May 7, 2014
PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

PUMPED UP: Princeton University women’s tennis player ­Lindsay Graff enjoying herself on the court. Junior standout Graff was named Ivy League Player of the Year this spring, helping the Tigers go 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown. This week, the Tigers head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, 18-5 overall, is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

A 1998 match between pro tennis stars Lindsay Davenport and Steffi Graf changed the course of Lindsay Graff’s life.

“When I was 5, I was watching TV and Lindsay Davenport was playing against Steffi Graf and I thought my name is a combination so maybe I should try tennis,” said Graff, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I picked up a racket a few weeks later and I have loved it ever since.”

Graff moved up the ladder in tennis, breaking into juniors in middle school and starring at Pine Crest High, where she was a three-time Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel Player of the year and the Florida Class 2A doubles champ in 2009 and singles champ in 2011.

Joining the Princeton University women’s tennis team in 2011, Graff played like a combination of tennis legends Davenport and Graf this spring, getting named Ivy League Player of the Year as the Tigers went 7-0 in league action on the way to the team crown.

This week Graff and the Tigers, 18-5 overall, head south to the University of Alabama to take part in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play Arizona State (18-7) on May 9 in the first round with the winner advancing to the next round on May 10 to face the victor of the Alabama/Jackson State opening round matchup.

“It is a good matchup for us,” said Graff, reflecting on Princeton’s first NCAA appearance sine 2010. “We are on a roll and everyone is playing well. We want to win a few matches at the NCAAs and go on a little run.”

It took a while for Graff to get on a roll in her college career. “In college, the biggest challenge is the the physical level, there a lot of bigger and a lot of stronger players,” said Graff, noting that she has packed 20 pounds of muscle on to her 5’5 frame since freshman year. “They hit a heavier ball.”

After earning second-team All-Ivy honors at singles playing at No. 2 and first-team All Ivy at doubles as a freshman, Graff moved to the top spot in singles in 2013, finding a comfort level on and off the court.

“At high school, you are used to being at the top academically and at the top of your activity,” said Graff.

“At Princeton, you are competing with all these kids who were in the same position. I was able to get my priorities in line; it is tough to do everything at a high level. You have to choose the things that are important to you. I love tennis so I have focused on that.”

Last summer, Graff raised the level of her game as she won a regional qualifier for the U.S. Open at singles and mixed doubles.

“That was one of the best experiences for me; I spontaneously decided to play and ended up winning the regional,” said Graff, who ended up falling short of a bid for the U.S. Open as she lost in the national playoffs in New Haven, Conn.

“I was playing a lot and working hard all summer long. It was a great experience to be playing against top players like that. In the second round, I saw a lot of good players and saw where I stood. Coming into the year, I felt a lot more confident.”

Coming into this spring, Graff was confident that Princeton could be an Ivy title contender.

“We had the capability of having a big Ivy season,” said Graff, noting that the arrival of four freshmen this season had upgraded the talent level for the program which posted a 4-3 Ivy mark in 2013.

“We had 10 players and everyone was playing for a spot. I felt that we could be a good team and we would regret it if we didn’t work hard.”

A critical 4-3 win over three-time defending Ivy champion Yale on April 4 showed that Princeton had a very good team.

“We fell behind 3-0 and the girl playing No. 5 (Caroline Joyce) had a big win and our No. 2 (Amanda Muliawan) won and our No. 6 (Katie Goepel) was going into a third set,” recalled Graff.

“I lost the first and was behind in second. It was very much on my shoulders, I knew I had to win the match. I was not going to lose that third set. I was not getting off that court until I won.”

Graff ended up pulling out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Yale’s Madeleine Hamilton to seal the victory for the Tigers.

“I showed mental toughness; my teammates were cheering me on from the sidelines and I wanted to do this for them,” said Graff. “They were so loud and so genuinely supportive. I try to fight for myself but I was really excited to win for them.”

Heading into the regular season finale against Columbia on April 20 with a one-game lead over the Lions in the league standings, the Tigers weren’t about to settle for sharing the title.

“Columbia did beat us a few weeks before the Ivy season but we were 6-0 we were so hyped up and so confident,” said Graff.

“We were a different team. We showed we weren’t intimidated from the first point of the doubles match; they saw how we had come together as a team. I saw we were up 2-0. In my match it was 7-6, 5-4 and our girl at No. 4 (Sivan Krems) was winning. I was focusing on the match point and then I was swarmed by the team. I realized that No. 4 had won just 20 seconds before so I got the point to clinch the match. It was the best feeling.”

In Graff’s view, the team’s feeling of unity has helped spur it to a title. “Our talent level is there but if our work ethic didn’t match our talent, we might be disappointed,” said Graff of the squad which is guided by second-year head coach Laura Granville.

“For the last 1½ to 2 months, all the players have jumped on board. People are putting it all on the court, we are fighting for each other. We realized we can accomplish more together.”

While accomplishing the Ivy Player of the Year award was exciting for Graff, its main importance to her comes in the context of the team’s success this spring.

“It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year,” said Graff, who has an 18-4 record this spring and is riding a nine-match winning streak heading into the NCAAs.

“I realized when I was 12-4 that each time I lost a match, the team had lost. I lost a match in Miami and I said coming off the court that day that was the last match I was going to lose. I want to win every match. Although every point counts the same, it is important to win at No. 1. Every match I have won has helped the team win so that is the important thing.”

Looking ahead, Graff hopes to someday win matches at the pro level. “I am a junior so I am thinking about that,” said Graff, reflecting on her aspirations to keep playing tennis after college.

“I would love to stay in the game. Tennis is my favorite thing to do; there is no other place I would rather be than on the tennis court. It is high priority. It is a long road to the pro tour. I would love to give it a shot.”

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5.  On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CIVIL WAR: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Mary-Kate Sivilli, left, races away from a pack of Cornell players last Friday in the Ivy League tournament semis. Senior attacker ­Sivilli tallied three assists in the contest to help Princeton win 12-5. On Sunday, Sivilli had a goal in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, will play in the upcoming NCAA tournament where the Tigers will face Penn State on May 9 in an opening round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary-Kate Sivilli and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team had a special message written on their arms as they hosted Penn last Sunday in the championship game of the Ivy League Tournament.

With senior co-captain Colleen Smith having been sidelined after injuring her knee on the opening draw in Princeton’s 12-5 win over Cornell on Friday in the Ivy semis, the Tigers brought her on the field with them in the final via magic marker.

“It is really hard to make up for Colleen, she is a big presence, she has a lot of spirit,” said senior attacker Sivilli.

“We actually wrote her number on our wrists today. We played for her, keeping a piece of her with us in our heart the whole game. Unfortunately it is not the same but we tried to embody her presence.”

The Penn players also scrawled some inspiration on their arms with the words “Penn Ball,” paying homage to the Duke men’s basketball’s team slogan of “Duke Ball” used as inspiration to go hard after any loose balls.

In the early stages on Sunday, the Quakers did a better job of staying on message, scoring the first six goals of the game on the way to taking a 6-2 lead at halftime.

“I thought they really came out and took the game today,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, whose team was outshot 21-3 in the first half and lost 7-of-9 draw controls.

“I think you just have to give them a lot of credit, they went after it at the start of the game. We were slow starting today. I thought Friday night we played one of the best games, if not the best game, that we have played all season. Today was the other end of the spectrum. I think Penn just came out like a force. They worked really hard offensively and we were trying to just keep up defensively.”

In the second half, the Tigers took a page out of Smith’s book, playing with heart and fire as they cut into the Penn lead.

“I was really proud that the team showed a very different effort and fight in the second half,” said Sailer of the Tigers, who had a 9-3 edge on shots in the second half and won 6-of-7 draw controls.

“If you look at the draw control statistics, they were reversed, that was the name of the game. We were outhustled and outperformed on the draw in the first half and we did the reverse on the second half so we had an opportunity.”

But the early hole proved too big as Princeton ultimately succumbed 9-6 to the Quakers to drop to 11-6. The Tigers will get a chance to fight another day as they earned an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament and will play Penn State on May 9 at the University of Virginia with victor to face host Virginia on May 11 in a second round contest.

Princeton junior attacker Erin McMunn believes that the self-belief that the Tigers displayed in their rally will serve the squad well in the NCAAs.

“I think the first thought you have to have, and I think it is something our team has done a really good job of doing all year, is really buying in and believing in yourselves,” said McMunn, who scored three goals to lead the Tigers with Sarah Lloyd, Olivia Hompe, and Mary-Kate Sivilli chipping in one apiece.

“I think we did that and I think the second half shows you that. It is tough to come back from 6-2 at halftime but it didn’t get to us in terms of believing that we could take this game.”

Sivilli, for her part, sees team’s success coming down to taking care of the ball.

“Draw controls and momentum win games,” said Sivilli, who was named to  the All-Tournament team last weekend along with fellow Tigers McMunn, Liz Bannantine, and Annie Woehling.

“We didn’t have the ball the first half of the game and you can’t win a game without the ball.”

In Sailer’s view, 17th-ranked Princeton, which lost 13-12 to No. 11 Penn State in late April and beat 15th-ranked Virginia 15-13 on March 1, needs a fiery attitude along with ball possession to make an NCAA run.

“It is the mentality piece; we have to go after what we want,” said Sailer, who has guided Princeton to 22 NCAA appearances and three national titles (1994, 2002, and 2003).

“We have got to be ready from the first draw. Things are going to be hard but that doesn’t mean that we can’t prevail. We just need to have more of that gritty, fighting attitude from the start. I think you saw that in the game Friday night.”

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

LIGHT SHOW: The Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew races up Lake Carnegie in a regatta earlier this spring. Last Saturday, the Tigers were edged by Columbia in a regatta on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J. Princeton is next in action when it competes in the Eastern Sprints on May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

Even through the Princeton University men’s lightweight varsity 8 crew fell to Columbia last Saturday to suffer its second defeat to the Lions this spring, Marty Crotty is not pushing the panic button.

“During the H-Y-P (Harvard-Yale-Princeton) race (on April 26) one of our rowers was injured and we thought we could plug the hole this week but we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Crotty, whose top boat clocked a time of 5:55.4 over the 2,000-meter course on Lake Overpeck in Ridgefield, N.J to trail Columbia by 2.2 seconds but edge third-place Delaware by 0.8 of second.

“We got off to another flat start on Saturday and Columbia is a good enough boat to take advantage of that. We were dealing with a different lineup. We have a lot to do in the next two weeks but we have eight strong rowers and a good cox. It is not like there is a significant time difference. Losing could be a step back but it wasn’t in this case, the race showed us what we need to work on.”

The second varsity 8 took another step forward last Saturday, winning its race to remain undefeated this spring.

“It is amazing to go through unscathed, they have had a different lineup in every race,” said Crotty, noting that injury, illness, and lineup changes come with the territory. “To be able to rotate guys through varsity and still win every week is an accomplishment.”

With the varsity 8 at 7-3, having also lost to Cornell, Crotty believes the boat has plenty of potential.

“It has been an up and down season,” said Crotty, whose boat was ranked second nationally coming into the regatta last Saturday.

“We are trying to get the pieces together. We have shown flashes. Even in the losses, we have matched the speed of the other boats over the last 1,500 meters.”

As Princeton prepares for Eastern Sprints, which are slated for May 18 at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., the focus is clear.

“We need to get off the line with the field so we are not working from behind,” said Crotty.

“I am not used to that as a coach. If anything, I have been known for getting boats out too fast. I need to get guys hyped up and aggressive in the first 40 strokes. We just need to be a little cleaner and a little sharper at the start.”

Crotty believes his rowers can clean up at the Sprints. “We are going into the next two weeks thinking that every boat can win at Sprints,” said Crotty.

“We are not using hope as a strategy. We have the talent to win. Cornell and Columbia have gotten the best of us so far. We just need to clean things up at both ends and this is the time of the year that you do that.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal last Friday against Cornell in the Ivy League tournament semifinals. Junior attacker McMunn scored a career-high seven goals in the contest to help Princeton prevail 12-5. On Sunday, McMunn led Princeton with three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 9-6 to Penn in the Ivy championship game. Princeton, now 11-6, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will face Penn State on May 9 in a first round contest at the University of Virginia. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ay in the regular season finale for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The star junior attacker managed just one goal on two shots as the Tigers fell 13-12 at Penn State on April 26.

Last Friday, McMunn made plenty of noise, scoring a career-high seven goals as top-seeded Princeton defeated fourth-seeded Cornell 12-5 in the semis of the Ivy League postseason tournament at Class of 52 Stadium.

“I was really lucky, the kids were looking to hit me today and the shots were falling,” said McMunn, reflecting on her outburst.

“I think more than anything it was just that we were really working together well tonight and we were looking for those feeds inside and I happened to get a little lucky that I got seven of them. It was a lot of fun to be out there today.”

Two days later, McMunn had a lot less fun, scoring three goals in a losing cause as Princeton fell 9-6 to second-seeded Penn in the Ivy title game.

The 17th-ranked Tigers, who dropped to 11-6 with the defeat, are still alive in postseason play as they received an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament where they will get a rematch against No. 11 Penn State in a first round contest on May 9 at the University of Virginia. The victor will face host 15th-ranked Virginia in the second round on May 11.

In the view of Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, the lessons McMunn learned from her subpar game against Penn State helped her explode last weekend.

“I don’t think there is a bigger turnaround in six days than Erin McMunn showed on the field,” asserted Sailer after the victory over Cornell.

“Today, I think she learned how to play against a tight mark. She saw what is going to happen when she works hard and when she puts herself in a position to make a difference. She worked hard, she saw the opportunities,  she got separation but then her teammates were ready to hit her and they didn’t hesitate to make the pass.”

In McMunn’s view, the team’s balanced attack opens things up for everybody.

“I think in terms of flow, it is just the fact that any person on our attack could score at any time; we have eight kids with 20-plus points and that is amazing to me,” said McMunn, who leads Princeton with 40 goals and 52 points.

“I think a huge part of it is that everyone is a threat when they have the ball, regardless of who it is.”

McMunn and the Tigers will look to use their performance against Cornell as the blueprint for a run in the NCAA tournament.

“We know that we have put in the prep work, we are excited to play but at the same time we know that we have to keep doing those little things to continue having this kind of performance,” said McMunn, a first-team All Ivy selection on the season and was an All-Tournament honoree last weekend.

“You want to be confident to the point that it really pushes you to play well and puts you in a good mental state but not so much that we become complacent. We are doing a good job right now of finding that balance so I think that is going to be big, not just for the attack, but for the whole team going forward.”

April 30, 2014
STINGING SENSATION: Princeton University women’s water polo player Molly McBee looks for an opening. Last Sunday senior star and co-captain McBee scored a team-high three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Indiana in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 31-2, setting the program’s single-season bests for most wins and fewest losses.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STINGING SENSATION: Princeton University women’s water polo player Molly McBee looks for an opening. Last Sunday senior star and co-captain McBee scored a team-high three goals but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Indiana in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 31-2, setting the program’s single-season bests for most wins and fewest losses. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Molly McBee thrives under pressure, feeling that high-stakes contests have brought out the best in her as she has starred for the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

“In my way of playing, I step up in big games,” said senior co-captain McBee. “There is an excitement, I don’t feel as tired.”

As Princeton faced Indiana last Sunday in the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association) title game with a bid to the NCAA tournament on the line, McBee showed her clutch gene, scoring a team-high three goals.

While McBee’s heroics weren’t enough as the top-seeded Hoosiers edged second-seeded Princeton 11-10, she gained some satisfaction from leaving it all in the pool.

“I was pleased with the way I played; I did all I could,” said McBee, who earned second-team All-Tournament honors in her final weekend with the Tigers. “I have a little more peace of mind because I felt like I brought it all to the table.”

McBee was not pleased to see Princeton come up short as it ended a superb spring at 31-2, setting program single-season records for most wins and fewest losses.

“We let it slip away,” said McBee, noting that Princeton jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Indiana.

“I was definitely feeling good, we were playing well. I knew we would come out strong even before the game. They had some goals here or there and we had some mistakes here or there. The last goal was a heartbreaker, it barely went in.”

It was heartbreaking for the Tigers to miss out on a third straight trip to the NCAAs.

“We had produced a high level of play in other games and against some big teams,” said McBee, a native of Palos Verdes, Calif.

“I was not ready to be done with this sport. It would have been great to have a few more games and to go to Southern California where I am from and where a lot of my teammates are from.”

While her final season ended earlier than McBee had hoped, she won’t soon forget the bonds forged this spring.

“It is just the friendships that develop on a team like that; we have such a huge travel schedule,” said McBee, a team co-captain along with classmate and fellow Californian Katie Rigler.

“We are together on the road most weekends. This year, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls. We are really all best friends; it is awesome.”

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao desperately wanted his girls to keep playing. “I am depressed; it was a brutal loss, we made one too many mistakes,” said Nicolao.

“We let a 4-0 lead slip away. We made turnovers that led to fast breaks and made it hard on Ashleigh (sophomore goalie Ashleigh Johnson). It was a nailbiter, back and forth. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t. We had two or three 6-on-5s in the last three minutes and and we didn’t score. It was just the way things fell.”

Nicolao was thrilled with the way McBee played in her final action with the Tigers.

“Molly McBee probably had the best weekend of anyone on the team,” asserted Nicolao of McBee, who ended the season with 49 goals and 36 assists.

“She was good in all the games and really deserved to be first-team all tournament.”

Although the defeat to Indiana stung, it couldn’t undo all the good things Princeton accomplished in its record-breaking campaign.

“My main message was that one game doesn’t define a season,” said Nicolao.

“We were 31-2. That is a great year and I would take that record every year. We had great balance from top to bottom, everyone contributed. Ashleigh is a great player and we played good defense in front of her. We had great chemistry and we were able to win a lot of close games. We just didn’t win that last one.”

The longtime coach credited senior stars McBee and Rigler with setting a great example. “They have had great careers,” said Nicolao. “They won two Eastern (CWPA) titles and they are leaving a great legacy.”

Looking forward, Nicolao is confident that next year’s team will add to the legacy established by McBee and Rigler.

“We have a lot of talent coming back and some freshmen on the way who should help,” said Nicolao who welcomes back All-America goalie Johnson along with such offensive threats as Diana Murphy (46 goals in 2014), Ashley Hatcher (53 goals), Taylor Dunstan (19 goals), Morgan Hallock (18 goals), Pippa Temple (33 goals), Hannah Lapkin (17 goals), Kimi Klein (22 goals), Jesse Holechek (42 goals), and Kelly Gross (16 goals).

“Some of our best seasons have come after tough losses. I think they will work that much harder to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

For McBee, the hard work over the last years in and out of the pool had been more than worth it.

“The sport itself is great, getting away from the academics,” said McBee, who will be working in IT consulting for a firm in Dallas, Texas after graduation.

“It is a balancing act. I was writing my thesis during the season and captaining the team. You get a break from school, you go to the pool with your friends and you have a physical activity and it is the only thing you think about for those two hours. It is another passion. We have so much fun with this team and our coaches.”

LAST UP: Princeton University softball player Maddie Cousens waits for a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior outfielder Cousens ended her college career on a high note, helping Princeton sweep Cornell 3-2 and 5-2 in its final action of the season. Cousens went 4-for-4 with two runs in the nightcap as the Tigers ended 2014 at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy League.(Photo Courtesy of PU’s Office  of Athletic Communications)

LAST UP: Princeton University softball player Maddie Cousens waits for a pitch in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, senior outfielder Cousens ended her college career on a high note, helping Princeton sweep Cornell 3-2 and 5-2 in its final action of the season. Cousens went 4-for-4 with two runs in the nightcap as the Tigers ended 2014 at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy League. (Photo Courtesy of PU’s Office of Athletic Communications)

The numbers 21, 19, and 2 were stenciled in purple near first base at the Class of 1895 Field as the Princeton University softball team hosted Cornell last Sunday in its season-ending doubleheader.

The message in the dirt was a tribute to the program’s Class of 2014 as it celebrated Senior Day.

While No. 21, outfielder Maddie Cousens, and No. 19, third baseman Tory Roberts, were on hand to wrap up their Tiger career and accept the cheers for a superb four-year run, it was No. 2 that sparked the most heartfelt emotion as it represented Khristin Kyllo, a high-spirited infielder/outfielder who entered Princeton with the Class of 2014 but passed away in her freshman year on January 13, 2011 from natural causes.

As Cousens reflected on the day, she noted that she experienced a wide range of emotions. “I think it was mostly just remembering Khristin,” said Cousens.

“We had her jersey here today and looking at that and remembering the games we did get to play with her in the fall of her freshman year. Also I just tried to make it happy and just think about how amazing our time has been here for Tory and I. It is really nice having a small class because we are really close; so together we were able to celebrate today and celebrate Khristin.”

Cousens proceeded to celebrate a special day on the diamond as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the opener to pull out a 3-2 victory and then won the nightcap 5-2 as the Albany, Calif. native went 4-for-4 with two runs in her final appearance in orange and black.

“My trainer calls it swiss cheese defense and thinks you have got to find the holes so that was my goal for the day,” said Cousens.

“I didn’t really hit the ball that solidly but I found some holes. It was a little senior luck; it felt really good to end that way.”

While Princeton didn’t achieve its goal of winning an Ivy League title this spring, ending at 17-26 overall and 9-11 Ivy, Cousens saw plenty of positives.

“I just think we played with a lot of heart,” asserted Cousens, who ended the 2014 campaign with a .300 average, going 33-for-110 with 3 homers and 12 RBIs.

“The team is really young and it is amazing to meet all of these freshmen. It makes me sad that I don’t get to spend more time with them.”

Cousens believes good times are ahead for Princeton under the guidance of head coach Lisa Sweeney and assistant coach Jen Lapicki.

“It is coach Sweeney’s and coach Lapicki’s first two years here,” said Cousens.

“They are building a dynasty and it is just going up from here. It is going to be great.”

Sweeney, for her part, believes things are headed in the right direction for the Tigers. “Every season has its challenges but I think for this team there was a lot of emotional and mental growth that had to happen for us,” said Sweeney.

“I think a lot of people will be introspective about that and say what can I do better. Our coaching staff will do the same, taking a step back and saying how can we improve, how can we figure this out, and make sure that next season is more of a reflection of the work that we put in.”

The program wanted to make sure that Cousens and Roberts had a special finale.

“It is always emotional on Senior Day, regardless of how the season has gone,” said Sweeney.

“It is so special for them. You remember it from your own career. Being able to play our last games at home is a big deal for them. It was cool, it was a good day for both of them.”

It was also good for the late Kyllo to be honored. “It is so fantastic because Tom and Julie (Kyllo’s parents) have stayed a part of the program, they are at every game and it was just so nice to be able to represent her today as well,” said Sweeney. “It was important closure for the seniors to feel like she was with us today.”

In  Sweeney’s view, Kyllo’s impact will be felt beyond the softball field. “The awareness for epilepsy is Kristin’s legacy now,” said Sweeney of Kyllo, who suffered a series of seizures, starting in high school.

“All of us try to do our job to make sure that people are educated about the causes. It is important.”

Cousens and Roberts have played an important role in leading the Tigers this spring.

“I think they were dedicated to pushing the program in a different  direction,” said Sweeney.

“Although this season, the wins and losses didn’t reflect that, they understand and the girls understand that we are on a different path and that we always have bigger and better goals. They were just great leaders, and more importantly, great people for the rest of the girls to look up to and model their careers after.”

As the Princeton players took the field on Sunday, they were primed to come up big for their seniors.

“We challenged the girls with it yesterday, saying when you come tomorrow, you are not playing for yourself, you are  playing for your seniors,” said Sweeney.

“There is a special element to that, you are competing both for your own pride but  also for somebody else on the team standing right next to you and you know how much this program means to them. The team came through today, it was great.”

For Cousens, spending four years in the Princeton program is leaving her with a lifetime of memories.

“Honestly, most of the things I am going to remember are off the field, the kind of things like the long bus rides, stressing out over homework and having teammates be there for you, and all the little traditions we have” said Cousens, who will be working for a startup firm in New York City after graduation.

“There are the big games that really stick with you but most of the moments are the bonds I have created with all of these people on the team and that is what I am going to look back on.”

END GAME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Forest Sonnenfeldt gets stymied in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sonnenfeldt and the Tigers lost 12-10 to Cornell in their regular season finale. The defeat ended any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament as the Tigers ended the spring at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

END GAME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Forest Sonnenfeldt gets stymied in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sonnenfeldt and the Tigers lost 12-10 to Cornell in their regular season finale. The defeat ended any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament as the Tigers ended the spring at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)B

The last time the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team met Cornell, the rivals produced a battle for the ages as Princeton prevailed 14-13 in overtime in the 2013 Ivy League semis.

When the teams faced off last Saturday in the Battle of Bethpage, it looked like they may be headed to another run-and-gun classic.

Princeton took a 6-5 lead at half and then the teams combined for 10 goals in the third quarter with Cornell emerging with an 11-10 lead.

In the fourth quarter, though, the defenses rose up and the Big Red tallied just once but it was enough to pull out a 12-10 win, ending any hopes Princeton had of being awarded an at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with the effort he got from his team as it ended the season at 7-6 overall and 2-4 Ivy League.

“The team knew what was on the line; we talked about how this was a do or die situation,” said Bates. “We came ready to play, no doubt.”

Bates acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t play well when it counted down the stretch.

“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game,” said Bates. “We had bad decision-making on offense and some of those turnovers turned into early offense for them.”

Noting that five of Princeton’s losses this spring came by a total of seven goals, Bates rued what might have been.

“Until there was 40 seconds left in game Saturday, I thought if we got into the tournament we could peak, and with some breaks, could go on a run,” said Bates, whose team had already failed to qualify for the four-team Ivy postseason tourney.

“I feel like on any given day, we could beat anyone so it is very disappointing to be sitting here without a game to prepare for this weekend.”

It was a disappointing ending for the squad’s Class of 2014, who only made one NCAA appearance in their careers, falling 6-5 to Virginia in a 2012 first round contest.

“There were 14 seniors in the room and they had given their blood, sweat, and tears,” said Bates, who got a career-high four goals from senior Tucker Shanley in his finale with freshman Zach Currier adding two goals and senior Tom Schreiber, junior Kip Orban, sophomore Ryan Ambler and sophomore Jake Froccaro adding one goal apiece.

“I feel like they deserve more. They gave so much and worked so hard. They set a good example. Tom [Schreiber] gets a lot of attention but there were a lot of guys who worked very hard. The expectation when you play for Princeton is that you are going to play into May. They can hold their heads high. They may be disappointed but there is no reason for regret.”

While All-American midfielder Schreiber was held to one goal in his final game for Princeton, that tally helped him accomplish more milestones as it gave him 30 goals for the season and 200 points in his brilliant career.

“He is an all-time great for the position he plays; everyone recognizes his  numbers and what he has done in his career,” said Bates.

“He is a humble kid and a team guy and I think he would trade it all for some wins in the NCAAs and a shot at a title.”

In Bates’ view, the team’s failure to make the NCAAs this season was the product of several factors.

“It was a combination, it was a little bit of everything,” said Bates. “We didn’t have the edge to make the big plays and grab the jugular. On any day it could be any of the above, it could be poor defense, bad decision making, or bad luck. We faced a lot of good goalies and hit a lot of pipes.”

While Princeton has a good foundation in place, Bates acknowledges that both coaches and players need to engage in some soul-searching over the off-season to regain the edge that made the program a perennial NCAA power.

“There is very good young talent here and some good players on the way,” said Bates.

“The challenge is to right the ship and notch things up in a different way, starting with the leadership approach. It is not a comfortable feeling. I have faith in the staff and our players. We will find out how hungry the players are. We need to play offense differently. We can’t be playing 15-14 games. We need to do a better job of managing games. We will have a more experienced defense, we have an incumbent goalie coming back.”

April 23, 2014
NEW DIRECTION: Mollie Marcoux smiles during her press conference last week at Jadwin Gym after being named as Princeton’s new Ford Family Director of Athletics. Marcoux, a 1991 Princeton alum who starred in ice hockey and soccer for the Tigers, is succeeding Gary Walters, who is retiring after 20 years at the helm. Marcoux is the fifth Director of Athletics in school history and the first female to hold the post. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

NEW DIRECTION: Mollie Marcoux smiles during her press conference last week at Jadwin Gym after being named as Princeton’s new Ford Family Director of Athletics. Marcoux, a 1991 Princeton alum who starred in ice hockey and soccer for the Tigers, is succeeding Gary Walters, who is retiring after 20 years at the helm. Marcoux is the fifth Director of Athletics in school history and the first female to hold the post.
(Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

When she was a senior at Princeton University in 1990-91, Mollie Marcoux wrote her thesis on the history of women in sports.

The choice of subject was appropriate in view of the fact that Marcoux made plenty of history during her athletic career at Princeton on the ice and soccer field.

As a hockey player, Marcoux was a four-time All-Ivy League performer, a three-time team MVP, an All-ECAC selection, and a member of the ECAC Team of the Decade. In soccer, she earned second-team All-Ivy honors. Marcoux won the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award in 1991, the top senior female student-athlete award at Princeton which recognizes “high scholastic rank, sportsmanship, and general excellence in athletics.”

Last week, Marcoux was front and center in another historic moment for Princeton, getting named as the first female Director of Athletics in school history.

Speaking at an introductory press conference at Jadwin Gym on April 15, Marcoux made it clear that she was thrilled to come home.

“To return to a university that played such a formative role in my life and to do everything I can to be sure that future generations of Princeton students continue to have the educational and character building experience that I had while being a student here is just very, very exciting to me,” said a smiling Marcoux, the replacement for the Princeton’s current Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who is retiring after 20 years at the helm.

Being a trailblazer doesn’t faze Marcoux, who will be the fifth AD in school history. “It is fantastic; the funny thing is that when I told my current bosses about this opportunity that was the first thing they thought of,” said Marcoux, who has worked the last 19 years with Chelsea Piers Management, which owns and operates two major amateur sports complexes, Chelsea Piers New York and Chelsea Piers Connecticut.

“It hadn’t really dawned on me yet that it was going to be something different. I think it is phenomenally exciting and I couldn’t thank everyone enough to give me that opportunity to have that role.”

Rising to the post of senior vice president in the Chelsea Piers organization has given Marcoux a good foundation for the Princeton post.

“I have had the opportunity to market and develop sports programs for athletes of all ages and abilities, to design and maintain world class facilities, to help an organization full of very talented people grow and help mentor them,” said Marcoux.

Marcoux is looking forward to working with the talented group of coaches at Princeton.

“I am also really truly awed by the quality of coaches that Gary has hired; I am not alone in believing that Princeton has the best coaches in the Ivy League, and I would argue, in college sports,” said Marcoux.

“Princeton’s coaches across the board are exceptional, not only for their personal accomplishments but for their integrity and commitment to the overall development of our student athletes as competitors, leaders, and scholars.”

Praising Walters’ steadfast commitment to the department’s guiding principle of “Education Through Athletics,” Marcoux is looking to further that mission.

“First and foremost, I just firmly believe in what we do with respect to academics and athletics,” said Marcoux.

“Princeton truly values the roles sports can play in the education of our students and deeply appreciates the role coaches can play in shaping all dimensions of their lives.”

As Marcoux gets acclimated to her new role, she plans to tap the knowledge of her predecessor.

“I have huge, huge shoes to fill and Gary has graciously offered to help me with this and I will need him at every step of the way,” said Marcoux, who is married to Andrew Samaan, and the couple are the parents of three children, aged 10, 8 and 5.

“I hope to work closely with our talented athletic department staff and the university leadership to build upon the enormous success of Gary and my other predecessors in this role. I will do everything I can to make sure that I uphold the traditions and excellence you have created.”

With Princeton having won 214 Ivy titles and 48 national championships over the last 20 years, Marcoux is determined to add to that ledger.

“Our unrelenting pursuit of Ivy, and in some cases, national championships is very important,” said Marcoux.

“We have had great competitive success throughout our history, and particularly in the last 20 years, and we have amazingly talented athletes on campus. But everyday we need to work to get better and challenge ourselves. We need to be well prepared, creative and disciplined, and dedicated to excellence is all areas. We just have to continue to love what we do.”

For Marcoux, taking the helm of the Princeton athletics program is a labor of love.

“I truly and passionately loved playing soccer and hockey for Princeton and being a student here,” said Marcoux.

“Having the opportunity every day to engage with Princeton’s talented student athletes and help them reach their goals is something I never imagined could be true.”

Marcoux brings a wealth of experience to help the athletes reach goals at Princeton and beyond. “I know the beginning of the academic life here is very challenging,” said Marcoux.

“Having lived that and knowing that it gets a lot better as the years go and knowing that you can make it if you just stick to it is an important thing to be able to pass on to the students. In terms of the things I learned that help me everyday, they are the things we all learn as being athletes — determination, hard work, and working as a team. Some of the things I didn’t pick up as much while I was here and more reflecting back on the experience, I just think most of what I know is from my days playing sports and being here.”

CUTTING EDGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Cutting heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defender Cutting and the Tigers edged Dartmouth 12-10 to win the Ivy League regular season title. Princeton, now 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy, plays at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play. A week later, the 19th-ranked Tigers will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CUTTING EDGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Liz Cutting heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defender Cutting and the Tigers edged Dartmouth 12-10 to win the Ivy League regular season title. Princeton, now 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy, plays at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play. A week later, the 19th-ranked Tigers will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The chant could be heard throughout one end of Class of 1952 Stadium last Saturday after Princeton University women’s lacrosse team topped Dartmouth.

The Princeton players repeatedly hollered “Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs, Ivy Champs” in their team room after posting a 12-10 win over the Big Green which clinched the Ivy regular season crown.

For senior defender Liz Cutting, the emotional outburst was the culmination of a Senior Day to remember.

“I think we realized how much we have to play for, especially this morning when we watched a video made by all of our teammates with special little things said about each senior; it was so nice,” said Cutting, a  5’7 native of Towson, Md.

“We really decided even from September what we wanted and we weren’t
going to stop until we got that Ivy championship. It is
really awesome.”

The victory improved Princeton to 10-4 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the Tigers earning the title and the right to host the upcoming Ivy tourney by virtue of its 9-5 win over Penn, (8-4 overall, 4-1 Ivy) last Wednesday.

“To have this come back to Princeton is super important for us because we have worked so hard to change the culture on our team to one of hard work and determination,” said Cutting. “I think having this really shows our efforts and shows the fruits of our labor.”

After getting off to a 1-3 start this season, Princeton changed the course of its season by heading west and beating USC 14-7 and San Diego State 16-9.

“I think our trip to California over spring break really got it going for us,” said Cutting. “We realized how good we could actually be. We decided we couldn’t stop and we couldn’t regress from that point on. It showed in practice and the way that we worked with each other and the way the coaches held us to a higher standard.”

Having won nine of its last 10 games, the one loss in that stretch, an 8-7 defeat to No. 2 Maryland on April 9, may have been Princeton’s most impressive effort of the spring.

“The Maryland game was a huge game for us; just growing up wise because we do have a few young players,” said Cutting.

“I think not only of them growing up but the team chemistry really increased after that game because we realized we can play with top dogs. It is not a game of talent it is also a game of hard work and we put in that hard work.”

The Tiger defense realized that it had to work together better with the team’s attack.

“We came together at one point in the season and decided that we need to be the starting point of our attack,” said Cutting.

“It is not one side of the field versus the other, it is more as a whole team. It begins from keeping people out of the 8-meter arc and doing the little things right. The little things are the big emphasis for us through the last couple weeks of the season so ground balls, balls down on the 8 are super important for us.”

While Princeton was sharp on defense against Dartmouth early, taking a 4-1 halftime lead, things got a little dicey in the second half.

“I think we may have been a little jittery and a little too excited,” said Cutting, who was credited with two draw controls, two caused turnovers, and a ground ball on the afternoon.

“We were sliding a little too hard, not to the right space. We just needed to be a little stronger. We came together multiple times and said we can do this, we can play better to your potential. We really emphasize the draws and while we didn’t have the best draw stats, we had hustle and hard work to get the ball back even when we didn’t win them. It was really impressive and important.”

An important factor in Princeton’s success this spring has been the bond among the team’s eight seniors.

“The eight of us have stuck together and it is not usual that you see a big class of eight seniors in this league,” said Cutting, whose classmates include Sarah Lloyd, Colleen Smith, Caroline Franke, Grace Bowen, Kellie Ragg, Mary-Kate Sivilli, and Erin Williams.

“I think it is definitely commendable, not only to Chris (Princeton head coach Chris Sailer) and the coaches, but the team in general to stay together and really help each other through our ups and downs and through the hard practices, the cold practices. It is really important to us, we are all best friends and there is nothing better.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer credits the team’s Class of 2014 with setting the right tone.

“Our senior class has created a great culture,” said Sailer. “Since they were freshmen, they have had an impact on the team with how close they are, how giving they are, how hard they work. They put a lot into it this year and I am just so happy for them that we could finish it with a title. Every single one of those kids, whether they are starters for us or not, makes a difference for us. It is a special class; each one finds a way to contribute and add her unique qualities to the team and have made it what it is.”

Sailer points to Cutting as making a difference in the defensive unit. “Liz is just such an intense competitor; she is a driving force,” said Sailer.

“She is always ready to compete. She has had huge ground balls for us all season long. She has just been part of a really great defensive unit.”

Although Princeton didn’t play great in the second half against Dartmouth as it was outscored 9-8 by the Big Green, Sailer liked the grit her team showed in pulling out the win.

“It is always hard to close it out, especially against Dartmouth,” said Sailer. “We have a lot of history of knocking them out of what they have wanted to do and them knocking us out of what we have wanted to do. I knew this was going to be a battle no matter what their record is, they are a tough, tough team and they really pushed us to the limit. I think we showed some nerves out there today. There is a lot on the line but you have to give the kids credit for coming through.”

Capturing its first Ivy regular season crown since 2006 made Saturday’s struggle more than worthwhile.

“It is just a great win for the program,” said Sailer, who has guided the Tigers to 10 Ivy crowns and three NCAA titles in her 28 seasons at the helm of the program.

“It is our first regular season title in eight years. That’s huge, just to break through. To follow up the win against Penn with a big win today; those two have been the traditional teams we have been battling for the title with so it is just awesome. The team has really been driven, they have worked really hard. I think they have just really embraced the work. They are confident. They rise to challenges but they do the work every day.”

After playing at No 12 Penn State (9-6) on April 26 to end regular season play, 19th-ranked Princeton will host the four-team Ivy tourney from May 2-4, which will decide the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“It is really exciting; it is great for the seniors,” said Sailer, noting that the tourney has been hosted by Penn the previous four years.

“We had a fantastic crowd today; to be able to play in front of them will be great. We definitely draw energy from them playing here at Class of ’52. It will be nice to not have to travel to Penn and keep our normal routine for the Ivy League tournament. We know that we have a lot of battles ahead. It is a great achievement for the team, it is our No. 1 goal. Now we have got to move forward.”

Cutting, for her part, is confident the Tigers will give the home fans something to cheer about.

“It means we have more games at home,” said Cutting. “We really draw from our support from our fans and family. It couldn’t be better that we are having it here. We are super excited. We are going to see these teams again and the Ivies are always a battle. We are making baby steps to the big tournament.”

TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE SHOT: Princeton University women’s water polo player ­Katie Rigler unloads the ball in a game earlier this season. With senior star Rigler piling up a team-high 62 goals and 27 assists, Princeton has gone 29-1 this spring. The 11th-ranked Tigers head to Bucknell this weekend to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Katie Rigler got an eye-opening experience this fall in preparing for her senior season with the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

The Fullerton, Calif. native took part in the USA Water Polo Futures 50 Classic and had to push herself to keep up with the nation’s elite.

“It was tough, it was a very good reminder of what I needed to work toward,” said Rigler.

“I saw what players from other college teams were doing and how hard they were working.”

Developing some extra toughness from the experience, the high-scoring Rigler has helped Princeton solidify its standing as one of the top college teams in the country as the Tigers have gone 29-1 this spring and are ranked 11th nationally.

This weekend, Princeton heads to Bucknell to compete for the CWPA title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With the Tigers having won the 2013 CWPA crown on the way to going 28-6 and taking a program-best fifth at the NCAA tourney, Rigler had the sense that this year’s team would be a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we are even better than we were last year,” said Rigler. “It is encouraging and a little scary because we know we have a target on our backs. There is a lot of pressure on us as well.”

In Rigler’s view, the squad possesses a potent blend of chemistry and skill. “I think this is the most positive team I have been on,” asserted Rigler, Princeton’s leading scorer this season with 62 goals and 27 assists. “We have a strong, hardworking team, the recruiting classes get better every year so we are getting more talented.”

As a team co-captain along with classmate Molly McBee, Rigler strives to set a positive tone for the Tigers.

“I try to set a good example,” said Rigler, a two-time Southern Division Player of the Year who now has 260 goals and 69 assists in her career. “I try to be very encouraging. I try to keep things relaxed at practice. My teammates know that come game time, I am extremely serious.”

As Rigler has matured, she has gotten more serious about her training.

“I don’t have statistical goals; I have practice goals,” said Rigler. “I want to work hard on sets and different skills. I also want to get into the pool more and more. There is never a year where I haven’t felt in good swimming shape so I work more on water polo drills.”

Princeton’s lone loss this season, a 10-6 defeat to No. 10 San Jose State on March 15, helped the Tigers ratchet up their work ethic down the stretch of the regular season.

“We weren’t working as hard as we should be; we didn’t play well against UC-San Diego and Michigan but we still won,” said Rigler.

“I think the loss to San Jose State was good. It made us re-evaluate what we needed to do and where we wanted to go. We don’t want to just be good on the east coast. It is important to have the confidence that we can compete with the teams out west.”

Gaining more confidence in her teammates has helped Rigler set a career single-season high in assists this spring.

“As the years have gone by, I am getting more attention from the other teams,” said Rigler, whose previous season-high in assists was 15. “As the team has gotten more talented, I can rely on my other teammates to score.”

As the Tigers prepare for the CWPA tourney, they are paying attention to the basics.

“We are working on our play in 6-on-5 situations; that is important and we are focusing in on that,” said Rigler, who came up big as Princeton defeated Brown 11-4 in the Southern Division championship game, tallying five goals and two assists in the April 13 contest.

“It is also working on mental focus, trying to get everybody on the same track and the same page and making sure the girls all know their roles. We try to tell the freshmen what its about, how exciting the games are. It can seem like an out of body experience and you have to stay calm. We have been behind in the semis for the last two years and we have learned that you can’t give up.”

Having been seeded second behind Indiana at the CWPA, Princeton is fired up about its chances to earn a title repeat.

“We are definitely confident,” said Rigler, noting that the Tigers boast seven player with 20 or more goals. “We are using the disrespect angle as motivation with the way the seeds came out. We are hoping we get to play Indiana in the final.”

No matter how Princeton does in the final days of her career, things have turned out better than Rigler could have hoped when she came east four years ago.

“It’s been an unreal experience, meeting all the different girls and getting to know the different personalities,” said Rigler, who is looking to play professional water polo overseas after graduation, potentially in Italy or Greece.

“The experiences I have had with Molly [McBee] are great, we have become really close friends. Playing sports in college builds up your discipline and patience.”

When the Princeton University baseball team won its first four Ivy League games this spring, Alec Keller wasn’t surprised.

“We knew we were going to be good,” said Princeton senior outfielder Keller. “We are talented.”

But then the Tigers dropped a doubleheader at Yale before suffering through a 0-4 weekend at Columbia to sink in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division.

In Keller’s view, some untimely lapses knocked Princeton off track. “The season is so quick that any bad weekend can kill you and that’s what we had,” said Keller.

“I wouldn’t say it is a complete failure; a lot of guys have had really good years. It is just kind of tough that it is so quick and so unforgiving. Give credit to Penn and Columbia, they have taken care of business.”

Princeton showed a business-like attitude last weekend as it split two doubleheaders with Penn, who is tied for the Gehrig Division lead along with Columbia with 13-3 league marks. The Tigers fell 2-0 to Penn in the opener on Saturday before pulling out a 6-4 win in the nightcap. On Easter Sunday, Princeton won the opener 4-2 and then lost the nightcap 6-1.

“It was important, they came in with one loss but we knew we could stack up with them,” said Keller, reflecting on the 2-2 weekend which left the Tigers at 12-22 overall and 7-9 Ivy.

“I think they are not quite as good as their record and we are better than ours. We knew we could get wins. It was disappointing in the first one but we came back and won two hard-fought games.”

The 6’2, 200-pound Keller, a native of Richmond, Va., starred in the wins, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in the second game on Saturday before going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a homer in the opener on Sunday.

“It felt good to calm myself down,” said Keller. “I just stay loose up there, not think too much, and just react.”

Keller’s cool approach at the plate has helped him enjoy a big spring, hitting a league-best .369 in all games and .440 in Ivy action, the second highest average for league contests.

“I am trying to not put too much pressure on myself,” said Keller who has a team-high 45 hits with two homers and 18 RBIs.

“The worst thing you can do is trying to press and do too many things. I have tried to stay within myself, just know what I can do and play to my strengths.”

With Princeton wrapping up the spring by playing at Rider on April 23, playing a doubleheader at Cornell on April 25, hosting a doubleheader against Cornell on April 27, and then playing at St. John’s on April 29, Keller and his teammates are looking for a strong finish.

“We have to get a lot of young guys that need to finish the season and get some confidence going into next year and that is really important,” said Keller. “And heck it is fun to win, it beats losing. We are playing these games no matter what so we want to win. Hopefully we can get a few more in these next couple of weeks.”

Keller is savoring his final days in a Princeton uniform. “It is bittersweet, I am just trying to have fun everyday,” said Keller.

“I feel you can’t think too much about it, saying it is my last this or that, you just have to live it. I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”

The last few years have been unforgettable for Keller. “It has been great, these guys are a like a family to me,” said Keller, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection who has a career average of .347 (173-for-499).

“It is a great release from school. While school is good in its own right, this is something that is great as a relief. At the same time, it is really fun to focus on something and put your heart into it.”

Keller is hoping to continue his love affair with the game by playing at the professional level after graduation.

“That’s the plan, we’ll see what happens,” said Keller. “Hopefully baseball is not done. I will definitely miss Princeton and playing with these guys for sure.”

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BROUGHT TO THEIR KNEES: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake Froccaro, left, gets defended by a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro had a goal and three assists but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 9-8 at Harvard. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked the Tigers out of contention to make the four-team Ivy League tournament. No. 20 Princeton, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 Ivy, will wrap up regular season action by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. on April 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, losing 9-8 at Harvard last Saturday was a punch to the gut.

Falling behind 7-1, Princeton made a valiant rally but came up short in dropping to 7-5 overall and 2-3 Ivy League. The defeat coupled with wins by Cornell and Penn knocked Princeton out of the four-team Ivy tournament contention, putting a big dent in any hopes the Tigers have of making the NCAA tourney.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Chris Bates didn’t mince words. “It was a devastating loss, we just didn’t do everything we needed to win the game,” said Bates. “We were solid everywhere; we just didn’t solve their goalie.”

A nightmarish first 21 minutes ultimately doomed Princeton as it trailed 7-1 with 9:06 left in the first half. “We got a goal early and then they capitalized on every mistake that we made,” said Bates.

“We had chances but I give their goalie (Jake Gambitsky) a lot of credit, he was lights out and stole a lot of goals. We dug too big a ditch to get out of. We hit a lot of pipes, it was just one of those games. Unfortunately it came at a bad time.”

For the rest of the game, Princeton had the upper hand, outscoring the Crimson 7-2.

“We settled down,” said Bates, who had three goals from Ryan Ambler and two tallies from Kip Orban in the defeat with goalie Eric Sanschagrin making 13 saves. “We played 39 minutes of good defense where we gave up just two goals. On offense we were pretty good. We got plenty of looks, but we hit plenty of pipes.”

Over the course of its Ivy campaign, Princeton has hit a roadblock in tight games, losing three one-goal contests, falling 16-15 to Yale and 11-10 to Brown in addition to last Saturday’s nailbiter.

“In the close losses, we haven’t had the ball a lot,” said Bates. “We haven’t faced off well in those games. The theme is if we have to play a lot of defense with our young guys back there, we make mistakes.”

With No. 20 Princeton ending regular season play by facing 12th-ranked Cornell (10-3 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in Bethpage, N.Y. this Saturday, Bates believes his squad has plenty to play for, including a potential at-large bid to the upcoming NCAA tourney in view of wins over a trio of nationally ranked teams, No. 11 Hofstra, No. 8 Penn, and 18th-ranked Lehigh.

“It is Cornell and we are not going to lay down for them,” asserted Bates. “We feel like something is still on the line in terms of the NCAAs. It is not a 50/50 chance but nothing stands out about the others and our numbers are not bad. We need Hofstra, Penn, and Lehigh to do well. We still have a puncher’s chance and we are going to keep punching. We know it is a long shot but if we beat Cornell, I will be interested to see our numbers and RPI (Rating Percentage Index).”

April 16, 2014
UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Kip Orban celebrates a Tiger goal earlier this season. Junior midfielder Orban came up big in the clutch last week, scoring a goal with 2.7 seconds left in regulation on April 8 to help Princeton top Lehigh 10-9 in overtime and then tallying two goals last Saturday as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 13-10. Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action, head to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical league contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost a pair of one-goal games in the last two weeks of March, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was moments away from another excruciating defeat as it hosted Lehigh last week.

Trailing 9-8 with less than 10 seconds left in the April 8 contest, Princeton had a shot turned back and the ball bounced on the turf at the Class of 1952 Stadium.

Then lightning struck as Tiger junior midfielder Kip Orban took a Mike MacDonald feed and rifled it onto the back of the net to tie the game at 9-9 and force overtime.

Princeton came through with the win on a goal in the second overtime by All-American senior midfielder Tom Schreiber to reverse its fortune and finally come out on top in a nailbiter.

For Orban, the tally was unlike any in his career. “I never had a goal like that; I was fortunate to be the recipient of a really hard play by Mikey,” recalled Orban, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Westport, Conn.

“He got that ground ball. He always has the greatest vision. He skips it through all the time. He found me at the top of the box and I was just fortunate to put it past the keeper.”

The Tigers, though, worked hard to make their luck.  “We executed at the end of the game which is what we have to do moving forward,” said Orban, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week along with Penn goalie Brian Feeney.

“I think we are finally starting to grit it out. Coach is instilling a great work ethic and teaching us to work really hard when we are tired and execute.”

Against Dartmouth, Orban was up to his late heroics again, scoring goals in the waning moments of both the first and second quarters to help the Tigers take an 8-4 halftime lead on the way to a 13-10 triumph.

“I think in the first half, we came out pretty well,” said Orban, reflecting on the victory which improved No. 14 Princeton to 7-4 overall and 2-2 in Ivy League action.

“Dartmouth played well, they showed some zone. We slowed down the pace of our offense a little bit and I think we were able to adapt pretty well and we were able to win it. We put enough on the board and we were fortunate to win it.”

In tallying those two goals, Orban has now scored at least one goal in 24 straight games, the longest scoring streak among Division I midfielders.

“I don’t really think about it, I just go out on the field and it is just being part of the system,” said Orban, reflecting on the streak.

“When I score those I am generally the recipient of great off ball movement. Our two-man system really forces us to play well together and I think our offensive first six guys work well with each other. Tommy [Schreiber] does a great job finding me. Mikey [MacDonald] does a great job finding everyone. Ryan Ambler is stepping up. I think we all work well together. It is just whoever is in the right spot at the right time.”

With two college seasons under his belt, Orban is better able to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that come his way.

“I am a little older; I definitely feel a little more comfortable than freshman year stepping out there and starting,” said Orban, who has 25 points this season on 18 goals and seven assists and is up to 70 points in his career with 53 goals and 17 assists. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking then.”

Orban acknowledged that the Tigers showed some nerves in the second half on Saturday as the Big Green narrowed the Princeton lead to three goals on three occasions over the last 30 minutes of the contest with former Princeton High star Mike Olentine scoring a third quarter goal for Dartmouth.

“I would say we have to come in the second half as we do in the first with the same amount of energy; we can’t come out flat,” said Orban.

“I feel like sometimes we get a little comfortable and I don’t think that should be the case. I feel after a couple of tough ground balls and some face-offs, we broke the seal in the second half. It started to flow and eventually we closed out on top. The team did well today but we definitely can do better moving forward.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates concurred with that analysis. “I thought we showed some grit on Tuesday night to get that W,” said Bates.

“Today was a little bit lackadaisical. We let them know we didn’t practice well that last two days. We thought we would get a crisper effort today. We’ll take the win but we didn’t feel like it was a real disciplined team effort.”

In Bates’ view, his team needs to develop a better killer instinct. “We talked about that during the week, making the next play and being able to put a team out versus getting a little undisciplined,” said Bates.

“Dartmouth believed they could win until the very end of the game. Frankly, we could  have pulled away and ended this thing a little earlier. It is a credit to Dartmouth. They did a nice job and hung with us.”

The Tigers did do a better job on face-offs, winning 17-of-27 on the day, sparked by the return of Justin Murphy from injury.

“Getting Murph back helped, he grits there; he is our go-to guy,” said Bates. “We struggled a little bit without him, We have faced some pretty high caliber competition over the course of the last few weeks. We created some scoring off the transition and the face-off which was nice but we still gave up a few which is a little bit mind numbing. We don’t communicate real well on the wings. Overall, I think it was a pretty decent day.”

Freshman midfielder Zach Currier had a big day, tallying three goals and an assist and scooping up five ground balls.

“Zach was clearly the star of the game; he gave us a ton of energy, he made some highlight reel plays,” said Bates of Currier who was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“He had a big assist so it was nice. We have been waiting for him to break out and if there is a bright spot today, it was Zach. He works hard; he is really competitive. He was fired up before the game, you could tell. He has got that edge and it is nice to see that rewarded.”

Princeton will need to play fired up as it heads to Harvard (7-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 19 for a critical Ivy contest.

“We’ll see how we react, it is a team that still fights it a little bit,” said Bates, whose club is riding a three-game winning streak.

“You can’t put the jersey on and expect to win. We control our own destiny. I think there is a clear positive with Harvard losing (8-7 at Penn) but we don’t look at that stuff. We just know that if we win, we are in good shape. The focus here immediately was to start thinking about what we need to do to prepare to beat Harvard with the emphasis on the word prepare.”

In Orban’s view, the Tigers are on board with Bates’ approach. “We just have to take care of what we have to take care of and to put ourselves in the position we want to be in at the end of the season,” said Orban.

“We have got to win out and then all the rest is up to chance. I don’t really focus on that; I don’t think our team does either. We just focus week to week and take care of what is in our hands and that is just Harvard this upcoming Saturday so we have to work hard this week and come out on top then.”

Having guided his Princeton University men’s heavyweight varsity 8 to the grand finals in both the Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national championship regatta last spring, Greg Hughes has his rowers going full throttle as they look to get on the medal stand.

“We have changed the way we have practiced, we are doing more work in training,” said Tiger heavyweight head coach Hughes, who is in his fifth year guiding the program and led the Tigers to fourth place in the Sprints and sixth at the IRA regatta in 2013.

“We are doing things I wasn’t able to try before. I am able to take risks. I am getting good feedback and we are working together. We are doing more hard strokes than we would normally do.”

While the frigid winter kept the Tigers off the water until mid-March, Hughes believes that the extra work on the ergometer machines has paid dividends.

“Historically, before global warming, we used to get on the water in mid-March,” said Hughes.

“You get on later and develop speed as you go through the season. Being inside longer allows the rowers to develop a really good base of fitness.”

Based on early returns, that work has paid dividends as Princeton opened its season by defeating Navy on April 5 and then won the Childs Cup last weekend, topping Penn and Columbia.

Hughes credits senior captain Will Gillis with being an ideal role model for his teammates.

“Gillis has done a really good job of leading the team,” asserted Hughes, whose varsity 8 is currently ranked fourth nationally.

“The impressive thing is that while he is obviously a talented athlete, he has rowed for the U-23 team the last two years and got a bronze last summer, he is the full package. He is a top student in his department (politics).When you have a guy who is a top athlete and a top student, it gives such a good message to the younger guys. They see that you don’t have to sacrifice academics for athletics and vice versa.”

Those callow rowers have sent a message of their own. “The younger classes have come in and have pushed up the level of competitive spirit,” said Hughes.

“It has created a positive environment on the squad. They beat each other up everyday in practice and that’s great.”

The Tigers got off to a great start with their win at Navy which saw the varsity 8 speed across the 2,000-meter course on the Severn River in a time of 6:06.2 with the Midshipmen coming in at 6:07.6.

“We were going to Navy and it is a tough place to race,” said Hughes. “They are a good program. We are starting the regular season with three races in a row on the road, it requires attention to detail and focus to be ready to race in different environments. That was a good effort.”

Last Saturday, Princeton produced an even better effort in retaining the venerable Childs Cup, posting a time of 5:33.9 over the 2,000-meter course on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia with Penn next in 5:41.2 and Columbia taking third in 5:42.0.

“That was a step forward,” said Hughes. “Within the varsity boat, we have a couple of returners but we also have a core of new kids. Five are new, a couple are sophomores and one is a freshman. We have to keep learning things and continue to get better each week. We aren’t going to hit top speed in March.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to pick up their speed as they head up to Boston, Mass. to face top-ranked Harvard and MIT with Compton Cup on the line.

“It is a good program,” said Hughes of rival Harvard, the runners-up in the last year’s IRA national championships.

“We are going up there looking to get better. We have had our best piece each week, starting with the scrimmage before Navy.”

Hughes is confident that his rowers can get better and better as the spring unfolds.

“There is a lot of time left,” said Hughes. “There are lot of things that we have to do. I think we are on track. We are in position to have a good May.”

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter.  Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.  (Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

AMERICAN HISTORY: Scott Greenman, right, congratulates an American University player after a win this winter. Former Princeton University men’s hoops star and assistant coach Greenman joined the AU staff this winter as an assistant coach and helped guide the Eagles to a 20-13 record and the Patriot League championship.
(Photo provided courtesy of American University’s Office of Athletic Communications )

After serving as an assistant coach for the Princeton University men’s basketball team from 2007-10, Scott Greenman left his alma mater and took on another role in the college hoops world, handling basketball operations at Georgetown.

While Greenman had an eye on getting back into coaching, he gained a lot from the operations post.

“I got to see how other people do things, being at the highest level was a good thing,” said Greenman, a former Tiger hoops star who was a first-team All-Ivy selection as a senior in 2005-06.

“I learned a lot from listening into recruiting calls. I was learning from coach Thompson (former Princeton head coach John Thompson III) and good assistants. It was a very productive four years. Even though I was not in coaching, I was seeing things from a different perspective.”

When one of those Georgetown assistants, Mike Brennan, a former Princeton star guard and assistant coach himself, took the head coaching job at American University, Greenman saw an avenue back into coaching.

“When he was interviewing and going through the job process he said if he got the job would I be interested in coming on as assistant and I said I was,” said Greenman.

“All of the offices at Georgetown were close. It was open and there was a lot of interaction. Having played for coach Brennan, this was a different dynamic; I had a level of comfort with him.”

Greenman joined Brennan’s staff as an assistant coach last May and the two former Tigers worked well together over the winter, helping American go 20-13 and win the Patriot League championship.

As Greenman returned to coaching, his main focus was getting his new players used to the Princeton style that Brennan was installing.

“It was getting the players used to a new system and a new everything; working with them to increase their skill sets and doing stuff to educate them on what to expect,” said Greenman.

While American got off to a slow start, going 3-7 in its first 10 games, Greenman could see the players becoming more familiar with the new approach.

“Even when we lost, coach Brennan was seeing signs of improvement, telling the guys you got better at this and that but need to work on that,” recalled Greenman.

“It is about improving so you are good enough to win the games at the end of the year. From day one, there was no push back whatsoever. It was fun for the team, with forwards getting to dribble, shoot and pass and to get as good as they can be.”

The Eagles started looking good in January, going 9-0 in the month. After enduring a bad stretch in February where it went 1-4, American entered the Patriot League tournament with plenty of confidence.

“We won 10 league games and three or four of those could have gone the other way,” said Greenman.

“In the rough patch, things went the other way. We were stagnant for a week but then we started to get better. We had a sharper focus at practice, we focused on a few things and made more adjustments. On the second time around the league, the other teams know you better. Heading into tournament, we thought we had a good shot if we played to the best of our ability.”

After topping Colgate in the Patriot quarterfinals and Holy Cross in the semis, the Eagles produced their best performance of the season in the championship game as they topped host Boston University 55-36 to earn a bid to the NCAA tourney.

“We zoned in on defense, we did a good job of making their shots difficult,” said Greenman, reflecting on the win over the Terriers.

“The guys were unselfish. We had an issue with turnovers and throwing the ball to the other team earlier in the season but they really handled the ball well. I give credit to the guys; they were so open to things and they improved so much. It was great to see them make that transformation.”

It was a special moment for Greenman as the team enjoyed a raucous celebration after the buzzer sounded.

“It is great, you aren’t able as a coach to get too high or too low,” said Greenman.

“Even when you are winning, you are concentrating on the next game and how you can get better. It is an indescribable feeling. Every team in a one-bid league is shooting for that moment.”

For American, its next game proved to be its last as it fell 75-35 to Wisconsin in the NCAA tourney.

“You know going in that there are no good options when going against a No. 2 seed, you are expecting to play a great team,” said Greenman, noting that Wisconsin ended up advancing to the Final 4.

“We knew it was going to be very difficult; they are a well coached team. Everyone can score. They have a 7-foot center (Frank Kaminsky) who can step out to the perimeter and make shots.We started well and made some shots. Once they got on that run, it snowballed.”

Although the defeat stung, Greenman enjoyed making a fifth trip to March Madness.

“It doesn’t lose its luster, I went three times at Georgetown and going as a player was the best feeling,” said Greenman. “Doing it as a coach is awesome.”

Looking back on the winter, Greenman feels he has become a better coach.

“I think in terms of time management, I grew a lot,” said Greenman.

“At Princeton, I had different responsibilities and then I had different responsibilities at Georgetown. Now I have the most responsibility. I want to try to be as organized and as efficient as I can be administratively and with recruiting. I love being in the gym, coaching and teaching and seeing the guys improve.”

April 9, 2014
HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100.  Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a  home game against Dartmouth on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HISTORY MAKER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber looks for an opening in recent action. Last Saturday, the senior All-American midfielder scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, helping Princeton to a 15-11 win over Rutgers. By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists. Princeton, which improved to 5-4 overall with the win over the Scarlet Knights, was slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber is known for his laser-like focus on the field so it was out of character to see him wave to the crowd last Saturday as the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team hosted Rutgers.

But with Princeton senior All-American midfielder having just scored the 100th goal of his illustrious Tiger career, the fans on hand at Class of 52 Stadium serenaded him with cheers and he took a moment to acknowledge the response.

“I have had a lot of support here, my family has made it to just about every game,” said Schreiber, a 6’0, 190-pound native of East Meadow, N.Y..

“The Princeton community has treated me really well. It was a pretty cool experience hearing them roaring and I just wanted to give them a token of my gratitude.”

Schreiber had the crowd roaring all night as he matched his single game career high with seven points on four goals and three assists as the Tigers pulled away to a 15-11 win over the Scarlet Knights and improved to 5-4.

By the end of the evening, Schreiber stood at 101 career goals, making him the ninth Princeton player and second midfielder to reach 100. With 101, he is two behind Josh Sims’ record for a Princeton midfielder. Schreiber now has 92 assists, making him just the fifth player in Ivy League history — and the first midfielder — to have at least 100 career goals and 90 career assists.

With Princeton having dropped consecutive one-goal decisions to Brown and Yale coming into Saturday, Schreiber and his teammates showed a heightened sense of urgency.

“We have started every game slow so far and that is something we have been trying to address in practice,” said Schreiber.

“It was just a little shift in our attitude, to be a little more confident and a little more aggressive and I think it paid off for us.”

Trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, the Tigers shifted the tide of the contest, ending the half with a 5-0 run.

“We played smart offensively, we didn’t push it,” said Schreiber, who chipped in three assists in the run.

“I think our defense did a great job throughout the game, especially in that span. I think it was just a full team effort in that part of the game. It helped us build some confidence going into the half. It’s the beauty of our team, we have all been playing together for the most part for two years now and we have been able to build that chemistry. I don’t think it is just one or two guys, it’s all six of us working together.”

Princeton took care of business in the second half, extending its lead to 13-8 late in the third quarter and cruising from there.

“We just continued the momentum from that 5-0 run in the second quarter,” said Schreiber, who now has a team-high 44 points this season on 25 goals and 19 assists.

“I thought our bench kept us up, I thought our D did a good job. Once again, it was the entire team. The attitude of the team from the top to the bottom was great.”

There was a family twist to the win for Schreiber. “My sister actually goes to  Rutgers so I root for them in every game except this one,” said a smiling Schreiber, whose younger sister, Chrissy, is a sophomore midfielder for the Scarlet Knights women’s lax team.

“I follow them and I have been rooting for them and obviously I root for my sister and her team. It was nice to get this one.”

In Schreiber’s view, it was critical for Princeton to get the win over Rutgers and break its two-game losing streak.

“It was huge; I have said it all year, there is no quit in this team,” said Schreiber.

“Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves after our loss to Brown. It was just more about regaining our momentum and regaining some confidence and I think that was a perfect game to do it and we got it done.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates liked the way his team got things done in the victory over the Scarlet Knights as it retained the Harland Meistrell Cup, which goes to the winner of the annual meeting in the local rivalry.

“I thought we focused on playing the body; we focused on getting low and picking up ground balls with two hands,” said Bates.

“I thought we challenged them this week and they responded. I don’t think we are all the way there yet but this was good to get a gritty win and against a good team. We are pleased.”

Bates was pleased to see Schreiber receive the cheers from the crowd after the 100th goal.

“It is a testament to who he is, you see a genuine appreciation, respect and love for his accomplishments because he has earned it,” said Bates.

“He is just such a wonderful young man, people are happy for him. The air is rare; he is putting up some historic numbers. At the end of the day, he is proud of it, we are proud of it. He would probably be the first to tell you that a win is the most important thing and he wants to get this team to where it can get it, whatever that may be. It is something for our program that is nice to celebrate.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber must assume an even greater role if Princeton is to make history this spring.

“This is the time for him to take the next step and help lead this team,” said Bates.

“He can carry a team on his back and, in essence, we are asking him to do that in some ways. He has got the full command of this team and the full respect. His voice goes a long way so we are challenging him to push his teammates around him to finish this thing the way we want to.”

Schreiber’s teammates did some good finishing during the pivotal 5-0 run in the second quarter.

“Ryan Ambler is playing with a lot of confidence and we are challenging him to evolve and be more assertive,” said Bates, who got a career-high five goals from Ambler with Jake Froccaro adding two, and Mike MacDonald, Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt contributing one apiece.

“Last year, he was at times comfortable playing second fiddle and now he is not. I thought Mikey did some good things. We shortened the bench a little bit with our first group but it seemed to work pretty well. Then we got Will Rotatori and Will Himler, and Forest Sonnenfeldt in with that second group and to spell those guys which helped us so it was a good 60 minutes.”

Bates will be looking for some more good efforts from the Tigers as they were slated to host Lehigh on April 8 before starting their Ivy stretch drive with a home game against Dartmouth on April 12.

“I think we have all learned that you can’t just put the jersey on; you have to be more accountable,” said Bates, whose team is tied for fifth in the Ivy standings with a 1-2 league mark.

“You have to be better teammates day in, day out and that is not always easy. I think it was a wakeup call and that’s been a good reminder. It is easier to move forward with a win. Everything is ahead of us; we know that. We have got one more non-conference game and then we have three league games. We’ll take it day by day.”

Schreiber, for his part, is confident that some great days are ahead for the Tigers.

“We have been trying to peak at the right time and the first part of our year didn’t go exactly the way we wanted it to,” said Schreiber. “Hopefully we can build on this and peak as time goes on.”

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEANING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player ­Colleen Smith chases down a ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Smith helped key a superb effort last Saturday as Princeton topped Yale 15-8 for its sixth victory in a row. The Tigers, now 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9 before playing at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colleen Smith is not afraid to make some noise on the field for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

“We emphasize the voice a lot,” said senior star defender and co-captain Smith.

“I want to bring a good voice to the defense always, just getting everyone pumped for the game.”

Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Smith and her teammates were pumped up to put the clamps on the Bulldogs.

“Our assistant coach Jen Cook always scouts the other teams and she does a great job,” said Smith. “She probably spends more than five hours on each team, scouting, watching films. We just had a really good game plan in place. She told us basically everything that was going to happen. It is just like studying for a test.”

The Tigers passed last Saturday’s test with flying colors, jumping out to a 9-1 lead at halftime on the way to a 15-8 victory.

“We knew that they were a feeding team so shutting off those feeds was a key,” said Smith, a 5’7 native of Wilmette, Ill. who scooped up three ground balls in the win over Yale and now has 10 on the season.

“We have been working on getting better angles all season. Something that we wanted to emphasize this week was that we know everything that we need to know and now we need to start implementing it. I think we did a great job today, especially on defense, with that. I think it was just one of those days where it came from the start.”

Smith has forged a great bond with co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “We never really get into arguments; we are always on the same page,” said Smith.

“She is definitely a leader by example and shows it every single day. I think we balance each other out a lot which is really nice. We never butt heads and we are great friends off the field which I think is really important as well.”

With Princeton riding a six-game winning streak as it has improved to 7-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, Smith believes the Tigers could do some really nice things this spring.

“I hope that we can keep ascending,” said Smith. “If we can keep rising, I think this has the potential to be a really special season.”

The Tigers will get a good opportunity to show how special they can be as they host No. 2 Maryland (13-1) on April 9.

“I am really, really excited for Maryland,” added Smith. “It is a good chance for us to show the team that we are. It is always great to play a big team. It is a really good opportunity so hopefully we can keep rising through that game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled with her team’s great first half against Yale.

“The first half was just phenomenal; it is one of the best halves of lacrosse that we played in a while,” asserted Sailer.

“Our defense did a phenomenal job. We really knew what they were looking for and we were able to shut it down. The attack had some beautiful scoring plays. I thought our ride was tremendous, we forced them into so many turnovers which was great.”

Sailer credits Smith with sparking the Tiger defense. “Colleen has just been fantastic, you see the level at which she performs,” asserted Sailer.

“She was playing their top kid and she was on every single move. Her angles are great, her understanding is great. She is such a voice kid, she is just such a passionate kid. She puts her heart and soul into everything; she is a physical player and a smart player.”

Princeton’s attack played smartly as well against Yale, displaying its trademark balance with Erin McMunn scoring four goals and the trio of Erin Slifer, Mary-Kate Sivilli, and Anna Doherty chipping in two apiece.

“That is something we have had all year; we have seven players with 20-22 points or something like that,” said Sailer.

“Everybody is capable of scoring and there is not one person who leads the charge. Every game, we have really balanced scoring and that makes us tough to stop.”

Like Smith, Sailer is looking forward to seeing Princeton test itself against powerful Maryland.

“I think absolutely it is a good challenge for us,” said Sailer, whose team plays at Harvard (6-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on April 12.

“We have got to be ready for the pace of play, they are very athletic, very explosive, and they have great sticks. I think we have been building up the entire season and I think it is a good point for us to take on a team like that and see what we can do and try to give them some great competition that they have to play against.”

Smith, for her part, is determined to give a great effort to the end. “We have two themes this year, the first one is treasure the present where you treasure the gift of playing at Princeton because not many people get to play at Princeton,” said Smith.

“We also treasure the moment which plays into the power of now. Through the homestretch it is just bringing everything to every practice and every game even if we are tired.”

In order to get on the water this spring, the Princeton University women’s open crew had to resort to some self-help.

“The winter was a long one for us, we had to manually break up the ice on the lake,” said Princeton head coach Dauphiny.

“We started later than usual, I am mindful that competition like Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell are in the same position.

As the harsh winter gripped the East Coast, Dauphiny knew that her program was in for a bumpy ride.

“This team has challenges this year and I was well aware of that before the spring,” said Dauphiny, who guided the Tigers to a third place in the team standings at the 2013 NCAA championship regatta. “We lost a powerful senior class that provided good leadership.”

The program’s current group of seniors is stepping up to the challenges. “This senior class is doing its job but it doesn’t have as much strength as last year’s,” said Dauphiny.

“The two captains (Kathryn Irwin and Susannah Shipton) are doing an outstanding job dealing with this team in terms of it having more inconsistency in results than in the past. They know what to prioritize and they are not getting hung up on the unimportant things.”

In opening the season on March 29 with a split result, as the varsity 8 fell to Brown but topped Michigan State, the Tigers showed some of that inconsistency.

“I was nervous and rightly so,” said Dauphiny. “Brown did a fantastic job, they looked strong and they raced well, they looked more seasoned than we are. I thought as a program we did well, the varsity program had things they needed to work on, they were not as race ready as Brown.”

Last weekend, Princeton’s top boat narrowly lost to Virginia while topping Columbia.

“I thought it was a step forward,” said Dauphiny, whose top boat came in at 6:44.9, three seconds behind Virginia but nearly 25 ahead of Columbia. “We have a ways to go, some aspects of the race were better for the varsity. The 2V’s win was the highlight.”

In Dauphiny’s view, the Tigers are getting better. “I think we are heading in the right direction; we are farther behind at this point than we usually are,” said Dauphiny.

“I don’t know if it is from the weather or the amount of youth. For many, this is the first racing they have done in college. We have a bit further to go than in the past.”

Princeton is facing some top flight racing in the weeks ahead. “We have a very competitive schedule,” added Dauphiny, whose rowers head to Boston this weekend where they will row for the Class of 1975 Cup against Harvard and Cornell. “We race a top crew every week, there is no weekend where we can take a breath. It does provide valuable experience.”

Over the long haul, the Tigers should grow from that experience. “I believe this group does like to work, they are up for the challenge,” said Dauphiny.

“I do anticipate line-up shifting. I don’t know the freshman class well, they haven’t been on the water. People improve at different rates. I like the attitude of the rowers, they are not rolling over. They are striving. They are standing up and seeing what they can do.”

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHRISTIAN MUSIC: Princeton University softball pitcher ­Shanna Christian delivers a pitch in a game earlier this season. Sophomore hurler Christian earned two wins last weekend as Princeton went 3-1 in doubleheaders at Yale and Brown. The Tigers, now 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy, are slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as they begin Ivy South action. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University softball team, its doubleheaders at Yale and Brown last weekend represented the chance to reinforce its self-image.

“The team believes that it is going to be contenders,” said Princeton second-year head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose club started its Ivy League campaign by getting swept by Dartmouth in a doubleheader on March 31.

“They had to prove it to themselves to see that we are who we say we are. It was an important confidence builder. We wanted to see more offensive production and we did.”

In the twinbill against Yale, the Tigers displayed some offense in the opener, exploding for a five-run rally in the seventh inning to pull out a 5-2 win. The Princeton bats, though, went silent in the nightcap as Yale rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn a 2-1 victory and a split.

“We left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney. “We left it to the seventh inning in both games, one turned out in our favor and the other one didn’t. It taught us that we need to have a sense of urgency, we need to make things happen before the seventh inning.”

A day later, Princeton swept Brown 7-6 and 8-3, sparked by the heroics of freshman second baseman Haley Hineman, who delivered a game-winning two-run single in the opener and went 6-for-8 on the day with a homer, two runs scored, and five RBIs as the Tigers improved to 10-18 overall and 3-3 Ivy.

“It was wild, we left a lot of runners on base,” said Sweeney, reflecting on the opener.

“We had to use three pitchers in the first game and they each did their job. Brown had momentum at various points and each came in and stopped it. Then a freshman, Hineman, stepped up. She had 12 pitches at-bat before she got that hit. You could see her confidence growing and she carried it over to the second game. It was a cool thing to see.”

Sweeney has a lot of confidence in Hineman’s all-around play. “Hineman is so solid defensively; she is getting a lot of balls because our pitching staff forces a lot of grounders,” said Sweeney.

“When the ball is hit to her you can look the other way because you know she is going to make the play. She is so solid and gritty. It was good to see her come through offensively.”

Princeton has been getting good contributions from two key veterans, junior shortstop Alyssa Schmidt and sophomore pitcher Shanna Christian.

“Alyssa is taking on a bigger leadership role this year; she has struggled with some self doubt offensively,” said Sweeney of Schmidt who went 4-for-9 with a run and four RBIs in the sweep of Brown.

“She wasn’t overthinking last weekend and was the athlete we know she can be. The team follows her when she gets clutch hits. Shanna is a good presence on the mound, the team plays well behind her. She always keeps us in games.”

With Princeton slated to host Rutgers on April 10 before heading to New York City this weekend for doubleheaders at Columbia on April 12 and 13 as it begins Ivy South action, Sweeney is looking for some more clutch play from her team.

“We are a force to be reckoned with,” said Sweeney. “Things haven’t come together but we are showing inklings in places of some really good things. You always want to be playing for something. There can be huge shifts in the Ivy in a weekend. It is so finicky. You never know what is going to happen; you want to control your destiny. We need to draw on the confidence we gained this week.”

April 2, 2014
DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DO-GOODER: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Anna Doherty, left, eludes a foe in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Doherty scored the go-ahead goal in overtime as Princeton defeated Cornell 10-7 and posted its fifth straight victory. The Tigers, now 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, host Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the rain pelted the area last Saturday afternoon, Anna Doherty found herself in a slippery situation for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The high-scoring freshman attacker repeatedly misfired as Princeton hosted Cornell at the Class of 52 Stadium, missing all five of her shots in regulation as the teams headed into overtime knotted at 7-7.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Doherty, a 5’5 native of nearby Bernardsville who starred for Kent Place in high school. “I had some good looks but I wasn’t putting it in the back of the net like usual.”

Early in overtime, Doherty got a good look near the goal. “I saw [Alex] Bruno get shooting space and then we both realized I was wide open with my left hand up in the crease,” recalled Doherty.

“She was looking at the cage but saying my name so I knew she was going to pass it. I just knew I had to finish that one so I closed my eyes and prayed that it went in.”

Doherty’s prayer was answered as the ball hit the back of the net to give Princeton an 8-7 lead, The Tigers tacked on two more goals in the extra session to earn a 10-7 victory, improving to 6-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

In Doherty’s view, the victory, which extended Princeton’s winning streak to five, was an important step forward for the squad.

“It was awesome; we lost a couple of overtime games in the beginning of the season so we just knew we really wanted this one,” said Doherty.

“We executed and got the draw and we did what we needed to do. I think the upperclassmen and the sophomores lost a lot of tough OT games last season so facing that adversity really helped them lead us.”

Having emerged as a leading scorer for the Tigers with a team-high 18 goals, Doherty is developing a comfort level with the college game.

“I think I have just built up my confidence a lot more,” said Doherty, who has Tiger bloodlines as her father, Kelly Doherty (Princeton ’81), was the captain of the 1981 Princeton men’s lacrosse team and mother, Susan (Princeton ’83) Doherty [nee O’Connor], was a member of the soccer, cross country, and track and field teams.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the season but the coaches really believed in me and gave me a shot. That really boosted my confidence and it has just been building with every game.”

Exploding for a career-high five goals in a 14-7 win over USC on March 19 was a major confidence builder for Doherty.

“That was a bit of a turning point,” said Doherty, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for her production. “I think I realized that I have a big impact on the team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer wasn’t surprised to see Doherty have a big impact in overtime.

“It just wasn’t a great day for her shooting-wise,” said Sailer. “When it counted, she had the opportunity and she buried it. That was huge. She is a tough kid. She is fast and quick. She normally shoots really well. She is definitely giving us a boost offensively.

Sailer acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t shoot well collectively as they fought through the downpour.

“It wasn’t pretty, it was definitely hard conditions today for both teams,” said Sailer, who got four goals from junior star Erin McMunn in the victory with freshman Olivia Hompe contributing a goal and five assists.

“It wasn’t close to our best game. Offensively, we struggled today. We didn’t shoot well. We didn’t make great decisions all day long but when it mattered we were able to tie the game up.”

Princeton did produce a good defensive effort, containing a high-powered Big Red attack that came into the afternoon averaging 11.9 goals a contest.

“I thought defensively, for the amount of the time they had the ball, we did a good job of holding them to seven goals,” said Sailer. “Jenn (assistant coach Jenn Cook) was calling in different slides for the defense and they were executing really well.”

Junior goalie Annie Woehling executed in the clutch for the Tigers. “Annie had an awesome warm-up but in the first half I don’t think she was seeing the ball really well,” said Sailer of Woehling, who made six saves on the day and was later named the Ivy co-Defensive Player of the Week. “In the second half, she came through with some really key saves for us.”

In the wake of the OT losses to Georgetown and Brown earlier in the season, Sailer saw the marathon win over Cornell as a key breakthrough for her squad.

“I think what we learned is that we couldn’t just wait before we attacked,” said Sailer, reflecting on the lessons the team learned from its previous extra session contests.

“Your normal strategy in overtime is to hold the ball for the last shot in the first period and that just hasn’t really worked well for our kids. We allowed them to attack earlier and see what they could create.”

With a logjam having developed in the Ivy title race as Penn is at 2-0 in league play and the quartet of Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton are all 2-1, Sailer knows her team has to keep attacking when it hosts Yale (7-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on April 5.

“Today was a great example that every Ivy game is a battle this year,” said Sailer.

“Yale beat Dartmouth by seven and then Dartmouth beat Brown. Every team in the league can beat any other team in the league on any given day. That is what I have taken away from it so you have just got to come ready to play.”

Doherty, for her part, believes the Tigers are ready to keep rolling. “I think we had a bit of a rough start to our season, losing those two overtime games against Georgetown and Brown,” said Doherty.

“Now we are on 5-game streak. We know that we can be the team that we want to be and execute under pressure.”

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOUGH TO BEAR: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tucker Shanley heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfield Shanley scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 11-10 at Brown. The defeat to the Bears dropped the Tigers to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League. Princeton, now ranked 19th nationally, will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual showdown for the Meistrell Cup. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at Brown last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team got lulled to sleep a little bit.

“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates. “We didn’t win face-offs and Brown did a good job with long possessions. It was one of those games that was slow and sleepy.”

Bates tried to shake things up in the second half. “It was 6-3 at half and because of how they were playing and the face-offs, we decided to change the tempo,” recalled Bates.

“We did a 10-man ride with the goalie coming out: it is an aggressive play. They got a goal from three-quarters of the field to make it 7-3. It backfired on us and gave them life.”

Despite falling behind 10-5 early in the fourth quarter, Princeton still showed life.

“We stayed poised even when we were down two late,” said Bates. “We needed to make a big stop when it was 10-8. They got their 11th goal from the 18 and that’s one we would like to have back.”

Narrowing the gap to 11-10, Princeton had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation but misfired and Brown held on for the one-goal win.

“We drew up a play with 40 seconds left and Mikey [MacDonald] got a point blank shot but it was from a tough angle,” said Bates.

The loss was a wake-up call for the Tigers, coming one week after they fell behind Yale early on the way to a 16-15 loss.

“At the end of the day we were disappointed but we hope the game can be a catalyst,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 Ivy League with the setback.

“This is forcing us to change the way we practice. Just about all we have been doing is scrimmaging and focusing on fundamentals. This team always plays hard, we don’t have to worry about that.”

The defeat also led to some soul-searching upon the team’s return to Princeton on Saturday evening.

“It was not a quiet meeting when we got home; we made challenges to the the captains and the leadership,” said Bates, who got three goals from senior captain Tom Schreiber in the defeat with sophomore Jake Froccaro and junior MacDonald chipping in two apiece. “I have to look at myself first to be constructively critical.”

Fueled by the disappointment, the Tigers made a constructive response a day later.

“We came out on a miserable rainy night on Sunday and scrimmaged hard, it was a good practice,” said Bates.

As the Tigers prepare to host Rutgers (6-4) on April 5 in the annual battle for the Meistrell Cup, Bates will keep them working hard in training.

“We are having open tryouts at practice,” said Bates. “We are not paying attention to Rutgers yet, we are paying attention to Princeton. We are mixing and matching teams and we are grading them with pluses and minuses. The guys like that.”

In Bates’ view, his players still like their chances to do some big things this spring.

“Nobody is panicking,” said Bates. “We know we can play. We are down but we know we control our destiny. Everybody is becoming closer; we are focusing on the little things.”

March 26, 2014
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TEN GAUGE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jake ­Froccaro unloads the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore midfielder Froccaro exploded for 10 goals but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 16-15 at Yale. Froccaro’s outburst tied a 63-year-old Princeton single-game record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers. Froccaro was later named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week. The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when they play at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Starting the week in dominant fashion, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team dismantled Villanova.

Dominating at both ends of the field in the March 18 contest at Villanova, Princeton jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back on the way to a 14-6 triumph.

As a result, the Tigers brought a lot of confidence into their Ivy League showdown at Yale last Saturday.

But Princeton got off to a shaky start before the crowd of 1,650 at Reese Stadium, falling behind the Bulldogs 4-0.

“I was a little surprised at how Saturday went,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“I thought we were clicking on all cylinders. We dug ourselves a ditch but we did claw out of it. We were up 7-6 at half.”

The Tigers kept scratching and clawing for the rest of the afternoon but they could never gain the upper hand as they fell 16-15 to drop to 4-3 overall and 1-1 Ivy.

“We struggled on face-offs and transition defense on the face-offs, that is a double whammy,” said Bates, noting that Princeton’s top face-off specialist Justin Murphy was unavailable Saturday due to injury.

“We didn’t play as physically as we had planned; we talked about taking the body more. We didn’t get as many ground balls. We weren’t as gritty as we needed to be.”

In falling to Yale, No. 14 Princeton squandered a performance for the ages as sophomore midfielder Jake Froccaro scored 10 goals, tying a 63-year-old single-game program record, set back in 1951, when William Griffith also scored 10 goals, against Rutgers.

“It was something to behold, he kept scoring,” said Bates of Froccaro who was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his outburst.

“Nobody was keeping count and then you look at the stat sheet at the end of the game and it was oh my gosh. We were surprised that Yale shortsticked him and didn’t slide to him, they kept with the strategy. I feel badly that we couldn’t reward him with a win, he couldn’t really celebrate.”

But the Princeton defense wasn’t strategically sound and that came back to haunt the Tigers in the defeat to Yale, now ranked No. 11.

“We couldn’t find a way to get defensive stops,” lamented Bates. “I am disappointed with our defensive midfield group, they are a veteran group and I am usually the first to sing their praises. The young guys take their lead from them. They had breakdowns in communication and breakdowns in attention to detail from the scouting report. Yale is a good team, the way they know themselves is impressive.”

As Princeton plays at Brown (4-3 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 29, Bates believes his team needs to focus on detail to get back on the winning track.

“We are kicking ourselves watching the film; we had so many opportunities,” said Bates.

“The clear positive is that the goals we gave up are correctible. We just need to take the next step. We have got to lick our wounds from the weekend and concentrate on ourselves. We had a great practice tonight, the guys battled hard and competed. It is an Ivy test, they are a very good team. We are not in a position to look ahead.”

—Bill Alden

 
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QUARTER TURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson looks to pass the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, junior guard Wilson scored six points in a losing cause as Princeton fell 72-56 at Fresno State in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s basketball program, taking part in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) has provided the Tigers with some March gladness.

In 2010, Princeton defeated Duquesne and IUPUI first two rounds of the 16-team tourney before falling to Saint Louis in the semis.

Two years ago, the Tigers topped Evansville in the CBI opening round before falling to Pitt in the quarters.

This March, in its latest trip to the CBI, Princeton edged Tulane 56-55 last Wednesday before falling 72-56 at Fresno State on Monday in a quarterfinal contest.

In reflecting on the victory over Tulane, Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson saw it as a major positive.

“I am happy with the win,” said Henderson, whose team ended the season with a 21-9 overall record.

“It is an opportunity for us to keep playing. I thought we defended well which is what we have been doing the last month and a half. They sort of spread you out; they are a hard team to guard because they are one-on-one based. I thought both Hans Brase and Peter Miller were very good on the inside with the interior defense.”

Henderson also liked how the Tigers played at the offensive end in the triumph over the Green Wave.

“We are a very good shooting team so I think that’s a big part of what we do but it is not everything,” added Henderson, who got 16 points from Brase in the victory, with Bray adding 12, and Clay Wilson chipping in 11.

“When we are at our best, the ball is moving and the guys are cutting. We have got to shoot because the guys can really make them. We had a really nice offensive performance from T.J. [Bray]. I thought there were a couple of huge plays. Clay Wilson came off the bench and gave us a nice lift, making some shots.”

Senior star Bray, who passed the 1,000-point milestone in his career during the Tulane contest, becoming the 30th player in program history to do so, was proud of how Princeton held off a late Tulane run to pull out the victory.

“When teams are making a run you just have to buckle down a little bit,” said Bray. “I wouldn’t call it nerves but just a sense of urgency. I thought we did a pretty good job down the stretch and we were able to come out with the win.”

The win was meaningful for Bray and his classmates as they were determined to extend their careers.

“You only get so many games in a Princeton uniform so if we can keep playing it is awesome,” said Bray, who scored 17 points in the loss to Fresno State in his final Princeton appearance to leave him with 1,024 points and in 29th place on the program’s all-time scoring list. “It was great to get a win here tonight and us seniors just want to keep playing as long as possible.”

Henderson, for his part, had no doubt about the value of another CBI run. “Most importantly, this is about us,” said Henderson. “It is an opportunity for us to get some more practice time and spend some more time together.”

—Bill Alden

 
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ADVANCED KNOWLEDGE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Wheatley puts up a shot in a recent game. Last Thursday, sophomore Wheatley scored a career-high 22 points to help Princeton top Virginia Commonwealth University 94-76 in the opening round of the WNIT. The win marked the first time the Tigers had advanced in postseason play in program history. Princeton’s WNIT run ended last Sunday when it lost 75-74 to Seton Hall. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 21-9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After ending the regular season with a disappointing loss to Penn in a winner-take-all clash for the Ivy League title, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was excited to host Virginia Commonwealth University in the WNIT last Thursday.

“We wanted to show that Tuesday was not us,” said Princeton sophomore forward Alex Wheatley, referring to the 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11.

“I think we just wanted to come out and make a statement and get our first postseason win.”

Wheatley’s classmate, Annie Tarakchian, was equally determined heading into the contest.

“It is tough because you invest so much time and you love the game so much,” said Tarakchian.

“I think everybody realized that we have this opportunity and we should just take advantage of it and we can’t sulk over what we lost.”

Wheatley and Tarakchian took full advantage of their opportunity, producing double-doubles as Princeton pulled away to a 94-76 win over VCU to advance in a postseason tournament for the first time in program history after four previous appearances in the NCAA and one in the WNIT.

Wheatley scored a team-high and career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Tarakchian contributed career highs in points (18) and rebounds (12).

“Coach [Courtney Banghart] said to push it inside and I think she just wanted us all to be really aggressive and that was what I was trying to do,” said Wheatley, reflecting on her effort.

For Tarakchian, coming up so big as she made her first career start was a matter of taking care of business.

“I didn’t feel different; I knew I had to bring and what I had to do,” said Tarakchian.

Losing our senior captain [Kristen Helmstetter] for such a big game is definitely a dagger. We knew that each of us had to bring our own game. We worked really well together so I think we were all able to do what we had to do.”

Wheatley was thrilled about the program’s postseason breakthrough. “We were excited to play and it is great to get our first postseason win,” said Wheatley.

In Tarakchian’s view, the victory wasn’t just important for the current Tiger players.

“We didn’t just do it for ourselves, we did it for the whole program,” asserted Tarakchian, a native of West Hills, Calif.

While Princeton’s postseason run ended when it dropped a 75-74 nailbiter at Seton Hall last Sunday despite a 34-point outburst by sophomore Michelle Miller, Tiger head coach Courtney Banghart saw the win over VCU as a major step forward.

“We always say in the postseason, you play for your program at that point,” said Banghart, whose team finished the winter with an overall record of 21-9.

“There were a lot of kids before them that didn’t get a chance to play in the postseason. There are other kids who didn’t get a chance to own in the postseason. In March, you play for your program and our kids certainly did that tonight. It is so great.”

Princeton did a great job in the second half as it broke open a contest that was knotted 36-36 at halftime.

“I was surprised with how much we were able to own the tempo of the game,” said Banghart, whose team shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field in the second half.

“I am more surprised that the moment wasn’t too big. This is a really young team and that’s a really good team and so are we. It’s hard with our youth to know what to expect.”

Banghart expected the Tigers to improve in the wake of the loss to Penn.

“I think we are just better; we talked about the pace of our passing which I thought was much better tonight,” said Banghart, whose team piled up 20 assists on the evening.

“We were zinging the ball around. We went to some more sets against the zone so that took the freedom out of their hands a little bit and let them settle in. The pieces were better. One of the things we told them after the Penn game was that you all know this, to a man, you were disappointed that your part didn’t help the whole.”

The 6’2 Wheatley, who hails from Upper Holland, Pa., was a big piece for the Tigers against VCU. “She was great, she is growing up,” said Banghart of Wheatley who scored 15 points in the loss to Seton Hall.

“I thought she asked for the ball. We have asked her to be more assertive and I thought she was tonight.”

Tarakchian has been more assertive over the last month, emerging as a key inside threat for the Tigers.

“I am not surprised at all; I am really happy for her because she trusted in the process,” said Banghart of  the 6’0 Tarakchian’s recent surge which saw her average 14 points and 9.2 rebounds a game in Princeton’s last four contests.

“That is real easy to talk about now but it is hard to do when all the rest of the class is playing. I think she will just keep getting better.”

Wheatley, for part, believes the team’s sophomore class, which includes guard Amanda Berntsen and forward Taylor Williams, is poised to have a big impact on the program.

“I love my class; I love our team in general,” said Wheatley. “We have great chemistry. I think the sophomores are a balanced group. I think we have contributed this year.”

Tarakchian is equally optimistic. “It is just so fun to see what will come in the future,” said Tarakchian. “To see the freshmen coming in today and putting their part in. I think we just all know that we bring a different piece.”

—Bill Alden

 
March 19, 2014
MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy,  Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MARCHING ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray looks to unload the ball. Senior guard Bray scored 18 points to help Princeton top Penn 70-65 on March 11 in the regular season finale. After going 8-2 in its last 10 Ivy League games and winning its last five to improve to 20-8 overall and 8-6 Ivy, Bray and the Tigers will get to keep playing in March as they accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). Princeton will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University men’s basketball team dropped its first four Ivy League games this season, it didn’t look like a team headed for postseason play come March.

But by going 8-2 in its next 10 Ivy games and winning its last five, including a 70-65 victory over Penn last week, Princeton will keep playing in March as it has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 College Basketball Invitational (CBI).

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will play at Tulane (17-16) of Conference USA on March 19 with the winner to face the victor of the Fresno State-Texas-El Paso first round matchup in the CBI quarterfinals on March 24.

In reflecting on the win over Penn, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson lauded his players for not folding their tents when things looked bleak in February.

“I am really proud of being the coach of a team that had some reasons to pack it in,” said Henderson, noting that the team declined to play in the postseason in 2012-13 when it dropped two of its final three games to squander a chance at an Ivy title.

“It shows some caring and the culture, and where we are and where we want to be. We weren’t happy with the way things went. Everyone makes a big deal about 20 wins, I care far more about the way we have been playing defensively because earlier in the season we were an open door policy at the rim.”

In Henderson’s view, racheting up the defensive intensity sparked the reversal of fortune for the Tigers.

“I thought defensively we really made some huge adjustments,” explained Henderson.

“We were giving up almost 70 points a game. We really struggled when we were at Dartmouth. We started turning around here against Columbia at home; we didn’t get the win there. I thought at Brown and Yale, that was a terrific weekend for us defensively. To me, it is the defense.”

Another key factor in Princeton’s late surge was the play of senior guard T.J. Bray, who earned first-team All-Ivy honors this winter, averaging 18.3 points a game along with 5.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

“I had a front row seat at what I think is one of the finest Ivy League seasons and Princeton seasons in a long time,” asserted Henderson of Bray who ended regular season action at 995 career points.

“The consistency has been mind-boggling; every single night, win or lose, he averaged exactly 18 and 7. I had a little bit of a hand in what was said Senior Night but the 10 assists, no turnover game and the 13 assists game were great. I have said this many times, I would have cut my left arm off for games like that as a player here and I think a lot of former players feel the same way. As his coach, a player, and a fan, it was fun to watch.”

“I think we needed to see significant improvement from where we were and we did,” said Henderson. “Plus we are playing some young guys. We have a senior class which has won a lot of games here. I think the most important part of this is continuing to practice and play games in March. We just need more games, we have to play more.”

With getting to play another game virtually assuring that Bray will hit the 1,000-point mark, Henderson said that wasn’t on the minds of the senior guard and his classmates Will Barrett, Jimmy Sherburne, and Chris Clement.

“The really nice thing about T.J. is that I am probably more into that than he is,” said Henderson.

“T.J., the other seniors, and I had a lot of conversations before we did this. I was impressed and humbled by how they approach things. This isn’t where they want to be but that was the end of that conversation and let’s go forward here. This is about team, this is about Princeton basketball and I think that is the right way to think about it.”

Bray, for his part, is just thinking about getting more wins in a Princeton uniform.

“We got our 20th win, team success is way more important to me than individual success,” said Bray in the wake of the win over Penn.

“We’ll remember a 20-win season more than me winning an Ivy League scoring title or scoring 1,000 points. It is a team game, not about me so I can’t complain about that.”

Barrett believes that the seniors have positively influenced the team going forward.

“I think our class this year is a good example of never stopping,” added Barrett.

“Obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. I don’t think we came into this season expecting to be in the position we are right now but as we have shown in the second half of the season, we didn’t stop. We kept working hard and I think that rubbed off on the younger guys a little bit, just with their work ethic and how they held themselves throughout the second half of the season.”

For Sherburne, bouncing back from the slow start to the Ivy season showed the team’s true colors.

“The 0-4 start in general was pretty deflating but we have a strong core of senior leadership and we knew that we weren’t going to go out like that,” said Sherburne.

“It was really important for us to finish on a high note because we are used to winning here. Like I have said before, we have a lot of pride and I think that showed in the second half of the Ivy season.”

Henderson vows that Princeton will play with pride when it faces the Green Wave in New Orleans.

“We are not in the big tournament but you find out at 9:30 that night who you are going to play and you do as much cramming as you can possibly do,” said Henderson.

“I know coach Conroy (Tulane head coach Ed Conroy) just over the years. His teams are always really well coached. They are trying to do what we are trying to do. They are psyched to be
playing in the postseason. We know it is a chance to play in March, which is good.”

While the self-professed basketball junkie Henderson will be keeping an eye on the NCAA tournament and March Madness, he believes the CBI can be a critical step as the Tigers look to get back to the top of the Ivy League.

“We have our own little thing going on here and that is the CBI and this is  a really important tournament for us,” said Henderson, who guided the Tigers to the quarterfinals of the 2012 CBI.

“We didn’t do this just to play in the postseason, we are preparing to win. We have got our own task at hand that requires a lot of focus.”