March 12, 2014
IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Hompe struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first two games of her career with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The highly touted freshman attacker from New Canaan, Conn. tallied just one assist as the Tigers started this season 1-1.

Last Saturday against visiting Georgetown, Hompe found the back of the net for the first time in her college career, tallying a first half goal.

“I was really excited to hear my goal song playing,” said a grinning Hompe. “It was definitely a good way to start the game. I think that the pace of our attack was definitely heightened in this game from past games.”

As the game unfolded, Hompe picked up the pace, ending the day with three goals and three assists in a losing cause as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to the No. 14 Hoyas.

For Hompe, assuming a playmaking role came in the flow of the attack. “I think that we had a lot of open girls; our offense was cutting and moving so well that it was really a matter of finding who was open and getting them the ball,” said Hompe. “We shot very well so that was great.”

With Princeton trailing 16-15 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Hompe found junior star Erin McMunn in the crease area and fed her for the game-tying goal.

“She was just open in front of the net,” said Hompe. “You could just see it in her eyes when she knows she is open and I just knew I had to get it to her.

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t get anything in overtime as the Hoyas scored the only goal in the six minute extra session.

“I think a big part of OT was getting the draw controls,” said Hompe. “We didn’t come up with those which was disappointing but our defense worked incredibly hard to hold them to just one goal. We almost came back a couple of times, six minutes isn’t that long.”

Going through an overtime contest should pay dividends down the road for the Tigers.

“I think this was a good game for us to get under our belts early on,” said Hompe.

“I think it gave us a lot of experience, particularly going into overtime. Myself and a lot of the younger girls haven’t had that experience so I think there are a lot of positives to take from the game.”

Breaking out with six points has Hompe feeling more positive about her role on the Princeton offense.

“I think I found a different level of comfort in the offense and found where I can look for shots and where I am looking to feed,” said Hompe. “I think it was nice to finally strike that balance.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled to see Hompe reach a higher level.

“We have been looking for that from her; she was a little slow starting in her first two games,” said Sailer.

“I think she was just getting used to what the real competition is like and then today she was really on fire. Her eyes were up, she was seeing things really well. She was finishing really well. It was a breakout game for her. I really hope that she is going to run with this and know that she is an incredible player and capable of so much.”

Sailer was proud of how her players responded to Georgetown’s runs, which saw the Hoyas build leads of 9-5, 14-10, and 16-14.

“I thought we really showed our fight today, getting down 9-5 and coming back and tying it up,” said Sailer.

“Then after Colleen [Smith] scored the goal at 10 and they came back and had four straight, that could have been really defeating and deflating. We kept fighting to even the score. I just think the kids showed a ton of heart and a ton of fight today.”

In Sailer’s view, senior defender Smith exemplified Princeton’s fighting spirit.

“Colleen Smith was unbelievable; she had a goal and an assist today,” said Sailer, who also got four goals from Alexandra Bruno with Anya Gersoff chipping in two goals and Erin Slifer contributing one goal and two assists.

“Her draw controls were great. She is just a player who doesn’t stop, and her heart is amazing.”

In the overtime, the Tigers were unable to take control as they never had the ball.

“We had our play ready to go and we never had an attack possession but we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Sailer.

“I think the last thing I said before we went out for overtime was no yellow cards and then we had two of them. We played four of the six minutes a man down and we didn’t win the draw so we never had the ball in overtime. Having said that, the kids fought to the end. We have to not make the mental mistakes that hurt us in the end.”

While the result was disappointing, Sailer saw a lot of good things from her club.

“I think we have grown so much in just the last week from the Loyola game [a 15-10 loss] to the Rutgers game [an 11-4 win] to this game,” asserted Sailer.

“I am really excited about how the kids played today and where we are moving forward. We saw a lot about the character and the heart of this group and the talent of this group.”

Princeton will be looking to regroup when it opens its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.

“It will be great to open the Ivy season at Brown, they should be tough,” said Sailer.

“Last year they finished their season within an overtime of beating Penn. They are getting better every single year so we are going to be focused this week, just like we were this
past week in practice.”

Hompe, for her part, is confident that the Tigers are going to get better and better.

“I learned a lot about the resilience of our team,” said Hompe. “We are not going to give up and I think the way we acted in this game just shows how we are going to act over the season. This is just one more obstacle for us.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two seasons, Yale has been a major thorn in the side for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Last year, Yale swept Princeton in the rivals’ two meetings as the Tigers finished second to league champions Harvard by one game.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs edged Princeton 66-65 in overtime to hand the Tigers a fifth league loss and extinguish any glimmering hope of contending for a league title.

When the teams met last Friday at Jadwin Gym before a crowd of 2,730, Princeton turned the tables, topping Yale 57-46 to deal a critical blow to its title hopes, dropping the Bulldogs two games behind league-leading Harvard with three games to go.

For Princeton senior star T.J. Bray, getting some payback against Yale was sweet.

“They kind of spoiled our season last year with the sweep and this year, they got us at their place,” said Bray, who scored a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and two assists.

“It feels nice to beat them. It is always a great game; they are very physical. We knew we had to come out and be physical tonight.”

The Tigers came out with intensity on the defensive end, limiting Yale to 29.4 percent shooting from the field (15-of-51) and forcing 16 turnovers and making eight steals.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson appreciated his team’s work at the defensive end in the win over the Bulldogs.

“The credit goes to these guys; they followed the plan,” said Henderson.

“I thought we did a nice job moving our feet. It is a simple game when you move your feet. Our defense has been good in our last six games so I am pleased with that.”

Another good sign for Princeton was outscoring Yale 19-3 in points off of turnovers.

“We happened to get loose balls and long rebounds,” said Henderson. “Those are the plays that make you win and that we didn’t make up at their place.”

Bray exemplified the Princeton defensive effort as he locked down on Yale star Justin Sears, stifling him in the second half.

“T.J. showed us the way with Sears, 19 in the first half, three in the second and then Hans [Brase] stepped into T.J.’s role,” said
Henderson.

“I thought we were able to control him a little bit, not that you can do that completely.”

Bray has been showing the  way offensively as well, averaging 17.9 points a game along with 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

“The consistency of T.J. has been amazing,” said Henderson of Bray, who had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and six assists a night later to help Princeton defeat Brown 69-64 and ended up being chosen as the Ivy Player of the Week.

“That is a really good thing when you can point to one person and say every single night you can count on that number of points and rebounds.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz has become a player that the Tigers can count on. “I think that Spencer is separating himself in some good ways going forward because he is showing some leadership qualities,” said Henderson of Weisz, who tallied 14 points in the win over Yale and then contributed 13 in the victory over Brown and was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“I still think Spencer shouldn’t turn the ball over with as good as a passer and how smart he is. I would like to see that four be a zero but he has been really key for us.”

While Henderson would prefer to see the Tigers, now 17-8 overall, 5-6 Ivy, contending for an Ivy title, he is looking for quality efforts from his squad as it wraps up the regular season.

“We are not in the position we would like to be in,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.

“We have got four losses that were right there, no one is feeling sorry for us because of where we are. I think it is just basketball, games can swing really quickly against you or for you. We have four games left so we are going to milk those.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will take the right approach notwithstanding being stuck in the middle of the Ivy pack in fifth place.

“It is fun to just come and compete,” said Bray. “Whatever role we are in, we are going to compete everyday. Our practices have been great these last couple of weeks. It is unfortunate that we are playing spoiler but if that’s our role we are going to do it well.”

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team ended the season with a whimper, getting swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend by No. 5 Cornell.

But on the ice, the Tigers banged heads with Big Red from beginning to end, battling to the final whistle in two nailbiters that saw Cornell prevail 3-2 and 5-3.

“We played well; we had offensive chances, some we took advantage of, some we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team finished the winter with a final record of 14-13-4. “I am overall proud of the team, they never quit when they faced adversity.”

In the series opener on Friday, Princeton played with pride taking a 2-0 lead on second period goals by Sally Butler and Hilary Lloyd. But Cornell handled that adversity by scoring three unanswered tallies in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“We were up 2-0 in the first game and Kim [Newell] made two huge saves and we had five scoring chances after that in the second but we just didn’t put them in,” lamented Kampersal.

“If we had been up 3-0, it would have been tougher. They have two unbelievable players who played 80 percent of third period and they were so fast. They ended up cashing in their chances; they come at you fast with flurries.”

In Game 2 a day later, the Tigers started fast, jumping out to a 1-0 lead after one period. The Big Red responded with three straight goals and then held a late Princeton rally.

“Our first five minutes was solid and our first period was solid,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Butler, Denna Laing, and Cassidy Tucker in the defeat.

“They started to turn things up and they got ahead 3-1. We fought to get it back to 3-2 and 4-3. There was a weird, awkward bounce on their fourth goal.”

While things didn’t turn out last weekend as Kampersal would have wanted, he enjoyed the journey this winter.

“It is the kind of year that you don’t want to end,” asserted Kampersal. “The kids were great, it was a lot of fun to coach this team. We talked about desire, toughness, being competitive, and being grateful, those were our four core values.”

Kampersal credited his senior group of Katie Jones, Gabie Figueroa, Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, Butler, and Laing with exemplifying those values.

“The seniors gave great leadership, they battled all the way to the end,” said Kampersal.

“They were hockey players, they cared, and they were committed. They left a great impression on the rookies.”

Going forward, Kampersal is looking for a similar commitment from his returning players.

“We need to step up in terms of conditioning, they need to approach the spring like it is the middle of the season,” said Kampersal.

“We have seven freshmen and Jaimie McDonnell who was playing her first season. They played quite a lot and they were a big part of things for us. They are skilled hockey players. They can only get better. They need to get physically stronger and build up their endurance.”

February 26, 2014
MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its season opener Saturday against visiting Hofstra, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was looking to its highly touted offense to set the tone.

But it was an unheralded defense, featuring two freshman starters and a senior making his first career start, that kept ninth-ranked Princeton close in a first half that saw the Tigers commit 10 turnovers and trailing 6-4 by intermission.

Junior attacker Mike MacDonald acknowledged that the Tigers misfired in the crease area.

“I am not sure what it was, maybe first game jitters,” said MacDonald. “We knew at halftime that we were costing the team the game at that point and we needed to step up. The coaches said they are not winning the game, we are losing the game.”

Things got worse for the Tigers in the third quarter as they fell behind 8-4 and took a timeout with 7:34 remaining in the period.

“Our captains, Tom Schreiber, Jack Strabo, and Derick Raabe talked before the coaches and they said listen guys, we are going to be fine, no one panic,” said MacDonald, recalling the message during the break.

“I think we just looked at each other and decided that we needed to step up, it was our time. The defense was doing everything that they could. When they got stops, we weren’t getting them goals at the other end.”

Princeton started getting goals in bunches, scoring four unanswered goals to knot the game at 8-8. After Hofstra scored a goal late in the quarter to regain the lead, the Tigers answered with a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter and never looked back in a 12-10 triumph before a crowd of 1,231 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I think we made better shooting decisions,” said MacDonald, in reflecting on Princeton’s comeback which saw him assist on the seventh goal and then score the first two goals of the fourth quarter. “It started with Tom Schreiber making a big play and we just built off of that.”

MacDonald is looking to build on the promise he has shown in his first two years with the Tigers.

“This year, I just think I have a little more confidence with the ball to start the season,” said MacDonald, who scored a total of 65 goals in his first two seasons, the third highest total in program history coming into a junior campaign.

“Last year, I was a little bit timid. I am not as quick to just pass it to the next guy and let him do the work. I want to contribute a little more.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Georgetown, Ontario, enjoys working with sophomore Ryan Ambler, who had five assists in the win, including two on MacDonald tallies.

“Ryan and I have a very good connection, we are both lefties so we share that side of the field a lot,” explained MacDonald, who ended the day with four goals and an assist.

“We are pretty much interchangeable with what we do. He can go down low and I can go on the wing. It works out really well; we have a lot of chemistry.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates pointed to MacDonald as a key catalyst in the Princeton rally.

“I said to my assistant coach, we have to get Mike into the flow,” said Bates, who also got three goals and two assists from senior star midfielder Schreiber.

“We were trying to initiate below goal line with Ryan and Will [Rotatori] a little bit. We changed our offense completely from the first half to the second and it was a point of emphasis to try to get him the ball because he is such a playmaker. He’s a gamer, he’s tough, he scored some big goals and we started to loosen up as a result.”

Bates credited his trio of defensive middies, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter
deButts, with igniting things.

“We needed some big ground balls and I think that was the difference,” said Bates.

“Jack Strabo played a really good game, he is just so unsung. Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts also did well. Those guys give us a very good look and then we got uncorked offensively.

The goalie rotation, which saw senior Brian Kavanagh make his first career start and sophomore Matt O’Connor coming on in relief to handle the second half, looked good.

“I have great faith in Brian, he played great,” asserted Bates, who got 10 saves from Kavanagh in the first half as he faced a barrage of shots from Hofstra.

“He has earned the right to face 27 shots and he stood tall and the team rallied around him and he played as we expected. Matt earned the right to play the second half and I thought that made sense. Those guys are great, they root for each other. They understand the coach’s perspective. At the end of the day, those were the first two guys we gave a shout out to.”

By the end of the game, the Tiger close defense, which included freshmen Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein along with sophomore Mark Strabo, made strides.

“I said it last night at the team dinner, you guys are going to make mistakes, let’s understand that is the nature of this,” said Bates.

“Part of it came from not communicating, which is to be expected. Hofstra is  well coached and they are smart inside and we didn’t switch, that means you are not communicating. That comes from nerves, from lack of experience. They settled in and I thought we kept our composure and poise which was huge for us. Those guys grew up a little bit and they had a good second half.”

All in all, the comeback win over the Pride was a good first step for a Princeton squad that is facing a major challenge when it welcomes seventh-ranked Johns Hopkins (3-0) to Class of 1952 Stadium this Saturday.

“Hofstra is a hard team to play, they are tough, they are physical,” said Bates, whose team was slated to play a mid-week game at Manhattan on February 25.

“They have something to prove every time out. I have coached against coach [Seth] Tierney and Hofstra for years and years. They lost a game last week that they didn’t want to lose so we knew that we were going to get a team on fire. We let them be on fire a little bit but we handled that. At the end of the day, I think we grew up. I got a few more gray hairs and it wasn’t an easy one but I think it was a good one for us. We grew up as a result and we became a little closer, a little tougher.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes that overcoming Hofstra was a key growth experience for the Tigers.

“That game turned out exactly how we needed it to,” said MacDonald. “We faced some adversity and I think that is the best thing that could have happened to us. We know that we can battle back now if we are down. We are not going to get down on each other and we are just going to keep going.”

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Pete Miller’s performance mirrored how things went for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday.

In the first half, the freshman forward scored five points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-24 halftime lead over the Ivy League frontrunner and defending champion Crimson before a throng of 4,306 at Jadwin Gym.

“I came in and I thought I would be as aggressive as I possibly could,” said the 6’10, 225-pound Miller, a native of Winchester, Mass.

“I think I had a couple of layups, one on a nice pass from T.J. [Bray], and then rebounding, take care of the ball. I think I did a good job in the first half.”

Over the last 20 minutes of the contest, however, Harvard took care of the Tigers, pulling away to a 59-47 win.

“In the second half there were a lot of things I can improve on for the future, not just these next five games but for the rest of my career here,” said Miller, who had two points and no rebounds in the second half.

While Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw some good things, he acknowledged that the Tigers faltered at critical points.

“It was another tough loss for us,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy.

“I thought the game hinged two moments — our inability to pull away in the first half because I thought we really came out and approached the game the right way; I thought we had a tough missed dunk [in the second half] that resulted in a made three pointer going the other way. We never reclaimed the lead, it seemed to really shift the momentum. Those are the kind of plays that stick out in my mind.”

After holding Harvard to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, Princeton lost its way in the second half as the Crimson shot at a 54.2 percent clip and outscored the Tigers 35-18.

“Defensively I thought we were sharp in the first half; we stuck to things,” said Henderson.

“They made a couple of huge shots in the second half, I don’t think it was a lack of total defensive presence. [Kyle] Casey made a shot with T.J.’s hand in his face and [Wesley] Saunders made a big shot. Once those shots go in, you have to kind of adjust and make some reactions. I don’t think we did a good job of that. Our inability to score on offense contributed in some ways to some easy run outs. Offensively, we were a little stuck, we just have to get unstuck.”

Bray, for his part, echoed Henderson’s sentiments, seeing lapses at both ends of the court.

“In the second half, we just got a little lazy on offense and defense,” said Bray, who ended the evening with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds and two assists.

“We weren’t cutting as sharp on offense. We got a few back door layups in the first half and that kind of opened the game for us and we weren’t able to get those in the second half. Defensively, they went to a little more ball screen action and we didn’t handle that well. Our weak-side help wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, that was kind of the key to the game.”

With Princeton hosting Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later, Henderson is looking for Miller and his fellow freshmen, Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz, to get some valuable experience down the stretch.

“I thought our freshmen were very good; I am hard on Pete sometimes but I think 7 points and 5 rebounds are what we are counting on him for,” said Henderson.

“We have to keep going to him because he is doing some really good things. I thought both Steven and Spencer were very good. I just think we are searching for some other pieces so we have got to keep going here.”

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Berger got his final weekend of action at Baker Rink for the Princeton University men’s hockey team off to a good start.

The senior star forward and team captain scored a second period goal last Friday as the Tigers drew to within 2-1 of visiting Colgate.

“Mike Ambrosia made a real good play getting it into the zone and then Alec Rush did a great job getting it down low and moving his feet,” said Berger, reflecting on his tally.

“I was able to get open our front and Rush made a great pass and I tried to bang it in five-hole and it went in for me.”

But things went south from there for Princeton as the Tigers fell 6-1 to the 19th-ranked Raiders.

“I think we felt pretty good through the first two periods, I thought we could have brought it a little more than we did but we were happy with it,” said Berger.

“We wanted to come out and have a good third but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted but we will be ready to go tomorrow and have another good effort.”

Princeton made a valiant effort on Saturday on the program’s annual Senior Day but fell short, losing 4-1 to No. 13 Cornell in the home finale, dropping to 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey.

While the senior weekend didn’t go as planned, Berger has enjoyed his Princeton experience.

“I have been really lucky to have so many great opportunities here and I have loved every minute,” said Berger, whose classmates on the squad include Andrew Ammon, Sean Bonar, Andrew Calof, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, and Rush.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been able to wear that jersey so many times.”

Berger is also thankful to have had the rare chance to serve as a two-time team captain.

“It has been great, it has been really humbling and I have learned a lot about myself,” said Berger, a 6’3, 210-pound native of St. Louis, Mo., who has 53 points on 20 goals and 33 assists in 122 games for the Tigers.

“It has been a great experience, I have been really thankful to have had that opportunity and be able to work with such a great group of guys.”

With Princeton playing at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1 before hitting the road for a first-round ECACH series, Berger is determined to keep working hard to the end.

“Obviously you want to be really thankful to get to play every game but at the same time I don’t want to be too nostalgic,” said Berger.

“I want to come out and treat it like any other game and give it everything I got and try to get a ‘W.’ At the end of the day, we want to be ready for the playoffs and playing our best hockey then.”

February 19, 2014
TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two years, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team has been on the verge of adding to the program’s storied tradition of postseason success.

The Tigers have advanced to a pair of Ivy League championship games and have played in the the opening round of the NCAA tournament but came up short in all three contests.

As the 2014 season gets underway on February 22 when 9th-ranked Princeton hosts Hofstra, the squad’s group of 15 seniors is looking to go out with a bang.

“It is a senior laden group, they came in with high expectations and some goals have remained unmet,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team went 9-6 overall last season, ending the spring with a 12-8 loss to Yale in the Ivy title game.

“It is their last go-around so there is a sense of urgency. We have gone through the rigors together; they have a good perspective. They know things are not going to happen overnight, it is a long season.”

The Tigers have a midfield unit that can make things happen, led by two-time first-team All-American and senior captain Tom Schreiber, the team’s leading scorer in 2013 with 60 points on 28 goals and 32 assists.

“We are actually trying to dial him back, he can dominate practices,” said Bates.

“He has such a skill set and he is playing with so much confidence. He has an edge to his game and that has a ripple effect on the rest of the team. He makes everyone else better. But we know people are going to try to take him out of the game and the others will have to be better and take the next step.”

Bates is confident that junior Kip Orban (27 goals, 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Jake Froccaro (24 goals, 10 assists) can make defenses pay if they focus too much on Schreiber.

“Orban’s confidence has grown; he is adding layers to his game,” said Bates.

“He is working on his off-ball game. He has put in a lot of goals for us and I would be surprised if he doesn’t replicate that. Jake has a broken finger and we hope to have him for Hofstra. He gives us a different dynamic, he makes us a tough matchup there. He will need some time to get his wind and get his legs under him.”

The return of seniors Tucker Shanley (20 goals, 8 assists in 2012) and Forest Sonnefeldt (17 goals, 6 assists in 2012) from injury should make the midfield even tougher to contain.

“Shanley is back, it is nice to have depth,” said Bates. “We need to merge him into the first group. He needs to make better shot decisions and make good plays, it can’t be feast or famine. Forest Sonnenfeldt is back from injury, he is a big body and can set picks and he can really shoot it.”

On attack, junior Mike MacDonald has emerged as a top shooter, scoring a team-high 43 goals in 2013.

“Mike is a tough kid and he does more than finishing,” said Bates of MacDonald, who added 16 assists last spring.

“He is pretty athletic and pretty fast but he likes to lay low. He can dodge and he has a really good understanding of what we want to do on offense. He is finishing my sentences.”

Bates is hoping that sophomore Ryan Ambler (11 goals, 17 assists) and junior Will Rotatori (2 goals, 3 assists) can show a good understanding of the offense as they join MacDonald on the top attack line.

“Ambler is bigger, stronger, and is more confident,” said Bates. “He is finishing the ball really well. I think he is going to take a nice jump this year, he knows his role as a sophomore. Rotatori will be the third guy on attack. He is quick, tough, and fearless. He distributes the ball well. He is used to carrying the ball and we don’t need him to do that as much. He needs to find the right spot off the ball. He needs to figure out how to complement the others.”

At the key face-off spot, Princeton will be looking for junior Justin Murphy to have a big year.

“Murph is the guy we are going to live or die with,” said Bates of Murphy who went 111-of-218 on face-offs in 2013.

“Jack O’Brien is a freshman who did some nice things in the fall. He is another option. We have two other athletes, Sam Gravitte, a longstick, and Zach Currier, who we could use.”

Princeton features some blue-chip athletes as shortstick defensive midfield in a trio of seniors, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter deButts.

“We have Jack Strabo and Nick Fernandez at short-stick middie, they are basically 4-year starters,” said Bates.

“They have grown as leaders and they are hard-working, athletic guys. They can really run the field. Hunter deButts has energy and athleticism.”

Senior Derick Raabe provides energy and skill at longstick midfield, leading the Tigers by picking up 73 ground ball in 2013.

“Derick is a natural there; he is great on ground balls,” said Bates, who also plans to use senior Brendan Bronvino and freshman Gravitte at LSM.

Youth will be served on defense as the Tigers will be relying on sophomore Mark Strabo along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“Mark Strabo is back and healthier; he is a good solid cover guy and he is beginning to understand how to play defense at the college level,” said Bates, who will also be using 6’7 junior Alex Beatty on defense.

“Will Reynolds is pretty heralded and he is all of that. He is a big presence; he is calm and tough. He is a foundation player already; he gives us a sense of calm even though he is a freshman. He has an athletic IQ; he may get beaten once but not again. Bear Goldstein has good feet and can cover the ball well. He is fearless, he is a Texas football kid and will put his helmet in there. He has good stick control and we think he has a lot of upside.”

Bates isn’t quite sure what is up at goalie as senior Brian Kavanagh (8.50 goals against average in 2 games in 2013), junior Eric Sanschagrin (11.86 goals against average in 5 games), and sophomore Matt O’Connor (9.38 goals against average in 12 games) are all vying for the spot.

“That is the big question mark; it is a three-man race,” said Bates. “Brian Kavanagh has notched himself into it; he has looked good in scrimmages. Eric and Matt run hot and cold. Matt was a length ahead in the fall but not so much now. We want to have one step up so we can settle this. Brian is a mature kid and the other two have more game experience. We are going to end up with a good goalie.”

The Tigers will need to step up in order to top Hofstra (0-1) in the opener this Saturday.

“Hofstra is always ready for us, it is good test,” said Bates. “We have some guys playing their first game so it is interesting to see what happens when the lights go on. We need to be smart and manage the nerves.”

Paying attention to game management will be a key if the Tigers are to reach their goals this spring.

“The defense will need to grow up,” said Bates. “We need to be smart and manage the game on the offensive end. We can be pedal to the metal but we can’t just fire low angle or low percentage shots.”

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

If the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team can stay in the present, it could have a bright future.

“The kids are really focused on everyday; they are playing well and learning the system,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer whose team went 10-7 overall in 2013 and advanced to the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“They are working on elevating their game. We have fallen victim to letting the game situation dictate everything. Whether we get off to a good start or a bad start, we need to have confidence in who we are and in our systems. We need to keep fighting and playing our system. The theme this season is the power of now.”

As the 16th-ranked Tigers open their season at No. 8 Loyola on February 22, they boast a lot of firepower on attack.

“Our attack is shaping up very nicely,” asserted Sailer, a Hall of Fame coach,  who is in her 28th season at Princeton and has led the Tigers to three NCAA titles and 332 wins.

“We have great players who are playing well together. We have good depth, it is good to see. We have a really well-rounded offense; we should be balanced in our scoring. I think it is going to be a strength for us.”

Junior Erin McMunn figures to trigger the Tiger offense, having scored 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists. Senior Mary-Kate Sivilli (19 goals and 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Alexandra Bruno (26 goals and 4 assists) should also be key weapons for Princeton.

“We are going to look for a lot out of Erin, she has a sure stick and can finish,” said Sailer.

“Sivilli is having a great year; she had a good fall. She is becoming a leader of the unit. She helps McMunn organize the attack. She sees the field really well; I think this is going to be her best season. Bruno has been hampered by her back but she coming on strong. She is a great shooter. She is an intelligent player and sees the game well.”

The Tigers have several others who have some game on attack. “We have a number of kids who are doing well, Erika Grabbi is a junior who is coming into her own,” added Sailer.

“She is fast and explosive and is one of our most talented 1 v 1 players. We have freshman Olivia Hompe, who is playing around the crease with McMunn, they are developing a good connection. She is a talented kid. Grace Bowen is coming off a stress fracture and she is playing herself into a role. Steph Paloscio (2 goals, 2 assists) has done well. She is little but quick and speedy. Anna Menke is a big, strong kid. We don’t have anyone who isn’t ready play, they can helps us in different situations.”

At midfield, Princeton boasts a strong one-two punch in senior Sarah Lloyd (19 goals, 14 assists) and junior Erin Slifer (19 goals, 20 assists).

“Lloyd and Slifer have been mainstays for us,” said Sailer. “Sarah had been dealing with an injury but she is back. We had a scrimmage at the end of practice the other day and she was all over the field. She is great on the draw, she is great on ground balls and is great in transition and dodging. Slifer is a big, strong player. She came into her own at the end of last season. She became a go-to kid for us. She is a large presence at both ends of the field.”

Sailer is hoping that freshman Anna Doherty and sophomore Anya Gersoff will emerge as go-to players in the midfield,

“Doherty has been doing very well; she is incredibly quick and explosive,” said Sailer. “She can be really good for us. Anya Gersoff (14 goals, 4 assists) has been really impressive. We are expecting a lot from her. She plays field hockey and missed our fall season as a freshman and I think she was behind last year. She expected more from herself because lacrosse is her love. I give her credit, she trained on her own. She worked hard on her footwork. She can do things with the stick and the ball that are really impressive.”

On defense, Princeton will rely on the battle-tested trio of sophomore Liz Bannantine, senior Liz Cutting, and senior Colleen Smith.

“Bannantine, Cutting, and Smith give us three veterans which is good,” said Sailer.

“We have been playing our middies with our attack to get the sets down. That is one thing we have to work on with the defense, we need to get them reps with the first midfield. Cutting and Smith have the experience and Bannantine is really smart on the field.”

The Tigers have some good reinforcements to back up its veteran leaders. “Maddie Rodriguez is a recruited walk-on from Minnesota and she has really surprised us,” said Sailer.

“She is fitting in well; she just goes out there and does her business. Erin Williams is a senior and will get some minutes. Erin Curley, a junior, is doing better. Freshman Amanda Leavell is fast and athletic. She has to learn the system; she will be good.”

Sailer is still trying to figure who is going to get the most minutes at goalie as she is looking at senior Caroline Franke (10.01 goals against average in 15 games in 2013), junior Annie Woehling (9.40 goals against average in five games), and promising freshman Ellie DeGarmo.

“Franke had the experience and performed well in game situations; Annie has been having some good practices,” said Sailer.

“Ellie was All-Met in a tough league in Maryland and she is pushing the two returners. We are hoping that one will emerge. It is a good thing to have options. Against some teams, we may want someone quicker and against other teams, we may want someone who is bigger and holds the angles better. Franke has the early edge coming off of last season; we still haven’t made a firm decision.”

Princeton knows it is facing a big-time team in Loyola (1-0), which is coming off a 16-12 win over perennial power Virginia.

“Loyola is a daunting challenge, we played them in the fall season at Penn,” said Sailer.

“Loyola is fast, fast, fast. They have great attackers, great dodgers. They are good at looking for each other and they have one of the best goalies in the country. We hung in there with them, we played well in spurts. Our defense wasn’t as far along as it is now and we gave up too many goals. We need to compete better on 50/50 balls and in transition. I think it gives us an edge to have been on the field with them rather than just see them on film.”

In Sailer’s view, the Tigers could go far this spring. “This group has great potential, you never know until the ball goes up,” said Sailer.

“We have good talent, we are going to be challenged by a tough early schedule. I think we have the ability to compete against every team we play. We need to grow throughout the season.”

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick misfired when the Princeton University women’s basketball team lost to Harvard last month.

The junior guard hit just 3-of-15 shots as the Tigers fell 78-68 to the Crimson, suffering their only Ivy League loss of the season and just their third league loss since the end of the 2008-09 season.

After the setback, Dietrick made a promise to herself. “I was extremely frustrated after the Harvard game with my own performance and the team’s performance,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, a native of Wellesley, Mass.

“That kind of flipped the switch for me; I am not going to let this team down. I am going to push everybody in practice. I think we have brought a fire and intensity we didn’t have that day.”

Last weekend, Dietrick displayed her fire and intensity, scoring a career-high 27 points in an 81-70 win over visiting Brown on Friday and then bettering that with 28 points a night later as Princeton routed Yale 96-75, improving to 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

While everybody in Jadwin Gym could see that Dietrick was lighting up the scoreboard, the stat line wasn’t her focus.

“I don’t think about it that way, I am just trying to get better every day,” said Dietrick, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her big weekend.

“I don’t like to know how many points I have during a game. I don’t want to think about it. There were a lot of things that I did wrong in those two games and a lot of things I can still improve so I am focused more on that than the good stuff.”

When Dietrick gets the hot hand, she sees it as an opportunity to set up her teammates.

“I am a point guard and I like to pass the ball as well,” said Dietrick, who had 25 points in the first half against Yale and is now averaging 16.0 points a game, third-best in the league.

“So if I have a lot of points in the first half, obviously they are going to be concerned about me which is going to create opportunities for my teammates so that was what I was looking for in the second half. I was trying to get other people involved and keep playing our game. I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was more impressed with Dietrick’s overall floor game than her gaudy scoring stats.

“I looked at the stats after the game last night and I was like wow she had 25 points and then at halftime today I was like oh my god she has 25,” said Banghart.

“I think that says a lot about Blake, I don’t even notice when she is scoring. I notice how she is managing our game, how she is really taking leadership on the court and being the lead guard we need her to be. Scoring is great and she is great at it but it doesn’t paint the whole picture for her. She has emerged into our floor leader. We need her to score so I can’t have her thinking she is just a point guard because then she starts to distribute. She is a scoring lead guard.”

Banghart has seen her team emerge from the Harvard loss with a new identity.

“The Harvard game was such that we were totally out of rhythm and I think they doubted themselves during the game and that is just not us,” said Banghart.

“The team is becoming theirs, they know they can be beaten and it is don’t be afraid of it, whatever. It is us doing our thing.”

With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) a day later, Banghart has little doubt that the Tigers are primed for a big weekend.

“Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley, the sophomores who were like deer in the headlights, are starting to take on some ownership of the game plan and ownership of the personnel,” said Banghart.

“Our seniors (Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung) have buoyed the ship, they have asked their younger teammates to step up. It is February now, you are not young any more.”

Dietrick, for her part, is ready to step up in the rematch with Harvard. “Being mad about that Harvard loss just makes me want to fight harder everyday,” said Dietrick.

“We are back in the swing of it. Every day at practice, we look better and better so I think we are ready to go. I think from here on out, we are going to be really tough to beat.”

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, its annual Senior Day regular season home finale got off to a good start as the Tigers hosted Yale last Saturday.

After the team’s six seniors were introduced one by one, the Tigers proceeded to jump out to a 2-0 lead as freshmen Hilary Lloyd and Fiona McKenna both found the back of the net.

Responding to a Yale goal late in the opening period, Princeton got its lead back up to two as McKenna scored again to put the Tigers ahead 3-1 with 12:37 left in the second period.

But things went downhill from there as Yale scored four unanswered goals to win 5-3 and rain on the seniors’ parade.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal made no effort to hide his disappointment as he assessed his team’s performance.

“It is frustrating all the way around, we had two 2-goal leads and then we crapped out,” said Kampersal, whose team dropped to 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey.

“We let them score 10 seconds after each time we scored which is absolutely ridiculous. We outshoot them 25-5 in the first period but we probably should have gotten a couple of more. We had a wide open net that we missed and then after that it was a weird game. I thought it was one of the worst losses I have been involved with in a long time.”

The defeat was especially stinging since it came on the send-off for the team’s seniors, Denna Laing, Sally Butler, Gabie Figueroa, Rose Alleva, Olivia Mucha, and Katie Jones.

“They are a great group, no question,” said Kampersal. “They have set the standard for us this year. I just wish today went better for them.”

Kampersal is hoping things go better next weekend when Princeton ends regular season action by playing at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day.

“We just have to forget it and compete next weekend,” said Kampersal, whose club stands sixth in the EACH standings and has clinched a spot in the league quarterfinals which will see the top four teams getting home ice in best-of-three series during the weekend of February 28-March 2.

“Now it is time to get ready for the playoffs and try to improve our seeding and play our best hockey the week after.”

February 12, 2014
MONUMENTAL CHALLENGE: After being named as the new head coach of the Princeton University sprint football team, Sean Morey poses last week next to the bronze statue, by Daniel Chester French, honoring the Princeton student-athlete in the Jadwin Gym lobby. Morey, a former Brown football star and 1997 Ivy League Player of the Year who went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, faces a daunting challenge in his first coaching job as the Tigers haven’t won a game in Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) action in more than a decade. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

MONUMENTAL CHALLENGE: After being named as the new head coach of the Princeton University sprint football team, Sean Morey poses last week next to the bronze statue, by Daniel Chester French, honoring the Princeton student-athlete in the Jadwin Gym lobby. Morey, a former Brown football star and 1997 Ivy League Player of the Year who went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, faces a daunting challenge in his first coaching job as the Tigers haven’t won a game in Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) action in more than a decade.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sean Morey spent a few hours last Saturday evening cleaning the carpet in the Princeton University sprint football office in the B level at Jadwin Gym.

As the former Brown football star receiver and 1997 Ivy League Player of the Year, who went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, takes over as the new head coach of the moribund Princeton sprint program, he is starting from the ground up, literally and figuratively.

The Tigers haven’t won a game in Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) action in more than a decade as their losing streak has passed the 80 mark and Morey brings exactly zero coaching experience to the job.

But he does possess a deep understanding of what it means to succeed as an underdog in the world of NFL football since the undersized 5’11, 193-pound Morey molded himself into a Pro Bowl special teams performer and earned a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.

The upbeat Morey is primed to apply some of those NFL lessons to his new football challenge as he replaces Steve Everette, the former Princeton High coach who guided the Tiger sprint program from 2011-13.

“I am excited for the opportunity to impart the understanding of the game and some of the wisdom that is garnered from the daily grind and the remnants of experiences, whether they be good or bad,” said Morey, 37, sitting in his office surrounded by boxes, desks, and chairs pushed together, game films, and a flat screen on one wall, and two whiteboards.

“There are ways you can approach situations in life with an open mind, a good attitude, with a strong work ethic, with constructive criticism, and being honest about yourself. I have developed this mentality that there is nothing too big that you can’t figure out. Yet you have to take a step back and assess the situation, be honest, be self critical, correct your mistakes, and move forward.”

One of the big problems that Morey has to address in getting Princeton on the right track is attracting more players to a program that has had two forfeits in the last three seasons due to inadequate manpower stemming from injury problems and that does not get any admissions slots for its athletes.

“I am going to have to be creative and look at the intramural sports that are played through campus recreation and identify the kids that might have played some high school football and have an interest in coming out,” said Morey, who can’t use players weighing more than 172 pounds under CSFL rules.

“On-campus recruiting is important and I anticipate reaching out to all of the high schools in the area and building rapport with the coaches so that if kids can get into Princeton that have that aspiration of being a scholar athlete but they are not big enough for it, or as heavily recruited and they will fall within the weight restrictions, to give them an opportunity to compete. We can’t recruit or bring them on campus because there is really not a budget for that. I will probably look more into that and try to identify more creative ways to expose potential candidates to the program. I think the viability of any program is directly related to the ability to practice competitively and to prepare adequately and the only way to do that is that you must have enough players on the field.”

Having worked at Princeton the last two years on a fellowship in general athletic administration should aid Morey in the effort to draw more players.

“It helps because I felt like the first year I spent a lot of time building relationships with people and getting to know people,” said Morey, whose wife, Cara, is an assistant coach for the Princeton women’s hockey team.

“I would take a little extra time to talk and get to know people. I feel like I know who is Princeton athletics.”

Once Morey gets those players, he is going to focus on getting them to know dedication.

“They are going to get out of this what they want to put into it,” said Morey, who acknowledged that he may have put too much of himself into his football career, suffering more than 20 concussions during his NFL years and acknowledging that he takes such drugs as Ritalin and Propranolol to deal with the after-effects of the concussions and function better on a daily basis.

“I do know what it takes to commit to something greater than yourself and to be respectful, to be kind, to be honest, to be dedicated to something. I believe that  with the right mindset, you can overcome challenges.”

In Morey’s view, the team’s returning players have displayed an admirable mindset as they have endured a steady diet of losing, including a 2013 campaign that saw the Tigers go 0-7 and get outscored 330-88 in the six games they did play.

“I think part of the reason I took the job is that I already have relationships; I was covering the games as an event manager,” said Morey, noting that the alumni support has been the backbone of the program through its lean times.

“I never saw anybody quit, I saw some bad body language at times. I felt like that, by and large, the kids played hard, and they finished every play. They are good kids. I think their GPA is the highest of any sport so they are smart kids. I feel like they are well rounded and they have a lot of different things going on. I appreciate that. When they come to our lifts, our runs, or our practices, and certainly the games, they are going to have to find a way to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand.”

Morey is also working on the task of getting a better feel for the eight-team CSFL, which has been dominated by Army in recent years.

“I still have to learn more, I don’t know enough as it stands,” said Morey, who is interviewing for assistant coaches to fill out his staff and sees himself as playing more of a role in devising defensive schemes.

“I do think that surprisingly, it is a very physical league. Army and Navy have deep squads and they have the type of player who is very aggressive and plays hard.”

In Morey’s view, he can help his players get up to speed by passing on the knowledge he gained during his NFL career.

“I can help with technique, leverage, understanding concepts on how to win the one-on-one battles, and how to prepare to play the game, how to watch film, and practice tempo,” said Morey, who will be holding five practices this spring under CSFL rules and will have the team participate in a strength and conditioning program as well.

“We will be making sure that people are using the techniques that we coach and teach them. We will hold them accountable to being on time, to having a good attitude, and working hard which is fairly necessary if you want to be competitive at anything.”

The Princeton players will have a good role model when it comes to work ethic and competitiveness in their new head coach. “I was always the first in there and the last one to leave, literally,” said Morey, who had a two-page to-do list at his side.

“It almost became obsessive, especially for me to extend my career because I knew I could lose my job any day. To have garnered the kind of respect to be a captain on every team and go to the Pro Bowl, I felt that I had to live up to that. If I slacked off, it would be a sign of disrespect.”

The respect that Morey has for his coaches will influence his approach. “You can learn something from everyone,” said Morey, who played for such prominent NFL coaches as John Harbaugh, Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, and Bill Cowher.

“I don’t think I will ever be a coach that will manifest some false sense of Machiavellian power rants to motivate. I want to teach, I want to teach the game, I want players to develop as people and as competitive athletes. My expectation is that they have a very positive experience, that they learn, that they get better, that they have fun, and they compete.”

While the rebuilding process will be arduous, coming in on the ground floor with Morey should be a positive experience for the Princeton players.

FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University men’s basketball  player Spencer Weisz heads to the hoop in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman star Weisz and classmate Steven Cook came up big as Princeton topped Cornell 69-48 to earn its first Ivy League victory of the season. Each player produced a career high in points as Weisz tallied a game-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor while Cook chipped in 13 points as he hit 5-of-7 shots from the field. The Tigers, now 13-6 overall and 1-4 Ivy, play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale on February 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz heads to the hoop in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman star Weisz and classmate Steven Cook came up big as Princeton topped Cornell 69-48 to earn its first Ivy League victory of the season. Each player produced a career high in points as Weisz tallied a game-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor while Cook chipped in 13 points as he hit 5-of-7 shots from the field. The Tigers, now 13-6 overall and 1-4 Ivy, play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale on February 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s basketball team squandered a 13-point first half lead in losing 53-52 to Columbia, seeing its prospects for an Ivy League title take a potentially fatal hit as the Tigers fell to 0-4 in league play.

A night later, Princeton topped Cornell 69-48 for its first Ivy triumph and, more importantly, saw reason to hope for future title runs as freshmen Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook each produced career-highs in points.

Weisz tallied a game-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor while Cook chipped in 13 points as he hit 5-of-7 shots from the field, delighting a crowd of 2,964 on hand at Jadwin Gym.

In reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 13-6 overall and 1-4 Ivy, Weisz said the Tigers focused on relaxing to break their slide.

“Before the game and the pregame talk, coach really emphasized to just have fun,” said Weisz, who has been averaging 8.9 points a game with a previous career best of 17 points.

“We were playing with too much tension all around and we needed to loosen up.”

For Cook, his breakthrough effort came down to feeling more at ease on the court.

“I definitely felt a lot more comfortable,” said Cook, a 6’5, 185-pound native of Winnetka, Ill. whose career high coming into the night was five points. “We had a great week of practice and I had gotten a lot of encouragement from the guys after not getting a ton of opportunities in the beginning of the season.”

It was Cook’s third start of the season and he acknowledges getting the opportunity has brought some pressure.

“It has been tough, there are a lot of adjustments that you have to make, especially as a freshman,” said Cook. “I tried to stay ready and play hard.”

Developing a bond with his classmate Weisz has helped Cook in the adjustment process.

“It has been great, Spencer has so much that he brings to the court and so much that he brings to the team,” said Cook.

“He is a great passer, he is a great shooter, he knocked down three 3’s tonight. He is very versatile and he is always looking to make people around him better, he reminds me a lot of T.J. [senior point guard and team captain T.J. Bray] actually. T.J. does a lot of similar things and really makes us better.”

Weisz, for his part, is looking for Cook more and more on the court. “We have a few more years together but I feel like we are creating a solid base together now,” said Weisz.

“In practice, things are starting to click a lot more and I am looking forward to the rest of the season and the years to come after.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson is hoping that the win over Cornell is a harbinger of good things to come over the rest of the season.

“I thought we did a nice job of having a short-term memory; I don’t think anybody in this program got much sleep last night,” said Henderson, who got 17 points, six assists, and five rebounds from senior star Bray in the victory over the Big Red.

“It is amazing what a couple of shots falling does for a team’s soul. I felt like we got our groove back a little bit and we have got to keep it going.”

In Henderson’s view, the Tigers benefited by loosening up a little bit. “I think just the way the ball was moving and the mental approach to the game,” said Henderson, when asked to discuss the biggest positives of the team’s performance.

“I don’t think we do very well with tension so I thought they were loose, they were ready to go, there was energy and that’s the way you play the game.”

Inserting Cook into the starting lineup has given the Tigers a jolt of energy.

“Steven can really make shots and he is a good rebounder,” said Henderson.

“It was really the week leading up to our Division III game (an 84-54 win over Kean on January 26) that things started clicking, with the way he was moving. When you start losing games, everything has to change a little bit. I am fortunate that we have Steve here and he was patient and he has given us some boost that we needed.”

The Tigers got a boost on Saturday from the presence of numerous alums of the program who were on hand at Jadwin for a post-game function in honor of former coach and Hall of Famer Pete Carril.

“We did talk about it. I certainly felt this way when I came here,” said Henderson, a former Princeton star whose team plays at Brown on February 14 and at Yale on February 15.

“The reason we are here is for a lot of the guys that are here tonight. I think they are here to say thanks to coach. We are lucky, we get the opportunity to do that with him everyday. I think there are only a handful of programs in the country that have a consistency with the players wanting to come back and most important, the way that we think. We try to play smart and play tough. From Geoff Petrie to Armond Hill to Craig Robinson and too many players to name who are here tonight. Nobody is feeling sorry for us, those guys want us to fight and that is what I think these guys did tonight and I am happy for them.”

Weisz, for his part, made it clear that he and his teammates are inspired by their predecessors.

“Also I think the perspective of having the alumni in the stands for the Carril event really helped,” said Weisz.

“We had John Thompson III [Princeton hoops alum and current Georgetown head coach] talk to us earlier in the year and he was talking about how the older guys pay attention to what we are doing here in the season. We are playing for more than just ourselves, we are playing for the program’s history and the guys that came before us.”

SIIRO HOUR: Princeton University men’s hockey player Ryan Siiro skates up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Siiro contributed an assist in a losing cause as Princeton fell 4-3 to No. 14 Clarkson. The Tigers, now 4-19 overall and 3-13 ECAC Hockey, play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SIIRO HOUR: Princeton University men’s hockey player Ryan Siiro skates up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Siiro contributed an assist in a losing cause as Princeton fell 4-3 to No. 14 Clarkson. The Tigers, now 4-19 overall and 3-13 ECAC Hockey, play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While it has been a rough winter for the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it has sunk to the cellar of the ECAC Hockey standings, the Tigers may have hit rock bottom last Friday when they hosted St. Lawrence.

Getting outshot 50-25 by the Saints, Princeton lost 7-1, giving up five unanswered goals after it had narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the second period.

Afterward, Princeton head coach Bob Prier didn’t mince any words as he assessed his team’s performance.

“That’s as bad a loss as we have had all year,” said Prier. “They outworked us, outplayed us. They probably won 90 percent of the stick battles and 90 percent of the face-offs, which means that they wanted it way more than we did in our own rink.”

In the loss to St. Lawrence, the Tigers were plagued by their tendency this winter of starting slowly.

“I thought we came out a little flat; we looked a little tired,” said Prier. “We obviously weren’t as prepared as they were. I take full responsibility for that. We felt like we were ready to go but we have to figure a way to come out of the gate a little bit stronger. We will do everything we can to do it and bounce back and come back and get some of these tough points here.”

When the Tigers narrowed the gap to 2-1 midway through the second period on a goal by freshman Ryan Siiro, Prier thought his team might be able to right the ship.

“I think it was turning; we just weren’t real responsible with the puck shortly thereafter,” lamented Prier. “I think we maybe tried to do a little bit too much and we had lot of turnovers.”

A night later, the Tigers did produce a much stronger effort as they fell 4-3 to No. 14 Clarkson with senior Andrew Ammon scoring two goals and freshman Hayden Anderson chipping in his first career goal. Princeton outshot the Golden Knights 37-32 on the evening before a standing room only crowd of 2,245 at Baker Rink.

The play of unheralded defenseman Anderson has been a bright spot for the Tigers who dropped to 4-19 overall and 3-13 ECAC Hockey with the loss to the Golden Knights.

“We have Hayden Anderson on the left defense, give him credit, he plays his butt off and does everything you ask him,” said Prier of the 6’0, 200-pound native of Edina, Minn.  “He is a walk on right out of high school.”

Prier also credited sophomore Kyle Rankin with giving the Tigers a lift as he has been switched to defenseman from forward.

“Rankin has done a good job,” said Prier. “He is a good skater and he can get us out of the zone so we will see how it evolves. He may not be back there permanently but until we can get some depth and some guys back there, it is a good spot for him.”

In order for Princeton to get out of its slide which has seen it lose five straight games, the players have to show more unity and intensity on the ice.

“We need more passion, pride, and commitment to each other,” maintained Prier, whose team heads to New England this weekend to play at Brown on February 14 and at Yale a day later.

“We have to work on figuring out how to come out with a lot more fire and the desire to win battles and be more responsible with pucks.”

February 6, 2014
LENDING ASSISTANCE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler races up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Butler had an assist on the game-winning goal by Denna Laing as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2. Butler leads the Tigers in assists this season with 13.  Princeton, now 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LENDING ASSISTANCE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler races up the ice in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward Butler had an assist on the game-winning goal by Denna Laing as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2. Butler leads the Tigers in assists this season with 13. Princeton, now 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sally Butler, her next-to-last regular season weekend at Baker Rink started on a down note as the Princeton University women’s hockey team dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Harvard last Friday evening.

Coming into Saturday’s game against Dartmouth, Butler and her teammates were determined to hold their heads high in the wake of the loss to the Crimson.

“We were going for the Ivy League championship; we had a chance,” said senior forward Butler, referring to the Harvard loss.

“We had to put it behind us right after the game. Coach [Jeff] Kampersal told us to let it go and just focus on today because Dartmouth is always a tough team to play against.”

The Tigers proceeded to show their mental toughness as they edged Dartmouth 3-2.

While Princeton got off to a slow start against the Big Green, it rose to the occasion in the latter stages of the contest. “I think we picked it up as the play went on,” said Butler, a 5’9 native of Etobicoke, Ontario.

Princeton seized momentum when it scored two goals in the first five minutes of the third period to take a 3-1 lead.

“That was huge,” said Butler reflecting on that key sequence. “It is always good to get two quick like that and step on a team and get the momentum and get them second-guessing themselves but they did fight back and at the end there it got scary.”

It was good for Butler to set up classmate Denna Laing for Princeton’s third goal, a tally that turned out to be the game-winner.

“Laing was just in front with her stick on the ice so I was lucky to get it through to her and she just put it away,” said Butler, recalling her assist which was her team-high 13th on the season. “She has been having a great season putting the puck in the net so you just get it to her and it goes in.”

With Princeton going 2-1 since returning from its exam break to improve to 11-9-3 overall and 7-7-2 ECAC Hockey, Butler believes the Tigers are going in the right direction.

“It is not a bad start, obviously it would have been nice to beat Harvard yesterday,” said Butler.

“It is always big for us, not just because of the standings but because of the rivalry so that would have been nice. We just have to look forward.”

The Tigers have been benefiting from a nice chemistry this winter. “We definitely have a better dynamic this year, the team as a whole gets along better,” said Butler.

“We have a very good bunch in the freshmen and they are going to be great for the team down the road.

Princeton head coach Kampersal is proud that his team didn’t let down in the wake of the disappointing loss to Harvard.

“I think we had so much passion, energy, and heart last night,” said Kampersal.

“It is always tough to bounce back the next day, particularly against a really good team like Dartmouth that is in the same boat as us, fighting for points. So that was a good, gutsy win.”

Kampersal liked the guts his team showed over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“In the third period, we are usually stronger than most of the teams that we play,” asserted Kampersal.

“I think we are in really good shape. The Tuesday night game [a 6-1 win over Penn State on January 28] was good to get us going after exams; sometimes that hurts us for this weekend. They did a good job.”

Kampersal credited Butler with doing a good job of hanging in on her feed to Laing for the decisive goal.

“They didn’t play together this week but they played together that one shift and that was nice,” said Kampersal.

“Sally was actually out there a little bit longer that she should have been but she made a nice little play to her.”

Sophomore forward Jaimie McDonnell had a nice game as she contributed a goal and an assist in the third period.

“Jaimie had a big goal for sure and then she played tough and blocked a couple of shots at the end,” said Kampersal.

“I like her toughness on the boards. She is a hockey player so she has good instincts.”

The Tigers also got some tough play along the blue line. “I thought the defense did a good job,” added Kampersal.

“I thought Ali Pankowski clicked all weekend. She put a lot of shots on net and played good, solid D. I thought Gabie Figueroa and Brianne Mahoney stepped up and did a good job.”

If the Tigers are going to stay in the top eight in the ECACH standings and make the playoffs, they are going to have to keep stepping up.

“We are fighting for our playoff lives again,” said Kampersal, whose team is currently in sixth place and just missed qualifying for the postseason last winter.

“We have six to go and they are all against tough opponents so I told them that every game is going to be like the Harvard, Dartmouth games, an absolute battle.”

In Kampersal’s view, his players are prepared to fight to the end. “All year, their approach has been really good,” said Kampersal, who will be looking for Princeton to keep on the winning track as it plays at St. Lawrence on February 7 and at Clarkson on February 8.

“Sometimes we start out a little slow but their weekly approach in terms of how they sleep, how they eat, how they train has been focused. Yesterday they played their hearts out against Harvard so there was not much to say, you can’t ask for any more than that.”

Butler, for her part, is determined to play her heart out to the final whistle of her career.

“It is bittersweet, all good things come to an end,” said Butler, who has tallied 77 points on 36 goals and 41 assists in 112 appearances for Princeton.

“I think the goal is to just keep the season alive as long as possible and, beyond that, you just have to give your best effort everyday. You need enjoy it while it is still here and make it last as long as it can, that is what we are going to be aiming to do.”

 

SEEING RED: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter, center, fights through two Harvard players in Princeton’s 78-68 loss last Friday to the visiting Crimson. The defeat marked Princeton’s first home Ivy League loss since 2009. Helmstetter and the Tigers got back on track a night later, topping Dartmouth 76-53 to to improve to 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter, center, fights through two Harvard players in Princeton’s 78-68 loss last Friday to the visiting Crimson. The defeat marked Princeton’s first home Ivy League loss since 2009. Helmstetter and the Tigers got back on track a night later, topping Dartmouth 76-53 to to improve to 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University women’s basketball team found itself trailing Harvard 44-30 at halftime last Friday, senior co-captain Kristen Helmstetter decided it was time for some words of wisdom.

“I think it was important as a senior that both me and Hung [senior co-captain Nicole Hung] needed to tell our team, it is fine we are good, settle down, and play like Princeton plays,” said Helmstetter.

“We play hard and we play with heart. As long as we do that, we’ll get back into the game and we did that.”

With Helmstetter scoring seven points in the second half, the Tigers cut the Harvard lead to one point on three different occasions in the second half. Princeton, though, couldn’t get over the hump as the Crimson pulled away to a 78-68 win in the early season Ivy League showdown.

Helmstetter acknowledged that four-time Ivy champion Princeton didn’t play hard enough in the first half as it trailed by as much as 31-13 at one point.

“I think where we struggled in the beginning was on the defensive end, we lacked accountability there,” said Helmstetter.

“They are a good offensive team and unfortunately we weren’t on point today on defense and that hurt us.”

The Tigers showed some accountability as they outscored Harvard 38-34 over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“We came out and won the second half,” said Helmstetter. “We did think the tide was turning. It is a game of runs and unfortunately that came to an end.”

A night later, the tide turned for Princeton as it topped Dartmouth 76-53 while Harvard lost 67-38 at Penn leaving the Tigers at 11-6 overall and 2-1 Ivy while the Crimson moved to 13-5 overall and 3-1 Ivy. Harvard is currently in a three-way tie with Cornell and Yale atop the league while Princeton and Penn are both a half-game behind in fourth.

“Everyone has back-to-back games and some teams deal with it differently,” said Helmstetter, a 6’0 native of nearby Bridgewater who earned second-team All-Ivy honors last winter.

“Each team is going to continue to play Friday, Saturday and we’ll see who comes out on top.”

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart wasn’t banking on her team going undefeated in the league, she was surprised to see the Tigers suffer their first Ivy loss at home since February 13, 2009 when they fell 56-54 to Yale at Jadwin.

“I have been in the league a long time; I think it has happened twice in the round robin before the Princeton team so it almost never happens,” said Banghart, noting that the team was rusty, seeing its first game action after a 19-day hiatus for exams.

“I said I hate to burst your bubble but I wasn’t expecting an undefeated run. I was hoping it wouldn’t be at home but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be undefeated and neither will Harvard.”

Banghart did see progress in the second half. “It is always better to be early on defense and late on offense,” said Banghart, who got 16 points from sophomore Michelle Miller in the win over Dartmouth with sophomore Alex Wheatley chipping in 11 points.

“We had it completely reversed; we were late on defense and early on offense. Rebounding is a product of how you defend so I thought in the second half we were much more aggressive.”

With 11 games left in the Ivy campaign, that aggressiveness could pay dividends as the Tigers go for their fifth straight league crown.

“The Ivy League title is won with seniors and on the defensive end so if we are good defensively, we have enough weapons and enough looks to win this thing,” said Banghart, whose team plays at Columbia on February 7 and at Cornell on February 8.

“We just have to shore up our defense. I like our body of work over a 14-game season.”

Helmstetter still likes Princeton’s title chances, noting that there is a lot of basketball to be played.

“All I can do is tell my underclassmen to keep their heads up; it is only one game and one game means nothing,” said Helmstetter.

“People lose games when you play back to back and I think that is a good message for them to know that each night is a new night and to come out with a new mentality and win that next game.”

 

ANCHOR WOMAN: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action last season. Sophomore Johnson, a third-team All-American in her debut campaign who went on to lead the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer, figures to anchor the Princeton defense this season. The seventh-ranked Tigers will get the 2014 campaign underway by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational from February 8-9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ANCHOR WOMAN: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action last season. Sophomore Johnson, a third-team All-American in her debut campaign who went on to lead the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer, figures to anchor the Princeton defense this season. The seventh-ranked Tigers will get the 2014 campaign underway by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational from February 8-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Luis Nicolao is facing a problem in guiding his Princeton University women’s water polo team that would be the envy of most coaches.

With Princeton coming off a 28-6 season and CWPA eastern title, Tiger head coach Nicolao’s cupboard may be too full as he welcomes back most of the stars from that squad.

“Our practices have been great; we have 12 or 13 great players and the scrimmages have been very good and very competitive,” said Nicolao, whose team earned a fifth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships.

“We can’t start more than six players but 11 think they should start and they are right. I tell them the key is depth. We need to play the whole team and get the bench to where the players are interchangeable.”

Princeton has turned heads in the water polo world, rising to seventh in the latest national poll before it has even played a game this season.

“It’s nice to have the ranking but the girls know that it means nothing,” said Nicolao.

“It puts a bigger target on our backs. The only ranking that matters is being No. 1 in the east at the end of April.”

The Tigers will get their 2014 season underway this weekend by hosting their annual Princeton Invitational and the players are primed to show how good they are.

“They are excited to get started,” said Nicolao. “There is a level of confidence but they know last year doesn’t matter. There are a lot of teams gunning for us, it is going to be very tough.”

With sophomore star goalie Ashleigh Johnson returning after earning third-team All-American honors in her debut campaign, the Tigers will be tough to score on.

“Ashleigh had a really great summer playing internationally,” said Nicolao of Johnson, who helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships last summer and was named the tournament’s top goalie.

“She is a special athlete. She is so good she gives the chance to win any game. We are fortunate to have her.”

The Tigers are fortunate to have some other good defenders around Johnson.

“We are a very strong defensive team,” asserted Nicolao. “We have gotten even stronger with the addition of freshmen Morgan Hallock, she is 6’2 and plays with the junior national team, and another freshman, Sydney Saxe. We have only gotten deeper.”

Princeton is also deep on offense, led by senior co-captain Katie Rigler, who tallied 66 goals and 15 assists last season.

“Rigler is doing great; she is a senior and should have a big year,” said Nicolao.

“But the key is balance, we have seven or eight girls who can score 30 goals so we can’t key on Katie,” said Nicolao, citing such stars as sophomore Diana Murphy and a quartet of talented juniors in Jessie Holecheck, Taylor Dunstan, Ashley Hatcher, and Camille Hooks. “We have a lot of firepower, it is a matter of playing well.”

In Nicolao’s view, the Tigers have a chance to do very well this season.

“I think our potential is unlimited,” said Nicolao. “We can’t let emotion get the best of us and we can’t think we have won games before even playing them. We have to play the game and execute.”

As Princeton welcomes Wagner, Iona, and the NYAC this weekend for its Invitational, it is looking to execute well.

“It will be nice to get some games and see some different opponents,” said Nicolao.

“We have a good first month; we play Michigan, UC San Diego, and Hartwick. We have some early challenges but we have to keep our perspective because nothing is won in February.”

 

January 29, 2014
RAISING KEAN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz drives to the hoop last Sunday in Princeton’s 84-54 victory over Kean University. Freshman star Weisz scored 15 points with four rebounds and an assist in the win and was later named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season. Princeton, now 12-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy League, resumes league action this weekend by playing at defending Ivy champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RAISING KEAN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz drives to the hoop last Sunday in Princeton’s 84-54 victory over Kean University. Freshman star Weisz scored 15 points with four rebounds and an assist in the win and was later named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season. Princeton, now 12-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy League, resumes league action this weekend by playing at defending Ivy champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having come through his first exam period of his college career, Princeton University men’s basketball freshman star Spencer Weisz was anxious to get back on the court.

Even though Princeton cruised to an 84-54 win over Division III Kean University at Jadwin Gym last Sunday in its first action since January 11, Weisz believed that the Tigers gained a lot from the win.

“This is my first time through this schedule of not playing for a few weeks,” said Weisz, a 6’4, 180-pound native of nearby Florham Park.

“We started off really well defensively.  In the first few minutes, we held them to 1-of-17 from the field, I believe coach said. Then defensively, we let up a little bit. It is good that we have this game to show us that we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially coming into the important part of the season ahead.”

Weisz produced some good work in the win, scoring 15 points with four rebounds and an assist, later getting named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week, the third time he has earned that honor this season.

While Weisz acknowledged that it took the Tigers a while to get in synch offensively, he certainly got into a groove.

“I believe there was some rust but then again, it was great to be on the court with the guys,” said Weisz, who hit on 6-of-9 shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.

“Whether we play a D-1 team or a D-III team, I think there is natural rust but I think it is really how quickly you can get that off, that says a lot about your team. Last Sunday was my last exam so I have been able to get down to the gym and get some shots up. I felt like it paid off tonight.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson felt good to see his team in action as it looks to move on from its 77-74 loss at Penn in its Ivy League opener and last appearance before the exam break.

“There were some things today that we could improve on but I saw enough good things,” said Henderson, whose squad led 37-23 at half and never looked back as it improved to 12-3 overall.

“We were just happy to put the uniform on and take the floor. I was talking to coach [Pete] Carril yesterday and he was reiterating to me and the staff how important this game is for us. We are entering into a huge week and I think we are ready to meet that challenge.”

Henderson is challenging his team to step up on the defensive end of the floor.

“Defense is what we have got to concentrate on; we want to be a good defensive team,” asserted Henderson.

“I think we can be; we have been at moments. I have been saying this for a while, basketball has been going on for 50 or 75 years and you have to keep your body in front of your man so that is what we are trying to concentrate on.”

The Tigers got some good work from their reserves in the win over Kean as Henderson went to the bench as the Tigers pulled away.

“I thought they were good; you have to remember that Jimmy Sherburne, Ben Hazel, Chris Clement, and T.J. Bray, didn’t play much as freshmen,” said Henderson.

“I like our freshmen group quite a bit. You got a chance to see some of the things that we see in practice. We get a really good look from our scout team. Steve Cook is a good rebounder. Henry Caruso has a knack; he played six or seven minutes and he is on the free throw line four times. Bobby Garbade is a very good passer and we know that Clay Wilson can really shoot. What I think is really important to me is that those guys are in there and we look the same, it is us. It is what we are supposed to look like.”

Princeton is facing an important weekend as it resumes Ivy action by playing at defending league champion Harvard (14-2 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on January 31 and at Dartmouth (7-7 overall, 0-1 Ivy) the next day.

“We feel good for about an hour and then it is over,” said Henderson. “Harvard and Dartmouth are playing right now so we will go back and watch the game. We are ready; we know what the drill is with two games on a weekend. You prepare for both games and Friday is obviously a key test. For us, I think it is going to come down to four or five plays. We have been talking about that a lot. We are going to have to make shots. Both teams are playing well.”

Still smarting from the loss to Penn, the Tigers are ready for a shot at Harvard and the chance to get into the thick of the title race.

“You have to play them at some point,” said Henderson of Harvard. “I think there are plenty of teams in the league that are playing well. I think we put ourselves in a tough position with our first game. You just have to play.”

Weisz, for his part, believes that Princeton is primed to play well. “Obviously this is something I have been looking forward to for a while,” said Weisz.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted a few weeks ago at Penn but then again we have a lot of opportunities to make up for that. Come this weekend, we can get right back on track. I think this week of practices is very important for us. We are looking to get after it in practice, especially defensively and that is going to contribute a lot to this weekend coming up and the weekends after that.”

January 22, 2014
OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

OUT OF AFRICA: Zimbabwe native Sean Wilkinson smiles for his first team photo as head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team. Wilkinson, who starred at Bates College and had previous coaching stints at Brown University and Drexel University, succeeded legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan last May. He has guided the Tigers to a 3-3 overall record so far in his debut campaign. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Sean Wilkinson is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Growing up in Zimbabwe and establishing himself as one of the top junior squash players in the country, Wilkinson left Africa for the United States as a teenager to attend the St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

After struggling to adjust, Wilkinson enjoyed a fine high school career and headed to Bates College where he starred for the men’s squash team. As a senior, he served as a de facto coach when the program was undergoing a leadership transition.

Deciding to go into coaching upon graduation, he took a job as a teaching pro at a squash club in Milan, Italy, despite not knowing anyone in the country or one word of Italian.

He then returned to the U. S. to serve as an assistant coach at Brown and then headed to Drexel to help that school start an intercollegiate squash program.

Last spring, Wilkinson took on his greatest challenge yet as he was named to succeed legendary Hall of Famer Bob Callahan as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team.

“I applied at the end of April, I was hoping to get an interview,” said Wilkinson.

“When I got the interview, it went well. I was talking about something I love and have a passion for. I was offered the job five days after my interview. It was an exciting time.”

Wilkinson, 28, is excited to have the support of his predecessor Callahan, a former Princeton squash star who was the head coach at his alma mater for 32 years and guided the Tigers to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles, and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012).

“Bob is a legend, he is such a wonderful person,” said Wilkinson. “There is always going to be pressure in a job with a team that has been so successful over the years. Bob believes in what I am trying to do. This is going to take time, I am rebuilding in my own style.”

When Wilkinson first came to the U.S., he did have a bit of a rough time. “I got the opportunity to come to St Paul’s School and I took the opportunity with both hands,” said Wilkinson.

“I think it was hard for a number of reasons. I was only 14 when I came over. The education system is very different here and I struggled. There was turmoil at home and that didn’t help.”

Eventually, Wilkinson started to feel at home in New England. “I settled down and made some good friends,” said Wilkinson.

“I had a good support network. I didn’t play squash as much. I had to put a lot of time into my education. We did finish fourth or fifth in New England.”

Once at Bates, Wilkinson was able to put more into his squash. “I dove all in again; I was lucky because we had a good team and my best friends were on the team,” said Wilkinson.

“In my senior year, we were No. 6 in the country at one point. We had a strong team. We won our division at nationals; it was the highest finish for Bates. We were athletic and competitive. We were the underdogs but everything came together.”

Wilkinson had a special role in that success as he became a de facto coach of the program.

“My senior year was my third year as captain and the coach that season was in charge of travel, hotels and finances but he wasn’t a squash guy,” said Wilkinson, who was a first-team New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) selection and earned the Bates College Sportsmanship Award.

“I took the lead; I helped coach both teams. I would organize the practice plan on a day-to-day basis. The other players knew me and trusted me; they allowed me to get on with it.”

It didn’t take long for Wilkinson to realize that he found his calling in coaching. “It was a very easy transition,” said Wilkinson.

“I got into it by accident. Everyone knew who I was and they trusted me. I really enjoyed it and I decided I wanted to coach full time.”

Getting to know Peter Nicol, a world No. 1 squash player, helped send Wilkinson off  to an adventure to Europe.

“We met at a squash camp where I was a junior coach,” said Wilkinson, referring to Nicol, a Scot who won one World Open title, two British Open crowns, and four Commonwealth Games Gold Medals and is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding international squash players of his time.

“We got on really well. He asked me my plans and I said coaching. He set me up in a coaching gig in Milan, Italy. It was completely out of left field. I had no desire to leave the States. I had been here seven years but when someone like that gives you that kind of opportunity, you have to take it. I didn’t speak a word of Italian. I hadn’t even spoken to my boss at the club.”

True to character, Wilkinson made the most of the opportunity. “I arrived in August and fell in love with it; I was thrown in the deep end which I needed,” said Wilkinson.

“It was tough coaching someone in a different language. I was mainly giving lessons; usually 50 lessons a week for 30-minute sessions. It was a really good opportunity for me to develop my coaching. I learned what I wanted to do with the players technically.”

After two years in Italy, Wilkinson returned to the U.S. to get his start in college coaching.

“I came to Brown in 2010; Stuart leGassick was wonderful to me,” said Wilkinson.

“I knew I wanted to get back into college coaching. I put myself in enough positions to get a job like I have now. He really understood that. He let me do a lot of stuff and treated me as an equal.”

Getting to do a lot at Brown proved invaluable to Wilkinson for his next stop in the world of college squash.

“I got a call from John White; he as a former No 1 player in the world,” said Wilkinson.

“He asked me if I wanted to be involved in something special. Drexel was starting a squash program and he was the head coach and he wanted me to be his assistant. It was a unique opportunity to develop something new and learn from someone like John.”

Starting at square one with the Drexel program helped Wilkinson further hone his coaching skills.

“I started with the women’s team; on the first day of practice we had five people show up,” said Wilkinson.

“We were recruiting people to play off the street if we saw someone who looked athletic. I had to teach them the basics, how to hold the racket, the rules, and the shots. We were 1-14 in first year. After a year of recruiting, we were much better. The school really supported us; they knew the program could bring the school attention. The women’s team is up to the top 16 and the men’s team is also in the top 16.”

Now that Wilkinson has turned his attention to Princeton, he believes his approach can make the Tigers better.

“Bob and Neil [longtime assistant coach Neil Pomphrey] have a winning formula, the results show that,” said Wilkinson.

“My coaching style is different, I am more hands on with the guys. I get on the court with them. We have intense practices on specific things that I think are important. The big structure remains, like the time of practice and the amount of practice. I am changing little things.”

Wilkinson likes the response he has gotten from his new charges. “So far, so good; they are excited to have me here,” said Wilkinson.

“They have bought into what Neil and I are trying to get them to do. This is the toughest year in the league; anyone from 1 to 9,10, or 11 has a shot to win if they play well. We are going to be the underdogs.”

While Princeton opened the season with a tough 7-2 loss at Franklin and Marshall, the Tigers appear to be on the right track with wins in three of their next five matches before the exam hiatus.

“I think they have progressed from an overall standpoint,” asserted Wilkinson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Penn on January 27.

“The guys are improving, they are fitter and more agile. They struggled against F&M. We need to improve from a competitive standpoint, we can’t be afraid of the task at hand.”

With his history of taking chances, Wilkinson is not afraid of the challenge he faces at Princeton.

“It is incredible; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be 28 years old and sitting where I am,” said Wilkinson.

“I am very fortunate and lucky. I have a lot of energy. I am ready to work hard to get us where we want to be.”

January 15, 2014
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter flies to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Helmstetter scored a game-high 17 points to help Princeton rout Penn 84-53 in the Ivy League opener as the Tigers began their drive for a fifth league crown in style. The Tigers, now 10-5 overall and 1-0 Ivy, are on exam break and will return to action when they host Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For senior star Kristen Helmstetter, there was high emotion as she hit the floor last Saturday for the Princeton University women’s basketball team when it played at Penn in the Ivy League opener.

“It is exciting; it is the last time around and it means a little bit more,” said Helemstetter, reflecting on starting her final Ivy campaign.

“You can appreciate what it meant to seniors before that. I am just happy that we have the team that we have that will fight for me and Hung [fellow senior Nicole Hung] and fight every game one at a time.”

Facing a sizzling Penn team that brought an eight-game winning streak into the contest, Princeton knew it was in for a battle.

Delivering a knockout blow to the Quakers with a 16-0 run midway through the first half, Princeton cruised to an 84-53 rout of Penn and began its drive for a fifth straight Ivy crown in style.

Tiger junior guard Blake Dietrick saw Princeton’s grit as the key to the victory.

“I thought we played great, I thought we came out really strong,” said Dietrick, who scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds, earning her first double-double in an Ivy game and later getting named as the league’s Player of the Week.

“We knew coming in that Penn was a team that doesn’t give up and we were ready to fight for 40 minutes. I think we really wore them down with our toughness and that’s what we have been focusing on the entire year.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart sensed that her team was focused on the task at hand.

“We have been waiting almost a calendar year for our Ivy opener,” said Banghart, whose team improved to 10-5 overall and 1-0 in Ivy play with the victory.

“We prepared all year long for the chance to go to the NCAA tournament and this is the first test of the 14-game tournament. Our kids are getting ready for exams. They are obviously pretty inexperienced with only two of their most experienced players playing. We just don’t make excuses. It is an opportunity to play. It is an opportunity to compete. I thought it was a convincing win from start to finish. I thought we played with great toughness.”

Princeton certainly displayed its competitive fire as it reeled off 16 unanswered points to wipe out an early 7-5 deficit and crush Penn’s spirit.

When asked what sparked the 16-0 run Banghart said “I thought it was the ways in which our kids defended.”

“We asked them to defend early, disciplined, and active. Penn is a tough team to guard. They are big, they are versatile and they cut hard. It is a tough team to guard and our kids bought into the defensive end tremendously and that led to easier offensive looks. Our kids made plays on the offensive end but we played tough on the defensive end and I think that was the key.”

In Banghart’s view, getting her team battle-tested through a tough non-conference schedule was another key to the performance on Saturday.

“This was not the biggest game on our schedule and I think that is really important for the Ivy League season,” asserted Banghart.

“Our kids have been in a lot of challenging environments, we have been on the other side of those runs. We have learned how to start runs, we have learned how to stop runs. This is a game that was won because of how we practice and how we played in the non-conference. It wasn’t just won today.”

The contest was also won through a balanced attack that saw 11 players score with Helmstetter chipping in 17 points and Alex Wheatley adding 11 to lead the way along with Dietrick and her 16-point effort.

“You look at Blake and Kristen, their lines are ridiculous and the way that they practice is even more ridiculous but we got contributions from the group today,” said Banghart.

“We got key minutes from key people, including the other senior, Nicole Hung (six points, three rebounds, a steal, and an assist in 10 minutes). You can look at the stat sheet and say it wasn’t like these guys’ game but it is what we needed. This felt like a win where we were going to need everybody and it bodes well if these freshmen are getting better and these sophomores are getting better. It was a Princeton team win for sure, which I am proud of.”

With the team going on exam break, Banghart is going to let her players catch their breath before they resume action by hosting Harvard on January 31 and Dartmouth on February 1.

“We are on tomorrow and then off for the next few days and then they get through exams and then we’ll get to working on getting better,” said Banghart.

“We are not going to make them think about everybody else. We are going to let them think about their exams and enjoy this win.”

Dietrick, for her part, believes the Tigers can get even better during the break.

“We have three weeks off and then Harvard,” said Dietrick. “It is great because the amount we have gotten better as a team in practice is exponential. By the time those three weeks are over we are going to be so much better than we are today and that’s our goal, just to get better everyday in practice.”

Helmstetter is confident that Princeton won’t waver in pursuit of its championship goal.

“I think one of things we were talking about the most is that every game up until now is just the journey and now it is just one game at a time for the Ivy League title,” said Helmstetter.

“We take it one game at a time and we came out tonight ready to play Penn and not thinking about anything else and we did what we intended to do.”

In the wake of the dominating performance on Saturday, the Tigers have made their intentions clear.

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

THROWN OFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase throws a pass in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Penn, sophomore forward Brase had 14 points and seven rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 77-74 to the Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy, are currently on exam break and will return to action when they host Division III foe Kean University on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In its last trip to the state of Pennsylvania, the Princeton University men’s basketball team pulled off one of the great comebacks in program history.

Trailing by 20 points at Penn State with 8:29 remaining in regulation on December 14, the Tigers rode the sizzling shooting of senior Will Barrett, who drained five three-pointers to come away with an 81-79 overtime victory.

Last Saturday, Princeton was back in the Keystone State and found themselves in a similar predicament as they played at Penn in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

With 16 minutes left in the second half, Princeton trailed by 51-40, sending a crowd of 6,322 at the storied Palestra into an uproar.

Once again, Barrett caught fire, scoring eight points as Princeton forged ahead 61-60 with 7:43 remaining in regulation.

But this time, the Tigers couldn’t close the deal. Trailing by two in the waning seconds, a T.J. Bray pass to Barrett was knocked away and the Quakers tacked on a free throw to earn a 77-74 victory.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Penn for coming through in the 229th meeting between the archrivals.

“They took it right to us; all the credit goes to Penn,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 11-3 overall and 0-1 Ivy with the defeat.

“We obviously had some opportunities to win the game but I thought they were the better team tonight. It is a credit to the way they prepared themselves tonight.”

In Henderson’s view, Penn’s play in the paint was a critical factor in the contest.

“The ability to come up with good stuff around the basket,” said Henderson, when asked what made the difference for Penn down the stretch.

“I think we put ourselves in a nice hole and they had something to do with that. The 25 points between [Darien] Nelson-Henry and [Fran] Dougherty in the first half, that was a killer.”

The Quakers’ dominance inside was reflected by the rebounding margin that saw Penn build a 42-25 edge on the boards.

“We have been very good on the boards this year so that crushed us,” said Henderson.

“I think they were more aggressive. This is a game where the more aggressive team generally wins and I thought they were a little more aggressive.”

While Princeton executed well offensively, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and committing only eight turnovers, the Tigers need to be more aggressive at the other end of the court.

“We have got to defend, we got to be able to stop guys because I think we are scoring enough points to be successful,” said Henderson, who got 19 points from Bray with Barrett adding 15, Hans Brase scoring 14, and Denton Koon and Spencer Weisz chipping in 10 apiece.

Bray, for his part, acknowledged that Penn took the initiative from the opening tip-off. “We have got to come out ready to go every night,” said Bray. “We didn’t really do that tonight and Penn punched us in the mouth early in the game and early in the second half. We were kind of playing from behind all night and that is just something that can’t happen.”

The Tigers thought they could make something good happen on the last play to Barrett.

“We had run a few times in practice and had gotten it but the guy made a great play, he got his hand in there just enough,” said Bray.

Although losing the Ivy opener puts Princeton behind the eight-ball in the so-called 14-game tournament for the league’s NCAA tournament bid, the Tigers still hold their title chances in their hands.

“There is very little margin for error but I don’t think we can focus on that,” said Henderson.

“We just have to concentrate on us. We have a good team. We just have to zero in on what we are doing. We really have a lot of work to do.”

With Princeton going on an exam hiatus, the Tigers will have to take care of classwork before they can turn to the stretch drive.

“It is like two different seasons,” said Henderson, whose team will host Division III foe Kean University on January 26 before heading to New England where the Tigers will play at Ivy frontrunner Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.

“Coming up, we have two weeks worth of exams and papers. These guys know what to do, they can get to the gym and get some work in and get ready to go to Cambridge in three weeks.”

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s hockey player Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice during the 2012-13 season. Last Friday, sophomore forward Ambrosia notched the game-winning goal as Princeton edged visiting Rensselaer 2-1 in the Tigers’ first home game since November 22. Princeton, which lost 3-0 to No. 4 Union a day later in dropping to 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play, is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Since it last played at home on November 22, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has been on quite an odyssey.

The Tigers traveled to Connecticut where they played Quinnipiac before heading to the midwest where they faced Michigan State, then to New York where they took on Rensselaer and Union, then to Florida for a two-game holiday tournament, and finally to western Canada for a showcase in British Columbia.

Thus it was no wonder that Tiger sophomore forward Mike Ambrosia and his teammates were thrilled to be back home in the friendly confines of Baker Rink last Friday to host Rensselaer.

“We have been on some long road trips,” said Ambrosia. “We didn’t come out with the greatest results on the road trips but we learned a lot. We took the process seriously and every step was important.”

Applying those lessons, Princeton took a big step forward on Friday, rallying from an early 1-0 deficit to pull out a 2-1 victory over the Engineers before a crowd of 2,069.

“It was a big team effort,” said Ambrosia, reflecting on the triumph. “Every single guy contributed.”

New Jersey native Ambrosia made a major contribution in the homecoming, notching the game-winning goal early in the third period.

“It was a great play by Ryan [Siiro]; he is a big, strong kid,” recalled the 5’10, 180-pound Ambrosia, who hails from Chatham.

“I think he threw two guys off him and was able to make a really nice pass so fortunately it went in.”

The line of Ambrosia, Siiro, and senior star Andrew Calof was clicking on Friday.

“I love playing with these guys,” said Ambrosia, who now has six points this season on three goals and three assists.

“I think we all bring a little different element to the game and we just try to create a lot of offense every single game. That is our job but we have to play well defensively because that is where it starts. We want to create as many offensive chances as we can.”

Ambrosia, who has missed seven games this season due to injury, is happy to be back on the ice.

“There are a ton of guys coming back from injury and we all want to help,” said Ambrosia of the Tigers’ injury list which has included Calof, Ben Foster, Tyler Maugeri, Alec Rush, and Tommy Davis.

“We all want to help and contribute to the wins. It is a process but we are definitely happy to have some guys healthy and we just want to keep going.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier was happy with the effort he got from his team on Friday.

“There were some ebbs and flows but in the 5-on-5 in general I thought we won the majority of the battles and we were the more physical team,” said Prier.

“We got rewarded for that. We threw a lot of body punches early and Ambro went in the third and that was the knockout punch. You knew it was going to be a game that was going to be tough to score.”

Prier likes the way the Ambrosia line is giving Princeton scoring punch. “They are playing great; they just seem to find that open man,” said Prier.

“You look at a kid like Calof, I think he may have had one shot on net tonight but you think a player that elite should have four or five. He made the right plays when he was supposed to make those plays. He is someone that can make them. It is contagious, guys like Ambrosia and Calof start making those plays and then other guys can feed off of that and they start making some too.”

The Tigers made some big plays at the defensive end, with defensemen throwing their bodies at pucks all night and freshman netminder Colton Phinney making 33 saves in earning the victory.

“Down the stretch here, it is playoff mindset and guys are really tough in front of their own net,” said Prier, whose team showed toughness a night later, battling hard in falling 3-0 to No. 4 Union, leaving the Tigers at 4-15 overall and 3-9 in ECAC Hockey play.

“I thought we did a real good job of eliminating the second and third chances with our d-corps in front and also with Colton hanging onto pucks. They were applying pressure late there. They were getting a lot through. They had good movement and he did a really good job of either putting the rebounds in the corner or holding onto them. It deadened the momentum which was great.”

In Prier’s view, the way Princeton took care of business in the win over Rensselaer could help the Tigers build some momentum as they head into the stretch drive.

“If we play the way we did tonight, we’ll have a good chance of winning against anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team is currently on hiatus for exams and will next be in action when it plays at Harvard on January 31 and at Dartmouth on February 1. “That’s the way the league is.”

Ambrosia, for his part, believes that Princeton can be a factor in league play as it looks to move up the ECACH standings.

“It is always nice to win, especially in a team effort like that,” said Ambrosia.

“It wasn’t like we snuck a game out or stole two points. I think we really deserved that one. It was a total team effort, starting with Colton Phinney in net. From him out, from the defense up we had a good, tight game. Winning a 2-1 game just breeds a lot of confidence in the guys.”

January 8, 2014
SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL K: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelsey Koelzer, right, celebrates with a teammate after a Tiger goal earlier in the season. Last Thursday, freshman forward Koelzer enjoyed a breakout game, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1. Koelzer entered the night with a total of one goal and an assist in her 15 previous appearances. The Tigers, who edged UConn 1-0 in overtime on Friday to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall, play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Kelsey Koelzer, figuring out the best way to utilize her talent has been a major challenge as she goes through her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

“I would have to say learning new systems and learning my role because it changes when you go from playing in your leagues back home to playing in Division I hockey,” said Koelzer, reflecting on adjusting to college hockey.

“Learning where I fit in, what I have to do every game, and what I have to bring to the team.”

Last Thursday, forward Koelzer brought a lot to the table for the Tigers, tallying two goals and an assist as Princeton topped Connecticut 4-1.

For Koelzer, who had had a goal and an assist in her 15 appearances during the 2013 portion of this season’s schedule, the breakthrough performance was heartening.

“It was definitely a confidence builder,” said Koelzer, a 5’9 native of Horsham, Pa. who played club hockey for the New Jersey Rockets.

“It was good getting my legs back under me and just proving to myself that this is what you have got to do every game. I want to pick it up even more and just continue with the momentum.”

Koelzer helped Princeton seize momentum against UConn as her blast from the point set up a Sally Butler goal that tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period.

“They were definitely leaving the lanes open in terms of the point shots,” said Koelzer.

“It was important that we were moving it up top between me and Gabie [Figueroa]. I saw a small lane so my main goal was to get it low because I know Sally is going to be in front to tip it.”

Midway through the third period, Koelzer put the Tigers ahead as another one-timer found the back of the net.

“It felt good,” said Koelzer, recalling the tally. “They didn’t come out to challenge me so I took the opportunity.”

The Tigers cashed in on their opportunities as they scored a total of three goals in a 3:34 span of the third period with Koelzer adding Princeton’s fourth and final goal of the game.

“We work really hard in practice, we are a good bunch,” said Koelzer, who put in some more good work on Friday, helping Princeton pull out a 1-0 overtime win over UConn to sweep the two-game set and improve to 9-6-2 overall.

“That’s where it is coming down into the third periods and especially the second game of weekends.”

With Princeton having won four straight, Koelzer believes the team is coming on strong.

“Really, we are clicking on every aspect,” said Koelzer. “We are a great conditioned team, we have got a lot of speed. We definitely have some good momentum going.”

The addition of Koelzer and classmates Molly Strabley, Cassidy Tucker, Audrey Potts, Morgan Sly, Hilary Lloyd, and Fiona McKenna, has helped build that positive momentum.

“It is great team chemistry,” said Koelzer. “The upperclassmen are great to us. From day one, we really felt like this was home. It definitely helped us getting into games. It has made it a lot easier for us to learn our roles on the team.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal has been looking to get Koelzer into a scoring role for the Tigers.

“Kelsey has a really good shot and we are trying to find the best ways to utilize it,” said Kampersal.

“So we finally got her in a position where she can have a couple of open looks.”

Kampersal liked how his team looked collectively on Thursday as it rebounded from a 1-0 deficit after the first period and skated to victory in its first action since a 4-1 win over Union on December 7.

“It wasn’t our best effort in the first period, that is to be expected,” said Kampersal.

“Falling behind and getting a little slap in the face, I think that’s what we needed. We have been a third period team all year; that was nice to see. We had three power play goals tonight and that was really nice to see.”

With the Tigers missing such key players Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, and Jaimie McDonnell on Friday due to injury, Princeton showed resilience in overcoming the Huskies.

“I thought people stepping up in different roles was big,” said Kampersal, whose team’s lone goal in the overtime win on Friday came from junior forward Brianna Leahy.

“At game time we had to make decisions where kids were seeing the doctor so other kids had to play wing or center, doing different things like that. We had different kids on the penalty kill who didn’t necessarily practice that all week.”

Kampersal is hoping his club can keep coming up big as the Tigers play at Union on January 10 and at Rensselaer on January 11 before going on a 17-day hiatus for exams.

“They have a lot of heart, they have a lot of soul,” said Kampersal. “They are committed to it. They know that when it’s going bad, what they need to do to fix it. It is a good group to coach.”

Local product Koelzer, for her part, is thrilled to be part of the group. “I have been coming to see Princeton games for about four years now,” said Koelzer.

“Last season, I was probably at every single home game just because I was out with an ACL injury. This has definitely been a dream come true.”

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSE COMBAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett, middle, applies defensive pressure in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior forward Barrett scored eight points to help Princeton defeat Liberty University 80-74. The Tigers, now 11-2, open Ivy League action with a game at Penn (2-10) on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s basketball team squandered a 15-point lead against Kent State last week and found itself trailing 66-65 with less than a minute left, Will Barrett wasn’t rattled.

“At the end of the game when we were down by one, I just felt like a sense of calmness,” said Princeton senior forward Barrett.

“In a couple of close games that we have had, we have just been calm under pressure. I don’t know if that comes from all of the experience that we have had. We have got five guys that have played a lot together and we have senior leadership.”

Barrett exuded coolness as he scored 11 points in the second half, hitting two clutch three-pointers down the stretch to help Princeton pull out a 73-68 win in the December 31 contest before 2,440 at Jadwin Gym.

While Barrett was happy with his offensive contribution in the win over the Golden Flashes, hitting on 6-of-12 shots as he totaled a game-high 19 points, he acknowledged that he needs to produce a more well-rounded game.

“My shot is feeling good right now; it is definitely part of my game that I take pride in,” said Barrett, a 6’11 197-pound native of Hartsville, Pa.

“There are so many other areas that I have to and need to improve on if our team is going to continue to succeed. My defense is a huge part of that. If I can clean that up, then I am in the game a lot more, and that helps our team even more so I have got to just keep improving on that.”

In Barrett’s view, the Tigers were hungry to show their pride against Kent State in the wake of a disappointing 93-79 loss to Portland in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas before Christmas.

“In Vegas there were a bunch of our former teammates, Dan Mavraides, Kareem Maddox, they were all there and I was really angry after the game and they said this might be a blessing in disguise,” recalled Barrett.

“We don’t like to lose games here. It was good for us for that to sink in over break. I think it has a little bit and it just teaches us that in any game you can come out and lose to anybody in college basketball so we have to keep that in mind.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was heartened to see his squad prevail on a day when it didn’t play its sharpest.

“It wasn’t pretty on our end; it is the second game in a row where we haven’t played on offense and on defense for a long stretch of time the way we would like to play,” said Henderson.

“I was in the Big 10 for a long time so it felt like a Big 10 game. It is one punch and the next punch and everybody is delivering these big blows. I was really proud of our guys for making free throws down the stretch. I think that is a really good Kent State team, a really good program. They have had 14 or 15 straight 20-win seasons, which is just unbelievable to me so I am just really proud of our guys.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers came up big down the stretch at Liberty University, overcoming a late 67-66 deficit to earn an 80-74 win in improving to 11-2.

“I attribute it to a few different things,” said Henderson in reflecting on his team’s penchant for coming through in tight contests this winter.

“We have T.J. Bray, who our guys have confidence in down the stretch. We made free throws. We have made some really big shots. I think it is just making shots. I have to attribute that to T.J., his ability to get to the basket and make these guys better. I think it just makes us tough.”

Henderson likes the way Barrett is making big shots although he believes the forward has the ability to make more of an impact at both ends of the court.

“I thought he was just terrific; I was saying to Will in the locker room that I had to take him out of the game a couple of times because I thought defensively he could have made a couple of adjustments that would have helped us,” said Henderson, who got 8 points and two assists from Barrett in the win over Liberty with the backcourt duo of Bray and Ben Hazel leading the way, tallying 24 and 18 points, respectively.

“I think he could be a lock-down defender as well as what he did offensively but his line is fantastic, 4-for-8 from 3, 19 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes, that is good.”

With Princeton opening Ivy League action by playing at Penn (2-10) on January 11, Henderson believes his team is in good shape to make a title run.

“I like where we are because I am sort of a glass half full kind of guy,” said Henderson.

“Man we have so much we can work on. I just think the room for improvement is enormous but they really like each other.”

Barrett, for his part, likes the Tigers’ chances. “I feel good, I think we all feel good,” said Barrett, who is averaging 11.3 points a game and leads the Tigers in three-pointers with 30.

“We are pretty much by ourselves on campus right now so we have a ton of time to be down in the gym and then take care of work that we have to do.”