmaier poses during his legendary Princeton University football career. Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner, died last week at the age of 82, sparking tributes to both his sterling character and athletic  greatness. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

LEGEND OF THE FALL: Dick Kazmaier poses during his legendary Princeton University football career. Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner, died last week at the age of 82, sparking tributes to both his sterling character and athletic
greatness. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

In a week where the sports headlines were dominated by sordid tales of a racial slur uttered by Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles, Alex Rodriguez’s impending suspension from baseball due to the continued use of performance enhancing drugs, and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s off-field misadventures, it stood as a mere footnote.

But the passing of Princeton University football legend and 1951 Heisman recipient Dick Kazmaier on August 1 shines a light on a simpler time where such virtues as humility, intelligence, and loyalty coexisted with incredible athletic success.

Kazmaier, who was 82 at the time of his death from heart and lung disease, surely produced a sporting career for the ages.

The native of Maumee, Ohio rose from a 155-pounder buried on the depth chart as a freshman in 1948 to the top of the college football world by the fall of 1951.

Featured on the cover of Time Magazine that year, Kazmaier went on to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide as he led Princeton to a second straight 9-0 campaign. He earned 1,777 points in the Heisman 1951 vote, which at the time was a record by more than 460 points. He also won the Maxwell Award that season.

The quintessential tailback in the single wing, Kazmaier led the nation in both total offense and passing accuracy that season; rushing for 861 yards and completing 123 passes for 960 yards and 13 touchdowns. By his graduation, he was Princeton’s all-time leader in rushing (1,950 career yards) and ranked second in passing (2,404 career yards). His 59.5 career completion percentage still ranks third all-time at Princeton.

While Kazmaier’s football accomplishments were staggering, they were matched by his character and rectitude off the field.

The 1952 Princeton graduate eschewed the NFL to attend Harvard Business School. He eventually founded Kazmaier Associates, Inc., a Concord, Massachusetts firm that has invested in, managed and consulted for sports marketing and sports product manufacturing and marketing businesses since its founding in 1975.

Kazmaier served his country as an ensign in the United States Navy. He also served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

He was also a devoted family man. He and wife Patricia had six daughters: Kathy L. Donnelly, Kristen Kazmaier Fisher, Michele S. Kazmaier, Patricia J. Kazmaier-Sandt ’86, Susan M. Kazmaier ’81 and Kimberly Picard ’77. Three daughters were Princeton graduates, including former women’s ice hockey standout Patricia (Patty) Kazmaier, a four-year varsity ice hockey letterwinner who anchored the Princeton defense and led the Tigers to the Ivy League championship in three consecutive seasons (1981-82 through 1983-84), while earning multiple league honors.

Patty Kazmaier died of a rare blood disease in 1990; in her honor, her father, in association with the USA Hockey Foundation, created the Patty Kazmaier Award. First given in 1998, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Other selection criteria include outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey.

It is Kazmaier’s personal qualities as much as his athletic achievements that were cited as he was remembered by members of the Princeton family.

“Today Princeton University, the Tiger Athletic Program and Tiger Nation are mourning the loss of Dick Kazmaier ’52, one of our most accomplished student-athlete icons of the 20th Century,” said Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 as quoted on the Princeton Athletics website.

“In addition to having won the Heisman, #42’s most enduring trait for me was that he also was a dignified ‘Wise Man.’ Notwithstanding all of the achievements in his athletic, business and philanthropic endeavors, Dick remained one of the most self-effacing individuals I have ever met. He never sought the spotlight and always led in a thoughtful and ethical manner.”

A friend to both the University and the football program over the years, Kazmaier served as a Princeton trustee, as well as a member of the Princeton Varsity Club Board of Directors. He had visited with the team as recently as prior to the 2011 Harvard game, as well as following the 2010 victory over Lafayette, the first victory for current head coach Bob Surace.

“My admiration for Dick Kazmaier goes well beyond the respect earned by his being the greatest football player in the unmatched history of our Princeton program,” said Surace ’90 in remarks on the Princeton website.

“Whenever I talk to our team about Dick Kazmaier, it is not about the Heisman, the undefeated seasons, statues or awards. It is about the traits that Dick shared with me in every communication we had, the qualities that make up the ideal Princeton man — character, dignity, strength, intelligence, humility, unselfishness, commitment and passion to be exceptional in every area of life. “

His legacy was cemented in Princeton lore in 2008 when the school permanently retired the number ‘42’ from ever being used again by any Tiger athlete;  that number was shared by two of its most historic alumni, Kazmaier and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley ’65.

In an October 22, 2008 Town Topics story on the retirement of the ’42,’ Kazmaier acknowledged that he was moved by the honor.

“I have respected 42 for a long time,” said Kazmaier. “This is very nice; it is valuable for football and Princeton athletics in general. It is a reminder that good things can happen and significant accomplishments can happen. It is something I am pleased to be identified with, the number is a symbol that achievement is worth working for and success can happen.”

True to character, Kazmaier emphasized the joint effort with his teammates, not his individual feats.

“In some sports, the individual can dominate but in football, you can’t do anything unless everybody is doing the right thing at the right time,” said Kazmaier. “I happened to have the ball the most and I did some things with it and that’s what people see.”

In putting together that story, this reporter got a first-hand exposure to Kazmaier’s gentlemanly nature. He responded quickly to an e-mail request for an interview, noting that he was taking his car in for service at 8:00 a.m. later that week and would have plenty of time to talk then if that wasn’t too early.

The interview was confirmed and Kazmaier spent 40 minutes graciously answering all of of my questions, although he was uncomfortable dwelling on his honors and awards. At the end, he thanked me for my interest and giving him the chance to relive some of those memories.

But as I told him that morning, no, thank you, Mr. Kazmaier.

July 31, 2013
SABER RATTLING: Princeton University women’s fencing star Eliza Stone ’13 is being interviewed after a recent triumph. Next week, the saber specialist will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

SABER RATTLING: Princeton University women’s fencing star Eliza Stone ’13 is being interviewed after a recent triumph. Next week, the saber specialist will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

In her first three seasons on the Princeton University fencing team, Eliza Stone had already put together a glittering resume.

The Chicago, Ill. native had placed eighth, second, and third in the saber at the NCAA championships to earn All-American honors and was also a three-time All-Ivy League performer.

But Stone decided she had to branch out to get the most out her fencing. “Coming into senior year, I realized that I would have to stop fencing at the end unless I started doing internationals,” said Stone.

“Everything in my fencing changed. Kat [sophomore teammate Katharine Holmes] and I made a pact to go for the senior national team. We decided to go for it together.”

Stone went to national competitions in the fall and competed internationally in England and France in January, piling up enough points to be in the mix to make the senior national team.

Upon returning to the U.S. to wrap up the college season, Stone won the saber at the NCAA championships and helped Princeton win the national combined team title.

In May, Stone was formally named to the U.S. saber team, having accumulated points at various tournaments through a system employed by U.S. Fencing during a window of time that closed in May.

Next week, Stone will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.

In reflecting on making the national team, Stone is a bit stunned at how far she has come since making the pact with Holmes.

“It was definitely a good feeling, I was very happy,” said Stone. “It was great: I was not even on the point list at the beginning of the year. I was working my way steadily to make the team.”

For Stone, fencing has definitely been a family affair as she took up the sport at age 10 along with younger sister Gracie and younger brother Robert, both now saber All-American for Princeton along with their older sister.

“I did ballet a lot but I hated it,” said Stone. “My dad was trying to find something for us to do. He saw an ad for a fencing club downtown next to a pizza parlor. He told us about it and we were like fencing, OK. We all started at the same time.”

While Stone started out specializing in the epee, she turned to the saber due to family considerations.

“I went to epee and I thought this was pretty good,” said Stone. “My siblings were all doing saber and my dad said I don’t want to have to do different schedules for different weapons so I switched to saber.”

It didn’t take long for Stone to master her new weapon. “I started going to nationals,” said Stone.

“I started beating up my brother in practice so I loved the saber. I was beating the other boys in practice. I did my first national U-10 and I got a medal; I was in the top eight.”

While Stone was a force on the U.S. scene, she didn’t get the chance to make the same impact on the international stage.

“Fencing is really expensive and it is an individual sport,” said Stone. “You have to pay for the plane ride. I went to the nationals a few times a year but it is $2,000 a pop to go to international events and that wasn’t in my budget. I did go to the Cadet World Cup in Canada and won; I was thinking I should do more international events.”

Coming to Princeton in 2009, Stone put international competitions on the backburner as she concentrated on the college scene.

“It was tough going to tournaments every weekend and doing the schoolwork at college,” said Stone.

“I was home-schooled so going to the library and working on my own wasn’t that different. The academics was keeping me very busy and I was focused on the NCAA competition. I am here to study and I can only do it once.

The arrival of Holmes at Princeton changed Stone’s thinking on adding international events to her schedule.

“Kat came to Princeton when I was a junior,” said Stone. “I saw her as a freshman going off to internationals and still keeping up with academics. I saw it was possible. It kind of opened the door for me to do internationals.”

This winter, Stone closed her Princeton career in style, winning the NCAA championship in saber and helping the Tigers to the combined team title.

“It was like some sort of Disney movie where everything comes through at the end,” said Stone, reflecting on the NCAA competition held in San Antonio, Texas.

“I was in the top 8 in the NCAAs as a freshman and I was in the top 4 as a sophomore and junior. In my sophomore year, I got to the gold medal match. I made it my goal to get at least one gold medal.”

Seeing the Tigers achieve their goal of a team title was equally. if not more satisfying for Stone.

“For the team, it was the culmination of four years of work for me and the other seniors,” said Stone, who was later named as one of the recipients of the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, the highest senior female student-athlete award at Princeton.

“We had been close, we knew we could do it. There is luck involved. There are lots of bouts and if the 5-4 decisions go against you, it can be tough. The guys left us in a good position to make a run for first. We knew we had the talent; we just had to have the right focus.”

In mid-June just after graduating from Princeton, Stone showed her focus as she took second at the Pan American Championships in an important tune-up for the worlds. Holmes joined her at the competition and took second in the epee.

“It was good that we went together; we were cheering each other,” said Stone, reflecting on Holmes’ presence in the meet held at in Cartagena, Colombia.

“We were supporting and helping each other. She lost 15-14 in the final to one of the Hurley sisters [Courtney]. I was down 10-2 in my final and got it to 15-12, going against an Olympian [Mariel Zagunis of the U.S.]”

As Stone looks ahead to the worlds, where she will be competing along with Holmes and two fellow Tigers alums, women’s epeeist May Lawrence ’02 and men’s epee performer Soren Thompson ’05, she is going all out.

“I am working on conditioning and trying to get in the best shape possible,” said Stone.

“The saber team will be going to camp in Poland for two weeks. We will be training with Ukrainians and some other international teams. Then we go directly to Budapest.”

Stone believes she can do some big things in Budapest. “After the Pan Am Championships, I am in the top 16,” said Stone. “I am allowed to skip the first day of competition and go directly into the second day. I am starting in the top 64; that is good but there is also pressure, I don’t want to lose my first match. I am hoping for the top 16.”

After the progress she has made this year, Stone is hoping to reach the top of her sport by earning a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I do want to go for Rio,” asserted Stone. “I am looking for a job. Two of the three Princeton fencers on the national team are training in New York City and I will work at a club with them. I will also train with my coach at Princeton.”

BIG KAT: Princeton University epee star Katharine Holmes hones her form. The 5’10 Holmes, a rising junior, is looking to come up big next week at the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

BIG KAT: Princeton University epee star Katharine Holmes hones her form. The 5’10 Holmes, a rising junior, is looking to come up big next week at the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

As a grade schooler, Katharine Holmes was fascinated with tales of Middle Ages derring-do.

“When I was nine, I loved reading books about medieval times and I wanted to be a knight,” said Holmes, a native of Washington D.C.

Acting out those fantasies, Holmes took up fencing. “I fenced along; I was quite terrible at it but I loved it,” said Holmes, who started the sport with the Chevy Chase Fencing Club. “I liked being alone out there on the strip, it was very appealing.”

Holmes got the hang of the sport as an epee specialist and began making a name for herself in regional competitions. “I started doing OK and I decided this is what I wanted to do,” said Holmes.

By the time she was a teenager, Holmes started doing some big things on the world stage. “I went to Cadet World Cup in Germany and then went to Austria,” said Holmes.

“I was awed by the scale of it; I didn’t know what was going on. I went to U-17 World Cup in Belfast and came in second; everything happened so fast.”

Joining the Princeton University women’s fencing team in 2011, Holmes quickly established herself as one of the top epeeists in the country, placing third in the NCAAs as a freshman and then taking fifth this winter and earning All-Ivy honors both seasons.

Next week, Holmes will be testing her skills on the international stage as she competes for the U.S. in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.

In order to book her place to Budapest, Holmes had to perform a balancing act this year as she traveled to national and international events to earn enough points to make the U.S. squad while still competing for Princeton and keeping up with her pre-med class load.

“I had good preparation from my high school days. I am used to it and what it is like to miss a lot of school and make it up,” said Holmes.

“I took organic chemistry and I was only in class for 2 of the 8 exams. I took some on the road or when I came back or before I left. Time management is key. The plane flights are lengthy; they can be eight hours long so that is a good time to work. I have gotten used to it; when I am not fencing, I am working.”

It didn’t take Holmes much time to make an impact on college fencing as she was a first-team All-Ivy League performer as a freshman and then went to take third in the epee at the NCAA championships.

“Fencing is a small world, I knew the fencers on the other teams,” said the 5’10 Holmes.

“It is not the fencing that I had to get used to; it was the format. The Ivy League is a 5-touch format. The NCAA is a million 5-touch matches. The Ivy is like pool competition at international matches. The NCAAs was a grind, you have to be in good shape and keep going. It is a test physically and mentally. Doing well in the Ivies gave me confidence going into the NCAAs.”

While Holmes didn’t do quite as well individually for Princeton as she underwent the grind necessitated by seeking a place in the U.S. senior national team, she was thrilled to help the Tigers win the NCAA combined team title.

“That was an incredible feeling,” asserted Holmes. “We had won before the last round but Susie [Scanlan] and I didn’t know it. We were fencing against St. John’s and going at it, thinking that Notre Dame had won. I talked to Zoltan and he told me we already won. We were going crazy.”

In order to clinch a spot on the national team, Holmes had to go crazy in a World Cup meet in Rio de Janeiro in late May.

“I remember landing in Rio thinking I would know whether I made it when I took off to leave,” said Holmes, who took 30th to gain the necessary points to be in the top four in the U.S. in epee.

“I did pretty well in the first round. I got into round 32; I was going against a 2012 Olympian from China and I was down 10-6; I stopped thinking about making the team, my exams popped into my mind and all of a sudden I won 15-12.”

Looking to show that her spot on the national team was no fluke, Holmes placed second in the epee at the Pan American Championships in mid-June in a key tune-up for the world championships.

“I went in with the attitude that I wanted to prove myself and show that I wasn’t the little kid that didn’t belong there,” said Holmes.

“I won against girls from Amanda Simeao, Joanne Guy, and Cleia Guilhon to get to the final round. In the final I went against arguably our best epeeist [Courtney Hurley] and I didn’t want to let her kill me. I was down 14-11 and I got it to 14-14 before she made the winning touch.”

In preparing for the worlds, Holmes will be training hard to show that she belongs with the best in her sport.

“I am going to get to work with Zoltan [Princeton fencing head coach Zoltan Dudas] at the Princeton camp and some other girls are coming in,” said Holmes.

“When I leave the U.S., I am going to Budapest for a camp there and I will be fencing a lot there. Zoltan is running the camp with the Hungarian team and some other internationals.”

Holmes is hoping for a deep run at the competition. “My goal would be to make the top 32,” said Holmes.

“There are two ways to make it out of first round, one is to be in the top 16 and you jump into the top 64 automatically. You can also fence your way in. I have to take it bout by bout and point by point. I have to compartmentalize things.”

Having former Princeton teammate and close friend Eliza Stone ’13 on hand in Budapest as a member of the U.S. saber team is a good thing for Holmes.

“I am really glad Eliza and I are both going,” said Holmes, who will also be joined at the worlds by two other Tiger alums, women’s epeeist May Lawrence ’02 and men’s epee performer Soren Thompson ’05.

“It will be good to have her cheering me. She reads me so well. We hang out all the time; we have become best friends. She works harder than any fencer I have ever seen.”

Holmes is hoping that her hard work will ultimately land her a return trip to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Rio is definitely a goal; I am going to finish my junior year and take two years off to train and qualify,” said Holmes. “I am going in with the goal of getting a medal; I want to be a contender.”

July 24, 2013
TRAINED EYE: Princeton University head athletic trainer Charlie Thompson helps an injured Tiger football player. Thompson was recently inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Hall of Fame.(Photo Courtesy of Charlie Thompson)

TRAINED EYE: Princeton University head athletic trainer Charlie Thompson helps an injured Tiger football player. Thompson was recently inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Hall of Fame. (Photo Courtesy of Charlie Thompson)

Growing up in Rhode Island, Charlie Thompson had visions of playing in the NHL someday but a knee operation in his senior year of high school derailed his hockey career.

That setback, though, helped Thompson find his life’s calling. “The grandfather of one of my best friends was the head athletic trainer for a team called the Providence Reds in the AHL,” said Thompson.

“We were rink rats; we would run around and we would always go down to the locker room between periods and watch him. He would suture guys. It wasn’t until I got hurt that I realized that I really didn’t have anybody to help me out. I thought this is something I would enjoy doing. It would be nice to help other kids out who had the same aspirations but didn’t have anybody to help them out when they got hurt.”

Thompson went on to the University of Rhode Island where he worked as a student trainer and then headed west to the University of Arizona as a student in the school’s graduate athletic training program and earned a Master of Science degree.

After beginning his career at a Texas high school, Thompson got into the college arena, making stops at Princeton University, Pitt, URI, Penn State, Maine and back to Princeton where he has been the head athletic trainer since 1999.

Last month, Thompson’s odyssey brought him to Las Vegas where he was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Hall of Fame.

“I never started what I was doing to become a Hall of Famer,” said Thompson, 55, reflecting on the honor.

“I started into it to honor people who have been great mentors to me. I felt like I owed it to them and to have this as an end result, it is absolutely incredible. Two years ago I received the most distinguished athletic trainer award and I don’t know if that is the stepping stone to the Hall of Fame but I thought it was the highlight of my career. I never, ever expected to be in the Hall of Fame.”

The hands on training that Thompson got during his college days proved to be a stepping stone to his later success.

“Back then our education programs in athletic training weren’t as big as they are now,” said Thompson.

“I actually was a physical education major and took a lot of athletic training courses. I worked as a student athletic trainer. I had a great experience with two people that I worked under, Tom Dolan and Mike Rule. They were phenomenal and a big help to my career. Between my junior and senior year I worked in the NY Jets training camp so they helped there. And somehow they got me into the University of Arizona which was the top training program at the time.”

Acknowledging that he didn’t have the best grades as an undergraduate, Thompson knows that he was lucky to get accepted at Arizona.

“I had a good resume and I loved doing what I did,” said Thompson, noting that there were 500 applicants for 17 positions in the program.

“From day one I loved being in the athletic training room more than I loved being in the classroom or the library so that is where I spent a lot of my time. When I went to Arizona, we were doing our coursework and we were head athletic trainers in the Tucson school district. That was a great experience.”

After a year as the head trainer at Leander (Texas) High, Thompson moved into the college arena.

“In 1982, a position at Princeton opened up so I interviewed with Dick Malacrea and fortunately he hired me here,” said Thompson.

“I was here for three years. I did freshman football, I did varsity basketball, and I did varsity baseball. It was a pretty interesting experience; I got to work with Pete Carril and Tom O’Connell, who were two great coaches.”

With three years at Princeton under his belt, Thompson decided to get a taste of bigger time athletics and headed to Pitt. He then went back to his alma mater, URI, to serve as the school’s head trainer. He made another foray into the big time, working as a football trainer at Penn State from 1991-1996, going to six bowl games with the Nittany Lions, including a memorable 12-0 1994 campaign which ended up with a Rose Bowl victory.

Applying the knowledge he gained from that experience, he headed back to New England, serving as the head trainer at Maine from 1997-99. He then returned to Princeton where he has become a fixture.

“I came back in 1999. Steve Tosches was still the football coach and Steve and I went to URI together so there was a comfort level there,” said Thompson, who works as the primary trainer for football, baseball, and men’s heavyweight crew in addition to his duties of running the training staff.

“I knew the campus. I knew a lot of the operation. I knew the system so it was a fairly smooth transition. I always felt that when you come to Princeton you become part of the Princeton family. I am still very, very good friends with several athletes who were here when I was here the first time.”

Thompson enjoys being part of the Princeton family, expressing admiration for the Tiger coaches and athletes.

“We don’t have any coaches who have been problems,” said Thompson, whose family at home includes wife, Sandy, an office manager for a dental group, and two children, a son Colin, who graduated from N.Y.U., and a daughter, Ashley, who graduated from Emerson College.

“It is nice that we are part of health services but in lot of ways it is not as necessary here because they understand why the athletes are here. They are here to get a degree. There are high expectations, academically and athletically. If you look at what we have done it is pretty incredible in terms of Ivy titles, national titles, and players going on to the pros. You are dealing with a high level athlete.”

Augmenting his work through writing articles and speaking on training issues has helped Thompson reach a higher level in his profession.

“That was 32 years ago. I was sitting with Dick Malacrea at dinner at a meeting and he told me that we need people who are willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of the profession and that was a big impetus,” said Thompson, who has been a member of the NATA Governance Task Force, the Strategic Implementation Team, and Vision Quest and is a frequent speaker at the state, regional, and national level, helping to put on workshops on “Muscle Energy Techniques” at Princeton, at other universities, and at athletic training seminars.

“It takes time but luckily I have a spouse who is incredible, very strong and independent and very, very supportive of my entire career. She realizes this is a passion for me. My other passion is my family and they always would come first.”

His passion for his family came through during the NATA induction celebration in late June in Las Vegas.

“It was very emotional,” said Thompson, who learned in March that he had been chosen for the Hall of Fame.

“On Tuesday we had a rehearsal. They give you two or three minutes to speak and when I get to the end where I talk about my children and my wife, I just couldn’t finish during the rehearsal. I had to find a way not to break when I got up there on Wednesday. I hadn’t done the talk without cracking. I actually got through it without cracking which was really good.”

For Thompson, getting recognized as a Hall of Famer has triggered some deep emotions.

“I am not a big Facebook person and all of these people were commenting and I said listen, I can’t answer everybody, I just want to tell you how humbled I am and how grateful I am for the friendship,” said Thompson.

“I just hope I can live up to this. A friend of mine, Margie King, who is in the Hall of Fame, sent me a message, saying ‘Charlie, you don’t have anything to live up to, because you have already lived it. You are in because of what you have done. This isn’t a trial, you have done what you needed to do to become a Hall of Famer so don’t worry about living up to it. You have already done that part; you have done it all.’”

Princeton baseball head coach Scott Bradley is grateful to have worked with Thompson.

“It is like talking about a player, Charlie has the ability and experience,” said Bradley, a nine-year Major League veteran who has headed the Tiger program for 16 seasons.

“He takes his knowledge and puts it to best use. He is not afraid to continue learning. He is like a big league manager the way he runs his training room. He understands the strengths of his trainers and he lets them use them. He’s not afraid to go to them with questions. There is no ego involved.”

In Bradley’s view, it is Thompson’s amiable nature that sets him apart. “The most important thing is his ability to communicate; he has a great personality,” said Bradley.

“He can be serious but it is always fun when you are around Charlie. He had his choice of sports after football when he came in as the head trainer and we are lucky that he chose baseball. It is great to be able to travel with him.”

Bradley and his players enjoyed the ride this spring as Thompson savored the NATA recognition.

“We have had a lot of fun with it; we list HOF after his name,” said Bradley.

“It has been a celebration year. He has been holding court. The trainers for the other teams want to spend time with him and come out to talk with him. It is a well-deserved honor. He has made my job so much easier. He has a better relationship with our players than any of the major league trainers I have seen.”

Thompson, for his part, is not planning to leave his Princeton post any time soon.

“I can’t afford not to; I probably have 10 years left, I am 55,” said a chuckling Thompson.

“I love what I do. I don’t have days where I come in ‘oh God, I have got to do this, I have got to do that.’ You come in and you are invigorated. Here you are dealing with very motivated athletes. You are dealing with some of the brightest students in the country. You are dealing with a great coaching staff. I am dealing with some of the best orthopedists you would ever want to deal with. My boss, Dr. Margo Patukian, is on the NFL head, neck and spine committee.”

While Thompson may have never achieved his goal of NHL glory, he has enjoyed a dream life.

“I have a wonderful career, I love everything about it,” said Thompson, whose office wall in Caldwell Fieldhouse is crammed with professional citations and photos of special moments from his time at Princeton.

“I have been to the NCAA basketball tournament, I have been to baseball regionals. I have a connection with the Eagles and I go down there and help them with mini-camps. I have done some games. I have been to the big house in Michigan, I have been to six bowl games. Some of the things I have had a chance to do are great. It is a long way from those rinks in Providence.”

WORLD OF TALENT: Teresa Benvenuti dribbles the ball between two defenders last fall in her freshman season with the Princeton University field hockey team. Benvenuti, who made first-team All-Ivy League and earned Ivy Rookie of the Year honors on the way to helping Princeton win its first-ever NCAA title, has been making an impact for the U.S. national program this summer. She recently made the roster of the U.S. senior national team and was also named to the U.S. U-21 squad that will be competing in the Junior World Cup, which is running from July 27 to August 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WORLD OF TALENT: Teresa Benvenuti dribbles the ball between two defenders last fall in her freshman season with the Princeton University field hockey team. Benvenuti, who made first-team All-Ivy League and earned Ivy Rookie of the Year honors on the way to helping Princeton win its first-ever NCAA title, has been making an impact for the U.S. national program this summer. She recently made the roster of the U.S. senior national team and was also named to the U.S. U-21 squad that will be competing in the Junior World Cup, which is running from July 27 to August 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Teresa Benvenuti joined the Princeton University field hockey program last August, she was a bit intimidated by the squad’s returning U.S. Olympians, Katie and Julia Reinprecht.

“Coming in, we were scared to talk to them,” said Benvenuti. “We soon realized how nice they are. They are so successful on and off the field, they can’t help but be role models.”

Benvenuti took a page out of the Reinprecht sisters’ book in her freshman campaign, making first-team All-Ivy League and earning Ivy Rookie of the Year honors on the way to helping Princeton win its first-ever NCAA title.

“I had to learn to be part of the team, and not just be watching,” said Benvenuti, a native of nearby Morristown, who tallied seven goals and seven assists as a back/midfielder in her debut campaign.

“It is easy to look at Katie or Kat [Sharkey] dribbling the ball up the field. I had Katie playing right behind me and that was great. She would tell me where to go.”

Now Benvenuti is going down a similar path as the Reinprechts, making the roster of the U.S. senior national team and getting named to the U.S. U-21 squad that will be competing in the Junior World Cup, which is running from July 27 to August 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany.

Having played for the U.S. U-14 through U-19 teams, Benvenuti has already gained a lot from international experience.

“You get to play with different coaches and players; you learn different styles of play,” said Benvenuti, who was named to the U-21 team in the spring of 2012.

“Then playing internationally, you go against great players; you have to learn to stay calm and composed.”

This past fall, Benvenuti displayed that composure, raising the level of her game in the postseason as the Tigers produced their stirring title run.

“As the tournament goes on, you play better and better teams and you have to improve,” said Benvenuti, who tallied two goals and two assists in her four NCAA appearances.

“I would talk with the coaches after each game and they would tell me what I needed to work on. The main thing was not trying to do too much and to take care of the simple things.”

Benvenuti took care of things in the NCAA semifinals, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in a 3-2 victory over Maryland on her first and only penalty stroke of the season.

“It was the first one I had taken,” said Benvenuti, recalling her moment of glory.

“I had never been so confident and calm; there was no doubt in my mind. Michelle [Cesan] told me I was going to be the one to take it and I could see she had confidence in me. I still can’t believe I made it.”

Benvenuti couldn’t believe her bad luck two days later when a fluky injury kept her out of the title game.

“In the warmup before the championship game, I heard a pop in my hamstring,” said Benvenuti.

“I was looking forward to playing in the national championship game as a freshman. I was not able to move laterally so that would leave a big hole in our defense so somebody else had to step up.  It was awesome to see us win.”

As Benvenuti looks ahead to the Junior World Cup, she is expecting another awesome experience.

“I have heard good things about the team; I really like the coaches,” said Benvenuti.

“We did a little practicing at the High Performance weekend, we had about five days together. First we are going to Holland for some test matches against the Dutch and then on to Germany for some games there. I think our team will rise to the occasion.”

The U.S. will be hoping to rise above their eighth place finish in the 2009 World Cup.

“We have to take things one game at a time and focus on the moment,” said Benvenuti.

“I am trying to make sure that we keep our formation and organize the backline.”

This fall, Benvenuti will be trying to keep things well organized for the Tigers as they defend their national title.

“With Kat, Katie, and Amy [Donovan] graduating, I am looking to help more with leadership,” asserted Benvenuti.

July 17, 2013
INTERNATIONAL WATERS: Drew Hoffenberg controls the ball in action for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Hoffenberg, a rising junior star and co-captain for the Tigers, is currently competing for the U.S. squad at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INTERNATIONAL WATERS: Drew Hoffenberg controls the ball in action for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Hoffenberg, a rising junior star and co-captain for the Tigers, is currently competing for the U.S. squad at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Drew Hoffenberg, competing for the U.S. Junior National water polo team during his high school years hastened his development as a player.

“It’s a lot of fun; you are playing with the best guys in your age group,” said Hoffenberg. “It is the best way to get better. It is a lot of fun. You are making a lot of new friends. It is a small community and you stay in touch with these guys.”

This week, the rising junior Princeton University star is playing with another national team as he competes for the U.S. squad at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Hoffenberg, a native of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., didn’t have to go far from home to punch his ticket for Israel.

“The tryout was here in San Diego in December; it was a 3-day tryout,” said Hoffenberg.

“There were 35-40 people. There are some players on the team who were playing overseas. As the days went on, I got more and more confident. I was playing well and I thought I had a good chance of making the team.”

Hoffenberg’s confidence was justified as he ended up making the roster of 14 for the competition which will take place from July 18-30 and draw more than 7,000 athletes representing 60 countries.

“I found out about two weeks after,” said Hoffenberg. “I was excited. I was ready to go to Israel. We have some really talented guys on the team. I know a lot of the kids. It is a great group.”

Coming east to Princeton has been a great move for Hoffenberg. “I never came to Princeton for an official visit, I did make an unofficial visit as a junior,” said Hoffenberg, who considered such west coast water polo powers as UCLA, USC, and Stanford in his college recruiting process.

“Billy Tifft [recently graduated Princeton star] was one of my high school teammates and he clued me into what the team is about. It is a balance of academics and athletics. You can’t beat the education and it is always one of the top water polo teams in the east.”

Hoffenberg quickly emerged as one of the top players on the Tiger squad, tallying 47 goals and 36 assists as a freshman, earning second-team All-South and All-America honorable mention honors in the regular season and then being named the Most Valuable Player of the Eastern Tournament.

“I kept getting better as the season went on,” said Hoffenberg, in assessing his debut campaign. “I was training with better competition and I got more comfortable with the team.”

As a sophomore, Hoffenberg was even better, scoring a team-leading 63 goals for eighth-best in a single season in program history, while adding 65 steals and 33 assists.

“I was more comfortable with the team,” said Hoffenberg, who now has 110 goals, the eighth-best career total for the Tigers.

“I was more vocal and more of a leader. As a freshman, it is hard to tell people what to do. Once I knew the team, I felt more free to communicate. I played a little better. I played a different role. As a freshman, I was more of a facilitator. I played more at the 21 this season; I had more of a scoring role.”

In his junior season, Hoffenberg will be assuming more of a leadership role as he has been named a team co-captain.

“It shows that my teammates and coaches trust me and think I am an intelligent player,” said Hoffenberg, reflecting on being named captain.

Hoffenberg and his Maccabiah teammates have developed trust in preparing for the competition.

“We had a training camp in San Diego,” said Hoffenberg. “We did training in the morning and scrimmages in the afternoon. We played two games on the weekend. In the past, there was a wide age gap because it is an open team. The age range for this team is 19-25. We have four college kids and a bunch of guys who just graduated from college or have been out for a year or two. We are on the same level; we have the same mentality. It helped us bond. Any time you are together 6½ to 8 hours a day, you are going to talk to each other.”

In Hoffenberg’s view, those bonds will deepen when the team is in Israel. “We are going to be based in Tel Aviv,” said Hoffenberg, who will be joined in Israel by Princeton hockey player Andrew Calof, a forward for the Canadian squad.

“It is going to be amazing. We train in the mornings and then do sightseeing in the afternoon. Israel is amazing, there is nothing like it We are going to get to see the Wailing Wall, the Red Sea, we are going to get VIP tours.”

With the U.S. having earned silver in the 2009 Maccabiah Games, the team is looking to take a step up the medal stand.

“We have a few guys from the 2009 team and they say this team has much more talent,” said Hoffenberg.

“We have to play as well as we can. We don’t know what the competition is like; we haven’t had a chance to scout them. We know Israel is going to be good; it is their national team. We have to focus on our game and playing well.”

Hoffenberg is focusing on providing his diversified game to the U.S. cause.

“I will be mostly a facilitator,” said Hoffenberg. “I will be on secondary attack. I am on the perimeter and look to be an all-around threat.”

GOING GREEN: Addie Micir dribbles past a Harvard defender during her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Micir, a 2011 Princeton alum who was the Ivy League Player of the Year in her senior campaign, is making the move into coaching. She recently joined the staff of the Dartmouth College women’s hoops program as an assistant coach for the Big Green.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING GREEN: Addie Micir dribbles past a Harvard defender during her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Micir, a 2011 Princeton alum who was the Ivy League Player of the Year in her senior campaign, is making the move into coaching. She recently joined the staff of the Dartmouth College women’s hoops program as an assistant coach for the Big Green. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even as Addie Micir was working overtime at Jadwin Gym to sharpen her skills for the Princeton University women’s basketball team, she sensed that coaching was in her future.

“I come from a family of teachers. My parents are teachers, my grandmother is and so is my sister,” said Micir, a 2011 Princeton alum who was the Ivy League Player of the Year in her senior campaign.

“My father coached softball at Pennsbury and 9th grade football at William Penn. I had a knack for teaching and I love basketball. Coaching takes practice like anything else. Any chance I could get, I would help out at clinics or do individual workouts with players.”

Upon graduation, Micir took the chance to keep playing, competing for pro teams in Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

“The coaches told me that if I still had the itch to play I shouldn’t get into coaching,” said Micir, a native of Newtown, Pa.

“It was a great experience. The game is completely different, the lane is wider so you can’t bang as much inside. It is more of a finesse game. The players are very skilled, great passers and shooters. At Princeton, everyone is a go-getter and they don’t need to be pushed. Not every basketball player is like that and it was a really good experience to see that.”

But this spring, Micir got the itch to coach and hung up her sneakers. Within months, she was hired as an assistant coach at Dartmouth.

“My body was starting to feel old even though I am only 24,” said Micir with a laugh.

“You put a lot of stress on it in college and then I kept working out and playing. I had some nagging injuries. I decided it was time. I reached out to coach Banghart [Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart] and she was my mentor, filling me in on what I needed to do to get my name out there.”

Although Dartmouth was an archrival for Princeton during Micir’s playing days, she believes it is an ideal place for her to launch her coaching career.

“I had such a great experience with the Ivy League that I wanted to work in a league with smart kids and a good work ethic,” said Micir, who joins the staff of new head coach Bella Koclanes.

“I was looking at Patriot and Ivy programs. I saw the Dartmouth opening and I sent the coach an e-mail. We did our first interview on Skype when I was traveling in Budapest. Three days after I got home I went up for the interviews and they offered me the job while I was up there. It a great place for me.”

While Micir acknowledges that she is short on coaching experience, she believes her knowledge of the game puts her ahead of the curve.

“I was really versatile as a player; I played every position and saw the game from a lot of different positions,” said Micir.

“I wasn’t the greatest athlete so I had to learn and understand the game to beat other players. As a player I did as much as I could to prepare myself. Our coaches did a good job with the scouts.”

With wholesale changes around the Dartmouth program in the wake of longtime head coach Chris Wielgus retiring after a 6-22 campaign last winter, Micir and her new colleagues are learning together.

“The other coaches have been helping me with the business side, how a basketball program works; doing the recruiting, paper work, and things like that,” said Micir. “They are very energetic and helpful.”

Micir will be applying lessons she learned from her college career which saw Princeton rise from a 7-23 record her freshman season to going 50-9 over her last two years.

“It was the first time I hadn’t been successful in school or sports,” recalled Micir. “You see what your character is, everyone is strong-willed but you see how strong-willed you really are. Everyone is a good learner and independent. The Princeton coaches were so influential in my basketball career. The coaches each have different philosophies and I have taken what works for me.”

Now, Micir is dedicated to helping Dartmouth emulate Princeton’s rise up the Ivy ladder.

“I am excited to start at a program that was like Princeton when I got there,” said Micir.

“We have some good pieces in place, we are working on restructuring things and getting the girls to buy into the culture we are trying to create with work ethic, intensity, and knowing the fundamentals of what you need to be successful in the Ivy League. It is being prepared in everything you do; having things taken care of in the classroom helps you focus on the basketball court.”

This month, Micir is focusing on finding some new talent to grace the court for the Big Green.

“I am hitting the recruiting trail in July like everyone else,” said Micir. “We are getting everything together, evaluating talent in junior and senior classes and then we have our Big Green Academy. Then we will prepare for our kids.”

So far, Micir is enjoying everything about her new job. “I have wanted to be a coach for a while and the first few weeks have been phenomenal,” asserted Micir.

“It has been long hours but it is not your typical 9-5 job. I love what I am doing, we have fun as a staff. I see myself in this for the long haul.”

July 10, 2013
TITLE DEFENSE: Holly McGarvie Reilly, middle, marks an Australian player in action last fall for the U.S. women’s lacrosse national team. Reilly, a former Princeton University lacrosse and field hockey star, is currently in Canada competing for the U.S. in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario. Reilly starred in the 2009 World Cup as the U.S. edged Australia 8-7 in the championship game in Prague, Czech Republic.(Photo by Gani Pinero, Courtesy of US Lacrosse)

TITLE DEFENSE: Holly McGarvie Reilly, middle, marks an Australian player in action last fall for the U.S. women’s lacrosse national team. Reilly, a former Princeton University lacrosse and field hockey star, is currently in Canada competing for the U.S. in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario. Reilly starred in the 2009 World Cup as the U.S. edged Australia 8-7 in the championship game in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Gani Pinero, Courtesy of US Lacrosse)

Holly McGarvie Reilly has been busy on many fronts since helping the U.S. squad win the gold medal at the 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup.

After the tournament, former Princeton University standout Reilly ’09 headed to England where she taught and coached at a small private school, Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire. She returned to the U.S., teaching and starting the girls’ lacrosse program at Ballou High in the inner city of Washington, D.C.

Off the field, she married Princeton classmate Brendan Reilly, a Tiger men’s lax tri-captain, in 2012. Her husband, a Marine, is stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County and the couple now lives in southern California where Reilly works from home on the sales team of TroopSwap, an online military marketplace.

But as the 2013 World Cup approached, Reilly cleared her calendar to go on another run for the U.S. Despite having trained sporadically over the last four years, Reilly made the squad as a defender and will be in action at the tournament which runs from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario.

“For me, this is my team now,” said Reilly, who was a two-time lax All-American during her Princeton career and also made All-Ivy in field hockey for the Tigers.

“I never felt like that when I was at Princeton. I was focused on field hockey and lacrosse because that only lasts four years. It doesn’t replace the other teams but it is the team I focus on now.”

Since moving to California, Reilly has been able to focus more on lacrosse. “This past year, I have been able to play more,” said Reilly.

“There is beautiful weather out here. I work with a trainer on my speed. I am also working with Glen Miles who used to play on the U.S. men’s lacrosse team way back when. He played at Navy in the 1980s and retired as a pilot in 2006. I work with him on stick skills. I can go one-on-one against him and work on game situations.”

Reilly needed to have her skills up to snuff in order to survive the arduous tryout process which began with a training camp last August with 36 players on hand. There were games in October and more training in December. Then 24 players went to the Champions Cup in Orlando early this year from which the final squad of 18 was selected.

“I knew what was at stake,” said Reilly, reflecting on the selection procedure.

“I was  committed to training hard and making the team. I am so fortunate and humbled to make this team.”

Reilly counts herself fortunate to have had the experience of winning the gold medal in 2009 when the U.S. edged Australia 8-7 in the championship game in Prague, Czech Republic.

“It seems so far away; I feel like I was still such a baby,” said McGarvie Reilly, reflecting on the competition where she tallied five points on three goals and two assists and ranked second on the U.S. team with 17 draw controls.

“I am at a different stage of my life now. I am one of the veteran players. I have a level of experience. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in 2009; I would do anything they asked. I am still enthusiastic but I have more of a sense of what is going to happen. I know what the next 20 days entails. I continue to get better. The move to defense from midfield has been a big help. I was always more of a defensive player. My mindset is more of a defender.”

The U.S. squad will be working hard to regain that winning mindset as it girds for the tournament.

“We are in Baltimore from June 30 to July 2; we are in Buffalo from July 2-8 and then we go to Canada,” said Reilly.

“We will have 2-a-days. In Buffalo, we will start tapering off. We need to prepare for more than you have to play. We need to peak at the right time. We need to have the endurance to do game, break, and game. We know what we have to do to get ready.”

Reilly acknowledges that the U.S. has to be ready for a battle as it looks to successfully defend its title.

“I think we have a pretty big target on our backs,” said Reilly. “The teams gear up for you, they want to knock you down when you are the champions. We played Australia and England in the fall; they played us hard.”

But the U.S is less concerned about its foes than simply playing its game and staying in the moment. “We need to focus on our mission,” said Reilly.

“We need to stay passionate. The talent we have is so impressive. But collectively we are the biggest threat. We also need to enjoy it. We will play hard but we need to enjoy the great plays and the great moments. I remember laughing on the field in 2009.”

While Reilly may have learned to savor the highlights, she hasn’t lost the feistiness that has made her great since her high school days at Shawnee High in Medford, New Jersey.

“I think it is about being a public school kid,” said Reilly. “I am scrappy and tough. I have a Jersey girl attitude; I fight to the last.”

ISRAELI FORCE: Sam Ellis looks for an opening in action this past spring during her senior season with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team. Ellis is continuing her lax career by competing for the inaugural Israeli team in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup, which is taking place from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ISRAELI FORCE: Sam Ellis looks for an opening in action this past spring during her senior season with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team. Ellis is continuing her lax career by competing for the inaugural Israeli team in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup, which is taking place from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sam Ellis and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team were fired up to get a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament this May.

After falling to Dartmouth in the semifinals of the Ivy League tourney, the Tigers weren’t sure if they were going to be invited to take part in the chase for the national crown.

“We were on the edge of our seats for the weekend; we were excited to get in,” said attacker Ellis. “That week of practice was the hardest I have ever seen our team work.”

Facing Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament, that work showed as Princeton pushed the Blue Devils hard before falling 10-9 in overtime. “In the game against Duke, everyone gave their all,” said Ellis.

“The coaches were not mad at us afterward because they knew everyone played so hard. It was the luck of the draw that we lost, it was close the entire game.”

While Ellis was proud of Princeton’s effort, it was a disappointing way to close out her college lacrosse career.

“It was pretty sad; it was tough to lose, we didn’t want to leave the field,” recalled Ellis.

“They had to kick us off the field, everyone was hugging. I was sad for my family, I am the youngest kid so this is it for them. It was tough to say goodbye to college lacrosse.”

Although making that farewell was tough, Ellis will be getting back on the field this week as she heads to Canada to compete for the inaugural Israeli women’s national team at the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario.

For Ellis, the process of making the Israeli squad began this past winter. “I had a high school friend who played for the men’s team so I knew Israeli lacrosse was in existence,” said Ellis.

“My mom kept checking the website and found out about the tryout. The tryout was in January at Peddie. There were 20 spots but they were only recruiting 10 from the states. There were 50 or so girls, from high school players to after college.”

Putting her best foot forward in the tryout was a little tricky as Ellis had to show off her skills but also demonstrate that she could work well with her potential teammates.

“It was just three hours; it was interesting,” said Ellis. “I had never played with someone besides the Princeton players in college. I needed to learn what they could do and how to make them look good. You want to showcase your skills but you also have to show you fit in with the team.”

Ellis was thrilled to make the squad, which includes players from such high-quality college lacrosse programs as the University of Maryland, Penn, Dartmouth, James Madison, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Yale.

“I didn’t find out about it until March,” said Ellis, noting there was a Skype interview and a phone interview with the coach after the tryout.

“I thought oh my God this is amazing. I was raised Jewish and I am proud of it. Being American, I had to apply for Israeli citizenship. It is eye-opening to become a citizen. It is exciting to have this experience; it is the inaugural women’s team. I am thankful to be involved and hoping to make a name for Israel.”

Prior to the competition, Ellis and her teammates headed to Ashkelon, Israel from July 4-8 to put in their final preparations.

“We are going to be in camp for a week with 2-a-days and that fun stuff,” said Ellis, noting that she took a short break after the NCAAs to rest her body.

“I think we can come together. We will be living together so that should help. We all know what we have to do. You always want more time. I think we have some great players.”

Ellis’ special time at Princeton will hold her in good stead as she hits the world stage.

“I have definitely learned a lot about myself; it was quite an experience,” said Ellis, who scored 20 points on 16 goals and four assists in her senior year and ended her career with 70 points on 47 goals and 23 assists.

“I didn’t have a great freshman year. I had to work hard to get on the field. I had to go through a lot of injuries. I had surgeries and epidurals, I never wanted to give up. I never felt so passionate about something. Things fell into place. All that I had to go through was worth it. I am glad I never gave up.”

With Israel competing in Pool D of the tournament along with Scotland, Germany, and Korea, Ellis is planning to show her passion. “I want to do something equivalent to my senior year; I would love to make an impact and make a name for Israel,” said Ellis. “I want to score a lot of goals.”

A key goal of the World Cup effort is to grow the game of lacrosse in Israel. “Our marketing guys have said there is no sport that Israel is known for and this could be our chance,” said Ellis.

“You want to get as far as you can; it will be incredible however far we go. I think we have a lot of talent, I am excited about our chances.”

Noting that the World Cup will likely be her final taste of competitive lacrosse, Ellis is primed for an incredible 10 days.

“This is it for me, I think,” said Ellis. “I am definitely going to savor the whole experience. It is going to be cool going to the World Cup.”

June 26, 2013
HAPPY ENDING: Michael Franklin smiles as he crosses the finish line after taking fifth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Ore. earlier this month in the final race of his career with the Princeton University men’s track team. The finish earned Franklin, a Mendham N.J. native, first-team All-American honors. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

HAPPY ENDING: Michael Franklin smiles as he crosses the finish line after taking fifth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Ore. earlier this month in the final race of his career with the Princeton University men’s track team. The finish earned Franklin, a Mendham N.J. native, first-team All-American honors.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Michael Franklin’s first 10,000 meters race for the Princeton University men’s track team didn’t go very well.

“Coach [Steve] Dolan thought I could hang in there with a slow pace and maybe I could be around at the end,” said Franklin, referring to the 2010 Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonals competition that saw him place 21st of 24 runners. “They ran hard from the start and I quickly dropped off to the back of the pack.”

In the last 10,000 of his Princeton career, Franklin ended the race looking skyward in amazement after placing fifth at the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Ore. earlier this month to earn first-team All-American honors.

“It was a bit of a surprise,” said Franklin, reflecting on his thoughts as he crossed the finish line.

“I was thinking about all the time spent training, the hard work, and the occasional setbacks, and how it all paid off.”

After a solid but unspectacular high school running career at Mendham (N.J.) High, Franklin had a tough time upon starting his Princeton career in the fall of 2009.

“I think the big adjustment for me was that I was the best guy on my high school team and now I was the 20th guy,” said Franklin. “I was anonymous, in the middle of the pack.”

Franklin did gain inspiration from the runners at the front of the Princeton pack.

“I was the small fish in the big pond but I was getting pushed to be faster by some phenomenal guys,” said Franklin, noting that he was influenced by such standouts as NCAA steeplechase champion Donn Cabral and All-American Brian Leung.

Franklin made gradual improvements as a sophomore and then experienced a major breakthrough when he qualified for the 5,000 in the NCAA outdoor regional meet last spring.

“I did a 14:35 5k as a freshman and a 14:20 5k as a sophomore; I was doing OK but far off from the 13:40s that other guys were doing,” said Franklin.

“As a junior, I did a 14:06 5k. My junior year was a bit of a jump. I had some good races and some bad races before that. I was inconsistent. Coach Dolan said it was time to get the bad races behind me. Every time I stepped to the starting line, I had to be ready for a solid race. It was big to be at the NCAA regionals. There was very tough competition.”

In getting ready for his senior year, Franklin had to show some mental toughness as he juggled a summer job with his training. “I had a 40 hour a week job down in Maryland,” said Franklin. “I did the training on my own but it was tough to run down there. I struggled to stay focused.”

Once he arrived at Princeton for his senior year, Franklin was able to focus more on his running. “I came into the fall in good shape but the summer training was a mental strain,” said Franklin.

“The biggest thing as a senior was that I had fewer distractions. I had done most of my school requirements and I was getting eight to nine hours of sleep a night as opposed to five or six. I had a job offer so that took away some stress.”

In a harbinger of things to come, Franklin made strides during the cross country season.

“I was racing a lot better in the fall,” said Franklin, who won the program’s most improved runner award for the 2012 campaign.

“I was 134th at the NCAAs, that was a great experience. We were 11th, our best finish there, I was consistently solid and the team really jelled.”

At the Indoor Heps, Franklin was better than solid as he took the title in the 5,000 meters.

“That was great, I was super happy about that,” said Franklin, who clocked a 14:18.64 time with teammate Chris Bendsten right behind at 14:18.72.

“It was a real breakthrough. I had a 3k at the Armory meet and I dropped my best by 10 seconds. I realized I could compete on this level. I did the 3k and the 5k at the Indoor Heps. I didn’t have a good run in the 3k. I came into the 5k more relaxed and had a great race. It was a little disappointing since we lost the team title by a point.”

In May, Franklin played a key role in helping the Tigers win the Outdoor Heps for the third straight year, placing first in both the 5,000 and 10,000.

“I personally had a great meet,” said Franklin, who literally dove across the finish line to win the 5k in a time of 14:10.85 and clocked a time of 29:46.77 in leading a 1-2-4-5 finish for Princeton in the 10k.

“Winning the 10k and 5k was more than I could have hoped for. We were sore about what happened at the Indoor Heps so it was great to win the team title.”

Keeping up his great form, Franklin placed fourth in the 10,000 at the NCAA East Regional to punch his ticket to Eugene.

“I had never made nationals; I was confident about making the top 12,” said Franklin.

“No one wants to take up the pace, it comes to control. There are a lot of people making moves and racheting it up when you need to. It was my first real experience with that and it went well.”

While Franklin was pulled in many directions between the regional and leaving for the national meet, he regained his sense of urgency upon arriving in Oregon.

“With reunions and graduation, it is distracting,” said Franklin. “We went out to Eugene on Monday. Getting out there and running on that famous track helped to get my head around the idea that this was it. I was looking to be in the top 8 which would be first team All-American.”

In order to achieve that goal, Franklin realized that he had to bide his time as the race unfolded.

“I knew that Lawi Lalang (of Arizona) was head and shoulders above the field and that if I ran his race, I would not do well,” said Franklin.

“I wanted to stay in the pack and isolate myself from the race and then pick up the pieces at the end.”

Franklin executed his plan brilliantly, running his fastest three laps in the final three laps, clocking a 1:08.17, 1:06.73 and closing with a 1:01.62 — the second-fastest lap of any of the competitors throughout the entire race.

“I didn’t know what the splits were; I wasn’t thinking I had to make a move at a certain point,” said Franklin, who clocked a final time of 29:42.34, just under 13 seconds behind Lalang’s winning time of 29:29.65. “I did pick up the pace a little, I moved up and just picked off guys.”

Franklin recorded Princeton’s best finish at the NCAAs in the 10k, as the program’s previous top finish in the event came from Joe LeMay, who took 8th at 30:05.19 in 1989.

“I really couldn’t be happier; I achieved more than the most ambitious goals that I set,” said Franklin, who noted that he trained 90-100 miles a week in March and was down to around 60-70 miles with increased speedwork down the stretch of the season.

“It took mental fortitude to stick to the race plan, there were a lot of good guys out there who made moves. Competing on the highest stage in college sports and representing Princeton means a lot to me.”

Over the rest of the summer, Franklin is looking to capitalize on his speed by competing in some 5,000 races and plans to keep running in some capacity for years to come.

“I see myself continuing in road races, half marathons and greater distances,” said Franklin, who will be working in software development for the Department of Defense at Fort Meade in Maryland.

“Up to this point racing has been such an important part of my life, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.”

And Franklin certainly enjoyed running the race of his life in his final college appearance.