April 29, 2015
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.”

DANNY BOY: Princeton University baseball player Danny Hoy turns a double play against Brown last Sunday. Junior standout Hoy had a big weekend at the plate, going 6-for-13 with two runs, four RBIs, a double and a homer but it wasn’t enough as Princeton split the twinbill with Brown before getting swept by Yale in a doubleheader the next day. The Tigers, now 4-17 overall and 1-3 Ivy League, head north next weekend for doubleheaders at Harvard on April 4 and at Dartmouth on April 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DANNY BOY: Princeton University baseball player Danny Hoy turns a double play against Brown last Sunday. Junior standout Hoy had a big weekend at the plate, going 6-for-13 with two runs, four RBIs, a double and a homer but it wasn’t enough as Princeton split the twinbill with Brown before getting swept by Yale in a doubleheader the next day. The Tigers, now 4-17 overall and 1-3 Ivy League, head north next weekend for doubleheaders at Harvard on April 4 and at Dartmouth on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton University baseball team fell 4-3 to Brown early Sunday afternoon in its Ivy League opening doubleheader, the Tigers were determined to make amends in the nightcap.

“If you want to have a chance to win the league, you can’t just let it go,” said Princeton junior infielder/outfielder Danny Hoy. “You have got to go out there and get the next win for sure.”

The Tigers got off to a hot start in game two, scoring five runs in the first two innings to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

“We came out hot and that is always huge,” said Hoy, a 5’8, 175-pound native of Sellersville, Pa. “We had two good guys on the mound today, Nick Brady starting and Nick Donatiello coming out of the pen, so leads usually don’t go away with those two.”

Hoy had a key hit in a three-run second inning rally, stroking a two-run double down the left field line.

“He was throwing me a bunch of curveballs and mixing the fastball in here or there but the curve ball was the only one he was getting over the plate,” said Hoy, reflecting on his at-bat against Brown righty Reid Anderson. “That was what I was looking for, I got it, and put a good swing on it.”

The Tigers went on to an 8-2 victory, making key double plays in the sixth and seventh to back up the sharp mound work of starter Brady and reliever Donatiello.

“Our pitchers being able to get the ground balls and fielders just being able to execute is huge,” said Hoy.

“Being up by two or three runs is comfortable but one or two is not so comfortable. Being able to hang on to that three or four run lead was big for our mentality.”

Princeton wasn’t able to pull out any wins a day later as it got swept by visiting Yale, falling 2-1 and 8-3 to move to 4-17 overall and 1-3 Ivy. Hoy, though, enjoyed a big weekend at the plate, going 6-for-13 with two runs, four RBIs, a double, and a homer.

“There is the hype of the Ivy League as a freshman or sophomore, it is go time,” said Hoy, who is now hitting .325 and leads Princeton in doubles (8), homers (4), and RBIs (19). “Now you get the feel of the game and the pace of the game and it kind of slows down for you a little bit. The experience always helps.”

Hoy is enjoying his Princeton experience, having followed in the footsteps of older sister, Jen, a Tiger women’s soccer star from 2009-12.

“Her coming here definitely had a huge impact on me coming here,” said Hoy.

“I worked hard in school so I knew I wanted to go somewhere with a good academic record so I was looking at Wake Forest and schools like that. With this being close to home and Jen being here, you really couldn’t go wrong coming here. She loved it; she had nothing but amazing things to say about here. Playing for coach (Scott) Bradley is great, he is second to none. He is extremely knowledgeable, one of the best coaches around. School is tough obviously but athletically it is has been everything I expected and more.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the spring, Hoy is expecting the Tigers to show more toughness.

“We have a lot of talent on this team, way too much talent to lose, we know that,” said Hoy. “We are playing with a chip on our shoulders.”

DOING BETTER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty eludes a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Doherty scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 12-10 to Delaware. After scoring two goals in Princeton’s first seven games, Doherty has tallied seven in the next two outings, scoring four in a 19-7 win over California last Wednesday before the Delaware contest. Princeton, now 7-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, plays at Yale (6-5 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOING BETTER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty eludes a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Doherty scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton lost 12-10 to Delaware. After scoring two goals in Princeton’s first seven games, Doherty has tallied seven in the next two outings, scoring four in a 19-7 win over California last Wednesday before the Delaware contest. Princeton, now 7-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, plays at Yale (6-5 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Through the first seven games of the season, Anna Doherty had scored just two goals for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

Then last Wednesday, the sophomore midfielder from nearby Bernardsville fired in four goals to spark a 19-7 win over California.

For Doherty, the scoring outburst was much needed. “I think Wednesday was important for me to get a little more confidence on attack,” said Doherty, who tallied 24 goals in her freshman campaign.

“I think I have been focusing a little bit too much on defense this season. I didn’t really have much confidence on attack so I think that was a big game for me.”

Last Saturday against visiting Delaware, Doherty produced another big game as she scored three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 12-10 to the Blue Hens.

While Doherty was pleased to build on her performance against Cal, it was of little consolation.

“I was happy to get three but in the end it’s about the team and the outcome,” said Doherty. “I just wish we could have put it all together today.”

When Doherty put Princeton ahead 10-9 with her third tally of the day midway through the second half to cap a 3-1 run, it looked like the Tigers might be seizing momentum.

“It was a close pass, she tried to pick it off and didn’t get it and I saw my opportunity,” said Doherty, recalling the tally.

The Tigers, though, never scored again as they dropped to 7-2 overall. “You have to give it to them, they made hard plays and we weren’t at our best,” acknowledged Doherty.

“We just didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we had and we had a lot of unforced errors and Delaware capitalized on those. We weren’t there mentally today, I think.”

Princeton’s task was made harder in the absence of senior star Erin McMunn, who is currently sidelined with a leg injury.

“It definitely hurts not having McMunn, she is just such a presence on attack, even just her talking,” said Doherty.

“She really leads our attack but we have a lot of other personnel and I think we can definitely make it work.”

In Doherty’s view, the Tigers need to focus on working harder in training.

“I think the focus is executing in practice and really putting that into the games because we know we have the skill,” said Doherty. “We just have to put our best effort out there every time we step onto the field and we didn’t do that today.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer acknowledged that it wasn’t her team’s best game.

“I think that was great for us getting up 10-9 but then on our last six possessions we weren’t able to come away with goals,” said Sailer.

“That is a problem. We had turnovers, we had shots that the goalie saved. Meanwhile they had three at the other end; it is hard to pull out a close game that way. Lack of execution was our biggest issue, just individual execution today. It was all over the field.”

Sailer pointed to the draw as an issue for the Tigers. “I think they won by one on draw control (12-11) but we didn’t compete hard enough on the draws, that was also an issue,” said Sailer. “There were stretches where we just didn’t have possession. We really needed it.”

While Princeton was on target with its shooting, it wasn’t aggressive enough in generating opportunities.

We only had 18 shots so 10 goals off of 18 is good but we need more shots than that; we need more possessions than that,” said Sailer. “You have to credit Delaware on that. I thought they came in, they played with a ton of energy, they really went after it.”

Sailer credited Doherty with giving the Tigers a spark. “I think Doe has had a great week, she has really been playing hard, going to the cage hard,” said Sailer.

“She had another three goals today. She had two in seven games and now she has had seven in two games. Getting her on fire is helping us, she had a really good game.”

Looking ahead to the Ivy League stretch drive, Sailer said her players need to play hard at all times. “I think the lesson that you learn is that you have to show up every day, you can’t take anything for granted,” said Sailer, whose team, now ranked 16th nationally and currently 2-0 in league action, plays at Yale (6-5 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 4.

“I think you have to come out fired up. We know right now that, except for Maryland, we are in the Ivies from here on out. We have got to play our best. We have to execute better and make better decisions on the field.”

In Doherty’s view, the memory of the Delaware defeat should spur that kind of intensity.

“We are going to remember this game and let it drive us through the rest of the season because this is an awful feeling,” said Doherty. “We don’t want it to happen again.”

March 25, 2015
HOLDING COURT: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart stares out at the court during a game this season. Under Banghart’s leadership, Princeton captured national attention as it brought a 30-0 record into the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament last weekend. Writing the final chapters to an historic saga, eighth-seeded Princeton edged No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-70 last Saturday in a first round contest before falling 85-70 to top-seed and host Maryland on Monday. The win over Green Bay marked the first NCAA tournament victory in program history.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOLDING COURT: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart stares out at the court during a game this season. Under Banghart’s leadership, Princeton captured national attention as it brought a 30-0 record into the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament last weekend. Writing the final chapters to an historic saga, eighth-seeded Princeton edged No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-70 last Saturday in a first round contest before falling 85-70 to top-seed and host Maryland on Monday. The win over Green Bay marked the first NCAA tournament victory in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

If there was any doubt that the Princeton University women’s basketball team had captured the imagination of those far and near with its 30-0 regular season, the scene at the XFINITY Center in College Park, Md. last Saturday gave conclusive proof of the team’s impact.

As eighth-seeded Princeton faced No. 9 Wisconsin-Green Bay in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the eyes of the nation were on the 30-0 Tigers. The game was televised on ESPN2 and President Obama, whose niece, Leslie Robinson, is a freshman player on Princeton, was on hand in the sixth row behind the Tiger bench. A raucous horde of orange clad Princeton fans in attendance made the gym feel like Jadwin south.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart acknowledged that the scene made her a bit nervous.

“I think people are really rooting for us; that added some pressure for me,” said Banghart, whose team produced the best regular season record in Ivy League hoops history, men’s or women’s.

“I know this is a really good story and I didn’t want it to end. In the NCAA tournament, a tough couple of possessions can end it. I think this has become America’s team and it is a great team to root for because they are made of the right people.”

In the first half, the 13th-ranked Tigers had some shaky possessions, making 12 turnovers and giving up some layups as Green Bay took a 35-34 lead at halftime.

“I don’t think that we played so well in the first half but instead of those guys getting in a shell and saying we were missing a great opportunity, they just got better and that was what they have done all year,” said Banghart.

Playing sharper at both ends of the court, the Tigers pulled away to an 80-70 win over the Phoenix, earning the first NCAA tourney win in program history and just the second ever for an Ivy women’s team.

The Princeton supporters on hand, including a beaming President Obama, were in an uproar as the Tigers closed in on the historic win.

“To think of how many people were there supporting us, all the way from our Princeton administration to our alums who so badly wanted to win in their years, it was a home game for us,” said Banghart, who got 20 points from junior Michelle Miller in the win with junior Annie Tarakchian contributing 19 points and 17 rebounds and classmate Alex Wheatley adding 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“Today Princeton was here in full effect and that was really special, that is a really great college basketball environment for women’s basketball. To draw that many home-based fans is special. I am a proud coach and I am really happy for these kids. At Princeton, you are part of something and we felt like we were part of something really special today.”

Princeton senior guard Blake Dietrick and her teammates were determined to make the Tiger fans happy with a big second half.

“I think we came out with an attitude of OK we have got our feet wet, we know we are in this game, we know we can win this game,” said Dietrick, recalling the team’s mindset at halftime.

“We know we can play a lot better than we did in that first half. We were smiling, we were happy, we were good. We were ready to play the game we love. I just think that change really helped us.

Miller, for her part, fed off the support from the stands. “We had great energy from our fans,” said Miller.

“It just got me more excited to play this game. I think anytime you have the president in your fan base, you automatically win that contest.”

For Banghart, who had been winless in eight previous appearances in the NCAA, four times as a player and assistant coach at Dartmouth before four trips as head coach of the Tigers from 2010-13, the triumph was an exciting breakthrough.

“This means a lot because it is something that we will remember forever,” said Banghart.

“Those kids in the locker room will always have a win in a tournament game. I have been a fan of the NCAA tournament forever and I will always be. To have an opportunity to be someone who is able to bring our team to the second round of the NCAA tournament is a highlight. I am enormously proud of Princeton; it is a place that deserves this moment and I am just the one who is in charge of speaking on behalf of them.”

On Monday in the second round contest against top-seeded and host Maryland, the Tigers had their moments. Battling the Terps tooth-and-nail in a riveting first half, the Tigers led 30-26 with five minutes left and trailed just 42-38 at intermission.

But with Maryland heating up from the perimeter, the Terps opened the half with a 20-4 run to seize control of the contest. Hitting 7-of-8 shots from three-point range over the last 20 minutes, the Terps pulled away to an 85-70 win. Dietrick led Princeton with 26 points with sophomore Vanessa Smith scoring 15 in 28 minutes off the bench.

“What a great college basketball game as we expected it to be,” said Banghart in a video of her postgame press conference included on the Princeton athletics website.

“I give a lot of credit to Maryland. We forced them to shoot really well to beat us and that was our goal going in, we were going to make them make shots from the perimeter, 15 feet and out. Man they shot the ball really well. Anyone who watched the game will see that it was two really, really good teams and it is not about anything besides that. Two good teams battling and unfortunately we were not the team that won the game.”

While junior star Wheatley was disappointed by the outcome, the loss didn’t dim what the Tigers had accomplished this winter.

“I don’t think I can summarize it yet, it is still sinking in,” said Wheatley, who had 10 points and three rebounds in the defeat to Maryland. “I am so proud of my teammates. This season has been absolutely phenomenal; 31-1 is something to be really proud of and something I won’t soon forget.”

Banghart, for her part, provided a fitting summary of what the Tigers achieved in their season for the ages.

“What this team did is they made history,” said Banghart. “All you want to do in your life is to leave a legacy and do something of impact. There is not anyone attached to this team that doesn’t think they did both of those things. They left a legacy that will be remembered forever and they made an impact that has touched so many. You hope that sometime in your life’s work you do both of those things. This particular team did them both in the same year. I don’t think anybody will forget this team, including me. It was really fun.”

MILLER’S TIME: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller fights around a defender in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Miller contributed a team-high 20 points to help eighth-seeded Princeton defeat ninth-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-70 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at College Park, Md. and improve to 31-0. It marked the first-ever win in the NCAA tourney for No. 13 Princeton, which saw its dream season come to an end with an 85-70 loss to top-seeded Maryland last Monday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MILLER’S TIME: Princeton University women’s basketball player Michelle Miller fights around a defender in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Miller contributed a team-high 20 points to help eighth-seeded Princeton defeat ninth-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay 80-70 in the first round of the NCAA tournament at College Park, Md. and improve to 31-0. It marked the first-ever win in the NCAA tourney for No. 13 Princeton, which saw its dream season come to an end with an 85-70 loss to top-seeded Maryland last Monday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University women’s basketball team prepared for its NCAA first round contest against Wisconsin-Green Bay last Saturday, Michelle Miller wasn’t up to par.

“I had a fever on and off this week,” said Princeton junior guard Miller, a 5’10 native of Pasadena, Calif. “Yesterday I felt better so I practiced.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was concerned that she might not have Miller for the clash between the eighth-seeded Tigers and the ninth-seeded Phoenix at College Park, Md.

“Michelle was a scratch until about 12 hours ago; we have our team doctor here with us and our trainer and I am never happy when both of them are working more than I am,” said Banghart of Miller, a Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence winner who aspires to be a doctor.

“She was going through some weird viruses and flus and things. We are a little beat up in that respect.”

Once on the court Saturday at the XFINITY Center, Miller was ready to get to work. “I wasn’t feeling sick or anything like that,” said Miller. “I got tired a little faster than usual.”

Miller’s shooting made Green Bay feel ill in the first half as she hit on 6-of-10 shots in the first half, including 3-of-3 from three-point range, to score 15 points and keep Princeton alive in a contest which saw the Tigers trailing 35-34 at halftime.

“I was just trying to come out aggressive,” said Miller, reflecting on her first half performance.

“If I have an open look for a three I am going to take it. The threes were going in today.”

The shots started going in more frequently for Princeton in the final 20 minutes of the game as the Tigers pulled away to an 80-70 victory to earn the first NCAA tourney win in program history, improving to 31-0 in the process.

In the second half, Miller turned her focus to defense, getting switched to cover Green Bay’s Mehryn Kraker, who had burned Princeton for 12 points in the first 20 minutes of the contest.

“She scored a lot for them in the the first half so I was just trying to limit her a little bit,” said Miller of Kraker, who cooled off a bit in the second half and ended up with 21 points.

“She still got a couple of more 3s. I was mad, I hit the ball with my hand on one pass and it still went right to her. I just tried to limit her shot, I know that she is one of the key shooters.”

In reflecting on the keys to the Princeton win, Miller cited more intensity at both ends of the court.

“We just had breakdowns in the first half on a couple of easy ones on some fast breaks and some backdoors, things we don’t normally give up,” said Miller, who scored a team-high 20 points on the afternoon.

“I think just locking that down and then offensively I think getting the ball inside. Wheatie (Alex Wheatley) stepped up a lot in the second half, (Annie Tarakchian) shot well and played well in the second half too. Different people stepped up for us in different parts of the game. Blake (Dietrick) hitting her free throws down the stretch. It reflects that we do have the kind of people who can step up for us.”

Winning a game in the NCAA tournament is something Miller will never forget.

“It is really incredible, this has been our goal for a long time,” said a grinning Miller, an honorable mention All-Ivy League player this season who averaged 11.9 points a game.

“Going back to my freshman year, when coach has you fill out your preseason goal sheet, it is what are your team goals, it is win a tournament game. Now I am a junior and we have finally checked that one off the list.”

Coach Banghart, for her part, knew she could count on Miller for an incredible effort once she took the court on Saturday.

“She battled through it as I knew she would; it is a great opportunity,” said Banghart. “When your best shooter is willing to defend with toughness you become a good team. We asked Michelle to get better on the defensive end and she has done that.”

The win on Saturday fulfilled Banghart’s vision for Miller and her classmates when they joined the program.

“She talked about our senior class when we were freshmen as being key in terms of getting us to the tournament,” recalled Miller, who had two points and eight rebounds last Monday as Princeton’s historic run came to an end with an 85-70 loss to top-seeded and host Maryland.

“She wanted our class to be the key in terms of taking the next step and actually having some success in the tournament and we got one today.”

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Currier contributed two assists and three ground balls to help Princeton edge Yale 11-10. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 6-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, host No. 13 Brown (6-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ZACH ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Zach Currier looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Currier contributed two assists and three ground balls to help Princeton edge Yale 11-10. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 6-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, host No. 13 Brown (6-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Princeton University men’s lacrosse head coach Chris Bates reviewed the tape of his team’s game against Yale last Saturday, he saw plenty of room for improvement.

“When we looked at the film, we saw that we didn’t execute well anywhere on the field,” said Bates.

“There are lessons there. We struggled facing off, they have always been good there. We got out ground-balled and there was some suspect offense.”

But while Bates didn’t like the video, he was pleased with what he saw on the field as Princeton pulled out an 11-10 win over the Bulldogs.

“To come away with a win against Yale, we are thrilled,” said Bates, whose team improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League with the triumph. “That is a talented team that beat a very good Maryland team earlier.”

In Bates’ view, his team’s come-from-behind 12-11 at Rutgers on March 17 helped set the tone for the effort against Yale.

“We knew they were going in to be a handful and they were,” said Bates, referring to Rutgers, which led Princeton 8-5 at halftime of the annual local showdown.

“We demonstrated some poise. At halftime, we don’t want to bark but we reminded them of some fundamental things. We played a workmanlike second half, Mike (MacDonald) got hot and that was important. We remained even-keeled. There is a quiet confidence about this team; they continue to play hard in crucial moments and execute.”

Predictably, there were some crucial moments in the Yale game as it marked the sixth straight regular season one-goal decision in the series.  Although Princeton outscored Yale 5-1 in the second quarter to take a 7-4 lead at halftime, Bates had a feeling things would tighten up.

“We were able to pull away a little in the second but we let them back in the game,” said Bates.

“They keep possession with face-offs and they were able to get that run. We are still young defensively. Yale makes you pay but our group kept after it. Eric (Sanschagrin)  made a couple of saves.”

The Princeton group is showing an encouraging propensity for coming through in tight contests.

“Getting two one-goal wins in a week helps you grow up,” said Bates, whose team went 2-7 in one goal games the last two years. “We are learning how to win close games and that only comes with experience.”

Senior midfielder and sole team captain Kip Orban is growing into a force, scoring four goals in the win over Yale.

“Kip played well; he is playing like a captain and, frankly, like an All-American,” asserted Bates. “He is playing like a man, using his size and strength. They put a shortstick on him and a pole on Zach (Currier); we were surprised by that.”

The team’s corps of defensive midfielders gave Princeton another strong performance.

“Austin deButts, Bobby Weaver and Austin Sims have the thankless job in the defensive midfield,” said Bates.

“They were solid. They kept the ball going up the side of the field. You don’t notice them but that is a sign that they had a good game, it is like offensive linemen in football.”

Bates certainly took notice of the heart and soul displayed by sophomore defender Bear Goldstein as he played through pain.

“Bear Goldstein had a possibility of not playing because of injury, his was a game-time decision,” said Bates.

“That kid’s toughness and leadership on that side of the field was big. If he doesn’t play, I am not sure we win that game. He knew it was a big Ivy game and that his team needed him out there.”

The 10th-ranked Tigers have a very big Ivy game this Sunday as they host No. 13 Brown (6-1 overall, 1-0 Ivy).

“They have a new offensive coordinator and they are playing at a high pace and generating a high volume of shots,” said Bates, referring to Brown. “It is going to come down to face-offs, making saves, and controlling tempo.”

March 18, 2015
PERFECT STORM: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team react last Monday evening after learning their assignment in the upcoming NCAA tournament during a Selection Show viewing party held at the Shea Rowing Center on campus. The 30-0 Tigers were sent to College Park, Md., where they are seeded eighth and slated to play ninth-seeded Wisconsin- Green Bay (28-4) on March 21 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PERFECT STORM: Members of the Princeton University women’s basketball team react last Monday evening after learning their assignment in the upcoming NCAA tournament during a Selection Show viewing party held at the Shea Rowing Center on campus. The 30-0 Tigers were sent to College Park, Md., where they are seeded eighth and slated to play ninth-seeded Wisconsin- Green Bay (28-4) on March 21 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In late November, the Princeton University women’s basketball team practiced at the University of Maryland’s XFINITY Center as it prepared for a game at American University.

Now after completing a 30-0 season with a 55-42 win at Penn last week, Princeton is headed back to College Park for the opening round of the NCAA tournament where the eighth-seeded Tigers are slated to play ninth-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay (28-4) on March 21.

The winner of the game will face the victor of the contest between top-seeded and host Maryland (30-2) and 16th-seeded New Mexico State (22-7) in the second round on March 23 for a Sweet 16 spot in the Spokane Regional.

While Princeton, which has risen to No. 13 nationally in the AP poll, had hoped for a higher seed and to host opening weekend NCAA games, it is now focused on beating the Phoenix.

“I think we were a little surprised but that is OK,” said Princeton senior guard and captain Blake Dietrick, speaking at the Selection Show viewing party held at the Shea Rowing Center on campus.

“It is true that we haven’t beaten a top 25 team so that is certainly something that works against us. I think we are just really excited to play Green Bay and hopefully give them a really good game and get our first tournament win. This season is not about the seed we got, it is about us. It is about getting this win for us, for our program, for our coaches, and for our our fans. I wouldn’t say that is a major concern, it is us winning a game for Princeton.”

In Dietrick’s view, the Tigers have proven their mettle by prevailing in a handful of close calls.

“The Penn game, the Hampton game, the American game, the first Yale game, those were all tests for us,” said Dietrick, the Ivy League Player of the Year who led the Tigers this year in scoring (14.9) and assists (5.0).

“They are tests of our team, tests that we can play in a competitive game. They show we don’t have to get out to a quick early lead to be comfortable to get shots. I think we are definitely ready.”

Junior forward Annie Tarakchian and her teammates are going into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder as they look for the program’s first NCAA win after losses in the four previous trips to the Big Dance.

“We definitely have something to prove, regardless of what our seed is,” said Tarakchian, a first-team All-Ivy performer who averaged 10.1 points and 9.2 rebounds a game this season.

“We haven’t had a tournament win yet and that is our goal. Now we know our opponent and our goal is the same, to get a win. I think we have to stay focused, work hard, and play hard. I think we all have to stay grounded and stick together. We are a five-on-five team. We can’t go one-on-one or how a lot of tournament teams play.”

While Princeton may not have faced the most rigorous non-conference slate, playing only one other tournament team, Pitt, Tarakchian believes the Tigers are sufficiently battle-tested.

“We have faced so many different opponents; I think we are ready to adjust to whatever they throw at us,” said Tarakchian.

“We practice against a variety of styles so the coaches do a good job of getting us ready for whatever is at hand.”

Tarakchian will be sporting a different look in the tourney, having bleached her hair blonde, making good on an early season promise to Dietrick.

“Back when we were 2-0, we were just talking and Blake said if we go undefeated, Annie will you bleach your hair and I said no doubt,” recalled Tarakchian.

“Lo and behold we are 30-0 and I have bleached hair. It is awesome. I am a woman of my word. I was thinking as this was happening, this could be way, way worse. This could actually help me. We are going to have a lot of fun dancing in the tournament.”

For Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, it is always fun to be involved in the tournament.

“First of all any time you can get to the NCAA tournament, and it is not a cliche, it is amazing,” said Banghart, a former star player and assistant coach at Dartmouth who made four trips to the NCAA in her Big Green years and has now guided the Tigers to five appearances in March Madness.

“Seeing all of those teams pop up, name after name, they are good, they are good, so on. I have always said this, any time I can see my name on that board, I am happy because it is so hard to do.”

Banghart knows that Princeton is facing a very good team in Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“Green Bay is a good team,” said Banghart.  “They have won 28 games, they have a really balanced offensive attack, they are tough defensively, they have been to the tournament multiple years. They share the ball well, I think everybody on their team has made at least five 3s on the year. They play about 10 kids, who average double figure minutes. I like the matchup because there is not an athletic advantage right away. Often on the bigger stage, there is more size to deal with. We will have the athletic and size advantage so that is a first for us. In that sense it is how well we play, not how well do they play.”

While Princeton had hoped to stage games on the opening weekend of the tournament, Banghart isn’t going to dwell on the disappointment over what many believe to be an unfairly low seeding in light of its 30-0 campaign and national ranking.

“There are a lot of coaches who are going to think that we are not seeded properly,” said Banghart.

“The only people having control over that is the bracketology people. We have control of how well we play. We have to play well to win; that is all we are going to worry about. Rutgers and Seton Hall might not have been in the 8-9 game if they would play us. The thing that has been really hard is that you can only play the teams that are going to play you. We played Pitt, they are in the tournament. We played Michigan, they had a bad year. We can only play the teams that will play us.”

Former Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters weighed in afterward, expressing his dismay at the seeding determination in no uncertain terms.

“It is incomprehensible to me as a former player, coach, member of the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee, and a chairman of that committee,” said Walters.

“I have no understanding of how they can possibly place Princeton as an eighth seed when it is seventh in the Sagarin rating, 11th in the RPI, and 13th in the coaches poll.”

In Banghart’s view, the Tigers can now take matters into their own hands.

“I think these guys are coming in with a sense of accomplishment and a chance to show the rest of the world that we get to play you now because someone else took care of the scheduling for us,” said Banghart.

Having beaten VCU in the opening round of last year’s WNIT, Princeton has shown that it can win in the postseason.

“Without a doubt it helps because it is a team we had never seen, it is a team where you trust your coaching staff and the scouting report,” said Banghart. “It is a one and done mentality, we don’t have that in our league. I think it is unbelievably helpful.”

Dietrick, for her part, doesn’t want to see her final campaign end any time soon.

“It is awesome, it has been great,” said Dietrick. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of girls. I love everybody on this team and I am just hoping that we can keep it going.”

Tarakchian believes Princeton has what it takes to make an NCAA breakthrough.

“We just have to break that first round thing,” said Tarakchian. “I think this is the year, this team is truly special. I think from top to bottom, we have proved it this year.”

Coming into his freshman year at Princeton University in 2012, Abram Ayala had enjoyed a swift rise in the wrestling world.

First competing in the sport as a sophomore at Archbishop McCarthy High in Fort Lauderdale, Ayala was an all-state performer by his junior year. He then came to New Jersey, transferring to wrestling powerhouse Blair Academy. He ended up eighth in the 2011 National Prep Championships at 135 points and fifth at the 2012 NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) Nationals at 149 pounds.

But Ayala hit a roadblock in his freshman campaign with the Tigers. Weakened from cutting too much weight and hampered by a knee injury, he got into the doghouse with the Princeton coaches.

“The coaches decided that it would be best for me to take some time off and get things in order, academically and otherwise,” said Ayala. “It was a reset.”

The hiatus from the team turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Ayala. “It was perfect for me,” asserted Ayala. “I took some time off, I healed my knee. I rediscovered my passion for wrestling. I started training hard and being more disciplined.”

A refocused Ayala emerged as a force in his sophomore season, moving up to 197 pounds and going 27-12, taking fifth in the EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) Championships and earning a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Building on that success, he has posted a 32-5 record this season and is heading back to the NCAA meet this weekend in St. Louis, Mo., where he is seeded seventh at 197.

While Ayala’s rise to prominence is unlikely, he is not surprised by his success.

“Every year I have improved, I have always been a bit behind,” said Ayala. “I was not fully formed as a high school wrestler. Now in college I have seen how some guys don’t get better from high school. Every year, I expect to get better.”

Ayala’s initially got into wrestling in high school to stay out of trouble more than anything. “I didn’t have much to do, I was just hanging out with my friends and being a nuisance,” recalled Ayala. “The faculty thought wrestling would be good for me. I liked it immediately.”

After going undefeated on the JV level as a sophomore, Ayala took sixth in the states as a junior. With an eye on someday wrestling for Princeton, Ayala came to New Jersey to join Blair’s nationally-known program.

“It was huge, initially it was a shock because everyone was so good,” said Ayala, reflecting on the start of his Blair career. “In the northeast, people start wrestling earlier. Some kids came to Blair with more experience than I had as a junior. It was tough to get used to that at first.”

Showing his toughness early on, Ayala proved he could compete with his heralded teammates.

“I lost four of my first five matches in preseason, three were by pins and my one win was by one point,” said Ayala.

“I wasn’t used to losing, let alone getting pinned. The season began at a prestigious tournament, Germantown Invitational. My coach said I had been putting in the work and I could win it. I made it to finals and beat a kid who went on to win prep nationals. It was a great atmosphere with a packed house. It gave me confidence, it set me rolling.”

Ayala kept rolling, placing eighth in the 2011 National Prep Championships at 135 points and taking fifth at the 2012 NWCA Nationals at 149 pounds.

Achieving his goal of going to Princeton, where both his parents are alums, Ayala struggled with the demands of college wrestling.

“The first one was the weight issue, in high school because of competition, you could get away with cutting weight and intimidating others with your strength,” said Ayala.

“In college, all the wrestlers are tough and if you don’t have the energy to go hard for seven minutes, you aren’t going to do well. College academics and college wrestling are so mentally draining, if your lifestyle is not right, your aren’t going to do well. I lost too much weight. I started at 112, and wrestled at 135 and 149 at Blair. I was growing through high school. In the summer before freshman year, I was up to 199 at my heaviest and I cut down to 165.”

After winning the first three matches of his career, Ayala hit a wall, not cracking the Tiger lineup in a move up to 174 and then tearing the meniscus in his left knee and undergoing surgery. Looking to regain a spot on the team, Ayala made the most of the summer break.

“I came back that summer and stayed at school,” said Ayala. “I did SAT counseling for underprivileged kids and I helped run a science camp. I also worked with the coaches and trained. I became as strong as possible. I lifted a lot of weights. I was up to 205 pounds. I knew I couldn’t cut weight any more.”

Coming back that fall, Ayala made the lineup at 197 and started turning heads. He won 14 of his last 16 regular season matches and placed fifth in EIWA tournament. He won a consolation match at the NCAAs with both of his losses there coming to wrestlers seeded in the top 6.

“I pretty much maintained the speed and dexterity that I had as a smaller wrestler, the bigger guys are not used to that precision,” said Ayala, reflecting on his success as a sophomore. “I realized I could compete in that weight class. I got a feel for the weight class as the year went on.”

This season, Ayala picked up where he left off in his sophomore year, using the losses at the NCAAs as additional motivation.

“My conditioning is better, I am stronger and faster,” asserted Ayala, who earned first-team All-Ivy League honors this season. “I am just a better athlete, I expect to win.”

While Ayala was disappointed to take third at the EIWAs this year, he believes that experience will help him at the NCAA competition.

“I took the Easterns as a matter of course,” said Ayala, who fell to Penn’s Canaan Bethea in the semis. “I didn’t attack it the way I could have. It is really good what happened, it helped me realize what I need to do to be at the top of the podium at nationals.”

Ayala is confident that he can rise to the top of the podium this weekend in St. Louis.

“I know what is coming, I have positive visualization,” said Ayala. “I have the skills and physical talent to beat every single person in my bracket. It comes down to being right mentally and having the right attitude.”

Being joined by teammates, junior Chris Perez (149), sophomore Jordan Laster (141), sophomore Brett Harner (184), and freshman Jonathan Schleifer (165), at the NCAA competition is a big positive for Ayala.

“It keeps the spirits up and gives me other people to wrestle with,” said Ayala. “It will pay dividends next year, all those wrestlers are back and they have competed at that national level. It is a new level of excellence for Princeton wrestling. It just shows coach (Chris) Ayres is a genius at putting together a program.”

SHARPSHOOTER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder and team captain Orban enjoyed a huge game, scoring a career-high seven goals on seven shots as Princeton pulled away to a 17-11 win at Penn. The Tigers, now 4-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, are currently 13th nationally and were slated to play at Rutgers on March 17 before hosting No. 9 Yale (5-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARPSHOOTER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder and team captain Orban enjoyed a huge game, scoring a career-high seven goals on seven shots as Princeton pulled away to a 17-11 win at Penn. The Tigers, now 4-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, are currently 13th nationally and were slated to play at Rutgers on March 17 before hosting No. 9 Yale (5-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kip Orban had scored a goal in 29 straight games for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team until he was held scoreless two weeks ago in an 11-4 loss at Maryland.

As senior midfielder and team captain Orban hit the field last Saturday at Penn in Princeton’s first game since the Maryland defeat, he didn’t waste any time getting on the board.

Taking the first shot of the game, Orban rifled the ball into the back of the net 54 seconds into the contest to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“We got off well on the first possession,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “The captain bangs a shot from deep, that brings everyone to their feet.”

Orban kept bringing people to their feet all afternoon, scoring a career-high seven goals on seven shots and adding two assists as Princeton pulled away to a 17-11 win in the Ivy League opener for both teams. He was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Brown defenseman Larken Kemp.

“I am not sure I have ever seen a midfielder be that lethal,” asserted Bates, who also got five goals and three assists from junior Ryan Ambler with senior Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals and six assists.

“There was nothing inside 12 yards. He had a holster on and was just letting it go. It was also nice to see him have a couple of assists. He was the star of the game. Mike and Ryan were finding him and they were finding each other. The big three had an obscene amount of points.”

Princeton found the back of the net early and often, jumping out to a 7-2 lead by the first minute of the second quarter.

“They had a bunch of penalties and we got into a rhythm,” said Bates. “The kids were able to get their hands free and we got it to 7-2.”

The Quakers got going in the second period, narrowing the margin to 10-8 at halftime.

“We made some questionable shots; we had a couple of breakdowns,” said Bates.

“We were facing off well, not only with Sam (Bonafede) but the wings. It didn’t look like they were going to be able to go on long runs, we were getting the ball. If we were smart with the ball, we thought we would be OK.”

Things turned out OK in the second half for Princeton as it reeled off five straight goals over a 25-minute stretch to build a 15-9 lead on the way to the victory, which improved the Tigers to 4-1 overall.

“At half we said Penn is not going anywhere, they play with too much emotion and energy,” said Bates.

“It was back and forth a little bit but once we got it to five goals, we were able to execute. They had some long two-minute possessions and we were able to make a stop and get the offense the ball and they made better shots. I think we are growing up a little bit with that.”

The Tigers executed on the face-off X with freshman Bonafede going 17-for-28 and getting named as the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“Sam is such a gritty competitor, even when he makes his initial move or counter and doesn’t get the ball, he stays low to the ground and is scrappy on ground balls and gets the ball loose,” said Bates. “Sam Gravitte and Zach Currier are playing well on the wings; we have a nice trio there.”

It was a nice win for Princeton as the players were preoccupied by mid-terms while they were preparing for Penn.

“It was a grind, there is no let up so it was nice to get through midterms and get a ‘W,’ said Bates, whose team is now ranked 13th nationally and was slated to play at Rutgers on March 17 before hosting No. 9 Yale on March 21.

“The guys were zombies at practice but they regrouped for Saturday. I think there was a sense of purpose. They were coming off the high of Hopkins (a 16-15 overtime win) and then the low of Maryland. It was the first Ivy game and we have a healthy respect for Penn.”

With Princeton on spring break this week, Bates is hoping his players can recharge as they head into the thick of their Ivy schedule.

“The extra time will give us a little break and the chance to add a few wrinkles,” said Bates. “We can get some sleep and have some injuries heal up. Yale is the second Ivy game and it is a team that has had our number a little bit here in recent years. The guys will be excited for that, no doubt.”

HALE AND HEARTY: Princeton University softball player Haley ­Hineman races down the line in a game last spring. Sophomore infielder Hineman is batting .333 this spring, helping Princeton to a 3-7 start. In upcoming action, the Tigers play in the Liberty Tournament from March 19-21 at Lynchburg, Va.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HALE AND HEARTY: Princeton University softball player Haley ­Hineman races down the line in a game last spring. Sophomore infielder Hineman is batting .333 this spring, helping Princeton to a 3-7 start. In upcoming action, the Tigers play in the Liberty Tournament from March 19-21 at Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University softball started its season by losing four of five games at the Florida Atlantic tournament last month, the players displayed a spirit that could carry them to big things this spring.

“The girls came in and floored me with the culture and chemistry they have shown from the beginning,” said Princeton head coach Lisa (nee Sweeney) Van Ackeren.

“It started on the first weekend. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to develop but they were clearly excited to play and play for each other. We saw progress in each game; we analyzed what worked and what we needed to do differently and they did a good job with that.”

In its second weekend of play, Princeton did an even better job, going 2-2 at the University of Central Florida tournament with junior Skye Jerpbak and sophomore Haley Hineman triggering the offense as the Tigers posted a 9-1 win over Florida A&M and a 10-2 victory over Iowa while losing 3-2 to UCF and 5-4 to Long Island.

Jerpbak was named the Ivy League Player of the Week after hitting .636 on the tournament, going 7-for-11 with six RBIs, two doubles, a home run, and a walk. Hineman, for her part, went 5-for-8 with two runs and an RBI.

“Skye and Haley had outstanding weekends at UCF,” said Van Ackeren. “We did our offseason training on offense a little differently. We had a lot more live at-bats to get them into the right mindset at the plate. It was good to see it pay off. They had been cold the first weekend.”

Battle-tested seniors Rachel Rendina and Cara Worden had some good at-bats in the UCF with Rendina going 4- or-14 with 2 RBIs and Worden hitting 4-for-13 with four runs, three RBIs, and a homer.

“If runners are on base and it is a clutch situation, you want them up,” said Van Ackeren.

“Rendina is one of the grittiest and toughest hitters and Cara is the same way. You can just look in Cara’s eyes and see that she is going to come through.”

Freshman Kylee Pierce has come through in a table-setter role at the top of the Princeton lineup.

“Kylee has gone unnoticed in the two-hole,” said Van Ackeren, whose team fell 6-5 to Maryland last Monday to drop to 3-7 on the season.

“She is incredible in her ability to execute the situational game. She will hit that grounder to move up the runners. She might not have a hit in the box score but that is very important.”

As for pitching, freshman Ashley LaGuardia has been an important addition to the Tigers. LaGuardia shared Ivy Rookie of the Week and Pitcher of the Week honors for her work in the UCF tourney where she threw 13 2/3 innings, appearing in all four games while picking up a win over Florida A&M and posting a 2.05 ERA.

“Ashley is a tiny thing, 5’3 or 5’4, but she throws hard; she is a Jersey kid so she comes with that toughness,” said Van Ackeren of the Wayne, N.J native who has thrown 37 of the team’s 65 innings this spring.

“She was nervous about her first weekend as any freshman is but once she realized it is the same game, she settled down. We told her we needed her to pitch a lot of innings with some of the injuries we have had and she was happy to do it. She is the kind of pitcher who get better the more she throws.”

Van Ackeren is hoping the Tigers will get better and better as they wrap up a busy spring break week by competing in the Liberty Tournament from March 19-21 at Lynchburg, Va.

“We have so many games coming up over the break; I anticipate that all five pitchers will throw some innings,” said Van Ackeren, whose mound corps also includes junior Shanna Christian, senior Meredith Brown, sophomore Claire Klausner, and sophomore Erica Nori.

“They all bring something different to the table, which is great. I want the pitchers to be a little bit tougher on the mound; when it is bases loaded with two outs, to get that final out. We want good offensive production; I am looking for us to be batting even better.”

March 11, 2015
SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson looks for an opening last Saturday night as the Tigers hosted Columbia in their final regular season home game. Coming up big on his Senior Night, Wilson hit a key three-pointer down the stretch to help Princeton rally to an 85-83 win over the Lions. Princeton, which improved to 15-14 overall and 8-5 Ivy League with the victory, was slated to end regular season play with a game at Penn on March 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson looks for an opening last Saturday night as the Tigers hosted Columbia in their final regular season home game. Coming up big on his Senior Night, Wilson hit a key three-pointer down the stretch to help Princeton rally to an 85-83 win over the Lions. Princeton, which improved to 15-14 overall and 8-5 Ivy League with the victory, was slated to end regular season play with a game at Penn on March 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Clay Wilson has distinguished himself as a deadeye outside shooter over his four seasons with the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Coming into the regular season home finale against Columbia last Saturday evening, senior guard Wilson had hit 39 percent (39-of-100) of his three-pointers this winter.

So it was fitting that when Princeton needed a big basket as it fought back from a nine-point deficit with less than two minutes to go in regulation, Wilson delivered by draining a long three from the corner to narrow the gap to 83-82. The Tigers went on to close the deal, pulling out an 85-83 win over the Lions as a crowd of 2,363 at Jadwin Gym roared its approval.

“Ben (Hazel) actually had the ball in front and I was calling for it early,” said Wilson, recalling his big bucket.

“Nobody was really with me so I told him three seconds before he threw it to throw me the ball. I ran to the corner and the guy bit on the pump fake and I put the shot in. It is a big win for our team and I was happy that we could send all of our seniors out the right way.”

Hitting the Jadwin Gym court for the final time in game action, Wilson was pumped up.

“For me, it was very emotional, being senior night and all,” said Wilson, a 6’3, 170-pound native of Tulsa, Okla. “I have had a long four years. We didn’t accomplish our goal of winning the title in my four years but the friendships we made, the people we connected with, and the relationships we made with the people at Princeton will be something I remember forever. It was pretty emotional.”

Fellow senior Hazel, for his part, is leaving with special memories of the Jadwin finale.

“It is a bittersweet moment for us, you don’t spend too much time being in the spotlight here as an individual,” said Hazel, who scored all nine of his points on the evening in the second half rally.

“Even as a team, we go as a committee so one person might be in the spotlight tonight and then somebody else will be in the spotlight tomorrow. This is our moment, which was pretty cool; especially starting the game with all of the seniors out there. Just being able to go up and down one more time on the court was a good time and getting the win in the fashion that we did was something to remember.”

With 2:00 remaining in the game, it didn’t look like the Tigers were headed to a win as they trailed 83-74. But putting together a 11-0 run, they were able rally for the win and improve to 15-14 overall and 8-5 Ivy League.

Junior forward Han Brase played a key role in the comeback, scoring a team-high 23 points and pulling down a team-high six rebounds.

“We have been practicing that scenario a while, there were a lot of games where we have been down and we have just been working on it,” said Brase. “We were just trying to stay cool, calm, and collected, get a stop, get an easy bucket and then just continue to get stops and easy shots. It just clicked for us tonight.”

The 6’8, 231-pound Brase got the game-winning bucket as he bulled in for a lay-up with 15 seconds remaining in regulation to make it 84-83.

“All week, the coaches were harping on me to be more aggressive in the paint,” said Brase.

“I felt like they weren’t really helping much on defense tonight so it was a one-on-one game and I was able to get a couple of edges and finish around the rim. When they cut me off, I was able to kick it out to teammates. They helped me out because every tine I kicked it out, they made 3s. The other team knows they can’t help on me and they go back to one-on-one.”

The Tigers were almost shot down by Columbia junior star Maodo Lo, who scored a career-high 37 points, hitting on 12-of-18 shots, including 11-of-15 from the three-point range.

Princeton head coach Henderson acknowledged that Lo was a major thorn in the side for the Tigers.

“First of all, that was an incredible performance by Maodo Lo,” said Henderson of Lo, whose 11 three-pointers were an Ivy League single-game record. “There are regular shots and there is like his beautiful artistic three-point shot which I felt was like a layup tonight. When he made his 11th  three on us in the corner, I remember thinking to myself, sometimes it is just not your night.”

Lo almost won the game as he fired up a three-pointer that just bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

“It felt like CYO Rec League basketball there at one point, it was let’s try this one,” said Henderson.

“There was nothing we could do, that was the best performance I think I have ever seen by a college basketball player. Fortunately the last shot he took, there was a little Jadwin prayer made it bounce out. It was just lucky that he missed.”

Henderson was proud of his team’s performance down the stretch. “We just kept talking about going to the rim and being aggressive,” said Henderson. “I think you had to get some stops eventually. It was just such a high scoring game, it was incredible.”

For Henderson, seeing the team’s four seniors, Bobby Garbade, Daniel Edwards, Hazel, and Wilson end on a high note in their final Jadwin appearance was special.

“I am really proud of the seniors; I thought Bobby and Dan starting the game gave us a good lift,” said Henderson.

“Clay made a huge three in the corner. I don’t know if anyone could say that they were stopping Lo but Ben did a good enough job there to change a little bit of the flow that he had. Ben was really poised. I thought he made a couple of big layups once we got down eight. He understands how to do it and that’s what you need from seniors. It hasn’t been a group that has seen a lot of playing time … but they are down here every single day. Nobody sees that. It is a really great group to be around.”

It was great for Brase to come up big down low when the Tigers needed him. “This season when Hans has struggled from the three-point line, which he did tonight, we have struggled,” said Henderson.

“But he found a way, that is the sign of a good player. He is changing right in front of our eyes. He is going to the rim, which we need him to do.”

With Princeton having won three straight games with the victory over Columbia, Henderson likes how his players have been keeping their noses to the grindstone.

“Practices have been really good,” said Henderson, whose team was slated to wrap up the regular season with a game at Penn on March 10.

“We had a really tough loss at Yale, we had a really tough loss at Harvard. Those are the top two teams in our league and I thought we were right there with both of them. We just couldn’t finish the game so this is a nice win for us. We have a really tough test on Tuesday.”

Wilson, for his part, is savoring Princeton’s nice finish. “I feel like we had some stretches where we let a couple games go,” said Wilson, who ended the Columbia game with six points and now has 387 in his Princeton career.

“I think for the most part this year, we have played a solid 70 out of 80 minutes for each weekend but we had a spurt for 10 minutes where we just let things slip. I feel like this past weekend, we put the 80 minutes together. I feel like our team is really jelling right now. We are a team where the spotlight doesn’t stay on one person too often. Everyone is able and capable to step up and make big shots and help our team out. It was good for the team to get the ‘w’.”

GRAVITTE EFFECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Sam Gravitte unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore longstick midfielder Gravitte tallied his first career goal along with two caused turnovers and three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 11-4 at Maryland. The Tigers, now 3-1, start Ivy League play with a game at Penn on March 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GRAVITTE EFFECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Sam Gravitte unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore longstick midfielder Gravitte tallied his first career goal along with two caused turnovers and three ground balls but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 11-4 at Maryland. The Tigers, now 3-1, start Ivy League play with a game at Penn on March 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object when the 10th-ranked Princeton University men’s lacrosse team played at No. 9 Maryland last Saturday.

Coming into the day, high-powered Princeton was averaging 14.7 goals a game and leading the nation with 10 assists per contest.

The Terps, for their part, were surrendering just 5.25 goals per game, the top goals against average in the country. The Maryland goalie, Kyle Bernlohr, led the nation in goals against average and save percentage.

As the game unfolded, it became clear that stingy defense was destined to rule the day. Maryland led 3-2 at half and then outscored the Tigers 6-1 in the third quarter to break the game open on the way to an 11-4 win.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Chris Bates acknowledged that his team misfired.

“Honestly we didn’t feel like we executed well on the offensive end,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 3-1 with the loss.

“Credit Maryland, they are really good defensively. We needed six guys to be moving the ball. Ultimately we never got in rhythm. We had problems with shot selection and sharing the ball. The goalie played really well; they were even better on defense in person than they were on film.”

Bates won’t enjoy watching the film of the third quarter, which saw Maryland win seven of nine face-offs and end the period by scoring five unanswered goals.

“The wheels fell off in the third,” said Bates. “We didn’t touch the ball, they dominated on face-offs. I think we had the ball three times in the quarter. That is when they pulled away.”

Falling flat at Maryland could be a blessing in disguise for Princeton as it girds for the challenges ahead.

“It is a good lesson; leadership has to take charge on the field,” said Bates, whose team didn’t have an assist on the day. “We need to do a better job as coaches but there is only so much we can do. We challenged the leadership to make sure the team is executing. That is why we schedule teams like Hopkins and Maryland.”

The return of junior midfielder Jake Froccaro from injury and the continued progress of sophomore longstick midfielder Sam Gravitte were bright spots on a dark day for the Tigers.

“Froccaro did a good job, he gave us a spark,” said Bates of Froccaro who scored one goal on the day along with Gavin McBride, Bear Altemus, and Gravitte. “He logged a lot of minutes on defense with Austin Sims out. We will need him to help us on face-offs. Sam is taking the next step. He is a better team defender. He is showing on-ball energy, he is making progress.”

In Bates’ view, his team won’t let the loss on Saturday impede the progress it has been making this spring.

“The group was sufficiently humbled; we had a really good practice today,” said Bates.

“I like this group a lot, they are not afraid to work. There was no finger pointing. We told them to look at themselves individually and then hold each other accountable. I think this group is on a good path. I think they will learn from that experience.”

Princeton, now ranked 12th nationally, will start on what it hopes is the path to an Ivy League title when it plays at Penn on March 14 in the league opener for both teams.

“Penn rides well, they are good between the lines,” said Bates. “They create offense from their transition game. They have a lot of 2-way guys. We need to work on getting up and down the field. Everyone is 0-0 now and it doesn’t matter what your record is. It is easy to get the guys excited for this.”