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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PENNED IN: Princeton University women’s basketball player ­Annie Tarakchian, left, gets stymied by Penn’s Sydney ­Stipanovich in Princeton’s 80-64 loss to the Quakers on March 11 in a showdown for the Ivy League title. Sophomore Tarakchian scored 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers dropped to 20-8 overall and 11-3 Ivy. Princeton returns to postseason action for a fifth straight season as it will play in the WNIT, hosting Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On January 11, the Princeton University women’s basketball team was all smiles as it left the court at the Palestra after pounding Penn 84-53 in its home gym.

Two months later to the day, the Tiger players slumped on their bench with blank stares as Penn pulled away to an 80-64 win at Jadwin Gym to prevail in a winner-take-all showdown for the Ivy League title.

“To be honest, I think the moment was a little bit big for my youngsters,” said Banghart, reflecting on the March 11 showdown which saw both teams bring 11-2 Ivy records into the regular season finale.

“I think they went into that environment with a lot of great energy and excitement and not a lot of execution, which you would expect. This is a really young team. We have got a young group and I think that was part of it. I think there is the swag that champions have, we are better than you until you show us you are not. I think this group is very humble, which is a good life skill. I don’t think they came out with the swag that we have come to expect here.”

A raucous crowd came out to Jadwin to view the title clash. “This was a really great environment for women’s basketball and the Ivy League,” said Banghart, who had guided Princeton to four straight league crowns coming into the 2013-14 campaign.

“We celebrate that, we want good teams in our league. I am thrilled for their seniors, I am thrilled for their upperclassmen. I said in there, at the end of the game, what are the learning lessons, what we can we take away from an opportunity like this.”

The Tigers, now 20-8 overall, will get an opportunity to keep playing as they will compete in the WNIT where they will host Virginia Commonwealth University (22-9) of the Atlantic 10 on March 20 in an opening round contest with the winner advancing to the second round against the victor of the Seton Hall-American University first round contest.

Coming into the Penn rematch, Banghart had a sense that the Quakers were going to give Princeton a much better game than the January contest.

“I do think that Penn is a really, really good team because they play as hard as us,” said Banghart.

“I don’t think everybody in the league does. They defend. They play two seniors and two juniors a lot, we obviously don’t. I thought it would be a good game. I am not in the business of guessing who is going to win, I never know. We knew we were going to give them a good battle. It was probably the team we have the most respect for.”

In reflecting on the setback, Banghart acknowledged that her team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“I thought defensively we weren’t quite as good as we needed to be but we had a young team, we had a lot to teach,” said Banghart whose team shot 37.5 percent from the field (24-for-64) while the Quakers shot at a 48.2 percent clip (27-for-56).

“Penn zoned us the entire game. We have seen zone straight three games. We scored 161 points this weekend against zone (in beating Cornell 69-46 on March 7 and topping Columbia 92-48 a night later). We played against teams that we knew we were better than and then we played tonight and I guess these guys didn’t think that we were better than them even though we beat them by 31 at their place.”

Princeton senior star and co-captain Kristen Helmstetter acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t display the swagger in the rematch that they had exhibited in January.

“Obviously, that was our first Ivy game of the season and there was a lot of hype going into that,” said Helmstetter, referring to the January 11 game.

“We played really well together and we were really tough. We went into that game confident, knowing that we were the better team, I don’t think that we did  that tonight and it showed.”

Helmstetter was proud that the Tigers made it through the Ivy gauntlet to earn a shot at a fifth consecutive title.

“The great thing about the Ivy League is that it is Friday/Saturday,” added Helmstetter.

“Penn lost to Dartmouth, we lost to Brown; those aren’t typical of either of our teams, we both play really hard. The Ivy League can be any given night and I think that it came down to the best two teams in the league and I am happy that we got to play for it on our court.”

The butterflies were dancing in Helmstetter’s stomach as she took the court for the showdown.

“I was a little nervous, for sure but I don’t think that took away from my confidence,” said Helmstetter, who scored nine points in the loss as junior Blake Dietrick led the Tigers with 14 while sophomores Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian chipped in 12 apiece.

“We are definitely a young team and games like this require a lot of experience and we didn’t really have that much experience. I am happy that each of our sophomores gained so much valuable experience from this season. We have three starting sophomores, which is so rare. Playing Penn in this game is something   special and hopefully they can pay it forward for next year.”

Banghart lauded Helmstetter and fellow senior captain Nicole Hung for inspiring the young Tiger squad that featured five sophomores and three freshmen.

“They took over a team that lost a lot,” said Banghart. “They lost kids who had been their best friends for years and had been teammates for years and they took a really young team. They showed that they believed in it and everybody else believed in it. Playing for an Ivy title the last night with the youth we have is remarkable and it is entirely because of the leadership of my captains.”

In Banghart’s view, the WNIT will provide a good platform for the team to gain some maturity.

“I think it allows us to get more valuable experience,” said Banghart. “It gives us postseason experience, it gives us a chance to win a postseason game. It allows us to cement things; did we get better and can we be proud throughout the season.”

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACK BE NIMBLE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jack Strabo marks a foe in 2013 action. Last Saturday, senior defensive midfielder and tri-captain Strabo scored a goal as 12th-ranked Princeton topped No. 13 Penn 15-12 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a busy week as they were slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at 16th-ranked Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Jack Strabo acknowledged that the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team won ugly in its 15-12 victory over visiting Penn last Saturday, he saw beauty in the effort.

“I don’t think we played a perfect game by any means; I think it was sloppy both ways,” said senior defensive midfielder Strabo, who scored a first quarter goal in the victory which improved 12th-ranked Princeton to 3-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League.

“Penn is a very tough team. We had to grind it out so I was proud of our guys today for showing some composure at the end and getting a gritty, tough win.”

With Princeton having lost to No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Johns Hopkins in its last two outings before last Saturday, getting a victory over the 13th-ranked Quakers in the Ivy League opener for both teams was critical.

“This is obviously a huge game for us, not only coming off two losses but also it is our first Ivy League game and that is what we really want to focus on,” said Strabo.

“League games are huge for us so coming into it we knew we had a lot to prove and on top of that, we knew we had seen flashes where we can put it all together but we hadn’t come together for the whole game yet.”

In Strabo’s view, the Tigers are coming together on defense. “I was proud of our defense, I think we grew up a lot on that end,” said Strabo.

“We made some big stops. Matt O’Connor in the cage made some huge saves in the second half when we needed them, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we were able to put some pressure on and get some stops at the end of the game when we really needed the ball back and we couldn’t afford to give them any goals. I think we are getting better every week. We have got some guys down there but those guys have matured a lot.”

The defensive middie group, which includes senior stars Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts, along with Strabo, looks to provide leadership to the younger players in the unit.

“A lot of it is trying to make sure that we are making the decisions and communicating a lot, especially in practice,” said Strabo, whose younger brother, sophomore Mark, starts on close defense along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“When you are out there on the field starting, it doesn’t matter whether you are a freshman or a senior, you need to make sure you are talking, communicating, and being in position.

Being in the position of team captain has made Strabo focus on communicating on a daily basis.

“I think I have two great co-captains with Derick Raabe and Tom Schreiber; we try to set the tone in practice and in the games,” said the 5’9, 170-pound Strabo, a native of Arlington, Va.

“We try to make sure that everyone is ready in terms of Xs and Os and in terms of mentality during the week so that we are ready to go from the opening whistle.”

For defensive specialist Strabo, getting a goal was a great moment. “It doesn’t happen very often,” said Strabo with a laugh in reflecting on his fifth career tally.

“We did a good job of pushing it in our early offense and that is one of the things we have been kind of stressing in practice. I think we did a pretty good job of putting some pressure on their defense. We got some good movement on the backside and I somehow ended up on the backside pipe in the attackman’s spot and Mike MacDonald made a great feed. I don’t know how he saw me there; that was a nice surprise.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw Strabo’s goal as a good sign. “Jack is the first one to admit that is not his calling in life; he is not a goal scorer but it gives you life,” said Bates.

“If you are going to win big games and close games, you have to get production from different areas of the field and from unlikely sources. That was a nice omen early in the game. I am happy for him. He is as hard working a guy and as good a leader as you could ever want.”

Bates praised the team’s work on the defensive end. “Our man down defense was something we were concerned about out of respect for Penn’s extra man offense,” said Bates.

“They were 1-for-8 against us overall. It was a high caliber opponent and it is more game experience for those guys to live, breathe, and die together on each possession. I think we took some nice next steps there.”

Pulling out a close win was a vital step in the right direction for the Tigers.

“When you lose two weekends in a row it is a grind,” said Bates, who got two goals and five assists from Mike MacDonald in the victory with Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber each contributing four goals and an assist.

“This group is learning how to work through the grind and it is nice to get rewarded because now we have to notch it up. You can’t play like this and win next week. You  always have to take next steps and I think we are happy because this is better than the alternative.”

There is plenty of room for improvement as Princeton faces a critical week as they are slated to play at Villanova on March 18 and at No. 16 Yale (3-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on March 22.

“Our message to them afterwards was OK we have to learn how to put ourselves in game situations in practice so we look better than we did at the end of this game,” said Bates.

“If you watched us at the end, it looked like we were trying to give it back a little bit. Hopefully they will understand that and we are only going to turn up the heat in practice because it feels good to win and we need to understand how to practice so we continue to prepare for stressful situations.”

Strabo and his teammates understand that the win over Penn sets up a pivotal week of the 2014 campaign.

“It is a great step in the right direction,” asserted Strabo. “We need to make sure that we turn our focus quickly because Villanova is a very good team on Tuesday and then Yale next Saturday. I think between this game and the next week, that is a very big eight days for us that we need to stress and if we can come out of there 3-0 next Saturday then we are in great shape.”

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAVALIER APPROACH: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd eludes a Virginia defender last Saturday in Princeton’s 15-13 win over the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Lloyd scored four goals, won three draw controls, and got four ground balls in the victory as Princeton improved to 2-3 and snapped a two-game losing streak. The Tigers head to California this week where they play at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming off two straight overtime losses, the tactical approach was basic for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as it hosted sixth-ranked Virginia last Saturday.

“We were looking to get the draw controls, because we hadn’t been doing that in the past few games, and take our time on attack, and take a little pressure off our defense,” said Princeton senior star midfielder and co-captain Sarah Lloyd. “In the past few games, they have been playing the majority of time.”

The Tigers were also looking to bring a little more intensity to go with the emphasis on patience.

“We were ready to just give it our all,” asserted Lloyd. “We know we are a good team and so we were just so ready to come out and play the way we knew we could.”

The red-headed Lloyd played with fire and precision against the Cavaliers, scoring four goals, winning three draw controls, and getting four ground balls to help Princeton earn a 15-13 triumph and improve to 2-3.

In Lloyd’s view, the win was the product of sharp execution all over the field.

“I think we all concentrated on sighting the cage and making the keeper move because we know she is really a good goalie,” said Lloyd, a 5’8 native of Severna Park, Md. who now has 9 goals on the season and 60 in her Princeton career.

We just really went all out on the draws. In practice we worked a lot on boxing out because that was our struggle in the past couple of games.”

Lloyd believes that overcoming the Cavaliers should give Princeton a big boost of confidence.

“Virginia is always a great team to play against; I personally love playing against this team,” said Lloyd, a first-team All-Ivy League performer last spring.

“It is always a good game every year. It just feels great to win this as a senior. It shows us that when we play the way we know we can play, we are a great team.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer knew her team had to control the tempo to be successful against
Virginia.

“We have been a really great fast break team this year, scoring a lot of goals quickly,” said Sailer.

“But we have been carrying that over into our settled offense and just forcing the first thing that we see. We have put way too much pressure on our defense and our goalkeepers.”

Sailer liked the way that Lloyd put pressure on the Virginia defense.

“She is phenomenal; Sarah is such a competitor,” said Sailer who also got two goals and three assists from Erin Slifer with Alexandra Bruno chipping in three goals and two assists, and Anya Gersoff contributing two goals and an assist.

“She is a quiet kid on the field but she doesn’t play quietly. She plays big and you saw that today.”

A big moment for the Tigers came when freshman Olivia Hompe scored with less than a second left in the first half to give Princeton a 7-6 lead at intermission.

“That was just huge because we had just gone a man down,” recalled Sailer.

“To get that goal at the end of the half was such a great momentum for us heading into the locker room.”

The play of junior goalie Annie Woehling, who was making her first start of the season, gave the Tigers some momentum.

“Annie was great; we didn’t make that decision until just before the game,” said Sailer of Woehling, who recorded nine saves in the victory.

“We knew that we had struggled with that position so far and were looking at all three of our goalkeepers equally this week and seeing who we thought was most ready. We went with Annie and honestly we didn’t give her a lot of time to think about it. We told her before the game that she was in and she just went with it. She did a really good job.”

Sophomores Gersoff and Bruno did a good job of triggering the Princeton offense.

“Anya was getting great looks in the first half but just shooting it high; she has to pick her shots a little better,” said Sailer. “Bruno finished a couple of nice plays near the cage.”

In Sailer’s view, the victory over the Cavaliers could get Princeton on the right track as it heads out to California for games at USC on March 19 and at San Diego State on March 22 before getting into the thick of its Ivy League campaign.

“They were ranked sixth; I feel like this is a turning point for us to win a game like this,” said Sailer. “We can’t expect any less of ourselves moving forward.”

Lloyd and her classmates are looking to keep things moving in the right direction.

“As seniors, we want to be a good presence on the field and make sure everybody is communicating and on the same page for everything,” said Lloyd. “We also have to worry about keeping the energy up and we definitely did that today, all the seniors.”

Youth is being served this spring for the Princeton University baseball team.

Saying goodbye in 2013 to a large senior contingent together with junior star Mike Ford, the Ivy League Player and Pitcher of the Year, Princeton replenished its roster by bringing in nine freshmen.

“That group of senior talent played a lot, along with Mike Ford, they had 90 percent of the at-bats and innings pitched,” said Tiger head coach Scott Bradley, whose team dropped three games at UCSB in its opening weekend of the season before splitting four games against Michigan at Port St. Lucie, Fla. from March 13-15.

“We had to recruit a good class. We felt like we got a good class but you never know until they get out on the field.”

Based on the early returns, Bradley attracted a very good class. Over the first two weeks of the season, Tiger freshman stars Nick Hernandez and Danny Baer have been the Ivy League Rookies of the Week. Through seven games, Hernandez led Princeton in hitting at .400 with Baer next at .360 and classmate Paul Tupper third at .348.

“I was impressed by how they looked against UCSB and this past weekend they looked even better,” said Bradley.

“The big thing is that as a group, they are big, physical guys. When you are recruiting it is hard to find guys for the middle of the order. Hernandez, Baer, and Tupper started well and that gives young players the confidence they need.”

The freshmen group has also made an impact on the mound as newcomers Keelan Smithers and Bryce Keller combined for a 6-5 win in the Michigan set with Smithers going five innings in the start and Keller handling the final four innings.

“They made progress between their first and second outings, things were going a little fast for them the first time out,” said Bradley, whose freshman hurlers also include Chad Powers and Luke Strieber.

“Powers is playing third and pitching. I am expecting to give Strieber a start. Keller is very talented. He pitched four innings against Michigan and gave up an unearned run in 4 innings. We will stretch him out.”

A senior, Michael Fagan, has emerged as the ace of the Princeton rotation.

“When he came back to campus last fall we could see that he was more confident and composed,” said Bradley of Fagan, who pitched brilliantly in winning the opening game against Michigan, striking out 10 in six innings of work in the 7-3 triumph.

“He has became a leader. He had good numbers in his first two starts but he really showed composure. He had some wacky things happen and he got out of jams.”

Bradley is looking for good things on the mound from sophomore Cameron Mingo and senior Jonathan York.

“Mingo had a phenomenal freshman year,” said Bradley. “We have been a little cautious with him. He had a little dead arm so we held him out against UCSB and pitched him two innings against Michigan. We will ease him back, I expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league this year. Jonathan York is interesting. He has been a position player for three years and never pitched. He came in against Michigan and pitched three strong innings. He throws strikes and has a live arm.”

After dealing with rain and sloppy fields in the opening set at UCSB, the Tigers got into a groove against Michigan.

“Being at the Mets complex and getting good weather was great,” said Bradley.

“We were able to do batting practice and infield everyday and get into a routine. We played well defensively. While we don’t put much stock into the record at this point, it was was nice to get some wins this early. It was important for a young team.”

With Princeton heading south for its annual spring break trip this week, Bradley is hoping for nice weather and some more wins.

“It is the same thing like every year, we hope the weather cooperates so we can get in a lot of games,” said Bradley, whose team topped UNC-Greensboro 11-1 last Sunday to improve to 3-7 and will play at Duke on March 19, face Maine on March 20 at Annapolis, Md. before playing a pair of doubleheaders at Navy on March 22-23. “We want to get guys experience and put them in different situations. We want to stretch out the pitchers.”

Upon returning from the trip, Princeton will be starting Ivy League play by hosting doubleheaders against Harvard on March 29 and Dartmouth a day later and Bradley will get a better read on whether his freshmen can handle the pressure situations they will face in league play.

“It is too early to tell,” said Bradley. “I am pleased with the young players; it helps for their confidence to start out well. I think the league is going to be very good. Yale beat LSU; Columbia is playing people tough as usual.”

March 12, 2014
HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HUNG AROUND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Nicole Hung dribbles around a foe. Senior guard Hung came up big in her final regular season weekend for the Tigers, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later. Hung was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance. The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Nicole Hung suffered articular cartilage damage to her left knee last winter during her junior campaign with the Princeton University women’s basketball team, her hoops career was in jeopardy.

Undergoing surgery and missing all but five games in 2012-13, Hung started this season hobbled with a brace supporting her left knee, not sure when she would be up to game speed.

Diligently going through rehab, Hung got back on the court and became a key reserve as the Tigers have chased their fifth straight Ivy League title.

As Hung was honored along with classmate Kristen Helmstetter in the program’s annual Senior Night last Saturday, her thoughts turned to the knee injury and the test it has posed.

“In a way I have almost come full circle because I feel in some aspects this year mirrored freshman year for me in some ways, just struggling on the court,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles, Calif.

“My dad is always saying if you are not pushed enough and if you don’t have enough stress driving you forward then you are going to remain stagnant in life, not just in basketball. The injury definitely has pushed me and challenged me, probably more than anything has with it being senior year and wanting to be out there. It has also helped me see that you can contribute in different ways off the court.”

Last weekend, Hung made a major contribution on the court, scoring 12 points as Princeton topped Cornell 69-46 on Friday and then chipping in 11 points, five rebounds, and two assists as the Tigers routed Columbia 92-48 a night later.

The wins improved Princeton to 20-7 overall and 11-2 Ivy League and set up a rare winner-take-all Ivy title game against Penn (21-6 overall, 11-2 Ivy) slated for March 11 at Jadwin Gym.

For Hung, coming up big was the product of moving better on her injured knee.

“It has been feeling good for the last couple of months,” said Hung, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance, sharing the accolade with Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich. “It has been feeling a lot better in practice and I guess that is where it starts.”

It has felt good for Hung to serve as a team co-captain with classmate Helmstetter.

“We are very different but we are also similar in some ways,” said Hung, who now has 347 points in her Tiger career. “It meshes well, what I am not good at, she is good at and what she doesn’t like to do, I am OK doing. As captains, we fit perfectly together.”

The pair of seniors were hoping for a perfect ending in their Jadwin finale against the Quakers.

“I think the importance of the Penn game, in my mind, is overriding the fact that it is our last game at Jadwin,” said Hung.

“I am just thinking of the game itself, not what it means when the buzzer sounds and it is over. We are just really focused.”

The Tigers brought a heightened focus into last weekend after suffering a stunning 61-58 loss at Brown to begin March.

“It was their senior night last Saturday and I think emotions are elevated always at anyone’s Senior Night,” said Hung.

“Seeing them celebrate everything after that win, we could hear them from our locker room so we were like no one is doing that to us on our Senior Night. We took Cornell and Columbia as seriously as we take any other opponent. Last weekend was really just a reminder that the Ivy League is crazy. It is so unique compared to any other conference.”

For Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, seeing her team experience its Senior Night triggers mixed emotions.

“Senior Night is always bittersweet; I remember recruiting them, I remember going through the ups and downs with them,” said Banghart.

“You watch them grow as players, people, and leaders so it is always bittersweet and you hope that it is the night that they want. We said before the game that we want the other kids to play in honor of them. These two kids have been all about the program, never about themselves. So it was important to the rest of the team to show them what their hard work has given us, which is a young group that is playing ahead of their years.”

Banghart was particularly pleased to see Hung’s hard work result in a senior weekend to remember.

“I told her in my office about a month ago that it is a matter of time until you come up big,” said Banghart.

“I don’t know when that is going to be. I have been in the league a long time, the league is won by seniors and she played like it this weekend. I think there is a rhythm to playing in games and she wasn’t able to get into that because she was hurt so much. I think now she is just getting longer runs on the court. There is probably an element of I am a senior, I have been here before, I know how this works.”

In reflecting on Helmstetter’s contribution, Banghart marvels at her adaptability.

“Kristen just does whatever we have asked her to do,” said Banghart. ”She practices at the post and plays at the guard, she practices at guard and plays at the post. She plays wherever you need her in the zone. We have had some practices where we had nine players; she’ll be whatever we need her to be. She is versatile. I am surprised that she is so willing to stand out and be a star, that is so out of her character. It has been critical to this team’s growth.”

In Banghart’s view, the Tigers have grown from the loss to Brown. “We had 59 rebounds tonight; a major characteristic of our last weekend was that we didn’t go to the glass,” said Banghart.

“We haven’t been as relentless on the glass as we want to be. We changed up our looks offensively to be a little more relentless on the glass, giving us better positions. I think their commitment to the rebounding has showed. Those are toughness points. If you have got a title on the line, no one is going to give it to you and I think they were tough this weekend.”

In making it to the cusp of another league crown, Princeton has exhibited a mental toughness.

“This group has really needed me, they needed each other,” said Banghart. “We have had to really work together; we have had to grow. We have had to take some hits, we have had to get through injuries. It’s always fun to see anyone that you love succeed and they are succeeding.”

Hung, for her part, has enjoyed her personal growth process. “I think people joke that my freshman year I didn’t speak my first words until November or something like that so I guess on a verbal level I have opened up more,” said Hung, who will be teaching in Thailand next year and hopes to go to medical school after that.

“Being a captain, especially under coach Banghart, requires a lot of communication. I think that journey of saying my first words in November freshmen year to having to lead a team verbally, especially since I haven’t been on the court as much this year, has developed me as a person and is what I will need later in life.”

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MILESTONE MAN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse star Tom Schreiber heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, senior All-American midfielder Schreiber tallied six points on three goals and three assists but it wasn’t enough as No. 16 Princeton fell 13-11 to fifth-ranked North Carolina. Schreiber’s first assist on the evening made him just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career. The Tigers, now 2-2, open Ivy League play when they host 11th-ranked Penn (3-1) on March 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tom Schreiber scored six points for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last Friday against North Carolina but those offensive heroics aren’t what will stick in his mind when he looks back on the contest.

“I don’t think I will ever forget throwing the ball away on our last possession,” said senior All-American midfielder Schreiber, ever the perfectionist, as he reflected on Princeton’s 13-11 loss to the Tar Heels.

While Schreiber was bitterly disappointed by the result, he acknowledged that No. 16 Princeton made strides even as it fell to 2-2.

“Coach [Chris Bates] said we got better today but we are not where we want to be yet,” said Schreiber. “It is progress; it stings that it is a loss. We’ll keep building from there.”

Princeton fought an uphill battle as No. 5 North Carolina built a 4-1 lead midway through the first quarter.

“We have tended to do that at the start of this year and a little bit last year,” said Schreiber, referring to the Tigers’ penchant for slow starts.

“A lot of times the sidelines are saying it is a game of runs and they’ll get a couple, we’ll get a couple. We knew how talented they were and how they like to push the pace. I think that is exactly what we expected and our defense did a great job of covering a really talented offensive team.”

Princeton, though, displayed its offensive talent as it outscored UNC 9-6 from there to make it a 10-10 game going into the fourth quarter.

“There is no quit in this team, that is one thing I can say for sure,” said Schreiber.

“I wasn’t worried at any point. We felt good on our end offensively. I think Justin Murphy and the face-off team did a nice job in the second half getting us the ball. I think we did a nice job coming back and fell a little short. The beauty of our offense is that if you keep doing it and keep doing it correctly things will open up and I think that happened a little bit.”

For the two-time All-American, the night marked another offensive milestone in his glittering career as his first assist on the evening helped him become just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career, joining Jon Hess ’98 (82 goals, 133 assists) and Dave Heubeck ’80 (83 goals, 99 assists) in the 80-80 club.

“It is cool to see it,” said Schreiber, who now has 168 points on 86 goals and 82 assists and is the top scoring midfielder in program history.

“It’s an honor to be considered with those guys. I am just trying to win games at this point. We got a little better so we want to get to the point where we are pulling out wins. I think we’ll peak at the right time.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw plenty of positives even though he was disappointed by the outcome.

I thought there was a ton to build on but we gave away too many plays and we’ve got to find a way to win and minimize those mistakes,” said Bates.

“Defensively we grew up here a little bit. We showed some character, we showed some grit and that’s got to carry over.”

Sophomore goalie Matt O’Connor showed some growth, making 12 saves as he played a whole contest for the first time this year after splitting time with senior Brian Kavanagh in Princeton’s first three games.

“Matt gave us some life,” asserted Bates. “Early on, he was a little shaky. He just gave us some energy plays and he settled in a little bit. I am happy for Matt, he stood tall and he had a pretty good game. He’s a competitor and he’s fought through. He hasn’t played well but at the end of the day, he keeps coming.”

The team’s young defensive unit of freshmen Bear Goldstein and Will Reynolds along with sophomore Mark Strabo came on as well.

“Bear Goldstein shut down Joey Sankey today, Bear showed that he is a primetime kid,” said Bates. “Will Reynolds gets a lot of hype and he is a very good player. Both of those guys, Will and Bear, grew up today, and Mark as well.”

A quartet of veterans provided a steadying presence in the defensive midfield.

“Derick Raabe, Jack Strabo, Fern [Nick Fernandez], and Hunter deButts do the hard work, it goes a little bit unnoticed,” said Bates. “Derick picked up some huge ground balls. Fern, Jack, and Hunter were really stout. That gives us confidence going forward.”

While Princeton’s defenders held their own against the run-and-gun Tar Heels, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers offense needed to be a little sharper.

“We proved to ourselves that we can defend a team like that, we need those other plays to keep them to a few more goals less,” said Bates, whose team opens its Ivy League campaign on March 15 when it hosts No. 11 Penn (3-1). “We need to cash in a few opportunities. Mikey [MacDonald] has one I am sure he wants back. Tom wants the last turnover back, that is the nature of it.”

In Bates’ view, Schreiber’s competitive nature drives the Tigers. “Tom is a playmaker and you can just tell that when the game is on the line, his blood pressure is sky high in a good way,” said Bates.

“He helped get us back in the game. There are times where I look at him and say wow, I didn’t coach that. Tom wants to win games like this; he wants a couple of plays back because that is the type of competitor he is and that is what makes him a special player.”

Schreiber, for his part, is looking to write a special final chapter to his Princeton career.

“I am blessed to be here at Princeton to begin with let alone being on the lacrosse team,” said Schreiber.

“I am trying to continue to enjoy myself here. Whether we are winning or losing, I am going to be smiling. I am going to try to get some more Ws.”

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OUT OF AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice. Last Friday, senior forward Ammon scored the winning goal as Princeton topped Clarkson 3-2 in overtime in the opener of an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series between the teams. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 on Saturday and 3-2 a day later to lose the series and end the season with an overall record of 6-26. Ammon ended his career with a bang, getting named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this winter and tying classmate Andrew Calof for the team lead in scoring with 21 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deck appeared to be stacked against the Princeton University men’s hockey team as it headed up to Clarkson last weekend for an ECAC Hockey best-of-three opening round playoff series.

Princeton was seeded 12th while the Golden Knights were seeded sixth and in the history of the ECACH playoffs, a 12th seed had only prevailed twice in such a matchup.

Moreover, the Tigers had struggled mightily against Clarkson, both recently and historically. Princeton was mired in a five-game losing streak against the Golden Knights and trailed 76-28-5 in the all-time series
between the programs. Princeton was 1-6 lifetime against Clarkson in the ECACH playoffs, having never won a postseason game at Cheel Arena.

In looking to reverse those trends, Princeton head coach Bob Prier wanted his team to keep it simple.

“We just wanted to play more in their face,” said Prier. “We wanted to tighten up gaps in the neutral zone and keep our feet moving on defense.”

Following that blueprint, the Tigers nearly dealt Clarkson a stunning exit, winning the opener 3-2 in overtime before falling 4-0 in Game 2 and dropping a 3-2 nailbiter in the decisive Game 3.

“The guys competed pretty hard,” said Prier, whose team ended the winter at 6-26 overall.

“The last game could have gone either way, both teams played hard. I told the guys I was proud of how they competed.”

Senior forward Andrew Ammon stood out as a top competitor for the Tigers, scoring the game-winning goal in the opener.

“He shoots the puck well and works so hard,” said Prier of Ammon, who was named as a first-team All Ivy League performer this season and was the team’s top scorer with 21 points along with classmate Andrew Calof. “He is a playoff player. He is an honest player who shows a lot of emotion.”

Princeton got some good playoff efforts from sophomores Kyle Rankin and Jonathan Liau, among others.

“Rankin and Liau both put up some good numbers,” said Prier, who got a goal and two assists from Liau with Rankin contributing two goals. “I thought Jeremy Goodwin had a really good game last night. They all generally played well.”

While the Tigers played well in defeat, Prier acknowledged that Clarkson had a slight edge in puck possession.

“They won more stick battles,” said Prier. “They had the puck a little more than we did and that gave them a few more power plays.”

Prier was proud of how his seniors battled to the end. “The class we lose is a considerable group, the record doesn’t always reflect how much a senior class has put into a team,” said Prier of the team’s Class of 2014 which includes two-time captain Jack Berger, Sean Bonar, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, Alec Rush, Ammon, and Calof. “They are outstanding young men.”

In assessing why Princeton didn’t post the record it had hoped, Prier said a rash of injuries held the Tigers back.

“It was hard to have combative practices with the number of injuries that we had and the guys who were playing through pain,” said Prier.

“You play how you practice. Up until a month ago, we couldn’t scrimmage in practice, we just didn’t have the bodies. If you can’t get the intensity in practices, you are not prepared for the intensity you face in games.”

With such returning players as Ryan Siiro, Tucker Brockett, Tyler Maugeri, Tommy Davis, Mike Ambrosia, Aaron Kesselman, Ben Foster, Quin Pompi, Marlon Sabo, Colton Phinney, along with Liau and Rankin, Princeton hopes to inflict some pain on its foes next winter.

“I think we have some pretty good players coming back,” said Prier. “We have a good group coming in. It is a 12-month commitment to be a Division I athlete. They need to train more to be more explosive and stronger physically.”

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE SWING: Princeton University softball player Alyssa Schmidt makes contact in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, junior shortstop Schmidt went 2-for-5 with two runs in a doubleheader against the University of Hartford played on a makeshift diamond at Princeton’s Finney-Campbell field turf facility. The Tigers split the twinbill, losing the opener 6-5 in eight innings before taking the nightcap 4-1. Princeton, now 1-6, heads west for its annual California swing with 13 games scheduled between March 15-23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It wasn’t exactly a field of dreams but it helped the Princeton University softball team out of an early season nightmare.

After a long-scheduled tournament appearance in Maryland was cancelled due to poor field conditions and a last-minute invite to a tourney in Salem, Va. got iced out due to a Thursday snowstorm down south, Princeton was able to transform its Finney-Campbell field turf facility into a makeshift diamond for a doubleheader Saturday against the University of Hartford.

The program had to jump through some hoops to make the twinbill a reality. “We went into the administration and said is this possible?,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney.

“Thank goodness for the athletics department, so many people had to step in. The facilities people and the administration were such a big help.”

While there wasn’t any dirt or grass in sight, the teams made the best of the facility.

“It was great, we had benches for our “dugouts,” we had stands,” said Sweeney.

“Hartford has a lot of girls from this general area and they had a lot of parents come. We had a lot of students who came down before the women’s basketball game. It felt like a real game; both teams really liked it.”

Sweeney liked the way her team competed as it lost the opener 6-5 in eight innings and then came back and posted a 4-1 victory in the night cap to earn its first victory of the spring.

In reflecting on Game 1, Sweeney credited her pitcher, Claire Klausner, with battling hard in striking out six and walking three on a day when she didn’t have her best stuff.

“We have two freshman pitchers and one of them, Claire Klausner, got the start,” said Sweeney.

“She had a tough first inning and we told her it is important to make adjustments. She grinded through eight innings when she wasn’t feeling her best and found a way. She put the team in a spot to win Game 1.”

The Tigers fell short of the win as they were doomed by some sloppy play. “We made a few mistakes that came back to bite us; we had three outs at third, that is never a good stat,” lamented Sweeney.

“We made some base running mistakes. The first game was a good indicator of growth and getting better from game to game.”

Princeton got better in the second game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning on a grand slam by Marissa Reynolds.

“Marissa has a big presence at the plate, the team trusts her in the box,” said Sweeney. “We were waiting for the first big hit from somebody and that gave us a huge lift.”

In winning its first game of the season after six straight losses, the Tigers got some big hits from veterans Rachel Rendina, Alyssa Schmidt, and Cara Worden.

“Rendina, Schmidt, and Worden all had good at-bats in Florida but they all came up short and felt they could do better,” said Sweeney.

“How they perform at the plate sets the tone. They can be sparks for us and they embrace that role. We were more relaxed in the box overall.”

The pitching trio of Meredith Brown, Shanna Christian, and Erica Noel combined to give up just four hits with Christian getting the victory.

“We split time between three pitchers because we wanted to get all the pitchers some work and one had gone 8 innings in the first game,” said Sweeney.

“They knew they were going to split time. It is an adjustment for college pitchers to learn the relief role since most of them were starters in high school.”

In Sweeney’s view, the hard work Princeton has put in to this point will pay dividends down the road.

“I am happy that we are going to be underestimated,” said Sweeney. “I have uncompromising optimism that we are going to be consistently improving. We have a young team with a lot of new faces so we are going to have growing pains. I think we will keep getting better and peak at the right time for our Ivy games.”

A key step in the process will come next week when the Tigers head west for their annual California swing.

“It will be great for team bonding,” added Sweeney, whose team plays in the San Jose Tournament from March 15-16, has doubleheaders at Sacramento State on March 18 and at Pacific on March 19, and then wraps up the jaunt with the Santa Clara Tournament from March 21-23.

“We have 13 games scheduled and it will be an opportunity to get better everyday. We have a lot of people competing for positions. Everyone is competing with each other but still being good teammates. We are mixing up things and giving people the opportunity to play and show what they can do.”

After guiding the Tigers to a solid 27-19 campaign last spring in her first season at the helm of the program, Sweeney is looking for her players to show a lot in 2014.

“Last year was a get-to-know-you process and about sorting out things,” said Sweeney.

“The seniors are dedicated to improving the program. We have challenged the girls to raise the bar for themselves and the program. Everyone is on board.”

March 5, 2014
FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING BLUE: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler looks to unload the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman Ambler matched his single-game career-high with five points on two goals and three assists as Princeton lost 15-9 to Johns Hopkins. The defeat to the fourth-ranked Blue Jays left No. 14 Princeton at 2-1. The Tigers will be looking to get back on the winning track when they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ryan Ambler and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team liked their chances as they headed into the second quarter of their clash with Johns Hopkins last Saturday.

The rivals were locked in a 4-4 tie after the one period with Princeton holding a 12-7 edge in shots.

“We were moving the ball well, there was good ebb and flow to the game,” said sophomore attackman Ambler. “We made some stops on defense; they made a little bit of a run but so did we.”

But in the second quarter, Hopkins embarked on a decisive run that changed the course of the game. The Blue Jays outscored Princeton 5-1 in the period and extended their lead to 12-5 by midway through the third.

While the Tigers got back on track, responding to the 8-1 run by outscoring Hopkins 4-3 from there, it was not nearly enough as the Blue Jays posted a 15-9 win before 2,540 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

In assessing Hopkins’ surge, Ambler acknowledged that Princeton didn’t have much room for error.

“I think that they just got a couple more possessions than we did,” said Ambler.

“I think they capitalized in the second quarter more than we did, it came down to that. We knew that they were a good team. They shot the ball really well, they shared the ball really well. There were some times collectively that we had a lapse as a team.”

In the latter stages of the third quarter, Princeton did capitalize, reeling off three straight goals.

“I had a lot of faith in our defense, offense, and face-off guys, all around the field; the same thing happened with Hofstra,” said Amber, referring to a late rally which saw Princeton go on an 8-2 run to pull out a 12-10 win on February 22. “We knew that we were going to get our run, it was unfortunate that we couldn’t keep it going.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Rydal, Pa. has it going this spring, with 12 points already on three goals and a team-high nine assists.

“I am just a year older and hopefully, a little wiser,” said Ambler, who matched his career single-game high in the Hopkins loss with five points on two goals and three assists.

“The guys on the team do a great job finishing the ball, we move the ball really well. I have got to give credit to the guys finishing the goals. They cut to the ball, I feed them and they finish.”

Ambler has developed a comfort level with senior midfielder Tom Schreiber and junior attackman Mike MacDonald.

“We have a great feel for each other and we are great buddies,” said Ambler.

“We understand the flow of the offense as does the rest of the offense. I think everyone has got a great feel to the offense that we run. We just capitalize on some good plays. I am fortunate to play within this offense.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates knew that the Hopkins offense posed some challenges for his young defense which starts a sophomore [Mark Strabo] and two freshmen [Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein].

“Coming into this game, I knew Hopkins is very different offensively this season,” said Bates, whose team dropped to 2-1 with the defeat.

“Some of the things they have shown that they are going to do were going to cause some problems for us. It was not a surprise to me.”

In assessing Hopkins’ decisive run, Bates noted that Princeton was doomed by a number of problems.

“We didn’t have the ball,” said Bates. “It is a game of momentum; we turned it over a few times and we didn’t face off well. I knew coming in if we were forced to play a lot of defense that we were going to give up quality shots and that was the case during that run. Honestly, we needed another save or two to get the ball back and give us a little life, to give us a little momentum and we didn’t get that. We didn’t get the critical plays at critical moments to get it back in our favor.”

Bates credited Ambler with giving Princeton life at the offensive end. “Ryan is playing with confidence; he is strong on the ball, he has such great vision,” said Bates.

“It is nice when the pieces of our offense play together, it is pretty to watch. You just see the ball move around and guys are unselfish. Ryan is unselfish but  he is confident enough to take advantage of his opportunities. You love guys that have equal goals and assists, that’s the way the game should be played. It is nice to see his development.”

Responding with a grimace, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers need their goalies to develop some consistency.

“This was a good test; they are high velocity, high accuracy shooters and we didn’t catch up with balls today,” said Bates, who has been rotating senior Brian Kavanagh and sophomore Matt O’Connor between the pipes.

“We didn’t look like we were on the ball, that is a concern. That is an area that is going to continue to stay under the microscope. I don’t know if you solve it today or next week or when you do. To be where we want to be, we need more consistency and we need the answer there.”

The answer could come, in part, by being more deliberate with the ball. “We still have to do a better job of managing the game on the offensive end,” said Bates.

“In some instances, when you are facing a dynamic offense like Hopkins, you have got to keep it out out of their hands. It is only a matter of time. They are just so slick and so skilled, they know each other really well. We have got to be able to withstand that and tilt the field the other way.”

The Tigers know they are going to have to withstand another high-powered attack as they host No. 8 North Carolina (3-1) on March 7.

“We have Carolina coming in here Friday, it is another big-time opponent,” noted Bates.

“You learn lessons and you take the next steps. I really feel like this team is going to be much different at the end of April than it is in the beginning of March. We have to hold on to that thought. It doesn’t feel good right now. I have done this long enough where I have got to remind myself and remind my guys of that. They are not happy right now and I don’t blame them but we have to keep it in perspective.”

Ambler, for his part, is taking a long-range perspective. “We understand that it is March 1, we have plenty of time,” said Ambler.

“Hopkins was a great test, UNC is going to be another great test. All we can do is look forward to one game at a time and that is what we are going to do. We hate losing; we are going to take what we have from that loss and we are going to progress forward, the key word is progress.”

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING LARGE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman attacker Hompe enjoyed a breakout game tallying three goals and three assists as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to No. 14 Georgetown. Hompe entered the game with one assist on the season. Princeton, now 1-2, opens Ivy League action when it plays at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Hompe struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first two games of her career with the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

The highly touted freshman attacker from New Canaan, Conn. tallied just one assist as the Tigers started this season 1-1.

Last Saturday against visiting Georgetown, Hompe found the back of the net for the first time in her college career, tallying a first half goal.

“I was really excited to hear my goal song playing,” said a grinning Hompe. “It was definitely a good way to start the game. I think that the pace of our attack was definitely heightened in this game from past games.”

As the game unfolded, Hompe picked up the pace, ending the day with three goals and three assists in a losing cause as the 19th-ranked Tigers fell 17-16 in overtime to the No. 14 Hoyas.

For Hompe, assuming a playmaking role came in the flow of the attack. “I think that we had a lot of open girls; our offense was cutting and moving so well that it was really a matter of finding who was open and getting them the ball,” said Hompe. “We shot very well so that was great.”

With Princeton trailing 16-15 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Hompe found junior star Erin McMunn in the crease area and fed her for the game-tying goal.

“She was just open in front of the net,” said Hompe. “You could just see it in her eyes when she knows she is open and I just knew I had to get it to her.

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t get anything in overtime as the Hoyas scored the only goal in the six minute extra session.

“I think a big part of OT was getting the draw controls,” said Hompe. “We didn’t come up with those which was disappointing but our defense worked incredibly hard to hold them to just one goal. We almost came back a couple of times, six minutes isn’t that long.”

Going through an overtime contest should pay dividends down the road for the Tigers.

“I think this was a good game for us to get under our belts early on,” said Hompe.

“I think it gave us a lot of experience, particularly going into overtime. Myself and a lot of the younger girls haven’t had that experience so I think there are a lot of positives to take from the game.”

Breaking out with six points has Hompe feeling more positive about her role on the Princeton offense.

“I think I found a different level of comfort in the offense and found where I can look for shots and where I am looking to feed,” said Hompe. “I think it was nice to finally strike that balance.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer was thrilled to see Hompe reach a higher level.

“We have been looking for that from her; she was a little slow starting in her first two games,” said Sailer.

“I think she was just getting used to what the real competition is like and then today she was really on fire. Her eyes were up, she was seeing things really well. She was finishing really well. It was a breakout game for her. I really hope that she is going to run with this and know that she is an incredible player and capable of so much.”

Sailer was proud of how her players responded to Georgetown’s runs, which saw the Hoyas build leads of 9-5, 14-10, and 16-14.

“I thought we really showed our fight today, getting down 9-5 and coming back and tying it up,” said Sailer.

“Then after Colleen [Smith] scored the goal at 10 and they came back and had four straight, that could have been really defeating and deflating. We kept fighting to even the score. I just think the kids showed a ton of heart and a ton of fight today.”

In Sailer’s view, senior defender Smith exemplified Princeton’s fighting spirit.

“Colleen Smith was unbelievable; she had a goal and an assist today,” said Sailer, who also got four goals from Alexandra Bruno with Anya Gersoff chipping in two goals and Erin Slifer contributing one goal and two assists.

“Her draw controls were great. She is just a player who doesn’t stop, and her heart is amazing.”

In the overtime, the Tigers were unable to take control as they never had the ball.

“We had our play ready to go and we never had an attack possession but we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Sailer.

“I think the last thing I said before we went out for overtime was no yellow cards and then we had two of them. We played four of the six minutes a man down and we didn’t win the draw so we never had the ball in overtime. Having said that, the kids fought to the end. We have to not make the mental mistakes that hurt us in the end.”

While the result was disappointing, Sailer saw a lot of good things from her club.

“I think we have grown so much in just the last week from the Loyola game [a 15-10 loss] to the Rutgers game [an 11-4 win] to this game,” asserted Sailer.

“I am really excited about how the kids played today and where we are moving forward. We saw a lot about the character and the heart of this group and the talent of this group.”

Princeton will be looking to regroup when it opens its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) on March 8.

“It will be great to open the Ivy season at Brown, they should be tough,” said Sailer.

“Last year they finished their season within an overtime of beating Penn. They are getting better every single year so we are going to be focused this week, just like we were this
past week in practice.”

Hompe, for her part, is confident that the Tigers are going to get better and better.

“I learned a lot about the resilience of our team,” said Hompe. “We are not going to give up and I think the way we acted in this game just shows how we are going to act over the season. This is just one more obstacle for us.”

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REVENGE FACTOR: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase looks for an opening in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, sophomore forward Brase starred as Princeton topped Yale 57-46 and beat Brown 69-64. The win over Yale was particularly sweet as it dealt a crucial blow to the Bulldogs’ Ivy League title hopes and ended Princeton’s three-game losing streak in the series. The Tigers, now 17-8 overall and 5-6 Ivy, play at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two seasons, Yale has been a major thorn in the side for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Last year, Yale swept Princeton in the rivals’ two meetings as the Tigers finished second to league champions Harvard by one game.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs edged Princeton 66-65 in overtime to hand the Tigers a fifth league loss and extinguish any glimmering hope of contending for a league title.

When the teams met last Friday at Jadwin Gym before a crowd of 2,730, Princeton turned the tables, topping Yale 57-46 to deal a critical blow to its title hopes, dropping the Bulldogs two games behind league-leading Harvard with three games to go.

For Princeton senior star T.J. Bray, getting some payback against Yale was sweet.

“They kind of spoiled our season last year with the sweep and this year, they got us at their place,” said Bray, who scored a team-high 19 points with six rebounds and two assists.

“It feels nice to beat them. It is always a great game; they are very physical. We knew we had to come out and be physical tonight.”

The Tigers came out with intensity on the defensive end, limiting Yale to 29.4 percent shooting from the field (15-of-51) and forcing 16 turnovers and making eight steals.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson appreciated his team’s work at the defensive end in the win over the Bulldogs.

“The credit goes to these guys; they followed the plan,” said Henderson.

“I thought we did a nice job moving our feet. It is a simple game when you move your feet. Our defense has been good in our last six games so I am pleased with that.”

Another good sign for Princeton was outscoring Yale 19-3 in points off of turnovers.

“We happened to get loose balls and long rebounds,” said Henderson. “Those are the plays that make you win and that we didn’t make up at their place.”

Bray exemplified the Princeton defensive effort as he locked down on Yale star Justin Sears, stifling him in the second half.

“T.J. showed us the way with Sears, 19 in the first half, three in the second and then Hans [Brase] stepped into T.J.’s role,” said
Henderson.

“I thought we were able to control him a little bit, not that you can do that completely.”

Bray has been showing the  way offensively as well, averaging 17.9 points a game along with 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds.

“The consistency of T.J. has been amazing,” said Henderson of Bray, who had 21 points, 7 rebounds, and six assists a night later to help Princeton defeat Brown 69-64 and ended up being chosen as the Ivy Player of the Week.

“That is a really good thing when you can point to one person and say every single night you can count on that number of points and rebounds.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz has become a player that the Tigers can count on. “I think that Spencer is separating himself in some good ways going forward because he is showing some leadership qualities,” said Henderson of Weisz, who tallied 14 points in the win over Yale and then contributed 13 in the victory over Brown and was later named the Ivy Rookie of the Week.

“I still think Spencer shouldn’t turn the ball over with as good as a passer and how smart he is. I would like to see that four be a zero but he has been really key for us.”

While Henderson would prefer to see the Tigers, now 17-8 overall, 5-6 Ivy, contending for an Ivy title, he is looking for quality efforts from his squad as it wraps up the regular season.

“We are not in the position we would like to be in,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Cornell on March 7 and at Columbia on March 8 before hosting Penn on March 11.

“We have got four losses that were right there, no one is feeling sorry for us because of where we are. I think it is just basketball, games can swing really quickly against you or for you. We have four games left so we are going to milk those.”

Bray, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will take the right approach notwithstanding being stuck in the middle of the Ivy pack in fifth place.

“It is fun to just come and compete,” said Bray. “Whatever role we are in, we are going to compete everyday. Our practices have been great these last couple of weeks. It is unfortunate that we are playing spoiler but if that’s our role we are going to do it well.”

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEMORY LAING: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing looks for the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior forward and co-captain Laing tallied a goal and an assist in her final appearance for Princeton as the Tigers fell 5-3 to No. 5 Cornell to get swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series. Princeton ended the winter with an overall record of 14-13-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, it would appear that the Princeton University women’s hockey team ended the season with a whimper, getting swept in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series last weekend by No. 5 Cornell.

But on the ice, the Tigers banged heads with Big Red from beginning to end, battling to the final whistle in two nailbiters that saw Cornell prevail 3-2 and 5-3.

“We played well; we had offensive chances, some we took advantage of, some we didn’t,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team finished the winter with a final record of 14-13-4. “I am overall proud of the team, they never quit when they faced adversity.”

In the series opener on Friday, Princeton played with pride taking a 2-0 lead on second period goals by Sally Butler and Hilary Lloyd. But Cornell handled that adversity by scoring three unanswered tallies in the third to pull out a 3-2 victory.

“We were up 2-0 in the first game and Kim [Newell] made two huge saves and we had five scoring chances after that in the second but we just didn’t put them in,” lamented Kampersal.

“If we had been up 3-0, it would have been tougher. They have two unbelievable players who played 80 percent of third period and they were so fast. They ended up cashing in their chances; they come at you fast with flurries.”

In Game 2 a day later, the Tigers started fast, jumping out to a 1-0 lead after one period. The Big Red responded with three straight goals and then held a late Princeton rally.

“Our first five minutes was solid and our first period was solid,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Butler, Denna Laing, and Cassidy Tucker in the defeat.

“They started to turn things up and they got ahead 3-1. We fought to get it back to 3-2 and 4-3. There was a weird, awkward bounce on their fourth goal.”

While things didn’t turn out last weekend as Kampersal would have wanted, he enjoyed the journey this winter.

“It is the kind of year that you don’t want to end,” asserted Kampersal. “The kids were great, it was a lot of fun to coach this team. We talked about desire, toughness, being competitive, and being grateful, those were our four core values.”

Kampersal credited his senior group of Katie Jones, Gabie Figueroa, Olivia Mucha, Rose Alleva, Butler, and Laing with exemplifying those values.

“The seniors gave great leadership, they battled all the way to the end,” said Kampersal.

“They were hockey players, they cared, and they were committed. They left a great impression on the rookies.”

Going forward, Kampersal is looking for a similar commitment from his returning players.

“We need to step up in terms of conditioning, they need to approach the spring like it is the middle of the season,” said Kampersal.

“We have seven freshmen and Jaimie McDonnell who was playing her first season. They played quite a lot and they were a big part of things for us. They are skilled hockey players. They can only get better. They need to get physically stronger and build up their endurance.”

February 26, 2014
MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, middle, celebrates after one of his four goals in Princeton’s 12-10 win over Hofstra last Saturday. Junior attacker MacDonald’s heroics helped the Tigers overcome an 8-4 third quarter deficit as they pulled away to win their season opener. Ninth-ranked Princeton hosts No. 7 Johns Hopkins (3-0) on March 1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into its season opener Saturday against visiting Hofstra, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team was looking to its highly touted offense to set the tone.

But it was an unheralded defense, featuring two freshman starters and a senior making his first career start, that kept ninth-ranked Princeton close in a first half that saw the Tigers commit 10 turnovers and trailing 6-4 by intermission.

Junior attacker Mike MacDonald acknowledged that the Tigers misfired in the crease area.

“I am not sure what it was, maybe first game jitters,” said MacDonald. “We knew at halftime that we were costing the team the game at that point and we needed to step up. The coaches said they are not winning the game, we are losing the game.”

Things got worse for the Tigers in the third quarter as they fell behind 8-4 and took a timeout with 7:34 remaining in the period.

“Our captains, Tom Schreiber, Jack Strabo, and Derick Raabe talked before the coaches and they said listen guys, we are going to be fine, no one panic,” said MacDonald, recalling the message during the break.

“I think we just looked at each other and decided that we needed to step up, it was our time. The defense was doing everything that they could. When they got stops, we weren’t getting them goals at the other end.”

Princeton started getting goals in bunches, scoring four unanswered goals to knot the game at 8-8. After Hofstra scored a goal late in the quarter to regain the lead, the Tigers answered with a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter and never looked back in a 12-10 triumph before a crowd of 1,231 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

“I think we made better shooting decisions,” said MacDonald, in reflecting on Princeton’s comeback which saw him assist on the seventh goal and then score the first two goals of the fourth quarter. “It started with Tom Schreiber making a big play and we just built off of that.”

MacDonald is looking to build on the promise he has shown in his first two years with the Tigers.

“This year, I just think I have a little more confidence with the ball to start the season,” said MacDonald, who scored a total of 65 goals in his first two seasons, the third highest total in program history coming into a junior campaign.

“Last year, I was a little bit timid. I am not as quick to just pass it to the next guy and let him do the work. I want to contribute a little more.”

The 6’1, 190-pound native of Georgetown, Ontario, enjoys working with sophomore Ryan Ambler, who had five assists in the win, including two on MacDonald tallies.

“Ryan and I have a very good connection, we are both lefties so we share that side of the field a lot,” explained MacDonald, who ended the day with four goals and an assist.

“We are pretty much interchangeable with what we do. He can go down low and I can go on the wing. It works out really well; we have a lot of chemistry.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates pointed to MacDonald as a key catalyst in the Princeton rally.

“I said to my assistant coach, we have to get Mike into the flow,” said Bates, who also got three goals and two assists from senior star midfielder Schreiber.

“We were trying to initiate below goal line with Ryan and Will [Rotatori] a little bit. We changed our offense completely from the first half to the second and it was a point of emphasis to try to get him the ball because he is such a playmaker. He’s a gamer, he’s tough, he scored some big goals and we started to loosen up as a result.”

Bates credited his trio of defensive middies, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter
deButts, with igniting things.

“We needed some big ground balls and I think that was the difference,” said Bates.

“Jack Strabo played a really good game, he is just so unsung. Nick Fernandez and Hunter deButts also did well. Those guys give us a very good look and then we got uncorked offensively.

The goalie rotation, which saw senior Brian Kavanagh make his first career start and sophomore Matt O’Connor coming on in relief to handle the second half, looked good.

“I have great faith in Brian, he played great,” asserted Bates, who got 10 saves from Kavanagh in the first half as he faced a barrage of shots from Hofstra.

“He has earned the right to face 27 shots and he stood tall and the team rallied around him and he played as we expected. Matt earned the right to play the second half and I thought that made sense. Those guys are great, they root for each other. They understand the coach’s perspective. At the end of the day, those were the first two guys we gave a shout out to.”

By the end of the game, the Tiger close defense, which included freshmen Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein along with sophomore Mark Strabo, made strides.

“I said it last night at the team dinner, you guys are going to make mistakes, let’s understand that is the nature of this,” said Bates.

“Part of it came from not communicating, which is to be expected. Hofstra is  well coached and they are smart inside and we didn’t switch, that means you are not communicating. That comes from nerves, from lack of experience. They settled in and I thought we kept our composure and poise which was huge for us. Those guys grew up a little bit and they had a good second half.”

All in all, the comeback win over the Pride was a good first step for a Princeton squad that is facing a major challenge when it welcomes seventh-ranked Johns Hopkins (3-0) to Class of 1952 Stadium this Saturday.

“Hofstra is a hard team to play, they are tough, they are physical,” said Bates, whose team was slated to play a mid-week game at Manhattan on February 25.

“They have something to prove every time out. I have coached against coach [Seth] Tierney and Hofstra for years and years. They lost a game last week that they didn’t want to lose so we knew that we were going to get a team on fire. We let them be on fire a little bit but we handled that. At the end of the day, I think we grew up. I got a few more gray hairs and it wasn’t an easy one but I think it was a good one for us. We grew up as a result and we became a little closer, a little tougher.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes that overcoming Hofstra was a key growth experience for the Tigers.

“That game turned out exactly how we needed it to,” said MacDonald. “We faced some adversity and I think that is the best thing that could have happened to us. We know that we can battle back now if we are down. We are not going to get down on each other and we are just going to keep going.”

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Pete Miller goes up for a rebound in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman forward Miller had seven points and five rebounds off the bench as Princeton fell 59-47 to Harvard. The loss to the Crimson left the Tigers at 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy League. Princeton hosts Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Pete Miller’s performance mirrored how things went for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday.

In the first half, the freshman forward scored five points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-24 halftime lead over the Ivy League frontrunner and defending champion Crimson before a throng of 4,306 at Jadwin Gym.

“I came in and I thought I would be as aggressive as I possibly could,” said the 6’10, 225-pound Miller, a native of Winchester, Mass.

“I think I had a couple of layups, one on a nice pass from T.J. [Bray], and then rebounding, take care of the ball. I think I did a good job in the first half.”

Over the last 20 minutes of the contest, however, Harvard took care of the Tigers, pulling away to a 59-47 win.

“In the second half there were a lot of things I can improve on for the future, not just these next five games but for the rest of my career here,” said Miller, who had two points and no rebounds in the second half.

While Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw some good things, he acknowledged that the Tigers faltered at critical points.

“It was another tough loss for us,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy.

“I thought the game hinged two moments — our inability to pull away in the first half because I thought we really came out and approached the game the right way; I thought we had a tough missed dunk [in the second half] that resulted in a made three pointer going the other way. We never reclaimed the lead, it seemed to really shift the momentum. Those are the kind of plays that stick out in my mind.”

After holding Harvard to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, Princeton lost its way in the second half as the Crimson shot at a 54.2 percent clip and outscored the Tigers 35-18.

“Defensively I thought we were sharp in the first half; we stuck to things,” said Henderson.

“They made a couple of huge shots in the second half, I don’t think it was a lack of total defensive presence. [Kyle] Casey made a shot with T.J.’s hand in his face and [Wesley] Saunders made a big shot. Once those shots go in, you have to kind of adjust and make some reactions. I don’t think we did a good job of that. Our inability to score on offense contributed in some ways to some easy run outs. Offensively, we were a little stuck, we just have to get unstuck.”

Bray, for his part, echoed Henderson’s sentiments, seeing lapses at both ends of the court.

“In the second half, we just got a little lazy on offense and defense,” said Bray, who ended the evening with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds and two assists.

“We weren’t cutting as sharp on offense. We got a few back door layups in the first half and that kind of opened the game for us and we weren’t able to get those in the second half. Defensively, they went to a little more ball screen action and we didn’t handle that well. Our weak-side help wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, that was kind of the key to the game.”

With Princeton hosting Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later, Henderson is looking for Miller and his fellow freshmen, Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz, to get some valuable experience down the stretch.

“I thought our freshmen were very good; I am hard on Pete sometimes but I think 7 points and 5 rebounds are what we are counting on him for,” said Henderson.

“We have to keep going to him because he is doing some really good things. I thought both Steven and Spencer were very good. I just think we are searching for some other pieces so we have got to keep going here.”

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RARE BERGER: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for position in the crease. Last Friday, star forward and two-time team captain Berger scored the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to Colgate. The Tigers fell 4-1 to Cornell a night later in the regular season finale at Baker Rink. Princeton, now 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Berger got his final weekend of action at Baker Rink for the Princeton University men’s hockey team off to a good start.

The senior star forward and team captain scored a second period goal last Friday as the Tigers drew to within 2-1 of visiting Colgate.

“Mike Ambrosia made a real good play getting it into the zone and then Alec Rush did a great job getting it down low and moving his feet,” said Berger, reflecting on his tally.

“I was able to get open our front and Rush made a great pass and I tried to bang it in five-hole and it went in for me.”

But things went south from there for Princeton as the Tigers fell 6-1 to the 19th-ranked Raiders.

“I think we felt pretty good through the first two periods, I thought we could have brought it a little more than we did but we were happy with it,” said Berger.

“We wanted to come out and have a good third but it didn’t turn out the way we wanted but we will be ready to go tomorrow and have another good effort.”

Princeton made a valiant effort on Saturday on the program’s annual Senior Day but fell short, losing 4-1 to No. 13 Cornell in the home finale, dropping to 5-22 overall and 4-16 ECAC Hockey.

While the senior weekend didn’t go as planned, Berger has enjoyed his Princeton experience.

“I have been really lucky to have so many great opportunities here and I have loved every minute,” said Berger, whose classmates on the squad include Andrew Ammon, Sean Bonar, Andrew Calof, Eric Carlson, Will Ford, Jeremy Goodwin, Kevin Ross, and Rush.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been able to wear that jersey so many times.”

Berger is also thankful to have had the rare chance to serve as a two-time team captain.

“It has been great, it has been really humbling and I have learned a lot about myself,” said Berger, a 6’3, 210-pound native of St. Louis, Mo., who has 53 points on 20 goals and 33 assists in 122 games for the Tigers.

“It has been a great experience, I have been really thankful to have had that opportunity and be able to work with such a great group of guys.”

With Princeton playing at Clarkson on February 28 and at St. Lawrence on March 1 before hitting the road for a first-round ECACH series, Berger is determined to keep working hard to the end.

“Obviously you want to be really thankful to get to play every game but at the same time I don’t want to be too nostalgic,” said Berger.

“I want to come out and treat it like any other game and give it everything I got and try to get a ‘W.’ At the end of the day, we want to be ready for the playoffs and playing our best hockey then.”

February 19, 2014
TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOMMY GUN: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Tom Schreiber races upfield in 2013 action. Two-time first-team All-American midfielder and senior captain Schreiber is looking to go out with a bang this spring. Schreiber already has 149 career points, the most ever by a Princeton middie, and has a chance to become the second four-time first-team All-Ivy League player in program history and the first Princeton player to reach at least 90 goals and 90 assists in a career. The 9th-ranked Tigers start their 2014 campaign by hosting Hofstra on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last two years, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team has been on the verge of adding to the program’s storied tradition of postseason success.

The Tigers have advanced to a pair of Ivy League championship games and have played in the the opening round of the NCAA tournament but came up short in all three contests.

As the 2014 season gets underway on February 22 when 9th-ranked Princeton hosts Hofstra, the squad’s group of 15 seniors is looking to go out with a bang.

“It is a senior laden group, they came in with high expectations and some goals have remained unmet,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team went 9-6 overall last season, ending the spring with a 12-8 loss to Yale in the Ivy title game.

“It is their last go-around so there is a sense of urgency. We have gone through the rigors together; they have a good perspective. They know things are not going to happen overnight, it is a long season.”

The Tigers have a midfield unit that can make things happen, led by two-time first-team All-American and senior captain Tom Schreiber, the team’s leading scorer in 2013 with 60 points on 28 goals and 32 assists.

“We are actually trying to dial him back, he can dominate practices,” said Bates.

“He has such a skill set and he is playing with so much confidence. He has an edge to his game and that has a ripple effect on the rest of the team. He makes everyone else better. But we know people are going to try to take him out of the game and the others will have to be better and take the next step.”

Bates is confident that junior Kip Orban (27 goals, 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Jake Froccaro (24 goals, 10 assists) can make defenses pay if they focus too much on Schreiber.

“Orban’s confidence has grown; he is adding layers to his game,” said Bates.

“He is working on his off-ball game. He has put in a lot of goals for us and I would be surprised if he doesn’t replicate that. Jake has a broken finger and we hope to have him for Hofstra. He gives us a different dynamic, he makes us a tough matchup there. He will need some time to get his wind and get his legs under him.”

The return of seniors Tucker Shanley (20 goals, 8 assists in 2012) and Forest Sonnefeldt (17 goals, 6 assists in 2012) from injury should make the midfield even tougher to contain.

“Shanley is back, it is nice to have depth,” said Bates. “We need to merge him into the first group. He needs to make better shot decisions and make good plays, it can’t be feast or famine. Forest Sonnenfeldt is back from injury, he is a big body and can set picks and he can really shoot it.”

On attack, junior Mike MacDonald has emerged as a top shooter, scoring a team-high 43 goals in 2013.

“Mike is a tough kid and he does more than finishing,” said Bates of MacDonald, who added 16 assists last spring.

“He is pretty athletic and pretty fast but he likes to lay low. He can dodge and he has a really good understanding of what we want to do on offense. He is finishing my sentences.”

Bates is hoping that sophomore Ryan Ambler (11 goals, 17 assists) and junior Will Rotatori (2 goals, 3 assists) can show a good understanding of the offense as they join MacDonald on the top attack line.

“Ambler is bigger, stronger, and is more confident,” said Bates. “He is finishing the ball really well. I think he is going to take a nice jump this year, he knows his role as a sophomore. Rotatori will be the third guy on attack. He is quick, tough, and fearless. He distributes the ball well. He is used to carrying the ball and we don’t need him to do that as much. He needs to find the right spot off the ball. He needs to figure out how to complement the others.”

At the key face-off spot, Princeton will be looking for junior Justin Murphy to have a big year.

“Murph is the guy we are going to live or die with,” said Bates of Murphy who went 111-of-218 on face-offs in 2013.

“Jack O’Brien is a freshman who did some nice things in the fall. He is another option. We have two other athletes, Sam Gravitte, a longstick, and Zach Currier, who we could use.”

Princeton features some blue-chip athletes as shortstick defensive midfield in a trio of seniors, Jack Strabo, Nick Fernandez, and Hunter deButts.

“We have Jack Strabo and Nick Fernandez at short-stick middie, they are basically 4-year starters,” said Bates.

“They have grown as leaders and they are hard-working, athletic guys. They can really run the field. Hunter deButts has energy and athleticism.”

Senior Derick Raabe provides energy and skill at longstick midfield, leading the Tigers by picking up 73 ground ball in 2013.

“Derick is a natural there; he is great on ground balls,” said Bates, who also plans to use senior Brendan Bronvino and freshman Gravitte at LSM.

Youth will be served on defense as the Tigers will be relying on sophomore Mark Strabo along with a pair of freshmen, Will Reynolds and Bear Goldstein.

“Mark Strabo is back and healthier; he is a good solid cover guy and he is beginning to understand how to play defense at the college level,” said Bates, who will also be using 6’7 junior Alex Beatty on defense.

“Will Reynolds is pretty heralded and he is all of that. He is a big presence; he is calm and tough. He is a foundation player already; he gives us a sense of calm even though he is a freshman. He has an athletic IQ; he may get beaten once but not again. Bear Goldstein has good feet and can cover the ball well. He is fearless, he is a Texas football kid and will put his helmet in there. He has good stick control and we think he has a lot of upside.”

Bates isn’t quite sure what is up at goalie as senior Brian Kavanagh (8.50 goals against average in 2 games in 2013), junior Eric Sanschagrin (11.86 goals against average in 5 games), and sophomore Matt O’Connor (9.38 goals against average in 12 games) are all vying for the spot.

“That is the big question mark; it is a three-man race,” said Bates. “Brian Kavanagh has notched himself into it; he has looked good in scrimmages. Eric and Matt run hot and cold. Matt was a length ahead in the fall but not so much now. We want to have one step up so we can settle this. Brian is a mature kid and the other two have more game experience. We are going to end up with a good goalie.”

The Tigers will need to step up in order to top Hofstra (0-1) in the opener this Saturday.

“Hofstra is always ready for us, it is good test,” said Bates. “We have some guys playing their first game so it is interesting to see what happens when the lights go on. We need to be smart and manage the nerves.”

Paying attention to game management will be a key if the Tigers are to reach their goals this spring.

“The defense will need to grow up,” said Bates. “We need to be smart and manage the game on the offensive end. We can be pedal to the metal but we can’t just fire low angle or low percentage shots.”

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ATTACK MODE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Erin McMunn heads to the goal last season. Junior attacker ­McMunn, Princeton’s top scorer in 2013 with 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists, should trigger the Tiger offense this spring. No. 16 Princeton opens its 2014 campaign by playing at eighth-ranked Loyola (1-0) on February 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

If the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team can stay in the present, it could have a bright future.

“The kids are really focused on everyday; they are playing well and learning the system,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer whose team went 10-7 overall in 2013 and advanced to the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“They are working on elevating their game. We have fallen victim to letting the game situation dictate everything. Whether we get off to a good start or a bad start, we need to have confidence in who we are and in our systems. We need to keep fighting and playing our system. The theme this season is the power of now.”

As the 16th-ranked Tigers open their season at No. 8 Loyola on February 22, they boast a lot of firepower on attack.

“Our attack is shaping up very nicely,” asserted Sailer, a Hall of Fame coach,  who is in her 28th season at Princeton and has led the Tigers to three NCAA titles and 332 wins.

“We have great players who are playing well together. We have good depth, it is good to see. We have a really well-rounded offense; we should be balanced in our scoring. I think it is going to be a strength for us.”

Junior Erin McMunn figures to trigger the Tiger offense, having scored 69 points last spring on 40 goals and 29 assists. Senior Mary-Kate Sivilli (19 goals and 7 assists in 2013) and sophomore Alexandra Bruno (26 goals and 4 assists) should also be key weapons for Princeton.

“We are going to look for a lot out of Erin, she has a sure stick and can finish,” said Sailer.

“Sivilli is having a great year; she had a good fall. She is becoming a leader of the unit. She helps McMunn organize the attack. She sees the field really well; I think this is going to be her best season. Bruno has been hampered by her back but she coming on strong. She is a great shooter. She is an intelligent player and sees the game well.”

The Tigers have several others who have some game on attack. “We have a number of kids who are doing well, Erika Grabbi is a junior who is coming into her own,” added Sailer.

“She is fast and explosive and is one of our most talented 1 v 1 players. We have freshman Olivia Hompe, who is playing around the crease with McMunn, they are developing a good connection. She is a talented kid. Grace Bowen is coming off a stress fracture and she is playing herself into a role. Steph Paloscio (2 goals, 2 assists) has done well. She is little but quick and speedy. Anna Menke is a big, strong kid. We don’t have anyone who isn’t ready play, they can helps us in different situations.”

At midfield, Princeton boasts a strong one-two punch in senior Sarah Lloyd (19 goals, 14 assists) and junior Erin Slifer (19 goals, 20 assists).

“Lloyd and Slifer have been mainstays for us,” said Sailer. “Sarah had been dealing with an injury but she is back. We had a scrimmage at the end of practice the other day and she was all over the field. She is great on the draw, she is great on ground balls and is great in transition and dodging. Slifer is a big, strong player. She came into her own at the end of last season. She became a go-to kid for us. She is a large presence at both ends of the field.”

Sailer is hoping that freshman Anna Doherty and sophomore Anya Gersoff will emerge as go-to players in the midfield,

“Doherty has been doing very well; she is incredibly quick and explosive,” said Sailer. “She can be really good for us. Anya Gersoff (14 goals, 4 assists) has been really impressive. We are expecting a lot from her. She plays field hockey and missed our fall season as a freshman and I think she was behind last year. She expected more from herself because lacrosse is her love. I give her credit, she trained on her own. She worked hard on her footwork. She can do things with the stick and the ball that are really impressive.”

On defense, Princeton will rely on the battle-tested trio of sophomore Liz Bannantine, senior Liz Cutting, and senior Colleen Smith.

“Bannantine, Cutting, and Smith give us three veterans which is good,” said Sailer.

“We have been playing our middies with our attack to get the sets down. That is one thing we have to work on with the defense, we need to get them reps with the first midfield. Cutting and Smith have the experience and Bannantine is really smart on the field.”

The Tigers have some good reinforcements to back up its veteran leaders. “Maddie Rodriguez is a recruited walk-on from Minnesota and she has really surprised us,” said Sailer.

“She is fitting in well; she just goes out there and does her business. Erin Williams is a senior and will get some minutes. Erin Curley, a junior, is doing better. Freshman Amanda Leavell is fast and athletic. She has to learn the system; she will be good.”

Sailer is still trying to figure who is going to get the most minutes at goalie as she is looking at senior Caroline Franke (10.01 goals against average in 15 games in 2013), junior Annie Woehling (9.40 goals against average in five games), and promising freshman Ellie DeGarmo.

“Franke had the experience and performed well in game situations; Annie has been having some good practices,” said Sailer.

“Ellie was All-Met in a tough league in Maryland and she is pushing the two returners. We are hoping that one will emerge. It is a good thing to have options. Against some teams, we may want someone quicker and against other teams, we may want someone who is bigger and holds the angles better. Franke has the early edge coming off of last season; we still haven’t made a firm decision.”

Princeton knows it is facing a big-time team in Loyola (1-0), which is coming off a 16-12 win over perennial power Virginia.

“Loyola is a daunting challenge, we played them in the fall season at Penn,” said Sailer.

“Loyola is fast, fast, fast. They have great attackers, great dodgers. They are good at looking for each other and they have one of the best goalies in the country. We hung in there with them, we played well in spurts. Our defense wasn’t as far along as it is now and we gave up too many goals. We need to compete better on 50/50 balls and in transition. I think it gives us an edge to have been on the field with them rather than just see them on film.”

In Sailer’s view, the Tigers could go far this spring. “This group has great potential, you never know until the ball goes up,” said Sailer.

“We have good talent, we are going to be challenged by a tough early schedule. I think we have the ability to compete against every team we play. We need to grow throughout the season.”

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HOT HAND: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Junior guard Dietrick came up huge last weekend as Princeton topped visiting Brown 81-70 on Friday and then defeated Yale 96-75 a night later. Dietrick scored a career-high 27 points in the victory over Brown and then bettered that with 28 points a night later in the rout of Yale. She was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. The Tigers, now 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy League, head to New England this weekend to play at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Blake Dietrick misfired when the Princeton University women’s basketball team lost to Harvard last month.

The junior guard hit just 3-of-15 shots as the Tigers fell 78-68 to the Crimson, suffering their only Ivy League loss of the season and just their third league loss since the end of the 2008-09 season.

After the setback, Dietrick made a promise to herself. “I was extremely frustrated after the Harvard game with my own performance and the team’s performance,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, a native of Wellesley, Mass.

“That kind of flipped the switch for me; I am not going to let this team down. I am going to push everybody in practice. I think we have brought a fire and intensity we didn’t have that day.”

Last weekend, Dietrick displayed her fire and intensity, scoring a career-high 27 points in an 81-70 win over visiting Brown on Friday and then bettering that with 28 points a night later as Princeton routed Yale 96-75, improving to 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

While everybody in Jadwin Gym could see that Dietrick was lighting up the scoreboard, the stat line wasn’t her focus.

“I don’t think about it that way, I am just trying to get better every day,” said Dietrick, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her big weekend.

“I don’t like to know how many points I have during a game. I don’t want to think about it. There were a lot of things that I did wrong in those two games and a lot of things I can still improve so I am focused more on that than the good stuff.”

When Dietrick gets the hot hand, she sees it as an opportunity to set up her teammates.

“I am a point guard and I like to pass the ball as well,” said Dietrick, who had 25 points in the first half against Yale and is now averaging 16.0 points a game, third-best in the league.

“So if I have a lot of points in the first half, obviously they are going to be concerned about me which is going to create opportunities for my teammates so that was what I was looking for in the second half. I was trying to get other people involved and keep playing our game. I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was more impressed with Dietrick’s overall floor game than her gaudy scoring stats.

“I looked at the stats after the game last night and I was like wow she had 25 points and then at halftime today I was like oh my god she has 25,” said Banghart.

“I think that says a lot about Blake, I don’t even notice when she is scoring. I notice how she is managing our game, how she is really taking leadership on the court and being the lead guard we need her to be. Scoring is great and she is great at it but it doesn’t paint the whole picture for her. She has emerged into our floor leader. We need her to score so I can’t have her thinking she is just a point guard because then she starts to distribute. She is a scoring lead guard.”

Banghart has seen her team emerge from the Harvard loss with a new identity.

“The Harvard game was such that we were totally out of rhythm and I think they doubted themselves during the game and that is just not us,” said Banghart.

“The team is becoming theirs, they know they can be beaten and it is don’t be afraid of it, whatever. It is us doing our thing.”

With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) a day later, Banghart has little doubt that the Tigers are primed for a big weekend.

“Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley, the sophomores who were like deer in the headlights, are starting to take on some ownership of the game plan and ownership of the personnel,” said Banghart.

“Our seniors (Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung) have buoyed the ship, they have asked their younger teammates to step up. It is February now, you are not young any more.”

Dietrick, for her part, is ready to step up in the rematch with Harvard. “Being mad about that Harvard loss just makes me want to fight harder everyday,” said Dietrick.

“We are back in the swing of it. Every day at practice, we look better and better so I think we are ready to go. I think from here on out, we are going to be really tough to beat.”

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KEY FIGURE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Gabie Figueroa controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and team co-captain Figueroa contributed an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 5-3 to visiting Yale. The Tigers, now 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey, play at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day in the last weekend of regular season before starting play in the league quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, its annual Senior Day regular season home finale got off to a good start as the Tigers hosted Yale last Saturday.

After the team’s six seniors were introduced one by one, the Tigers proceeded to jump out to a 2-0 lead as freshmen Hilary Lloyd and Fiona McKenna both found the back of the net.

Responding to a Yale goal late in the opening period, Princeton got its lead back up to two as McKenna scored again to put the Tigers ahead 3-1 with 12:37 left in the second period.

But things went downhill from there as Yale scored four unanswered goals to win 5-3 and rain on the seniors’ parade.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal made no effort to hide his disappointment as he assessed his team’s performance.

“It is frustrating all the way around, we had two 2-goal leads and then we crapped out,” said Kampersal, whose team dropped to 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 ECAC Hockey.

“We let them score 10 seconds after each time we scored which is absolutely ridiculous. We outshoot them 25-5 in the first period but we probably should have gotten a couple of more. We had a wide open net that we missed and then after that it was a weird game. I thought it was one of the worst losses I have been involved with in a long time.”

The defeat was especially stinging since it came on the send-off for the team’s seniors, Denna Laing, Sally Butler, Gabie Figueroa, Rose Alleva, Olivia Mucha, and Katie Jones.

“They are a great group, no question,” said Kampersal. “They have set the standard for us this year. I just wish today went better for them.”

Kampersal is hoping things go better next weekend when Princeton ends regular season action by playing at Colgate on February 21 and at Cornell the next day.

“We just have to forget it and compete next weekend,” said Kampersal, whose club stands sixth in the EACH standings and has clinched a spot in the league quarterfinals which will see the top four teams getting home ice in best-of-three series during the weekend of February 28-March 2.

“Now it is time to get ready for the playoffs and try to improve our seeding and play our best hockey the week after.”