March 6, 2013
STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s  58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Barrett started his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team as a member of the Class of 2013 but a foot injury set him back a year.

Brendan Connolly, meanwhile, has been a stalwart of the class, providing yeomen’s work in the paint over the last four years.

On Saturday, both played key roles as the Tigers celebrated Senior Night with a 68-63 win over Dartmouth before 3,167 at Jadwin Gym.

The 6’10 forward Barrett scored a game-high 24 points, including 18 in a second-half outburst which saw him hit five three-pointers, while the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly clogged up the middle getting six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

In reflecting on his big performance, Barrett said he was fired up to help things go well for his original classmates in their final Jadwin appearance.

“I work my butt off day in, day out for my teammates so it is nothing really different but just losing five of my best friends, it changes everything for me,” said Barrett.

“I have 15 other best friends that I get to have after this but we were all a little teary eyed in the locker room after the game, we went up and hugged each other.”

Connolly, for his part, admired Barrett’s effort Saturday and on a daily basis.

“It was special,” said Connolly. “He is right when he said he has worked his butt off, he is down here all the time, getting shots up. I was hoping that Will and Jimmy [Sherburne] would be there tonight with us. That was part of the initial plan. I am really happy for Will and I am happy Jimmy is back and he says he is doing well and his shoulder is healing up. I am really happy for them and what they are going to be able to do next year.”

In reflecting on his last game at Jadwin, Connolly is happy for the experience he has enjoyed over the last four years.

“Mack [Darrow] and Ian [Hummer] are two of the best friends I have ever had and I think they always will be,” said Connolly.

“I trust those guys with my life and I think they trust me with theirs. It is  pretty amazing; coming in here, you have no idea that is what the result is going to be four years later. I just thank God that I have those guys and some other guys on campus too that I can always turn to. It is just special, there is not one way to pinpoint how exactly it is, it just is. I think anyone who has gone here and played with the same guys for years will tell you that.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson pinpointed Barrett and Connolly as key contributors in the win over Dartmouth.

“Will made some huge shots, I think it was a five-point lead and it went to eight; it might have gone to 10 or 11 once,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy League and got a huge lift when it found out later that Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn in dropping to 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy, prompting roars from the Tiger locker room.

“He shot the ball with confidence, you have got to make shots. I think it is indicative of how our team is; we have different ways to beat people which is good. I thought Brendan was important because [Gabas] Maldunas was hurting us. A couple of times they were really looking for him and Brendan took away six rebounds tonight which was important.”

In Henderson’s view, his senior players have made a huge impact on the team.

“It is a special group,” said Henderson, whose senior corps also includes reserve guards Ameer Elbuluk and Isaac Serwanga.

“When I first got here, I thought Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox and Bobby Foley and those guys in that class, had to do something that no Princeton class has ever had to do, which is take the program back to where it needed to be. This class, Ian, Brendan, and Mack, have been very successful. They have kept it where it needs to be and that is really important too.”

Barrett and his teammates know that the weekend sweep, which started with a 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday, doesn’t guarantee success in the Ivy title race which sees Princeton play at Yale on March 8, at Brown on March 9, and ending the regular season at Penn on March 12.

“After the game last night, we were talking to each other and we said this game means absolutely nothing if we don’t take care of what we have to take care of tomorrow and the next weekend,” said Barrett. “We just have to stay focused.”

While Connolly is focused on ending his Tiger career on a high note, he has already gained memories that will last for a lifetime.

“It is a good way to reflect back on everything and just remember how special things have been and some of the things we have been able to do here,” said Connolly.

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

All good things must to come to an end and so it was for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last Friday at Harvard.

After winning 33 straight Ivy League games, Princeton fell 58-55 to the Crimson, suffering its first league defeat since a 73-67 loss at Harvard on February 4, 2011.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart had no qualms with her team’s effort in defeat.

“We expected Harvard to play well, they have nothing to lose,“ said Banghart.

“They know they are playing for the NIT. I thought we came prepared. We shot 7-of-35 in the second half and still had a chance to win so that tells you how hard we played. It was not from lack of effort, we had a lot of free throws and we hit the glass.”

It was Princeton’s misfiring, though, that proved to be the difference as the Tigers made just 16-of-62 shots (25.5 percent) on the evening.

“We missed more open shots than in any game I can remember since I have been here,” said Banghart, whose team outrebounded Harvard 47-39 and made 20-of-28 free throws.

“We are used to getting good looks and winning by 30. When they didn’t go in, it made us tense. We missed two uncontested layups in the second half.”

In reflecting on the winning streak, Banghart takes pride in what it says about the way Princeton takes care of its business.

“What the streak means is that the program is doing something right on a daily basis,” said Banghart.

“As graduation falls, the program is not falling. The people not getting time are still getting better. You have seen that with our sophomores this year like Blake [Dietrick] and Mariah [Smith]. I don’t believe that the players think that much about the streak. I don’t think they felt under pressure to continue it. We are just a part of their day at Princeton.”

In Banghart’s view, the loss could lead to some good things down the road. “It means that if we don’t shoot well in the NCAA, we have done that before,” said Banghart.

“It was the first time all year that we didn’t shoot well and we weren’t able to right the ship. The more times you do something, the better you get at it. When you are in so many games where you win by 30, that doesn’t help you. We are not going to be up by 20 at half in the first round of the NCAAs. We will need to grind through possessions and this will make us better able to do that.”

A night later at Dartmouth, Princeton handled the grind well, overcoming a 36-33 halftime deficit to pull out a 68-60 win and improve to 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy.

“Their hearts were heavy and we didn’t know how they would respond,” said Banghart, reflecting on the mood around the team as it took the court against the Big Green.

“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot. We didn’t shoot that well again. We were playing like we were scared to lose rather than going for the win.”

Seniors Niveen Rasheed and Meg Bowen each scored 21 points to key the Princeton rally.

“They were huge, this is a league for seniors,” asserted Banghart. “Meg commanded presence inside. Niveen willed us to win, she was making the hustle plays. She had three offensive rebounds in the last few minutes. She knew that the bench wasn’t playing as well as it has been and she said I’ll take care of this tonight.”

With Princeton leading the Ivy race over Harvard (17-8 overall, 8-3 Ivy) and Penn (15-10 overall, 8-3 Ivy) by two games with three to play, the Tigers can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later for its last weekend this season at Jadwin Gym.

“I told them after the Dartmouth game, we are going home to win a fourth Ivy title and that’s pretty cool,” said Banghart.

“We got what we needed last weekend. You don’t get used to winning the Ivy League title, it isn’t an easy thing to do. We are just going to enjoy it. Hopefully, we get to cut down the nets on Senior Night against Brown, we couldn’t script it any better than that.”

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Michael Sdao handles the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao scored a goal to help Princeton edge Harvard 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, who improved to 10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECAC Hockey with the win, ended the regular season in eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH) this weekend. Princeton swept the Big Red in the teams’ previous meetings this year, topping Cornell 5-3 on November 9 and 1-0 on February 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Michael Sdao handles the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao scored a goal to help Princeton edge Harvard 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, who improved to 10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECAC Hockey with the win, ended the regular season in eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH) this weekend. Princeton swept the Big Red in the teams’ previous meetings this year, topping Cornell 5-3 on November 9 and 1-0 on February 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Entering last weekend, the Princeton University men’s hockey team was in position to finish anywhere from seventh to 10th place in the final ECAC Hockey standings.

But heading on the road to play at Dartmouth on Friday and at Harvard the next day in the wake of having dropped four straight games at home, the Tigers seemed destined to settle towards the bottom of the pack.

Displaying a steely resolve, the Tigers battled back from 1-0 deficits each night to earn a 2-2 tie with the Big Green and a 2-1 overtime win against the Crimson.

Princeton’s undefeated weekend combined with other results lifted the Tigers (10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECACH) to eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH). The best-of-three series starts Friday night at Baker Rink with Game 2 set for Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, slated for Sunday.

Reflecting on his team’s work in New England, Princeton head coach Bob Prier saw a lot of positives.

“We played six solid periods this weekend, it is the most consistent we have played all year,” said Prier.

“The resilience was great all weekend. They stuck to the process and played to win. They were reloading on the forecheck and going hard. They were really moving their feet all weekend. We created offensive zone time in both games. We had a lot of shots and lot of opportunities.”

In the tie with Dartmouth, Will MacDonald and Andrew Ammon both cashed in on opportunities with MacDonald scoring a first period goal that evened the game at 1-1 and Ammon scoring to make it 2-1.

“It was such a good response, he worked so hard,” said Prier of MacDonald’s tally.

“He was flying all weekend. Ammon had such a nice goal. It was hard work by Tyler Maugeri and Kyle Rankin to get control of the puck. Ammon got the puck off as soon as it hit his stick and got it right under the goalie’s stick.

In the win over Harvard, senior assistant captain Michael Sdao scored the tying goals and junior star Andrew Calof notched the winning tally, hitting the 100-point mark in his career in the process. “

“Sdao played fantastic, he was skating really well all weekend,” said Prier. “The guys can tell how much he wants it and they are inspired by him. Calof is a unique player, he has turned it up a notch in recent games even if it hasn’t necessarily shown on the scoresheet. He has the puck a lot and he is a one man transition game. He skates right by the forecheck.”

Senior goalie Mike Condon did a good job of keeping Princeton’s foes in check, making 30 saves against Dartmouth and 28 in the win over the Crimson.

“Condon gave up only three goals against two tough teams on the road,” said Prier of Condon who now sports a goals against average of 2.42. “He is so good with the puck, it resonates with the team.”

Prier is hoping his team will be tough at home this weekend against traditional power Cornell.

“It is an advantage, we are excited,” said Prier, who is expecting more big crowds in a season that has seen Princeton post an average attendance of 2,208. “We have a good opponent coming in. It is not who you play, it is how you play. It is up to us to play well and take advantage of being home.”

With Princeton having beaten Cornell 5-3 on November 9 at Baker Rink before edging the Big Red 1-0 on February 9 in Ithaca, Prier is confident about his team’s chances in the opening round and beyond.

“We like the matchup but we are not thinking as much about our opponent as we are focusing on us,” said Prier.

“If we continue to play this way and continue to skate like we have in the last three games, we can be dangerous in the playoffs. When you have the puck more, you start seeing the smaller parts of the game. You get more power plays. This weekend was the first time this year where we had back-to-to back games with more power plays than the other team. We worked hard for that.”

OH BROTHER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro unloads the ball in a game last season. This past Friday, senior attacker Froccaro scored three goals to help Princeton top Johns Hopkins 11-8. Froccaro’s younger brother, freshman midfielder Jake, played a big role in the win, tallying two goals and two assists. The No. 5 Tigers, who improved to 2-0 with the victory, were slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OH BROTHER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro unloads the ball in a game last season. This past Friday, senior attacker Froccaro scored three goals to help Princeton top Johns Hopkins 11-8. Froccaro’s younger brother, freshman midfielder Jake, played a big role in the win, tallying two goals and two assists. The No. 5 Tigers, who improved to 2-0 with the victory, were slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at storied Homewood Field against high-powered Johns Hopkins last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team knew it was going to be hit with an early barrage.

The third-ranked Blue Jays lived up to expectations, outshooting No. 12 Princeton 17-5 in the first quarter.

But counterpunching effectively, Princeton avoided a knockout punch, ending the first period locked in a 3-3 tie.

“They generated a lot of shots, they were not all high-quality,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“Matt O’Connor [Tiger freshman goalie] made a few saves early and settled in. We only had five shots but we got three goals so we were efficient.”

The Tigers maintained that efficiency all evening long, pulling out an 11-8 win before a crowd of 2,352 watching in Baltimore and a national audience tuning in on ESPNU.

“I was pleased with our composure,” asserted Bates in reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 2-0.

“We played with focus and we played together. It was a big stage and we handled it.”

Princeton handled things particularly well down the stretch, outscoring Hopkins 3-1 in the fourth quarter.

“I thought Hopkins pressed a little, we settled down and made plays,” added Bates.

“I thought they were trying to solve us. When it was 10-8, Chris White made a huge goal. It might not have been the most high percentage shot but when your senior captain is playing with that kind of emotion, it is great to see. It put a nail in the coffin.”

It was great for Princeton to see the Froccaro brothers come through in a big way against the Blue Jays. Senior attacker Jeff Froccaro scored three goals while freshman Jake Froccaro tallied two goals and two assists. The brothers combined for a goal in the third quarter with Jake assisting and Jeff scoring.

“Jake just came out and said that kid can’t cover me, give me the ball,” said Bates of the younger Froccaro, who scored two of Princeton’s first four goals on Friday.

“As a freshman, that is a good level of confidence to see. He was probably not at the top of their scouting report so to get production out of him was probably a little demoralizing for them and set a tone for us. Those guys play together so well. They love to play the game, there is a big brother, little brother connection, Jake gave it to Jeff just like in the back yard, great to see that it works on a stage like Homewood Field. Jeff is playing with confidence.”

Another confident Tiger is sophomore attacker Mike MacDonald, who scored two goals in the win over Hopkins and now has five on the season.

“Mike can play, when he is in the flow our offense is better,” asserted Bates. “He is strong and confident. He can dodge and get to the cage. He is only a sophomore but he is already a leader for us. He adds a layer to our offense.”

The Tiger defense continued its strong early play. “I thought they did a good job,” said Bates, whose team gave up just one goal over the last 24:23 of the contest with freshman goalie O’Connor making 10 saves on the evening.

“When the lights are on, we are doing a good job. We have made some mistakes back there and Matt has bailed us out. Each week, I give credit to Greg Raymond [assistant coach], he has them prepared.”

With Princeton, now ranked No. 5, slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12, the Tigers need to cut down on their mistakes to keep winning.

“We are playing with confidence and we are seeing rewards so that is good,” said Bates.

“Day in, day out we have to continue to improve. This can’t be the peak for us. I am happy to take 2-0 but it won’t mean anything if we go out and lose two this week. We are confident and loose and I like that. I told them that healthy nerves are good, they will regret it if they don’t put in a 60-minute effort.”

ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd heads upfield last Sunday in Princeton’s 18-13 win over Southern California. Junior midfielder Lloyd passed for six assists in the victory, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season. The Tigers, now 2-1 overall, open Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd heads upfield last Sunday in Princeton’s 18-13 win over Southern California. Junior midfielder Lloyd passed for six assists in the victory, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season. The Tigers, now 2-1 overall, open Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Lloyd didn’t score a goal but she proved to be a catalyst as the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team topped Southern California 18-13 last Sunday.

The junior midfielder passed for six assists, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season.

Coming off a disappointing 11-6 loss to Georgetown two days earlier, Lloyd and her teammates were primed for a big effort against the Trojans, who are in their first year as a Division I program.

“We were really looking forward to coming out as soon as we could and making an impact,” said Lloyd, who hadn’t scored a point this season until Sunday.

“We didn’t think we played as well as we could have against Georgetown so we were ready for the second chance to prove ourselves.”

The Tigers were ready to go to the net. “We were definitely looking to be more intense and aggressive on the attack and I think we did a good job of that,” said Lloyd, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 2-1.

Lloyd’s record day was a product of that aggressiveness and the savvy she has gained over her college career.

“I was just kind of looking to see what opens up,” said Lloyd, who now has 32 goals and 23 assists in her Princeton career and tied the single game assist record established by sophomore Erin McMunn in a game last year.

“We were trying to push transition a lot. I guess the experience definitely helps in seeing the field and knowing what my teammates are going to do.”

With Mary-Kate Sivilli scoring five goals and Anya Gersoff and Erin McMunn both tallying three, Lloyd benefited from some sharpshooting teammates.

“We needed that,” said Lloyd, a 5’7 native of Severna Park, Md., whose spirited play and bright red hair make her stand out on the field.

“In our first couple of games, we haven’t had great shooting games; we did a lot better in that area today.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer saw the win over USC as something the Tigers needed.

“I was really pleased with the start we got off to,” said Sailer, whose team jumped out to a 6-2 lead. “Like I told the kids, it’s not perfect yet. There is a long way that we have to go but we made some good strides today and we definitely did compete.”

The Tigers definitely pushed the pace on offense, making run after run straight to the crease.

“It was definitely a focus to be a threat in the transition game; to look for some fast break goals, to look for goals off the secondary options off the break and before we just settled down and got into our sets,” said Sailer, whose team outshot the Trojans 34-23.

“I didn’t realize that she had that many assists; what really stood out about Lloyd today for me was her play on the draw,” said Sailer of Lloyd. who had eight draw controls and three ground balls to go with her six assists on the afternoon.

“She was phenomenal; digging out those ground balls, controlling the draw. Just her fight was really, really impressive. And then to see her line on the assists; I think a lot of those were off transition and I think she worked really hard to get herself in that position, she would win the draw and come down or she would get the ball in transition doing that extra work. She is a smart kid, she saw the open players and was able to give them the ball.”

It was extra special for the Tigers to get two goals from senior star Jaci Gassaway, who is playing through a knee injury.

“That is just so huge, you saw everybody’s reaction,” said Sailer. “It is just such an emotional lift for the team, Jaci is such a great player so anything we can get from her this season, we are happy for.”

Sailer wasn’t as happy about her defense which was shredded by USC freshman star Caroline de Lyra, who scored eight goals.

“We need to be able to figure out the play sooner and make those adjustments,” said Sailer.

“I think if we made those same adjustments in the first half that we were able to make at halftime, it would have been a different story. We did make the adjustments after halftime and took away that option. Number 25 [de Lyra] was just a really smart player for them and she took advantage of our miscues. But we did sort it out and I think our defense plays tough.”

With Princeton starting Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday, Sailer knows that the Tigers need to play smarter.

“We are really excited for the Ivies, I think it is a solid win for us to build on,” asserted Sailer.

“We can play a whole lot better than we did today but it is a big improvement. I think we are definitely moving in the right direction and I think we will have some good energy coming off of this win.”

Lloyd, for her part, believes that Princeton is primed for a good effort against Brown.

“We are going to go into Brown and really look to keep getting better,” said Lloyd.

“We just need to improve a couple of fundamental things, a couple of things in transition and a couple things on defense.”

February 27, 2013

 

MIGHTY MAC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald prepares to unload the ball in a 2012 game. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman MacDonald scored three goals to help Princeton top Hofstra 10-7 in its season opener. The 12th-ranked Tigers play at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) this Friday in Baltimore.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY MAC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald prepares to unload the ball in a 2012 game. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman MacDonald scored three goals to help Princeton top Hofstra 10-7 in its season opener. The 12th-ranked Tigers play at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) this Friday in Baltimore. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Featuring a lineup stocked with freshmen and untested upperclassmen, Chris Bates knew that he had to exercise some patience as his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season at Hofstra last Saturday.

“We reminded ourselves as coaches to stay calm and not start barking at guys; we needed to stay composed,” said Princeton head coach Bates, who started four freshmen on Saturday and unveiled a totally revamped defense.

“There was so much uncertainly with new faces, more on the defensive end. You don’t know how that is going to jell and how the guys are going to do with the nerves of a game.”

After trailing 3-1 in the first quarter, Princeton jelled, scoring four unanswered goals in the second period on the way to a 10-7 victory before a crowd  of 1,556 at Shuart Stadium.

Showing composure, Princeton was not rattled when it fell behind early. “I didn’t think Hofstra did anything that we didn’t expect,” said Bates.

“We didn’t play well offensively, we had some turnovers. I give everybody credit, everybody stayed true to what we were trying to do.”

After a Mike MacDonald goal made it 3-2, it became the Ryan Ambler show for Princeton in the second quarter as the precocious freshman tallied a goal and two assists to help the Tigers take a 6-3 halftime lead.

“The fourth goal was Ryan’s, we exhorted him from the sidelines to be more aggressive and he sped right by his guy and fired it in,” said Bates of Ambler, who got another assist in the fourth quarter and was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

“He doesn’t turn the ball over and he shares the ball, he gets assists by getting to people at the right spot at the right time.”

Senior midfielder Bobby Lucas came through at the right time for Princeton, winning six-of-eight face-offs in the second half.

“We had a man up to start the half and we seemed settled in defensively,” said Bates.

“They get a goal and it is 6-4; you are never comfortable. We weren’t doing well on face-offs to that point. In the third and fourth quarter, Bobby Lucas was the change. He really gave us life, he controlled the face-offs.”

Junior star Tom Schreiber helped Princeton control the fourth quarter, tallying a goal and an assist as the Tigers outscored the Pride 3-1 over the last 15 minutes of the contest.

“Schreiber gave us some goals and he controls the game with his energy,” said Bates of Schreiber, who had two goals and an assist on the day with sophomore Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals. “He got some ground balls and did things that don’t show up on the scoresheet. He settles you down.”

The new-look Princeton defense settled in nicely, giving up four goals over the last 51:18 of the game after yielding three goals in the first 8:42 of the contest.

“They started to play better as a unit, they got more confidence,” said Bates, in assessing the defensive effort.

“Jack Strabo and Chris White gave us veteran leadership at shortstick middie. That is the most underrated position, it is thankless. They played so well that we didn’t need to slide as much. Derick and Nick settled down, Alex Beatty and Mark Strabo also played well. Greg Raymond (assistant coach) did a good job of preparing them; we were ready for what Hofstra does.”

Freshman goalie Matt O’Connor appeared to be ready for prime time, making six saves in his college debut as he follows in the footsteps of four-year starter Tyler Fiorito.

“One of the reasons we recruited him is that he has such high character; he is unflappable, he doesn’t get too high or too low,” said Bates of the former Lawrenceville School standout.

“He had a good week of practice. I think he is going to get better and better. He is a gamer, he always gives you his best. He just has to be consistent, he doesn’t have to be brilliant like Tyler was at times.”

Leaving Hofstra with a victory was a major high for the Tigers. “We are excited to get out of there with a win, it is a tough place to play,” said Bates.

“The weather was brutal, it was raining sideways and it was cold. It affected our stickwork. If we had gone up to Hofstra and come out with a loss, we might be doubting ourselves. It was great to get a win in that environment, Princeton hadn’t won up there in six years.”

This Friday, 12th-ranked Princeton heads into another hostile environment as it plays at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) in Baltimore.

“As Greg Raymond said, Hopkins is Hofstra on steroids,” said Bates. “They are a very seasoned team, they have upperclassmen everywhere. They are playing with a lot of confidence, they are feeling pretty good about themselves. They play with a lot of energy and they have no weaknesses.”

Bates promises that Princeton will bring plenty of energy into the annual showdown with the Blue Jays.

“We have to be opportunistic and play smart,” said Bates. “We can’t turn the ball over and we have to face-off well. I can tell you that the guys will be excited to be playing at Homewood Field, this is always an important game for us. It is a going to be on national TV and there is going to be a buzz. We have got to withstand their early barrage, we know they are going to try to knock us out. We have to bob and weave and counter punch.”

If the Tigers can build on their effort at Hofstra, they should have a puncher’s chance against Hopkins.

LAY OF THE LAND: Princeton University men’s senior hockey player Eric Meland controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Yale, defenseman Meland  came up big on Senior Night, tallying a goal and an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 before a packed house at Baker Rink. The Tigers, now 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAY OF THE LAND: Princeton University men’s senior hockey player Eric Meland controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Yale, defenseman Meland came up big on Senior Night, tallying a goal and an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 before a packed house at Baker Rink. The Tigers, now 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Eric Meland and his classmates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team, there was a short-term goal when they took the ice at Baker Rink for Senior Night.

“We wanted to win,” said senior defenseman Meland. “A win would go a long way to securing home ice so it isn’t our last game here.”

The night’s festivities, which included a ceremony at the first intermission with the six seniors and their families, prompted Meland to reflect on the longer-term significance of his Tiger hockey experience.

“Princeton hockey really helps you grow as a person,” said Meland, whose fellow seniors include Rob Kleebaum, Will MacDonald, James Kerr, Michael Sdao, and Mike Condon.

“You go through ups and downs and you do it as a team. It is always nice to look at the guy across from you and know that he is going through everything you are going through. Successes and failures are shared by all.”

Battling No. 13 Yale before a packed house of 2,374 at Baker Rink, the Tigers battled hard to make it a successful evening. Coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss to Brown on Friday, the Tigers took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period.

“We came out with more jump,” said Meland,  who assisted on a Jack Berger goal that opened the scoring. “I think the effort was there.”

The rivals were knotted 2-2 heading into the third period and Meland put the Tigers up 3-2 with 10:48 left in regulation.

“In my position back there, I have the ability to sneak in the back door,” said Meland.

“I saw Rob Kleebaum had the puck on the side of the net and he slid it across the front of the net. I happened to be a victim of circumstance and I was able to backdoor it.”

Unfortunately, Yale came back and scored two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game to pull out a 4-3 win.

“It is game of bounces but we control our own fate,” said Meland, reflecting on the Yale rally that dropped Princeton to 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, tied for ninth in the league standings.

“We can’t blame anybody but ourselves for this loss; it is something we can learn from.”

Meland, a 6’1, 190-pound native of Grand Forks, N.D., has proven to be a good learner as he has moved to defenseman from forward.

“I was excited about it; you have a little more time on the puck on defense,” said Meland, who has 13 points on two goals and 11 assists this season and 60 career points on 16 goals and 44 assists.

“I was excited to fill an offensive defenseman role and do everything I can to help the team win this year.”

With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2, the Tigers will need to get on the winning track to move up to eighth place and earn home ice for the first round of the ECACH playoffs.

“We can go out there and give it our all; it is a matter of the puck bouncing here or there,” said Meland.

“It is a results-based game so it is just a matter of bearing down at this point.”

Last fall, Anya Gersoff did her best to thwart shooters as a goalie for the Princeton University field hockey team.

Freshman Gersoff yielded only one goal in a back-up role for the national champion Tigers.

This spring, Gersoff has shed her pads and is trying to beat goalies as an attacker for the Princeton women’s lacrosse team.

Last Saturday, Gersoff was primed to make her lax debut as Princeton hosted Villanova in its season opener.

“It was so exciting to get out there,” said Gersoff, noting that her field hockey experience last fall helped calm her nerves.

Gersoff ended up making an exciting debut, scoring two goals to help the Tigers pull away to a 10-5 win over the Wildcats.

In reflecting on her effort, Gersoff said that playing goalie in the fall helps her be a savvy scorer in the spring.

“You kind of know what a goalie doesn’t like to see,” said Gersoff. “When I am playing goalie I always hate it when there is a shooter and they look at you and you are like oh no so there is that little bit of intimidation stuff.”

The Tigers had a little trouble with their shooting in the first half as they led just 3-0 despite having piled up 15 shots.

“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to the whole game,” said Gersoff. “In the first half, our shooting was a little rough but we will get better.” Early in the second half, Villanova drew to within 3-2 and Princeton responded with its best stretch of the contest, going on a 6-1 run to seize control.

“We just have so many great leaders on this team and they made it so we should step up,” said Gersoff, reflecting on Princeton’s second half surge.

“We just followed suit and we were able to put it in the back of the net a few times.”

Gersoff got into the act, scoring two straight goals in that run. Her first career goal put the Tigers up 8-3.

“I remember I picked up the ball and I had an open lane and I went to goal,” said Gersoff, recalling her initial college tally. “I was like wow I scored.”

The Tiger freshmen accounted for six of Princeton’s 10 goals as Gersoff’s classmates Alex Bruno and Stephanie Paloscio also scored two apiece.

“We have always gotten along well as a freshman class,” said Gersoff. “I knew that there was something special about us when we came in.”

Not being available to take part in the lacrosse fall training has required a special effort on Gersoff’s part this spring.

“It was a really hard adjustment,” said Gersoff. “I figured it out eventually, it is going OK. It is still an adjustment.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, for her part, is confident her team figured some things out as it overcame a sluggish start.

“I think we definitely had the jitters a little bit,” said Sailer. “We didn’t look like we have been scrimmaging and practicing. I think it was just a little bit of that first game jitters that hopefully we worked out and we’ll come out a little stronger next time.”

Sailer liked her team’s strong play as it pulled away from Villanova in the second half.

“I think our kids knew that we had to make things happen so we got some turnovers in transition,” said Sailer. “We had some fast breaks, we had some nice connections in the attack end.”

The production of Gersoff and classmates Bruno and Paloscio was a nice plus for the Tigers.

“They really did lead the way finishing but the other kids did a lot between the lines,” said Sailer, referring to the trio of freshmen.

“I was really pleased, those three are all just smart shooters and really strong players so it was great to see them have such a great day on their first day out.”

Princeton got some smart play from such veteran performers as junior midfielder Sarah Lloyd and senior defender Caroline Rehfuss.

“I thought Sarah Lloyd did a really good job on the draw,” asserted Sailer.

“I thought Rehfuss did really well, she had four caused turnovers and No. 40 (Villanova offensive star Jackie Froccaro) had just one goal.”

With senior star attacker Jaci Gassaway sidelined due to a knee injury, the Tigers are going to need to do a better job of communicating on offense.

“We have to be confident in ourselves,” added Sailer, whose team plays at Georgetown on March 1 before hosting Southern California on March 3.

“We need more vocal leadership from our upperclassmen on the field. We didn’t have anyone in the attack end who was settling people and being that voice down there. Jaci was that person for us; we have got to work through that. It was an ugly win but we will take the ‘w’ to start the season.”

Gersoff, for her part, believes Princeton can build on its positive start. “It is always great to get a win in the first game of the season,” said Gersoff.

“We have been playing really well in our scrimmages and practices. We can just step it up a little more all over the field.”

OUT OF CONTENTION: Princeton University women’s hockey player Molly Contini heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, freshman forward Contini scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Brown 2-1. A day later, Princeton fell 4-2 at Yale to drop into ninth place in the final ECAC Hockey standings and end an 11-year streak of making the league playoffs. The Tigers finished the winter at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OUT OF CONTENTION: Princeton University women’s hockey player Molly Contini heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, freshman forward Contini scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Brown 2-1. A day later, Princeton fell 4-2 at Yale to drop into ninth place in the final ECAC Hockey standings and end an 11-year streak of making the league playoffs. The Tigers finished the winter at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, the task last weekend was clear.

If the Tigers won their games at Brown and Yale, they would clinch eighth place in the ECAC Hockey standings and the final spot in the upcoming league playoffs.

Princeton achieved step one on Friday as it edged Brown 2-1 with junior Olivia Mucha and freshman Molly Contini finding the back of the net in the first period and freshman goalie Kimberley newell making 23 saves.

“Mucha got us going early, she made a nice move and found a seam,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.

“When she is scoring goals, we are a better team. Contini took a pass from Kelly Cooke on a 2-on-1 and roofed a backhand, that was a big-time goal. That was early in the game, I was hoping we would get more but Brown played really well. Kim Newell (freshman goalie) played solid all weekend, she did what we needed.”

Against Yale the next day, it looked like Princeton was on the way to the win it needed as it jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.

“We got the lead but we were not playing that well,” said Kampersal who got goals from Mucha and sophomore Brianna Leahy.

“We got a shorthanded goal to go up 2-0. We didn’t take our foot off the pedal but Yale played with a lot of passion. It was their Senior Day.”

Even though Princeton led 2-1 going into the third, Kampersal had a bad feeling.

“I knew we were hanging on,” said Kampersal. “We were tired on Saturday. Our fatigue and their passion made the difference in the third period.”

Things fell apart in the third period as Princeton yielded three unanswered goals to lose 4-2. Princeton’s loss combined with a victory by Colgate over Rensselaer left Princeton at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play and in ninth place and out of the league playoffs for the first time since 2001.

The abrupt ending to the season was painful for Kampersal and his players.

“It’s definitely hard to go out like that,” said Kampersal. “It is not the year we hoped for. We have some things to be proud of but we have to coach better and play better. The three seniors (Alex Kinney, Kelly Cooke, and Corey Stearns) all had good years. Cookie and Corey carried us to the end, they played great.”

In Kampersal’s view, this year’s disappointment could sow the seeds for future success.

“It was definitely a negative but it can also be a positive,” asserted Kampersal.

“It is a slap in the face, but it can get us to focus more on things and be re-motivated to get back to where we were in 2006 and 2007. We need to work hard and come back in unbelievable physical shape. We need to be more disciplined and be better hockey players.”

February 20, 2013

 

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Nick Fernandez races up the field in action last spring. Junior Fernandez has been moved to defense from midfield this spring and will play a key role as Princeton deals with the loss of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito to graduation. The Tigers open their 2013 season by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Nick Fernandez races up the field in action last spring. Junior Fernandez has been moved to defense from midfield this spring and will play a key role as Princeton deals with the loss of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito to graduation. The Tigers open their 2013 season by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

They were a trio of stars who not only formed the backbone of the defense for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team but also helped the proud program make it back to the NCAA tournament.

The Big 3 of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito earned All-American honors and helped spur a bounce-back season for Princeton in 2012 that saw the Tigers go 11-5 after a nightmarish 4-8 campaign the year before.

Although Wiedmaier, Cunningham, and Fiorito have graduated along with 10 classmates, their influence will be felt this spring.

“The senior class was so strong on the field and off the field,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team went 6-0 in Ivy League regular season play in 2012 and ended the spring by losing 6-5 to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We have vowed to them to build on that foundation. It is not going to happen overnight. We have some holes to fill and kids need to get game experience in those areas.”

The Tigers do boast a nice foundation at attack where they welcome back senior Jeff Froccaro (27 goals and 12 assists in 2012) and sophomore Mike MacDonald  (22 goals and eight assists).

“Jeff is playing well and Mike’s game has developed,” said Bates, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23.

“Ryan Ambler, a freshman, is the third attacker. He is really doing a lot for us. He is going to give us 60-minute games. He complements the other guys real well; I think we have a chance to be really good there.

Bates has some other good guys who should provide depth up front in sophomore Will Rotatori and senior Luke Armour (three goals and three assists).

“Will Rotatori is the fourth guy; he played well in the fall and is doing well so far this spring,” said Bates, who is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Princeton program and has a 26-18 record guiding the Tigers. “Luke Armour is another option there; he is a veteran.”

Princeton’s top offensive option figures to be All-American junior midfielder Tom Schreiber, who scored 32 goals and 28 assists last spring, the first Tiger to hit 60 points since Ryan Boyle in 2004.

“Schreiber is a captain as a junior, it is his team,” said Bates. “Tom brings something different when he is out there. Day in, day out, his competitive nature shines through. It is great when your best player is your hardest worker. We want the other guys to grab hold of that.”

Bates also wants Schreiber to spread the wealth, when necessary. “We are trying to help develop his game,” said Bates. “He doesn’t have to be Atlas with the players we have around him; there are days when he is going to be neutralized and he has to be a facilitator.”

The Tigers have some skilled players around Schreiber in the midfield. “Kip Orban (eight goals and three assists) ended up being on the first line last year; I think he is going to blossom into a prime-time player,” said Bates.

“He is a big, strong kid with a great shot. Hunter DeButts (two goals and four assists) needs to cut down on his turnovers and be smarter on his shots. He is very hard to cover so he could be good. Jake Froccaro, Jeff’s brother, has helped on extra man. He is skilled and savvy like his brother; he is going to get better and better.”

Princeton will feature two savvy veterans in the defensive midfield in junior Jack Strabo (four goals and one assist) and senior Chris White (two goals and four assists).

“Jack is ready to take the next step; the fact that we moved Nick Fernandez to close defense shows the confidence we have in him,” said Bates.

“Chris White is a captain and he is doing a really good job with that. He is playing really, really well; he is very steady and understands our defense.”

At longstick midfielder, lanky sophomore Alex Beatty is trying to fill the big shoes left by Cunningham.

“Alex Beatty is at long pole; he is 6’7 and he is a nemesis to Tom [Schreiber] everyday in practice; he is pretty athletic.”

In order to shore up the depleted defense, Bates has moved one of his most athletic players, junior Fernandez, to close defense from the midfield.

“Fernandez is so athletic and so mobile; he has picked things up very well,” asserted Bates.

“He has been working very hard with the pole. There are going to be a lot of eyes on him. He needs to direct our defense.”

The defense will feature a bevy of new faces with juniors Derick Raabe, Rob Posniewski, and Brian Reilly together with freshmen Mark Strabo and Brian Pickup in the mix.

“Derick Raabe has been good,” said Bates. “It is a new world for those guys. It is going to take some games for those guys to pick everything up. Mark Strabo is tough as nails; he has been playing very well. Rob Posniewski, Brian Reilly, and Brian Pickup should also help.”

At goalie, Princeton faces the daunting task of replacing Fiorito, who started from day one as a freshman and posted a goals against average of 7.07 last spring. In a case of what goes around, comes around, Bates is leaning toward installing freshman Matt O‘Connor as the starter over sophomore Eric Sanschagrin and junior Brian Kavanaugh.

“Matt O’Connor is ahead of Eric by a nose,” said Bates. “Matt is a strong lefty. He saves a lot of balls; he has a commanding presence. Eric is a pure stopper, he reads the ball so well. We have confidence in all three guys. We want one guy to emerge; we don’t want to have anyone looking over their shoulder.”

At face-off, Bates has confidence in several guys. “Bobby Lucas is the prime guy,” said Bates of the senior who won 91 of 164 face-offs last season.

“Justin Murphy (15-of-30) is a dedicated, hard worker. The Froccaros are very streaky; when they are on, they can get three in a row and you can pick up a couple of goals.”

Bates acknowledged that Princeton is going to need to score a lot of goals to keep its head above water as the new defense takes shape.

“The schedule is pretty unforgiving, Hofstra, Johns Hopkins, and North Carolina in the first few weeks,” said Bates.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. It is going to be a roller-coaster. We can score goals and I am confident the defense will jell. Greg Raymond [assistant coach] does a great job with the defense, they are coming along.”

MID-RANGE WEAPON: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads up the field in action last season. The Tigers are depending on senior star Davis (20 goals, five assists in 2012) to be a force in the midfield this spring. Princeton opens its 2013 season by hosting Villanova on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MID-RANGE WEAPON: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads up the field in action last season. The Tigers are depending on senior star Davis (20 goals, five assists in 2012) to be a force in the midfield this spring. Princeton opens its 2013 season by hosting Villanova on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While missing out on postseason play last spring left the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team with an empty feeling, Chris Sailer believes the experience gave her players a fuller appreciation of what it takes to excel.

“Last year was a tough year for all of us,” said Princeton head coach Sailer, who is entering her 27th season at the helm at Princeton and has won 322 games and three NCAA titles in her Hall of Fame career.

“It led to some important reflection and renewed commitment. The girls have been motivated all year long in the off season and now in the preseason.”

The team’s offseason featured a trip to Malta and London in October that Sailer believes gave her players a boost as they look to rebound from last spring’s disappointment.

“The foreign trips always help a team; you spend so much time together and you do cool things together,” said Sailer, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting Villanova (0-1) on February 23.

“This group has a unique chemistry. They are so supportive of each other; they get along so well. They enjoy being out on the field and playing together. I think we are in a good place.”

The addition of new assistant coaches Jenn Cook and former Princeton standout Anne Murray ’09 has positively impacted the team’s chemistry.

“That has been awesome, they add a new energy,” said Sailer. “They bring new sets of eyes on everybody and new ideas. There are new drills. The kids have really enjoyed working with them.”

Sailer enjoys having the one-two punch of senior Jaci Gassaway (38 goals and 16 assists in 2012) and sophomore Erin McMunn (18 goals and 30 assists) back to trigger the Princeton attack.

“Jaci and Erin are both good players and they play so well together,” said Sailer. “They lift other people around them.”

While Gassaway and McMunn figure to be the Tigers’ biggest offensive weapons, Sailer believes she has other people who are going to be dangerous.

“I think we are going to have a balanced attack,” asserted Sailer, whose team went 8-7 overall last spring with a 4-3 mark in Ivy League play.

“We have a lot of kids who have stepped up, both returners and freshmen. It is not going to just be the Jaci and Erin show.”

Among those in the mix on attack are senior Sam Ellis (9 goals and seven assists), junior Mary-Kate Sivilli (10 goals, nine assists), sophomore Erika Grabbi (two goals), junior Grace Bowen, together with freshmen Alex Bruno and Anya Gersoff.

“Sam Ellis is a senior; she is an explosive kid,” said Sailer. “Mary-Kate Sivilli started about half the games for us; she plays solid in front of the net. Grabbi and Bowen have both improved from last year; they can help us out in certain situations. We have a couple of good freshman. Bruno is really smart; she is a good shooter and she knows how to read defenses and finish. Gersoff played field hockey last fall and had a great experience. She jumped in with us this spring. She is a lax rat; she has incredible stick skills.”

The Tiger midfield is led by skillful senior Charlotte Davis (20 goals, five assists).

“Char is off to a great start in preseason; we had a scrimmage with Temple this week and she was so solid,” said Sailer. “She is hard to contain with her drive and shot; she is going to be a huge leader for us.”

Junior Sarah Lloyd (17 goals and five assists) and freshman Erin Slifer (10 goals and seven assists) could prove hard for Princeton’s foes to contain this spring

“Sarah Lloyd has been doing well,” said Sailer, whose midfield unit will also include senior Jenna Davis and a pair of promising freshmen in Anna Menke and Stephanie Paloscio.

“She is more of a 1-on-1 player this year; we want her to go to goal. Slifer is an all-around solid player at both ends of the field. She is a good defender and a solid attacker. We are looking for her to do more on attack.”

Sophomore Blake Dietrick, who is currently starring at guard for the Ivy-leading Princeton women’s basketball team, could be a solid addition for the Tigers.

“Dietrick is an athletic kid; we really wanted her to play lacrosse but basketball is her first love and she didn’t play for us last year,” said Sailer, noting that Dietrick was an All-American lax player in high school. “She will join us in mid-to-late March and we will see how she fits in.”

Senior captain Caroline Rehfuss (one goal, three assists, 15 groundballs) adds athleticism and leadership to the Princeton defense.

“Rehfuss is playing so well, she has been on fire,” asserted Sailer.

“She is so smart on the field, her positioning is great. She is also good in transition. She is going to be the backbone of the unit.”

The unit will also feature juniors Colleen Smith and Liz Cutting along with talented freshman Liz Bannantine.

“Colleen Smith is aggressive and very smart; Cutting is playing really well, she made a lot of progress,” added Sailer, who will also be using junior Erin Williams and sophomore Erin Curley on defense.

“Liz Bannanine is doing really well; she is like deButts [former All-American defender Lindsey deButts] in transition.”

Sophomore goalie Annie Woehling is doing well as she builds on a freshman campaign that saw her post a goals against average of 9.50 in 15 starts.

“Annie has a year under her belt and has been tested under fire,” said Sailer.

“She is much more confident and less nervous. She knows what is expected at this level. She is a quick kid.”

Sailer is confident that her squad can rebound from last year’s frustration. “Our goal is certainly to make it to the postseason,” said Sailer.

“We have the potential to be one of the top teams in the Ivies, we are going for the title. It was tough to be left out last year. We have a good group of kids. We have good senior leadership; we have a senior leading every unit. We have good balance; it is not a situation where we have a strong unit and a weak unit.”

AD LIB: Princeton University women’s squash star Libby Eyre strokes the ball in recent action. Last weekend, Eyre and the Tigers placed fourth at the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament to finish the season with a 12-2 record. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 for much of the season and went 7-0 in Ivy League play to win their first league title since 2009. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AD LIB: Princeton University women’s squash star Libby Eyre strokes the ball in recent action. Last weekend, Eyre and the Tigers placed fourth at the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament to finish the season with a 12-2 record. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 for much of the season and went 7-0 in Ivy League play to win their first league title since 2009.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Gail Ramsay could sense that there was something special about her Princeton University women’s squash team before the season even began.

Taking a trip to South Africa last October, the Tigers came together on and off the court.

“Any change of scenery with squash is great because you get to see different styles; we won three close matches there,” said longtime Princeton head coach Ramsay.

“It was great for team bonding. Any time you can get them to have a deeper commitment to each other that is a help. I felt that there was a good dynamic on this team.”

Princeton displayed its commitment to excellence when it upset top-ranked Harvard 5-4 in mid-January to improve to 5-0 and take the top spot in the national rankings.

“Looking at it on paper, they had a lot of experience,” said Ramsay, noting that the Crimson boasted players with national team credentials.

“We have some top players but they had the upper hand in experience. We were at home, felt comfortable on the court. There were a lot of close matches, we hung in there and made it happen. It was a perfect storm. It was quite an energy boost for us.”

The victory helped catapult Princeton to a perfect 11-0 regular season and the program’s first Ivy League title since 2009.

“The seniors had just missed out earlier in their careers,” said Ramsay. “I was excited that they had a chance to take a championship with them in addition to having a tremendous experience.

Last weekend, Princeton hoped to add another championship as it headed to Yale to compete in the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament.

“We went in at No. 1,” said Ramsay. “We wanted to win and we thought we could.”

But after cruising past Brown 9-0 in a quarterfinal contest, the Tigers fell 6-3 to Trinity in the semis to see their title hopes dashed.

“Trinity was a big challenge,” said Ramsay, whose team went on to fall to Penn 7-2 in the third-place match.

“We played well enough; we could have pulled that out. We didn’t play the big points well, we didn’t capitalize when we had chances.

While Princeton didn’t come up big last weekend, Ramsay is proud of how her squad overcame challenges throughout the season.

“We were so excited to be Ivy champs; it is one of the toughest years in years to do it,” said Ramsay.

“That is always our first goal. We were the only team to beat Harvard this year; they went on to beat Trinity in the Howe finals. We have been working at it with this group for a few years, looking for that extra 5 or 10 percent improvement. I thought they accomplished a lot; we just didn’t get the icing this weekend.”

Senior star Julie Cerullo certainly accomplished a lot for Princeton in her stellar career.

“Julie was No. 1 for four years, a 3-time All American, and will probably get a fourth,” said Ramsay.

“It was great to have a leader like that at the top of the lineup. She came back every year improved and pulled her teammates along with her. She was disciplined and organized. Seniors at Princeton have a lot going on and she was very accountable. She was a good example for me and the team.”

Cerullo’s fellow senior, Casey Cortes, also set a good example for her teammates.

“Casey contributed a lot; she had some huge wins for us over the years,” said Ramsay, noting that Cortes played at No. 9 and No. 10 for most of the year.

“When she was determined to win, she usually did. She was an incredibly strong person emotionally, playing the 8-9-10-11 is tough, going against your best friend to make or not make it. She ended up 10th for us at the Howe Cup but that didn’t sway her leadership.”

The future looks bright as Princeton returns eight of her nine top players including junior Libby Eyre, sophomore Nicole Bunyan, freshman Rachel Leizman, sophomore Alex Lunt, junior Lexi Saunders, junior Alex Sawin, freshman Tara Harrington, and sophomore Hallie Dewey.

“I think we will be better,” said Ramsay, noting that she has some promising freshmen on the way who could crack the top nine.

“It is hard for me to see what the other teams will be like. But within our space, if everyone continues to improve at the rate we are improving, we will be better. They are all pretty bright, they need to take the conceptual and turn it into reality. The need to get over the match and past it but then break it down and figure out how to do A or do B better.”

PULLING AWAY: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior star Rasheed overcame some poor shooting to pile up 42 points and 22 rebounds as Princeton topped Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeated Harvard 67-51 a night later. The Tigers, now 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, host Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PULLING AWAY: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior star Rasheed overcame some poor shooting to pile up 42 points and 22 rebounds as Princeton topped Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeated Harvard 67-51 a night later. The Tigers, now 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, host Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Niveen Rasheed’s shot was off last weekend but that didn’t upset the senior star for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Although Rasheed hit just 11-of-36 shots for a 30 percent clip, she was thrilled to help Princeton top Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeat Harvard 67-51 a night later.

“It’s OK when I have an off shooting day, I don’t really care because we are still winning the game and we have players like Blake [Dietrick] and Michelle [Miller] coming off the bench and making up for it,” said 6‘0 senior guard Rasheed, a native of Danville, Calif.

“That just shows you about our team. I am a little off, but that’s why I got my teammates covering my back. As long as I am playing good defense and making an effort on the court, I still feel like I am making a contribution.”

Rasheed was happy to see the Tigers produce a better effort against Harvard than they did Friday in a subpar performance in the win over Dartmouth.

“Yesterday was just a negative feeling after the game; even though we got the win, it didn’t feel right,” said Rasheed, who scored 25 points in the win on Friday.

“It was great to see the team rally back and come with intensity. Harvard played their best, better than we have seen them play on film. They gave us a battle but I was proud of everyone; it was a total team effort right there. In the battle with the Crimson, Princeton trailed 15-7 early in the first half but then hit four straight three-pointers to seize control of the contest.

“It was a very mature thing for us to not get down,” said Rasheed. “Our backs were against the wall so we just turned it up and went on our run. We got hold of the momentum and we kept it and didn’t look back.”

The wins helped Princeton maintain its momentum in its quest for a fourth straight Ivy title as the Tigers improved to 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, two games ahead of second place Penn and three games ahead of Dartmouth and Harvard.

“You know that both these teams really needed this win and wanted this win and even if they were two games down in the league, beating us would have been huge for them,” said Rasheed, who ended up with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Crimson which was the 31st straight league triumph for Princeton. “So both teams came in fighting and they gave us games both nights.”

With the games winding down for Rasheed and her classmates, she is not taking anything for granted.

“We know we have the leadership role on this team and we are cherishing every moment,” said Rasheed.

“It’s sad, knowing that this is the last time we will ever see these teams. It is definitely bittersweet and we are enjoying every moment.”

Rasheed is nearing some more milestone moments in her stellar career as she ended the weekend with 1,497 career points.

“Once I hit 1,000 points, I haven’t thought about that,” said Rasheed, the Ivy Player of the Year last season who is leading the league in scoring (16.9) and is second in rebounding (9.2). “Now it is one mission, one goal, get to that tournament and get that win.”

While the Tigers hit some bumps in their non-conference schedule working in some new faces and adapting to a different offense, Rasheed believes that things have come together.

“It took us a little while; we have such a young team with some new players,” said Rasheed, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for a third straight time.

“Our offense is clicking, our defense has been solid. Our freshmen are getting experience, our sophomores were key contributors to this game. It is really comforting knowing that when you go on the bench, there is going to be the next five coming in with the same energy and attack.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, for her part, is comforted by her team’s depth which was on display Saturday as the bench players outscored the starters 35-32 with back-up point guard Dietrick scoring a career-high 19 points and Miller adding eight.

“It is great, that second group is very offensive and if they continue to progress defensively, we are going to get even better,” said Banghart.

“That is why it is a team, you can’t be good at everything, you have to have people who are good at everything and that’s what we have.”

The Tigers need a solid team effort to subdue the Crimson. “This was a great battle, a good Ivy League game,” said Banghart.

“It was two teams playing hard. Harvard was desperate for a win, coming into our gym already with two losses and we matched and exceeded that effort. We gave up maybe 20 second half points against a team that we held to 17 points below their average. That is sign of a good team.”

All the signs now point to Princeton making it four straight Ivy crowns. “We said it was separation weekend so no doubt, I think we separated ourselves really nicely,” said Banghart.

“We have one more road weekend and two more home weekends so if we take care of our business we will be what we wanted to be at the beginning of the year which is Ivy League champs.”

The presence of Rasheed helps separate the Tigers from their league foes.

“As the lights turn on, Niveen Rasheed comes to play,” said Banghart.

“It is what we have come to expect, it is what you guys come for, it is what the fans come for. We are running out of time with her, so people should come and enjoy her.”

Banghart is determined to help her players make the most of their time over the balance of the regular season.

“I like our defense but offensively we need to understand pace, timing, recognition, and purpose,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day.

“We show signs of that and then signs of not. It is just tinkering and critiquing and getting really picky.”

Rasheed, for her part, acknowledges that the Tigers must pick up their game if they are to achieve their lofty goals.

“It doesn’t really matter where we stand in the league, if we are three games up or not,” said Rasheed.

“We still have to get better and not get complacent about how we play because we have a bigger mission. We can’t develop bad habits, we have to play better basketball and we have a lot of things to work on.”

February 13, 2013

 

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend’s trip north to Colgate and Cornell, the Princeton University men’s hockey team hadn’t exactly been road warriors.

The Tigers went 1-7-3 in their first 11 away contests and were coming off a rough New England jaunt which saw them fall 4-2 at No. 8 Yale on February 1 and then absorb a 5-1 setback at Brown the next day.

While Princeton head coach Bob Prier acknowledged that he was disappointed by that weekend, he was confident his team could benefit from the experience. “We tried to forget about it,” said Prier.

“We had a good week. We needed a day off so we didn’t practice on Wednesday. We were pretty tired. The Yale game took a lot out of us. We didn’t play poorly but we didn’t play well enough to win. We weren’t ourselves in the Brown game. We learned from it, we compiled videos of some habits that weren’t strong that weekend. We didn’t watch it as a team. We had the guys watch it on their own.”

Even though the Tigers were down to 16 skaters as they braved the blizzard and made their way to New York last weekend, Prier was upbeat about his team’s prospects against Colgate and Cornell.

“It was a challenge, not a concern,” said Prier. “We had three solid lines and three pairs of defensemen. If we wanted to be successful this weekend, everyone had to pitch in.”

In the early going against Colgate, it looked like undermanned Princeton was on its heels as it was knotted at 1-1 after the first period but had been outshot 18-8.

In the second period, however, the Tigers found their stride, scoring two unanswered goals with Alec Rush and Jack Berger both finding the back of the net. Princeton went on to a 4-2 victory as Jonathan Liau added an insurance goal and senior goalie Mike Condon made 36 saves.

“We had 16 scoring chances and they had nine, we didn’t waste too many opportunities,” said Prier.

“We did a real good job in tight on the goal. We generated a lot of chances and kept them out. It was nice to see Jack get his first goal. Alec got another and Liau got his first. It was nice to get balanced scoring; all three lines were involved. Guys did things they don’t usually do, everyone helped with the penalty killing.”

A night later, Condon did some great things, making 39 saves as Princeton blanked Cornell 1-0.

“Mike was the MVP of the weekend, he was clearly the best player on the ice,” asserted Prier of his netminder who was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week for his performance on the trip.

“He made a huge save with a minute and a half left and he made another big one in the second. He came up huge.”

In Prier’s view, his team’s performance before a crowd of 4,267 jamming Lynah Rink marked a huge step forward.

“The guys played really well on the road,” said Prier, whose team got the lone tally of the contest on a second period goal by Andrew Ammon as it improved to 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, moving into a three-way for third place in the league standings with Rensselaer and Dartmouth.

“Cornell is a hostile environment, their crowd is electric. It is a tough place to win. It gives you a lot of confidence to win on the road like that.”

The play of sizzling netminder Condon, who now sports a goals against average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .926, is making the Tigers tough to beat.

“When your goalie is playing that well, it really gives your team confidence,” asserted Prier of Condon, a 6’2, 195-pound native of Needham, Mass. who is now sixth in the ECACH in goals against and fourth in save percentage. “It makes everyone better, they don’t grip the stick as tightly.”

The play of junior captain Berger together with bruising senior defenseman and assistant captain Michael Sdao helped Princeton enjoy one of its better weekends of the season.

“Jack Berger scored on Friday; we keep stats tracking impact on the game and he was fabulous,” said Prier of Berger, who now has nine points on a goal and eight assists.

“He played like a captain, he played like a leader. Mike Sdao was also outstanding. He kept the puck safe and made things hard on our opponents. He was not on the ice on any of the goals against us. It is great when you have a leader on the front end and one on the back end playing like that.”

Prier is hoping for a great home weekend when Princeton hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We approach every game the same,” said Prier, whose team has a 6-2 record so far this season in the friendly confines of Baker Rink.

“We get their tendencies on special teams but we need to focus on ourselves. We need to sprint to spots. Our transition game is getting so much better. We have got some momentum and we want to use it this weekend.”

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Ian Hummer moved up two spots on the career scoring list for the Princeton University men’s basketball team last Friday as the Tigers hosted Brown.

The senior forward scored 15 points in Princeton’s 63-46 win over the Bears to give him 1,455 points, moving him up to fourth all-time, passing Craig Robinson ’83 (1,441) and then Pete Campbell ’62 (1,451).

Hummer, though, is focused on the moment, not his place in Tiger hoops history.

“I want to go out and play as best I can, I want to put two halves together,” said Hummer, when asked what the scoring milestones mean to him. “There have been a couple of times where I have had some good first halves … and I have kind of shot away the second half.”

In the victory over Brown, Hummer liked the way the Tigers played collectively.

“A lot of guys are stepping up,” said Hummer. “I think Denton Koon made a couple of jump shots and went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. Hans [Brase] is playing quite well. Will [Barrett] is playing well. T.J. [Bray] is playing extremely well. Brendan Connolly is really stepping up. Overall, it is an inside-out effort. We have athletic, mobile forwards and guards.”

Still, Hummer saw room for improvement. “Even though it was a good win, we need to rebound better, myself included,” said Hummer.

“A couple of their guys had offensive rebounds. If we cut those out and cut down on our turnovers a little bit, we are looking pretty good.”

A night later against visiting Yale, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers and things didn’t go well as Princeton fell 69-65 to suffer its first loss this winter in Ivy League play.

In reflecting on the setback, Hummer acknowledged that he wasn’t at his sharpest.

“I kind of forced the issue,” said Hummer, who ended up with 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the loss which dropped Princeton to 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy.

“I had seven turnovers, which is way too many. It is more the fact that I forced a little too much rather than them frustrating me. The last couple of games I have been taking care of the ball and cutting down on my turnovers. This is first game in a little while where I have had a lot of turnovers so I have to play a little better and lead my team.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Yale, who shot 65 percent in the first half to lead 34-26 at intermission.

“I thought Yale played lights out,” said Henderson, whose team came into the evening riding a 21-game home winning streak in Ivy play.

“They got us on our heels and we never responded. We never had a counter punch. We made a little bit of a run but it is a disappointing result. I thought they were terrific. They turned us over and we have been taking care of the ball nicely.”

The Tigers had the chance to pull out the win as they had the ball with 38 seconds left in regulation and trailing by 67-65. Princeton, though, couldn’t get a shot and ended up losing the ball and Yale made two free throws to seal the victory.

“At the very end without being able to get a shot off, that really hurt us,” said Henderson, reflecting on that final sequence.

“We wanted to get the ball to the basket. Against a zone, you have to get it inside and I think that pass that was turned over was just a poor angled pass into the post. We just got spread out and there was a lot of deferring; somebody has got to make a play.”

Henderson was disappointed with his team’s failure to make plays on 50/50 balls.

“As a coach of this team and as an alum, I don’t think this is what Princeton basketball should be about,” lamented Henderson.

“We lost a lot of loose balls and we didn’t come up with the rebounds that we needed to come up with. Those things have been hallmarks of this program for a long time.”

Still, Henderson believes that Princeton can live to the program’s tradition of winning Ivy titles.

“We have got nine games left,” said Henderson, whose team trails Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) in the league standings and plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 before playing at the front-running Crimson a day later.

“I never thought we were going to go undefeated in the league. I am disappointed to lose at home; we have been playing really well. I am disappointed and I know the guys are too but we are not hanging our heads for a second here. We are going to get right back out there.”

Hummer, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will remain in the title chase.

“I think we still have the mindset that we are one of the better teams in the league,” said Hummer.

“This doesn’t change it at all. It stinks that we had to lose at home and lose against a team I thought we could play well against.”

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After scoring a total of 11 goals in her first three seasons on the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Kelly Cooke has saved her best for last.

The gritty 5’1 forward has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer in her senior season, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey.

For Cooke, her outburst has been a bit surprising, even to her. “I don’t know; I think it is partly desperation,” said Cooke, a native of Andover, Mass. who starred at Noble and Greenough before coming to Princeton.

“I think a lot of it is playing with Corey [classmate Corey Stearns]. We played together in high school. We have played all year together and it has worked out well for both of us. She is such a great playmaker. I have been getting lucky, she has been setting me up all year.”

Coming into its game against visiting Cornell last Saturday, Cooke and the Tigers were desperate to bounce back from a disappointing 6-1 loss to Colgate the day before.

“I think every one realized after last night that in order to make the playoffs, we have to play our hearts out every night,” said Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal in the defeat to Colgate.

The Tigers went out and fought the No. 4 Big Red tooth-and-nail, trailing just 1-0 heading into the third period.

“It was great that everyone came back and played the way we did today,” said Cooke. “We had all of our lines and defensive pairs playing well tonight which gave us a chance to win.”

Princeton tied the game at 1-1 with 18:04 left in regulation and it looked like the Tigers might pull off the upset. But the Big Red scored seven minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory as Princeton dropped to 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH play.

“We hung on for a long time and once we got that goal, we definitely had the momentum,” recalled Cooke. “But when they scored, it took the wind out of our sails.”

Cooke and classmates Stearns and Alex Kinney have made a habit of hanging out together before games this winter.

“It is crazy how fast time flies; you always hear that from the seniors when you are coming up through the ranks,” said Cooke.

“After the first warmup, Kinney, Corey, and I always sit in the stands for just a minute or two before we go to the locker room. It was weird sitting there today, knowing that we are not going to come back here as players.”

For Cooke, moving up the ranks to serve as an assistant captain this season has presented some challenges.

“It is definitely tough,” said Cooke. “Our coaches always say that instead of just worrying about yourself, you have to worry about the whole team which is a tough place to be but it is also great to see the team grow throughout the year.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal wanted his team to show some growth in the wake of its disappointing performance against Colgate.

“Yesterday was really unfortunate; we were really flat,” said Kampersal. “It was just a real bummer, we laid a big egg. That was a humongous game; it is still not over for us but that was a humongous game. Today, the kids wanted it. I thought yesterday, they didn’t want it as much as Colgate did. Today they wanted it badly.”

In Kampersal’s view, the team brought some extra emotion to the table on Saturday, knowing it was the last home game for the seniors and that it had fallen to ninth place in the ECACH standings, one spot out of a playoff berth.

“It was Senior Day and the fact that they know that every point right now is really critical,” said Kampersal

“Cornell scored a really nice goal there at the end to make it 2-1. They made a nice zone entry and a nice catch. They are a really skilled team and they made the most of their chances but I thought Kim [freshman goalie Kimberly Newell] played great and everybody played really well, staying out of the box and doing the little things, all that stuff that we didn’t do the day before.”

Cooke has certainly done a lot of good stuff this winter for the Tigers. “Cookie has had a humongous year, no question,” said Kampersal.

“She brings a lot of heart and soul with a lot of quickness and good penalty killing. She has scored some big goals this year. I think that her and Corey playing together helps.”

The Tigers have also been sparked by the play of Stearns and Kinney. “Corey is a really good playmaker, she is a dynamite puck handler and passer,” asserted Kampersal of Stearns, who leads Princeton in scoring with 27 points on four goals and 23 assists.

“Kinney has had a good solid senior year, no question. She had some big goals earlier in the year. She has been a steady, calm player.”

Princeton will need to come up with some big goals if they are to get back into the top eight and earn a spot in the ECACH playoffs.

“We have to get points in the north country, no question and then it is the Yale, Brown weekend,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at sixth-ranked Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. “Hopefully that will set up to be another playoff weekend, we’ll see.”

Cooke, for her part, believes that the Tigers have the spirit to force their way into the playoff picture.

“We all brought it tonight and the will was just to compete with a team that is fourth in the country like that; it shows a lot about our team’s will,” said Cooke.

“We have definitely hit rock bottom at times but we have always managed to come out of it. We had great games against Yale and Brown last weekend; we were really flowing well. I definitely think that if we play this way next weekend and the weekend after, we are good to be in the playoffs.”

No matter what happens, Cooke is enjoying the way she has played in her final campaign.

“I guess we have been appreciating it all year, we knew it was going to come to an end so we definitely savor our moments,” said Cooke, who now has 44 points in her Tiger career on 24 goals and 20 assists. “Corey and I are having the seasons of our life so it has been a pretty fun ride so far.”

February 6, 2013

 

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SALLYING FORTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler skates up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, junior forward Butler contributed a goal and an assist as Princeton rallied from a one-goal third period deficit to top Yale 3-1. A day later, the Tigers scored early and often as it defeated Brown 6-1 in improving to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. Princeton hosts Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final home games of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s hockey team having lost six of seven games heading into exam break last month, the players needed to recharge their batteries.

“I definitely think we had time to refocus,” said Princeton junior forward Sally Butler.

“Things weren’t necessarily going our way before the break and we spent time together training, practicing, and getting ready. Our coaches definitely got us refocused for the end of the season.”

In returning to the ice last week, the Tigers showed a renewed focus as they topped Penn State 3-0 in a non-league contest on January 29 before resuming ECAC Hockey play by topping Yale 3-1 on Friday and routing Brown 6-1 a day later.

Starting the weekend in 10th place in the ECACH standings, two spots away from the top 8 and a playoff berth, Butler and her teammates knew they had to pick it up, starting with the Yale game.

“It was definitely a must win and the coaches got us pumped before the game and ready to go,” said Butler. “We know they are all teams we can beat so we just have to bring it.”

Against the Bulldogs, Princeton brought it from the beginning, generating a number of good scoring chances in the first two periods. But a Yale goal late in the second period left the Tigers trailing 1-0 going into the third and in danger of falling further behind in the race for a playoff spot.

“It is a little frustrating because we were all over the net; their goalie played very well, I thought,” said Butler.

“We definitely needed to reduce the turnovers at the blue line because that was something we weren’t doing too well. Beyond that, coach [Jeff] Kampersal was telling us to just keep going hard on them and get shots to the net and things will go in.”

Minutes into the third period, Butler helped get things going for the Tigers as she rushed the net and fed classmate Denna Laing, who banged home a goal.

“Our line has been jelling a little bit recently, I got back together with Laing and [Olivia] Mucha,” said Butler, a 5’9 native of Etobicoke, Ontario.

“It was a great forecheck by Mucha. Laing shot it down low to me and I was able to get it back out to her and she just buried it.”

Just over three minutes later, freshman Cristin Shanahan tallied on a superb diving effort to put the Tigers ahead.

“Oh my goodness, that was a big goal,” said a grinning Butler. “It was a great pass by [Alex] Kinney. Shanny just dove in there, no mistaking that one, it was a beautiful goal.”

Butler added an insurance goal, tallying an empty netter with 1:12 left in the contest to make the final margin. “It was nice to finish them off,” said Butler, who now has 14 points on the season with seven goals and seven assists.

Princeton head coach Kampersal was exhorting his players to finish better as they headed into the third period of the Yale game.

“I thought we controlled most of it early; there were a couple of times when Kim [goalie Kimberly Newell] bailed us out big time and that’s what we need from her,” recalled Kampersal.

“The message after the second period was that we need to bear down on our chances and that if we get one on that goalie, we can get a couple. She is real good but you have to get that first one.”

Sure enough, breaking through early in the third period helped lead to a three goal outburst.

“The first one ignited us,” said Kampersal, reflecting on the Butler to Laing combination. “It wasn’t pretty. It was just getting the puck in the net and good things happen when you do that.”

A day later, the Tigers got the puck in the net a lot against Brown, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after two periods on the way to the 6-1 triumph. Freshman Molly Contini led the way with three goals, her first college hat trick, with senior star and assistant captain Kelly Cooke chipping in a goal and two assists and sophomore Brianna Leahy notching two goals.

The big weekend improved Princeton to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. With Princeton hosting Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final regular season home games, Kampersal doesn’t want his players dwelling on league playoff scenarios.

“We do think of games but we literally think of shift to shift and battling for that shift,” said Kampersal.

“I think they know exactly what is going on but you can’t think about clumps of games. There is so much that can happen so you really need to focus on the immediate present and doing your job because if you don’t then nothing else really matters.”

Butler, for her part, feels that the team has bought into Kampersal’s stay in the moment approach.

“We are trying to get each other pumped up and staying focused is definitely part of it,” said Butler. “We only have a few games left and every single game is crucial so we have to stick with this.”

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

On Friday night, Brendan Connolly hardly left the bench as the Princeton University men’s basketball team topped visiting Cornell 76-59.

The 6’11, 255-pound senior center played one minute and had only a foul to show for his limited appearance.

A day later, though, Connolly played a critical role off the bench as Princeton held off a gritty Columbia team in posting a 72-66 win before 3,180 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming through down the stretch against the Lions, Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes of action as he helped Princeton improve to 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

Connolly’s two hoops helped swing the game in Princeton’s favor. With just over eight minutes left in regulation, he hit a reverse layup to give the Tigers a 54-52 lead. Then with 1:56 remaining, he lofted a hook shot from 12 feet out to put Princeton up 66-61.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson had a feeling that Connolly could excel against Columbia based on favorable matchups against Lions’ centers Mark Cisco and Cory Osetkowski.

“I think it was a good game for him,” said Henderson. “I thought that it was a better game with Mark Cisco. I think Osetkowski was a big factor tonight; he finished with seven but he had a lot of low touches and Brendan really changed that for us. He is just such a big defensive presence for us.”

Henderson liked the way that Connolly made an impact at both ends of the court.

“Brendan is highly skilled offensively; I think when given the opportunity, he came through for us big tonight,” said Henderson of the Brentwood, Tenn. native who is averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds a game this season.

“I thought he did a really nice job changing the tone. [Steven] Frankoski got loose and Brendan switched up on what could have been a 3 from the corner and that was a huge defensive switch for us. He plays a very important role.”

Although Connolly’s role had lessened over the last month as he went from a starter to a reserve who averaged six minutes a game in his previous four appearances before Saturday, he wasn’t hanging his head.

“I am in here everyday with the guys like I should be,” said Connolly. “I just look for the opportunities when given and I will take what I can get with those.”

Connolly took everyone by surprise with his hook shot, which Henderson referred to as a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar move. “It just felt right,” said Connolly when asked about the shot.

Things were feeling right for Princeton as it hit six straight three-pointers and jumped out to a 27-13 lead, looking like it was going to run the Lions out of the gym.

“We were hot, no doubt about it,” said Henderson. “You just shut up when you are a coach and let them do their thing.

But then Columbia started doing its thing, going on a 23-10 run to trail by just 37-36 at the half.

“I really respect the way Columbia plays,” said Henderson. “That’s a 1-3 team in our league. They have had a tough start here but they don’t play any games that aren’t close. They are young, they are learning how to win and they are going to get there. They play a nice style of ball with some inside presence and some really good shooters on the perimeter. It is a tough team to play.”

Princeton junior guard T.J. Bray showed his toughness when he drained a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and less than three minutes left in the second half to give the Tigers a 64-59 lead.

“They kind of doubled down on Ian a little too hard with the clock ending and Ian [Hummer] made a great kick out to me,” said Bray, recalling the shot.

“I saw the guy coming so I pump-faked and just shot it and let it fly and luckily it went in.”

A lot of three-pointers went in for Princeton on Saturday as they went 8-of-11 from long distance.

“We shoot everyday in practice and get a ton of shots up,” said Bray, who scored a game-high 17 points, hitting all three of his three-point attempts on the evening.

“It is starting to come. They are coming in the flow of the offense more which is good. There is a lot of inside-out stuff and when you are stepping into shots, they are a lot easier to make.”

Henderson liked the way his squad stepped up when pushed by Columbia.

“We are thrilled; I am very happy,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.

“This is really an important win for our program. I am just really proud of our guys. When you are home, you have to win those games in the league. We can get so much better; I think there is improvement right in front of our eyes right now which I am really happy about.”

In Connolly’s view, having battle-tested guys on the court in crunch time was an important factor in the win for the Tigers.

“Looking around, none of the guys on the floor were afraid of the moment at all,” said Connolly.

“That is a big thing that all of my coaches have talked about over the four years and it is something we have done pretty well. They had some familiar faces and guys we have seen a lot with [Brian] Barbour and Cisco but we were ready for it and we responded to it. I think everyone felt pretty ready for everything they were throwing at us.”

And Connolly proved ready to contribute on Saturday when his number was called.

January 30, 2013
TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Calof picked up right where he left off as the Princeton University men’s hockey team hosted Sacred Heart last Sunday in returning to action after a lengthy exam break.

In Princeton’s last game before the hiatus, junior forward Calof notched a goal and three assists to help Princeton top Rensselaer 4-1 on January 12.

Against Sacred Heart, Calof duplicated that one goal-three assist output, sparking the Tigers to a 5-2 triumph over the Pioneers before a crowd of 1,974 at Baker Rink.

The 5’10, 175-pound native of Nepean, Ontario registered his first assist on a Mike Ambrosia tally which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead after one period. Calof then scored a goal 1:11 into the second period and fed Tyler Maugeri for a tally 1:37 later as the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead. After the Pioneers narrowed the gap to 4-2 early in the third period, Calof got his final assist of the day on another Ambrosia goal which made the final margin 5-2.

Calof was happy to see the Tigers return on a winning note even if there were some lapses.

“It was a good way to start off the post-exam break,” said Calof, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 7-8-4 overall.

“It would be nice if we kept it consistent during the whole game instead of giving them some chances. We took it in stride and we ended up winning the game which is the most important thing. We need to work hard and try to sharpen up for next weekend.”

In assessing his sharp play this season, Calof credited his teammates with making his life easy.

“I think it is about who you are playing with,” said Calof, who now has a team-high 28 points on the season with 10 goals and 18 assists, tying him for third in ECAC Hockey in both points and assists.

“I know that the guys I am playing with right now are incredible hockey players when you see Ambrosia with two goals today and Maugeri up there in points too. They are two really offensively creative guys and [Andrew] Ammon as well, when you give him the puck it is going in the net. I know I have way more assists than goals so all you have to do is touch the puck and they are putting it in. It is a lot easier to do better offensively.”

Calof’s exploits have Princeton promoting him as candidate for All-American honors and the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top male player.

Individual awards, though, are the last thing on Calof’s mind. “It is cool and I am honored but at the same time that is not my goal right now,” said Calof, who led Princeton in scoring in his first two seasons and has earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors along the way.

“The most important thing that I want to do is to win the ECAC. If anything comes along with it, that is great. You want to win the ECAC and get a berth to the national tournament and win the national championship.”

With Calof nearing 100 career points, he views the milestone as indication of good fortune rather than individual achievement.

“It is incredible and I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to come in as a freshman and a sophomore and now as a junior,” said Calof, who currently has 92 points on 36 goals and 56 assists.

“The coaches have played me a lot and put a lot of faith in me. It has ended up working out well for me and I hope to deliver something back to the school with a championship.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier likes the way Calof has been delivering for the Tigers.

“His explosiveness has come around a little bit; he certainly has some more leg strength,” said Prier in assessing Calof’s progress.

“You can see that as he changes gears coming up the ice; it looks like guys are standing still when he goes by them. He has always had the poise. I think he is becoming more vocal out on the ice. He is getting the puck more. I think he is doing a lot of good things like that. He is just getting stronger and he has gained some experience. He is certainly an All-American type kid and a Hobey Baker candidate. It is nice to see him perform well consistently here over the last few games.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers performed well as they got back on the ice after exams.

“It seems like it has been a while since we played so I was proud of the guys and the way they came out,” said Prier, whose team outshot the Pioneers 17-7 in the first period and 14-3 in the next frame.

“I thought they came out really hard for not being able to battle against each other and have real good practices here the last couple of weekends. They came  out and they didn’t look like they missed much of a beat. It was nice to see the guys put up some goals. It was a good game, all in all.”

Princeton got a good effort from bruising forwards, junior captain Jack Berger and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum, who combined to set up junior defenseman Alec Rush as he scored the first goal of the game and his career.

“I think Jack Berger and Rob Kleebaum are playing hard; they are playing like leaders,” said Prier.

“Certainly Rob, being a senior, his attention to detail over the last few games has been really strong so it is nice to see that. They had an awful lot of chances tonight as a result of hard work. They generated the first goal and really got us going with their hard work and finishing checks.”

Freshman Ambrosia, who now has five goals, is emerging as a strong performer for the Tigers.

“Coming in, he was a blue chip prospect kind of kid but unfortunately he ran into some injury problems early on,” said Prier of the Chatham, N.J. native.

“He is only eight or nine games into his career and he already is a very good player. He is certainly someone who is going to be an elite type of player in  college hockey.”

With Princeton currently sitting in fifth in the ECACH standings at 5-4-3 in league play, Prier feels the Tigers have the potential to be an elite squad.

“If we limit or eliminate our mistakes, we are as good as anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team has won four of its last five games.

“I think we are getting there. These guys have good habits. We looked strong systematically tonight; I didn’t see much inconsistency.”

The Tigers will need a strong effort this weekend as they head to New England to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We are going to really prepare hard this week,” said Prier. “We have the ability to have a really strong week of practice here with the guys being out of session a little bit. We certainly want to take advantage of that; we can certainly do a lot of teaching off of the Sacred Heart game in video this week. It can be a real good week to improve in a hurry here, getting ready for our stretch run with 10 games left.”

Calof, for his part, believes the Tigers have improved in the area of consistency.

“It is just mental focus; we have gotten a lot better at it since the beginning of the year,” said Calof, who has already been named ECACH Player of the Week twice this season.

“You saw a lot more lapses at the beginning. We are going over a lot more stuff on video and trying to keep things as simple as possible to make sure that there are no communication errors that lead to good chances against us. The more we limit those, the more chance we have of winning.”

In Calof’s view, Princeton has a good chance to make up some ground on its upcoming trip to New England.

“It is going to be a big weekend; I know they [Yale] beat us early in the season so we are hoping to have a little better showing than the game we had against them in the Ivy Shootout,” said Calof, referring to a 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs on October 27 in a game that didn’t count in the league standings.

“They are pretty hot right now so it is going to be a really good game. I am looking forward to playing it.”

If Calof can keep up his hot play, the Tigers could have a really good weekend.

HOOK AND JAB: Princeton University men’s basketball player Mack Darrow lofts a hook shot in recent action. Last Sunday, senior center Darrow contributed eight points and three rebounds as Princeton topped The College of New Jersey 71-33 in its return from a 15-day exam hiatus. The Tigers, now 8-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, get into the heart of their league campaign when they host Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

HOOK AND JAB: Princeton University men’s basketball player Mack Darrow lofts a hook shot in recent action. Last Sunday, senior center Darrow contributed eight points and three rebounds as Princeton topped The College of New Jersey 71-33 in its return from a 15-day exam hiatus. The Tigers, now 8-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, get into the heart of their league campaign when they host Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.
(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team team returned to action after a 15-day hiatus due to exams by hosting The College of New Jersey last Sunday, Mitch Henderson didn’t want to hit his players with too much information.

“I wanted us to be focused on the things that we do well which is just the rules defensively and then offensively we could try to keep it pretty simple,” said Princeton head coach Henderson.

“I thought TCNJ did a nice job; they were playing a bit of a match-up zone which we have played for years. It clogs up the middle and you are not sure which cuts are open and that caused us some trouble. I think we made some nice adjustments.”

It turned out to be a very nice day for the Tigers as they cruised to a 71-33 victory over the Division III Lions before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 2,174.

“We are happy to be back at it after  exams,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 8-7 overall with the victory.

“We really just had the full team on Friday for the first time. Guys came down but we don’t really have an opportunity to be together until exams are over. Exams finished on Saturday so this is a nice opportunity for us to put the uniform on. I was very pleased with how we hit the boards. We are not going to pull any punches, we are going to be what we are.”

Freshman Hans Brase did a lot of the damage on the boards for the Tigers as he posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

“I was trying to get low position,” said the 6’8 Brase in reflecting on his  performance. “I happened to miss a bunch of chippies and I just got my own rebounds.”

Brase knows he is going to have to be sharper this weekend as the Tigers get into the heart of Ivy League play by hosting Brown (7-9 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on Friday and Columbia (9-7 overall, 1-1 Ivy) the next night.

“I heard it has been tough,” said Brase, referring to the grind of Friday/Saturday Ivy games over the next six weekends.

“We should be good, though, we are a pretty deep team. We play nine people so we can try to keep our bodies fresh and just grind it out.”

Sophomore guard Denton Koon is confident that the Tigers, currently 1-0 in Ivy play, are primed to make a run for the league title.

“I think we are doing well; there has been a change in the way we have played over the season and we are starting to play better lately,” said Koon, who tallied a game-high 12 points in the win over TCNJ.

“After the break, we had to make sure to maintain what we had going into it. I think this is a good start and we are excited to play next week.”

Henderson believes the league race is going to be an exciting ride. “I am not smart enough to predict what is going on; everybody looks pretty good,” said Henderson.

“Harvard goes up to Dartmouth and plays well and then Dartmouth plays very well at Harvard. Cornell and Columbia split. Everybody has some nice wins. I think everybody is a little imperfect. I do think it is going to be pretty interesting. Everything is going to be pretty much decided in a month; there are a lot of games. We are ready to go here; this is what we have been working for.”

In Henderson’s view, working smart during the week is the key to success on the weekends.

“I think some games look really physical but they really aren’t and some games don’t look like they are that physical and they really are; they wear and tear on you,” said Henderson.

“The way you prepare during the week makes such a difference. Recovery is what it is. I think over the years, we have seen Friday and Saturday games sort of swing. I think the league is close enough that there is going to be no managing of minutes as you go into a Friday night game because the games are just too important.”

Last season, Skye Ettin scored a team-high 15 points as The College of New Jersey men’s basketball team fell 79-68 to Princeton at Jadwin Gym.

This past Sunday, former Princeton High standout Ettin and the Lions were back in Jadwin and even though he tallied only two points in a 71-33 setback to the Tigers, he still enjoyed his homecoming

“It is always great to come and play in a stadium like that and play against a Princeton team,” said the 6’5, 170 pound junior forward who entered the afternoon averaging 11.0 points a game for the Division III TCNJ program.

“It is just really a great experience for us. It helps us work on some things. We have struggled with rebounding at times and to go against them and have to box out some bigger bodies than we usually see definitely helps prepare us for the NJAC [New Jersey Athletic Conference].”

While the game at Princeton got one-sided, Ettin was proud of how the Lions acquitted themselves in the wake of a tough 73-72 loss to NJAC power Ramapo the night before.

“Yesterday was a really tough one; we fought real hard and took them all the way down to the stretch,” said Ettin, who grabbed a team-high five rebounds in the loss to Princeton.

“We didn’t make a play here or there and that cost us the game. I think it is good to take our minds off of it and play Princeton the next day and bounce back and hopefully gain some of the momentum that we had going into the Ramapo game because we did play pretty well.”

For Ettin, playing at Jadwin has deep meaning. “It is definitely always special to come back and play in my hometown; I grew up watching games here,” said Ettin, who scored 915 points in his PHS career and helped the Little Tigers make the Central Jersey Group III finals in 2009 as a junior.

“When I was little, I went to camp here so it is always a special time when I get to come on and actually play against Princeton. It is a special moment; I had some fans in the crowd which is always great.”

TCNJ head coach Kelly Williams is a fan of the matchup against Princeton.

“The benefit of playing a game like this is that it puts ourselves in a competitive situation year in, year out,” said Williams, whose team dropped to 5-15 overall with the defeat to the Tigers.

“As a coach, it is hard for me to say no if the game becomes available with Princeton or any Division I team,” said Williams, who added former PHS boys’ hoops head coach Jason Carter to his staff this season.

“I don’t think our players would like that and I am not built that way. The bottom line is that it does help us from a recruiting point of view, to be able to talk to a recruit going to Division III level and to be able to let them know hey listen we are going to compete and that we are going to try to play teams that are bigger and better. I want our guys to always have that same philosophy and mindset.”

Williams liked the way that his players competed to the final whistle against Princeton not withstanding the lopsided score.

“I love the fact that we are battling, we are fighting,” asserted Williams.

“In many cases we are outsized and things along those lines but my guys play through that so I love the effort that they give me every night.”

Ettin, for his part, wasn’t surprised that the Lions battled to the end. “We always keep fighting; it showed also last night when we played Ramapo,” said Ettin.

“We got an early lead and then in the second half we got down and then we bounced back and took the lead. As far as a team, we never give up. Coach instills that during practice, whether it be finishing sprints or doing down two situational things. I think one thing that this team always does is to fight.”

While the Lions have struggled so far this winter, Ettin sees good things on the horizon for the program.

“We have a good nucleus of a lot of sophomores who are going to be ready to get back at it in the summer and amp up,” said Ettin.

“We still have a chance this year to finish out strong and do something special. I think we are a pretty dangerous team so we are definitely excited about this year and the future looks bright.”

January 23, 2013
PIONEER SPIRIT: Megan Ofner controls the puck in action last winter for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team. After enjoying a stellar career at PDS, Ofner is making strides at the next level in her freshman season for the Division I women’s hockey program at Sacred Heart. Ofner has picked up two assists in her 20 appearances so far this winter for the Pioneers.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PIONEER SPIRIT: Megan Ofner controls the puck in action last winter for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team. After enjoying a stellar career at PDS, Ofner is making strides at the next level in her freshman season for the Division I women’s hockey program at Sacred Heart. Ofner has picked up two assists in her 20 appearances so far this winter for the Pioneers. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Megan Ofner was constantly on the go during her years with the PDS girls’ hockey team.

Ofner emerged as a pivotal player from the moment she hit the ice for PDS as a freshman in 2008, ending up her Panther career with 124 points, including 32 points in her senior season on 19 goals and 13 assists.

At the same time, Ofner was playing travel hockey for such high-powered programs as the New Jersey Rockets in northern Jersey and the Quakers in West Chester, Pa.

Ofner still made time to distinguish herself in the classroom and serve as one the school’s Athletic Association Co-Heads.

During the summers, Ofner’s schedule was just as hectic as she played in camps and took part in college showcases such as the RinkSport program.

For Ofner, her frenetic activity was directed at a single goal. “I started thinking about playing hockey in college when I was accepted at PDS,” said Ofner.

“Playing Division I was the dream. In women’s hockey, there is no professional league. D-I is the highest level you can achieve.”

After looking at a variety of college programs, Ofner achieved that aim as she found a home with the D-I women’s hockey program at Sacred Heart.

The realization that Ofner accomplished her dream hit home as she stood on the ice before Sacred Heart’s season opener against RIT this past October.

“The first game was one of the most amazing days,” recalled Ofner. “I was one of the few freshmen to dress for the game. It was great to hear the national anthem and hear the names of players announced over the loudspeaker. I am so grateful and thankful to have this opportunity.”

Ofner acknowledged that she had to go through some ups and downs to get to the opener.

“We started off-ice with the coach on the second week of school,” said Ofner.

“The first day of practice on the ice was intimidating, as it would be for anybody. I saw that I could keep up with the seniors and the other upperclassmen. I was learning so much from them and I felt like I belong.”

Going through that learning curve has involved some adjustment physically. “The speed and size is the biggest difference between college and high school,” explained the 5’8 Ofner.

“In high school, I was an 18-year-old playing against 14- and 15-year-olds. Here, I am 18-year-old playing against 22-year-olds.”

While Ofner played forward for PDS, she is playing defenseman for the Pioneers.

“I played defense all the way through in travel,” said Ofner, who has tallied two assists in 20 appearances so far this season for the Pioneers. “I will play anywhere the team needs me.”

Sacred Heart head coach Tom O’Malley likes the way Ofner has fulfilled the team’s needs on the blue line.

“We were loaded with forwards and we are graduating two impact players on May,” said O’Malley.

“We thought we would get Megan accustomed to playing defense. We thought it would be a way for her to move up the ladder and become an impact player. Megan is doing a nice job; she has been thrown into the fire on occasion and she has stepped up.”

O’Malley attributes Ofner’s smooth transition to her diligence. “She is one of the hardest workers on the team, hands down,” asserted O’Malley.

“She comes in hard and works everyday in practice. She takes it seriously; she wants to become the best hockey player she can be. She will approach me in practice and say ‘coach, what can I do to get better.’”

In addition, Ofner has been a good fit with the team and on campus, prompting O’Malley to suggest that she join the school’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), an organization which serves to bridge communication between student-athletes and administration.

“On the ice, in the bus, and at team meals, the kids gravitate to her,” added O’Malley.

“Because of who Megan is, I asked her if she wanted to get involved in the SAAC. She strikes me as a mature person and I wanted her to get involved on the ground floor. She is a genuine person, she is not fake. She works hard in school and is doing really well academically.”

Ofner, for her part, has already developed deep bonds with her teammates.

“In a way, we are forced to be friends but it is great,” said Ofner. “We all have the same goals and the love for the game.”

With the Pioneers having posted a 4-3-1 record in January to improve to 11-11-2 overall, Ofner’s goal is to help the team build on its promising start to 2013.

“After holiday break, things have been clicking,” asserted Ofner. “We know each other’s skills better and we are complementing each other better on the ice. I have great hopes for the team. I want to do what I can to help the team do well and get more wins.”

EAGLE EYE: Matt Kuhlik shows his intensity in a team photo for the Emory University men’s swimming program. Kuhlik, a former Princeton High standout who helped the Little Tigers to an undefeated season and its first state title during his senior campaign in 2011-12, is making an impact for the Eagles in his freshman season. He placed second in his first 200 freestyle race of his college career and last weekend he helped Emory to a win in the 200 free relay last weekend as the Eagles topped the Savannah College of Art and Design. (Photo Courtesy of Emory University Athletics)

EAGLE EYE: Matt Kuhlik shows his intensity in a team photo for the Emory University men’s swimming program. Kuhlik, a former Princeton High standout who helped the Little Tigers to an undefeated season and its first state title during his senior campaign in 2011-12, is making an impact for the Eagles in his freshman season. He placed second in his first 200 freestyle race of his college career and last weekend he helped Emory to a win in the 200 free relay last weekend as the Eagles topped the Savannah College of Art and Design.
(Photo Courtesy of Emory University Athletics)

Matt Kuhlik didn’t see himself heading south as he considered which college swimming program to join.

“I was looking at small schools in the north like Amherst, Williams, and Dartmouth,” said Kuhlik, a sprint star for the Princeton High boys’ swim team who helped the Little Tigers to an undefeated season and its first state title during his senior campaign in 2011-12.

“I was also looking at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins and I thought I was going to one of them.”

But then Kuhlik took a trip to Atlanta and Emory University that changed the course of his swimming career.

“I didn’t want to visit Emory but my mom dragged me down there,” recalled Kuhlik.

“I talked to the coach and I really liked him. I went down on a recruiting trip and I really liked the team. I committed before I left.”

It looks like Kuhlik made the right choice as he has fit in well with the squad, quickly establishing himself as a valuable sprinter for the Eagles.

Kuhlik didn’t waste any time showing his prowess, taking second in the 200 freestyle in the season-opening meet against North Carolina-Wilmington.

“It was parents’ weekend and there was a lot of people there,” said Kuhlik, who clocked a time of 1:43.87 in finishing second by 0.12 of a second.

“I had a really good race and I just got touched out at the end. The team atmosphere in college helps you go faster, there is a lot of support.”

Kuhlik likes the support he has gotten from his teammates in adjusting to college swimming.

“Every class bonds,” said Kuhlik, noting that he has grown close to his fellow freshmen. “We also hang out with the older guys and they show us the ropes.”

While Kuhlik believes that swimming for PHS and the Princeton Piranhas club program prepared him well for the next level, he has dealt with a different training emphasis in college.

“It is not as much yardage as we did in club training but there is more weight lifting,” said Kuhlik.

“We lift weights in the morning and we do heavy lifting. With the Piranhas, the weight lifting was more maintaining strength. We were also running circuits in the fall. We have nine practices a week so it takes about 20 hours. We did a lot of yardage in club, around 8,000 yards a session. Sometimes we approach 8,000 yards here but there are other workouts that are around 6,000 or 5,000. I was used to being one of the fastest kids; now I am last in the lane sometimes. I think the new training helps, things are more specialized.”

Kuhlik is looking to put that training to good use at the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship meet next month at the University of Chicago.

“We have the conference meet coming up at the end of February and everyone is going for times there,” said Kuhlik, who swam the anchor leg to help Emory to a win in the 200 free relay last weekend as the Eagles topped Savannah College of Art and Design 146-105.

“It would be amazing to make nationals but the time cutoffs are really tough. I am going to try to make it on a relay but I would have to be one of the four fastest swimmers.”

For Kuhlik, the sprint events bring out the best in him. “I think I am really competitive,” said Kuhlik. “In the sprint races, you go all out and try to beat the person next to you. In the longer distance races, you swim in a group and try to pull away.”

With the experience Kuhlik has picked up this winter, he is ready to pull away from the competition over the long haul.

“Now that I understand the training, I am going to come back in good shape,” said Kuhlik. “I am going to do more running and lift weights in addition to swimming.”

CHEEKY MOVE: Cheeky Herr heads up the ice in recent action for the Trinity College women’s hockey team. Herr, a Princeton native who played her high school hockey at at Choate Rosemary Hall (Conn.), has emerged as a key performer for Trinity in her freshman season. Herr has scored nine points on five goals and four assists in 15 games for the 7-4-4 Bantams.

CHEEKY MOVE: Cheeky Herr heads up the ice in recent action for the Trinity College women’s hockey team. Herr, a Princeton native who played her high school hockey at at Choate Rosemary Hall (Conn.), has emerged as a key performer for Trinity in her freshman season. Herr has scored nine points on five goals and four assists in 15 games for the 7-4-4 Bantams.

Cheeky Herr had some growing up to do when she arrived at Choate Rosemary Hall (Conn.) in the fall of 2008.

“It was definitely hard to be at boarding school,” said Herr, a Princeton native and ice hockey player who had starred in U-14 competition at the USA Hockey Development camp before heading off to school in New England.

“People don’t realize what it is like when you go away from home and you don’t have your mom and dad on you to do your homework. There is nobody to tell you what to do. If I wanted to be successful, I realized that maybe I couldn’t go to the commons to hang out and that I had to go to the library. I had a great group of teachers who helped me grow as a student and a person.”

Herr had to grow on the ice as well. “It definitely made it so I played against much tougher competition,” said Herr.

“In the class above me, all but one player went D-1 (Division I). It made me have to work harder in games and practice. The pace is so much different, it is so much faster. You have to be a faster skater, think faster, and be a faster shooter. I had to get up to speed with everybody else.”

Herr’s hard work paid dividends, and by her senior year she was one of Choate’s top players, leading the team in points, goals, and assists last winter.

Having made the grade at Choate, Herr was ready to move up to the college level, choosing to join the Trinity College women’s hockey program.

For her, making that decision marked the end of an arduous journey. “I saw a PU-Colgate women’s hockey game when I was six and I decided that I wanted to do that,” said Herr, whose older sister, Sarah, was a hockey star at Lawrenceville and went on to enjoy a superb career for the Williams College women’s program.

“It is a long process. Starting in seventh grade, I started going to camps and getting myself out there. It helped that I had an older sister who went on to play college hockey. The coaches knew the Herr name and that was a big help.”

Noting that her choice ultimately came down to D-I Colgate and D-III Trinity, she felt she would have more of an opportunity to shine at the latter.

“I love hockey more than I love breathing and I have only four more years to play so I wanted to go where I can play,” asserted Herr.

She also felt a comfort level off the ice at Trinity. “It seemed like an excellent group of people and a good fit,” said Herr, noting that family friend and former Trinity field hockey and ice hockey star Payson Sword helped make her official visit go smoothly.

“I was very happy on my visit there. I went by the broken leg test — if you broke your leg the first day you were there and you could never play hockey again, would you still want to be there. I knew I would be thrilled to be there.”

The 5’3 Herr came up big in her college debut, picking up an assist in the first minute of the season opener against Connecticut College in mid-November to make for a thrilling memory.

“I was standing on the goal line and I turned to one of the other freshmen and said how did we get there,” recalled Herr, who is playing center for the Bantams.

“I have been skating since I was three and I first put on hockey gear when I was three-and-a half. I have spent my entire life to get to this moment. It was incredible to get an assist in the game. The next day I was in the starting lineup and it was great to hear my name announced over the loudspeaker.”

Drawing on her Choate experience, Herr is adjusting to the busy life that comes with being a college hockey player.

“The biggest thing is the amount of time you put into it,” explained Herr. “There are team lifts, team meetings, game films, and chalk talk. There are all those things you do together as a team and then you have to balance that with your homework. It comes down to time management and doing the things you need to do to be a better hockey player and still get good grades. We are student athletes and the schoolwork comes first.”

Herr’s first goal was special as it helped the Bantams top Amherst College 4-2 in early December.

“At first I didn’t know it went in; I got a pass at the blue line and I got a shoot off, using the d-man as a screen,” said Herr.

“I came flying in for rebound and put it on net. I didn’t know it went in until I skated past and saw it lying there in the net. The best part was that my dad was there to see it. I stood there and really yelled like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. I clinched my fists, I was elated. We really came together as a team in that game; we were passing well and communicating on the ice. Everyone got to touch the puck and everyone got a shot.”

With the Bantams having gone 4-0-1 in their last five games to improve to 7-4-4 overall and 2-3-3 in New England Small College Athletic Association (NESCAC) play, Trinity appears to be coming together at the right time.

“We are a young team,” said Herr, noting that the Trinity roster includes eight freshmen and four sophomores.

“We have new lines that have to be created; we have to get used to each other.”

As Herr gets used to college hockey, she is looking to make a greater impact for the Bantams.

“I want to continue to up my scoring and assists,” said Herr, who recently had a hat trick against the University of New England and scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over Salve Regina on January 15 and now has nine points on five goals and four assists.

“I want to have more assists than goals. I need to get my shot off faster. I need to communicate better with my linemates. People don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings. It is how you say it and what you say. I am a center and I need to work on talking to my wings.”

Off the ice, Herr has thrown herself into her academic work. “I am taking classes that I am interested in; if you love what you are learning, it is easy to work hard,” said Herr. “I learned a hard lesson at Choate; I learned what hard work is.”

Based on the progress she has made in her freshman year at Trinity, it is clear that Herr took those lessons to heart.

January 16, 2013
SHOOTING STAR: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray lofts a jump shot in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Bray scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Penn 65-53 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. Bray was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for his performance which included 6-of-11 shooting from three-point range. Princeton, now 7-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy, is currently on hiatus for exams and is next in action when it hosts The College of New Jersey on January 27.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

SHOOTING STAR: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray lofts a jump shot in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Bray scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Penn 65-53 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. Bray was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for his performance which included 6-of-11 shooting from three-point range. Princeton, now 7-7 overall and 1-0 Ivy, is currently on hiatus for exams and is next in action when it hosts The College of New Jersey on January 27. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Penn-Princeton is one of the most storied rivalries in men’s college basketball but the Tigers have taken the drama out of the series in recent years.

Coming into last Saturday’s Ivy League opener against the Quakers, the Tigers had won six of the last seven meetings between the ancient rivals.

With a Jadwin Gym throng of 3,577 on hand, Princeton wasted little time taking the mystery out of the latest installment of the matchup, jumping out to an 11-4 lead and building a 31-22 advantage by halftime. The Tigers started the second half with an 11-0 run and never looked back on the way to a 65-53 win, improving to 7-7 overall and 1-0 in Ivy play.

Princeton senior star Ian Hummer said the Tigers’ upper hand in the series can be attributed, in large part, to intense preparation.

“I think that it just boils down to a good scout,” said Hummer, who tallied 13 points with six rebounds and five assists on the evening.

“We take a few days to go over the offense and how we are going to guard. I think any little trick that they throw at us, we are ready for it. We have got to give it up for our coaches and for our scout team just giving us a good look every day. It was tough guarding the offense at practice and it was even  tougher with the way they move and the players we had to guard.”

For Hummer, helping the Tigers go 4-0 against the Quakers at Jadwin Gym over his career is something to savor.

“Just knowing how hard the Ivy League is every year and how well each team knows each one, I would say so,” said Hummer, when asked to reflect on Princeton’s recent home court dominance in the series.

“I think Penn is very well-coached; they have great players every year. [Zack] Rosen was a handful over the last couple of years. [Miles] Cartwright is a handful himself. I think it is just that they are a very good team every year. I think coming home gives us a spark and we are able to play pretty well against them every year.”

The Tigers got a big spark last Saturday from junior guard T.J. Bray, who poured in a career-high 23 points, including 6-of-11 shooting from three-point range.

“It was just one of those day where shots were falling down,” said Bray, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.

“They were coming in the flow of the offense which was big. Ian had a couple of nice passes to me and I was able to step in and shoot.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson enjoyed Bray’s big offensive effort.

“I thought he was just terrific tonight,” said Henderson in assessing Bray’s career night.

“Making shots is so important for the success of any good team. T.J. didn’t play all summer; he wasn’t available in the fall [due to a knee injury]. I think you are seeing a little bit more of what he is like now. He is having an opportunity to be on that leg playing competitively. Buffalo [the season opener] was the first time he suited up for us. He just seemed to be in on a lot of big plays. He is the brains of the operation now and often the brawn.”

The Tigers benefitted from the way they operated at the beginning of each half. “For us, it was so important to get off to a good start,” said Henderson.

“I was happy with that, especially the first half. I thought they were sharing the ball nicely because Penn was changing a lot of things defensively and I thought we adjusted nicely.”

One thing that hasn’t changed this season is Princeton’s proficiency from three-point range.

“I think with Mack [Darrow], T.J., Ian was 1 for 1, and Will [Barrett] has been shooting the ball so nicely; they are skilled guys,” said Henderson, reflecting on a game which saw Princeton going 11-of-22 on its three-point attempts.

“I don’t put any limitations on these guys. I think, given the time and score,  if they feel confident, I want them to shoot it.”

With Princeton winning four of its last five games before going on exam break, Henderson has gained confidence in his starting lineup with includes freshman Hans Brase and sophomore Denton Koon in addition to Hummer, Bray, and Barrett.

“I think we are settled in, this is what we are going to be doing,” said Henderson, whose team is next in action when it hosts The College of New Jersey on January 27.

Hummer, for his part, did something a little different on Saturday, going with a modified Mohawk hair style.

“I was growing my hair out and I hadn’t gotten a haircut in a while,” said a grinning Hummer.

“Before I shave it all off I was thinking let’s try something new. I am getting mixed reviews. I had one guy telling me off TV that I looked like an idiot. Daniel Edwards [Tiger teammate] said he loved it so I am going to keep it for a little while.”

Princeton, though, is earning rave reviews from its supporters for its recent run of success against Penn.