September 19, 2012

BOOTING UP: Princeton University sophomore soccer star Julian Griggs prepares to boot the ball up the field in recent action. Last Sunday, Griggs and the Tigers broke a three-game losing streak as they edged Villanova 1-0. Princeton, now 2-3, hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting nationally ranked Georgetown last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s soccer team seemed overmatched in the early going.

The Tigers were outshot 10-4 by the No. 12 Hoyas and trailed 1-0 at intermission.

“We had a hard time in the first half,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow. “We played a 4-4-2 in the first half and they stretched us out pretty well. I didn’t think that we got our back line up high enough and there was too much room for them to play in the midfield.”

Looking to stem the tide, Barlow made a key adjustment after halftime. “In the second half we went with a 4-3-3 with Thomas Sanner all the way up, Julian Griggs and Cameron Porter out wide, and we put three guys in the middle,” said Barlow.

“It definitely made it harder for them to keep possession in the middle. I thought Pat O’Neil, Matt Sanner, and Myles McGinley did a good job of plugging holes and I thought we took control of the game.”

The Tigers outshot Georgetown 13-4 over the last 45 minutes of the game but were unable to find the back of the net as they fell 1-0.

Still, Barlow drew positives from the team’s second half performance. “This was a big step forward for our team,” said Barlow.

“I thought we got on the same page with how we were going to try to play defense and it went much better. I think we had a few chances that we should have put away. We looked like a soccer team in the second half.”

Two days later, the Tigers built on that second half effort as they edged Villanova 1-0 on a goal by Thomas Sanner.

Freshman forward Sanner has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. “Thomas is a good target up there,” said Barlow, whose team improved to 2-3 with the win on Sunday.

“He has got good feet. He can look to get behind the defense but he can also look to make passes.”

Senior co-captain Mark Linnville helped keep the Princeton defense tight in the Georgetown game. “He is steady back there,” said Barlow of Linnville, a three-time first-team All- Ivy League performer.

“He is a leader; he keeps the back line together. I think he was a little cautious in the first half and kept the line too deep. In the second half, he pushed the line up higher. They didn’t get behind us and I think we now have a little more confidence that we can put our line up higher and play more in their end.”

In Barlow’s view, having started the season by playing five teams from the Big East (Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers in addition to Georgetown and Villanova) should give the Tigers confidence going forward.

“I am always a fan of playing against good teams and the Big East has a lot of good teams,” said Barlow, whose team hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.

“When you only have 17 games to play in a year, you want to play good teams. I know they start earlier. I know they have had a lot more games than us but we can’t focus on that. Georgetown had played six games, a few scrimmages, and have been together a lot longer than us. In the first half, especially, they looked like they are further along but this is how you make progress and I thought we did make some progress.”

BRONZE AGE: Former Princeton University fencing star Maya Lawrence, left, and current Tiger fencer Susie Scanlan enjoy the moment after they were named to the U.S. epee team that competed in the London Olympics. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton grad who has been living and training in France the last seven years, helped the U.S. take bronze, its first-ever medal in the event. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maya Lawrence pulled an upset in her opening bout in the individual epee at the London Olympics last month but ended up being angry with herself for getting eliminated in the next round.

“I performed well but had a bad second bout,” said Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton University grad and former fencing star for the Tigers who topped Italy’s Maria Navarria 15-12 in the Round of 32 before losing 15-7 to Rossella Flamingo of Italy in the next round.

“Navarria was No. 7 or 9 in the world so on paper she was a stronger fencer. I was training to win the first bout. It was really exciting to win the first bout, maybe too exciting. I didn’t have time to process emotions.”

Days later, Lawrence experienced an emotional high she won’t ever forget, helping the U.S. to bronze in the team epee event as it topped Russia 31-30 in the third-place match. It was the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the event.

“We were all really excited; we had been through a lot and being able to get a medal at the ends was great,” said Lawrence, who was joined on the team by Princeton junior Susie Scanlan together with sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley.

“It is an individual sport and we are used to competing against each other. I was proud that we were able to come together. You have to stop and regroup and be a team. We did team-building and we managed personalities.”

As 2012 dawned, Lawrence had the sense that the epee team could build into something special.

“In January, I had a feeling that something big was going to happen,” said Lawrence.

“Teams that had been beating us badly weren’t beating us by that much. In the World Cup event in April outside Paris, we got second. That was the best U.S. finish and, on paper, showed that we were capable.”

For Lawrence, it was fitting that the U.S. did well in France as she lives and trains in Paris.

“I have been there for seven years,” said Lawrence, who trains with Maitre Daniel Lavavasseur.

“I knew that I wanted to train in France; I had been training in the French school with Michel [former Princeton coach Michel Sebastiani]. It is a great place to train. I have great guys to train with. We have fencers from different countries.”

The influence of Sebastiani, a master of traditional French fencing technique who runs Sebastiani Fencing Academy in Princeton, helped spur Lawrence to keep competing on an international level.

“I am not sure I would have continued; he was the only one who thought I could do this,” said Lawrence, a native of Teaneck, N.J., who was a four-time All-Ivy League selection and an All-American during her Tiger career.

“He was the most emotionally supportive coach I have had, expressing to me that I had the ability to do this. He always told me to keep working.”

Lawrence had to work hard to finally qualify for the Olympics, having fallen short in 2004 and 2008.

During the Opening Ceremony at the London Games, the magnitude of making the Olympics hit Lawrence.

“At first, I didn’t feel anything but then I saw a training partner, a Tunisian,” said Lawrence. “We had shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears together. We started bawling.”

Competing together on the U.S. team with fellow Princeton standout Scanlan has been a good feeling for Lawrence.

“I graduated way before she did; we have never been on a team before,” said Lawrence.

“We get along pretty well. She is really good at motivating the team. She is mature beyond her years.”

The U.S. epee team brought plenty of motivation into the competition in London. “The whole second half of the season we have been talking to each other saying that we could do it,” said Lawrence.

“We were definitely the underdogs. There were probably only five or six people in the room that thought we could do it. All the teams that were supposed to get a medal lost in the first round.”

The U.S. pulled an upset in the quarterfinals, topping Italy 45-35 but then stumbled in the semifinals as it fell 45-36 to South Korea.

“Romania was seeded No. 1 and they had lost,” said Lawrence, reflecting on the loss to South Korea.

“This was the tableau of our dream and we couldn’t miss this chance. But we were fencing not to lose, we were to cautious against South Korea.”

In the bronze medal match, the U.S. faced Russia and pulled out a 31-30 triumph.

“We had beaten them a year ago but they had beaten us badly since,” said Lawrence.

“We went back to the strategy that beat them. We didn’t think that we had to run after them. We wanted to be cautious but aggressive when opportunities to score came up.”

In the aftermath of their achievement, Lawrence and her teammates got to soak up the scene around London over the last week of the Summer Games.

“We had some free time to go out and celebrate and see other events,” said Lawrence. “We did a lot of interviews; it was fun to be there without the stress of competition.”

Lawrence, now 32, plans to keep competing with an eye to possibly taking part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I have goals,” said Lawrence. “I am No. 19 individually, I would like to be in the top 16. I would like to do better in World Cup events and the World Championships.”

September 12, 2012

GROUP DYNAMIC: Members of the Princeton University football team enjoy a light moment during the program’s annual media day last Friday. Coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, the Tigers are hoping to smile a little more this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2012 campaign with a game this Saturday at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When assessing the state of a Princeton University football program that is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Tiger head coach Bob Surace cites the words of a legendary figure around town.

“Last Saturday after our scrimmage my daughter said ‘daddy I have a quote for you,’” recalled third-year head coach Surace,

“She said ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.’ That’s a quote from Albert Einstein. It is kind of where we are at. We are learning from the mistakes we made last year, things in the red zone, turnovers; things that we have to learn from if we are going to get this fixed. We live for the moment. We gave out T-shirts right away this year that say ‘believe.’ There is hope for tomorrow.”

The Tigers could take a major step in making believers out of their supporters this Saturday if they can win their season opener at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).

Surace knows the Tigers face a major challenge in the Mountain Hawks, who have won two straight against Princeton and 10 of the last 13 meetings in the series.

“They are a well-coached team,” said Surace, whose squad fell 34-22 to Lehigh in last year’s season opener.

“They get us in their third game and by the time we get them, whatever errors they may have had in the first two weeks have been corrected. They are a physical team. Their receiver Ryan Spadola is as good a football player as I have seen in my two years here. He’s exciting and he makes plays.”

With Princeton losing last year’s Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibilio as he takes a leave of absence after suffering a stroke earlier this year, the Tigers will be depending on senior running back Akil Sharp to make a lot of big plays.

Tiger offensive coordinator believes that the the 5’9, 210-pound Sharp is ready to fill the void left by Dibilio, who rushed for 1,068 yards last fall.

“Akil has shown that he is a trustworthy back and that he can do a lot of things,” said Perry of Sharp, who rushed for 244 yards in 2011.

“His development as a senior has been very good to see. It is nice having a senior who is the guy stepping into a situation like that. He has done a nice job of seizing things and being at the forefront.”

Others in the mix at running back include sophomore Will Powers and Jonathan Esposito together with a pair of promising freshmen, DiAndre Atwater and Dre Nelson.

Perry acknowledged that nobody has seized the starting job at quarterback with sophomores Quinn Epperly (23-for-52 passing for 259 yards, 215 yards rushing in 2011) and Connor Michelson (3-for-5 passing for seven yards) locked in a battle with freshman Kedric Bostic in the mix.

“Right now there is no separation, they have all done a good job,” said Perry, a record-setting quarterback for Brown during his college days.

“I know that is a premier position and people want to know what is going on. We needed depth there in a big way and we have gotten depth. Coach Surace and myself feel very strongly that we are in a much better position having guys who can play and not being hamstrung into a position where you feel if something happens to one guy, you are in a tough spot. I think we will reap the rewards of both the competition at that position in particular but across the board at all positions.”

The competition has been particularly stiff at wide receiver where several players are battling for snaps including senior Shane Wilkinson (38 receptions for 384 yards in 2011), sophomore Matt Costello (29 receptions for 341 yards), senior Tom Moak (9 receptions for 86 yards), sophomore Seth DeValve (1 reception for 10 yards), junior Roman Wilson (2 receptions for nine yards), and sophomore Connor Kelley (3 receptions for 23 yards).

“In modern college football you have to be able to throw the ball period,” said Perry.

“We were able to throw the ball much better in the spring and at this camp because we have a group of wide receivers who are all playing much better. We have been able to generate far more explosive plays in the pass game, those guys collectively have all stepped up.”

Princeton is hoping that senior tight end Mark Hayes (11 receptions for 107 yards) can step up and be a bigger part of the offense.

“Mark is as good a blocking tight end as you will have in college,” maintained Perry.

“He can catch the ball very well. I know last year there were some moments where we wanted to get more productivity out of him in the pass game.”

The Tigers are looking to senior Kevin Mill to help the offensive line be a productive unit.

“Kevin Mill is a guy at the tackle position who is a senior,” said Perry. “He is a guy with terrific ability and last year he came off an ACL and played well. Now he is two years removed from that and playing very well. He is providing leadership across the board. Those guys have a lot of experience and experience together. We are expecting big things out of that unit.”

The line will feature junior Joe Goss at center with junior Taylor Pearson and Max Coale listed as the starters at guard and sophomore Spenser Huston pencilled in at the other tackle spot. Others in the mix include a trio of sophomores Tom Yetter, Jack Woodall, and Ryan Peloquin together with senior Hanur Kim and freshman Britt Colcolough.

Princeton should get some big things out of its defensive line which features senior co-captain Mike Catapano, a two-time All-Ivy selection with 108 career tackles and classmate Caraun Reid, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall when he had 68 tackles and eight sacks. The line also includes two other key veterans in senior Matt Landry and junior Greg Sotereanos.

“It is hard to block Catapano, Reid, and Sotereanos, that is a really deep group,” said Surace.

“You have to game plan to play those guys and it is hard when you have two like Catapano and Reid, you can’t slide the line both ways.”

The Tiger linebacking crew should make things hard for Princeton’s foes, headed by senior co-captain Andrew Starks, a two-time All-Ivy honoree, sophomore Garrett Leicht, and battle-tested senior Tim Kingsbury.

“Andrew plays the game the right way, he plays it hard,” added Surace. “Garrett Leicht has had his hands on the football more times in camp than our linebackers combined in the last two years.”

Surace is hoping that senior strong safety Mandela Shaeffer will get his hands on the ball more as he leads a secondary that includes sophomore star Khamal Brown and junior Trocon Davis at cornerback along with junior Philip Bhaya at free safety.

“It is fulfilling to see Mandela Shaeffer just making plays,” said Surace. “He is not just saying its cover three and I am in my spot, but he is unleashing and making plays.”

The preseason has seen some good playmaking all around, according to Surace.

“The guys are excited; we are having a really good training camp,” said Surace.

“I like the way we are practicing. I like the way we approach things. This team looks like it is going to be a very mature team.”

In Surace’s view, his maturation as a head coach has the team on the same page as it heads into the Lehigh clash.

“You know your team, you know people better,” said Surace. “You build relationships. All those guys who are seniors, I didn’t know their parents, I didn’t know their high schools so you need to build relationships, you need to build trust. Before they were doing it because we told them to. Now I think we have built a family where they now understand what we are trying to do.”

STARK REALITY: Princeton University linebacker Andrew Starks heads to an interview at the program’s recent media day. Senior star and co-captain Starks is looking to start his final college campaign with a bang as the Tigers play at 14th-ranked Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday in their season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Starks made an immediate impact at safety during his freshman season with the Princeton University football team in 2009.

The Plainfield, Ill. native recorded 33 tackles and two pass breakups, earning the Harlan “Pink” Baker Award as Princeton’s top defensive freshman along with lineman Caraun Reid.

After watching Starks’ exploits, the Princeton coaches decided that he could make an impact elsewhere on the field and moved him to linebacker.

Starks was a little out of step initially as he made the transition to his new spot in the field.

“It was definitely an adjustment; I had been playing safety pretty much all my life and then moving to linebacker, things seemed to speed up quite a bit,” said Starks.

“You don’t have quite as much reaction time. Fortunately we have a great coaching staff here and they worked me a lot in the offseason and spring ball and summer camp.”

Applying those lessons well, Starks made the coaches look pretty smart, earning All-Ivy League Honorable Mention as a sophomore in 2010 with 89 tackles. Last fall, Starks recorded 80 tackles in nine games, including five for a loss, on the way to earning second-team All-Ivy recognition.

Growing into a leader as well as a star linebacker, Starks enters this fall as one of Princeton’s team captains and top players as the Tigers look to get back on the winning track after back-to-back 1-9 campaigns.

“I am looking forward going into my senior year having two years under my belt playing linebacker,” said Starks, whose final college season kicks off when the Tigers play at Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday. “It should be a good year.”

Starks acknowledged that it took him much of his sophomore year to develop a comfort level in his new spot.

“It was a bit of an adjustment; it took a little getting used to,” said Starks, who now packs 240 pounds on his 6’2 frame.

“But as the season progressed sophomore year, I felt more like a true linebacker than a safety playing linebacker. I felt pretty comfortable in the Brown game and made some big plays in that one. I started to get the hang of things and loosened up a little bit. It was a lot less thinking and a lot more just running around and playing. I kind of built on that last year as well.”

While last year was disappointing for Princeton in terms of its record, Starks believes the program made strides.

“The record wasn’t anywhere near where we wanted it to be but we did see a tremendous amount of improvement,” said Starks.

“We had a lot of young guys playing last year that are fortunately coming back this year. We have a lot of experience with everyone having another year under their belt and another year of offseason conditioning and lifting, another spring ball, and another summer camp. I think we are in pretty good shape. I think people are starting to feel comfortable and we should see the results.”

Starks feels fortunate to have been chosen as a team captain for the 2012 Tigers.

“It is a tremendous honor on a team where you have so many leaders and so many people doing the right thing,” said Starks, who will be serving as captain along with with senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano.

“To be chosen as one of the guys that everyone else looks to is just a huge honor. I couldn’t be more proud of what this team has done and to be given the opportunity to lead them off the field and on the field this year as a captain.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace is proud to have Starks as one of the leaders of his squad.

“He is just such a good person,” asserted Surace. “He is really mature; he knows how to approach people. He handles all the things you have to handle at a great school like Princeton — academics, social, leadership, and football. He has a great way about him.”

For Starks, having the title of captain isn’t going to change the way he handles things.

“As far as my leadership style I try not to do anything different than I did before; I think I was named captain for a reason,” said Starks.

“I just try to lead by example; I think the guys respect my work ethic and what I am doing. I feel if I keep that up and do the things I have been doing in the last three or four years, everybody else will follow that. I think that is the only thing you can do. You can’t expect the guys to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. If I am doing things right, putting my best effort forward and putting in the time to do extra work, people will see that and they will do the same.”

As Starks looks ahead to the Lehigh clash, he believes Princeton’s hard work over the last few years is going to start paying dividends.

“I definitely feel this program is ready to turn a corner,” said Starks. “I think we showed moments last year; we just didn’t show it for 60 minutes. That is what we need to do this year. Once we can do that, we will have a great season. I am looking forward to getting started against Lehigh this coming week.”

HISTORIC STRIKE: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht prepares to strike the ball last Sunday in Princeton’s 2-1 win over visiting Richmond. Midfielder Reinprecht scored the first goal as the Tigers opened play at their new Bedford Field. She later assisted on the game-winning goal by Allison Evans to help the fourth-ranked Tigers improve to 4-0. Princeton opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After taking a leave of absence from the Princeton University field hockey team over the last year to play with the U.S. National Team and compete in the Olympics, Katie Reinprecht was not sure what to expect upon her return to the Tiger program.

“I was a little nervous, I thought it was going to be weird, seeing that I didn’t know two whole grades that are here,” said senior midfielder Reinprecht. “It was definitely a little different than it has felt in the past.”

It didn’t take long for Reinprecht to get back in the swing of things upon her return to Princeton last month.

“It is amazing how natural and familiar it feels once you get into it,” said Reinprecht. “It was pretty seamless.”

Last Sunday, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year displayed her familiar excellence, scoring a goal and assisting on the game-winner as fourth-ranked Princeton edged visiting Richmond 2-1 in the first game played on Bedford Field.

Reinprecht and her teammates were excited to christen the program’s sparkling new facility.

“I feel fortunate to be here for its opening year; it was pretty cool,” said Reinprecht, whose clutch play helped the Tigers improve to 4-0.

“I think today we were a little frustrated with our performance for the opening game. They played us really well today, give them a lot of credit. They had energy the whole game. They definitely gave us a good matchup. It was a good competitive environment.”

Although Reinprecht made history by scoring the first goal at the field, she acknowledged it wasn’t a play for the highlight reel.

“I actually almost screwed it up,” said Reinprecht with a laugh. “I got a little lucky to be honest. I saw I had to take it on my reverse and get it off any way I could.”

Even though Princeton found itself locked in a 1-1 tie with 10:15 left in the second half, Reinprecht was confident that the Tigers wouldn’t screw things up.

“It’s hard not to get a little alarmed but I felt confident in our playing style, the players on our team, and the talent that we have that we would be able to come back and get the win,” said Reinprecht.

“Obviously it is not something you want to have to do with 10 minutes left in the game. It is a good test of our mental strength, I think.”

On the game-winning goal, Reinprecht displayed her strength as a playmaker as she set up Allison Evans’ tally in the waning moments of the contest.

“I saw Sharkey cutting across the top and they were all flocking to her and I knew I could sneak in behind,” recalled Reinprecht.

“She found me on a really nice pass and then there were three Princeton girls in front of the goal and I just had to pick one of them.”

In Reinprecht’s view, the Tigers are off to a really nice start this fall. “That was our goal for the first phase of the season; we wanted to come out and get four wins,” said Reinprecht.

“I am happy with the start we have had in terms of the competition we have matched up against. I think we are excited with the start, especially since we are starting a little later being an Ivy League team.”

While Reinprecht wasn’t excited by the U.S. team’s 12th-place finish at the London Olympics, she believes that competing at that level can only benefit her in the long run.

“It was an absolutely incredible experience; I will definitely never forget it,” said Reinprecht, who was joined on the U.S. team by younger sister and fellow Tiger star, Julia.

“It is something I want to do again. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted but the Olympic experience is more than the two-week tournament. It was really the year building up for me. I learned so much about the hard work it takes to really improve as a player and how you need to push yourself.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn certainly appreciates the work she gets from Reinprecht.

“Katie has such an engine, physiologically she is just a machine,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “The work that she does on both sides of the ball is spectacular.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that Richmond (3-2) gave the Tigers a run for their money on Sunday.

“I give them a lot of credit,” said Holmes-Winn. “What is concerning to me is that we had 14 shots and we only made the keeper play the ball twice. That’s something we look at but there were some really good patches of hockey. We played possession really well. I think we manipulated their structure in a way that we talked about.”

Despite its 4-0 start, Princeton needs to get more out of its possessions. “If someone told me the issue with our team would be finishing that would be a real shock to me but it has been our issue in these past couple of games,” added Holmes-Winn.

“It is just figuring out how to be more effective with our numbers; that will be a big key to that. We have players who are playing well; it is just a matter of breaking through and getting our mojo on attack. We certainly have the personnel to do it. It is just a matter of having that moment where here it is. We haven’t had that and that will come. These guys need to get away from thinking so much, There is a lot of information transferred in the first couple of weeks and now we have to pull back and let them play.”

With Princeton bolstered by the return of the Reinprecht sisters together with Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey from national team duties, the Tigers are going to get the spirited play from their foes.

“A lot of it is team dynamic and chemistry,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.

“I feel that it is good that the opposition is going to perceive themselves as the underdog in just about every game. When you are an underdog, I think there is a very clear task orientation and I think for us to have to play against that certainty is amazing. It is good that there is that elevation that is going to occur from the opposition which will make us better in the long run.”

Reinprecht, for her part, believes that the four returners will help Princeton elevate its game on a daily basis.

“We probably demand more out of them than they may be used to because we are used to having that demanded of us,” said Reinprecht,

“I know there is a lot of talent in the four girls who came back, that is just one thing. I think just mentally and personality wise we brought some good flavor back to the program. We have overarching goals and then smaller goals. We have high hopes.”

September 5, 2012

GOAL RUSH: Princeton University women’s soccer star Jen Hoy controls that ball last Friday in Princeton’s 2-1 loss to Wake Forest in its season opener. Senior striker Hoy scored the Tigers’ lone goal in the defeat and then added three more tallies on Sunday as Princeton tied Colgate 4-4. Hoy was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance over the weekend. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Some people around the Princeton University women’s soccer program have dubbed Jen Hoy as “The Franchise” and the senior star certainly looked the part last Sunday.

As the Tigers battled Colgate in the final game of the Princeton Invitational, the speedy forward dominated the proceedings, scoring three goals in the first 50 minutes of the contest to give her team a 3-0 lead.

After falling 2-1 to Wake Forest on Friday in the opening night of action, Hoy and her teammates were determined to get on the board early against Colgate.

“We came out strong, our mantra is ‘fight’ and that is how we have been holding ourselves and how we have been trying to play the game,” said Hoy, who had Princeton’s lone goal in the loss to Wake. “I got us a goal early on and the game seemed to be flowing.”

But the flow of the game turned against Princeton as the Raiders outscored the Tigers 4-1 over the last 38 minutes of regulation to pull out a 4-4 tie in double overtime.

Princeton lost starting goalie Kristin Watson and star defender Diane Metcalf-Leggette to injury by halftime and had trouble holding its defensive shape down the stretch.

“That was a very weird game,” said Hoy. “I think we responded well [to the injuries] but things continued to fall apart and the momentum was working against us.”

Hoy gave Princeton early momentum, scoring at the 19:01 mark as she raced past and through the Colgate defense and blasted the ball into the top corner. Some 20 minutes later, Hoy tallied again, converting a Rachel Sheehy feed.

“This season I have been trying to turn my mind off and do what comes naturally,” said Hoy, a Sellersville, Pa. native who scored eight goals last fall on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy League honors.

“I was able to beat the defender on me and I saw another one coming and I knew I was going to cut across her and the goal. I shot it in the right corner of the net. On the second one, Sheehy is fantastic at playing through balls and it just popped right out in front of me and I was able to tap that one in.”

Early in the second half, Hoy displayed the hustle reminiscent of Princeton assistant coach and all-time leading Tiger goal scorer Esmeralda Negron, galloping into the face of the goalie and converting when she mishandled the ball.

“Es is always telling me to pressure every single ball because you never know what is going to come out of it,” said Hoy, reflecting on the tally which gave her the second hat trick of her career, the first coming when she scored three goals in a 6-3 win over James Madison in September, 2010.

“I definitely thought of her on that goal. You are in the right place at the right time because you worked hard to get there.”

In the wake of last weekend’s frustrations, Hoy is ready to get back to work. “I think life is about taking losses and mistakes and figuring out how you are going to respond,” said Hoy, who was named Ivy Player of the Week for her productive weekend.

“I think what we are going to do now is figure out the best way to move forward because we are going to move forward. I am excited for our next game.

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was certainly excited by the way Hoy played in the opening weekend.

“Jen was phenomenal; she has done really well,” said Shackford of Hoy, who now has 22 goals in her Princeton career.

Shackford acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t play too well down the stretch in the draw with Colgate.

“We fell apart; I just think we panicked and they felt a sense of urgency,” said Shackford, whose team hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9.

“It was a combination of both. They have a few more games under their belt; they had a little more energy at the end.”

Despite being disappointed that her team let a win get away, Shackford knew her squad faced some stiff tests in Wake and Colgate. “It is a tough opening weekend against two good teams,” said Shackford.

“I think we expended a lot in that Friday night game emotionally. I am sure that took a toll on us as well and having to absorb the loss of a couple of starters was pretty difficult for us on a day like today. Maybe on another day it would not have been so hard but today it was rough.”

Shackford hasn’t lost any confidence in her team, realizing that the season is a marathon.

“A lot of it is hard to assess, you don’t know how much is game fitness and mental fatigue,” said Shackford.

“We just lost our legs at the end; it is our second game. I told them that we can’t lose a 4-1 game but at same time I know in the back of my head that the second game is always the toughest.”

Hoy, for her part, believes that she and the seven other seniors on the squad have what it takes to end things on a high note.

“We really want to do something great for this program; we want to lead our team,” asserted Hoy.

“We have struggled in these first two games. We have played great but we have had some unfortunate outcomes. I am going to stop thinking about what happened and look forward because that is the only way we are going to continue with our season.”

SHARK WEEKEND: Princeton University field hockey star Kat Sharkey races up the field in 2010 action. Last weekend, senior Sharkey started her final college campaign in style, scoring three goals to help No. 4 Princeton beat No. 5 Duke 5-2 on Friday and then tallying all four scores as the Tigers topped 13th-ranked Wake Forest 4-2 two days later. Sharkey is one of four Tigers, along with Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, who have returned to the program after taking a leave of absence last year to train with the U.S. National Team. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays at No. 9 Penn State on September 6 before opening its new Bedford Field by hosting Richmond on September 9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University field hockey team opened its season with games at Duke and Wake Forest last weekend, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn viewed the trip as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s hard, you are never completely prepared when you have 12 days of practice and the other team has games under its belt,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We wanted to learn as much about ourselves as we could; we wanted to see how much we could stretch the opposition.”

In that learning process, the fourth-ranked Tigers ended up teaching their foes a lesson, topping No. 5 Duke 5-2 last Friday and then beating 13th-ranked Wake Forest 4-2 on Sunday.

Holmes-Winn certainly gained some positive information from the weekend. “We wanted to see how our structure would function and hold up,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We did create spaces and we generated some really good attack play. I was happy with how fluid our structure enabled us to be. We looked good physiologically; we played well in the second half of both games and showed that we have good fitness. We showed that we have a good bench, we were able to play everyone.”

The Tigers also showed some character as they battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against Wake before pulling away to the 4-2 victory.

“These girls are so professional; they don’t get rattled,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They know what they are capable of. Going into the second half of the Wake game, we talked about having better concentration. You can have the best structure around but it doesn’t mean anything if you are not concentrating in the moment. They went out and did really well.”

Senior star striker Kat Sharkey displayed good concentration, scoring three goals in the win over Duke and then tallying all four scores in the Wake victory.

“Kat created some of her opportunities but midfield gave her room to operate,” said Holmes-Winn of Sharkey, one of four Tigers, along with Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, who were returning to the program after taking a leave of absence last year to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics.

“Her scoring was partially the product of that. On her penalty corner goals, she got direct shots and showed pinpoint accuracy.”

Princeton got some outstanding play over the weekend from the Reinprechts together with Allison Evans, Charlotte Krause, and Amanda Bird.

“Katie was just outstanding; she is just such a smart player,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“She and Julia control the midfield and keep the things organized. They were exceptional. Allison Evans did some good running on attack. Charlotte Krause and Amanda Bird did some great things in the back.”

The trio of Sharkey and the Reinprecht sisters provide more than on-field excellence.

“The chemistry is going to be a good thing for us; we have all the pieces in place,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Kat, Katie, and Julia are our captains. It is great to see that their transition back has been seamless. They do things off the field to help bring the team together. It is a combination of factors; they have shown that they are the ones to lead the group.”

The Tigers will need that chemistry and leadership this Thursday when they face another road test with a contest at No. 9 Penn State (3-1).

“They have tons of speed; they are great at transition on both sides of the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will open its new Bedford Field by hosting Richmond on September 9.

“We can’t lose focus; we need to pick up our mental energy across 70 minutes of game. We need to be staying in the play. We need numbers around the ball to get space and time. We have to let spacing and structure do the work. We need to spread them out.”

August 29, 2012

COMING HOME: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht controls the ball in 2010 action. Reinprecht took a leave of absence from the Princeton program last year along with sister Julia, Michelle Cesan, and Kat Sharkey to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics. The quartet of Tiger stars is back and fourth-ranked Princeton is primed for a big season. The Tigers open the 2012 campaign by playing at No. 5 Duke on August 31 and at 13th-ranked Wake Forest on September 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

This fall, the Princeton University field hockey team will be opening its sparkling new Bedford Field, a state-of-the-art Astroturf facility adjacent to the Class of 1952 Stadium.

In the view of Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, the team’s new home should prove sweet for players and fans alike.

“The field is amazing,” said Holmes-Winn. “It plays so beautifully; you get true bounces. All the technology is there, no detail was spared.”

The Tigers boast a bevy of glittering stars who should light up the Bedford scoreboard this season, highlighted by the return of All-American performers, Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht, Michelle Cesan, and Kat Sharkey.

The quartet took a leave of absence from the program last year to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics. The Reinprecht sisters ended up starring for the U.S. at the London games while Cesan was an alternate and Sharkey was one of the last players cut from the squad.

Understandably, Holmes-Winn has welcomed back her big four with open arms.

“The chemistry off the field has been great since they got back; the transition has been seamless,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is ranked No. 4 in the 2012 Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll.

“On the field, they bring leadership and poise at the highest level and they are extremely hard workers. Those are qualities that are really important.”

The pair of junior Cesan (26 goals and 16 assists in her first two seasons) and senior Sharkey (69 goals and 22 assists in her career) will bring plenty of quality to the Princeton attack.

“They are more mature physically and better athletically and they were already pretty athletic,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens its 2012 campaign by playing at No. 5 Duke on August 31 and at 13th-ranked Wake Forest on September 2.

“They have added more dimensions to their games. Sharkey is very sharp; she got to work on her conditioning and game because she didn’t go to the Olympics. Cesan is still working back into it after being at the Olympics. They are both such physically strong players.”

The Tigers will deploy Cesan and Sharkey along with a pair of blue chip sophomores, Allison Evans and Sydney Kirby. Evans tallied 11 goals and five assists last fall in earning second-team All-Ivy League honors and the league’s Rookie of the Year award while Kirby had nine goals and eight assists in making second team All-Ivy.

“Allison was on 70 percent of our corners last year and we will team her up with Sharkey at striker,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided a gritty Tigers squad to a 10-8 mark in 2011 and the program’s seventh straight Ivy crown and 17th in the last 18 years.

“Sydney Kirby and Cesan will be outside mids; they overlap and come up front. We are playing a different style; the girls are still figuring out where the spaces are. We have the potential to be dynamic.”

Holmes-Winn will also be using senior Molly Goodman, senior Charlotte Krause, junior Allegra Mango, and freshman Maddie Copeland, a former Stuart Country Day and Peddie star, on attack.

In the central midfield, Princeton will be relying on senior star Katie Reinprecht to trigger the action. In her first three seasons with the Tigers, Reinprecht piled up 44 goals and 31 assists on the way to earning Ivy Player of the Year awards in 2008 and 2009.

“Katie Reinprecht is a playmaker, she finds spaces like no one I have seen,” asserted Holmes-Winn, noting that freshman Teresa Benvenuti should also make an impact as an offensive midfielder.

“She finds teammates; she knows when to ask for the ball. She brings a lot of pace.”

Reinprecht’s younger sister, junior standout Julia, will play a dual role from the back of the Tiger midfield.

“Julia Reinprecht will be at the bottom of the midfield,” added Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who has tallied 14 goals and 20 assists in her first two college campaigns.

“She will have a lot of opportunities to overlap. She is an exceptional playmaker and we don’t want to limit her to defense. She has always been a calm player. She is one of the better mobile defenders in the country.”

The Tigers boast some outstanding defenders in junior Amanda Bird, junior Kelsey Byrne, and senior Amy Donovan.

“Amanda Bird is really versatile; she is a dangerous finisher,” said Holmes-Winn of Bird who tallied nine goals and three assists last fall.

“Kelsey Byrne is another versatile player. We can play them on the back line and in the midfield. Amy Donovan played mainly on the left last year but could see time on the right side this year.”

At goalie, the Tigers have three players who should see time in returning junior starter Christina Maida together with sophomore Julia Boyle and freshman Anya Gersoff.

“Maida looks great,” said Holmes-Winn of Maida who posted a goals against average of 1.88 in 2011.

“All three goalies look good. We hope to establish a top two by October. We want to be able to give all of them opportunities for game action. All have different strengths and weaknesses. We are lucky to have three really good goalies.”

In order to produce a really good season, the Tigers will to have maximize their strengths.

“The defenses will be stingy and packing things in,” said Holmes-Winn, who has posted a 110-56 record in her first nine years guiding the Tigers.

“We need to execute on attack and on penalty corners. We need to have numbers in front of the field. We need to understand the system, knowing who is overlapping and when. We also have to pay attention to details like nutrition, rest, and managing stress.”

As Holmes-Winn looks ahead to the team’s season-opening weekend, she knows the Tigers will be placed under plenty of stress.

“Duke is going to be amazing; they are deep with lots of speed,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It will be a great test. It will expose us; it will give us a lot of information. Wake is really dynamic physically. They are good finishers; they will be organized, without a doubt. We will have to be smart. We need to manipulate the attack but still have cover on defense.”

BOUNCING BACK: Princeton University men’s soccer player Cameron Porter goes after the ball in action last fall. Sophomore forward Porter tallied five goals in 2011 and should be a key offensive weapon for the Tigers this fall as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 5-10-2 campaign. Princeton opens its 2012 season with a game at Seton Hall on August 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jim Barlow will tell you that there is not much difference between first place and the cellar in Ivy League men’s soccer.

“We know how even the league is,” said Princeton head coach Barlow, who is bringing a 119-115-42 record into his 17th season at the helm of the Tigers. “All eight teams believe they can win.”

In 2010, the Tigers’ self-belief proved justified as they went 7-0 in league play on the way to the third Ivy crown in Barlow’s tenure.

Last fall, Princeton’s propensity for ill-timed defensive lapses caused the Tigers to plummet almost all the way to the Ivy basement with a 1-5-1 league record and seventh-place league finish.

“We were just a few bounces away,” said Barlow, in reflecting on the 2011 campaign which saw the Tigers post an overall record of 5-10-2 after going 13-4-1 a year earlier in its championship campaign. “We had high hopes but it didn’t go as we had hoped.”

As the Tigers get ready for the 2012 season, Barlow sees the hunger in his players to bounce back from last year.

“I think a lot of guys were frustrated last year after going to the NCAA tournament the previous two years,” said Barlow, whose team opens the season with a game at Seton Hall on August 31. “The guys made a point to get back into it over the offseason and be focused.”

So far, that focus has paid dividends. “We have a long way to go but we are cautiously optimistic,” said Barlow.

“We are ahead of where we were last year at this point. We are getting good leadership from the seniors. They are pulling the team along; they are ready to push.”

The Tigers will be looking to get a good push up front at forward from sophomores Julian Griggs (3 goals in 2011) and Cameron Porter (5 goals, 2 assists).

“Both Julian and Cameron have talent, athleticism, and a nose for the ball,” said Barlow, noting that freshmen Nico Hurtado and Thomas Sanner will also see time at forward. “They both are a handful for the other teams.”

Senior star and co-captain Matt Sanner could lend a hand at either midfield or forward.

“We still have options with him,” said Barlow of Sanner, who scored a team-high seven goals last fall on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy honors.

“We have him playing midfield. He has done well there in the past but we can move him up top. He had foot surgery after the season last year so he is just getting back into things.”

The Tigers boast two key veterans in the midfield in junior Lester Nare and senior Patrick O’Neil.

“Nare and O’Neil were both starters for us in 2010 when we won the title,” said Barlow, who believes that a trio of freshmen, Jack Hilger, John Kendall, and former Peddie standout Brendan McSherry could make an immediate impact in the midfield. “Lester wasn’t with us last year; he’s back and doing very well.”

In Barlow’s view, the midfield unit could emerge as a strength of this year’s team.

“We feel much better about the midfield than we did a few months ago,” asserted Barlow. “We didn’t know how Nare would look after his layoff and we weren’t sure about the freshmen.”

Barlow feels good having senior co-captain and three-time first-team All-Ivy performer Mark Linnville anchoring his defensive corps.

“Linnville will be leading us in the center of the backline,” said Barlow. “We are also using Andrew Mills, Billy McGuiness, and Alex Wetterman who all have experience. Josh Miller, a freshman from Oregon, has been looking good.”

At goalie, Princeton has three good options in senior Max Gallin, junior Seth MacMillan, and freshman Ben Hummel.

“All three are looking solid; Max stands a little ahead right now,” said Barlow. “Max played a lot in the beginning last year and then MacMillan played at the end. We could have a rotation but if one gets a hot hand, we won’t be taking him out.”

Barlow is hoping his team can get off to a hot start as it looks to put last year in the rear view mirror.

“If we can get some wins in the first part of the season, that will give us confidence,” said Barlow, noting that his team is opening with five straight games against Big East foes, taking on Seton Hall, St. John’s, Rutgers, Georgetown, and Villanova in succession.

“It will help us prepare for the Ivy League even if we lose; playing some of the best teams around has got to help us.”

Princeton will have to be at its best to get off on the right foot in its season-opening contests at Seton Hall and St. John’s.

“St. John’s and Seton Hall are two teams that we have played a lot,” said Barlow.

“St. John’s beat us last year with a goal in the last second of OT; they beat Boston University 3-0 in their opener last week and BU is always a good team. Seton Hall is in its first year without Mannfred [Longtime head coach Manny Schellscheidt] so we don’t know what they are going to look like. It is always a tough game.”

If the Tigers are going to regain their spot in the upper echelon of the Ivy League, they will have to exhibit toughness all over the field.

“We gave up a lot of soft goals last year against the run of play and on counters,” said Barlow.

“We scored enough goals to win the league so we need better team defense and goalkeeping. We need to be playing better when the ball is in front of our net. We have a little more depth than we have had in the past. I think we can play a high energy game and play a few more players.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Lauren Lazo controls the ball in action last fall. Princeton will be looking to sophomore Lazo to build on a solid debut campaign that saw her tally four goals and four assists on the way to earning Honorable Mention All-Ivy League recognition. The Tigers start their 2012 season by hosting the Princeton Invitational this weekend at Roberts Stadium, facing Wake Forest on August 31 and Colgate on September 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Looking at the statistics, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s soccer team produced another solid campaign in 2011.

The Tigers outscored their foes 27-26 on the season, generating 121 shots on goal to 71 for their opponents and ending up with a 102-43 edge in corner kicks.

But those solid numbers didn’t result in a good fall as the Tigers slipped to 6-10-1 overall and 2-5 in Ivy League action after going 9-6-1 in 2010.

As Princeton head coach Julie Shackford looks ahead to the upcoming season, she believes her returning players learned some valuable lessons from last fall’s frustration.

“It was a weird season, we weren’t a bad team,” said Shackford, who brings a 175-99-21 record into her 18th season at the helm of the Tigers and has guided the program to seven NCAA appearances during her tenure.

“We played some good soccer, we just weren’t consistent at finishing. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The players took it to heart. We had a great spring and they did their homework over the summer.”

Shackford is expecting some good work from her seniors as the program looks to regain its winning ways.

“We have eight seniors and they are strong leaders,” said Shackford, whose team starts the 2012 campaign by hosting the Princeton Invitational this weekend at Roberts Stadium, facing Wake Forest on August 31 and Colgate on September 2.

“You find that teams that have done the best over the years had strong senior leadership. The seniors have maturity and talent; they have been through the ups and downs. Everybody is on board.”

Princeton will be depending on two of those seniors, Jen Hoy and Caitlin Blosser, together with a pair of sophomores, Melissa Downey and Lauren Lazo, to trigger the offense.

“We have a lot of attacking players,” said Shackford. “We have Blosser as a target and then Hoy, Lazo, and Downey right behind them. We are playing all four together; using a 4-2-3-1 formation.”

In Shackford’s view, that alignment will allow the speedy Hoy to find open space.

“Hoy is not going to feel like it is all on her shoulders,” said Shackford of Hoy, who tallied  eight goals and five assists last fall on the way to earning First-team All-Ivy League honors.

“With our depth, she will have more freedom to do what she does best. She will be marked and people will be playing hard against her. She has such a good motor; she goes hard all the time.”

The three other starters up front have the potential to make things hard on Princeton’s foes. Lazo had four goals and four assists in 2011 with Downey tallying two goals and five assists and Blosser having scored nine goals in her Tiger career.

“Lazo is a special player; she can score and she can pass,” added Shackford, who will be using sophomores Jess Haley and Liana Cornacchio on attack.

“She covers so much ground; she can clean up mistakes. Downey is really creative. Blosser is back in form; she is big and is a good header.”

Shackford will be counting on some heads-up play in the midfield from the group of junior Gabrielle Guzman and freshman Jessica Lee together with seniors Rachel Sheehy and Rebecca Schmoys.

“Guzman will be one of the holding midfielders for sure,” said Shackford. “Jessica Lee will see time; she has been playing with the U.S. U-18 team. Rachel Sheehy and Rebecca Schmoys will also get minutes.”

Senior Alison Nabatoff will play a key role in holding the fort along the back line. She will be joined in the defensive corps by junior Diane Metcalf-Leggette, freshman Emily Sura, junior Kacie Kergides, sophomore Gabrielle Ragazzo, and freshman Catherine Hartigan.

“Nabatoff is one of the smarter players we have had; she reads the game very well,” said Shackford.

“Metcalf-Leggette is all good; she is back and doing well. Emily Sura and Kacie Kergides are in the mix. Gabrielle Ragazzo has nailed down the right back position. Catherine Hartigan should also see time in the back.”

Three players could see time at goalie for the Tigers with seniors Kristin Watson and Claire Pinciaro together with sophomore Darcy Hargadon in the mix.

“It will be Watson as the starter with Pinciaro and Hargadon battling for time,” said Shackford. “Watson has experience, size, and physicality. She has a lot of confidence.”

Shackford is confident that her squad has the resources to battle anyone on its schedule.

“We have a lot of depth, we have 23 field players,” said Shackford. “That will come in handy, we have our hands full in the beginning. I think we need to keep everyone healthy and embrace the idea of depth. We will have constant competition for positions which is good; that holds people accountable.”

Enduring disappointment last fall should serve to make the Tigers more competitive in 2012.

“Coming off a season like that is an automatic motivator for the players,” said Shackford. “They have worked hard; they don’t want to have that feeling again.”

The Tigers will be looking to produce a feel-good weekend as they face some formidable foes in their first taste of regular season action.

“I am excited,” said Shackford. “It is a good opportunity to be able to compete with a team like Wake that has a big head start on us. Colgate is a solid Patriot League team. It should be two great games with a great atmosphere.”

CAPITAL GAIN: Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Ammon displays his skating form as he chases down a puck. The rising junior forward took part in the Washington Capitals prospect camp earlier this summer and is hoping it will help him enjoy a big winter for the Tigers.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Ammon was excited to get invited to the Washington Capitals prospect camp last summer.

But the Princeton University men’s hockey star never got the chance to go.

An injury sidelined the Tiger forward and kept him from participating in his first National Hockey League pro prospect camp.

When Ammon was offered another opportunity to attend the Capitals camp this summer, the Aldie, Va. native jumped at the chance.

“I definitely went in there with something to prove,” said Ammon. “Missing last year’s camp was a big bummer with the injury. I just wanted to come into camp strong this year especially after finishing the season strong. I wanted to show them what I had.”

The 6‘0, 185-pound rising junior made the most of his second chance with the Capitals prospects. He scored a goal on his first day of workouts at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. and believes he left a strong impression on the club’s staff.

For Ammon, skating with the Capitals also meant skating with his hometown team since he moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2001 and has been an avid Caps fan most of his life.

“I grew up in the area,” said Ammon. “I’ve been there since I was eleven years old. To go to their practice locker room and actually sit there was a pretty cool feeling.”

Like most prospects, the first outing at a professional camp can be intimidating. However, it did not take long for Ammon to settle in and develop a comfort zone on the ice.

“I really didn’t know what to expect with my first camp going in there,” said Ammon.

“Walking in there was really a feeling of the unknown. But once you start talking to the other guys at camp, you start to feel more comfortable. A lot of the guys are pretty much in the same situation you’re in, but the competition is still there.”

The competition was strong throughout the camp but Ammon feels that he more than held his own against the rest of the
Capitals’ prospects and his hard work will result in visits to Princeton’s Baker Rink by members of the Capitals’ scouting staff.

“They said they would be watching and would definitely make it up to a couple of Princeton games,” said Ammon. “Hopefully, I’m on their radar.”

Ammon is hoping to continue with the recent trend of Princeton players and the professional ranks. Former Tigers George Parros and Kevin Westgarth each were part of a Stanley Cup champion in recent years, while several other Tigers have also played on the professional level.

“Everyone that comes in here wants to move onto the next level,” said Ammon. “Now, it’s becoming more of a reality. The work you need to get there is still there, but the guys definitely believe more now that they can make it.”

Ammon came on strong for the Tigers last season, finishing with four goals and three assists in 24 games as his strong all-around game improved throughout the season. The Tigers also progressed in the second half of the 2011-12 campaign, going 4-5-4 in their last 14 regular season games before falling to Yale in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs to end the winter with an overall record of 9-16-7.

“Everyone’s ready to get back and everyone is looking forward to the season,” maintained Ammon.

“We feel like we finished really strong and we were playing our best hockey at the end of the season.  We’re looking forward to a great year.”

Injuries and the adjustment to a new coaching staff resulted in a slow start for Ammon and the Tigers last season. However, Ammon is excited to work with Tigers head coach Bob Prier for a second straight season as he enters his junior year.

“We did run into quite a few injuries at the beginning of the season,” noted

“Everyone is coming back and we’re on the same page. We’re looking forward to something big this year.”

Ammon believes he can make an even greater impact at Princeton this winter in the wake of his experience this summer.

“I definitely got to see top competition out there,” said Ammon. “It definitely helps my confidence. We had some other guys on our team go to camps, so it should help us.”

As Ammon continues to root for the Capitals this season, he will have a different perspective the next time he checks out his favorite team on television.

“It will be interesting to watch,” said Ammon. “I would definitely like to see myself out there someday.”

SPANISH INQUISITION: Princeton University men’s basketball player T.J. Bray passes the ball in action this past winter. Over the next 10 days, Bray and the Tigers will be passing through Spain as they make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid. Princeton has four games scheduled against Spanish pro teams on the trip and will sample the local culture through such activities as attending a FC Barcelona soccer game, enjoying a night of flamenco dancing, and hitting museums and cathedrals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In addition to spending countless hours on the basketball court honing his skills, Princeton University men’s hoops star T.J. Bray has been studying Spanish for years.

“I took Spanish in high school and three semesters here,” said Bray, a rising junior guard from New Berlin, Wis. “We have to take a foreign language here so I took Spanish.”

Over the next 10 days, Bray will get the chance to apply his linguistic knowledge firsthand as the Tigers take a trip to Spain.

The squad will depart on August 29 and make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid during its jaunt. Princeton has four games scheduled against Spanish pro teams and will sample the local culture through such activities as attending an FC Barcelona soccer game, enjoying a night of flamenco dancing, and hitting museums and cathedrals.

Bray has been looking forward to the journey for months, noting that the Tiger players got confirmation in January that the trip was taking place.

“I can’t wait for it,” said a smiling Bray, after finishing a pre-trip practice last Monday at Jadwin Gym.

“This group of guys is so much fun; we have a blast together. It is going to be as much fun off the court as it will be on the court.”

Bray, who is coming off a breakthrough season last winter when he averaged 7.2 points a game and had a team-high 119 assists as the Tigers went 20-12, believes the Princeton players can get a lot out of the trip on the court.

“A lot of the teams are probably going to be more talented than us because they are all pro players,” said the 6’5, 205-pound Bray.

“Just working hard and playing together will be huge things for us. There were a couple of games last year where we started slowly and that is where we got ourselves in trouble. We have to work on being consistent in our intensity from start to finish.”

Getting the chance to see FC Barcelona’s ultra-talented soccer star Lionel Messi in person figures to be a huge highlight of the trip for Bray.

“I am most excited to tell my kids that I saw Lionel Messi play live,” said Bray.

“When that day comes, being able to say that to my kids will be pretty cool. Messi is unbelievable; everything about him is great. He is quick with the ball and makes everything happen.”

For second-year Princeton head coach and former Tiger star Mitch Henderson, the excursion to Spain reminds him of a trip he took during his college career.

“I went on a trip like this the summer before my senior year; it was a very important trip for that team,” said Henderson, reflecting on a trip to Italy which was a prelude to the memorable 27-2 season produced by the 1997-98 Tiger squad.

“It is like traveling with 12 of your best friends. I remember the bus rides; I remember the hotels. I remember the things that we did off the floor. I remember our record over there. We were very good and I think we went 4-5. We played some really good teams, some Italian first division teams. That group of guys still talks about that trip. It is a once in a lifetime type of trip to go with your friends on something like that.”

In Henderson’s view, his current team should likewise benefit from the international journey which the NCAA allows programs to take once every four years. The Friends of Princeton Basketball group is helping to foot the bill for the excursion.

“I think this is a good older group; it is an opportunity for us to work on some things,” said Henderson, noting that the players got into the swing of things with the five pre-trip practices they went through over the last week.

“We felt like that was the right kind of place for this team to go. It makes sense with this group, we have a good group of juniors and seniors. There are good pro teams there, it will be good competition. We are very lucky to be going.”

While Henderson is not planning to do a lot of on-court experimentation in terms of offensive or defensive tactics, he will be mixing and matching players.

“I want to see who is going to step up,” said Henderson. “We have some guys in place but we are losing a lot of scoring and a lot of shooting. Do we replace that with guy ‘A’ and guy ‘B’ or are we going to be a little different. I want to watch and see what we become and who makes it hard for me to take you off the floor. What I love about playing over there is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You are going to see a guard or a forward and you don’t know anything about that guy, that he drills 3’s or that he is a really good guard. That will be great for our guys.”

Maybe the greatest thing about the trip for the Tigers will be the chance to enhance the camaraderie that already exists between the players.

“I think our ability to be good is going to depend on how close we are, similar to the team two years ago,” maintained Henderson.

“We need a lot of team chemistry because we have some pieces that are significant and then we have some pieces that need a lot of room to grow. We all get to experience something new together as a team and as a staff.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the experience in Spain will help the Tigers grow even closer.

“The Princeton offense is five guys moving as one, chemistry is so big in the offense,” said Bray.

“It comes pretty easy for us with everyone liking each other and enjoying being around each other. This trip will make it that much better.”

August 22, 2012

HOME GROWN: Maddie Copeland displays her form in action at a USA field hockey camp. Copeland, a former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout, is currently undergoing preseason training with the Princeton University field hockey program as she starts her college career.

In early August, Princeton University field hockey players, Julia and Katie Reinprecht, achieved their goal of making the Olympics as they played for the U.S. team in the London Summer Games.

This week, former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland is accomplishing a long-term goal, hitting the field for the Princeton field hockey program.

The Cranbury resident is currently taking part in the team’s preseason camp as the Tigers prepare for their season opener at Duke on August 31.

Having grown up around the Princeton program, Copeland is thrilled to be donning the orange and black.

“Princeton was my dream; it is something I wanted for a long time,” said Copeland, recalling her emotions when her acceptance to the school was confirmed.

“I have known Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] for a long time; she has been very supportive. I have been to Princeton camps since my freshman year in high school. I went to games in the fall with my parents over the years; it is a really good team to watch.”

Copeland produced a really good high school career, starring at Stuart before transferring to Peddie as a junior.

Although Copeland played just two years for Peddie, she accomplished a lot. The skilled forward scored 33 goals as a junior in 2010, helping the Falcons win both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state Prep A titles.

A year later, she tallied 41 goals as Peddie repeated as both MAPL and Prep A champions. Copeland was named 2011 New Jersey All-Prep Player of the Year for her role in triggering the title repeat.

“The switch over to Peddie was a really good move for me,” said Copeland, who helped Stuart make the Prep A semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament title game in the fall of 2008 in her freshman season of high school field hockey.

“It was really challenging as a junior; luckily I already knew some of the girls. They chose me as captain the next year; I was really honored by that.”

In reflecting on her success at Peddie, Copeland gives a lot of credit to the girls on the squad.

“My job was to score goals,” said Copeland. “The goals came easily; I played with some really good girls who set me up. I reached 100 goals over my high school career which is something I really wanted to do.”

As she reached her college decision, Copeland came down to two top choices. “I narrowed it down to Duke and Princeton; I also looked at Yale,” said Copeland.

“I had an unofficial visit to Princeton as a junior and then had an official visit after I committed.”

Since the end of her Peddie season, Copeland remained committed to honing her skills.

“I have been playing with my club team; I went to tournaments over Thanksgiving in Arizona and then to the Disneyland event,” said Copeland, who has played club hockey for the Jersey Intensity the last five years. “In late June, I played in the Futures Elite championship event.”

Over the years, Copeland has proven that she can compete on a championship level, succeeding on the national level. She won a Field Hockey National Festival Gold Medal from 2008-11 with the Intensity. She also helped the Intensity take gold at the Disney tournament in 2011 and 2012. Copeland was chosen for the U.S. Field Hockey Junior National Under-17 Squad in 2010 and was a Futures Elite selection in 2010 and 2011.

This summer, Copeland has applied some extra intensity in preparing for her college debut.

“I have spent a lot of time on the conditioning program,” said Copeland. “It is six days a week. It’s about strength and speed. There are sprint workouts, long runs, and weightlifting. I have been doing stick drills with my dad. I have been trying to do as much as I can.”

As she looked forward to the start of preseason practice with the Tigers, Copeland had mixed emotions.

“I am nervous but also so excited,” said Copeland. “I have been waiting for this for so long. I know a lot of girls who are sophomores on the team; I stayed with them during my visit. They have been telling me what to expect.”

Copeland can hardly wait to get on the field with the Reinprecht sisters and Princeton’s other senior national team players, Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey. “It is exciting to be playing with them,” said Copeland. “Princeton has the most Olympians returning of any college; it is a great opportunity for me.”

For Copeland, making the most of that opportunity will come down to basics.

“I just want to work really hard and earn a spot on the team,” asserted Copeland, who said she should be getting a look on the forward line but is willing to play wherever the team needs her. “It is going to be difficult with the older girls.”

August 17, 2012

BRONZE STAR: Diana Matheson controls the ball during her brilliant career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team which saw her help the Tigers advance to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals. Last Thursday, Matheson, a 2008 Princeton alum who holds the program career record for assists (26), scored the lone goal as Canada edged France 1-0 to take the Bronze Medal in women’s soccer at the London Olympics. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Diana Matheson helped lead the Princeton University women’s soccer team reach unprecedented heights when it advanced to the 2004 College Cup national semifinals.

Last Thursday, the 2008 Tiger alum’s brilliance sparked the Canadian women’s soccer team to a first as her late goal gave Canada a 1-0 win over France in the Bronze Medal game at the London Olympics.

It was Canada’s first-ever medal in women’s soccer and only the second medal between men’s or women’s soccer, the other coming when the Canadian men won gold in St. Louis in 1904.

Matheson’s first career Olympic goal, in her second Olympics, came in the 92nd minute and was Canada’s only shot on goal for the entire afternoon.

Indeed, the only Canadian shot that fell within the goal frame was midfielder Matheson’s rebound off a French defender, touching off a celebration that became official only seconds later when the second-half added time had run out.

France outshot Canada 25-4 overall and 4-1 on net. Among the 25 were several near misses, posts and crossbars that made it seem the French were only moments from scoring a goal and taking the bronze.

Later, Matheson, Princeton’s career assists leaders with 26, beamed during the medal ceremony and cradled the medal in her hands for moments after it was presented.

The Reinprecht sisters, Katie ’13 and Julia ’14, wrapped up play for the U.S. field hockey last Saturday as the U.S. fell 2-1 to Belgium to finish in 12th place in the tournament.

The U.S. jumped out to a 1-0 lead but Belgium scored two unanswered goals to pull out the win. As they had done all tournament, both Reinprecht sisters played a majority of the game with Julia getting credit for a pair of shots in the contest.

Princeton athletes ended the London Olympics with seven medals, piling up a gold (Caroline Lind ’06 — U.S. women’s 8), two silvers (Adreanne Morin ’06 and Lauren Wilkinson ’11 — Canada women’s 8), and a bronze (Glenn Ochal ’08 — men’s four) in rowing, two bronzes in fencing (Maya Lawrence ’02 and Susie Scanlan ’14 — U.S. team epee), and Matheson’s bronze in women’s soccer.

On Sunday, a Princeton men’s basketball alum, David Blatt ’81, earned a medal in a coaching capacity as he guided Russia to an 81-77 victory over Argentina in the bronze medal game last Sunday. It was the highest Olympic finish in men’s basketball for Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union prior to the 1992 Games.

Blatt became the head coach of the Russian national basketball team in 2006 and guided the team to the 2007 Eurobasket title and a third-place finish in the 2011 Eurobasket tournament.

August 15, 2012

PHILADELPHIA FLYER: Antoine Hoppenot flies up the field in recent action for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS). Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout, has gone from being a fan of the Union to an up-and-coming star for the squad in his rookie campaign. The speedy forward had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS appearances. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Last year, Antoine Hoppenot enjoyed heading down the road from Princeton to PPL Park in Chester, Pa. to root for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS).

So when the former Princeton Day School and Princeton University soccer standout was drafted by the Union this past February, he was thrilled.

“I have been to a lot of Union games as a fan,” said Hoppenot, who signed with the club on February 21. “It was perfect for me. I was close to home and my parents could see me play.”

This summer, Hoppenot is drawing the cheers of the Union supporters, utilizing his elusiveness and ball skills to emerge as an up-and-coming star for the squad.

Hoppenot rode the bench for nine of the team’s first 10 games, getting just one minute of time against Columbus on April 14.

On May 26, Hoppenot saw 25 minutes of action in a 1-0 loss to Toronto. Less than a month later, Hoppenot scored his first career goal as the Union defeated Sporting Kansas City 4-0.

Over the last several weeks, the 5’9, 155-pound forward Hoppenot has become a fan favorite, energizing the Union with his trademark runs to the goal.

When Hoppenot started practicing with the team, he initially wasn’t sure if he could get up to speed to contribute this season.

“Everything is much faster, the ball is zipping around,” said Hoppenot, who tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his stellar Princeton career which saw him earn All-Ivy League recognition in each of his four years, including being honored as the Ivy Player of the Year on 2010 as a junior when he helped the Tigers take the league title.

“At first, I was just trying to keep up. For a rookie, it is always a little rough at first. It took me three or four weeks to feel comfortable.”

Hoppenot’s comfort level grew on a preseason trip to Costa Rica in late February which saw him score a goal in a 3-0 win over the Costa Rica U-20 Team.

“The Costa Rica trip was great, it was good to get to know the team,” said Hoppenot, who put his final semester at Princeton on hold in order to play with the Union this spring. “The players started getting confidence in me and my ability to play.”

Despite that promising start, Hoppenot realized that breaking into the Union’s rotation was not going to be an easy task.

“I knew it was going to be difficult to get playing time on such a good team that went to the playoffs last year,” added Hoppenot.

“I just went to practice and worked as hard as I could. You have to hope for one opportunity and make the best of it.”

For Hoppenot, taking advantage of a scoring chance and finding the back of the net against Sporting KC on June 23 made for a memorable night.

“That was the greatest feeling,” asserted Hoppenot. “It is one of the best moments I have ever had in soccer. There were 18,000 fans cheering. It was a big game for us and we had a big 4-0 win.”

A coaching change in June which saw Peter Nowak step down as Union head coach to be replaced by assistant coach John Hackworth has led to Hoppenot getting more minutes on the pitch.

“Coach Hack has a lot of confidence in me; he is willing to put me in spots where he thinks I can help the team,” said Hoppenot.

“It is great to come out to practice every week and know that at the end of the week, you may get rewarded with playing time in a game. It is what you dream of.”

Another dream came true for Hoppenot when he made his first MLS start on July 29 as the Union hosted the New England Revolution and posted a 2-1 victory.

“That was incredible; it was great to be in the first-team picture that they take before the game,” said Hoppenot. “My teammates were kidding me that I finally get to have one of those pictures. It was a big crowd; I was pretty excited.”

Off the field, Hoppenot has developed a tight bond with his teammates.

“It has been exciting; we have a lot of young guys who can relate to each other,” said Hoppenot, who shares an apartment with two of his teammates. “We are in the same time of our lives; we like to joke around a lot.”

As he looks ahead to the rest of his rookie campaign, Hoppenot hopes to keep providing excitement for the Union, who were 7-11-2 in their first 20 games to stand eighth of 10 teams in the MLS’s Eastern Conference.

“I am ready to do a little bit of everything,” said Hoppenot, who had a goal and eight shots in his first 11 MLS regular season games.

“I like coming off the bench and bringing energy to the team. If they need someone to start and play 90 minutes, I am ready to do that. It depends on what we need; that changes from week to week. I would like to score a few more goals this season but I don’t have any number in mind. The really important thing is for us to make the playoffs. We need to get as many wins as possible. If we win and I get some goals, that would be great.”

While Hoppenot, who was born in Paris, France, could end up playing in Europe someday, he doesn’t see himself leaving the Union anytime soon.

“I think I will be in the MLS for the near future; I am very young and I have a lot to learn,” said Hoppenot, 21, who is dealing with a fractured nose after getting head-butted by Montreal’s Nelson Rivas on August 4 in a 2-0 loss.

“I am trying to figure out what being a pro means; it is tough going from a four-month season in college to a 9 and a half months in the pros. I am learning more about stretching, nutrition, and rest. I have a lot to improve on before I am ready to think about playing in Europe.”

In addition, Hoppenot is enjoying the cheers he has been getting from the Union faithful.

“The fans have been fantastic,” said Hoppenot. “They have shown me support every step of the way.”

That is no surprise considering that Hoppenot has gone from being one of them to stepping up on the pitch in a big way for the Union.

NATIONAL LEADER: Princeton University women’s hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal makes a point during action last winter. Kampersal, who has guided the Tigers to a 233-184-41 record in his 15-year tenure, was named earlier this year as the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 team. This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.
(Photo by Beverly Schaefer, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Figuring that he was pretty much out of the loop when it came to the U.S. women’s hockey program, Jeff Kampersal wasn’t expecting to be pressed into service any time soon on the national level.

“I had done a lot of U.S. hockey work over the years but I had been out of it since 2006,” said Kampersal, the longtime head coach of the Princeton University women’s hockey team. “Last year I was in a camp with some of the older players.”

But as he was focused on getting the most out of his Tiger women’s team during the 2011-12 campaign, Kampersal got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“The U.S. people called me in the winter and asked me to head the Under-18 women’s national team,” recalled Kampersal.

“I was surprised. It is an exciting opportunity; getting the chance to work with coaches like Courtney Kennedy (a Boston College women’s hockey assistant coach) and Steve Guider (head coach of the Blaine High (Minn.) girls’ hockey team) and some amazing hockey players.”

This week, Kampersal will be behind the bench for the first time in game action for the U-18 squad as it faces Team Canada in Blaine, Minn. for a three-game series.

“We will have the nucleus of the team for that series,” said Kampersal, who has spent much of the summer scouting tournaments and holding camps to narrow his player pool as the team prepares to take part in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World U-18 Championships from December 29, 2012 to January 5, 2013 in Finland.

“If we do well, we won’t make many changes. If we don’t do well, we can look at other players over the fall.”

In putting together the best team possible, Kampersal is drawing on the experience he has gained from heading the Tiger women’s program over the last 15 years and guiding it to a 233-184-41 record.

“About 75 percent of the job of a college coach is recruiting; I believe I can evaluate players,” said Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton graduate who was a star defenseman for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“At this level, we have a depth of strong players. We don’t have an exceptional player but we have a lot of good players. If I took the first 20 and you took the second 20, we could have a good seven-game series. We may not want to take the 12 best forwards, we may want to take three who grind and three with speed.”

In Kampersal’s view, the experience of leading the U-18 team should make him a stronger coach.

“I think running bigger practices will help me,” said Kampersal, noting that cutting players has been the toughest aspect of the job.

“It is good working with the other coaches and sharing ideas on things like power plays. We need to keep it as simple as possible. We can’t overcoach. There is not enough time to do that but we can emphasize basic principles.”

Getting to apply those principles on a world stage will be exciting for Kampersal.

“I have been involved in a U-22 series against Canada but I never represented the U.S. in a world championship as either a player or coach; it is really special,” said Kampersal. “It has been a lot of fun so far; the people are amazing.”

August 8, 2012

SENATORIAL BID: Michael Sdao, left, heads up the ice in action for the Princeton University men’s hockey team. Rising senior defenseman Sdao recently completed his third summer prospects camp with the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League. Sdao, a first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-ECACH pick last season, was drafted by the club in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After getting drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the seventh round of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Michael Sdao continues to get acquainted with the club.

The rising Princeton University men’s hockey senior defenseman recently completed a week at the team’s summer prospects camp, marking his third straight appearance at the annual session.

Taking part in the camp gave Sdao a chance to see how he measured up against many of the players he will compete with for a chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. For Sdao, skating with the Senators provided an opportunity to not only show off his skills with the puck, but to also prove he could hold his own when the physicality increased.

“There was a little bit of that,” said the 6’4, 230-pound Sdao, referring to the rough stuff that comes with the NHL game.

“It is a development camp. It’s all about player development and trying to improve your skills. The physical play is part of the game, so sometimes that does come up.”

Sdao is developing a comfort level with the organization as he got to skate again with his fellow prospects at the Bell Sensplex, the Senators’ training facility.

“It was great,” asserted Sdao, a native of Niwot, Colo.

“It was good to go back there and see some of my friends and roommates from past years. It was my third time in camp, so I have a really good relationship with a lot of the guys. It’s such a great city and great place to be.”

The players were tested throughout the camp with a series of intense workouts that were designed to help prepare the prospects for what they will face in the future.

“You definitely get a taste of what it’s like to be a pro,” said Sdao. “It’s intended to make you hungry and get to the next level, and that’s definitely what it’s done for me.”

Sdao’s play at Princeton as well as his performance at the development camps has opened plenty of eyes in the Senators’ front office.

“They’ve talked to me about my career after Princeton,” added Sdao, a starter from day one of his college career who has 39 points on 18 goals and 21 assists in 87 appearance for the Tigers.

“They expect me to be a big part of the organization down the line. They’re very engaged in their prospects. Every year, they’ve been able to make it to some of my games and I’m thankful for that.”

Sdao’s improvement can be credited, in large part, to the ice time he has earned at Princeton. After scoring nine points as a freshman and 10 the next year, Sdao emerged as the Tigers’ top blue-liner last season. He appeared in 30 games, scoring 10 goals and adding ten assists. Sdao also logged more minutes than any other Princeton defenseman and had more goals than any defender in ECAC Hockey.

“I got to play more minutes and develop my skills,” said Sdao, who was named as a first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-ECACH pick last season.

“I also got some power play time and a lot of penalty-kill time.  Just to play as much as I was able to play made it a great year.”

Last year didn’t end well for Sdao and the Tigers as they were eliminated by Yale in the first round of the ECACH Playoffs and ended the winter with an overall record of 9-16-7.

Sdao’s time in Ottawa coupled with his desire for a longer postseason run has increased his excitement for the upcoming season at Princeton which will start with scrimmages against the University of Guelph (Ontario) on October 19 and 20 at Hobey Baker Rink with regular season play commencing the next weekend with the Ivy League Shootout at Brown University.

“Everyone is ready to go,” said Sdao, who will be serving as assistant captain of the squad for a second straight season.

“You get through July and everyone is itching to get back to school. The way last season ended definitely left a bad taste in our mouths.”

While this will be Sdao’s last season at the college level, he hopes there is a lot of hockey ahead of him as he is determined to pursue a pro career. Over the past few years several Tiger players have found success in the NHL ranks, with George Parros and Kevin Westgarth having both gone from Princeton to the top of the hockey world as members of Stanley Cup champions.

Those two former Tigers needed to become handy with their fists to reach the NHL and gain a foothold. Sdao is hoping his skills will be his ticket, but understands there may be a time when he has to fight.

“That’s definitely part of the game,” said Sdao. “It’s something that happens and there’s a time and a place for it. You just have to know when it is. But I don’t want to be known as a one-dimensional player. There’s so much more to the game.”

Although Sdao’s focus is squarely on giving as much as he can to Princeton this winter, he acknowledges that the dream of becoming a professional is never far from his thoughts.

“That’s in the back of your mind all the time,” said Sdao. “You just want to watch and learn from what those guys are doing. Watching Hockey Night in Canada makes you wish that someday, that will be you.”

August 1, 2012

BIG FOUR: Glenn Ochal displays his sculling form in action for the U.S. Rowing program. Ochal, a 2008 Princeton University alum and former star rower for the Tiger men’s heavyweight program, switched from sculling to sweep last fall and made the U.S. men’s four for the London Olympics. Ochal’s boat got off to a good start in London on Monday as it won its opening heat to earn a spot in the semifinal this Thursday at Eton Dorney with the final slated for August 4. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Glen Ochal helped the U.S. to a good showing in the quadruple sculls last year in the World Rowing Championships but ultimately concluded that wasn’t his best route to the 2012 Olympics.

Ochal’s quad took eighth at the worlds in Bled, Slovenia but he faced a major decision upon his return to the U.S.

“After the men’s 8 didn’t qualify for the Olympics, the high performance director presented to us the idea of moving to the sweep,” recalled Ochal, a 2008 Princeton University alum and former star rower for the Tiger men’s heavyweight program.

“We had some of the best ERG scores and that was the way to harness power. We needed to qualify the 8 but they also wanted the 4 to be a priority boat. Will Miller and I decided to go to sweep. I thought maybe this was a good idea; maybe I can do better.”

Ochal ended up getting selected for the 4 and helped the U.S. get off to a good start at the London Summer Games last Monday as the boat won its opening heat to earn a spot in the semifinal this Thursday at Eton Dorney with the final set for August 4.

The boat clocked a time of 5:54.88 over the 2,000-meter course in the opening heat to cruise past runner-up Netherlands (5:55.99) and third-place finisher Greece (5:57.71). In order to advance to the final, Ochal and his boatmates will have to finish in the top three in their semi.

For Ochal, 26, the move from sculling, where the rowers employ two oars, back to sweep, where rowers use just one oar, required some adjustment.

“Because I was sculling, I wasn’t sure where I fit,” said Ochal, who excelled in sweep at Princeton as he helped the Tiger men’s heavyweights win the 2006 Eastern Sprints and the Ladies’ Challenge Plate at the 2006 Royal Henley Regatta.

“I wasn’t the best guy on the first day but I wasn’t the worst. It took a little time, I got used to it. We started with a large group, by January we were down to eight, and by March it was down to four.”

Once the lineup was set, the boat had hoped to race in Europe as part of the Olympic buildup but had to scuttle those plans due to injury. The lack of racing experience, though, didn’t overly concern Ochal.

“We have been flying solo,” said Ochal, a native of Philadelphia, who is joined on the four by Scott Gault (Piedmont, Calif.), Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.), and Henrik Rummel (Pittsford, N.Y.).

“We were going to go overseas for some races but a couple of guys got injured so we decided to stay here. Some people might find it a concern but a race is a race and I have been in a lot of them.”

As the spring has turned into summer, Ochal feels that the quartet had been making good progress.

“We have been working together for a while,” said Ochal. “We want to go over and perform our best, just being there isn’t the goal. The men’s 4 got fourth in Bled and we have made it quicker. We have good speed; everyone is on task and ready to go.”

In Ochal’s view, the key to Olympic success comes down to focusing on basics.

“When you start thinking the Olympics is more than a race, you might try too hard or go out too fast,” said Ochal.

“You have to approach it as another race that just comes every four years. You need to stick to everything in practice, there is nothing magical. You need to get into the race right at the start and work hard through the middle and give it your all at the end. You don’t have to be in the lead but in contact; you have to have faith in your teammates.”

Ochal has faith in his own ability to provide some magic to the boat. “These races comes down to inches; there are 200 strokes in a race,” said the 6’5, 200-pound Ochal.

“I focus on what I am going to do to make it go a little faster. I am feeling pretty comfortable about it. I have adjusted. I have gotten better each month, each week, each day.”

While Ochal is thrilled to be competing in London, he is viewing the Olympics as a step in the process of his growth as an athlete, noting that he would like to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

“I will take a break but I am looking to be involved in the next quadrennial,” said Ochal.

“I probably won’t start with the 2013 worlds; there is still a ways to go. Power and endurance aren’t holding me back. I can still improve as a rower with stroke technique. I have improved a lot over the last year but have room to improve even more.”

July 25, 2012

ROLLING STONE: Gevvie Stone displays her form in the single sculls. Stone, a 2007 Princeton alum, will be rowing the U.S. in the women’s single sculls at the London Olympics. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final scheduled for August 4. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Gevvie Stone had the chance to qualify for the Olympics last year in the women’s single sculls but came up agonizingly short.

With the top 9 at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia earning automatic spots for their countries at the upcoming London Games, former Princeton University rowing star Stone took 11th.

“Immediately after the worlds, I was really disappointed,” said Stone, 2007 Princeton alum who helped the Tiger women’s open crew win the Eastern Sprints and NCAA grand final in 2006 on the way to an undefeated season.

Stone, though, wasn’t about to let that setback derail her Olympic dreams.

“Every disappointment gives you the motivation to train harder; it makes you change your training,” said Stone, 27, a native of Newton, Mass.

“When I didn’t make the national team in 2010, I changed the way I was lifting weights.”

Stone, who is based in Boston and is on a leave of absence from Tufts University School of Medicine, does not work with any of the other U.S. rowers or coaches. Instead, she is trained by her father, Gregg Stone, a former national class rower who has coached at Harvard and Belmont Hill School.

In the wake of the worlds, Stone and her dad fine-tuned her weekly regimen.

“My dad and I looked at my training and added more workouts on the water,” said Stone, of her father, who just missed making the 1976 Olympics and made the 1980 U.S. team only to be denied a shot at the Moscow Games due to the U.S. boycott.

“My dad was at Bled and he was impressed with how much New Zealand worked. I went to four hard workouts a week on the water from two or three. I was also doing two rows everyday. Before, I was mostly once a day with cross training.”

Stone’s training is spiced up by a contingent of male masters rowers who often join her in sessions on the Charles River.

“It is definitely helpful; it helps you to be more competitive, knowing someone is next to you pushing hard,” said Stone, noting that the group ranges from two to eight. “You want to win; it is fun.”

Bouncing back from the disappointment of Bled, Stone had plenty of fun at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in May, taking third to book her spot to London.

Stone, who plans to resume her medical studies in late August, knew she had to make the most out of her time this year.

“I look at this as my first and best chance to qualify,” said Stone. “Taking that time off from school and training gave me a real chance to qualify.”

In order to get another crack at the Olympic qualification, Stone had to go through U.S. trials to get the spot in the Lucerne event.

Once at the Lucerne regatta, Stone was confident that she could achieve the top-four finish needed to clinch a spot in the Olympics.

“My training had gone well, I knew I was in a good place,” said Stone. “In finishing 11th at the worlds I had beaten some of the girls who were going to be there.”

After making it through her heat, Stone came up big in the final, going from fifth after the first 500 meters to move past Estonia and Ireland to take third and book her trip to London.

“In the final, the Estonian got off the line well but I was very close to her,” recalled Stone.

“I was closer to her than I usually am so for me it was a great start. There was a light headwind which is my favorite. It makes for a longer race which is good for me. I had a solid middle 1,000 and held my spot.”

After earning her spot, Stone felt fatigue and relief. “My first emotion was that I was tired, I was exhausted,” said Stone. “But winning, or in this case, qualifying was the magic pain reliever.”

It did take a while for the reality of making the Olympics to soak in for Stone.

“It is still a little surreal,” said Stone. “I was watching gymnastics on NBC and they had Shawn Johnson on talking about walking into the Opening Ceremony with USA on your back and getting chills. I realized that is going to be me.”

Stone realizes that riding the emotions of the moment doesn’t ensure Olympics success.

“So much of how you do in London depends on what you have done the last four years,” said Stone, whose mother, Lisa, rowed for the U.S. at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and took seventh in the women’s coxed quadruple sculls.

“Mentally, a key is to stay healthy. I got strep throat last year. I will have a week to train on the course. My event is the longest in the rowing program; it starts on July 28 and ends August 4.”

In assessing her prospects, Stone knows that she faces some long odds.

“My friends at med school say ‘oh you are going to the Olympics, bring back the gold,’” said Stone, who is now on track to graduate from Tufts in 2014 and may end up practicing sports medicine.

“It would be fantastic if I were able to do that. Making the ‘A’ final would be pretty spectacular; that is better than I have done in the past. It is going to be very hard. I need to work on my start and be in the groove.”

No matter where Stone finishes in the competition, she is prepared to soak up the atmosphere around the Eton Dorney course, some 25 miles west of London.

“It is really exciting; England is a country that loves rowing and understands the sport,” added Stone.

“The Boat Race (the annual rowing race between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club held on the Thames River in London) and Henley regatta are big parts of its sports calendar. I feel really lucky to be rowing there.”

GETTING HER SHOT: Sara Hendershot, center, strokes the women’s open eight during her Princeton University rowing career. Hendershot, a 2010 Princeton alum, will be rowing on the U.S. women’s pair in the London Olympics along with Sarah Zalenka. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final scheduled for August 1. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Crew/Tom Nowak)

After helping the U.S. women’s four take gold last year at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, Sara Hendershot seemed to be on course for a shot at the Olympics.

“I had so much fun in Bled; I could not have asked for a better first worlds,” said Hendershot, a 2010 Princeton alum and former star rower and captain for the Tiger women’s open program.

“We raced well and won a gold. I came back on a high. It motivated me through the fall and the speed orders.”

But later that fall, Hendershot was knocked off track in her drive for the 2012 Olympics.

“I broke my rib after the speed order (a USRowing time trial event) around Thanksgiving,” said Hendershot.

“I spent a lot of the winter trying to recover from that. We went to San Diego in the winter; I was trying to get up to speed and feel strong again. We were there in January, February, and March. It took me most of January to feel 100 percent.”

Once Hendershot got up to full speed, she decided to take a different route to the Olympics, switching to the women’s pair, teaming up with Sarah Zalenka and earning a trip to London as the two won the U.S. trial in mid-June.

“We came together six weeks before the trial; I was rowing with a different partner and she went to quad camp,” recalled Hendershot, who had rowed with Zalenka on the gold medal four at the worlds.

“I approached Sarah and asked her if she wanted to go from quad camp to a pair. She agreed; it was a leap of faith on her part.”

The two knew they had to make a leap to earn their spot for London. “Going into the trials, we were very aware of the fact that we were not expected to win; we had been left behind for the world cup racing,” said Hendershot.

“We did three weeks of training on our own in Princeton. We really fine-tuned things. We could have been frustrated but we didn’t let that happen.”

Hendershot and Zalenka completed their underdog tale in style as they made it through the U.S. Trial this June at Mercer Lake, edging Amanda Polk and Jamie Redman in the finals to earn their trip to London.

“Our race plan was to go as hard as we could,” said Hendershot. “We were down halfway through. We thought this is our last shot, let’s go for it. We had a lot of desire. We started to come together and we smoothed it out.”

After the race, it took a while for things to soak in for Hendershot. “I felt this huge wave of relief; this was the first step that we had to take,” said Hendershot, whose boat clocked a time of 7:27.54 over the 2,000-meter course with Polk and Redman coming in at 7:30.98.

“It took a long time for it to set in. I had visualized winning so many times so when it actually happened I was thinking — is this for real?”

Making the Olympics fulfills a vision Hendershot has harbored since childhood.

“It is something I have always thought about,” said Hendershot, 24, a native of West Simsbury, Conn.

“I have always looked up to Olympic athletes, thinking it is incredible to take their sport so far. At points, it didn’t seem possible for me but once I found rowing and started performing well in college, I started to think this could happen.”

In the wake of the win at the trials, Hendershot and Zalenka have been looking to take things to the next level.

“We have to put in a lot of work, we are focusing on coming together and getting more fit,” added Hendershot.

“Once we are in London, we will do more race-specific stuff. We have big room for upswing. We have only been together for six weeks this spring even though we have been rowing on and off together for the last two years.”

As she reflects on the London competition, Hendershot acknowledges that the pair will be in the underdog role once again.

“We won’t be listed as one of the favorites,” said Hendershot, who will get into action on the Eton Dorney course near London on July 28 for heats with the final set for August 1.

“The goal has always been an Olympic medal and when we looked at the other world cup races and the times, we are right there. We need to keep putting in the work. It is a different level than we have ever rowed but we have to remain confident.”

LIGHTING THE WAY: Robin Prendes pulls hard from the stroke seat in action for the U.S. men’s lightweight four. Prendes, a 2011 Princeton University alum and star for the Tiger lightweight program, will be competing at the London Olympics with the U.S. men’s lightweight four. The heats in the event start on July 28 with the final slated for August 2. (Photo Courtesy of USRowing)

Robin Prendes is deadly serious about his rowing but he acted like a little kid when he qualified for the Olympics in the U.S. men’s lightweight four.

“At the end, I was splashing water everywhere,” said Prendes, referring to winning the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland in late May.

“I was pretty excited; it seemed to sink in faster with me than the other guys.”

The former Princeton University lightweight rowing standout had plenty of reason to be excited as he nearly didn’t get a seat on the U.S. four.

“I was the last guy selected to the boat,” said Prendes, a 2011 Princeton graduate who helped the Tiger men’s lightweight crew win two Eastern Sprints and Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) national titles along with the Temple Cup at the 2009 Henley Royal Regatta.

“It was pretty intense seat racing right up to the last moment. I think that helped me. My technique had to be sound and I had to be ready to race everyday.”

Prendes, 23, gained some invaluable racing experience last year when he helped the U.S. lightweight four take 13th at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.

“The worlds regatta was difficult; it was my first time on the world scene,” said Prendes.

“There was a lot on the line. I gained from the experience; I saw how close the lightweight boats are. With all those boats, the hardest race was the semifinals. Coming so close to the finals and not making it was tough.”

Upon returning from Bled, Prendes headed to the U.S. lightweight training center in Oklahoma City to start the selection process for the Olympic boat. The 12 candidates battled through the fall and relocated to San Diego when the weather turned cold in Oklahoma.

Once the six-month selection process was completed, Prendes saw a winning combination in the boat that also includes Nick LaCava, Will Newell, and Anthony Fahden.

“We are very close in age; I think the proximity in age gives us the same mindset,” said Prendes, a native of Matanzas, Cuba who grew up in Miami, Fla.

“From day one, I knew that our strength was based in the middle of the race. The lack of experience we have rowing together hurts us at the start and sprinting off the line.”

In coming through at the final qualification regatta where a top-two finish was needed to book a spot in the London Olympics, the boat showed good closing speed.

“The start was pretty good; we were in fourth place,” recalled Prendes, who is rowing in the stroke seat for the boat.

“Serbia was in first but everyone else was close. We thought either Serbia was way better or they had gone out too fast and it turned out to be the latter. We concentrated on the Dutch; we knew they were really good. We started passing boats; I wouldn’t say it was easy but we seemed to be on autopilot.”

Over the homestretch of the race, Prendes was able to enjoy the moment. “The last 250 meters we were in a position to qualify,” added Prendes, whose boat ended up with a 6:01.85 time over the 2,000-meter course with the Netherlands taking second in 6:01.99.  “I tried to relax and not catch a crab.”

Since the qualifier, there had been little chance to relax in the buildup to London.

“The last two weeks have been pretty intense,” said Prendes, whose boat was training at Princeton in July prior to its departure to London.

“We are doing 3-a-days. On Monday, Wednesday and Saturday we are doing weightlifting in the middle of the day. We are on the water at 7 a.m. for longer sessions. In the afternoon, we come back for sprint sessions.”

In Prendes’s view, the hard work is helping the boat develop into a force. “We have been rowing together for a couple of months now,” said Prendes.

“I think we can make the ‘A’ final. If we are able to get better on things besides our base, we can row with the top boats.”

In order to emerge as a top boat in London, the four will need to avoid the hoopla surrounding the games.

“We can’t get too distracted by the Olympics; it is going to be unlike anything we have seen,” said Prendes, looking ahead to the competition which will take place at Eton Dorney, 25 miles west of London, with the heats scheduled to start on July 28 and the final slated for August 2. “We need to keep working hard. We have to stay focused and execute.”

MAKING A SPLASH: Sophia Monaghan delivers the ball in action for the Lawrenceville School girls’ water polo team. Monaghan, who also stars for the Tiger Aquatics program based at Princeton University, will be competing on the international level next month as she plays for the USA Women’s Junior National Team at the Under-19 Pan American Championships in Canada.

As a ten-year-old, Sophia Monaghan had her sights set on being a swimming star.

But when her NJ Stingrays swim club coach suggested that she try out for the team’s water polo program, Monaghan decided to broaden her horizons.

After learning the ropes of the game with the Stingrays program, Monaghan stepped up and joined the more intense Tiger Aquatics program based at Princeton University.

“The Stingrays is [for] a lower age group, so once you get to be around thirteen or fourteen, there aren’t many kids playing at a higher level,” said Monaghan.

“When I went to Tigers, it started out as Masters, which is mostly forty-year-old men, and it was a chance to play somewhere where you weren’t even close to being the best, and that’s how you get better.”

Improving her game through exposure to such competition, Monaghan, 16, is now fully committed to being a water polo star.

Monaghan matriculated to the Lawrenceville School, in part, because it boasts the strongest high school program in the area and is a rising senior star for a Big Red girls’ water polo squad that went 17-3 last fall. She has ratcheted up her involvement with the Tigers program, practicing with the club several days a week during the year and throughout the summer.

For the past four years, Monaghan has gone to the Junior Olympics, and last year, her team placed sixteenth in the platinum bracket (seeds 1-24), the best-ever result for a women’s east coast team.

“It was a huge accomplishment for us, and this year we’re just hoping to build off of that,” said Monaghan of the competition, which will take place in early August in Northern California.

“We’re at a higher level now, but everyone has improved from last year, and our goal is to show that we can assemble a strong team. We have great players, and we want to show that we’re not only the best on the east coast, but we’re also a force to be reckoned with on the west coast.”

Acknowledging that the west coast is the hotbed for the sport, Monaghan has to adjust her game when she is going against California players.

In east coast competition, Monaghan generally plays the center position, where the strongest players are placed and most of the goals are scored, but when going against players from the west coast, her position shifts to being a defender.

“I’m used to being the biggest or fastest or strongest, but when I go out to California, I’m not even close to the best, and it gave me a reality check of how many incredible players there are,” said Monaghan, who still swims competitively, starring for Lawrenceville during the winter and the Nassau Swim Club Lemmings over the summer.

“It’s helped me to become a better player because I’ve been motivated to compete at their level.”

Later in August, Monaghan will be competing at an even higher level as she heads to Canada as part of the USA Women’s Junior National Team that will play in the Under-19 Pan American Championships.

“It’s really exciting to think that you’re competing to play for your country,” said Monaghan, reflecting on the tourney which will take place from August 10-18 at the Olympic Park’s Sports Center in Montreal, Quebec.

After all the progress Monaghan has made in water polo, she is looking forward to an exciting future in the sport which could include playing in college for one of the west coast powers in the sport.

“If I go out to play water polo on the west coast, it’s going to be to get a good education, because that’s how I’m going to get a job,” said Monaghan, who was named to the 2010-11 USA Water Polo All American list which honors student athletes who excel in both the pool and the classroom.

“My main focus in college is to get the best education I can and water polo is going to help me to do that.”

July 18, 2012

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Soren Thompson displays his epee form. The former Princeton University fencing standout is returning to the Olympics after a 2008 hamstring injury nearly ended his career in the sport. Thompson, a 2005 Princeton alum, excelled in the 2004 Athens Games, placed seventh in the epee, the best U.S. result in the event since 1956 and the second-best all-time. (Photo by Mike Dote)

After producing a breakthrough performance in the epee at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Soren Thompson was looking to make more history four years later at the Beijing Games.

The former Princeton University fencing star, who placed seventh in the men’s individual epee at Athens, the best U.S. result in the event since 1956 and the second-best all-time, had visions of an encore performance.

But right before the 2008 qualification process, Thompson, a 2005 Princeton alum, suffered an injury in training that knocked him out of Olympic consideration and left him fearing that he could be ultimately finished in the sport.

“I had a fully torn right hamstring; it was off the bone,” said Thompson, a native of San Diego, Calif. who was a four-time All-American and 2001 NCAA champion during his storied Princeton career.

“The doctors didn’t know how bad it was right way. There were six weeks before qualifiers. I competed in the initial qualifiers but it was so difficult and understandably my ranking started going down. It took a year before I started feeling better; I thought it could be all over.”

As a result, Thompson put fencing on the back-burner and devoted his energies to a job with Hycrete, a clean-tech company based in Northern Jersey.

In the fall of 2010, though, Thompson caught the Olympic bug. “The schedule of events for the Olympic qualifications came out and I thought if I want to do it again, I have to start,” said Thompson.

“I started doing a little bit of training everyday. The U.S. events went well and I did good enough in the international events.”

Thompson left his day job in April, 2011 to focus exclusively on fencing and kept doing well. This spring, he qualified to
represent the U.S in the epee in the upcoming London Olympics.

For Thompson, overcoming the hurdles he faced since 2008 makes his return to the Olympics all the sweeter.

“It has been a real ride, there have been a lot of ups and downs,” said Thompson, 31.

“I am highly motivated. It feels good. I had my own ideas about what would work and it all worked out better than I hoped. It is very satisfying to have that happen.”

In one critical respect, Thompson went his own way, deciding to go without a coach.

“A coach is a partner who can help you progress with a sport,” explained Thompson.

“I wanted to be in New York City and I didn’t find what I wanted in a coach. I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I have an incredible data base, I just need to execute. I have a fencing style based on an open approach. I like to do more bout-like competition drills in practice. It wouldn’t be long before I would be prompting a coach for different drills. I had my best competitive year so it worked being unorthodox.”

Thompson is drilling hard in the buildup to the London Games. He recently competed in an event in Buenos Aires where he helped the U.S. epee team take fourth and solidify its No. 1 overall world ranking. He is currently at a two-week U.S. training camp in Paris that will wrap up just before the July 27 Opening Ceremonies in London.

Having previous Olympic experience gives Thompson an extra boost of confidence.

“The Olympics is a very special event; it is a singular event in the way the athletes prepare and the pressure you face,” said Thompson.

“In 2004, I showed that I thrive in the Olympic environment. I made history; I was very happy with my preparation.”

As he looks ahead to the London games, Thompson believes he can make more history.

“I am a better fencer now; I want to improve on what I did in Athens,” said the 6’3, 181-pound Thompson.

“There is no limit to what I can achieve but that being said, fencing has a lot of great athletes and it is going to be tough. I need to put myself in a position to succeed and execute. I expect to be prepared.”

But that preparation doesn’t ensure success due to fencing’s inherent capriciousness.

“Fencing is a matchup sport as opposed to running,” said Thompson, noting his disappointment that there won’t be a men’s epee team competition at the London Games, a particular blow since the U.S. won the title at the 2011 World Championships.

“In track, you try to run your best time and the results fall within a certain range. In fencing, things jump all over the place, there are different styles and people match up against some better than others.”

As a result, Thompson is going to focus on perfecting his style. “The rankings don’t matter much, you see upsets all the time,” said Thompson.

“You have to bring your best game and know what you want to do no matter who you are going against.”

In making it back to the Olympics, Thompson has proven that doing things his way can be a route to success.

SPECIAL QUALIFICATION: Susie Scanlan, second from right, and Maya Lawrence, second from left, celebrate this spring after they qualified to represent the U.S. in epee at the upcoming London Olympics. Scanlan took a hiatus from her Princeton University career midway through her junior year in 2011 to concentrate on making the U.S. Olympic team. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton alumna, will be competing in the first Olympics of her career. Scanlan and Lawrence will be joined on the U.S. epee squad by Notre Dame alumna Courtney Hurley with Hurley’s sister, Kelley, serving as an alternate. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Susie Scanlan still has three semesters to go before graduating from Princeton University but her U.S. passport is totally marked up and in need of an insert.

For St. Paul, Minn. native Scanlan, that predicament results from being a fencing prodigy who has been competing on the international level since she was a sophomore in high school.

In a few weeks, Scanlan will be taking part in the grandest world sporting event of them all as she represents the U.S. in the epee at the London Olympics.

Scanlan’s journey to London started with a trip around the corner from her Minnesota home.

“I thought it would be cool to do swordfighting,” said Scanlan, who was inspired by dueling scenes in the movies. “I looked in the phone book and found a fencing club 10 minutes away.”

Scanlan took up the sport at the Twin Cites Fencing Club when she was nine years old and was competing by the time she was 12. An early breakthrough came for her when she placed in the top 8 in the epee in the U-12 division at the nationals.

By the time she was a sophomore in high school. Scanlan was competing
overseas in such far-flung sites as Budapest, Hungary, Leipzig, Germany and South Korea.

“It opens your eyes to how hard you have to work to be good,” said Scanlan, reflecting on how fencing at the international level impacted her development.

Working with coach Roberto Sobalvarro at the Twin Cities club helped open Scanlan’s eyes to her potential in the sport.

“Ro has been my coach for a very long time; he taught me fencing,” said Scanlan.

“When I started, he was the national epee coach for the 2000 Olympic team. He took a break and came back for the juniors and is now back with the senior team. He is very good.”

The presence of Zoltan Dudas as Princeton’s fencing coach helped influence Scanlan to head east for college.

“When it came to choosing college, coaching made a difference for Scanlan. “I knew I wanted to go to a top school, I had Zoltan as a coach at the Notre Dame camp and I liked his coaching style,” said Scanlan, who was also looking at Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Penn State. “When he became coach at Princeton, I thought that would work.”

“The international competition helped prepare me but the NCAA is a different format and I had to adjust,” said Scanlan. “Fencing on a team is different.”

Scanlan also had to get used to juggling international competition with her Princeton fencing and academic schedule.

“It is a long season; I was still competing in junior and senior events,” said Scanlan, who earned All American honors in her first two seasons at Princeton. “I traveled internationally during exams and went to nationals another year.”

Midway through her junior year, Scanlan decided that if she was going to have any chance of making the London Olympics, she would have to take a hiatus from Princeton.

“By the end of my sophomore year, I was really burned out,” said Scanlan, who started out in the Class of 2012 and will resume her studies in January 2013. “I was not getting enough sleep. If I was going to focus on the Olympics, I knew I had to take a leave.”

Since leaving Princeton in early 2011, Scanlan has split her time between St. Paul and New York City when she is not in competition. The focus on her sport had the desired effect. “My fencing has gotten a lot better,” said Scanlan. “I had to do 13 events to qualify.”

Boosted by a big performance in Budapest, where a 16th place finish in a Grand Prix event moved her up to third in the U.S. rankings, Scanlan booked her spot for London.

Even when Scanlan realized that she had mathematically clinched a berth on the team, she had trouble believing her Olympic dream was really coming true.

“After the last World Cup event in March, I knew from the points standings that I had qualified,” said Scanlan.

“In April at the nationals, they told us officially. To be honest, over the last year and a half, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I have a big family with 35 cousins and they kept asking me about it and I would say it is going fine and change the subject. After I made the team and started thinking about the things that go along with it, I was like holy crap, this is really happening.”

One thing that has gone along with her Olympic qualification is some intense training.

“When I am not in competition, I am training five-to-six hours a day, including conditioning, drills, and everything,” said Scanlan, who will compete individually and in the team event for a U.S. squad that also includes 2002 Princeton alum Maya Lawrence.

But as Scanlan looks ahead to London, she knows that hard work is only one ingredient to potential success.

“I need to get a lot of sleep the week before, getting power sleep of 10-11 hours a night,” said Scanlan. “Being happy also makes a big difference. When I am rested and happy, I tend to do my best.”

In assessing her  Olympic prospects, Scanlan acknowledges that her event is a bit of crap shoot and she could benefit from some divine intervention.

“It depends on the given day,” said Scanlan. “I will be focusing on fencing the best I can and hope God will speak to me on the day of the competition and the points will be mine.”

KINGS OF THE ICE: Kevin Westgarth of the Los Angeles Kings lifts the Stanley Cup last month after the Kings topped the New Jersey Devils 4-2 in the best-of-seven championship series. Former Princeton University standout Westgarth had a goal and an assist and 39 penalty minutes in 25 regular season appearances but was unable to compete in the playoffs due to a hand injury. (Photo by UPI, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Even though Kevin Westgarth was forced to be a spectator for the Los Angeles Kings during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that didn’t stop the former Princeton University men’s hockey standout from enjoying the moment when it came time to lift the Cup.

Westgarth is part of a Kings’ squad that shocked the hockey world by becoming the first eighth seed to win the Stanley Cup as it topped the New Jersey Devils 4-2 in the best-of-seven championship series.

Sidelined since March due to a hand injury, Westgarth was still allowed to take his turn on the ice lifting Lord Stanley’s cherished trophy over his head after the Kings had clinched the Cup on the evening of June 11.

“It’s one of those things that I don’t think your brain can really handle,” said the 6’4, 228-pound forward Westgarth, who had a goal and an assist and 39 penalty minutes in 25 regular season appearances in the 2011-12 campaign.

“You grow up watching your heroes doing that on TV. You see them lifting the Stanley Cup over their heads, and then it comes to you. It was an absolutely incredible feeling, but it’s one of those things that doesn’t sink in right away.”

Despite seeing limited action over the course of the season, Westgarth had plenty of enthusiasm when it came time to celebrate with his teammates after the Kings finished off New Jersey in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

“It was just incredible to celebrate that dream come true with my teammates,” asserted Westgarth, a native of Amherstburg, Ontario who plans to spend his day with the Stanley Cup at his family home in Canada.

“One of my favorite parts is when we got into the dressing room with the guys on the team. It was an incredibly special feeling. You’re going to be tied with those people together for the rest of your life.”

The journey to the Stanley Cup for Westgarth began at Princeton University as the bruising forward played four seasons for the Tigers from 2003-2007.

Over the course of his Tiger career, Westgarth collected 25 goals and 60 points at Princeton while racking up 160 penalty minutes, and the chance to play with his brother, Brett, for three seasons.

While Westgarth was thrilled with his hockey experience at Old Nassau, he was equally happy with his life off the ice during his college years.

“Princeton was four of the most amazing years of my life,” said Westgarth.

“I met my wife there (former Tiger basketball standout Meagan Cowher) and there were so many special people. There were guys who I’m going to be friends with the rest of my life. It’s a pretty amazing place.”

Westgarth arrived at Princeton at a time when the hockey program began its renaissance under dynamic head coach Guy Gadowsky. Although Westgarth graduated one year before the Tigers captured the ECAC title in the 2007-08 campaign, he was a key contributor to the program’s turnaround.

In reflecting on his development as a player, Westgarth gives a lot of credit to Gadowsky, who now guides the Penn Sate men’s hockey program.

“I wouldn’t have made it to the NHL without him as my coach,” Westgarth said.

“I’m a huge fan of everything he did at Princeton. They ended up winning the ECAC the year after I left. It was amazing to play for him.”

While there is no fighting allowed in college hockey, it was clear Westgarth brought an edge to his game. His physical style of play often drew the ire of Princeton’s opponents.

“I like to bring a little extra physical play,” said Westgarth. “It was that way even before college. I was hoping it could at least get me the opportunity to show that I can play in the big league.”

It was Westgarth’s physical style, which earned him a chance to play professionally. Westgarth went to the Manchester Monarchs (N.H.) of the AHL after he left Princeton, and the Kings’ AHL affiliate gave Westgarth a chance to show off his skills as a fighter.

Westgarth accumulated 191 penalty minutes during the 2007-08 season and earned his first call-up from the Kings the following year.

“I had a great time in Manchester,” asserted Westgarth. “Being up and down with the Kings and finally making it was an incredible journey with the teammates I played with through the years. That’s always been the dream.”

After spending another full season in Manchester in 2009-10, Westgarth returned to Los Angeles for good the following year. Westgarth picked up 105 penalty minutes in 56 games in the 2010-11 campaign and quickly established a reputation as one of the NHL’s toughest fighters.

While Westgarth has often left opponents bruised and battered, he said there is little bad blood before the gloves are dropped. “Most hockey fans would be intrigued to learn how cordial and civil the whole pre-fight routine is,” Westgarth said.

“They understand the game and they understand their job. If things start to bubble over, you can get in a fight and maybe cool things off. Everyone kind of knows what the deal is.”

Westgarth is keeping busy in the off-season as a member of the NHLPA Player Negotiation Committee. He is one of several players (including fellow former Tiger George Parros) who are working to help create a new collective bargaining agreement. If an agreement isn’t reached by September 15, the players and owners will be faced with a lockout.

“It’s a volunteer position,” said Westgarth. “It obviously has a huge impact on the game. I take it as an opportunity to use my brain for something other than blocking fists. It’s been interesting to get this process going. Obviously, we don’t want to get locked out again.”

Even if the NHL season is delayed, Westgarth can take comfort knowing his days of bouncing between the AHL and NHL are apparently over.

The Kings have made a commitment to Westgarth, but the former Tiger promises to never take his roster spot for granted.

“You only get to a point like this if you’re never satisfied,” said Westgarth. “When you’re playing in the AHL, you just want that one NHL game. When you get that one NHL game, you want to be there as long as you can.”