May 27, 2015
WINNING LOOK: Princeton University men’s golfer Quinn Prchal looks down the course during the Ivy League Championships in late April at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. Sophomore Prchal went on to win the individual title at the competition, carding six-under 210 in the three-round competition. Prchal’s heroics helped the Tigers finish second in the team standings by one stroke to Penn. Prchal went on to compete in the NCAA regional held at the Course at Yale earlier this month, where he shot a six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field.(Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League/Sideline Photos)

WINNING LOOK: Princeton University men’s golfer Quinn Prchal looks down the course during the Ivy League Championships in late April at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. Sophomore Prchal went on to win the individual title at the competition, carding six-under 210 in the three-round competition. Prchal’s heroics helped the Tigers finish second in the team standings by one stroke to Penn. Prchal went on to compete in the NCAA regional held at the Course at Yale earlier this month, where he shot a six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field. (Photo Courtesy of the Ivy League/Sideline Photos)

Playing in the Ivy League Championship in 2013 as a freshman, Quinn Prchal got off to an inauspicious start.

“I was six-over for the first six holes,” said Prchal. “I was working my way back the rest of the event; it was a lot of patience. I hadn’t played in an Ivy championship and I let it get to me at first.”

Displaying his talent and poise, Prchal worked his way all the way back into a tie for fourth, helping Princeton win the team title and earning Ivy Rookie of the year honors in the process.

“It was a bunched leaderboard; there were five teams within a couple of shots coming into the last day,” recalled Prchal. “It was really exciting. In some tournaments, you plod along and it falls in your lap. We went out and won the event, that was exciting.”

After taking a hiatus from school for a year, Prchal returned this spring for his second Ivy tourney. Utilizing his experience, Prchal produced some exciting golf, carding a six-under 210 in the three-round competition at the Grace Course at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa. to earn the individual title.

Once again, Prchal started a little slowly, firing a three-over 75 in the first round before producing rounds of 68 and 67 to win the title by three strokes over Penn’s Austin Powell. He was the second Tiger in three years to win the title as Greg Jarmas prevailed in 2013.

“I think part of it was familiarity with the golf course,” said Prchal, whose heroics helped Princeton place second in the team standings at the event, just one stroke behind champion Penn.

“We had a practice round and then started on Friday. The final day was one of my best rounds. I was seven-under through 13; I made a couple of bogeys down the stretch. Mostly I putted the ball really well. I gave myself opportunities. It is very exciting. You work hard to try to put yourself in that position. My coach and teammates helped me all spring, pushing me to put everything together.”

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in Glenview, Ill., Prchal worked harder on baseball and hockey than golf.

“My parents both played a little bit, I picked up the game on the range when I was five or six playing with them,” said Prchal. “I played baseball and hockey more when I was younger. I fit the sports in with the seasons.”

Standing 5’0 in eighth grade, Prchal’s prospects in baseball and hockey weren’t great at the high school level so he started focusing on golf. After a spurt which saw him gain 10 inches in height by his sophomore year, Prchal grew into a star golfer.

“I had a couple of strong finishes in some state junior events,” recalled Prchal, a three-time All-Conference performer and two-time team MVP for Glenbook South High and the winner of the 2012 Illinois State Amateur tourney. “On the national level at AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), I didn’t win but I had solid finishes, some top 10s.”

Taking a tour of east coast schools after playing in a tournament held in Massachusetts, Prchal visited Princeton and felt an immediate comfort level.

“I am from the suburbs and I liked the suburban feel of the school,” said Prchal.

“I had an official visit later. I liked the guys and the coach (Will Green). The Springdale course is close to campus, I didn’t have to go 20 minutes to play.”

Prchal started playing from the start of his career, tying for 22nd in the season-opening McLaughlin Invitational, a three-round event hosted by St. John’s that wrapped up at Bethpage Red on Long Island.

“I was nervous, I was not exactly sure how well I would play,” said Prchal. “It was a different level from high school. Our first event was at St. John’s; I played two decent rounds and then had a good one.”

In the spring, Prchal had a good experience competing in the NCAA Regional, carding a six-over 222 to tie for 57th.

“It was exciting to play in a field that strong,” said Prchal. “I saw a different mentality. They were going out to make birdies and taking advantage of conditions. You had to find your second gear; I have been working on doing that. It is feeling comfortable at two-under and then working hard and pushing to make more birdies. It is something I needed to learn.”

In the NCAA regional held on the Course at Yale earlier this month, Prchal put that knowledge to work, shooting six-over 216 to tie for 37th in the 75-player field.

“It is a fun golf course; the first two days I didn’t play poorly but I didn’t score well,” said Prchal, who carded a three-under 67 in the final day of the competition to move up the leaderboard.

“I hit the ball well on the first day and I had a couple of bad swings. On the second day, I got stuck on the second hole. The third day, I hit the ball great. I was able to string together a bunch of birdies and finished in the middle of the pack.”

Looking ahead to his junior season at Princeton, Prchal believes the Tigers have the talent to be at the front of the pack.

“With everybody back, it is exciting,” said Prchal, who is planning to play in the Illinois State Amateur and the Illinois Open this summer and hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur which is being held in the Chicago area this year.

“We brought in three really good freshmen (Michael Davis, Marc Hedrick, and Eric Mitchell) this year. We learned what we need to work on. We came together later in the year. We want to start off strong in the fall and push things to a higher level.”

May 20, 2015
TOTAL TEAM EFFORT: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew program celebrate after Princeton won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints last Sunday. The Tigers placed third in the first varsity eight finals and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor.(Photo by Aleka Gürel)

TOTAL TEAM EFFORT: Members of the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew program celebrate after Princeton won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints last Sunday. The Tigers placed third in the first varsity eight finals and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor. (Photo by Aleka Gürel)

In posting wins over Harvard and Brown down the stretch of the regular season, the Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 crew showed speed and a flair for drama.

Against Harvard on April 18, the Tigers posted a 4.5 second win in beating the Crimson for the first time since 2006. Utilizing a furious rally over the last 300 yards, Princeton overcame Brown by 0.7 seconds.

“We have certainly found a way to make it exciting,” said Princeton head coach Greg Hughes.

“Those wins showed us that the speed we had was solid. They were both learning opportunities. You see your strong points and weak points when going against strong teams like that. It helped us across the board.”

Last Sunday, the Tigers displayed their strength across the board as they won the Rowe Cup team points title at the Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. Princeton placed third in the first varsity eight final and won both the second and third varsity eight races to earn its first Rowe Cup since 2005.

Coming into the weekend, Hughes sensed that his rowers were headed in the right direction.

“As a whole team we made some really good progress since the end of the regular season,” said Hughes. “It is not easy to do when you go into exams and have a weekend off from racing. Looking at the results from yesterday and the competitiveness of the races, we needed that improvement.”

The first varsity 8 showed its competitiveness in its grand final, going after eventual winner Yale and then engaging in a three-boat battle for second.

“Yale is a really strong boat, we knew that going in,” said Hughes of the Bulldogs who clocked a winning time with Northeastern second in 5:37.089,  Princeton next in 5:37.438, and Brown fourth in 5:37.549.

“We threw everything at them, as did Northeastern and Brown. They did a good job of holding us off. Yale proved they are the top boat at the sprints.”

But in taking third, Princeton once again proved its strength of character.

“What I was proud of with our crew is that they fought and stayed tough, added Hughes.

“That is part of their identity. They do well when they get a lead but when someone else gets momentum, they stay tough. They had to be ready to defend and respond.”

The undefeated second varsity 8 responded in style, taking first in its grand final in a time of 5:43.954 with Boston University second in 5:45.031.

“For those guys the heat was a really good learning experience; all season long, they have been fortunate to get decent margins,” said Hughes.

“In the heat, they had a real race and they had to execute. In the final, Harvard went high and hard and they had to execute. Boston University took a late run and they stayed in command.”

In the third varsity grand final, Princeton made a dramatic late run to overtake Brown for the victory.

“That was one of the most impressive last 500 meters I have seen, it was a sheer guts move,” said Hughes, whose boat clocked a winning time of 5:48.608 to nip Brown, who was just behind in 5:48.885.

For Hughes, the most impressive aspect of the team title is the daily effort he is getting from his rowers across the board.

“What I see is that so much of the work we do is behind the scenes; that work can be boring but the team attitude is what makes you fast,” said Hughes.

“What you see is that a team’s hard work and attitude from top to bottom is what develops speed. A strong team makes fast individual boats. Every kid played a part, there was not one guy who didn’t make a difference. The first varsity didn’t get gold but those final strokes made the difference for the Rowe Cup.”

The addition of coaches Matt Smith and Brandon Shald this season has also made a difference for the Tigers.

“The two assistant coaches have been great,” said Hughes. “We talk about the contribution of every athlete. We have 47 athletes and only three coaches so they are a huge part of the team. Matt Smith has been a remarkable addition. The same thing with Brandon Shald, his ability to inspire rowers has been great. For me as a head coach, it is like having co-coaches. There is a lot of group decision-making and group input. We have conversations back and forth about every kid. There is a diversity of ideas. We want the kids to do that on each boat and I am lucky to have a staff that does that.”

With Princeton ending its season by competing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta from May 29-31 at Mercer Lake in West Windsor, Hughes will be looking for more group dynamics.

“Even in races that we win, we see things we can do better,” said Hughes. “There is not a lot of time before the IRAs. We need to build on what we have done so far and be better prepared for tight, intense racing, and executing well in tight quarters.”

OPENING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 churns through the water in a regatta earlier this season. Last Sunday, the top boat took third in the grand final at the Ivy League championship regatta. Princeton finished third in the Ivy team points competition, trailing champion Brown and runner-up Yale. The Tigers hope to continue their season at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997.             (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

OPENING IT UP: The Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 churns through the water in a regatta earlier this season. Last Sunday, the top boat took third in the grand final at the Ivy League championship regatta. Princeton finished third in the Ivy team points competition, trailing champion Brown and runner-up Yale. The Tigers hope to continue their season at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open varsity 8 crew was in for a dogfight at the Ivy League championship regatta last weekend at Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J.

The ninth-ranked Tigers were in the title mix with undefeated and fifth-ranked Brown, 10th-ranked Yale, and No. 15 Harvard-Radcliffe.

“Brown was the favorite but we knew Yale would be tough as well as Harvard,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny.

“There was one second between us and Yale in the regular season and only  two seconds between us and Harvard.”

In the grand final at the Ivy regatta last Sunday, the boats were again separated by a few seconds. Princeton went after Brown from the start but couldn’t catch the Bears, who won the race with a time of 6:15.421. Spent by that effort, the Tigers were passed by runner-up Yale, who came in at 6:18.900 with Princeton next in 6:19.703.

“We didn’t discount anybody,” said Dauphiny. “We wanted to go with Brown, we were in the lane next to them. We knew we had closed the gap somewhat. We went for it to see what we could do. We fought hard and paid a price for it later. Brown had pushed into first at 1,000 but they were not out of reach, they are a great crew. Yale had a strong third 500.”

Princeton ended up finishing a strong third in the team points standings at the regatta as Brown won the title with 87 points with Yale second at 72 and the Tigers just behind with 69.

With Princeton earning five top-three finishes at the competition, Dauphiny was haunted by a fourth place finish from the second varsity 8.

“That was a heartbreaker,” said Dauphiny. “I can’t tell you what happened. They said they put it all out there; they had a better race than in the heat. They had a rough start in the heat; it was messy and they got rattled. We talked about their weaknesses and how we could overcome them and they did but it wasn’t enough.”

On the flip side, the Tigers overcame some adversity and inexperience in fours as the first varsity 4 placed third and the varsity 4 C won its race.

“It was good for the varsity 4, they had some injuries and they handled it well,” said Dauphiny. “They had a rockier approach to the finals. The 4C was great, they hadn’t practiced together and they rose to the occasion.”

While Princeton fell short of the team title, Dauphiny liked the way her rowers rose to the occasion collectively last Sunday.

“I was happy, there was some disappointment,” said Dauphiny. “The good part was that almost everyone won a medal. We came in third and we would have liked better but everyone stepped up. Overall, it was a decent showing for us.”

Dauphiny credited her 10 senior rowers with showing the way. “The senior class had a lot to do with that,” said Dauphiny. “They were peppered throughout the program. They stepped up in their boats. There was a lot of senior impact, they made a difference.”

Those seniors will be looking to continue their careers at the NCAA Championships from May 29-31 at Sacramento, Calif. as the Tigers hope to be an at-large selection to the competition. Princeton is one of three programs (Brown and Washington) which has competed at every NCAA Championships since the inaugural regatta in 1997.

“We focus on getting another opportunity and a chance,” said Dauphiny.

“They are still in finals so it is important to balance the academic commitments with rowing. It is an exciting opportunity that not everyone gets. We will make sure that we value the additional chance to race.”

May 13, 2015
NET VALUE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action earlier this season. Last weekend, junior star Johnson excelled at the NCAA championships as Princeton finished sixth in the national competition held in Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, Calif. Johnson set a new NCAA Tournament single-game record with 22 saves in a 6-5 loss to Cal-Irvine on Sunday in the fifth-place game and ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. Princeton posted a final record of 31-5, tying the program mark for single season wins.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET VALUE: Princeton University women’s water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson makes a save in action earlier this season. Last weekend, junior star Johnson excelled at the NCAA championships as Princeton finished sixth in the national competition held in Avery Aquatic Center in Stanford, Calif. Johnson set a new NCAA Tournament single-game record with 22 saves in a 6-5 loss to Cal-Irvine on Sunday in the fifth-place game and ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. Princeton posted a final record of 31-5, tying the program mark for single season wins. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After cruising to a 12-2 win over Wagner in an NCAA play-in game on May 2, the ninth-ranked Princeton University women’s water polo team was primed to see how it stacked up against the elite teams in the college game as it headed west to the national quarterfinals.

“As a group we were excited to go and play well and compete and we did,” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, reflecting on the NCAA championships, which were held at Stanford, Calif.

Competing hard and placing sixth overall, Princeton fell 7-2 to eventual national champion Stanford in the quarterfinals on Friday before edging Hawaii 7-6 in the consolation round on Saturday and ending the competition by falling 6-5 to Cal-Irvin in the fifth place game.

In the battle with host Stanford, Princeton trailed by just 2-0 after the first quarter before things got away in the next period.

“We knew that they had to have a bad game and we needed our best to beat them,” said Nicolao, who got 18 saves from junior goalie Ashleigh Johnson in the defeat with seniors Ashley Hatcher and Taylor Dunstan notching goals.

“Ashleigh kept us in the game, she was unbelievable. Other than the second quarter, I liked the whole game. They smothered us defensively in the second quarter. We made four mistakes in the quarter and they outscored us 4-0. A team like that makes you pay for mistakes.”

A day later, the Tigers rebounded with a dramatic 7-6 win over No. 5 Hawaii which saw Tiger senior Jesse Holechek score the winning goal with four seconds remaining in regulation.

“It was a great game, we talk about that second game at the tournament, it is more our level, playing teams where we are ranked,” said Nicolao.

“We had lost to Hawaii before this season and we didn’t play our best. It was a real battle, both teams responded well from their first game. Holechek has always been a big game player for us, she has a good outside shot, I was really happy to see her get that goal. The defense allowed us to have a chance to win. We didn’t want to be in that last place game.”

In the fifth-place game against No. 6 Cal-Irvine, Princeton held a 2-1 halftime lead and was ahead 4-3 and 5-4 in the second half but the Anteaters scored two late goals to pull out the victory.

“The whole game we were up by one, we couldn’t get that 2-goal lead,” said Nicolao, reflecting on the game which saw Johnson set an NCAA tournament single-game record with 22 saves. “I thought that would give us the cushion we needed with Ashleigh. It was a bummer to lose that last one.”

Having Johnson in net gives Princeton a chance in any game it plays. “Ashleigh had an amazing weekend, she stood out as an elite goalie,” said Nicolao of the Miami, Fla. native who ended the weekend with a tourney-record 50 saves over three games. “The Stanford game was great, to play that well against those kind of shots.”

Nicolao was happy to see his group of seniors, Hatcher, Dunstan, Holechek, CeCe Coffey, Kelly Gross, and Camille Hooks, go out with a great campaign.

“I am thrilled with the season, we had a great year,” said Nicolao, whose team ended the spring at 31-5, tying the program record for single season wins.

“The seniors were 119-19 over their four years and I will take that every four years. They had a great four years and a great ride.”

While graduation will leave a void, Nicolao is already looking forward to next year.

“We lose a large group and Ashleigh is taking the year off from school to train with the U.S. national team as it gets ready for the Olympics,” said Nicolao.

“We have lost great players in the past and other girls have stepped up. The returners have experience in winning and they love to compete. We have a good freshman class coming in.”

For Marty Crotty, it has been a pleasure to coach his Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 this spring.

“They have had a lot of consistency in terms of improvement,” said Princeton head coach Crotty, as he looks ahead to the Eastern Sprints, slated for May 17 on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.

“They have had some really good practices. They just need to add a layer of speed over the next 10 days. They are easy to watch, they are easy to coach.”

With Princeton classes having ended on May 1, the rowers can accelerate their improvement with extra time on the water.

“If you look at HYP to the finals of sprints, from April 25 to May 17,

that is 22 days and you might have 15-16 practices in normal schedule when in school,” said Crotty.

“Over that 22-day period we will be out on the water 30-35 times with classes out. We spend a lot more time on the boat and they want to do that. We may talk about recovering from workouts but they are asking if they can row the next morning at 7 and I say I will be there. This time of year, the boat naturally gets better.”

The competition throughout the program has helped the Tigers get better across the board.

“It hasn’t stopped, the 2V and 3V had a tete-a-tete today,” said Crotty. “The ability and the depth come from the rowers getting equal attention; they are getting good, solid coaching and it is not just from me. Bill Manning is a real professional. Alex Mann went to the Institute of Rowing Leadership in Boston, he has been a real good addition to the staff. The improvement directly reflects the coaching and hard work being put in by everyone.”

The program’s group of senior rowers, Karthik Dhore, William Downing, Matt Drabick, Jason Elefant, Fabrizio Filho, Andrew Frazier, Steve Swanson, and captain Casey Ward, have set a positive tone.

“They are good leaders and good guys,” said Crotty. “Day in, day out, they set good examples of how to carry yourself and the way to react to the results of selection. The guys enjoy coming to the boathouse everyday. They strive to be better and they want to be on higher boats but they are able to keep that internal and exclude toxicity.”

Crotty has enjoyed seeing Ward’s emergence as a leader in the program.

“Ward has been leading for several years; he was leading more quietly than he has this year,” added Crotty.

“We have the largest team in our history; we are sending six 8s to sprints. We have never done that before, having that kind of crossover is a task and he does it on the fly. There are 16 freshmen and nine or 10 guys in the other classes and he deals with all of that. He knows what to bring to me and what not to bring to me.”

With his varsity 8 having produced an 8-3 regular season with one loss to Cornell and two defeats to Columbia as it has risen to the top-5 in the national rankings, Crotty knows his rowers will have to bring it this weekend to prevail at Eastern Sprints.

“I am excited to see how things go,” said Crotty. “Cornell is very good, Columbia is very good, both boats are flat out good. We have to continue to make progress and we have been doing that. It is decimal points, having this guy be a little better one day or that boat be a little better. It is incremental progress so that when you get on the bus to go to sprints you are confident enough to relax. To improve our position against the Ivies, we will need to have a great heat to make the final and have our best race of the season in the final.”

ABBY ROAD: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Abby Finkelston heads to goal at the Ivy League tournament earlier this month. Last Sunday, freshman attacker Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to help Princeton defeat sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 16-3, play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ABBY ROAD: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Abby Finkelston heads to goal at the Ivy League tournament earlier this month. Last Sunday, freshman attacker Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to help Princeton defeat sixth-seeded Stony Brook 8-4 in the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 16-3, play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In putting together a six-game winning streak heading into the start of NCAA tournament last weekend, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse had demonstrated that it could excel at both ends in the field.

At the Ivy League tournament over the first weekend of May, host Princeton stifled Harvard 15-8 in the semis before outscoring Penn 14-11 in the championship game.

Playing at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the campus of Stony Brook Brook University  to start NCAA play, the Tigers showed their versatility once again, rolling past Fairfield 18-8 in a first round contest on Friday before shutting down sixth-seeded and host Stony Brook 8-4 two days later to earn a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Princeton, now 16-3, will play at third-seeded Duke (15-4) on May 16 in the quarters with the winner advancing to the NCAA Final Four in Philadelphia, where the semis are slated for May 22 at PPL Park.

“The attack really carried us against Fairfield; to get 18 goals in an NCAA tournament game is a lot of goals,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, who has guided Princeton to three national titles in her Hall of Fame tenure. “The defense dominated on Sunday.”

It took a little while for Princeton to get rolling in the win over Fairfield as the Tigers were clinging to a 10-7 lead at halftime before outscoring the Stags 8-1 over the final 30 minutes of the contest.

“I think they came out hard, winning ground balls and draws,” said Sailer, who got a career-high three goals from sophomore Lauren Steidl in the win over the Stags with sophomore standout Olivia Hompe tallying a game-high four and senior Erin McMunn adding three.

“We had to match their intensity and play our game better. We just had to turn it around and we did just that.”

Sailer knew that Princeton faced a hard challenge in the Round of 16, taking on host Stony Brook, who brought at 18-1 record and a seven-game winning streak into the contest.

“They are a great team, they only had one loss and a lot of great wins over teams like Florida and Northwestern,” said Sailer of the Seawolves who were averaging 12.1 goals a contest.

“They had great sticks, they had an incredible attack, deadly off cuts and screens. They are very physical and scrappy and play a different kind of zone defense with a rover.”

Princeton jumped out to a 2-0 lead to gain early momentum and then took control of the game in the second half as it broke open a 3-3 game by outscoring Stony Brook 5-1. Freshman Abby Finkelston scored a career-high four goals to lead the Tigers’ attack.

“They expected to advance deep in the tournament and it was important for us to assert ourselves early and get that lead,” said Sailer.

“It took us a little while to figure out how to be effective on offense. We had to change up some things. We had some great ball movement and Finkelston was finishing well.”

The Tiger defense was effective all game long, holding the high-powered Seawolves to 12 shots with sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo making 12 saves.

It was a great defensive effort; to hold a team like that to four goals on their home field is quite a feat,” asserted Sailer whose team had a 15-11 edge in ground balls in the afternoon and won 8-of-13 draw controls.

“Jen Cook (assistant coach) did an awesome job with her defensive scout and game plan. The girls executed things beautifully, they knew what Stony Book Brook was going to do before they did it.

Advancing to the NCAA quarters for the first time since 2011 is a nice feat as well for Princeton.

“It is really exciting for the program,” said Sailer. “Now that the bracket has expanded to 28 teams, you have to win two games and beat a top 8 seed to make it the quarters so it says a lot about the way we are playing right now. We are performing at a high level. We are excited to be back and we think we can play with anybody.”

While Princeton has plenty of respect for powerful Duke, Sailer is excited about her team’s prospects in the matchup.

“They have had a great year; they have been a consistently strong team,” said Sailer of the Blue Devils.

“They have gone through the ACC so they have been playing strong teams game in, game out. We are excited to go down there and play Princeton lacrosse. The girls are dialed in and focused, they are executing what we tell them. We have a nice flow on offense and the defense is playing really well. Ellie DeGarmo has been great in the cage.”

May 6, 2015
LEAVELL BEST: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Amanda Leavell races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore defender Leavell starred as Princeton won the Ivy League tournament at the Class of 1952 Stadium. Leavell had an assist in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the semis on Friday and then added a goal as the Tigers topped Penn 14-11 on Sunday in the title contest. Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEAVELL BEST: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Amanda Leavell races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore defender Leavell starred as Princeton won the Ivy League tournament at the Class of 1952 Stadium. Leavell had an assist in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the semis on Friday and then added a goal as the Tigers topped Penn 14-11 on Sunday in the title contest. Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team, its final game at Class of 1952 Stadium last season turned into a nightmare.

Facing Penn in the 2014 Ivy League tournament championship game, Princeton fell behind 6-2 at halftime on the way to a 9-6 setback that left the Tigers glum and teary-eyed.

Last Sunday, when Princeton faced the same scenario as it hosted Penn in this year’s Ivy title game, it was determined to not let history repeat itself.

“I think everybody remembered that, there is no worse feeling than being at your home field and watching perhaps your biggest rival take home the title,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

“I think we wanted to finish it off in the right way, not just because of last year but because of the great season we have had, we knew we were capable of winning both the championship and the tournament.”

This time, the 11th-ranked Tigers enjoyed a dream-like afternoon, finishing off No. 13 Penn in style, taking a 6-4 lead at halftime and extending its advantage to 13-8 with four minutes left in regulation on the way to a 14-11 victory.

“I am so proud of the team, they have worked so hard to get us to this point from the start of the year,” asserted a beaming Sailer, whose team improved to 14-3 overall with the win and completed a perfect league campaign with a 7-0 Ivy mark in the regular season and two wins in the tourney.

“I think we are playing our best lacrosse right now which is when you want to be playing our best. Everybody on the team today stepped up in a big way. We got  some amazing goals from kids who might not be high on the scoring column, like Amanda Leavell, Cammie Sullivan, and Abby Finkelston. It was truly a team effort today, the defense was awesome. We put a new look in and they executed it really, really well. There was just a ton of heart on the field and we are excited to be Ivy tournament champions and headed to the NCAAs.”

On Sunday evening, Princeton learned that it will play Fairfield in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. The winner will play host Stony Brook, the No. 6 seed on May 10 in the Round of 16 for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Senior midfielder Erin Slifer basked in the glow of helping Princeton win its first Ivy tournament title since 2011.

“As a team, this has been our goal from when we stepped on campus in September,” said Slifer, who tallied three goals and an assist in the win over Penn and was named to the All-Tournament team along with fellow Tigers, Anna Doherty, Amanda Leavell, Erin McMunn, Ellie DeGarmo, and Olivia Hompe, the tourney MVP.

“But as a senior, it is the finishing touch to go out and win the tournament for the first time and win the Ivy outright for the first time. It is just really exciting to see our four years really come to this peak. It is peaking at the right time and it is going to carry us into the postseason.”

As the season has unfolded, Slifer sensed that this Tiger squad could do some exciting things.

“This group just has a different edge to it; I think it is a confidence we really didn’t have before,” added Slifer.

“Even though we are the underdogs in a lot of games, we have the opportunity to beat any team when we step on the field and play at our best level. I don’t think in the past, it has always been that way. We have doubted ourselves sometimes. I think this group knows that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Senior McMunn saw that confidence manifest itself on the offensive end against Penn as the Tigers went on a 7-4 run in the second half to break open the contest.

“I think our attack has just been clicking really, really well together,” said McMunn, who chipped in a goal and two assists in the win.

“We are playing our best lacrosse right now. In terms of being able to pull away in the second half, it was a great effort on the draw that allowed us to come up with the ball in the first place. From there, the  coaches put a lot of trust in us as a unit to just work and play off each other and make the decisions and take the shots that we know we can score. It was really just a matter of playing within our game plan and being very disciplined.”

The Tigers showed discipline on defense as well, coming together in stifling the Quakers.

“We had our game plan and what I think went really well is that we stuck to it,” said sophomore defender Leavell.

“We just had each other’s backs and we were going 100 percent. I think when we do that, it is beautiful to watch and it felt good to just be with each other and working as a unit.”

Goalie Ellie DeGarmo benefitted from the strong defense, making 12 saves in Princeton’s 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy semis on Friday and then recording eight stops in the championship contest.

“I was seeing the ball really well and I can definitely attribute that to the defense, they were playing incredible one-on-one defense,” said sophomore DeGarmo.

“In the Harvard game, they were forcing the wide shots, the bad shots, and I could see the ball the whole time. Today we were throwing in new looks and I think they did such a good job adapting to that. We threw them off because they weren’t expecting the new stuff that we put in.”

McMunn, for her part, is expecting the Tigers to make a deep run in the NCAAs.

“I love our chances and I love our chances purely for the fact that I think this is a really special group in terms of how we all care about each other and we all really click with one another, on the field, off the field,” said McMunn.

“I think in terms of what makes a team dangerous, especially at this point of the year when people are starting to get fatigued and you have been playing a long season, is that extra little bit, and that playing for one another. Loving to play with one another is what is going to take us really far; that is something that is going to make us really dangerous in this postseason. I think that people might underestimate us a little bit and that is the spot we like to be in. We are excited to take this as far as we can go.”

OVER THE HOMPE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe, second from right, celebrates after one of her career-high six goals last Friday in a 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy League semifinals. Two days later, sophomore star Home scored three goals to help Princeton defeat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy championship game. Hompe was named the tournament MVP and was an all-tournament pick.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)goal.

OVER THE HOMPE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe, second from right, celebrates after one of her career-high six goals last Friday in a 15-8 win over Harvard in the Ivy League semifinals. Two days later, sophomore star Home scored three goals to help Princeton defeat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy championship game. Hompe was named the tournament MVP and was an all-tournament pick. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)goal.

Olivia Hompe was initially feeling out of rhythm last Friday evening as the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team battled Harvard in the Ivy League tournament semifinals.

“Early in the first half we were having some trouble really possessing the ball on offense,” said sophomore star Hompe.

“I think Harvard was doing a really great job of having long possessions and really working our defense.”

With Princeton trailing Harvard 4-2 late in the half, the Tigers got on track as Erin Slifer scored with 3:30 left in the period and then Hompe found the back of the net with 1:35 left to make it a 4-4 game at halftime.

“I think at the end of the half, it was just us focusing on doing our part and stepping up like the defense did for us,” said Hompe, a 5’9 native of New Canaan, Conn.

In the second half, the Princeton offense stepped into high gear, going on a nine-goal run to build a 14-5 lead and cruised from there.

“I think we just got into a circle set and it really just let us do anything we wanted,” said Hompe, reflecting on the second half outburst.

“It was really free-flowing and I think we just started moving for each other and seeing each other really well. We had an incredible amount of assisted goals in this game, which was great to see. We were just seeing each other really well.”

While Hompe ended up with a career-high six goals, she was more impressed with the team’s collective play than her individual exploits.

“I am really happy withthe  way I played but I think really our whole offense is clicking so well,” said Hompe.

“We have played better and better every game throughout April and to see it all come to fruition in May is really rewarding.”

Two days later, Hompe scored three goals to help Princeton beat Penn 14-11 in the Ivy title game and earn an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. In the wake of her nine-goal weekend, Hompe was named All-Tournament and chosen as the tournament MVP.

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was very happy to see Hompe receive those accolades.

“She is just such a competitor, that girl finds a way,” said Sailer of Hompe, who now has a team-high 48 goals on the season and earned first-team All-Ivy honors this spring.

“I have said all season that she has brought this team an energy. We have fed off of her energy, her big playmaking and how much fun she has on the field. She can light it up like she showed this weekend. Liv brings a little something extra; she has been just phenomenal for us this year.”

Hompe will be looking to light it up this weekend as Princeton, now 14-3, faces Fairfield on May 8 at Stony Brook, N.Y. in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with the winner to face host and sixth-seeded Stony Brook two days later for a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.

“It is really about proving ourselves,” said Hompe. “It is a great time for us show that we can compete with the best of the best.”

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore midfielder Currier had a goal, eight ground balls, and won 11 of 24 face-offs in a losing cause as No. 16 Princeton fell 11-10 to No. 9 Yale in the Ivy League championship game in Providence, R.I. with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 9-6 as they did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs when the 2015 bracket was revealed on Sunday evening.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore midfielder Currier had a goal, eight ground balls, and won 11 of 24 face-offs in a losing cause as No. 16 Princeton fell 11-10 to No. 9 Yale in the Ivy League championship game in Providence, R.I. with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 9-6 as they did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs when the 2015 bracket was revealed on Sunday evening. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Chris Bates, the prayer that talks about one having the serenity to accept things that can’t be changed and having the courage to change things that he can has been a theme this season as he has guided the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team.

That message was relevant on many levels last weekend as Princeton produced a big 11-7 win over Cornell in the Ivy tournament semis on Friday only to get edged 11-10 by Yale in the title game with an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney on the line. Hours after the loss to Yale, Princeton found itself on the outside looking in as it didn’t receive an at-large bid to the NCAAs.

In the win over Cornell, Princeton showed a capacity for change as it bounced back from a 15-10 loss to the Big Red six days earlier.

“We prepared with energy and a sense of urgency this week; every practice was good,” said Bates.

“You could feel early on that we were ready to play, the energy and competitiveness were there. We made some changes. We had Zach Currler take every face-off and had a different look on the wings.”

The Tiger defense had a different look in the rematch as freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell shut the door on the Big Red with 14 saves.

“Tyler gave us a great energy and made some great saves, that is why we made the change to put him in as a starter,” said Bates. “Defensively we were really on point. Bear Goldstein and Aran Roberts were good. We focused less on Cornell and more on Princeton. We were better closing them down, we slid with a purpose. We knew they were going to make a push and we did a good job with that. We were really playing as a unit.”

Facing nemesis Yale in the Ivy title game on Sunday, Bates knew Tigers were in for a nail-biter.

“It was a quick turnaround, the last six games with them have been decided by one goal so every possession is critical,” said Bares. “We told the guys it was going to be at least a 60 minute game and maybe more.”

The Tigers dug an early hole in the game but didn’t lose faith. “At halftime we were down 4-2 and I said our best players hadn’t done anything and that there was a lot of lacrosse left,” recalled Bates. “They seemed to respond to that. We felt good throughout, the energy was good. We stayed together. It came down to our last possession.”

On that last possession, which started with 12.7 seconds left in regulation, sophomore star Currier generated a good opportunity but couldn’t cash it in.

“Zach had a shortstick on him and we feel that is always a good matchup for him so he called an audible on the play we had drawn up,” said Bates, who got a goal and eight ground balls from Currier in the loss with senior star Kip Orban leading the attack with a game-high four goals.

“His shot was from a funky angle, it just bounced wide. Then it was a Hail Mary with 2.5 seconds left, that is always tough.”

Hours later, the Tigers got the tough news that they were not going to be selected to compete in the NCAA tourney.

“It came down to four teams and we thought we had as good a shot as any of them,” said Bates, whose team was in the mix for the last three at-large slots along with Ohio State, Brown, and Cornell.

“When Brown’s name was called, we knew we were going to be on the outside looking in. It is tough to swallow. We wanted a shot and we thought we had the body of work to deserve that. We had wins over Cornell and Yale. The win over Hopkins turned out to be big win. We had the RPI.”

For Bates, getting shut out of the tourney was particularly hard to accept since it deprived senior stars Mike MacDonald and Kip Orban of the chance to extend their storied careers. MacDonald broke Jon Hess’s school record for points in a season this spring, piling up 78 points on 48 goals and 30 assists, better than the 74 points tallied by Hess in 1997. Orban’s 45 goals this season are the most ever by a Princeton midfielder and the fifth-best by an Ivy middie.

“They had historic seasons,” said Bates. “Mikey breaks the single season record; that is something looking at the history of the program, the names he has passed, and the schedule we play. They are good, humble kids. I know they would trade it all for one more game. But as time goes on, I think they will be very proud of what they did. Those are records that aren’t going to be broken any time soon.”

While the Princeton players and coaches were left with broken hearts, Bates will have fond memories of this spring.

“This is one of my favorite groups to coach, based on the adversity we faced all year,” said Bates.

“We lost four prominent guys to injury during the season. We responded to the adversity with an even-keeled attitude and didn’t blink. From an overall perspective, I could not be more proud. They accomplished a lot, on the field and in the locker room. It was a really good senior group. Kip had a lot of responsibility and shouldered it really well.”

In Bates’ view, the future looks good for the Tigers. “We have learned a lot of things in the last few weeks that will help us, there is a solid foundation for Princeton lacrosse going forward,” asserted Bates.

“The culture and the locker room are in good shape. There is optimism. I sit here this morning disappointed but I am excited about the prospects. We have good returners and some great players on the way.”

Princeton University men's tennis, Princeton, NJ,  September 12, 2014

Princeton University men’s tennis, Princeton, NJ, September 12, 2014

In taking the helm of the Princeton University men’s tennis team three years ago, Billy Pate realized that he was becoming part of something special.

“When I interviewed for the job, I saw that there was such a rich heritage here,” said Pate, who had previously been the head coach at the University of Alabama, where he guided the Crimson Tide to seven NCAA tournament appearances in 10 seasons.

“Men’s tennis is the school’s most successful program, it had the most number of wins (an all-time record of 1,054-398-6  and a .725 winning percentage through 2013-14).”

Upon taking the Princeton job, Pate was determined to add to that history.

“I was looking to restore the program back to the level where it is nationally relevant,” said Pate.

“I thought it was fair to set that as a goal and shoot to be a top 25 program and win Ivy League titles.”

While Princeton hasn’t won an Ivy title yet under Pate, the program is returning to the national stage this weekend as it competes in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, earning an at-large bid after going 19-7 overall and 4-3 Ivy.

“I think the guys really bought into the vision that we had, we sold them on the idea that we could be at this level,” said Pate, reflecting on the accomplishment.

“We have made progress, we have had some measure of success. We have not gotten everything. We did make it as a high as No. 23 this season. This is still a big step for the program, we have re-established ourselves.”

In its first appearance in the NCAAs this century, 36th-ranked Princeton will face No. 23 Minnesota (20-7) in a first round match on May 8 in Charlottesville, Va. The Tigers will be joined at the site by the 43rd-ranked Princeton women’s team (12-8 overall, 6-1 Ivy), who won the league title and are playing South Carolina (14-10) in a first round contest on May 9. The women’s squad will be looking to build on last year’s NCAA performance, when they topped Arizona State in the opening round for the program’s first-ever win on the tourney.

While the women had a relatively smooth path to the NCAAs, the men’s road to the tourney was a bit bumpy as the Tigers dropped three straight Ivy matches after starting 3-0 in league play, losing 5-2 to Dartmouth, 4-3 to Harvard, and 5-2 to eventual Ivy champ Columbia.

“We knew Harvard and Columbia were going to be tough,” said Pate, noting that both of those teams are in the NCAA field. “We didn’t play well against Dartmouth, we came out flat.”

Showing resilience,  Princeton rebounded by edging Cornell 4-3 in the regular season finale on April 19.

“I told the guys that was the most significant win we have had,” recalled Pate. “It really helped us, it stopped the bleeding. We were probably already in the NCAAs but if we had lost, I would have been really nervous.

The presence of senior Zack McCourt and sophomore Tom Colautti at the top of the Princeton lineup has helped ease Pate’s nerves.

“McCourt and Colautti have been rock solid,” said Pate of the two All-Ivy performers.

“Colautti was 6-1 in the league as a sophomore at No. 2. McCourt has improved a lot over his career. You know everybody is going to be good at No. 1 and 2 so it is really good to have two guys like that.”

The addition of a good group of freshmen in Kial Kaiser, Ben Tso, Diego Vives, and Luke Gamble, has been a big help for the Tigers.

“The guys came in and did a really good job,” added Pate. “We didn’t have to throw them into the fire as much. Last year we had to play the freshmen at 2-3-4, they gained a lot of experience from that. This year, they got experience but weren’t playing too high so they got some wins.”

Pate acknowledges that it is not going to be easy to get a win over Minnesota in the first round match-up. The victor of the match will face the winner of the Virginia-St. John’s first round clash on May 9 for a spot in the Round of 16.

“They are really good; they had a huge year like us in terms of making a step,” said Pate. “They brought in some good new guys and shared the Big 10 title. We match up okay, it is going to be interesting. If we play well, it will be a good match. The match between the two and three seeds is always close. It is usually two even teams.”

As he hones his team for the regional, Pate will be drawing on his experience in Alabama.

“Less is more, we will focus on fitness,” explained Pate. “It is hard to lift in the season and if you are not lifting twice a week, you lose the effect. We will get in two to three lifts a week and will be doing our running. We will be doing some game-planning. I want the guys to be fresh.”

No matter what happens this weekend in Charlottesville, the experience should help lift Princeton closer to its goal of again being a nationally prominent program.

“To advance in the first year, would be great,” said Pate. “If not, it is a next step. You want to play well. If you play well and come up short, that is okay. Losses help you grow. If you don’t play well, it does leave a bitter taste. We are well positioned for the future to build on this and be better.”

April 29, 2015
PERFECT ENDING: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star McMunn scored five goals to help Princeton top Brown 14-8 in the regular season finale. The win gave Princeton the outright Ivy League crown as it moved to 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. This weekend, Princeton will host the Ivy tournament which will decide which team gets the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Princeton is seeded first and faces No. 4 Harvard in a semifinal contest on Friday evening. The winner will play the victor of the the Penn-Cornell semifinal in the title game on Sunday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PERFECT ENDING: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star McMunn scored five goals to help Princeton top Brown 14-8 in the regular season finale. The win gave Princeton the outright Ivy League crown as it moved to 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. This weekend, Princeton will host the Ivy tournament which will decide which team gets the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament. Princeton is seeded first and faces No. 4 Harvard in a semifinal contest on Friday evening. The winner will play the victor of the the Penn-Cornell semifinal in the title game on Sunday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Erin McMunn’s senior season with Princeton University women’s lacrosse team nearly ended prematurely when her right leg was banged hard against Harvard in late March.

The star attacker left the game with a strained MCL and bone bruise in her right knee. After being sidelined for the next game and undergoing some furious rehab, McMunn was able to make it back to the field, albeit at less than full speed.

Hobbling through the next few games, McMunn managed to break the program’s career record for assists and pass the 200-point mark as Princeton rolled to a league crown.

So last Saturday, McMunn was particularly emotional as she was honored along with her classmates on the program’s annual Senior Day before its regular season finale against visiting Brown.

“This has just been four years of incredible experience with this program and we are so grateful for everything that Princeton has given all of us as a senior class,” said McMunn, a 5’8 native of Westminster, Md.

“I think we just really wanted to come out here and make a statement today and play for each other and play because we love being part of this team.”

Making a statement with her play, McMunn scored three goals in the first 21 minutes of the contest as Princeton jumped out to 7-3 halftime lead.

“I realize how fortunate I am to have so many great people surrounding me, teammates, coaches, and staff,” said McMunn.

“I think I just really felt that on the field today. I play best when I feel that gratitude and feel that love a little bit. We certainly felt that today and I think we were all giving it to each other. There were just some really great feeds that people were hitting me on and I got lucky to put them away.”

The Tigers went on to 14-8 win as they ended the regular season at 12-3 overall and 7-0 Ivy. The Tigers will now host Harvard on Friday evening in an Ivy tournament semifinal contest with the winner advancing to the final on Sunday against the victor of the Penn-Cornell semi.

“We just really wanted to finish that Ivy season and leave no doubt that we deserve that title today,” said McMunn, who ended the day with five goals and an assist.

“There have been a ton of close games and I am just so proud of this team. This has been our goal since last year. We knew that we wanted to win this title outright because none of us as seniors have done that. We shared it last year and we knew that was not something we wanted to do this year. Being able to have the opportunity to win that outright on our Senior Day at home was huge and something we were all really excited for.”

McMunn is excited to be getting back up to full speed. “It is definitely starting to come back, it was a little tough there for a little while,” said McMunn.

“It was just causing some swelling that was keeping it a little bit tight. It has been feeling really great and I can’t thank our athletic trainers enough, they have been doing an awesome job taking care of me. I have just been really lucky to be back out there and having a lot of fun.”

In assessing her career milestones, McMunn credits the backing she has gotten from her teammates.

“That is the complete reflection of the people that are around me,” said McMunn, a three-time All-Ivy choice and a two-time All-American who now has 22 goals and 13 assists this season giving her 209 career points on 124 goals and a program-best 85 assists.

“The assist record is them; if they don’t bury that shot, it doesn’t matter. I could throw it at somebody all day long and they could miss shots.”

McMunn acknowledges that she is going to miss playing for Princeton. “It is very bittersweet but all you can really do is live in the moment and be grateful for the time I have been given here and with the program,” said McMunn. “I feel that every single day.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer is grateful for all that the team’s seniors have given to the program over the years.

“They have just been such a great class, they are just really quality kids,” said Sailer of the Class of 2015 which includes Erin Curley, Erika Grabbi, Jess Nelson, Erin Slifer, and Annie Woehling in addition to McMunn.

“This year we just have two (McMunn and Slifer) in our starting lineup but all six of them have given so much. They have worked so hard, they have been really great examples of selfless leadership and putting the team first and continuing to work and doing whatever they can to help our program improve. When you have kids like that, that are setting such great examples and bringing great energy, it can’t help but rub off on the rest of the group. They know how much it means to them and how they have sacrificed for it.”

Sailer was thrilled with McMunn’s great performance on Saturday. “That was great, I think this was her breakout game,” asserted Sailer. “She is moving much, much better. She seems like she is moving like her old self before her injury and that is going to be really helpful as we get to the tournament to have her functioning at top capacity.”

Princeton’s top player this spring has been Slifer, who has a team-high 55 points on 36 goals and 19 assists and also leads the team in ground balls with 22.

“She has been our force, having an impact in all phases of the game,” said Sailer of Slifer.

“There is no doubt in my mind that she is one of the top players in the country and her impact on us has been very obvious to anyone who watches our games.”

Going undefeated in the league this spring has taken a huge effort in all phases of the game.

“It is great, there is a lot of parity and every team gets up and tries to bring their best against you,” said Sailer.

“I think we have only had an undefeated Ivy champion now five times at Princeton so it is really special. It is a hard league to win undefeated. I am just really happy for these girls because they really put a lot into this year. It is nice to come through with a young team. We graduated eight seniors we start six sophomores so it is exciting.”

Sailer is excited about Princeton’s postseason prospects, starting with the Ivy tournament this weekend.

“I think we just have to keep doing what we are doing and really just keep the emphasis on our preparation and our work,” said Sailer.

“You can’t get thinking, you have got to win this tournament. You have got to win the ground balls, win the draws, and take a smart shot. It is a whole new ball game, everybody is 0-0 so it doesn’t matter what has happened before. We know that and we are just going to get to work on Monday.”

The Tigers will have to work hard to overcome a tough Harvard (8-7 overall, 4-3 Ivy) squad.

“Harvard is a very, very good team, they lost by one goal to Syracuse and it was a tight game here,” said Sailer, whose team beat the Crimson 17-12 in the rivals’ regular season meeting on March 21.

“We pulled away at the end, but they are talented kids, there is no doubt. They have a lot of speed, they check very aggressively, they go to goal hard. We are going to have to be ready, that is for sure.”

McMunn, for her part, is ready for a big postseason run. “The key is that we have to keep getting better every single day and I think that is something this team has done a great job of focusing on so far this year,” said McMunn.

“We feel that sense of urgency and we don’t want to waste any time out there together. I think that is something that we have to keep going for the last week; we’ll be good.”

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker MacDonald tallied three goals and two assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 15-10 at Cornell. MacDonald now has 43 goals and 28 assists this season, becoming the third Princeton player to reach 70 points in a season, joining Jon Hess (74 in 1997) and Jesse Hubbard (72 in 1996). The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald heads upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior attacker MacDonald tallied three goals and two assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 15-10 at Cornell. MacDonald now has 43 goals and 28 assists this season, becoming the third Princeton player to reach 70 points in a season, joining Jon Hess (74 in 1997) and Jesse Hubbard (72 in 1996). The Tigers, now 8-5 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Needing a win at Cornell last Saturday to clinch the Ivy League title outright and earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team came out firing.

Princeton jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Big Red after one quarter with Kip Orban scoring two goals, Mike MacDonald chipping in a goal and two assists and Ryan Ambler and Gavin McBride each getting a goal and an assist.

“We came out and played really well,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “It was a perfect storm for us in the first quarter, we hit our shots and Cornell made some turnovers that we capitalized on.”

But in the second quarter, the Tigers were buried by a blizzard of goals as Cornell outscored Princeton 9-0 to take a 9-5 lead at halftime.

“The second quarter was upside down from the first; the things that had been positives turned into negatives; we couldn’t get a face-off and we turned it over twice,” said Bates, whose team was outshot 25-4 in the period and lost 9-of-10 face-offs.

“We didn’t have a settled offensive possession in the whole quarter. We got punched between the eyes, it was a standing eight count. We limped into the locker room. There was a steamroller effect. I was just trying to find a way to stem the tide but that is tough when you are not winning face-offs. We were just holding on.”

At halftime, Bates focused on holding his dispirited team together. “They were stunned, we just tried to settle them and remind them of how we played in the first quarter and how good we felt,” recalled Bates. “We told them to find their fight and find their competitiveness.”

In the second half, the Tiger showed some competitive fire, outscoring the Big Red 4-2 in the third quarter but the rally fell short as Cornell pulled away to a 15-10 win.

“We played well but we just couldn’t get that momentum going,” said Bates, reflecting on the second half. “We ran out of time.”

Bates also acknowledged that Princeton ran into a buzz-saw in Cornell. “It was tough game, Cornell played well, they showed us some things we hadn’t seen,” said Bates, who got four goals from senior star Kip Orban, making him the first Princeton midfielder ever to get 40 goals in a season.

“Our inexperience on defense came to light. They ran an open set with no crease; we got gun-shy a little and were slow to make the slides. They won some one-on-one battles.”

Although Princeton, now 8-5 overall, 4-2 Ivy, lost the battle last Saturday, it could win the war as it will get a rematch with the Big Red (10-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) this Friday when the foes meet in the semis of the Ivy tournament at Brown with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday.

“We have been in this position before, two years ago we got thumped by them at Giants Stadium and then beat them in Ithaca,” noted Bates.

“I will be interested to see how the team reacts; this group has something on its mind about what it wants to do. We have to do better on face-offs and deal with their open set better. We have good leadership, the right message will be sent. The guys will be excited. We talk about responding when you get knocked down.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University softball player Sarah McGowan gets ready to swing at a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior infielder McGowan ended her Princeton career on a high note, helping the Tigers beat Cornell 3-1 in the season finale. The win gave Princeton a final record of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League. The Tigers ended the spring taking second in the Ivy South division, trailing Penn, 22-18 overall, 13-7 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University softball player Sarah McGowan gets ready to swing at a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior infielder McGowan ended her Princeton career on a high note, helping the Tigers beat Cornell 3-1 in the season finale. The win gave Princeton a final record of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League. The Tigers ended the spring taking second in the Ivy South division, trailing Penn, 22-18 overall, 13-7 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a do-or-die situation for the Princeton University softball team last weekend and they were thrilled to be in that position.

Playing a four-game set at Cornell, Princeton came into the action with an 8-7 Ivy League record, alive in the race for the Ivy South title as it trailed leader Penn by a game and a half.

“I think they were excited for the opportunity; this team has never had the chance to be playing for something on the final day of the season,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren.

“They were ready to do their best to make it last as long as possible, everyone was psyched to do whatever they could. We prepared well all year and we had some really productive practices last week.”

In Saturday’s doubleheader, Princeton took the opener 6-3 and led 7-4 in the nightcap before falling 10-7.

“We got off to a nice start in the first game,” said Van Ackeren. “We had it in game two but we couldn’t get it done in the circle.”

On Sunday, Princeton dropped the opener 7-5 before ending the spring on a high note with a 3-1 win in the finale.

“The kids bounced back really well on Sunday,” said Van Ackeren. “The offense stepped up; we had good run production all weekend.”

While Princeton knew it had been officially eliminated from the Ivy South race by its loss in the opener, the team’s seniors were determined to make the most of their final game.

“It was senior leadership; when seniors are that emotional, the team will fall in line,” said Van Ackeren, whose Class of 2015 includes Rachel Rendina, Alyssa Schmidt, Cara Worden, Meredith Brown, Sarah McGowan, and Libby Crowe.

“We had a class of six and five started. The sixth (Crowe) was hurt but was the first base coach for an inning. Brown started at pitcher; she has been dealing with some injuries. She threw six shutout innings, fighting to do her best. Rendina, Schmidt, and Worden did what they do on the field. Sarah McGowan did well at third. It is hard to hold Cornell to one run. They passed the torch.”

In Van Ackeren’s view, the seniors have made a positive impact on the program.

“The seniors were excited; they thought about all the things we have been through to get to this point,” said Van Ackeren.

“They are an eclectic group, they have strong personalities. They leave the program better than they found it and that is the legacy you want to have.”

While Princeton had hoped to have a better record than its final mark of 18-24 overall and 10-9 Ivy League, Van Ackeren believes that the team’s younger players gained some valuable experience this spring that will help their resolve going forward.

“There were a lot of lessons to learn; we were in a lot of close games in the league,” said Van Ackeren.

“Those one-run losses teach us how to win. It is a programmatic challenge for us to improve so that those close games go our way. I think the returners will come back with a bad taste in their mouths from those close losses and will work even harder. There has been a cultural shift in the program in the last few years where the players are embracing hard work and embracing a blue collar attitude to do whatever it takes to win.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A SPLASH: Princeton University women’s water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, second from left, encourages his players in a recent game as Ashley Hatcher, far right, listens in along with her teammates. Last Sunday, senior star Hatcher scored four goals, including the game winner, as Princeton edged Indiana University 7-6 in the CWPA championship game at DeNunzio Pool. The win earned the Tigers, now 29-3, a bid in the NCAA tournament. Princeton will open tournament play on May 2 with a play-in game against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Wagner College (25-8) at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will advance to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashley Hatcher was primed for a big finish as the Princeton University women’s water polo headed into the fourth quarter of the CWPA championship game locked in a 5-5 tie with Indiana last Sunday at DeNunzio Pool.

“We were definitely concerned there but it gives you an extra boost of adrenaline to swim your hardest on the draw, the ejection, and the counter attack, and give your all,” said Hatcher.

Hatcher gave Princeton the margin of victory, scoring two goals in the quarter as the 12th-ranked Tigers pulled out a 7-6 win over the No. 11 Hoosiers and earned a bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

“One of my teammates sent it to center but it was almost a turnover and then it landed in front of me,” said Hatcher, reflecting on the winning goal which came with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter.

“They play high up in the lane so I drove in and the goal was open, it felt very good. When the ball is in front of me I was going to try to light the goalie up. I wanted to put a shot on goal and make her make a save. I didn’t want to make anything easy for her.”

Hatcher and her teammates realized things weren’t going to come easy in the final in Sunday having lost 9-8 and 13-12 to Indiana on two regular season meetings this year in addition to falling to the Hoosiers in the 2014 CWPA final.

“We knew that when we lost to this team before that we did not play our best game so coming out of those games it was heartbreaking but almost a boost of confidence because I knew and the team knew that we didn’t play our best game,” said Hatcher.

“We were excited to get the chance to play them again. We really wanted this team in the championship more than anything else.”

Winning that championship was special for Hatcher and her teammates. “It means a lot because we won the championship my freshman and sophomore year and we lost last year to Indiana,” said Hatcher, who was a first-team All-Tournament selection along with teammates Ashleigh Johnson and Jess Holechek.

“Right now this is our focus and we put everything on this game. Now we can look forward to the NCAAs. Winning three out of four is awesome.”

It was awesome for Hatcher to have older sister, Karina, on hand at DeNunzio to support her on Sunday.

“My sister played here and the last time we hosted Easterns, I was here watching her in 2007 when we lost to Hartwick,” said Hatcher, a native of Miami, Fla.

“Those little things were in the back of my mind watching her cheer for me. Being at home, it was a great finish.”

Hatcher has produced a great senior season, scoring a career-high and team-high 78 goals so far in her final campaign.

“Over the years I have grown in confidence in my ability,” said Hatcher. “I feel like my ballhandling skills have improved so that definitely helps. With Katie Rigler graduating, she was such an offensive presence for us and really inspired me. She would take over and was never afraid to shoot the ball.”

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao has enjoyed seeing Hatcher become a top offensive player for Princeton this season.

“I am so happy for Ashley, she has had an amazing year,” said a drenched Nicolao, who was tossed in the pool and sprayed with champagne as the team celebrated the win.

“She has always had the ability. She has always been a strong player for us but this year she really showed how good she is. She stepped up and has been a leading scorer all year for us. She had the game winner today. She is a hard worker and is really passionate about playing the game well.”

In order to beat Indiana in round three between the teams this season, Princeton had to step up its execution in crunch time.

“We had to be more mentally focused,” said Nicolao. “The first two matchups this year went right down to the wire. We had the lead both times in the fourth quarter and just made some crucial mistakes so we knew this game was going to come down to this, a one-goal game.”

On Sunday, the Tigers made the big plays down the stretch. “We had the two-goal lead with two minutes to go, we couldn’t make it easy and keep the two-goal lead,” said a smiling Nicolao, whose team improved to 29-3 with the win.

“We had to sort it out. Indiana is a great team and it is a great matchup. When you have those tough losses, the hope is eventually one will go your way and today it went our way. I think playing them three times in the last 12 months and really having some tough losses really helped us in that fourth quarter to just buckle down, get the lead and make it very difficult for them to score.”

The presence of junior all-American goalie Johnson makes Princeton hard to score on. The Miami, Fla. had 17 saves in the title game and was named tournament MVP. Now with 1,003 saves, Johnson is the only player in Princeton women’s water polo history to stop at least 1,000 shots.

“You saw Ashleigh Johnson and why she is who she is,” said Nicolao. “She is a special goalie. She made some incredible saves and today she went out there and showed you guys that she is the best player in the water.”

Freshman Emily Smith might not have been the best player in the water but she made a huge contribution with two pivotal goals.

“I sent an e-mail to the girls when Duke basketball won the national championship,” said Nicolao.

“Here is this freshman nobody has ever heard of, Grayson Allen, who went out there and scored 10 points in a row and was a key. Since then, I have been talking to our kids, saying who is going to be that person because they are going to try to shut Ashley and Chelsea (Johnson) down and who is going to be that one person to come out and step up. It is great to see her have a great game.”

It was great for the team’s group of seniors, which includes CeCe Coffey, Taylor Dunstan, and Camille Hooks in addition to Hatcher and Holechek, to pull out the title.

“This senior class, along with the men, have been in 7 CWPA championship games,” said Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger men’s water polo team.

“It is special to get to this game, you got to have some luck to win it. I am really happy for the girls that they got this one today. They have been trying to ease the pain from last year’s loss but it is a game. You are going to win some and lose some and today we were able to come out on top.”

Looking ahead to the NCAAs, Nicolao believes his team has the game to compete with anybody.

“We are going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours and focus on who we are playing next when the bracket comes out,” said Nicolao, whose team will host Wagner (25-8) on May 2 in an NCAA play-in contest with the winner to face No. 1 Stanford in the national quarterfinals on May 8.

“I think when you have the defensive ability that we have, if we come out and play with that kind of defensive intensity, anything can happen.”

In Hatcher’s view, the Tigers are poised to make some good things happen on the national stage.

“We lost to Hawaii by one goal (7-6 on March 15) and played pretty awfully in that game so we would love a chance to go back and play those big teams and show them that this isn’t just an east coast win,” said Hatcher.

April 22, 2015
STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Bannantine steps into position in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star defender and tri-captain Bannantine helped Princeton pull away to a 12-6 win over Columbia. The victory gave Princeton a share of the Ivy title and the right to host the upcoming league tournament. No. 13 Princeton, now 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy, hosts Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) on April 25 in its regular season finale. The Ivy tourney will take place on the first weekend in May with the semis on May 1 and the title game on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Needing a win over Columbia last Saturday to clinch a share of the Ivy League regular season title and the right to host the league tournament, the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team hit some turbulence.

After building a 5-1 lead over the Lions at halftime, Princeton found itself deadlocked at 6-6 with 17:25 left in the second half.

The Tigers called a timeout and the players received a wake-up call from the coaches.

“It was just stick to the game plan, execute, but just know that we need to bring more energy,” said Princeton junior defender and tri-captain Bannantine.

“We have to have energy from the offense through the defense and really carry that over and bring each other up when the other side isn’t doing as well.”

The Tigers showed energy at both ends of the field, outscoring Columbia 6-0 the rest of the game to pull away to a 12-6 victory, improving to 11-3 overall and 6-0 Ivy.

“I think it was raising our energy and finishing our shots,” said Bannantine, who had two ground balls and caused a turnover in the victory.

“It was taking that shot when we know it is there and moving the goalie. Hats off to the attack for doing that because they really picked it up. We switched up a couple of things but I think a big part of our defense is playing out and playing aggressive. We came up with some pretty big caused turnovers and some saves that were crucial. It was just coming out hard, playing them and getting on the ground balls.”

Clinching a share of the title and hosting the tourney, which is scheduled for May 1 and 3, is big for the Tigers.

“It means so much to us, it is our goal every year coming in,” said Bannantine.

“We work for it all year, it is what we set our sights on. It is huge for us. I just think it speaks to the experience on our team; we have a lot of senior leadership.

Bannantine has assumed extra leadership responsibility this year as she is quarterbacking the Tiger defense, directing things on the back line.

“I am really happy with how things have worked out this year; I think it is definitely a new role for me in leading the defense,” said Bannantine,  a 5’9 native of Baltimore, Md., who has been a second-team All-Ivy performer in her first two seasons with the Tigers.

“We had a senior captain last year and I had to change around some things. It has taken a while. I have the full support of my teammates and they trust me to lead them.”

With a number of younger players rising to the challenge when called on, the Tigers have developed a special trust level.

“I think we have a lot of kids who can come in and step up,” said Bannantine.

“The younger kids have been huge this year. For them to be able to have that level of maturity, to be able to play through that and pick each other up. I think it is just a really special team this year. It is like nothing I have ever played with before, it is awesome.”

While Princeton head coach Chris Sailer would have liked to see her team play sharper against Columbia, she was thrilled with the end result.

“I am really proud and happy of this team’s second straight Ivy crown; it is a huge accomplishment,” asserted Sailer, whose team won the 2014 Ivy regular season title and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tourney.

“It is something we work for all year. Columbia is a much improved team. To come through and pull out a win like that is important at this time of the year. We are hoping to finish strongly on Saturday against Brown. We are excited to host the Ivy tournament for a second straight year at the Class of ‘52 Stadium.”

In Sailer’s view, Bannantine has become a vitally important cog in the Tiger defense.

“She is such a steady presence for us at the defensive end,” said Sailer. “She has been making big plays for us since she was a freshman but it is her voice on the field this year that is so important. She organizes and directs the defense, it is like having another coach in the field.”

With new faces all over the field, Sailer believes that the championship campaign is a testament to the depth and character in the program.

“We graduated a lot of seniors last year and we had some kids in and out with injuries,” said Sailer.

“We have been able to pull that out and it has been great. We have had so many kids this year get significant playing time for the first time in their careers. There is a lot of parity in this league so to be able to get the title with young kids in the lineup and really just two seniors (Erin Slifer and Erin McMunn) in the starting lineup, I think that says a lot for the team.”

With No. 13 Princeton wrapping up regular season play by hosting Brown (7-7 overall, 1-5 Ivy) this Saturday, Sailer is looking for her team to play even better.

“I think you learn from this, you just constantly have to go out and give your best effort every day,” said Sailer, who got four goals apiece from Slifer and sophomore Olivia Hompe against Columbia “You can’t take a day off from the pursuit of excellence.”

In Bannantine’s view, the Tigers are ready to give their best effort as they head into postseason play. “Every game you have to come out like it is an Ivy championship, which it pretty much is,” said Bannantine.

“We have to come out hard and play our game first but be able to evolve throughout the game as well and change up our looks. I think that was a little disconnect today but we have to approach everyone like it is a Penn or a Maryland and pull out the win.”

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RECORD PACE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Kip Orban races upfield in a game earlier this spring. Last Friday, senior captain and star midfielder Orban scored three goals to help Princeton edge Harvard 12-11. Orban now has 36 goals on the season, tying him with Josh Sims for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season. The 14th ranked Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, play at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kip Orban beamed as he signed autographs for a group of young fans last Friday evening after the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team defeated Harvard 12-11.

Senior star midfielder Orban was in no hurry to leave Class of 1952 Stadium, relishing every moment of a special night as he and his classmates were honored before the game in the program’s annual Senior Day ceremony.

“I feel like it was just yesterday we were making the tunnel for the seniors when I was a freshmen,” said Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“It just makes you reflect on how fast it goes and how much of a privilege it has been, being here the last four years. I have enjoyed and loved every moment of it. There is no better feeling than coming out in front of a big crowd with your family and your friends all there. It is really emotional.”

Riding that emotional wave, Princeton jumped out to a 6-1 lead midway through the second quarter. “The energy coming out at the beginning was great,” said Orban, who scored two goals during that stretch.

“Our backup goalie Matt O’Connor had an awesome pregame speech, it got us all going. The guys all really understood the severity of this game, winning it was crucial for us to advance and hopefully host the Ivy League tournament, which is what we want to do.”

After building a 12-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers had to hold on for dear life as Harvard scored four straight goals to turn the game into a nail-biter. With sophomore star Zach Currier making some clutch hustle plays in the waning moments, the Tigers pulled out the win, improving to 8-4 overall and 4-1 Ivy and drawing raucous cheers from the 2,204 on hand at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In Orban’s view, Princeton’s ability to secure the victory was a testament to the team’s fighting spirit.

“I think it speaks volumes about the character of the guys in our locker room, it’s been a long year trying to instill this gritty character in these guys,” said Orban.

“I love every one of my teammates. They have done an awesome job of digging down deep when it is tough and getting that extra ground ball, getting that clear and just working real hard when it matters. We have also been on the losing side so it was great to be on the winning side today.”

Having been mired in a three-game losing streak earlier this month, the victory was the second straight for a Princeton team looking to peak for the postseason.

“We just had to minimize our mistakes, we haven’t played a perfect game yet this year,” said Orban.

“We had fewer turnovers and we are learning from our mistakes. That goes back to the coaching staff doing an awesome job, doing an unbelievable job with the scout on defense, Coach (Dylan) Sheridan is killing it; coach (Matt) Madalon is always coming up with new ways to attack the cage. The leadership from the top down is really helping us progress and learn from our mistakes.”

As sole team captain, Orban has assumed a major leadership role this season for the Tigers.

“It has been an awesome experience, a wonderful experience,” asserted Orban.

“It has been made really easy with the help of my fellow seniors and even juniors, the leadership on this team is just unbelievable, they have made it a dream. It doesn’t feel like I am a sole captain. It is a good brotherhood from the top down. It has been an awesome year to be around the guys and have it unfold the way it has.”

Orban enjoyed an awesome moment in the second half as his third goal of the evening gave him 36 for the season, tying him with legendary Josh Sims ’00 for the most goals by a Princeton midfielder in a season.

“I didn’t know, I was surprised; it was unbelievable,” said Orban, who now has 92 goals in his Princeton career.

“I grew up watching Princeton lacrosse and all those big names, it is a dream come true for me to be able to come here. I am happy to tie a name like that.”

Orban is happy with how his final campaign is playing out. “My teammates have done an awesome job, the systems on the offense have just been great,” said Orban.

“Ultimately we find ourselves in spots to finish. I think it goes back to a line my dad said, just don’t knock. That mentality, don’t wait for permission. I think that mentality has been helpful I just worked really hard in the offseason. All summer I was hitting the wall and just shooting. I think putting in that extra work has paid off and I am happy it is going as well as it has.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was happy to see his seniors rewarded Friday for the work they have put in over the last four years.

“They have come such a long way, I said to them earlier in the week, we have lived a life together,” said Bates, who is in his sixth year guiding the Tigers.

“It goes fast but we have had so many experiences over the course of four years; I am really proud of them, they have held this team together,” said Bates.

“We have had adversity this year and you know what, they haven’t blinked. They haven’t got too high or too low and it has been good, consistent leadership. I think they have really served us well. It is different guys. You have guys who are playing a ton of minutes and you have some guys who are not playing at all that are still  contributing equally as much.”

The Tigers started on a high, reeling off three unanswered goals in the first 11 minutes of the contest.

“We knew we were going to be ready to play, there was no doubt,” said Bates. “Starting Monday morning, you could feel some excitement. We know what is at stake. It is Harvard, it is obviously a rival. We were able to move the ball a little bit. We drew some slides and nobody got selfish. That is when we are good offensively, the ball moves and guys capitalize.”

In Bates’ view, it was defense that saved the day down the stretch of the game.

“I just thought our defense played really well in the half-field,” said Bates. “Coach Sheridan did a really wonderful job with those guys. The opportunities that we gave up were junk ones on the crease and some transition ones. That is a pretty  solid offense and defensively I thought we grew up and took the next step today.”

Freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell took a step forward, making a career-high 15 saves in the win over the Crimson.

“He got the player of the game,” said Bates of Blaisdell, who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“We talked earlier in the week, this is why we played him for a game like this. The team has confidence in him and he rose to the challenge. He settled in, it was a good game.”

The rise of Orban and classmate Mike MacDonald up the statistical ranks in Tiger history was another good aspect of the game. While Orban tied Sims’ single-season goals mark for a midfielder, MacDonald’s two goals and four assists in the win gave him 40 goals and 26 assists on the year as he became the first player in program history to tally at least 40 goals and 20 assists in a season.

“I had tears in my eyes for those two, to be rewarded in a program with this kind of history and to be at the top of the record book,” said Bates.

“Hopefully Kip gets one more. He had broad shoulders and he has just had such a great year as a leader. As a player, to put in that amount, it has been done only one other time. Mikey is doing something that has never been done. That is rare company and that is a credit to him and how hard he has worked to come back and the season he is having. I am really proud of those two.”

The 14th-ranked Tigers wrap up the regular season with a game at No. 12 Cornell (9-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on April 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. Princeton, which has already clinched a share of the regular season Ivy title, can earn the right to host the upcoming league tournament if it beats Cornell. A loss to Cornell would put the tournament in Ithaca only if Dartmouth beats Brown; otherwise, it would be in Providence, R.I. with wins by Cornell and Brown.

“We are right where we want to be,” said Bates. “It is all on the line. It will be an easy week to be excited. We are playing for an Ivy League championship which has been our goal all year. We do it a day at a time and that has served us well so Saturday can’t come soon enough.”

Earning the home field advantage for the league tourney, slated to take place on May 1 and 3, would be a nice bonus.

“That is gravy certainly, it is always nicer to play at home,” said Bates. “Today was a phenomenal environment, we knew it would be and we talked about it. Our guys earned the reward of having this kind of crowd and this kind of win so it is a great day.”

Orban, for his part, would dearly love to have some more games at Class of 52 Stadium.

“It would be amazing, there is nothing better than being at home with the fans and the crowd we love and who love us,” said Orban.

“We are so privileged to have them come out here. This atmosphere is unbelievable, you felt it today. It was a good buzz in the place. It was palpable, you could feel the energy. It would be great to host here but no matter where we go, we will bring it.”

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING HER SHOT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Blake Dietrick puts up a shot during a game this season as she enjoyed a memorable senior campaign. Dietrick averaged career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) in helping the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. Last week, Dietrick signed a training camp contract with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and will be joining the team next month. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick was disappointed to see her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team come to an end with a loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But shortly after that chapter of her hoops life ended, Dietrick learned that her basketball story was far from over.

Within 24 hours after the loss to the Terps, the star guard learned that she might have a shot to play at the professional level with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

“I didn’t realize it was an option until the day after the Maryland game,” said Dietrick, a 5’10 native of Wellesley, Mass. who had a job offer pending from Holborn, a reinsurance brokerage firm.

“The teams had been watching me, I found out later. An article came out projecting that I could be drafted.”

Taking a week off to recharge and focus on finishing her senior thesis on Chaucer, Dietrick returned to the gym to train for her shot at the pros.

“I started doing workouts with my teammates, small group workouts with guards,” said Dietrick, who also took part in the annual State Farm College 3-point Shooting Championships at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. in late March. “I was also working with the coaches and hitting the weight room.”

While Dietrick ended up not being selected in the three-round WNBA draft last Thursday, she learned that evening that the Washington Mystics were interested in her services.

“The Mystics called during the draft when they were about to make their last pick, Mike Thibault (Washington’s head coach/general manager) called Courtney (Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart) and said they were drafting a guard from Europe to secure her rights but that they wanted me,” said Dietrick. “I was so excited, I didn’t know what to think.”

Dietrick later signed a contract to go to the training camp with Washington and will be reporting to the team in mid-May.

“I didn’t expect to be drafted; I looked at it that way so I wouldn’t be disappointed,” said Dietrick. “Being at a training camp was my goal, I wanted to get to show my basketball ability and see what happens.

In reflecting on her senior year at Princeton, Dietrick is still amazed at what happened this winter as the Tigers captured national attention with their perfect regular season and a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

“I still can’t believe that we went 30-0 in the regular season and how historic and monumental that was,” said Dietrick.

“When I imagined my senior year, I was just thinking about what we wanted to do. It was unbelievable.”

Dietrick produced a remarkable senior year, averaging career-highs in points (15.1), assists (4.9), and rebounds (4.5) as she helped the 13th-ranked Tigers finish the season with a 31-1 record. Along the way, she was a first-team All-Ivy selection and the Ivy Player of the Year. She was also named as an Associated Press All-America honorable mention selection. She ended her Princeton career ranked 11th on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list (1,233) and fourth in assists (346). Dietrick shot a career-best 48.6 percent from the floor this winter and her 157 assists this year were a program record.

While Dietrick savors the individual accolades that came her way, she notes that her success was the product of a group effort and a lot of training.

“I think being voted unanimous Ivy Player of the Year was special; Niveen (Rasheed) had done it and I idolized her as a player,” said Dietrick, referring to former Tiger star Rasheed, a 2013 Princeton alum.

“It showed respect from the league and we have some very good coaches. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, they carried me when I wasn’t playing well and they supported me when I was having a good game. I think it was just having confidence in my teammates and the coaches having confidence in me doing a lot of things on the court. I worked pretty hard in the offseason and put in extra work and reps on things that I needed to improve.”

True to form, Dietrick will be working hard to make the most of her opportunity to extend her basketball life, hitting the grindstone as the Mystics’ training camp starts on May 17 at the Verizon Center in Washington and runs through May 29 with three preseason games on the schedule.

“I’ll lift three times a week and do up to two workouts a day with my teammates and coaches,” said Dietrick, who has only one exam pending at Princeton and will be able to graduate with her class.

Dietrick is confident she can lift her game to a pro level. “I just want to play hard and make smart decisions with the ball,” said Dietrick.

“I want to push the pace and put the ball in the basket. The coach said to just do what you do, there is no need to reinvent your game.”

ARMED FORCE: Princeton University women’s water polo player Ashley Hatcher shows her focus during a game this season. Senior star Hatcher scored a team-high 70 goals to help No. 13 Princeton post a 26-3 regular season record. This weekend the Tigers will be hosting the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) championships at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26 with the winner earning a bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ARMED FORCE: Princeton University women’s water polo player Ashley Hatcher shows her focus during a game this season. Senior star Hatcher scored a team-high 70 goals to help No. 13 Princeton post a 26-3 regular season record. This weekend the Tigers will be hosting the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) championships at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26 with the winner earning a bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Luis Nicolao was happy to see his Princeton University women’s water polo team pushed last weekend in its final action of the regular season.

Sharpening itself before it hosts the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) Championship this weekend, Princeton defeated Harvard 15-7 last Saturday morning and then came back in the afternoon to post a 9-3 win over Brown.

“We played well, it is the first time we had games the week before the CWPA (formerly the Eastern Championship),” said Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao, whose team is seeded first in the 10-team event which will be held at DeNunzio Pool from April 24-26.

“We are getting into postseason mode. The weekend before with Michigan (second seed) and Indiana (third seed) and this weekend were good, every game had an impact on the big picture and affected standings and seedings.”

Senior star Ashley Hatcher has made a major impact in her senior campaign, scoring a team-high 70 goals to help the No. 13 Tigers post a 26-3 regular season record.

“She has had an amazing year, she has an increased sense of confidence,” said Nicolao.

“She has an offensive mind and is putting shots on goal and making the most of her opportunities. Katie Rigler’s graduation has opened things up, she was the top scorer and you defer to her. Ashley has taken over the role as offensive catalyst.”

With Princeton having won 10 of its last 11 games, Nicolao believes his team is rounding into form.

“I feel good about our team, we are getting healthy again,” said Nicolao. “The last six weeks have been a roller-coaster with injuries, walking pneumonia, bronchitis. We have never had a full squad. We only had 11 girls in the water for our final practice before the Indiana game.”

While the Tigers boast plenty of firepower with five players having scored at least 27 goals in addition to Hatcher’s 70, Princeton will need to give a full effort on the defensive end to prevail at the CWPA and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.

“The offensive balance is strong but we are going to have to win this with defense,” said Nicolao, whose scoring leaders include senior Jesse Holechek (46 goals), junior Pippa Temple (31), sophomore Morgan Hallock (29), freshman Haley Wan (29), and freshman Chelsea Johnson (27).

“We have Ashleigh (Johnson) back there in goal, we need to focus on shutting down teams one possession at a time because offense comes and goes.”

Pointing to a recent history of CWPA championship game nail-biters, Nicolao knows that being seeded first and hosting the event guarantees nothing.

“It is great for the home crowd and the parents but once the whistle blows there is not much of a home pool advantage,” said Nicolao, noting that his team squandered a 4-0 lead in the 2014 CWPA title game against Indiana on the way to a 11-10 loss.

“Players can’t hear much. It comes down to who gets breaks or calls and that has nothing to do with being at home. It is one game a day, 32 minutes at a time. It is like the basketball tournament, the best team doesn’t always win. I wouldn’t expect anything other than nail-biter. There are four or five teams that think they have a shot at winning and they are all right. It is who gets the ball in and makes the big plays in the fourth quarter and doesn’t make the critical mistake.”

Having lost three straight games, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team found itself at a crossroads as it played at Dartmouth last Saturday.

“If we had lost another one, it would have been a long ride home and a long week,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team had dropped a 16-15 heartbreaker at Lehigh on April 7. “The season wouldn’t have been over but there would have been some doubts.”

Clinging to a 5-3 lead at halftime against the Big Green, Princeton left no doubt as to the outcome of the contests, outscoring Dartmouth 7-1 in the third quarter on the way to a 16-5 victory.

“We took care of business,” said Bates, who got five goals and an assist from senior star Mike MacDonald with senior captain Kip Orban chipping in four goals and sophomores Sean Connors and Gavin McBride scoring two goals apiece.

“We got into a good rhythm and got the ball moving. We are tough to stop when we get into a rhythm and share the ball. We had some assisted goals.”

Princeton also showed some good toughness in pulling away from the Big Green.

“We played really hard, we out ground-balled them,” asserted Bates, whose team had a 30-29 edge in ground balls on the afternoon as it improved to 7-4 overall and 3-1 Ivy League.

“We made the hustle plays, we showed some heart. We played at maximum speed. Bobby Weaver, Austin deButts, and Austin Sims hustled all over the field at shortstick middie.”

Freshman goalie Tyler Blaisdell was up to speed as he made his second straight start in taking over the spot from senior Eric Sanschagrin, recording eight saves on the day.

“Eric is steady, we know what we are going to get from him, we have seen him at his best and at his worst and we have big sample size,” said Bates in reflecting on the in-season switch to Blaisdell.

“We wanted to get a sense of what Tyler was going to be able to do with a full run. We are thinking longer term about what is going to help us.”

In Bates’ view, being able to turn the Dartmouth game into a rout could help his team’s confidence over the long term.

“If we had squeaked out an 11-9 win, it wouldn’t have been the same feeling,” said Bates.

“Everyone got in and some guys got their first goals. We were able to pull away. We got loose and gained some confidence. It was a good bus ride home.”

The 20th-ranked Tigers are hoping to end the spring on a good ride, starting with an April 17 game against visiting Harvard (6-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) which is being broadcast nationally on ESPNU. Princeton is currently tied with No. 9 Cornell (9-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) atop the Ivy standings and faces the Big Red on April 25 in a game that could decide who is going to host the 4-team Ivy men’s lacrosse tournament in early May.

“It is important to feel good about yourself at this time of the year,” said Bates.

“If we win on Friday, we will be in a position to host the Ivy tournament. The guys are dreaming a little bigger. Harvard is an easy game to get everyone motivated for; we are setting sights on going 4-1.”

Bates knows it is not going to be easy to get past a skilled Crimson team that edged Cornell 10-9 earlier this month.

“They are loaded with talent,” said Bates of Harvard which boasts plenty of firepower in Devin Dwyer (19 goals, 27 assists), Ian Ardrey (22 goals, 7 assists), Deke Burns (25 goals, 2 assists), and Joe Lang (20 goals, 7 assists).

“They have had a roller-coaster season, they have had injuries on defense. Any team that can beat Cornell, can play. They have a deep and talented offense and getting steady play in goal.”

The Tigers will need to play a steady game in all phases to beat Harvard. “We need to make stops and make saves,” said Bates. “We need to be efficient on the offensive end; when we are efficient we are tough to stop. We got some confidence on defense on Saturday.”

Lori Dauphiny knew that her Princeton University women’s open crew faced a challenging season well before the start of preseason.

Losing some key seniors, including five stars from her 2014 varsity 8, veteran Princeton head coach Dauphiny knew that she had to work some new faces into her lineup.

But when a deep freeze hit the area, her task was made even more difficult.

“Last year was bad but this winter was worse,” said Dauphiny, who is in her 19th season as the head coach of Princeton’s open crew program.

“There was more ice on the lake; we took a trip to Rutgers for two days in March. They were kind enough to open their boathouse to us so that helped.”

The winter didn’t help Dauphiny’s effort to develop the newcomers to her program.

“One of the hardest challenges is that the freshman class is more of a project in terms of technique and efficiency in the water so not being on the lake hurt us,” said Dauphiny. “They have potential and are doing a good job.”

The team’s more experienced rowers have stepped up and are realizing their potential.

“The upperclassmen have been doing a good job, some of the kids in the 2V last year are now in the 1V,” said Dauphiny. “Everybody is working hard. This year’s senior class is driven and positive.”

Senior co-captain Faith Richardson has provided a lot of drive for the program.

“Faith is very hard working,” said Dauphiny, whose other senior co-captain is Nicki Byl. “She has a work ethic that very few have and is an example of what it takes.”

The Tiger varsity 8 took a defeat in its opener on March 28 as it fell to Brown by 7.9 seconds, coming in at 7:22.3 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie with Brown clocking a winning time of 7:14.4.

“Brown is great, they are really solid, really fast,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat did defeat Michigan by 6.6 seconds in the season opener.

“They will be a national title contender, no doubt. I tried to approach that with perspective. We lost by almost eight seconds but it is one of the best boats in the country. We have a ways to go. With Michigan, it was impressive to run with them and get a win. They were struggling with some of the same preseason issues that we had.”

A week later, Princeton posted a solid win over Columbia, posting a time of 7:12.4 to beat the Lions by 13.5 seconds.

“Columbia was a step forward, it was a good race for us,” said Dauphiny. “It was very challenging conditions and the kids handled that better.”

Last weekend, the eighth-ranked Tigers handled themselves well in a regatta against No. 4 Virginia, Harvard-Radcliffe, and Cornell. The varsity 8 placed second to Virginia, earning the Class of 1975 Cup by virtue of beating Harvard and Cornell.

“That was another step forward, it was a very gusty day and we were closer to the leaders,” said Dauphiny, whose boat posted a time of 6:56.8 with Virginia coming in at 6:54.5. Harvard-Radcliffe was at 6:57.5 in third with Cornell clocking 7:06.4 in fourth.

“We did a good job of contesting them, especially in the first half of the race. Harvard is great, we knew they were going to be tough. They were down and pulled to nearly level. Our response was good, we were able to pull away. It was good to be in a race like that, the close races are important in seeing how a crew responds to pressure.”

The Tigers will be under pressure when they head up to No. 9 Yale this weekend in the race for the Eisenberg Cup.

“This is our first away race on another team’s body of water, leaving the safety of our boat house,” said Dauphiny. “It will be interesting to see how they handle it. Yale is very tough, the races will be tough across the board.”

Dauphiny is confident that her rowers will get tougher and tougher as the season goes on.

“We want to put together a whole race, we have only been putting together pieces,” said Dauphiny.

“Everybody is a work in progress at this point; we are still mixing and matching. We are still looking to see where people fit. It takes a while to figure it out, people develop at different rates.”

Looking to get back into the Gehrig Division, the Princeton University baseball team started its four-game set against Columbia last weekend with a bang.

Rallying from a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning in game one on Saturday, Princeton pulled out a 4-3 victory with the winning run coming on clutch single by senior Mat DeNunzio.

“It was a great win, we are at the point where we are going to celebrate every chance we have to get a win,” said Princeton head coach Scott Bradley.

“For Mat DeNunzio, who is one of the best kids that I think we have ever had in the program, to get a game winning hit at home, you couldn’t be more happy for somebody like that.”

There was not much for Princeton to celebrate the rest of the weekend, though, as they fell 10-4 in the nightcap on Saturday and then got swept 4-0 and 9-1 on Sunday to drop to 6-24 overall and 3-9 Ivy League.

In reflecting on Sunday’s losses, Bradley pointed out that injuries have hurt his squad.

“It has been a strange year, we have never had a year where we have been just so banged up,” lamented Bradley.

“Danny Hoy couldn’t play today. Danny Baer hasn’t played the last six games with injuries. We have just had so many people banged up. When you take your starting center fielder and your starting second baseman your two/three hole
hitter, it is tough. I think the other guys have put some pressure on themselves. In the Ivy League, it is hard with lineups. If you take key guys out of the lineup, it is not like we are Texas A & M or one of those powers where you are nine players deep in the lineup. You just have to try your best.”

Bradley acknowledged that the Tigers haven’t showed enough power at the plate.

“It has just been all year long with our guys,” said Bradley, whose squad managed a run and 12 hits in 16 innings of action on Sunday and now has a team batting average of .256.

“It is a couple of years in a row where our pitching has been good enough but we have really struggled generating any type of offense from top to bottom. We look really good in batting practice, guys that need to be able to take their practice swings out onto the field with them and we just haven’t been able to.”

With Princeton effectively eliminated from the Gehrig race as Penn and Columbia both stand at 10-2 in league play and still have four games against each other, Bradley is looking for his Class of 2015 to make the most of the last few weeks of their college careers.

“We have some seniors who have been around for a while, they have a couple of weeks left to wear a baseball uniform,” said Bradley, whose club plays at St. John’s on April 15 before heading to Philadelphia this weekend for doubleheaders at Penn on April 18 and 19.

“We are going to come out and we are going to run, we are going to have fun. We are going to celebrate every win that we get. We are going to go down to Penn and try to throw a monkey wrench into what’s going on.”

Bradley is hoping that some of his younger players will make an impression over the homestretch.

“And for the young guys, they are playing for future opportunities,” said Bradley.

“We are very thin this year, we have a small roster. We have what we think is a good and a larger recruiting class. Those  guys were told that there is going to be a lot more competition. We have got a lot of guys who know that they are going to play every day, they know that they are going to be out there on a regular basis. We  are bringing in a lot of bodies and some athletes, I think, so there is  going to be competition; hopefully that is going to raise everybody’s game.”

April 9, 2015
COLD WARRIORS: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 braves the cold and churns through the water in a race earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Princeton’s top boat defeated Navy to retain the Navy-Princeton Cup and move to 2-0 on the season. In upcoming action, the fourth-ranked Tigers welcome No. 10 Penn and No. 19 Columbia to Lake Carnegie this Saturday for the annual Childs Cup regatta, in the race for the oldest trophy in collegiate rowing.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew)

COLD WARRIORS: The Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 braves the cold and churns through the water in a race earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Princeton’s top boat defeated Navy to retain the Navy-Princeton Cup and move to 2-0 on the season. In upcoming action, the fourth-ranked Tigers welcome No. 10 Penn and No. 19 Columbia to Lake Carnegie this Saturday for the annual Childs Cup regatta, in the race for the oldest trophy in collegiate rowing. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew)

Greg Hughes knew he had something special on his hands with the Princeton University men’s heavyweight crew before it even hit the water this spring.

“The guys worked hard, we added volume to what we did last winter,” said Princeton head coach Hughes, a former star rower and head coach of the Princeton men’s lightweight team who is entering his sixth year guiding the Tiger heavyweight program.

“We also added some ore elements of racing stuff into the ERG training so we would be more used to that. The main point is that everyone approached it in the right way. As long as there is the right focus, the time spent on ERG is valuable. You can build fitness and performance in a way you can’t do when you are on the water.”

Hughes credits senior leadership with helping establish the right focus, starting with captain Jamie Hamp.

“It came from the whole senior class, they are all doing a good job,” said Hughes, whose roster includes seven from the Class of 2015.

“Jamie is a big part of that but it is across the board. You want to have one dynamic through the whole team. We want to win Rowe and Ten Eyck cups, the all points cups at Sprints and IRAs so the first, second, third, and fourth varsity boats are all important.”

There are a number of dynamic rowers across the board in the program this season. “We have a lot of guys back in the 1V and the 2V, out of 18 guys, I think 14 are back, it is a good core,” said Hughes, whose top boat took third in the Eastern Sprints and fifth at the IRAs last spring while the second varsity placed second at both competitions.

“We have had some great additions from the freshmen, they are doing an awesome job. Then we have some guys who didn’t quite make the 1V or 2V last year, who are doing well.”

Adding a new assistant coach, Matt Smith, has made a difference.

“Matt has been an awesome addition, he is an exceptional coach,” said Hughes of Smith, 2004 United States Olympian who served as associate head coach at Cornell from 2008-14 and also has several years of experience with the USRowing Under-23 team.

“He has a no-nonsense approach, that is seen in his record as a racer and then with the Army in Iraq. He has a long and steady history of success. Crew rewards hard work. It is great to have someone in the boathouse who has been somewhere other than Princeton. I have been here 22 years, there are different ways of getting it done.”

So far this season the Tigers have been getting it done with aplomb this spring as the varsity 8 posted an 18.8 second win over Georgetown on March 28 in the opening regatta of 2015, and then defeated Navy by 10.8 seconds last Saturday to retain the Navy-Princeton Cup, and move to 2-0.

“The weather has been a factor, both race days were exceptionally windy,” said Hughes, whose boat had a time of 6:15.4 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Carnegie against Georgetown and then shaved its time to 6:13.4 in the win over Navy.

“There were difficult conditions and difficult races. It comes down to being tough and aggressive and minimizing damage when something bad happens. The guys have done a good job with that. They have overcome some challenges and tests that have come our way. The races were close in the past couple of years; we went in and set the tone for our pieces immediately. In conditions like that, it can make a difference.”

While Hughes acknowledges that his boats have a long way to go, he believes things are headed in the right direction.

“The results won’t matter in six weeks but we are in the hunt and that’s good to see,” said Hughes, whose top boat is currently ranked fourth nationally.

“It has been a fun year to see how it is coming together. I told the guys to be ready to accept change and I have been doing that as well. I have to be ready to step up to the challenge.”

The Tigers are facing a challenge this week at the annual Childs Cup regatta as they welcome No. 10 Penn and No. 19 Columbia in the race for the oldest trophy in collegiate rowing, a competition that started in 1879.

“Both boats coming in are strong,” said Hughes. “For me it is more than the 24 rowers at the starting line, it is the oldest cup race in collegiate racing. There is a lot of history and tradition.”

With all but one of its regular season regattas this season being held on Lake Carnegie, Hughes is hoping that his rowers produce some strong efforts in front of their home fans.

“Last year we were road warriors and we met that challenge; we rowed Georgetown at home on the first weekend and then were on the road for a month,” said Hughes, noting that his team also faces a stiff road test in the Carnegie Cup regatta on April 25 against Cornell and Yale at Ithaca. N.Y.

“I am always happy to race on Lake Carnegie; it is special to race there. We don’t have that many regular season regattas, just six or so. It is great to be rowing in front of parents, friends and the community.”

Even though it won three straight games before heading to New England last weekend for doubleheaders at Dartmouth and Harvard, the Princeton University softball team realized that it needed more punch.

“We took the preparation for Dartmouth and Harvard very seriously, we knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren, whose team started Ivy League play with a doubleheader sweep of Brown on March 28 and then edged Rider 5-4 three days later.

“We saw things that we could have done better against Rider and Brown. A big thing is offensive production and transferring how we hit in practice to a game situation. We have to take the RBI situation as an opportunity rather than having fear.”

Against Dartmouth last Friday, lack of offensive production proved to be an issue as the Tigers fell 5-0 and 8-0 to the Big Green.

“Kristen Rumley and Morgan McCalmon are two of the best pitchers we are going to see in the league; they are tough and seasoned,” said Van Ackeren.

“They have been their No. 1 and 2 for the last three years. We competed well, we hope to see them again this season.”

A day later at Harvard, the Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning but never scored again as the Crimson got runs in the third and seventh to pull out a 2-1 victory. In the nightcap, Harvard scored three runs in the bottom of the first and went on to a 6-1 victory.

“We got one in the first and then we wiggled out of some jams, Shanna (Christian) did a good job on the mound and we had some nice defensive plays,” said Van Ackeren, reflecting on the opener.

“We threatened to score but we came up short and then they got that bottom of the seventh at home energy.”

With Princeton currently hitting at a .225 clip, Van Ackeren is looking for the team’s bats to come alive.

“We understand that we have to execute better in the box and not be tentative,” said Van Ackeren. “We need to work on attacking situations; we have the capability to do that. It is more of a mental thing, they have the ability to hit.”

Despite its tough weekend which left it at 10-17 overall and 2-4 Ivy League,  Princeton is very much in the mix in the Ivy’s South Division, trailing frontrunner Columbia (8-16 overall, 5-3 Ivy) by two games.

“The Ivy South is wide open,” said Van Ackeren. “The Ivy League is so interesting, a couple of wins can change things around.”

Princeton could make things very interesting in the Ivy South race as it hosts Columbia for doubleheaders on April 11 and 12.

“I think this weekend will be a great opportunity,” said Van Ackeren, whose team also has a game at Rutgers on April 8.

“It is a low scoring team against a low scoring team, pitching and defense will be the biggest factors. The team that is able to get the most offensive production will have an advantage. They are on a roll and we have faced some adversity that we have to overcome. It is our first game at home. We have a good campus following and are expecting a good crowd. A lot of people have been waiting to see us play.”

Coming off a tough 10-8 loss to Brown, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team seemed to be back on the winning track in the early stages of its game at Stony Brook last Saturday.

“We came out and the energy level was good early,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first quarter.

“We were ready to go, we won some face-offs early. We were dominating possession, that gave us some good looks. Kip (Orban) had two goals for us, he has been playing so well.”

But in the second quarter, Stony Brook generated a lot of good looks, outscoring Prince-ton 6-2, converting on six of its 11 shots in the period.

“We showed a little bit of inexperience on defense and they made us pay,” said Bates, reflecting on the second quarter.

“We knew going in that they are unselfish on the offensive end. They move the ball well and have a lot of assisted goals. They were able to get some high percentage opportunities.”

With Princeton down only 7-6 at half, there was no reason to push the panic button.

“Schematically, there was not a whole lot to adjust,” said Bates. “We were coming off a bad quarter. We won the first quarter, they won the second. It was go forward and take care of business.”

Starting the third quarter with a 2-1 run to tie the contest, Princeton failed to take care of business after that.

“When it got to 8-8, we had mental lapses on the next two goals,” said Bates. “They scored twice on off ball plays. We played too much defense and our inexperience showed. To give them credit, they took advantage of opportunities.”

Bates acknowledged that his team, now ranked 18th nationally, didn’t maximize its opportunities at the offensive end as it fell to 6-3 overall while No. 14 Stony Brook improved to 9-2.

“We didn’t execute well on offense; it was not a crisp day,” said Bates, who got five goals from senior star and captain Orban on the day with Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals. “We didn’t get into a rhythm or get in synch. They did what they needed to do to win.”

Although the defeat gave Princeton its first two-game losing streak of the season, Bates doesn’t expect his players to hang their heads.

“They got away from it for a day, I am confident they will come back with the same character, work ethic, and competitiveness,” said Bates.

The Tigers will be able to get right back into the fray as they are slated to play at Lehigh on April 7 and at Dartmouth on April 11.

“I think having a full week to think about it might not be good,” said Bates. “I think that just competing and playing will be good, hopefully it will get us on the right track. Hopefully our best lax is ahead of us.”

The Tigers do need to come up with some better lax defensively. “We are concerned, we don’t have a lot of depth there,” said Bates, whose team is currently without the services of star defenders Will Reynolds and Mark Strabo due to injury.

“We have to live and die with what we have. They need to grow as a unit, individually guys are playing hard. They just need to play better together as a unit.”

With Princeton in the thick of the Ivy League race, tied for second with Brown at 2-1 in league play and Cornell in first at 3-1, the Tigers are primed to play hard down the stretch.

“We need to end strongly, all the teams are in the same boat,” said Bates. “It is easy to get excited; it is all Ivy games from here on out.”

April 2, 2015
CLEAR THINKING: Princeton University men’s lacrosse goalie Eric Sanschagrin clears the ball last Sunday in Princeton’s 10-8 loss to visiting Brown. Senior Sanschagrin made 15 saves in the contest as Princeton dropped to to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The Tigers, now ranked 13th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when they play at No. 20 Stony  Brook (7-2) on April 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLEAR THINKING: Princeton University men’s lacrosse goalie Eric Sanschagrin clears the ball last Sunday in Princeton’s 10-8 loss to visiting Brown. Senior Sanschagrin made 15 saves in the contest as Princeton dropped to to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy League. The Tigers, now ranked 13th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when they play at No. 20 Stony Brook (7-2) on April 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the ESPNU announcers introduced the television broadcast of the clash between the No. 10 Princeton University men’s lacrosse team and No. 13 Brown last Sunday, the focus was on offense.

Utilizing an uptempo, run-and-gun style, visiting Brown came into the day averaging 16.88 goals a game, second best in the country. Princeton, for its part, was scoring 12.57 goals a game with a shooting percentage of .370, the fourth highest in the country.

The announcers, who included former Princeton great Ryan Boyle ’04, were hyping the game as a shootout, predicting that the teams would both end the day in the teens in goals at least.

Nine minutes into the contest, that script was playing out as Brown raced out to a 4-1 lead before a crowd of 1,746 at Class of 1952 Stadium

But at that point, Princeton senior goalie Eric Sanschagrin and the Tiger defense huddled and decided to deliver a plot twist.

“They do a great job in transition so they got some quick ones in the beginning of the first quarter and after that we just talked as a unit and said this is it, we are going to start shutting this down,” said Sanschagrin.

With Sanschagrin finding a rhythm, making a number of big saves, the Tigers closed the door on the Bears, holding them to one goal the rest of the half. At the other end of the field, Brown goalie Jack Kelly was standing on his head as well but Princeton did get two past him to narrow the gap to 5-3 at halftime.

Our team was putting me in good spots to make saves, there were a lot of times that they were rolling (Dylan) Molloy inside and keeping him to a single shot and I was able to pick up some of those,” said Sanschagrin, reflecting on his first half effort.

“I was talking at halftime to one of our faculty fellows, I said I don’t know if the TV guys are happy that it is a battle of goalies but I think it was good TV.”

The rest of the contest made good viewing for the national audience as Princeton tied the game at 5-5 before Brown scored five unanswered goals to take a 10-5 lead. The Tigers responded with three straight goals to make it a 10-8 game with 3:54 left in regulation. Neither team scored after that as the Tigers dropped to 6-2 overall and 2-1 Ivy while Brown improved to 8-1 overall, 2-0 Ivy.

While the loss stung, Sanschagrin had no qualms with Princeton’s defensive effort on the day.

“We knew we had a big challenge at us this week but I think coach (Chris Bates) prepared us well; we had a good game plan,” said Sanschagrin, who ended with 15 saves, one short of his career single-game high.

“Brian Pickup absolutely did a phenomenal job in his matchup on Dylan Molloy. I don’t know if he had a single goal in the whole game. I was really impressed with that and proud of the way he played. But in any game like this when you lose a close one there are plenty of plays where you want stuff back.”

For Sanschagrin, who had made 10 starts in the previous three seasons, getting the chance to be Princeton’s top goalie this spring has been special.

“This is living the dream, this is something I have always looked forward to and I kept battling,” said Sanschagrin, a 5’10, 185-pound native of Carlsbad, Calif.

“This year is finally the first year I got to start the season from the beginning and it has been a lot of fun. This group of guys has grown pretty close together and it is special to have an opportunity to play here where decades of Hall of Fame level goalies have performed. It is great to be a part of that, I try to do my best not to embarrass myself out there.”

Keeping his nose to the grindstone in the offseason, Sanschagrin is making the most out of his opportunity.

“I worked hard this summer to get in shape; I saw a lot of shots,” said Sanschagrin, who is giving up 10.82 goals a game with a save percentage of .518.

“I try to be a better leader out there and clear the ball with poise. As a goalie you just have to be confident, that is something that is developed over the years.”

Sanschagrin’s play this season has  earned the confidence of teammates and coaches.

“I didn’t play particularly well against Rutgers (a 12-11 win for Princeton) and they turn right back to me for the Yale game (an 11-10 win for Princeton),” said Sanschagrin.

“Things like that show that the team has confidence in you too. I can go out there and I can play my game and trust that if I don’t make a save on one I should, I am going to bounce back and make the next couple. It comes down to that mentality, you just have to say next shot and it is good when the team has confidence in you. Hopefully in games like this I can come up with a couple of saves and let us battle back in.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was proud of how his team battled through the ups and downs against Brown.

“We talked about it being a game of runs and the efficiency with their offense,” said Bates.

“We were mentally prepared for that. We knew whether we are going on a four-goal run or they are, we knew we would be able to take next steps. We talked  about playing with poise all week and I think we did. I thought we stayed under control. We didn’t get too high or too low, which kept us in really because there were times they could have pulled away and we didn’t let them.”

Like many, Bates was a little surprised that the contest became a battle of goalies.

“Kelly was lights out for them, he was clearly a difference maker,” said Bates. “We got frustrated; we had 30 shots at halftime and three goals. If you want a story line, there it is. At the end of the day you have to put the ball in the back of the net. I thought our shot selection was OK. We generated a high volume of shots but they were not going in, that is the name of the game. Eric had a very solid day. Early on, we had a question or two but then he settled right in. He played with confidence, he gave us the game we needed to win it. Defensively we did a good job.”

The Tigers didn’t get the job done offensively, hitting a 20-minute lull after tying the game at 5-5 early in the third quarter.

“Face-offs were part of it, we didn’t have the ball and they were able to create some transition,” said Bates.

“We had some early offense opportunities but when they make saves on those and the ball goes the other way, it is the nature of the game they want to play, that up and down.”

While Bates liked the way his team fought after it got down 10-5, he acknowledged it was too little, too late.

“We took a little while to get ourselves going; we shot the ball but I thought we didn’t play with great energy,” said Bates, who got three goals and an assist from senior star Mike MacDonald.

“At that time of the game when you are down five with five minutes to go, you have got no choice. We stepped up and put the foot on the gas pedal a little bit. We can score, this is a team that can get on its runs.”

Sanschagrin, for his part, believes that Princeton is still in a position to make a good run this spring.

“We know we are going to see that team again; we are thinking down the line at the Ivy tournament,” said Sanschagrin.

“The lesson to take is that we have to be able to respond and keep battling in close games. There were plenty of plays that we executed well. We have just got to finish the play. You can’t have plays where you execute half and don’t finish. There were a lot of times where their goalie made big saves off what would have been big momentum type plays for us. It is not good when that happens but we try to battle through those.”