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.”

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Miller scored a career-high 23 points to help Princeton top Drexel 66-59. Miller was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, along with Penn’s Katy Allen, for her effort. The Tigers, now 9-5, start their drive for a fifth straight league crown when they play at Penn on Saturday in the Ivy opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Courtney Banghart, the point of the non-conference schedule is more about exposing her Princeton University women’s basketball team to a wide range of competitive situations than piling up wins.

But as Princeton girds for its Ivy League opener on January 11 at Penn, the Tigers have gained both victories and experience as they bring a 9-5 record into their clash with the Quakers and start their drive for a fifth straight league crown.

“This team is making its own mark,” said Princeton head coach Banghart. “The difference between rebuilding and reloading depends on the approach of the players and I like the way this team is responding.”

Playing in the Cavalier Classic in late December, Princeton certainly made an impression as it topped Alabama 79-59 to earn its first-ever win over a Southeastern Conference foe and then battled valiantly before falling to 69-57 to host Virginia in the title game.

“Alabama played man-to-man so we had to be more physical,” said Banghart.

“That was a good experience for a young team. We knew that UVa would zone us. The zone required us to move the ball and make shots. It was good for us, it showed us what we need to work on.”

Last Saturday at Drexel in its final tune-up before Ivy play, the Tigers worked on dealing with a zone. Trailing 25-23 at half to the reigning WNIT champs, Princeton outscored the Dragons 43-34 over the final 20 minutes to earn a 66-59 victory.

“We worked on a new zone continuity last week,” said Banghart. “We knew it wasn’t going to work right away. We got it figured out and scored 43 points in the second half.”

A lot of that offense came from Michelle Miller, who poured in a career-high 23 points and was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for the second time this year, sharing the honor with Penn’s Katy Allen.

“She is a sophomore but it doesn’t matter how old you are, it comes down to can you contribute,” said Banghart of Miller, who went 5-of-7 from three-point range in the win.

“She didn’t shoot like she can at Virginia. Against Drexel, she was shot ready and played really well.”

Junior guard Blake Dietrick has been playing really well lately, scoring 18 points last Saturday and having recently been named the Ann Meyers Drysdale Women’s National Player of the Week by the USBWA (U.S. Basketball Writers Association), becoming the first Tiger to ever collect the national accolade.

“Blake is settled,” said Banghart of Dietrick, who is averaging a team-high 15.4 points a game.

“She is so competitive, that can get in the way sometimes. She doesn’t like being bad at anything. She has settled in; she is a good lead guard and she is trusting her teammates.”

Banghart knows her team faces a competitive challenge in Penn, who is currently 7-2, having won seven straight games, including a victory over Miami, the program’s first-ever win against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.

“They have the most experienced returning team in the league,” said Banghart of the Quakers.

“They are playing at home and our kids have inherited the target on their backs. The other teams are going to throw everything at us, they know that beating us can make a season even if they don’t win the title.”

The Quakers boast the talent to make things difficult for Princeton in senior guard and two-time Ivy scoring champion Alyssa Baron, freshman center Sydney Stipanovich, senior guard Meghan McCullough, and sophomore guard Keira Ray.

“Baron is one of the best players in the league and she has been since day one,” said Banghart.

“She has more pieces around her now so she doesn’t have to do everything. Stipanovich has a lot of size, she is 6’3 and long. They have a very experienced point guard Meghan McCullough, who is back from an injury. Keiera Ray is a good player. They have played together forever.”

The Tigers will be working overtime to get ready for the Quakers. “We have the rest of the week to prepare for them,” said Banghart.

“The Ivy season requires consistency, either the consistency of a few top players or the group. We are more of a team. It is a league for seniors so we need Kristen [Helmstetter] and Nicole [Hung] to make contributions. We are going to see a variety of things, zone, man and junk. We have to get enough from our pieces and be able to adjust.”

In Banghart’s view, her young squad has the mindset to roll with the punches it will receive in Ivy play.

“This team has a great personality,” asserted Banghart. “They are humble and there are no expectations. They just expect to battle everyday. Their job is to play hard and listen and our job is to coach them.”

January 2, 2014
HALE AND HEARTY: David Hale fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Hale, who starred for the Tigers from 2007-09, made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves this past September. Hale struck out nine in his first outing, setting a franchise record for most strikeouts in a debut. Hale went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during the regular season and also made an appearance in the National League Division Series. He is looking to spend all of 2014 in the majors.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

HALE AND HEARTY: David Hale fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Hale, who starred for the Tigers from 2007-09, made his major league debut with the Atlanta Braves this past September. Hale struck out nine in his first outing, setting a franchise record for most strikeouts in a debut. Hale went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during the regular season and also made an appearance in the National League Division Series. He is looking to spend all of 2014 in the majors. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Heading into 2013, David Hale was just hoping to get a chance to pitch for the Atlanta Braves.

“I wanted to put myself in a position for a September call-up since I was on the 40-man roster,” said Hale, a former Princeton University baseball standout who started the season at Gwinnett, the Braves Triple-A affiliate. “I improved on my command and developed a sinker.”

After going 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA at Gwinnett, Hale got the call and made his first major league outing for the Braves on September 13, pitching five innings and recording nine strikeouts, breaking the franchise record for strikeouts in a debut.

Hale made another regular season appearance and also pitched for the Braves in the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now as Hale enters 2014, he is determined to spend the whole season with the Braves.

“I am looking to keep up everything I do,” said Hale, a 2011 Princeton alum who recently returned to his alma mater along with fellow Tiger major leaguers Ross Ohlendorf ’05, Will Venable ’05, and Chris Young ’02 for the Jake McCandless ’51 Princeton Varsity Club Speaker Series.

“I want to stay in shape and keep my pitches sharp. I need to keep the sinker sharp, it is a new pitch to me. I am happy to see that my stuff can work at the major league level.”

As he wrapped up his season at Gwinnett, Hale wasn’t sure that he was going to get the chance for a shot at the next level.

“The season ended and they told me I wasn’t going to get called up,” said Hale, 26,  a 6’2, 205-pound native of Marietta, Ga. who was taken in the third round of the 2009 MLB draft by the Braves.

“Then 24 hours later, they told me I was getting called up. I ran the whole gamut of emotions. I couldn’t wait to call my dad and mom.”

As he made his debut against the visiting San Diego Padres on September 13, hometown hero Hale had some extra support on hand.

“Being from Atlanta and being lucky enough to put on the Braves uniform, there were so many people there to watch me,” said Hale.

“There were teachers from high school, people I hadn’t talked to for years. I think there were 200-300 people there. It added to my nerves. I told myself to not look in the stands but of course I did immediately. As I got on the mound, those feelings went away.”

Overcoming those nerves, Hale proceeded to strike out nine in five innings of work to set the team record for most Ks in a first outing. He also added a footnote to Princeton baseball history as he faced fellow Tiger and Padres star Venable.

“He is the only Princeton hitter in the major leagues at the moment, it was unbelievable to be going against him,” said Hale. “I didn’t even realize that I had set a record, I was just relieved to get that one under my belt.”

After earning his first big league win as he struck out five in six innings in a 7-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on September 26, Hale thought his work for the season was done as the Braves girded for the playoffs. But like earlier in the month, he got a pleasant surprise.

“I was pretty positive that I was not going to be on the playoff roster,” said Hale, who went 1-0 overall with 14 strikeouts and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings of work in the regular season.

“I thought they were kidding when they told me. They needed a long reliever and I was able to fill that role. I was really happy but I had to be reserved because there were some good players and older guys who didn’t make the roster.”

As the Braves lost the NLDS 3-1 to the Dodgers, Hale did see action in Game 3, facing a batter in the eighth inning and getting a groundout in a 13-6 loss.

“That was pretty cool; it was great to pitch in such a historic place,” said Hale. “I ended the year well; I am bringing confidence into the offseason.”

For Hale, it was cool to come back to Princeton in December. “It is nice to be here on campus and not have any school work,” said Hale. “I can see guys who don’t have problem sets to do. The place is fantastic.”

Playing baseball at Princeton was a key step in Hale’s path to the majors. “From a baseball standpoint, coach [Scott] Bradley was a professional coach,” said Hale, who played three seasons at Princeton from 2007-09, going 7-9 on the mound with a 4.74 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 127.1 innings pitched and batted .291 with 7 homers and 46 RBIs.

“He stayed out of your business and knew you would do your work. I was pretty much a baby pitcher at the time; I was learning the role of pitcher. I was also a hitter/infielder.”

During his time at Princeton, Hale developed on and off the field. “There is no better way to test your limits than to be playing a sport and doing the academics at a school like Princeton,” said Hale.

In 2014, Hale will be applying those lessons as he looks to succeed at the highest level of his sport.

 

MANPOWER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Kesselman scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to New Hampshire in a consolation contest at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. The Tigers, who dropped to 3-14 with the defeat, are heading west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where they will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MANPOWER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Kesselman scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to New Hampshire in a consolation contest at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. The Tigers, who dropped to 3-14 with the defeat, are heading west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where they will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Heading to the Sunshine State as it returned to action after the holiday break, the Princeton University men’s hockey team competed last weekend in the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.

But while the clouds remained over Princeton as the Tigers lost twice at the competition in falling to 3-14 overall, there were rays of hope coming out of the weekend.

“I thought we played pretty well,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier, reflecting on his team’s effort.

“We played with more pace. We generated a lot of chances. We ran into a hot goalie on Saturday and had penalty problems on Sunday. As the weekend progressed, we competed better. We did a better job of staying above checks. We had a lot of offensive plays on the rush; the defense did a good job on the breakout.”

In its opening round contest against Maine on Saturday, Princeton lost 4-0 to the Black Bears, even though it was only outshot 36-33.

A day later against New Hampshire in a consolation contest, Princeton jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Mike Ambrosia and Aaron Kesselman, respectively, only to lose 3-2. In battling the Wildcats, the Tigers were sparked by a superb performance from senior goalie Sean Bonar, who made a career-high 43 saves.

The return of senior star Andrew Calof from injury helped the Tigers as he assisted on Ambrosia’s goal and was a threat all weekend long.

“I think the line of Calof, Ambrosia, and [Ryan] Siiro generated half of our chances, they definitely made an impact,” said Prier.

The play of goalie Bonar gave Princeton the chance to stay in the New Hampshire game. “Sean played very well, 15 or 16 shots were on the power play and he did a good job of fighting through traffic to make some of those saves,” said Prier. “He did a good job on rebound control.”

In upcoming action, Princeton heads west to Vancouver to take part in the Great Northwest Showcase where it will play non-NCAA games against Canadian schools, Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, on January 2 and 3.

In Prier’s view, the trip should help the Tigers come together as they look to do some damage in their ECAC Hockey stretch drive.

“We have four guys with roots out there,” said Prier. “We are playing two good teams. I think the guys feel better about the way we are playing as we go into the second half.”

December 27, 2013
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn Epperly looks to throw the ball in a game this fall. Epperly passed for 25 touchdowns and rushed for 18 to help the Tigers go 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, tying Harvard for the Ivy championship. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Princeton University athletics, the beat went on in 2013 as the Tigers won a slew of Ivy League championships and added to their impressive haul of NCAA titles. On the local high school scene, the year saw a number of championship firsts.

As for Princeton, the winter brought two NCAA titles as the fencing team won the joint men’s/women’s national crown while the men’s distance medley relay placed first in the indoor national meet. Women’s basketball won its fourth straight Ivy championship while men’s and women’s swimming along with men’s and women’s squash earned league crowns.

In the spring, Princeton excelled on the track as the men’s team won the Ivy Heptagonal Outdoor Championships. On the water, the women’s open crew took its second straight Ivy title at the league regatta and the varsity 8 ended up placing second in the NCAA grand final. Junior Greg Jarmas won his first Ivy men’s golf individual title and helped Princeton earn its first team crown since 2006. Junior star Kelly Shon won the Ivy women’s golf crown and advanced to the NCAA championships. The women’s water polo team won the Eastern Championships and placed fifth at the NCAAs.

The Princeton football team turned heads in the fall, going 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy, to tie with Harvard for the title and give the Tigers their first championship since 2006. Defending its 2012 NCAA title in style, the Tiger field hockey team won its ninth straight Ivy title on the way to the national quarterfinals.

As for local high schoolers, the Princeton High swimming program enjoyed an historic season as the girls’ team won its first ever Mercer County Championship meet while the boys’ squad took its third straight county crown and fifth consecutive Public B Central Jersey sectional title. Hun School teams produced a championship winter as the boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship and the boys’ basketball team won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team shared the state Prep title on the way to a 21-3-1 campaign.

In the spring, longtime head coach Peter Stanton guided the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team to a pair of milestones as he won his 200th game at the helm of the program and the Little Tigers earned the first Mercer County Tournament crown in program history. The PDS boys’ tennis team also had a championship season as it shared the state Prep B title with two other schools.

History was made on the tennis court in the fall as PHS sophomore Christina Rosca won the program’s first NJSIAA state singles title. Rosca also helped the Little Tigers make their second straight trip to the state Group III team finals. The PDS girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B title while the Panther girls’ soccer team produced one of the more heartening reversals of fortune as they went from 4-9-4 in 2012 to 17-2-1 this fall on the way to winning the program’s first MCT title.

Winter Wins

Led by a quartet of stellar seniors, Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen, the Princeton University women’s basketball team won its fourth straight Ivy League title. Head coach Courtney Banghart’s Tigers went 22-7 overall and 13-1 Ivy. During the regular season, Princeton established an Ivy record as it extended its league winning streak to 33 before falling to Harvard in March. The Tigers were seeded ninth in the Oklahoma City regional at the NCAA tournament where they fell 60-44 to eighth-seeded Florida State.

While the season ended on a down note, that was a mere blip in one of the greatest four-year runs in league annals as the seniors went 54-2 in Ivy play, tying them as winningest class in Ivy men’s or women’s history with Penn’s men’s basketball Class of 1996 (1992-93 to 1995-96).

Rasheed was named Ivy Player of the Year for a second time and earned AP All-America Honorable Mention, the first player to do so in program history. The league’s scoring leader at 16.9 points a game, Rasheed was also named a unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection, her third first-team honor. She finished with 1,617 career points for fourth-best in program history. She also is all-time No. 5 in scoring average (16.7), No. 5 in field goals made (604), No. 3 in rebounds (860) and No. 6 in rebounds average (8.7). Polansky was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Year for a third time while Miller and Bowen were key starters in their final campaign. The latter was a second-team All-Ivy pick along with junior teammate Kristen Helmstetter.

The men’s hoops team nearly matched their female counterparts as they stood first in the Ivy standings heading into the final weekend of the season. Coach Mitch Henderson’s club, though, stumbled on the road, losing at Yale and Brown as Harvard passed the Tigers to win the title.

Senior star Ian Hummer put together one of the greatest seasons in program history for Princeton, which went 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy. The 6’6 forward Hummer was named Ivy Player of the Year and led Princeton in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists, the first Tiger since Kit Mueller ’91 in 1990-91 to top the team in all of those categories. Hummer made first-team All-Ivy with junior guard T.J Bray getting second-team honors and sophomore Denton Koon being named as an honorable mention selection.

The Princeton fencing program made history as the Tigers won their first-ever joint men’s/women’s NCAA fencing championship under the format that began in 1990.

Coach Zoltan Dudas’ team edged Notre Dame by seven bout victories, 182-175, for the team title.

Four of the six Tiger men earned All-America honors, and senior epeeists Jonathan Yergler and Edward Kelley made it to the medal round and faced each other in the semifinals. Yergler won, coming in second in the nation.

All six Tiger women earned All-America honors and three qualified for the medal round, including the Stone sisters and saberists Gracie, a freshman, and Eliza, a senior, and junior epeeist Susannah Scanlan.

Junior forward Andrew Calof lit up Baker Rink and picked up a slew of honors for the men’s hockey team. Calof finished third in the ECAC Hockey in scoring with 13 goals and 23 assists for 26 points and earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy honors. Despite Calof’s heroics, coach Bob Prier’s team went 10-16-5 overall and was swept by Cornell in a best-of-three ECACH opening round playoff series.

Struggling down the stretch, the women’s hockey team failed to make the ECACH tournament, ending an 11-year streak of having qualified for postseason play. Coach Jeff Kampersal’s club posted an overall record of 11-16-2. Seniors Corey Stearns and Kelly Cooke ended their careers on a high note as Stearns led the team in scoring with 31 points on 5 goals and 26 assists while Cooke tallied 27 points on a team-high 15 goals and 12 assists.

Over at DeNunzio Pool, the men’s swimming and diving team continued its domination of the Ivy League, winning its fifth straight league title. Coach Rob Orr’s squad was led by senior diver Stevie Vines along with such star swimmers as junior Daniel Hasler, junior Michael Strand, sophomore Harrison Wagner, freshman Byron Sanborn, and freshman Teo D’Allessandro.

Junior star Lisa Boyce produced a dominant performance to help the women’s swimming and diving team win the Ivy championship meet. It was the 11th title in the last 14 seasons for the Tigers and the 16th overall for coach Susan Teeter.

Boyce won three individual Ivy titles and was part of one relay winner along with two relay runners-up. She went on to earn All-America honorable mention in the 100 free at the NCAA Championships as she placed 15th.

It was the end of an era for the men’s squash team as legendary Hall of Fame coach Bob Callahan stepped down after 32 years at the helm. Callahan guided the Tigers to a tie for the Ivy title with Harvard and third in the College Squash Association (CSA) national team championships. Senior Todd Harrity finished second in the CSA individual championship.

Callahan, a 1977 Princeton alum and former Tiger squash star, led the program to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012) in his 32-year tenure. Sean Wilkinson, a former Bates College squash star and assistant coach at Drexel, was named to succeed Callahan.

Under its legendary coach, Gail Ramsay, the women’s squash team won the Ivy title and placed fourth in the Howe Cup team championships. Senior Julie Cerullo and junior Libby Eyre earned All-Ivy honors for Ramsay’s squad.

The men’s track and field team came within a whisker of winning the Ivy Heptagonal indoor title, finishing second to Cornell by a single point. The runner-up finish ended a streak of three straight indoor titles for coach Fred Samara’s squad. Senior Peter Callahan was named co-Most Outstanding Track Performer and junior Damon McLean was named co-Most Outstanding Field Performer at the 2013 Ivy League Indoor Heptagonal Championships.

A few weeks later, Callahan ended the indoor season in a blaze of glory as he ran the anchor leg for the men’s distance medley relay team that won the NCAA title. He was joined in the victorious quartet by Michael Williams, Austin Hollimon, and Russell Dinkins.

Senior Tory Worthen won her seventh consecutive Ivy League Heptagonal pole vault title to provide a highlight for women’s track. Coach Peter Farrell’s team took fourth in the Indoor Heps meet with its other victory being produced by the 4×800 relay team of senior Greta Feldman, senior Alexis Mikaelian, junior Molly Higgins, and junior Kristin Smoot.

The wrestling team made progress under coach Chris Ayres. Princeton placed three wrestlers in the top 8 at the EIWA Championships with junior Ryan Callahan taking sixth at 174 pounds, freshman Scott Gibbons taking seventh at 184 and senior Zach Bintliff placing eight at 149.

Spring Steps

Fueled by the combination of freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson and junior star Katie Rigler, the Princeton women’s water polo team won the Eastern title.

Coach Luis Nicole’s squad ended up taking fifth at the NCAA tournament, the highest finish program. Johnson and Rigler were both named All-Americans to climax a season that saw Princeton finish with a final record of 28-6.

Over at Weaver Stadium, the men’s track team enjoyed a championship season of their own. Coach Fred Samara’s team won the Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal Championship. It marked the third consecutive Outdoor Heps title for the Tigers and 15th overall.

The Tigers were paced at the Heps by Peter Callahan, the winner of the 1,500, and Michael Franklin, who won the 5,000 and the 10,000. Austin Hollimon won the 400 and helped the 4×400 relay to victory while Tom Hopkins joined him in the relay and also win the long jump. Russell Dinkins won the 800 and also competed on the 4×400 relay. Franklin went on to take fifth in the 10,000 at the NCAA championship meet.

Senior standout Feldman starred as the women’s track team took fourth in the Outdoor Heps. Feldman won the 800, placed second in the 1,500 and was part of the winning 4×800 relay for Peter Farrell’s team.

Other winners at the Heps meet included Imani Oliver in the triple jump, Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer throw, and Tory Worthen in the pole vault. Worthen made Ivy League history as the victory marked her eighth career Heps pole vault title.

Led by sophomore Erin McMunn and senior Caroline Rehfuss, the women’s lacrosse team returned to the NCAA tournament for the 21st time in program history. Coach Chris Sailer’s team fell to Duke 10-9 in double overtime in the NCAA opener to finish the spring at 10-7.

Junior midfielder Tom Schreiber added another chapter to his storied career for the men’s lax team, posting his second straight 60-point season and making first-team All-America for a second time. Despite Schreiber’s heroics, the Tigers fell just short of making the NCAA tournament as coach Chris Bates’ team fell 12-8 to Yale in the Ivy title game and finished the spring at 9-6.

Coach Lori Dauphiny guided her women’s open crew program to another successful season. The Tigers won their second straight Ivy team title and then took third at the NCAA regatta as the first varsity eight placed second in the grand final. The top boat was led by a quartet of seniors, Gabby Cole, Molly Hamrick, Liz Hartwig, and Heidi Robbins.

Sparked by senior star Alex Morss, the Tiger women’s lightweight crew enjoyed a solid campaign. Coach Paul Rassam’s top eight took second at the Eastern Sprints and fifth at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship grand final.

Seniors Michael Evans, Brian Wettach, and coxswain Keanan Clark helped the Princeton men’s heavyweight crew finish on an encouraging note. The trio helped the varsity eight take fourth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA national championships. With a number of solid rowers returning, coach Greg Hughes is optimistic that the program can build on that performance in 2014.

Led by a group of freshmen and sophomores, the men’s lightweight crew gained some valuable experience. Coach Marty Crotty’s top eight placed fifth in the Eastern Sprints and sixth at the IRA national championship regatta.

Mike Ford produced a season to remember for the Princeton baseball team as he became the first player in Ivy history to be named both the league’s Player of the Year and its Pitcher of the Year. The Belle Mead, N.J. native and former Hun School standout hit .320 for second-best on the team. He ranked in the top-10 in the Ivy League in 10 categories, including No. 1 in walks (31), No. 2 in home runs (6), No. 3 in RBIs (38) and No. 4 in on-base percentage (.443). On the mound, he went 6-0 with a league-leading 0.98 ERA, third-best in a season in program history. In nine starts, he tallied five complete games, all in Ivy play, and a shutout victory. Ford ranked first in earned runs allowed (7), opposing batting average (.191) and home runs allowed (0) to place in the top-10 in 10 statistical categories in the league. He signed with the New York Yankees over the summer and player for their Staten Island Single A affiliate.

Despite Ford’s heroics, it was a disappointing year for coach Scott Bradley’s team as the Tigers went 14-28 overall and 11-9 Ivy as they tied for second in the Gehrig Division. Junior Alec Keller joined Ford as a first-team All-Ivy selection.

New head coach Lisa Sweeney injected a burst of energy into the softball program, guiding the Tigers to a 27-19 record, its most wins since 2006. Princeton finished second in the Ivy South division with a 12-8 league mark. Alex Peyton, Maddie Cousens, Alyssa Schmidt, and Nikki Chu were second-team All Ivy picks.

Led by junior Greg Jarmas, the men’s golf team won its first Ivy league title since 2006. Jarmas fired a 3-under 216 to win the individual title and help coach Will Green’s squad win the team title by five shots over Yale.

Kelly Shon matched Jarmas’ feat by winning her first Ivy women’s golf crown. Shon edged Christine Lin of Harvard in a playoff to take the title. Shon’s performance wasn’t enough for coach Nicki Cutler’s squad to win the team title as Harvard edged the Tigers by one stroke. Shon went on to place second at the NCAA East Regional to qualify for the NCAA championships, where she finished tied for 37th.

Senior Matija Pecotic made an impact on the national scene for the men’s tennis team. The three-time Ivy Player of the Year advanced to the Round of 32 at the NCAA singles championship. He helped first-year head coach Billy Pate’s tie Columbia for second in the Ivy standings.

Former pro star Laura Granville took the helm of the women’s tennis program and led the Tigers to a fourth place finish in the Ivy league race. Sophomore Lindsay Graff earned first-team All-Ivy honors in singles, while junior Katherine Flanigan was a second-team All-Ivy honoree in singles.

Sparked by first-team Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) performers, sophomore Cody Kessel and junior Pat Schwagler, the men’s volleyball team made the EIVA semis. Coach Sam Shweisky’s team went 13-10 as they ended the year by falling to perennial power Penn State in the EIVA tourney

Fall Feats:

Coming off an encouraging 2012 season that saw it win five games after going 1-9 in the previous two seasons, the Princeton football team was still seen as being a year away from contending for an Ivy title. But with junior quarterback Quinn Epperly putting together a season for the ages, the Tigers moved up the timetable.

Coach Bob Surace’s squad went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in league play, tying Harvard for the Ivy crown, giving Princeton its first title since 2006.

Epperly, for his part, rewrote portions of the Princeton record book en route to one of the greatest seasons in program history. He matched the single-season passing touchdown record of Doug Butler ’86 (25, 1983), and he came within one of matching the single-season rushing touchdown record of Keith Elias ’94 (19, 1994). He missed the single-season completion percentage record by the slimmest of margins; his 68.0 percent finished second to Jason Garrett ’89 (68.2 percent, 1988).

He set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s 53-20 victory over Cornell; that followed Princeton’s 51-48 triple-overtime win at Harvard, when Epperly set Princeton single-game records for both completions (37) and passing touchdowns (six). He set an Ivy League record by earning the Offensive Player of the Week honor six times, including five in a row; all six of his honors followed Princeton’s six Ivy League victories.

He made first-team Ivy League along with receiver Roman Wilson, defensive back Anthony Gaffney, center Joe Goss, offensive tackle Spenser Huston, and defensive lineman Caraun Reid.

To add icing to the cake, Princeton got to celebrate a second straight bonfire, emblematic of beating Harvard and Yale in the same season.

Despite dealing with some heavy graduation losses and a rash of injuries, the Tiger field hockey team made a spirited defense of its 2012 NCAA title. Coach Kristen Holmes-Winn’s squad won its ninth straight Ivy title and advanced to the NCAA quarters where it dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker to Maryland.

Princeton ended the fall at 14-5 and senior Michelle Cesan was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year while classmate Julia Reinprecht was chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year. Freshman Annabeth Donovan was picked as the co-Rookie of the Year. The Tiger trio earned first-team All-Ivy honors along with sophomore Teresa Benvenuti.

The men’s soccer team fell just short of an Ivy crown, finishing third with a 4-2-1 league mark, one win behind champion Penn, which posted a 5-1-1 record. Coach Jim Barlow’s squad went 7-9-1 overall and had four players, junior forward Cameron Porter, sophomore forward Thomas Sanner, junior midfielder Myles McGinley, and sophomore defender Josh Miller, earn first-team All-Ivy honors.

Unable to recapture the magic of a 2012 campaign that saw it go undefeated in Ivy play and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament, the women’s soccer team had a down year. Coach Julie Shackford’s squad went 7-6-4 overall and 1-5-1 Ivy.

Senior midfielder Gabriella Guzman made first-team All Ivy while Tyler Lussi, an honorable mention All Ivy performer, became the first Tiger freshman to reach 10 goals since Linda DeBoer ‘86 in 1982.

Spending most of the season in the top 20, the men’s water polo team narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament as it lost 11-9 to St. Francis in the CWPA Championship finals. Coach Luis Nicolao’s squad went 22-6 overall with junior Drew Hoffenberg getting named as a first-team All-CWPA Southern Division performer and freshman Jovan Jeremic being picked as the Southern Rookie of the Year.

A one-two punch of senior stars Tyler Udland and Chris Bendtsen helped the men’s cross country team take second at the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships. Udland and Bendtsen finished sixth and seventh, respectively in the race as coach Jason Vigilante’s squad was edged by Columbia. Princeton went on to finish 22nd in the NCAA championship meet.

Freshman Megan Curham enjoyed an impressive debut season for the women’s cross country team, emerging as a frontrunner for the Tigers. She placed fourth at the Ivy League Heps to help Peter Farrell’s squad take fourth in the team standings. The Tigers ended the season by coming in 30th at the NCAA championship meet with Curham earning All-American honors with her 34th place finish.

Rebounding from some early season struggles, the women’s volleyball team played well down the stretch as it won four of its last six matches to finish the season at 10-14 overall and 6-8 Ivy. Freshman Cara Mattaliano, who led the league in both kills and points in league matches, earned first-team All-Ivy League honors for coach Sabrina King’s squad.

Hun

It was a winter of championship breakthroughs at the Hun School. Sparked by senior star defenseman Eric Szeker and rock-solid junior goalie Devin Cheifetz, the Hun boys’ hockey team won its first-ever Independence Hockey League (IHL) championship. Coach Ian McNally’s squad topped Haverford School (Pa.) 5-3 in the IHL championship game and ended the winter with final record of 16-5-4. Stellar seniors Fergus Duke, Hashim Moore, Jake Newman, and Grant Mackay helped the Hun boys’ hoops team followed suit as it won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament. Coach Jon Stone’s team had to rally from a late deficit of 10 points in the MAPL opener to top Hill (Pa.)and then gathered steam, rolling past Lawrenceville 46-31 in the title game. The Raiders later advanced to the state prep A title game and ended the winter with a gaudy 20-6 record.

Coach Bill Holup guided the girls’ team to another solid campaign as the Raiders went 14-11, advancing to both the MAPL and Prep A semis. Hun was sparked by the play of junior center Johnnah Johnson who provided a dominating inside presence.

In the spring, the Hun boys’ lax team caught fire under new coach M.V. Whitlow and advanced to the state Prep A title game where it fell to perennial champion Lawrenceville. The Raiders were led by seniors Zach Bicho,  Greg Flood and Zach Winterstein as they posted an 11-6 record.

Prolific senior standout and Boston College-bound Kate Weeks passed the 300-goal mark in her career with Hun girls’ lax team, helping the Raiders go 6-9 under new head coach Haley Sanborn.

Senior star catcher Carey Million saved her best for last, hitting over .500 as she helped Hun softball advance to the Prep A title game where it fell 5-3 to archrival Peddie. Coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 11-7 and has plenty of hope for the future as freshman ace Alexis Goeke established herself as one of the top pitchers in the area.

Guided by legendary head coach Bill McQuade, the Hun baseball team fell short of a Prep A title by an eyelash, falling 2-1 to Blair in the championship series. The Raiders were led by seniors Stevie Wells, Shane Adams, Devan Birch, and Austin Goeke as they posted a record of 16-7 in McQuade’s 43rd spring guiding the program.

Under coach Todd Loffredo, the boy’s tennis team went through a rebuilding season as several young players gained valuable experience in a 3-12 campaign.

It looked like it was going to be a long season when the Hun girls’ soccer team got off to a 0-7 start under new head coach Joanna Hallac. But with a corps of freshmen coming of age and some key veterans returning from injury, the Raiders got on a roll down the stretch.

Led by senior Olivia Braender-Carr, junior Ashley Maziarz, and sophomore Jess Johnson, Hun pulled two upsets on the way to the state Prep A championship game against perennial power Pennington. Hun fell 2-0 to the Pennington and ended the season at 7-12-1. While the title game defeat stung, the future looks bright as most of the squad will be back in 2014.

The boys’ soccer team also stumbled out of the gate as it started 1-4. But under the steady hand of coach Pat Quirk, the Raiders righted the ship and made a stirring run in the Mercer County Tournament. Hun was seeded 11th in the MCT and topped No. 6 Princeton High, last year’s state Group III co-champion and third-seeded Allentown, the eventual 2013 Group III co-champion on the way to the semis. Battling valiantly, the Raiders fell 2-0 to second-seeded Hightstown. The run, which helped Hun finish with a record of 7-12, was triggered by a core of senior stars, Felix Dalstein, Bailey Hammer, Chris Meinert, and Andres Gonzalez.

With John Law taking the helm of the football program just weeks before the season started, Hun took a while to get in synch. Bouncing back from a 0-4 start, Hun won two of its last four games and has plenty of hope for the future with the return of quarterback Donavon Harris and running back Chris Sharp.

Led by a pair of seniors, Francesca Bello and Alex Kane, the field hockey team had a competitive fall. Under coach Kathy Quirk, the Raiders posted a 6-14 mark.

Featuring a young squad without one senior on the roster, the girls’ tennis team made good progress. Under longtime coach Joan Nuse, the Raiders went 6-7 and placed fourth in the MAPL tournament.

PDS

Davon Reed capped his brilliant career with the Princeton Day School boys’ hoops team by eclipsing the 2,000-point mark, ending up with a program record total of 2,102. The senior guard led the way as coach Paris McLean’s team went 19-8 and reached the Mercer County Tournament semis and the state Prep B title game where they lost a 47-45 heartbreaker to Pennington. Reed went on to University of Miami where he averaged 9.0 points a game through the first 10 games of his college career.

Led by a stellar group of seniors, the PDS boys’ hockey team produced one of the best seasons in program history. Coach Scott Bertoli’s team went 21-3-1 and tied Morristown-Beard 2-2 in the state Prep championship game to share the title.

The team’s Class of 2013 included Cody Triolo, Rob Colton, Conrad Denise, Connor Walker, Eddie Meyercord, C.J. Young, Taran Auslander, Tucker Triolo (Cody’s cousin), and Grahame Davis.

Sparked by senior goalie Daisy Maze and junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer, the girls’ hockey team continued to make progress. Coach Lorna Gifis Cook led her squad to a 10-8 mark.

Hurt by a thin roster, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. Coach Mika Ryan led her squad to an 8-14 season. After the season, Ryan headed to WW/P-S to guide its girls’ program and was replaced by Kamau Bailey.

It was another big spring for the PDS boy’s lacrosse team as it advanced to the Prep B title game and the MCT semis. Coach Rob Tuckman’s team posted a final record of 11-6 and was paced by Lehigh-bound senior standout Cody Triolo with classmates Taran Auslander, Eddie Meyercord, Derek Bell, Brendan Shannon, Andrew Phipps, Bump Lisk, and Tucker Triolo also making valuable contributions.

Senior star and MIT-bound Hannah Levy triggered the offense for the girls’ lacrosse team as she passed the 150-goal mark in her career. Levy’s prowess helped coach Jill Thomas’ squad go 6-7.

A core of talented young players helped the baseball team produce a promising spring. Sophomores Cole McManimon, Jake Alu, and J.P. Radvany starred as coach Ray O’Brien’s team went 9-12. Senior star and VMI-bound B.J Dudeck ended his career on a high note, hitting a team-high .406 with 18 RBIs.

Junior Neeraj Devulapalli and a pair of freshmen, David Zhang and Scott Altmeyer, came up big at singles as the boys’ tennis team shared the state Prep B team title along with Pennington and Montclair Kimberley. Coach Will Asch’s team went 10-3 on the season and placed second in the Mercer County Tournament.

The softball team hung together despite a lack of depth, going 0-6 under coach Paul Lano.

Coming off a disappointing 4-9-4 season in 2012, the PDS girls’ soccer team was hungry to regain its winning ways this fall. Cultivating a positive team chemistry to get the best out of its talent, the Panthers enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, Coach Pat Trombetta’s squad lost just once in regular season play and then topped Hamilton, Robbinsville, Princeton High on the way to the MCT title game against Hopewell Valley. With the teams knotted in a scoreless tie late in the second half of the championship contest, PDS broke through with goals by Eloise Stanton and Kirsten Kuzmicz to earn a 2-0 victory and the team’s first-ever MCT title. The Panthers also advanced to the state Prep B title game where they fell to Morristown-Beard 2-0.

PDS posted a final record of 17-2-1 and Trombetta credited senior co-captains Brit Murray and Lily Razzaghi with providing positive leadership that got the team on the same page. With such returning stalwarts as Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, and the Soltesz twins, Stef and Alexa, the Panthers seemed poised to be title contenders again in 2014.

Sparked by singles stars Renee Karchere-Sun, Maria Martinovic, and Emily Dyckman, the girls’ tennis team won its second straight state Prep B team title. Junior Martinovic won the Prep B second singles crown with classmate Dyckman following suit at third singles. Sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles. Coach Ed Tseng’s squad also took third in the team standings at the MCT.

A quartet of senior stars, Mary Travers, Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, and Emily Goldman, helped the field hockey team stay on track as it went through some ups and downs. Playing its best hockey in the final weeks of the campaign, coach Tracey Arndt’s squad went 9-10 and advanced to the state Prep B semifinals.

Skilled junior Marco Pinheiro stood out at midfield as the boys’ soccer team struggled through a rough fall, Coach Malcolm Murphy’s team posted a final record of 3-11-3.

Led by a pair of talented freshmen, Ian Moini and Sam Noden, the boys’ cross country team made strides. Coach Merrill Noden’s team finished fourth in the Prep B championship meet with Moini placing sixth individually and Noden taking 11th.

Another freshman standout, Morgan Mills, made an immediate impact for girls’ cross country. Mills was the team’s top runner from day one and set the pace as coach Noden’s Panthers took ninth in the team standings at the county meet and ended the season by placing third in the Prep B championship meet.

PHS

It was another big winter in the pool for the Princeton High swimming program. The PHS boys’ team won its third straight county crown and fifth straight Public B Central Jersey sectional championship. Coach Greg Hand’s team was led by a stellar group of juniors, Will Stange, Peter Kalibat, Colburn Yu, Matt Purdy, and Scott MacKenzie, as it went 15-1.

Coach Hand guided his girls’ squad to a breakthrough season as the Little Tigers won their first-ever county title. Led by the senior duo of Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio along with a pair of precocious freshmen in Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, PHS advanced to the sectional final and posted a final record of 13-1.

Under new head coach Mark Shelley, the boys’ basketball team enjoyed a promising campaign. Sparked by seniors Lior Levy and Scott Bechler, the Little Tigers went 12-11 and advanced to the second round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Led by the trio of junior Liz Jacobs, sophomore Mary Sutton, and freshman Julia Ryan, the girls’ basketball team fought an uphill battle. The Little Tigers posted a 4-14 record and coach Steffanie Shoop stepped down after the season. Dan Van Hise, the PHS JV boys’ hoops coach, was named to replace Shoop.

Sparked by senior Matt DiTosto along with juniors Patrick McCormick, Spencer Reynolds, with sophomores Jackson Andres, John Reid and Connor McCormick, the boys’ hockey team maintained its winning tradition. The Little Tigers posted a 10-9-1 record under coach Tim Campbell. After the season, Campbell stepped down and was replaced by longtime assistant and former PHS standout, Terence Miller.

Sophomore Lucy Herring was a standout for the girls’ hockey team, providing the main highlights as the team went winless under coach Christian Herzog.

The winter track team produced some fine individual efforts for coach Ben Samara. Senior Tim Brennan took third in the shot put at the state Group III meet while classmate Ian McIsaac placed third in the 1,600. On the girls’ side, junior Michelle Bazile finished third in the shot put at the state Group III meet at Toms River.

Senior star David Klinges proved to be a standout for the PHS wrestling team. Klinges took third at 160 pounds District 17 tournament to lead the way as coach Rashone Johnson’s squad placed eighth of nine schools in the team standings.

It was a breakthrough spring for the PHS lacrosse programs. Coach Peter Stanton passed the 200-win mark at the helm of the boys’ program and led the Little Tigers to their first-ever county crown. Led by such veteran stars as Adam Ainslie, Matt Corrado, Matt Purdy, Matt DiTosto, Jack Persico and the Halliday brothers, Zach and Kevin, the Little Tigers routed Allentown 10-4 in the MCT championship game. PHS also produced a good run in the state tournament, advancing to the South Jersey Group III sectional semifinals where it fell to powerful Shawnee 5-4. The Little Tigers ended the spring with a final record of 16-4.

With the one-two punch of juniors Emilia Lopez-Ona and Liz Jacobs triggering the offense, the girls’ lax team made some history of its own. Coach Kelsey O’Gorman’s squad went 18-4 and made it to the sectional final for the first time this century.

Riding the pitching of sophomore ace Sara Eisenach and the hitting production of senior star and Wisconsin-bound Marisa Gonzalez, the PHS softball team reached new heights. Coach Dave Boehm’s club hit double figures in wins for the first time in program history, going 11-12 on the spring.

Senior infielder Ellis Bloom and senior pitcher Rohit Chawla had big years as the baseball team rebounded from a tough start to finish in a high note. After losing 10 of their first 11 games, the Little Tigers ended the season at 9-15 for head coach Dave Roberts.

The boys’ tennis team enjoyed another superb spring, finishing fourth in the MCT and advancing to the Central Jersey Group III finals. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad posted a final record of 16-2 and was sparked by the doubles duo of Tyler Hack and Zach Kleiman together with singles stars Rishab Tanga and Brock DeHaven.

Senior star thrower and Dartmouth-bound Tim Brennan starred for boys’ track, winning the discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet. Brennan, along with running standouts Anders Berg, Matt Wong, Conor Donahue, and Jacob Rist, helped coach Rashone Johnson’s team place fifth at the sectional meet.

Another throwing star, junior Michelle Bazile, stood out for the girls’ track team. Bazile won both the shot put and discus at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet to help coach Jim Smirk’s squad place ninth at the meet. The quartet of Paige Metzheiser, Lou Mialhe, Julie Bond, and Amelia Whaley also performed well at the sectional, placing fifth in the 4×800 relay.

Girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca produced one of the highlights of the fall season as she rallied to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final. It was the first-ever state singles crown for a PHS player. Rosca helped the Little Tigers reach the Group III team championship match where they fell 4-1 to Montville. Coach Sarah Hibbert’s club, which placed second in the MCT with Rosca winning the first singles crown, posted a final record of 16-1.

Led by senior Emilia Lopez Ona and a pair of juniors, Julia DiTosto and Lucy Herring, the field hockey team continued it recent run of success. Coach Heather Serverson’s squad went 13-4-2, reaching the county semis and advancing to the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals.

Junior striker Shannon Pawlak provided the offense while Dana Smith and Haley Bodden controlled the midfield as girls’ soccer produced another outstanding campaign. Coach Greg Hand’s squad advanced to the county semis and the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals and finished the fall at 14-4.

Seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair along with junior Chase Ealy stood out as the boys’ soccer team experienced a bumpy ride this fall. After starting 7-1-1, the Little Tigers slumped over the last few weeks of the regular season and lost to Hun in the opening round of the MCT. Coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team showed its quality in the state tourney as it advanced to the Group III Central Jersey sectional semis where it fell 1-0 to eventual state Group III co-champion Allentown. PHS ended the fall with a 10-6-3 record.

Paced by Jacob Rist and Conor Donahue, the boys’ cross country team continued to make strides. Under new coach Mark Shelley, PHS placed fourth in the county meet and second in the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Sophomore Lou Mialhe raced to the head of the pack for girls’ cross country and helped the Little Tigers enjoy another superb campaign. Coach Jim Smirk’s took second at the county meet and third at the Central Jersey Group III sectional.

Senior Liam Helstrom did it all for the PHS football team, grabbing 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns at receiver and making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery at linebacker. Despite Helstrom’s heroics, it was a long year for the Little Tigers as they went 0-10 under new coach Charlie Gallagher.

Stuart

The arrival of new head coach Dana Leary gave the Stuart Country Day School basketball team a fresh start. Although the Tartans went 2-13, such young players as freshman Harley Guzman, freshman Kate Walsh, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and sophomore Harlyn Bell showed progress.

Lacey-Ann Wisdom led the way as Stuart track finished third of eight teams at the state Prep B championship meet at Gill St. Bernard. Wisdom won the long jump and the triple jump for coach Len Klepack’s squad. Olivia Vande Woude placed fourth in the 400-meter hurdles while Paul-Anne Robb was fifth in the 100 hurdles and fifth in the triple jump. Queen Johnson took sixth in both the 100 hurdles and the 100 dash. Kate Walsh took fourth in the discus and fifth in the high jump. The quartet of Annaliza Carey, Robb, Vande Woude and Wisdom placed second in the 4×100 relay.

A trio of freshmen, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, and Tori Hannah, provided a slew of highlights in the spring for the Stuart lacrosse team. Maser had a team-high 45 points on 36 goals and 9 assists with Hannah chipping in 20 goals and 14 assists, and Servis tallying 24 goals and 7 assists as coach Caitlin Grant’s squad went 4-10.

Julia Rourke starred at second singles as the tennis team went 3-6 in dual match play. Coach Katherine Stoltenberg’s squad placed 12th in the MCT.

The trio of Maser, Servis, and Hannah along with seniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret LaNasa starred as field hockey was much improved. Coach Missy Bruvik guided the Tartans to the state Prep B semis and a 7-14 record, more than doubling the program’s win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1.

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Taylor Williams heads to the basket in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore center Williams contributed eight points, three rebounds, and two assists to help Princeton top Illinois State 65-39. Princeton, now 7-4, is next in action when it plays in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Taylor Williams heads to the basket in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore center Williams contributed eight points, three rebounds, and two assists to help Princeton top Illinois State 65-39. Princeton, now 7-4, is next in action when it plays in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s basketball team trailing Illinois State 9-3 in the early going last Wednesday, Taylor Williams made her presence felt in helping to turn the tide for the Tigers.

The 6’3 sophomore center scored six points to trigger a 15-0 run which broke the game open for Princeton as it cruised to a 65-39 rout of the Redbirds.

For Williams, who played just 84 minutes for the Tigers last winter, the lowest total on the team, just being present on the court is a joy.

“It is a lot of fun being out there,” said Williams, a native of Warren, Ohio.

“We have a fun group of girls this year. The chemistry on and off the court is unreal. Getting to play with these girls and fulfilling whatever role I am placed in on this team, especially with the Ivies coming up, is really important.”

Williams is carving out a role as a key reserve down low, averaging 7.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game this winter for Princeton, which improved to 7-4 with the victory over Illinois State.

The center’s progress is the product of some rigorous offseason training. “Last year, I knew what to do but I wasn’t as confident with it,” said Williams.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer with individual coaches and playing pickup. I worked on post moves and a lot of one-vs-one against other players. My main focus was being dominant on the low block and now it feels good to be somewhat of a presence down low against the other team’s defender.”

Williams’ diligent approach is emblematic of Princeton’s collective mindset.

“This is a group that definitely wants to get better and consistently comes to practice with a mindset that we want to get better,” said Williams of the Tigers who are taking a four-game winning streak into the holiday break.

“Losing last year’s seniors, we knew this year wasn’t going to be easy and everybody has stepped up to their role. Everyone is prepared to work hard for the success we want in the Ivies coming up.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is pleasantly surprised by how quickly Williams has stepped up.

“Taylor Williams is critical to our team and I would never imagine saying that so quickly in her career,” said Banghart.

“She is playing with confidence and has a post presence. She really wants to be helpful and she doesn’t care how.”

The Tigers got help from rapidly improving freshman guard Taylor Brown in the win over Illinois State as she contributed nine points and eight rebounds.

“Taylor Brown is gaining her collegiate sea legs and you guys are now seeing the type of lead guard that I recruited,” said Banghart. “She has adjusted to our pace, we have been pretty hard on her.”

While Banghart wasn’t thrilled with the type of performance Princeton produced against Illinois State as it committed 28 turnovers, she is happy with the bottom line.

“I think they were a little bit bored tonight, which worries me because in the league I think there are times where you have to fight that,” said Banghart.

“We knew we wanted to play a lot of kids so I think that got us out of rhythm too. We could make a lot of excuses or just say we are 7-4 with a very, very tough schedule and just four home games.”

Upon returning from the holiday break, the Tigers will be thrown right back in the fire as they compete in the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia from December 28-29 where they face Alabama in the opening round and either Coppin State or Virginia in their next game.

“This doesn’t get any easier,” said Banghart, whose team will stay on the road with games at Drexel on January 4 and its Ivy League opener at Penn on January 11.

“I think we do need this mental break from each other because I have really been pushing them hard and I think you are seeing why, they are getting a lot better. I have been pushing them harder than I have pushed any other team. I think they need a few days away from my voice and I think I need a few days away from critiquing them.”

Williams, for her part, is ready to keep pushing when the Tigers head to Virginia.

“We are really excited for that, Alabama is a really good team and the other opponents in the tournament are awesome,” said Williams.

“Away trips are really good experiences for all of the players. It is a good feeling for preparation going into the Ivies; we know we worked harder than anyone else.”

December 18, 2013
FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING THE BURN: Princeton University women’s basketball player Amanda Berntsen races up the court last Sunday as the Tigers hosted Delaware. Sophomore guard Berntsen played a key role as Princeton pulled out an 84-80 win in overtime, contributing eight points, six rebounds, and two assists. The Tigers, now 6-4, host Illinois State on December 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Amanda Berntsen was an afterthought for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last winter in her freshman campaign, playing a total of 152 minutes in 23 appearances.

Determined to be a bigger contributor for the Tigers as a sophomore, Berntsen put her nose to the grindstone during the offseason.

“Last year I got some minutes but not too much,” said Bentsen, a 5’8 native of Chatham, N.J.

“I worked hard over the summer. I just took tons of shots. I have just been able to develop poise and confidence being the point guard and I think that has carried me a long way. Now I am able to do things that I just didn’t have the confidence to do on the court last year. Defensively, I just learned how to play college defense.”

Last Sunday, Berntsen did some big things down the stretch to help Princeton rally for an 84-80 win in overtime against visiting Delaware. With 2:29 left in regulation, Berntsen hit a three-pointer to knot the contest at 70-70.

In overtime, Berntsen made a bucket on a beautiful left-handed layup through traffic and then delivered a deft touch pass that led to a three-pointer by Blake Dietrick. The sophomore canned a free throw with seconds left to help seal the victory.

Noting that Princeton had lost 59-58 at Delaware last season, Berntsen saw the dramatic win over the Blue Hens as a big step forward for the 6-4 Tigers.

“It was a great test and that is what our coaches want us to do with this schedule they have given us,” asserted Berntsen, who ended the game with eight points, six rebounds, and two assists.

“We definitely showed today that our team is coming together and playing together. We showed enormous toughness and enormous heart to come together.”

Berntsen showed some courage in nailing the crucial three-pointer, her first basket beyond the arc all season.

“I saw I was wide open and I needed to catch and shoot and that’s what I did,” recalled Berntsen, who is now averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game.

“It was a good time for it to come. It felt really good. Blake [Dietrick] did a great job of drawing two people to get the open shot so credit to her. I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t hitting that much from the outside. I lost a little bit of my confidence but coach [Courtney Banghart] and I talked last week and she said they are going to fall, you just need to get confidence now.”

On her layup in overtime, Berntsen did what comes naturally to her. “Driving to the basket is my favorite thing to do, I have been doing that my whole life,” said Bentsen.

“If I can get into the paint and people don’t converge, I am going to take it myself. If not, I am going to look to kick it out for my teammates. Coach has challenged me to do that to open up for my teammates and that’s what I have been working on.”

Growing up about an hour away from Princeton, Berntsen is drawing a cheering section at Jadwin Gym.

“My high school coach was here and I also have teammates that are a couple of years younger than me,” said Berntsen.

“I didn’t get a chance to play with them but they all came out. My parents come. It really helps having that home support group come out. We have a lot of people on the team from the west coast and it is just nice to get fans here for them. It is also really encouraging.”

Princeton head coach Banghart was encouraged by her team’s performance against Delaware.

“That is a game we would not have won two weeks ago,” asserted Banghart.

“We talked about process with a young team the whole time. You have seen how much this team has grown. There is a little bit of a makeover for both teams but they are two championship cultures so we knew it was going to come down to a combination of tactical play and toughness.”

Princeton needed a combination of good inside-out play to pull out the victory which saw the Tigers trailing 74-70 with 1:30 left in regulation.

“I thought the key was that we had pieces of everybody,” said Banghart, who got a game-high 22 points from Dietrick with Kristen Helmstetter chipping in 18 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Wheatley contributing 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

“Wheatley had a big steal late and made two big free throws. Amanda made a big 3, I think it was her first of the year and a nice finish. Kristen and Blake were so consistent throughout the game. I thought they were what we needed when we needed it.”

In Banghart’s view, the consistent work ethic displayed by Berntsen has led to her improvement.

“She is a kid who didn’t waste one second of her freshman year and the same thing with Taylor Williams,” said Banghart. “Those are kids you didn’t see a lot last year but they gave us everything they had for every practice, all 112 practices last year. The way we practice is why our kids get better.”

Having won five of its last six games, the Tigers are getting better and better,

“In order to challenge ourselves to get better, you have to play really good teams,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Illinois State on December 18.

“I went in there and said I don’t have a lot to say because I want to hear what you have to say. One of the kids who didn’t even play said it was 1 through 14, it was a team win. That’s how we practice and that’s how we play.”

Berntsen, for her part, liked the way the team played as one in the win over Delaware.

“In the past few games, we played really well together too and we have had moments but I think this was just a game where we won it off of playing together,” said Berntsen. “It just feels awesome. It is a great home win.”

And with Berntsen feeling more and more at home on the court, she should be experiencing plenty more great moments this winter.

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HONEST ABE: Princeton University sophomore wrestler Abe Ayala, right, battles Rutgers for Hayden Hrymack at 197 pounds last Saturday. Sophomore star Ayala earned a 6-4 win in the bout to provide a highlight for Princeton as it fell 27-9 to the Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The snowstorm that hit the area last Saturday may have kept the crowd down at the “Celebration of New Jersey Wrestling” held at Jadwin Gym in conjunction with the Princeton University-Rutgers match but it didn’t dampen the spirit of those who did brave the inclement weather.

“It was an awesome environment to compete in,” said Princeton wrestling head coach Chris Ayres, who estimated that a crowd of around 700 turned out for festivities which included a youth wrestling match, a clinic conducted by a Princeton and Rutgers assistant coaches, and a parade of former New Jersey state high school champions during halftime of the college match.

“The upper deck was closed so all the fans were in the big bleachers down by the floor. The best thing was recognizing the state champions; that piece was due to coach [Joe] Dubuque and he has gotten so many e-mails thanking him for that.”

Unfortunately, the Tigers, who came into the day with a 3-0 record in dual matches, didn’t compete as well as they had hoped, falling 27-9 to their local rivals.

“We didn’t perform very well,” said Ayres. “I have to credit Rutgers, they wrestled harder. In five matches we scored first but we weren’t finishing strong. It is a young team and we are still figuring some things out.”

Princeton’s two wins against the Scarlet Knights came from junior Adam Krop at 141 pounds and from sophomore Abe Ayala at 197. Krop pinned Tyson Dippery while Ayala outpointed Hayden Hrymack 6-4.

“Krop has been on and off; he has been injured a bit,” said Ayres. “In the Rutgers match, he was on. He is fun to watch. He saw an opening and he got that pin which is what good wrestlers do. Ayala keeps getting better; he lost to the kid from Rutgers in the Binghamton tournament and came back and really controlled the match. It is exciting to see.”

The Tigers have produced some exciting results in the first month of the season.

“We have competed really well,” asserted Ayres, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the program.

“We were third in the Navy Invitational ahead of such schools as Bucknell, Kent State, and Ohio. At Madison Square Garden, we went 2-0 and beat Army for the first time in 40 years, we think. We are still checking on that. We then beat Binghamton for the first time.”

With a lineup featuring a number of freshmen and sophomores, Princeton has room for plenty of growth.

“Everyone has been doing their duty,” said Ayres, who had three freshmen (Jordan Laster, Matt Gancayco, and Brett Harner) and four sophomores (Kevin Moylan, Scott Gibbons, Cole Lampman, and Ayala) wrestling in the Rutgers match

“Matthew Gancayco beat a guy in Army who had been 3rd in EIWA. Brett Harner is having a great season. Chris Perez (a sophomore) won the Drexel match for us with a big pin. Guys have stepped up at different times.”

Although Princeton didn’t step up against Rutgers, Ayres believes the loss will prove to be a good learning experience for his young team.

“That was the hard thing about Rutgers,” lamented Ayres, whose team will compete in the Wilkes Open in Wilkes, Pa. on December 28 before heading to the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. from December 29-30.

“We felt like we could win the match or be in a position to win the match. I think we will make another big jump. We have Midlands coming up and two years ago we got a third there.”

No matter what happens as the team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule, Ayers believes the program has already made a big jump.

“I think the commitment level and the competition in the room are the biggest areas of progress,” said Ayres.

“In the past if we had a starter out, there was no one to really step in. We have talent and depth. If we have to sit someone, we feel the next guy can come in and do a good job. Last year, we knew our starting lineup by now. This year we still have three or four weights up in the air.”

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAK POINT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jonathan Liau chases down the puck in recent action. Sophomore forward Liau is tied for second in scoring for Princeton with eight points on one goal and seven assists. The Tigers, who are 3-12 overall, are currently on holiday break and will resume action when they play in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey team bringing a 3-12 record into its holiday break, the numbers don’t lie.

Among the 12 teams in ECAC Hockey, Princeton is last in goals scored (2.07) in all contests and has given up the second most goals per game (3.87).

In the wake of its final action before the hiatus, which saw Princeton lose 3-0 at No. 11 Union and 5-2 at Rensselaer, Tiger head coach Bob Prier didn’t hesitate in pinpointing his team’s biggest issue.

“We need to work better in the defensive-zone,” asserted Prier, whose team is 2-8 in ECACH play and tied with Dartmouth for last in the league standings. “We are on the wrong side of checks; we are trying to pickpocket the puck and do it the easy way.”

In Prier’s view, getting stingier on defense will go a long way towards helping the team be more productive offensively.

“If we play stronger defensively, the offense will come,” said Prier. “I am not worried about us scoring goals. It’s not that we can’t score goals.”

Prier is also looking for his players to be tougher all over the ice. “We need to play with more pride and work ethic,” said Prier, whose team went 1-5 in its last six games before the break, getting outscored 31-12 in that span.

“We need to work extra hard around the puck. We are working hard in the open ice, flying up the rink but that is easy. We need to battle harder in 1-on-1 situations. Our breakout needs to be better. We need to play more fundamentally sound and stay between our opponents and the net.”

Having dealt with injuries to such key players as Andrew Calof, Alec Rush, Tommy Davis, Tyler Maugeri, and Ben Foster, it has been hard for the Tigers to go full throttle in practice.

“We haven’t had the bodies and we have barely had contact in practice because we want to keep the guys healthy,” said Prier.

“It’s harder work to stay low and knock guys off the puck. We are not able to battle in practice and that is carrying over into the games.”

But with plenty of games left, Prier believes his team can use the break to regroup.

“We need to get the guys fresher so we can battle more,” said Prier, whose team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule by playing in the Florida College Classic at Estero, Fla. from December 28-29.

“We have lots of the season left. After the RPI game, I said to the guys that we have faced just about everybody in the league and there is no one we played where we thought we have to figure out a way to beat them. The league is so tight. We need to clean up some things and we have as good a chance as anyone to win these games.”

December 11, 2013
WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WEISZ BEYOND HIS YEARS: Princeton University men’s basketball player tracks a foe in recent action. Freshman Weisz has made an immediate impact for the Tigers, starting from day one and averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. Last Saturday, Weisz achieved his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance. The Tigers, now 6-1, play at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Spencer Weisz brought a reputation as a heady player to the table in joining the Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

During his senior season at Seton Hall Prep in 2012-13, Weisz averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals on the way to earning second-team New Jersey All-State honors.

Stepping into the starting lineup at Princeton from day one this season, Weisz has focused on honing his basketball IQ.

“I just wanted to come in and play within the offense and stay solid on defense,” said the 6’4, 180-pound Weisz, a native of Florham Park.

“I think the detailed scouting report helps a lot. The coaches do a great job of preparing us in the practices before games. It allows me to really understand what is going to come. The ability to know ahead of time really benefits myself and the team as a whole.”

Last Saturday, Weisz showed the benefits of that detailed preparation, achieving his first college double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Princeton topped Fairleigh Dickinson 77-65 before 1,952 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming into the game, Weisz was looking to hit the boards. “I just want to stay aggressive offensively and defensively,” said Weisz, who is averaging 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game in his debut campaign and was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his effort against FDU.

“I struggled with boxing out a little bit in the beginning but some of our key rebounders are out right now so you just want to step up and be where the opportunity is present.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson acknowledged that the precocious Weisz is progressing even faster than he had hoped.

“I knew he was a good player but I think I underestimated his ability to get to the rim and make tough layups,” said Henderson, whose team extended its winning streak and improved to 6-1 with the win over the Knights.

“What is important is that he listens. When we say this is important, he is right there with you. He doesn’t like it when you tell him he has done something wrong, which is a good thing. I say he is an underrated passer, he makes people better, similar to T.J. [Bray].”

With Princeton missing Bray and Jimmy Sherburne, who weren’t allowed to compete on Saturday due to violations of athletic department rules, it did a few things wrong against FDU as it went on a 12-3 run to build a 36-28 halftime lead and then started the second half by outscoring the Knights 21-10 to break the game open.

“I think they understood what we wanted them to do on offense and defense but they needed to be on the court to understand it,” said Henderson.

“I think that is when it started clicking. FDU does some tricky things on defense. You have to keep your composure which I thought we did nicely. Spencer was getting some drives to the basket and some kick-outs. I think it was just moving the ball.”

Junior forward Denton Koon was on the ball against the Knights, scoring 18 points with six rebounds and three assists.

“Denton established himself inside a few times and then we had a huge 3 from Denton in the corner which I thought was a really nice play,” said Henderson, whose team will look to keep on the winning track when it plays at Rutgers on December 11 and at Penn State on December 14.

“I thought he was terrific tonight. It reminded me of Denton last year. He is a very, very difficult matchup. He banged two 3s, so he is versatile. I thought he brought a lot of balance to our team tonight. He had some huge offensive rebounds as well.”

Koon, for his part, gained rhythm from his work in the paint. “I had a lot of opportunities near the rim and I got myself going a little bit,” said Koon. “We had some open slips to the rim and that helps to get a couple  of easy looks.”

With Princeton off to its best start since the 1997-98 season, when it was 7-0 through seven games, Koon likes the way things are looking for the Tigers.

“We are moving the ball really well; I am excited with the way we are playing,” said Koon.

“Since I have been here, this is definitely the best we have felt early in the season. We are playing together, playing as a team; it just feels good. A lot of guys are contributing well to the system. We feel good about the way things are going right now.”

In Weisz’s view, the Tigers’ intelligent play in the second half against FDU exemplified the team’s ability to run its system.

“Everyone’s ability to see the floor and read cuts showed tonight,” said Weisz.

“I think that contributed a lot to the second half run. We were able to get some open 3s and some timely baskets and we were able to push the lead to a point where we didn’t want to let up but it was a little more comfortable.”

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECOVERY TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell heads up the ice in recent action. After being sidelined all of last winter due to knee and hip injuries, sophomore McDonell has given the Tigers a lift in her return to action, scoring nine points on four goals and five assists so far this season. Princeton, now 7-6-1 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey, is currently on a holiday hiatus until it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Jaimie McDonell, her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team turned out to be a lost year.

McDonell tore a ligament in her knee before the 2012-13 season began. She was later diagnosed with a hip injury that required surgery. As a result, McDonell never saw a minute of playing time.

“I just tried to be a positive, supportive teammate the best I could even though I was a little miserable by myself,” said McDonell.

“I got back on the ice in the end of April, beginning of May. It wasn’t full contact until August.”

Back to full speed this season, sophomore forward McDonell has been a positive force for the Tigers, as she has scored nine points in four goals and five assists and is tied for third on the team in scoring.

McDonell is savoring her return to action. “Especially after an injury, it makes you so grateful for every time you get out there,” said McDonell. “You don’t realize how fast it can all go away. The seniors are starting to feel that now.”

Last Friday, McDonell helped Princeton get off to a fast start against Rensselaer as she scored a first period goal to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead on the way to a 4-1 victory.

In reflecting on her tally, McDonell acknowledged she was in the right place at the right time as she deflected the puck past the Rensselaer goalie.

“I saw [Ali] Pankowski taking a one-timer and I just braced myself a little bit,” recalled McDonell, a 5’8 native of East York, Ontario. “I was pretty confident from where it hit me.”

Bouncing back from losing two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota over Thanksgiving weekend, Princeton showed confidence against RPI from the opening face-off.

“We had our mindset, we knew what we wanted to do, we had a game plan and we just stuck to the basics and got the job done out there,” said McDonell of the Tigers who got the job done a day later as they completed a weekend sweep by topping Union 4-1.

“I think we set the tone in the first and we kept sticking to our game plan. We didn’t fall apart, we kept doing it and eventually we just kept going.”

While McDonell is thrilled to be doing well this season, she is quick to credit her linemates, junior Brianna Leahy and freshman Hilary Lloyd, with helping her produce.

“I feel good but it is also who I am playing with,” said McDonell. “My line is really clicking; I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wingers and defensemen.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the way his team clicked in the win over Rensselaer.

“We played solidly in the first and still played well as the game continued,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from Denna Laing and one from Olivia Mucha in the triumph.

“The shorthanded goal by Laing was huge and even the second one coming before the first period was up was big. I think that was just the second game all year that we have scored the first goal so that was a big goal, no question.”

Having McDonell on the ice this season has been a big plus for the Tigers. “We thought we would get Jaimie back by Christmas time last season but that didn’t happen so that was a bummer,” said Kampersal.

“She is a heart and soul player, she is a good kid in the middle. She works really hard. She has been consistently good for us all year.”

Senior captain Laing has been a consistent force all season long for Princeton.

“Denna played solid for us as well,” said Kampersal of his senior captain who now has a team-high 11 points on four goals and seven assists. “That shorthanded goal was good and she got that third one. She is a big, strong kid. She skates hard and she works hard. It takes a lot to bring her down. She is a player who has endurance and can last. She can play good strong minutes for us.”

Kampersal was hoping for a strong weekend from his team in its last action before a holiday hiatus.

“We need a strong day tomorrow and then we need a break,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the weekend at 7-6-2 overall and 6-4-1 ECAC Hockey and is next in action when it hosts a two-game set against Connecticut on January 2-3.

“It will be nice to get a whole healthy lineup out there. The focus is just getting our power play better.”

McDonell, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“I think this could be a turning point in the season,” asserted McDonnell.

“After the past two weeks, we really needed to bounce back and show the league who we are and get back to how we were playing before. We had a rough patch, it is all about adversity.”

And McDonell certainly knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.

December 4, 2013
ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE FINE BRAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to pass in a game last winter. After missing the first three games this season due to a broken hand, senior captain and star guard Bray has made a big difference for Princeton since returning to action in late November. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 5.0 assists in three appearances and was named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, who have won four straight games to improve to 5-1, will look to keep on the winning track when they host Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team opened its season last month, T.J. Bray cut a forlorn figure.

The senior captain and star guard was sidelined due to a fractured hand suffered during the preseason and sat grim-faced  on the bench wearing a cast.

Despite being out of action, Bray was able to stay sharp as he recovered from the injury. “I did a lot of conditioning with our strength and conditioning coach when I had my cast on,” said Bray.

“I got my cast off a couple of Wednesdays ago and I was able to start slowly doing things then. I have probably been playing 1-on-0 for about a week now. In terms of live stuff, it has been less than a week. I put a lot of time in over the summer so I didn’t lose too much of that.”

Bray returned to action for limited duty in a 70-56 win over Rice on November 23 and then showed a hot hand three days later in a 71-66 victory over visiting George Mason. The 6’5, 207-pound Bray hit on 7-of-10 shots for a team-high 18 points.

“It was obviously one of my better games as a player here,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc.  who passed for a career-high 10 assists in the victory over the Patriots and had six rebounds and no turnovers in the win as he achieved his first career double-double.

“My teammates were great too, they were knocking down shots which makes my job easy. I know if I throw it to them, they are going to catch it and make a good play. They help me out so much.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no bones about how much it helps the Tigers to have Bray back on the court. “I thought he was just terrific,” said Henderson of Bray, who scored 15 points and had a career-high nine rebounds in a 66-53 win at Bucknell last Saturday and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“Once again he had a line that I would have dreamed of having as a player here. I always wanted to have lots of assists and no turnovers. This is a helluva of a line including the last shot to put us up four which I thought was just huge. We missed T.J. in our first few games and I am really happy to have him back.”

In assessing Bray’s strengths, Henderson pointed to his versatility. “T.J. is taking the ball out of bounds; he has got energy to play another half or two,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 5-1 with the win over Bucknell and will look to extend a four-game winning streak when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson on December 7.

“He is coming up with huge rebounds, he is telling everybody what to do. He makes a huge shot going to his right off the glass and he is a lefty. He just does a little bit of everything and I am glad he is on our team.”

Bray’s court vision is possibly his best attribute, in Henderson’s opinion. “He sees the game, he sees things,” said Henderson. “I don’t think you have to teach somebody that, I think you just show them what to look for.”

Henderson liked what he saw from his team collectively as it held off a George Mason charge that saw the visitors tie the game at 66-66 after trailing 40-23 at halftime. “I am never comfortable with a lead, I knew they were going to come at us,” said Henderson, who got offensive balance against the Patriots as Ben Hazel scored 14 points with Hans Brase adding 12 and Denton Koon chipping in 10.

“They just started going to the rim. I think with the way the games are called now, you have got to be prepared for that. We got into some foul trouble with Hans and all of a sudden the lead starts to chip away. I really liked that we maintained some aggressiveness. One team becomes very aggressive and the other team has to match that aggressiveness and I thought we did that nicely at the end of the game, including making a huge couple of stops there defensively.”

Bray, for his part, sensed that Princeton could outfight George Mason in crunch time.

“I have played in enough games here that it has happened before,” said Bray. “It was nice that we were able to come out on top. I knew that we had to keep battling and that’s what we did. We were able to get some nice buckets inside. Coach drew up some great plays. If we just kept battling, I knew we would be on the right side of things at the end of the game.”

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WHEAT HARVEST: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley, foreground, hustles after a loose ball in a game last winter. Sophomore forward Wheatley has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this season and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-4, plays at Navy on December 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Alex Wheatley, moving into the starting lineup for the Princeton University women’s basketball team this winter has given her an increased sense of urgency.

“That is different, that is fun,” said the 6’2 sophomore from Upper Holland. Pa. reflecting on her promotion which comes in the wake of a freshman season that saw her come off the bench in all 29 of her appearances. “It makes you be ready for when the whistle first blows.”

Wheatley and her four classmates on the team put in extra time as they prepared to make a bigger contribution this winter.

“We all worked a lot over the summer and really tried to get stronger in preparation for this year,” said Wheatley, whose fellow sophomores include Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, and Taylor Williams.

“Just mentally, not being freshman, I think it helps to be able to run the plays and to understand the game a little bit better on defense. I am really trying to bring something new to the team.”

Last week, Wheatley brought a lot to the Tigers in a 74-65 loss to St. Joseph’s as she scored a team-high 14 points and contributed three rebounds and two assists.

“I was happier with how I played,” said Wheatley. “I have a lot more to work on, but just like the game for the team, I thought it was a step forward for me.”

Wheatley acknowledged that the Tigers need to step things up at the defensive end. “I think defensively we need to communicate more,” said Wheatley. “St. Joe’s is a very good team. They shot really well, they are very good at moving on offense with screens and all of that. We were learning as we went.”

The Tigers have been good learners as they strive to get on the right page in the wake of losing four starters to graduation.

“I think we are getting better with every practice,” said Wheatley. “I think we have good chemistry. I love my teammates.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart saw improvement in her squad against St. Joe’s, even in defeat.

“I like where we are today based on where we were on Saturday,” said Banghart. “We were much better at getting the ball inside. We were much more aggressive off the dribble. We are getting the ball out in transition better. They have made major steps from last Saturday and last Tuesday’s games.”

The Tigers do have to get much better on defense. “Defensively, there is not a lot of trust yet,” said Banghart.

“It starts with yourself, trusting that you can guard off the dribble and then next to that is trusting that your teammates will be there. We are just not there defensively yet but I would rather know that now. There is lots of time to fix it and they have to see it.”

Banghart acknowledges that she has yet to figure out her best lineup. “I would say we are still trying to find the right combinations,” said Banghart, whose team headed to Oregon last weekend where it topped Portland State 94-76 in Saturday before falling 110-90 to the University of Oregon a day later in moving to 3-4.

“We are still trying to find what the matchups are. We don’t have our fighting eight, we are kind of a fighting vague 10.”

Although the Tigers may be still be trying to find themselves, they haven’t lost the fighting spirit that has helped the program win four straight Ivy League titles.

“I think there is a little bit of a heavy heart because they don’t like to lose,” said Banghart of the Tigers who will stay on the road as they play at Navy on December 6.

“I think fortunately with this group, that hunger to get better overrides the heavy heart. This is no reason to hang your heads. I told them if you wanted to win a guaranteed 20 games, I should have scheduled differently. I care about being really good in January with a really young team.”

Wheatley, for her part, isn’t fazed by the challenging slate of non-conference games.

“I think, like coach is saying, our schedule is one that give us experience, not necessarily wins,” said Wheatley.

“They are meant to be tough games and we are supposed to get better after every one. We still have games left in the preseason and we are going to give them our all.”

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

WATER QUALITY: Princeton University men’s water polo player Drew Hoffenberg handles the ball in a game earlier this season. Junior star and co-captain Hoffenberg starred in the recently held CWPA tourney as the Tigers placed second, falling 11-9 to St. Francis College Brooklyn in the championship game to just miss out on a berth to the NCAA tournament. Princeton ended the season with a 22-6 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University men’s water polo team had the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship tournament in late November circled on its calendar from day one.

“We were excited; our whole season is geared to those three days,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team entered the tourney, formerly known as the Eastern Championship, seeded sixth and ranked 18th nationally.

The Tigers produced an exciting opening day at the competition held at Brown University as they topped Iona 16-12 and then edged Harvard 9-7 to reach the semifinals.

“The Iona win was good; we had two games that day and we wanted to get an early lead so we could play some of our other guys and give the top 10 players a rest,” said Nicolao, who got nine goals on the day from sophomore star Thomas Nelson and a total of four from junior standout and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg.

“We knew we were in for a dogfight in the second game; Harvard played really well. We were flat in the first half; our shots weren’t going in. I give Harvard credit, that was due to the way they were playing. We started playing better in the second half and we were able to pull it out.”

In the semis, the Tigers faced a nemesis in third-seeded Navy, who had topped Princeton 12-10 in the semifinals of the Southern Championship.

“There were five to eight teams that could win the title and Navy was one of them,” said Nicolao, a former Navy star.

“They had a great weekend at Southerns. They are a deep team and they are good swimmers. It was the fourth time we played them and we were 2-1.”

With Nelson tallying four goals, including the game winner, the Tigers were able to edge the Midshipmen 9-8.

“We wanted to control tempo and keep them from getting into their run and gun game,” said Nicolao. “The fourth quarter could have gone either way and we were lucky to get out of that.”

Princeton’s luck ran out in the final against St. Francis College Brooklyn as the Tigers lost 11-9, falling short of earning the NCAA berth at stake in the contest.

“That was just a battle; they shoot the ball so well and they have one of the best goalies in the country,” said Nicolao, who got two goals from Nelson in the final with Hoffenberg adding a goal and two assists and freshman Jovan Jeremic tallying three goals.

“We wanted to keep it a low-scoring game and have it even in the second half and then hope to wear them down with our conditioning. It was 9-9 with three and a half minutes left, whoever got the next goal was going to win. We made a mistake and they capitalized.”

While Princeton ended the tournament on a down note, Nicolao had high praise for his players.

“I am really proud of our guys,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the fall with a 22-6 record.

“Our goal each year is to get to the eastern championship game and play for the NCAA bid. We know anything can happen when you get to that game. We just came up just a little short this time.”

The team’s group of seniors, co-captain Kurt Buchbinder, Matt Pugliese, A.J. Galainena, Alex Rafter, Constantine Nakos, Ben Dearborn, and Tyler Amina, have made some good things happen for Princeton over their careers.

“We have a large number of them and they won a championship and played in two finals,” said Nicolao, reflecting on his senior class. “They did a lot for the program. Kurt was a great leader, he was a positive kid.”

With such returning players as Nelson, Hoffenberg, Kayj Shannon, Sam Butler, Jovan Jeremic, Jamie Kuprenas, Curtis Fink, and Alex Gow, the Tigers have the potential to do some great things in the future.

“I am really excited,” said Nicolao, who has guided the Tigers to three Eastern titles (2004, 2009, 2011).

“In the years past when we won the title it was precede by a tough loss in the finals. I am hoping we can springboard this to a title. We just need to do that little extra.”

November 27, 2013

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 21-0 at Dartmouth last Saturday, it wasn’t fazed.

After all, Princeton had rallied from a 17-0 deficit at Brown in October and roared back for a 39-17 win and had dug a 16-0 hole against Penn at Franklin Field in early November only to thump the Quakers 38-26.

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Tigers’ ability to score in bunches through its hurry-up, no-huddle offense had thrust Princeton into the limelight as it had already amassed an Ivy League record 413 points and clinched a share of the league crown coming into the contest against the Big Green at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, for his part, was confident that another eruption was forthcoming.

“We had our best Wednesday of the year,” said Surace, whose team came into the game ranked 19th nationally among FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs.

“As the week progressed, I thought we were really peaking. We were hoping to play our best game of the year.”

Sure enough, Princeton started to chip away, narrowing the deficit to 21-14 at halftime as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter and then did a one-yard quarterback plunge for a score in the waning seconds of the half.

On the Tigers’ second possession in the third quarter  Epperly found Matt Costello for a 30-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 21-21.

Surace had a sense of deja vu at that point. “We needed to get moving forward; we were off on third down conversions,” said Surace. “But like the Brown and Penn games, we got on a roll. We got it to 21-21 and it looked like we were going to do it again.”

But this time, Dartmouth stemmed the tide, regaining the lead late in the third quarter as quarterback Dalyn Williams raced 17 yards for a touchdown. Princeton responded with a field goal midway through the fourth quarter but as a snow squall hit the field, the Tigers went cold and ended up losing 28-24.

The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

In analyzing the defeat, Surace said it came down to big plays. “They had four really long explosive runs; they had 150 yards on four runs,” said Surace whose team was outgained 239 yards to 140 on the ground.

“They also had a 56-yard TD pass. We had 55 plays of terrific defense, a few decent ones, and five bad ones. Offensively, we struggled to get chunk yardage plays. We had bad field position. We grinded out a lot of first downs.

On Princeton’s last possession, the Tigers couldn’t overcome bad field position as an Epperly pass was intercepted with 24 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Big Green.

“We had punted it to them deep in their territory,” said Surace. “They hadn’t gotten a first down in a while but they were able to get it to our 20. We got it at the 20 and there was a blizzard at that time. We needed some luck; it was tough sledding with the weather.”

While the defeat was a tough way to end the fall, Surace went out of his way in his post-game comments to focus on what had been accomplished in a special season as the program won its first league crown since 2006.

“We gathered them together and told them how proud we were of the season,” said Surace, a Princeton alum who became just the third person to ever win an Ivy League title as a player (1989) and a head coach along with his counterpart on Saturday, Buddy Teevens, who accomplished the feat for Dartmouth as a player in 1978 and as the Big Green’s head coach in 1990 and 1991, and Dartmouth’s Jake Crouthamel, a player for the 1958 championship team and a head coach with three Ivy championships for the Big Green from 1971-73.

“We thanked the seniors for all that they have done. They will never play for Princeton again and it was the last football game for most of them. It is a disappointing way to end but we came into the season with three goals to win the Big 3 (beating Harvard and Yale), win the Ivy, and get nationally ranked. The last one might be hard now but we accomplished the other two. We had two tough losses but we had eight wins in between and we have to remember those games. It is a long time since we have won the title and we have to be proud of that.”

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s success this fall came down to a collective effort.

“For me, what sticks out is how many people contributed to this,” said Surace.

“We have some players like Caraun [Reid] and a few others who are going to get some accolades but there were so many guys who stepped up. It really was a team thing. They do things the right way.”

With a good foundation in place, the Tigers are headed in the right direction. “Last year, all the games were battles that went down to the wire,” said Surace.

“This year we were lucky enough to get some separation in some games. We showed that we could compete with the Browns, Penns, and Harvards, week in, week out. We will give the players a week off and then after Thanksgiving, we will start getting ready for 2014. It is great to get this title in a league that is so good where there is such parity.”

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colton Phinney faced a big challenge last Friday as he made the third start of his career for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.

The freshman goalie was between the pipes as the Tigers hosted a No. 5 Quinnipiac squad that came into Baker Rink riding an 11-0-1 unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats put Phinney under the gun from the opening face-off, generating 13 shots in the first period. The 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J. was up to the challenge, turning away all the shots as the teams headed into the second period knotted in a scoreless tie.

“I was definitely excited,” said Phinney, reflecting on his mindset heading into the contest. “We were ready to go. We came out well, it was a 0-0 game. It was tough but we battled. I felt more comfortable as the game went on.”

In the second period, Phinney and the Tigers had a bad 30-second stretch as Quinnipiac scored a power play goal with 11:38 left and then added a second tally with 11:08 left. Princeton kept battling but ended up falling 3-0 as the Bobcats added a third period tally.

“You can’t be giving up two in a row,” said Phinney, who made 31 saves on the evening.

“We did a good job of settling down and keeping it 2-0. We had a good third period and they just had a another power play goal, I thought we battled hard.”

A night later as Princeton played at Quinnipiac in the home-and-home series between ECAC Hockey rivals, the Tigers showed a battling spirit, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a dramatic 4-3 win and snap the Bobcats‘ unbeaten streak. Phinney stood tall in the net again, making 32 saves to earn his first college victory.

“The whole game is a battle, every single play,” said Phinney in assessing the biggest challenges he has faced in moving up to the college level.

“Anything can happen. You blink once and it is in the back of the net. It is battling from the first minute to the last minute; you have to keep focused.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier liked the way Phinney stayed focused against the Bobcats.

“Colton had a good game; he was composed,” said Prier. “I thought he held on to a lot of the pucks that were shot from the outside. I thought he kept it simple. He didn’t have to make too many big saves; I thought he controlled his rebounds pretty well.”

The Tigers kept Quinnipiac under control for most of the contest. “We got better defensively through the week and tonight,” said Prier. “Our defense did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice. It is something to build on.”

In the wake of the loss on Friday, Prier was optimistic heading into the Saturday rematch.

“I was proud of the way the guys battled and hopefully we will continue to make strides here; I thought that was one of our better games,” said Prier, who got goals from Eric Carlson, Jack Berger, Mike Ambrosia, and Andrew Ammon in the triumph on Saturday as the Tigers improved to 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECACH.

“We just have to have a good practice in the morning and make a couple of adjustments and get after them tomorrow night.”

In Prier’s view, Princeton needs to keep getting after it. “The guys are playing hard; we still have some instances where we overskated pucks and didn’t stop the puck,” said Prier, whose team plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. “Things like that have to be sharpened; those habits have to be constant.”

Phinney, for his part, is getting sharper through competing on a daily basis against senior goalie Sean Bonar.

“It definitely makes me better, having to go hard every day in practice,” said Phinney. “He is unbelievable, so trying to compete with him has made me better. It makes it fun too.”