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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Matt Nelson heads up the ice in a game this winter. Last Friday, freshman defenseman Nelson tallied his first career goal but it wasn’t enough as 12th-seeded Princeton lost 3-2 to No. 5 Dartmouth in the first game of a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. A night later, Princeton fell 2-0 to the Big Green to get swept and end the season with an overall record of 4-23-3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CLOSING STATEMENT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Matt Nelson heads up the ice in a game this winter. Last Friday, freshman defenseman Nelson tallied his first career goal but it wasn’t enough as 12th-seeded Princeton lost 3-2 to No. 5 Dartmouth in the first game of a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. A night later, Princeton fell 2-0 to the Big Green to get swept and end the season with an overall record of 4-23-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Ron Fogarty, a major goal in his debut campaign at the helm of the Princeton University men’s hockey team was to have the Tigers playing their best hockey come playoff time.

Although 12th-seeded Princeton was swept 2-0 by fifth-seeded Dartmouth in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round series last weekend, Fogarty believes his team displayed its progress.

In the opener on Friday, the Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead six minutes into the contest on the first career goal by freshman defenseman Matt Nelson. After Dartmouth scored two unanswered goals in the second period, Princeton knotted the game at 2-2 midway through the third on a tally by Garrett Skrbich. The Big Green, however, scored with 1:27 left in regulation to pull out the victory.

A night later, the foes were locked in a scoreless stalemate until Dartmouth scored early in the second period. Princeton pressed hard for the tying goal but couldn’t find the back of the net and the Big Green tacked on an empty net goal in the last five seconds to win the game and wrap up a series sweep.

“We looked and played differently from that first weekend in Newark,”
asserted Fogarty in reflecting on his team’s performance this weekend.

“We played well on Friday, they scored on a delayed penalty. We were resilient and tied it at 2-2. We had lots of good scoring chances. They got that late goal. We played very well and followed it up with another good game. We played intense. We stuck to the game plan and played our systems. Our inability to score was a theme of the season and that hurt us again this weekend.”

While Princeton did have trouble finding the back of the net as it averaged just 1.30 goals per game, Fogarty believes the team raised the level of its play across the board.

“The commitment and work ethic to play more with the puck,” said Fogarty, when asked to assess the biggest areas of progress. “We had a lot more time in the offensive zone at the end of the season and we cleaned up things in the defensive zone. Our entire game improved from day one to last Saturday evening.”

Fogarty credited the team’s senior class of Aaron Ave, Ryan Benitez, Tucker Brockett, Aaron Kesselman, Tom Kroshus, and Tyler Maugeri with easing the transition to the new coaching staff.

“They competed and stuck with the game plan from day one, they paved the way for the years to come,” said Fogarty.

With Princeton returning its top three scorers, junior Jonathan Liau (4 goals and 10 assists this season), sophomore Ben Foster (4 goals, 6 assists) and junior Kyle Rankin (3 goals, 7 assists) along with sophomore star goalie Colton Phinney (3.08 goals against average and .910 save percentage in 29 appearances this season), Fogarty believes things are headed in the right direction.

“The core is solid, it will be easier for the freshmen to come in next year,” said Fogarty. “They are familiar with our systems and can help accelerate things for the freshmen.”

Fogarty found it easy to connect with his new players. “It was very enjoyable,” said Fogarty. “I was proud to be behind the bench and coach these guys. I enjoyed every day.”

In Fogarty’s view, good days are ahead for the program. “We are not going to change many things,” said Fogarty.

“We are going to keep being positive and enhance the systems we have in place. There were no knee jerk reactions or decisions this year, we stayed even-keeled. The returning players know what the expectations are on and off the ice. The foundation is set.”

March 4, 2015
A-ROD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Rodgers heads to the hoop. Last Saturday against visiting Brown, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with classmates Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick on the program’s annual Senior Night. Rodgers helped the 14th-ranked Tigers defeat the Bears 79-67 in improving to 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy League. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A-ROD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Alex Rodgers heads to the hoop. Last Saturday against visiting Brown, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with classmates Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick on the program’s annual Senior Night. Rodgers helped the 14th-ranked Tigers defeat the Bears 79-67 in improving to 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy League. Princeton will look to keep rolling when it plays Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While celebrating Senior Night is a once-in-lifetime experience for most college basketball players, Alex Rodgers has felt those emotions twice in her career with the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Entering Princeton with the Class of 2014, Rogers took a leave of absence from school in 2012-13 due to a back injury. She returned last winter and was on hand when her original classmates, Nicole Hung and Kristen Helmstetter, were feted on their Senior Night. Last Saturday, senior guard Rodgers was honored along with seniors Jess Shivers, Mariah Smith, and Blake Dietrick as the Class of 2015 was recognized.

For Rodgers, straddling two classes has been a joy. “I felt I was able to celebrate with Kristen and Hung together,” said Rodgers. “I feel selfish because I have had two. Because of this, I have had more teammates than everybody else and that just means I have had more love around me.”

On Saturday, before the Tigers faced Brown, Rodgers was formally honored and was glad to be sharing the moment with Shivers, Smith, and Dietrick.

“I felt pretty good about it being my time,” said Rodgers, a  5’9 native of Mouth of Wilson, Va.

“It feels like the right time and to share it with these girls, who have been working hard all season. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Dealing with injuries over her career hasn’t dimmed Rodgers’ desire to keep working hard.

“I absolutely savor coming back,” said Rodgers. “Every summer, it didn’t matter how the year before went for me. I attacked it the same as I have been doing my whole life in basketball, working out with my dad. I had the highest hopes for every season coming in. Health always kind of plagued me but my love for the game never stopped so it was pretty easy to keep going.”

Back-up guard Rodgers enjoyed her weekend in the limelight, scoring six points on 3-for-3 shooting in a 67-49 win over Yale on Friday. A day later, an action photo of her from the game ran in the New York Times and then she got her first start in a Tiger uniform.

“It is a huge weekend, I feel like it is a bit of a reward for all of the hard work I have put in,” said Rodgers, who didn’t score in the 79-67 win over Brown and now has 140 points in 67 career appearances for the Tigers .

“It hasn’t always been easy but it has always been fun. This is the most fun weekend so far.”

The Princeton players have had a lot of fun collectively this winter, as they have gone 27-0 overall and 11-0 Ivy league, rising to No. 14 nationally in the AP Poll. Well before the season started, Rodgers had an inkling that the Tigers could do some big things this winter.

“The first week on campus, it felt a little different than the other weeks because all we were thinking about was the Penn loss,” said Rodgers, referring to the team’s 80-64 defeat to Penn in last year’s regular season finale which denied it a fifth straight Ivy crown.

“So when you have something like that behind, you start the first day of practice and you realize there is no time to waste. That is kind of how we have approached the whole season. There is no time to waste in practice, there is no time to waste in the games.”

Rodgers is determined to make the most of her fleeting time in a Tiger uniform.

“My role on the team is the same as everyone else’s,” said Rodgers. “In practice every day, it is everybody’s job to go as hard as possible. On game days it is my job to remind our team of how hard we have worked all week and that we get what we deserve out of these games. I try to provide a little comedic relief all the time.”

In reflecting on her Princeton career, Rodgers said she has gotten a lot out of the experience, on and off the court.

“It has meant everything, it has been a huge blessing as far as academics and the opportunities it has brought that way for me,” said Rodgers.

“I have always wanted to compete in basketball my whole life and this place has given me the opportunity to be competitive every day whether it is in practice or on the bench and that has meant the most to me.”

Princeton head coach Banghart enjoyed seeing the team’s seniors get their opportunity to be in the spotlight.

“Senior night is always a bittersweet night, you look at those seniors and they go undefeated at home in their senior year,” said Banghart.

“They actually didn’t even want to start the game because they thought this whole year hasn’t been about us. They have been in a supportive role and they like that role. I said let everybody else celebrate you because it is four years of an incredibly successful campaign and everybody is a part of it. You always hope that they get what they wanted and I hope tonight is a night they will remember for all of the right reasons.”

A feisty Brown squad made things tough on Princeton, trailing by 35-30 at halftime and pulling to within 73-65 with 1:23 remaining in regulation.

“They had a couple of players we had a tough time getting a handle on,” said Banghart.

“(Jordin) Alexander had 25, a lot of that was off dribble penetration. They try to make it a 1-v-1 game; we got into that but we are better when it is 5-v-5. We were flat early, the defense going up a little too much. Brown is a good team and they played like it tonight. I think being ranked is giving us better preparation for whatever might come in March because the others have an opportunity to beat a top 15 team for the first time in program history every time we come out. This is not the numbers that Brown typically gets. We get people’s best, they shoot a little bit looser because they have nothing to lose and that has been good for us. We have to play tighter possessions.”

The Tigers tightened things up in the second half. “I thought offensively we were really flat in the first half,” said Banghart.

“How we defend is how we play offense. If we defend together with cohesion and energy we usually play that way on the offensive end too. Against their zone, we reminded them of where our spots are and we reminded them that we have an advantage in the interior. We were able to slow down so that the screens and cuts were working more together.”

In moving to 27-0, Princeton set a program record for most wins in a season, eclipsing the mark of 26 posted by the 2009-10 team.

“Every milestone we get matters because it is really hard to get them in this business,” said Banghart.

“To win 20 games in a season is considered a great season so to get 27 is something, especially since that team was 26-3; it was a really good team then too. So this team will always share that they have set the program win record and hopefully they keep it going.”

Banghart, for her part, set a personal record as well, passing Joan Kowalik’s program-best of 163 wins with the victory over Yale on Friday.

“I am proud that I have been able to represent Princeton with success,” said Banghart, who is now 165-66 in her eight seasons at the helm.

“I think I have brought the right people here and they have been better for the experience and that’s my job.”

With Princeton playing at Cornell on March 6 and at Columbia on March 7, Banghart will keep the Tigers’ attention on the job at hand as they can clinch the Ivy title outright with a 2-0 weekend.

“We have already broken down yesterday’s film and tomorrow I will break down today’s and see what are the takeaways,” said Banghart.

“Last weekend it was that we needed to focus on owning the tempo better and taking care of the ball. I am sure this weekend, it will be a little more taking care of the ball as well but it will probably be making adjustments throughout the game on the floor and not having to wait to the media timeouts. That is what March is about, possession to possession, not media timeout to media timeout.”

In Rodgers’s view, the team isn’t about to lose its focus. “We have had so many highs this season, every week is a record being broken or something,” said Rodgers.

“We absolutely enjoy it; we will enjoy it downstairs in the locker room but we have already talked about Monday and taking care of the things we didn’t do so well tonight. We have three games in five days so you have to be focused right away.”

PLAYING HARDBALL: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Adam Hardej heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Hardej chipped in a goal to help Princeton edge Johns Hopkins 16-15 in overtime. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, play at No. 9 Maryland (3-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PLAYING HARDBALL: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Adam Hardej heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Hardej chipped in a goal to help Princeton edge Johns Hopkins 16-15 in overtime. The 10th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, play at No. 9 Maryland (3-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Bates has sensed a blue collar mentality around his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team this season.

“They have been taking a workmanlike approach, bringing their lunch pail every day,” said Princeton head coach Bates.

Last Saturday, the Tigers displayed some offensive flair and character to go with their work ethic as they outlasted Johns Hopkins in a 16-15 overtime thriller before 1,217 at Homewood Field in Baltimore, Md.

“We have talked about learning how to overcome things, like losing a lead, dealing with weather, referees, and injuries,” said Bates, whose team improved to 3-0 with the victory.

“It keeps guys focused on the job at hand. Anybody who watched that game, and I got a lot of texts and e-mails, could see the mental toughness and grittiness in our players.”

The Tigers made things tough on Hopkins from the opening face-off, jumping out to a 7-0 lead just 10 minutes into the contest.

“We did show poise,” said Bates. “It was good to share the ball like that; everyone was in the flow.”

Bates, though, realized that the Blue Jays would get in a flow of their own. “We knew the run had to end; we told the guys that there were 50 minutes left,” said Bates. “They have a really good offensive group; they came all the way back.”

Hopkins reeled off six straight goals to pull within 7-6 but Princeton went on a 3-1 run to build a 10-7 halftime advantage.

“We rebounded from their initial charge and got the goal at the end of the half,” recalled Bates, who got a goal from senior star and captain Kip Orban with 38 seconds left in the half. “We went into the locker room feeling good; we thought we had stemmed the tide.”

In the second half, the tide turned Hopkins’ way as it tied the game at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter and took leads of 14-12 and 15-14 late in regulation.

“We stayed even-keeled as coaches, for the most part,” said Bates. “We kept reminding them to do what we do and trust the system.”

Sticking to its offensive system, Princeton knotted the game at 15-15 on a Ryan Ambler goal with seven seconds left in the fourth to force overtime.

“With 32 seconds left, we had a couple of things drawn up,” said Bates. “We went through the progressions and Ryan made a nice finish.”

The Tigers finished the game in style as sophomore Gavin McBride converted a feed from freshman Riley Thompson with 1:07 left in the first overtime for the game-winning goal.

“You realize it is out of your hands to an extent and you just watch,” said Bates, reflecting on the overtime.

“We hit a pipe, their goalie makes a big save but then we get a turnover. Riley made a nice feed; he was under control. Guys moved and shared the ball. It was a good win. Hopkins is going to be a good team this year and we are rooting for them.”

Princeton has shown that it is a very good offensive team with a diverse attack. On Saturday, the Tigers got at least five points from five different players with Orban tallying four goals and two assists, classmate Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals and two assists, and junior Ambler also getting three goals and two assists. A pair of emerging sophomore stars, Zach Currier and Gavin McBride, also notched five points with the former getting two goals and three assists and the latter contributing three goals and two assists.

“I think it is equanimity,” said Bates. “The ball moves, the guys are unselfish, there is balance and poise. They are showing patience and ability to manage the game and give the young defense a rest.”

Bates acknowledged that the Tiger defense needs to show a little more poise.

“There were seven man-down goals by Hopkins, that makes it a totally different ball game,” said Bates, whose defensive unit is missing starters Will Reynolds and Mark Strabo due to injury.

“They have a really good man-up unit. We have had too many penalties; that is something we have to work on. They grew up a little and played OK. There are some puppies out there. There are things we have to improve on, like discipline and playing as a unit.”

Princeton, now ranked No. 10 nationally in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll, will look to keep improving as it heads back to the Baltimore area this Saturday for a game at No. 9 Maryland (3-1).

“We haven’t played them in a while; we are excited to prepare for them,” said Bates.

“They are a storied program, we understand how good they are. It is bringing a lunch pail, starting on Monday. We will focus on ourselves and work on basics and playing our game.”

LIVING IT UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Hompe has caught fire in recent play, scoring four goals in an 8-4 win over Drexel last Wednesday and then chipping in a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 last Saturday. The 9th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING IT UP: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Olivia Hompe heads to goal in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Hompe has caught fire in recent play, scoring four goals in an 8-4 win over Drexel last Wednesday and then chipping in a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 last Saturday. The 9th-ranked Tigers, now 3-0, open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After not scoring a goal for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse in its season-opening 10-8 win over Loyola on February 21, Olivia Hompe didn’t waste any time finding her shooting range when the Tigers hosted Drexel last Wednesday.

The sophomore attacker scored two goals in the first half as Princeton built a 5-0 halftime lead over the Dragons.

While Hompe was relieved to break the ice personally, she was more pleased about how the offense clicked collectively.

“I think it is always nice getting your first goal of the season and getting it out of the way,” said Hompe.

“I think we really played a great game on Saturday so coming off that energy was exciting today. We got a couple of different kids scoring than we did on Saturday, which was great. I think it just shows that our offense is really diverse.”

While Drexel made the game a little more exciting in the second half than the Tigers wanted, pulling to within three goals at one point, Princeton took care of business down the stretch in posting an 8-4 win.

“A lot of the game didn’t go the way we expected it to, we came out and we had a tough second half,” said Hompe.

“We had a couple of mistakes, unforced errors on our part. I think it is just getting back out there and getting under that game pressure again. We got a lot of
experience powering through, especially when they started pressuring us down low on attack, just making sure we could move the ball. It was not the prettiest win but we gutted it out.”

The one-two combination of Hompe and senior Erin McMunn has been providing Princeton some pretty play in the crease.

“I love playing behind her; she makes it incredibly easy,” said Hompe, who scored 46 points in 2014 on 22 goals and 24 assists. “We make a really nice pair. I am definitely going to miss her next year.”

With a season of college lax under her belt, Hompe is primed for a big year in her sophomore campaign.

“I think really I just have a lot more confidence going into the game,” said Hompe, who displayed her increased confidence last Saturday when she tallied a career-high five goals and an assist to help Princeton beat Georgetown 11-7 and improve to 3-0.

“We have really well structured offense and all fall we were working on getting good flow, getting lots of different angles. Building from the fall is really the way we get looks from up top, from the sides and from low and from inside. I think that is going to make us a really potent attack.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer liked the work she got from sophomore goalie Ellie DeGarmo and the Tiger defense in the first half against Drexel.

“I thought we did play a nice defensive first half,” said Sailer of DeGarmo, who was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week along with Brown goalie Kellie Roddy.

“I think you have to give so much credit in that game to Ellie DeGarmo. We made that decision to give her the start. She played well all fall and has played well in preseason. She played well Saturday and she really went with it so it was good to see. Those saves made a huge difference for us, the game could have felt very different for us.”

Hompe made a difference at the offensive end of the field. “She did have four goals, the goals definitely did help,” said Sailer.

“Liv is a great player, incredibly talented, really smart. She knows how to work defenses. Those four goals today were huge; she was our only kid with multiple goals.”

Sailer knows that the one-two punch provided by Hompe and McMunn is a huge part of the Tiger attack.

“They look for each other,” said Sailer. “Since Liv first got here they had had a special connection. They are quite the duo back there.”

In the win over Drexel, Princeton didn’t look as sharp as Sailer would have liked.

“It was probably our worst shooting day in I can’t remember how long,” said Sailer, whose team is now ranked No. 9 nationally in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and is slated to open Ivy League play with a game at Dartmouth (0-1) on March 7.

“We usually shoot around 50 percent and we shot 33 percent today. We were just a little bit off in a lot of stuff that we did. Our turnovers were high, we were casual and rushing a few things. We weren’t as settled in ourselves as we needed to be.”

Hompe, for her part, has high hopes for the Tigers this spring.

“We had a really tough first game and I think that helped us jolt right into the season,” said Hompe.

“We have a couple of big non-conference games that we would like to win. I think that is what I learned the most last season, that the beginning ones are the most important so we are going to try to get some good wins before we head into Ivy play.”

HEMMED IN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Emily Achterkirch, center, gets bottled up as she goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, freshman defenseman Achterkirch and the sixth-seeded Tigers had trouble getting untracked as they got swept at third-seeded Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series, falling 7-0 on Friday and 2-0 a day later. The defeats left Princeton with a final record of 15-14-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEMMED IN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Emily Achterkirch, center, gets bottled up as she goes after the puck in recent action. Last weekend, freshman defenseman Achterkirch and the sixth-seeded Tigers had trouble getting untracked as they got swept at third-seeded Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series, falling 7-0 on Friday and 2-0 a day later. The defeats left Princeton with a final record of 15-14-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long this season for Jeff Kampersal to realize that his Princeton University women’s hockey team possessed a reservoir of character.

“We do battle, this is a resilient group, an early sign was the RIT game in November where we were down 3-0 and won 4-3 in overtime,” said Kampersal.

“We had two or three wins in OT early and then we had a tough part of the schedule and played hard. I knew then that this group would battle.”

The Tigers proved that they battle the nation’s top teams on even terms, falling 2-1 to No. 2 Minnesota, losing 3-2 to No. 5 and defending national champion Clarkson, and falling 4-2 to top-ranked Boston College. Along the way they picked up some impressive scalps, edging No. 4 Harvard 1-0 and posting a pair of victories over a top-10 Cornell squad.

Kampersal was expecting more of the same last weekend when sixth-seeded Princeton played at third-seeded and No. 6 Quinnipiac in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series.

But coming out flat, Princeton suffered its most lopsided defeat of the year, giving up four first period goals on the way to a 7-0 setback.

“We prepared the same way, the kids were fired up,” said Kampersal. “I thought we played well in the first five minutes but the first goal deflated us. The defense wasn’t coming out hard enough, it was unfortunate and then the flood gates opened up. It seemed like every shot they were taking was going in. Kim (Newell) battled in goal but we didn’t give her much help.”

A day later, Princeton produced its usual hard effort but it wasn’t enough as Quinnipiac prevailed 2-0, scoring on a power play goal in the second and an empty net goal in the waning moments of regulation.

“The message after Friday’s game was to come back the next day and play with pride,” said Kampersal, whose team ended the winter with an overall record of 15-14-2.

“We did bounce back, we were more aggressive in the d-zone. They scored on a power play so we were even in 5-on-5.

Kampersal acknowledged that Quinnipiac provides a lot of problems for the
Tigers.

“The matchup with Quinnipiac is not good for us,” said Kampersal. “We don’t get a lot of shots and they are good at limiting shots. They suffocate us offensively, that happened during the regular season. The system they play is really solid and structured. You have to play simple, throw pucks off the boards. You have to be really patient. Everything has to be be perfect for us to beat Quinnipiac and that is hard to ask.”

In the finale, junior goalie Newell was nearly perfect, stopping 34 of the 35 shots she faced.

“Newell has had a great year; she wants to win every day,” said Kampersal. “In the big games that we won this year, she was our best player.”

While the final weekend stung, Kampersal was proud of how his team came up big throughout the winter, highlighted by a late surge in the Ivy League title race that saw Princeton go 7-2-1 to finish just behind Harvard (8-2) in the Ivy standings.

“I am happy with the season overall,” said Kampersal. “If you had told me before the season that we would have had a chance to win the Ivy title in the last weekend, I would have taken that. To beat Cornell twice was great, we haven’t done that in a while and to beat Harvard at home was great. If we had made some little plays in the Dartmouth game we could have won and it would not have come down to the last weekend. Yale caught fire down the stretch. We played hard against them and gave everything we had. It was a great run no question to get us in position for a chance at a title.”

The team’s four seniors, Brianna Leahy, Brianne Mahoney, Ali Pankowski, and Ashley Holt, had a great run.

“I haven’t said goodbye to them at this point,” said Kampersal. “It was a good group, they gave us a lot, and I will miss them.”

Princeton has a lot of talent coming back so the future looks good. The Tigers return its top five scorers, sophomore Molly Contini (16 goals and 12 assists in 2014-15), sophomore Kelsey Koelzer (8 goals, 18 assists), junior Jaimie McDonell (11 goals, 14 assists), sophomore Hilary Lloyd (6 goals, 15 assists), and freshman Kiersten Falck (2 goals, 13 assists) along with star goalie Newell (2.36 goals against average, .925 save percentage). “Hopefully they keep working hard and have a great summer,” said Kampersal.

“The top line (Contini, Lloyd, and McDonell) played well and we have a good supporting cast. We like the freshmen who we have coming in. It will be good competition within the group.”

With some focused offseason work, the Tigers should be even more competitive than they were this winter.

“Individually, they all need to get better,” added Kampersal. “Some need to get in better shape, some need to work on hockey skills, some need to work on hockey smarts, which is tough to do in the summer. We need to break it down and analyze each player and figure out one or two things they can work on to be better. If they do that, it will help the whole team.”

February 25, 2015

sports1After what Mike MacDonald has been through over the last year, he wasn’t going to let a stomach illness keep him from playing for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team as it hosted Hofstra last Saturday.

Ailing last season, the senior attacker underwent double hip surgery in the summer.

“I had my surgery in mid-July; I started running four months later,” said MacDonald. “I sat the whole fall out and had to watch practice every day. I got back on the field in February.”

Hours before Princeton was to take the field against Hofstra, MacDonald got an IV, having been unable to hold down any food or liquids for the past two days.

The weather turned miserable as game time approached but MacDonald, a native of Georgetown, Ontario, felt at home with snow piling up on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Field.

“I have played in a couple like that, mostly at home though,” said MacDonald.

“You just had to give yourself a lot more space, you slip all over the place. You don’t know if guys are going to slip and when you are going to try to dodge, if you are going to lose your footing.”

MacDonald was able keep his feet and show his offensive skill, tallying nine points on five goals and four assists as Princeton won 14-12 and improved to 2-0.

“Honestly it just came,” said MacDonald, reflecting on his big day as he matched his career high, equaling the total he had against Cornell in Princeton’s win over the Big Red in the 2013 Ivy tournament, when he recorded seven goals and two assists.

“Some guys were making good passes, it was just good teammates around me helping out. It is not a testament to me, it is a testament to everyone around me. I think I had a lot of assisted goals today.”

For MacDonald, simply returning to action again is a testament to his toughness.

“Being out there again with the guys is great,” said MacDonald. “I am feeling better than I did last year. I don’t know about 100 percent but definitely better.”

MacDonald is savoring his final spring with the guys. “It is really starting to sink in that it is my last run,” said MacDonald. “It is definitely weird but I am trying to make the most of it.”

In MacDonald’s view, Princeton’s more deliberate offensive approach this spring could lead to a special run.

“I think our offense this year is really good,” asserted MacDonald. “Last year we forced things a little too much and I think that caused a lot of problems. Holding the ball a little more this year is going to go a long way for us.”

Reflecting on the snowy conditions, Princeton head coach Chris Bates said his team played close to the vest offensively.

“This was unlike anything I have ever seen,” said Bates. “We talked about not trying to change direction a whole lot. The far corner of the field was a little icy so we avoided starting some dodges there. I don’t think it hurt us a whole lot, to be honest with you.”

After jumping out to an early three-goal lead, Princeton cooled off before scoring a goal late in the second quarter to take a 6-5 lead into halftime.

“We lost momentum up 5-2 when we made a bad shooting decision and then it went  5-5,” said Bates. “We got the sixth goal which I thought gave us some life.”

The Tigers showed a lot of life in the third quarter, outscoring the Pride 7-2 and ending the frame with a 5-0 run.

“We played with some pace,” said Bates. “I thought we started after ground balls well, we rode well and got some easy ones and that is the difference in the game for us.”

The game started to slip away in the fourth as Hofstra pulled to within 14-11 with 11:07 remaining in regulation and had an extended man-up opportunity.

“I don’t think we played with the lead particularly well,” said Bates. “We were up 13-7 and I thought we lost a little bit of our aggressiveness. We needed to grab it by the throat and didn’t so we let them back in and then penalties killed us in the fourth quarter and we gave them life.”

While the Tigers never scored again, they held the fort, killing off the man-up opportunity and giving up only one goal in the waning moments.

“Give our guys credit, we managed to find a way to win it,” said Bates, whose team had three starters, Jake Froccaro, Mark Strabo, and Will Reynolds, unavailable on Saturday due to injury. “Given all the injuries and given early in the season, it is a good, gutty win.”

MacDonald showed guts, fighting off illness to come up big for the Tigers.

“For the last 30 hours, he has kept nothing in, fluids or anything,” said Bates.

“He literally had an IV this morning to get himself some nutrients. To come out with that gutty performance is pretty amazing and it doesn’t surprise me for one second. Mike said I will be ready and I said I know you will. There is nothing that can keep that kid off the field on game day. I am proud that he got the reward with a win and nine points.”

With No. 18 Princeton playing at No. 12 Johns Hopkins on February 28, the Tigers will need another gutty effort to beat the perennially strong Blue Jays.

“It wasn’t pretty, it was an identity win and that is what we need,” said Bates. “The next step is Hopkins and Maryland, obviously we have two big-time teams these next two weeks. We have a couple of weeks here to still figure ourselves out before the Ivies.”

MacDonald, for his part, believes Princeton has what it takes to be a big-time team.

“I think we are resilient,” said MacDonald. “I think we are still improving and we are going to get better every week. I am excited to see what the rest of the season holds for us.”

STAYING PERFECT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard Dietrick shook off a twisted ankle to score a game-high 23 points as Princeton defeated Harvard to improve to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League. The No. 14 Tigers host Yale on February 27 and Brown on February 28 in their final home weekend of the regular season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STAYING PERFECT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Blake Dietrick dribbles upcourt in recent action. Last Saturday, senior guard Dietrick shook off a twisted ankle to score a game-high 23 points as Princeton defeated Harvard to improve to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League. The No. 14 Tigers host Yale on February 27 and Brown on February 28 in their final home weekend of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The seemingly inexorable march to a perfect regular season for the No. 14  Princeton University women’s basketball hit a road bump early in the first half last Saturday as the Tigers hosted Harvard.

Senior captain and leading scorer Blake Dietrick left the contest with 14:33 left in the first half and was quickly whisked behind a partition behind the bench where a trainer worked on the guard’s right foot.

With Dietrick out and the extent of her injury unknown, her teammates racheted up their intensity.

“When she went out, you saw a different edge from our players,” said Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart.

“Someone like Michelle Miller or Annie Tarakchian or Alex Wheatley, you could see a look in their eyes. Blake didn’t get to see but it was like oh no, that is our fearless leader. I think Blake would be really proud of how the team played and approached the possessions when she was out.”

Dietrick returned to the game with 9:15 remaining before halftime and displayed her competitive approach, scoring eight points, with two rebounds, two assists, and a steal to spark a 19-4 run as the Tigers built a 28-19 halftime lead and seized control of the game.

Princeton never looked back from there, rolling to a 78-57 victory, improving to 25-0 overall and 9-0 Ivy League before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 1,502.

Afterward, Dietrick said she wasn’t about to be slowed by her first half stumble.

“I just rolled my ankle, no worries,” said a smiling Dietrick. “I am good, I will be back next weekend.”

Dietrick’s shot was back as she ended up with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, marking her first 20-point scoring night since tallying 25 in a 83-54 win over Penn on January 10 in the Ivy opener.

“I actually just take what the defense gives me and in the games where I wasn’t scoring as much, other people stepped up and we didn’t need a big night from me,” said Dietrick, who also contributed eight assists and five rebounds in the win over Harvard.

“So it was working on my defense and getting other people the ball. Tonight I just felt like I had more opportunities to score.”

There were some special people on hand to watch the Tigers as a number of former team stars, including Niveen Rasheed ’13, Lauren Polansky ’13, Lauren Edwards ’12, and Kate Miller ’13 showed up at Jadwin on Saturday to cheer on the Tigers.

“It is awesome, they were really heckling us during warm-ups,” said Dietrick, referring to her ex-teammates.

“It really makes you focus in, we know what we are fighting for and that it is really, really important that we are focused every single game but is also fun to have them back and cheering us on.”

Banghart believes that Dietrick is on track to leave a legacy like Rasheed, Polansky, Miller, and Edwards.

“It means she is leaving something behind that will be better; any great leader wants the program to be better when they leave,” said Banghart.

“That is why all of these alums are back, they are so proud of these people because they started something.”

Junior forward Tarakchian is growing into a force for the Tigers as she produced her ninth double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds against Harvard.

“It is becoming pretty automatic for her, the double-double part of the game,” said Banghart of Tarakchian, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“I thought early on she got hit, it wasn’t really called and she really got an edge. I don’t think that Annie yet plays 40 minutes with an edge and when she does, she is going to be unstoppable. I thought tonight there were moments of that edge. She can take control of the game in so many facets. She is key to what we are doing.”

Banghart, for her part, enjoyed a special moment on Saturday, waving to a cheering crowd after it was announced that she had tied Joan Kowalik for the most wins in program history with 163.

“We teach our kids to own accomplishments and so I have to own mine,” said Banghart.

“At the same time, in our business, your players are first line and your staff is your backbone. I am somewhere in the middle of that. I have surrounded myself with a really great staff and I have surrounded myself with really good players. I think I am a pretty good middleman.”

Princeton’s perfect start has put the program in the middle of growing hoopla as its highlights were shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter last weekend and former Princeton hoops legend Bill Bradley showed up Friday and spoke to the team after its 70-31 win over Dartmouth.

“I think when you earn the success that we have, that comes with it,” said Banghart. “It is preparing us for March, part of what we are doing its sharing it. I know how special this is and I know how hard these kids work. I know how hard they worked in the summer and in the offseason. The kids have gotten better here. The university president was here tonight, Bill Bradley was here last night. All these alums are back, 1,500 fans were here tonight. I am so happy to share with these really special people, it is an honor.”

While Dietrick and her teammates are enjoying being in the spotlight, they are not about to have their heads turned by the extra attention.

“It has been pretty intense for the majority of the Ivy league season so I don’t really feel as though it has changed that much,” said Dietrick.

“It is great, we really appreciate it but I think we are good  at compartmentalizing time with the media.”

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell skates near the boards in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward McDonell tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Brown on Friday and scored the lone Princeton goal in a 2-1 loss at Yale, a defeat that kept Princeton from winning the Ivy League title. The Tigers, now 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey, will now turn its focus to ECACH playoffs, where they are seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at No. 3 Quinnipiac, starting on February 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell skates near the boards in recent action. Last weekend, junior forward McDonell tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Brown on Friday and scored the lone Princeton goal in a 2-1 loss at Yale, a defeat that kept Princeton from winning the Ivy League title. The Tigers, now 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey, will now turn its focus to ECACH playoffs, where they are seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at No. 3 Quinnipiac, starting on February 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University women’s hockey team has consistently made the ECAC Hockey playoffs, it hasn’t been in the chase for the Ivy League title in years.

Coming into this season, Cornell and Harvard were seen as the leading contenders for the Ivy crown. Over the last seven years, the Crimson have won three league crowns while the Big Red have four as the six Ivy teams in the ECACH (Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown besides Princeton, Harvard, and Cornell) wage their annual battle on a second front.

But as Princeton headed into its final weekend of regular season action with games at Brown last Friday and at Yale a day later, the Tigers were on the verge of their first Ivy crown since 2006. Princeton stood at 6-1-1 in Ivy action with Harvard having ended up 8-2, meaning that the Tigers held destiny in their hands as two wins would clinch the title.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal credited his team’s Ivy run to a focus on consistent effort.

“Nobody gave us much respect and nobody expected us to be in the position that we were,” said Kampersal. “We had a different process to the season and they were consistent with it. We wanted to give a 60-minute effort all out.”

On Friday at Brown, the Tigers were a little inconsistent at the outset as they fell behind 1-0 in the second period but righted the ship with four unanswered goals in skating to a 4-1 victory.

“We may have been too amped up in the game against Brown,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from sophomore forward Morgan Sly in the win with junior forward Jaimie McDonell chipping in a goal and an assist and freshman Emily Achterkirch tallying the other Tiger goal.

“This is a resilient team and they found a way to win. Once we got that first goal it was comforting; it was nerves more than anything in the beginning.”

On Saturday, the Tigers suffered a nerve-wracking defeat as they fell 2-1 at Yale, moving to 15-12-2 overall and 13-8-1 ECAC Hockey.

“The next day we were really geared up to play against Yale, we played a much better game,” said Kampersal.

“We played really well in the first period. We outshot them 9-4 and had a couple of good scoring opportunities. They got a goal on a defensive breakdown.”

While Kampersal was disappointed by the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“We battled back and forth all game long; Yale’s forwards are feisty and quick,” said Kampersal.

“We scored in the second period and then they scored in the third on a delayed penalty. They made one more play than we did. Their goalie made big saves, our goalie made big saves. Our kids gave everything they have; that game wasn’t lost through lack of effort. It was a good hockey game, it just didn’t go our way and that is a bummer. It is a bummer not to reach the goal that we had.”

The Tigers got a big weekend from emerging star McDonell, who tallied Princeton’s lone goal in the loss to Yale.

“Jaimie has been a workhorse all year; she has been consistently great, handling the back end and leading the break out,” said Kampersal. “We had a sickness going through the team and we needed her to step up even more this weekend.”

Turning its attention to the ECACH playoffs, where Princeton is seeded sixth and will play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at third-seeded Quinnipiac (24-7-3 overall, 15-5-2 ECACH) starting on February 27, the Tigers will need to step up to beat the Bobcats.

“They are very well coached; they are disciplined and don’t take a lot of penalties,” said Kampersal, noting that Princeton lost 2-0 and 3-1 to Quinnipiac in the regular season matchups between the foes.

“They are deep, they have three to four lines and a good goaltender. I don’t think we have won there in five or six years. This is the time for us to do it. We respect them but we are not afraid of them. We just need to play a good, solid brand of hockey. If we are opportunistic, we will be in good shape. We have to be at our best.”

HIGH FIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer prepares to unload the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-8 win over Loyola in the season opener. Senior midfielder Slifer scored a career-high five goals in the victory. The 11th-ranked Tigers host Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HIGH FIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin Slifer prepares to unload the ball last Saturday in Princeton’s 10-8 win over Loyola in the season opener. Senior midfielder Slifer scored a career-high five goals in the victory. The 11th-ranked Tigers host Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Erin Slifer didn’t find an offensive rhythm right away when the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Loyola last Saturday.

“I think it took a couple of shots to get into it, there were a couple of high ones I missed,” said senior midfielder Slifer.

Slifer didn’t miss much the rest of the afternoon, scoring a career-five goals as No. 14 Princeton overcame a snowstorm and a second-half rally by No. 12 Loyola to pull out a 10-8 victory.

In the first half, Slifer notched three goals and an assist as Princeton built a 6-3 lead by intermission.

“We really wanted to come out as hard as we could,” said Slifer. “We weren’t going to let Loyola set the pace, we wanted to set the tone from the first draw.”

As the storm intensified in the second half with a layer of snow covering the field, the Tigers had to modify their offensive approach a bit.

“We have practiced a few times in snow but not this accumulation at all where it was affecting our footing,” said Slifer. “We just made sure that we had our feet under us and we were not taking too hard cuts.”

Loyola made things hard on the Tigers, taking leads of 7-6 and 8-7 but Princeton took control down the stretch, employing a deliberate offensive style in reeling off three unanswered goals over the last 13 minutes of the contest.

“We didn’t get those first couple of draws and they came down, capitalized, and scored,” said Slifer.

“The draw controls are the focus of our entire season so once we got back on that, we were able to control the ball for the rest of the game which was awesome.”

Slifer, a first-team All-Ivy league selection last year, is looking to produce an awesome senior campaign.

“This is it, this is the last year so I am giving it all I have got,” said Slifer, a 5’10 native of Mt. Airy, Md. who now has 114 points in her Tiger career on 62 goals and 52 assists.

“There is no time to hold back. I think this whole team knows that we can go really far this year and we have to push hard through every game.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer liked the way her team pushed hard throughout the contest.

“I think the game came down to draw controls and we were dominating those in the first half, which allowed our offense to really work and I thought we did a really nice job offensively being patient and looking for opportunities,” said Sailer.

“We don’t have a stat of possession time but we totally had possession time in that game, which was key to the win. I thought we did a really nice job offensively being patient and looking for opportunities, winning ground balls in our attack end, and getting second chance opportunities.”

A goalie switch midway through the second half from senior starter Annie Woehling to sophomore Ellie DeGarmo proved to be a key for the Tigers. “We made a decision to throw Ellie in the cage and it gave us a spark, which we hoped it would do,” said Sailer of DeGarmo, who had three saves and gave up just one goal in 18 minutes of action.

Slifer gave Princeton a spark all afternoon, taking draws as well as triggering the Tiger offense.

“Erin was just incredible today, the woman is just so powerful,” said Sailer. “She is really tough to stop. With her strength, her game sense, her shooting, and the draw control, she is a force.”

The Tigers got strong contributions from several players with junior Stephanie Paloscio and senior Erin McMunn both scoring two goals, sophomore Olivia Hompe chipping in two assists, sophomore Anna Doherty getting an assist, and freshmen Camille Sullivan tallying a goal and classmate Hayley Giraldi getting an assist. Junior defender Liz Bannantine spearheaded a unit that yielded just one goal over the last 17:39 of the contest.

“Paloscio was huge, she is a crafty little player and we have been able to find a role for her in the attack this year and she has done a lot of nice things for us,” said Sailer.

“Defensively, Liz Ballantine had a good game. Two of our freshmen, Camille Sullivan and Haley Giraldi, really played well. They played really poised as freshmen. Doherty did a nice job working really hard. Hompe and McMunn also did well. It is hard to pick people out because I thought it was really a full team effort.”

In Sailer’s view, the gritty win portends good things to come for her team. “We had the three-goal lead heading into halftime and we saw that evaporate and we really fought to get that back,” said Sailer, whose squad hosts Drexel on February 25 before playing at Georgetown on February 28.

“I think the conditions, when we got the lead and the draws, ended up working up being in our favor, no question. We had to play smart in that situation and we executed.”

Slifer, for her part, believes the Tigers are poised to build on the victory over Loyola.

“I think this is our first season opening win in the past three years so it is really awesome to start the season on a high note,” said Slifer.

“It gives us some positivity to build off of and we want to keep rolling through the year.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tom Kroshus heads up the ice in recent action. Last weekend, senior defenseman Kroshus and his classmates played their final weekend at Baker Rink. Unable to capitalize on the emotions of the last home games, Princeton fell 4-1 to Brown on Friday and 6-2 to Yale a day later. The Tigers, now 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth on February 27 and at Harvard on February 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tom Kroshus heads up the ice in recent action. Last weekend, senior defenseman Kroshus and his classmates played their final weekend at Baker Rink. Unable to capitalize on the emotions of the last home games, Princeton fell 4-1 to Brown on Friday and 6-2 to Yale a day later. The Tigers, now 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey, will wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth on February 27 and at Harvard on February 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the final regular season home weekend of his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team, Tom Kroshus was hoping for a quick start.

Instead, the Tigers fell behind 1-0 in the first period as they hosted Brown at Baker Rink last Friday night.

“We have been starting slowly,” said senior defenseman Kroshus. “We have got to really focus on coming out and playing with more jam and passion in the first period.”

After giving up three unanswered goals in the second period to fall behind 4-0, Princeton did show some passion in the third, scoring a goal and putting pressure on the Bears after pulling goalie Colton Phinney with around four minutes left in regulation.

“There was definitely more energy in the third,” said Kroshus. “But it shouldn’t take the goalie being pulled to have us step our game up like that. We have to play with that level of passion, energy and jam all 60 minutes.”

While Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty acknowledged that the Tigers showed more energy in the third, he was disappointed that his players didn’t show that intensity from the opening face-off.

“Our guys are protecting an inanimate object harder than they protect Colton Phinney and that is what is discouraging,” said Fogarty.

“They are embarrassed if someone gets an empty net goal, they should be embarrassed if someone gets a shot on Colton Phinney. We went five and a half minutes without a shot on goal. It doesn’t matter if you have six, guys should be jumping and guys should be competing. Unfortunately tonight we jumped and competed in front of an open net instead of Colton Phinney.”

In digging the 4-0 hole, the Tigers hurt themselves by some sloppy play.

“I felt the goals were a product of us being out of position,” said Fogarty. “They capitalized on the opportunities from our fault of being in the wrong position.”

With Princeton celebrating its senior class last weekend, Fogarty was hoping to see his team capitalize on those emotions.

“I am upset and disappointed that six groups of parents didn’t see a win tonight,” said Fogarty, who was happy to see junior forward Kevin Liss get his first career goal in the loss to Brown. “Hopefully we will rebound tomorrow and put our best foot forward.”

A day later, Princeton didn’t put its best foot forward, falling 6-2 to No. 13 Yale in dropping to 4-19-3 overall and 2-16-2 ECAC Hockey.

Despite the team’s struggles, Kroshus is leaving with a positive view of his Princeton hockey experience.

“There have definitely been a lot of ups and downs in my four years here but it has been a great ride with my class,” said Kroshus, whose fellow seniors on the squad are Aaron Ave, Ryan Benitez, Tucker Brockett, Aaron Kesselman, and Tyler Maugeri.

“I have gotten to be really good friends with them; the whole team has been great.”

Through it all, Kroshus has gotten better as a player. “Coming in, I lost my confidence and I wasn’t playing with too much poise,” said Kroshus, a 6’1, 190-pound native of Calgary, Alberta who has 17 points in his Princeton career on five goals and 12 assists.

“Especially with Ron coming in this year, he allows us to play our game. I think I have stepped up my game a little here this season.

In Kroshus’s view, there is a good foundation in place for Princeton to step up over the next few years.

“It is only going up from here, I am expecting great things,” said Kroshus. “When our freshmen are seniors, I am sure our program will be really good.”

February 18, 2015
MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MONEY BALL: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn, center, squeezes between two defenders in a 2014 game. Senior attacker McMunn, the team’s leading scorer last spring with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists, is primed for a big final campaign. The 14th-ranked Tigers open their 2015 campaign by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The temperatures dipped into the teens last Friday but the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team wasn’t fazed by the prospect of another frigid training session.

“We have been outside every day this week, working hard and improving,” said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer.

While the Tigers showed a lot of improvement last year as they went 12-7 overall, winning the Ivy League regular season title and advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, Princeton is not resting on its laurels.

“We are always trying to raise the bar,” said Hall of Fame coach Sailer, who brings a 344-138 record into her 29th season at Princeton and has led the program to three NCAA titles.

“We had a good season last year. We are looking to play as well as we can and make some waves this year.”

Sailer is counting on her core of seniors to make the most of their final college campaign.

“There are some dynamic players and leaders in this year’s senior class and they are setting a great tone,” asserted Sailer, whose team is ranked 14th nationally and opens the season by hosting No. 11 Loyola on February 21.

One of Princeton’s most dynamic players is senior attacker Erin McMunn, the leading scorer for the Tigers in 2014 with 57 points on a team-high 44 goals and 13 assists.

“McMunn is a presence on the attack end; she came in and made a huge impact right away and she has gotten better and better,” said Sailer of the three-time All-Ivy League performer and two-time All-American.

“She will draw attention; she has learned to play against pressure and rise to the occasion. Her nickname is money because of her name but that is what she is for us on the field. She has incredible hands and has a sweet stick. Her shooting last year was exceptional (a .629 shooting percentage). She is an incredible finisher and she is also a playmaker.”

Another key playmaker for Princeton is sophomore attacker Olivia Hompe, who tallied 46 points last spring on 22 goals and 24 assists.

“Olivia Hompe had a great freshman year,” said Sailer. “She and Erin are a good 1-2 punch. Olivia is a dynamic player with vision. She is also a big assister for us; she understands the game. She is fast and is a good dodger.”

Sailer has some good options at attack besides McMunn and Hompe. “The other two spots are still up for grabs; we have a number of options,” said Sailer, noting that senior Erika Grabbi (3 goals in 2014), junior Anna Menke (4 goals), and junior Stephanie Paloscio (3 goals and 1 assist) along with a trio of freshmen, Haley Giraldi, Abby Finkelston, and Colby Chanenchuk are in the mix.

“The biggest issue in the preseason has been injuries. We have a number of kids out who would be in those spots.”

In the midfield, Princeton features a big weapon in senior Erin Slifer, who had 52 points last season on 28 goals and 24 assists.

“Slifer is a vocal leader on the field, she is a big, strong presence,” said Sailer.

“She runs both ends of the field for us. She is a powerful shooter and is a great playmaker up top, she tied for the team lead in assists last year and that is usually done by someone in the crease. She sees plays developing and has such vision.”

Sophomore Anna Doherty (24 goals, 3 assists) and junior Anya Gersoff (25 goals, 3 assists) give the Tigers additional firepower in the midfield.

“Doherty is the fastest kid in the team,” said Sailer, noting that sophomore Lauren Steidl and freshman Camille Sullivan will also see time at midfield.

“It would be easy for her to coast because she is one step ahead but she works so hard. She has really pushed herself to get to a new level. We have moved Anya to midfield, she works so hard. She is a field hockey goalie and comes into lacrosse in terrific condition. She digs out ground balls and is the example on hustle plays. She is really smart with the ball. I think she is going to be really good in the midfield.”

The Tiger defense boasts a smart and skilled performer in senior Liz Bannantine (1 assist, 25 ground balls).

“LB is our defensive leader,” asserted Sailer. “She is so smart, she sees everything. She communicates everything and she understands our system. She directs our defense. She is also so good on her slides and positioning. She is a playmaker on defense for us.”

Sophomore Maddie Rodriguez emerged as a pleasant surprise last spring in her debut campaign.

“Maddie Rodriguez (14 ground balls) was a walk-on as a freshman and picked up everything so quickly, she is so smart,” said Sailer. “She is not flashy but she gets the job done. She is the second most experienced player on our defense.”

The Tigers boast some other experienced players who should contribute on the back line.

“Maddy Lynch (3 ground balls) is a junior and I think she is going to have a breakout year,” said Sailer.

“She was a supporting player the last two years; she came off the bench late last year and played well in the NCAAs. She has stepped up, she brings a lot of speed. Amanda Leavell (4 ground balls) was used mostly on draws last year; she played a little bit of defense. I think you will see her more consistently on the defensive end this year. Jess Nelson has done a great job. She is so smart and vocal; she will get some time this year.”

At goalie, senior Annie Woehling (8.49 goals against average, .444 save percentage), sophomore Ellie DeGarmo (9.65 goals against average, .500 save percentage), and freshman Mary Kate McDonough are in the mix.

“It is an open competition; we haven’t decided who the starter is going to be,” said Sailer.

“Annie is the returning starter so we feel someone has to knock her off. Annie has done well, she gets tougher in the games. She played consistently last year and was good in the Ivy tournament. The other two goalies are looking to assert themselves. Ellie DeGarmo is playing well. Mary Kate McDonough is different from the other two; she steps out more and cuts off the angles. She has a different style and gives us another look.”

Sailer is looking for her team to value the ball more this year. “We need to control possession on the attack end and make good decisions,” said Sailer.

“The No. 1 thing always is draws and ground balls, the 50/50 balls. We haven’t asserted ourselves as much in the past in those areas so we are really emphasizing that. In our OT losses last year, we never had the ball.”

Princeton will need to be assertive all over the field if it is to beat a strong Loyola team in the season opener.

“It is a very good test, they had a great season last year and they are returning a lot of good players,” said Sailer.

“We have a couple of practices this week and next week. We are still putting things in; we will be ready. We are really excited about the season; it is a good group.”

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MANHATTAN PROJECT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald, center, celebrates after a Tiger goal in 2014. Last Saturday, senior star MacDonald tallied two goals and three assists to help Princeton defeat Manhattan 14-4 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Hofstra (0-1) on February 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hailing from Canada, Zach Currier felt at home as snow fell throughout the second half when the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season by hosting Manhattan last Saturday.

Noting that Princeton had started its preseason with a practice at midnight on February 1 in 19 degree chill, Currier said the Tigers weren’t fazed by the wintry blast.

“We are used to playing in the snow,” said sophomore midfielder Currier, a native of Petersborough, Ontario. “A couple of days ago we had a blizzard in practice; we have played in worse before.”

Breaking into the starting lineup, Currier played well, scoring two goals as Princeton cruised to a 14-4 win over the Jaspers.

“It is always nice to get one off the bat and then just keep going on from there,” said Currier.

Looking to play a more deliberate offensive style this season, the Tigers got into a nice rhythm.

“We have put in a new offense this year and I feel like we executed it pretty well,” said Currier.

“We are trying to get the ball around a couple of times to get settled and get the defense moving more and set them up where we want them.”

In Currier’s view, Princeton executed well all over the field against the Jaspers.

“I don’t think we had any lapses,” said Currier. “They got a few goals off a few bad bounces but we played really well defensively. We faced off really well. I think we out ground-balled them and obviously we scored a bunch of goals.”

With a season of college lax under his belt, Currier believes he can become a consistent goal scorer for the Tigers.

“Confidence is definitely one of the biggest issues,” said the 6’0, 180-pound Currier, who had 10 points in 2014 on six goals and four assists.

“Coming in as a freshman and playing along (Tom) Schreiber, (Jeff) Froccaro and all those big guys who had already been starting obviously you are going to be a little timid. I eventually settled in with their help. By the end of the year, I just started playing my own game and it carried over into this season. I don’t think I scored a goal outside five yards last year. I am starting to go from 9-10 yards.”

The graduation of four-time All American midfielder Schreiber has led to a shift in the Princeton offensive approach.

“Obviously Tom was a huge part of our offense last year,” said Currier. “I think this year our main focus is more team oriented, getting everyone touches where last year we wanted the ball on his stick a lot because he could do special things.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates was pleased with how his offense handled things in the win over Manhattan.

“I thought we played within ourselves and executed,” said Bates. “We knew they were going to come and try to slow it down with a zone and control the pace. I thought we played under control. We were patient, we didn’t try to force plays, which I was happy with.”

Bates was particularly happy with the play of his 1-2 punch of junior Ryan Amber and senior Mike MacDonald as Ambler scored four goals while MacDonald chipped in two goals and three assists.

“Those two have such good lacrosse IQs that they see an entire defense,” said Bates.

“You watch them dodge, they are not worried about their man. They are  worried about a defensive rotation and just see through defense so well. They both have such great vision. Those two play so well together, it is fun to watch.”

It has been fun for Bates to watch Currier’s progress. “He picks up ground balls on the wing, he does some things that nobody teaches,” said Bates.

“He is so crafty. We are asking a lot of him, he is playing some defense, he is on the wings. He complements those other guys very well. If you put a shortstick on him in space, he is a very tough matchup. We knew coming in that he had talent and going out at the end of his freshman year, we started to see it more and more. Our guys know he is a playmaker. He can be a big-time guy.”

The Princeton defense made some big plays on Saturday as it held the Jaspers to two goals through the first 57:51 minutes of the contest.

“They didn’t create a whole lot of opportunities, we got the ball off the ground,” said Bates. “It was a good one for those guys to get their feet under them and communicate.”

It was good for Princeton to work through some opening day kinks. “We just got one under our belt,” added Bates. “With a two-week preseason, we knew it was going to be a little sloppy. We wanted to focus on us and play through it the best we can. We did a good job.”

On Friday, Princeton faces a good test as it hosts a perennially tough Hofstra team.

“I think the group knows because of the focus we put on the day to day preparation, we have still got to think about us,” said Bates.

“Hofstra is a well coached team, it is always a big game for them. At the end of the day, it is a good next step for us. We have got to take next steps and execute. I like this group. It is a group that is pretty dialed in, there is a good feeling with their work rate and leadership.”

Currier believes the Tigers are dialed in as they look ahead to the clash against Hofstra.

“We are going to play our game,” said Currier. “Hopefully we will get our shots and execute our game plan.”

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOGFIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Henry Caruso dribbles around a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Caruso scored a career-high 25 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 81-73 to Yale. The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 39-28 at half but responded with a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead. Yale, though, closed out the contest by outscoring Princeton 35-19 over the last 10:20 to pull out the win. The Tigers, now 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, play at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard on February 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting Ivy League co-leader Yale last Saturday, the Princeton University men’s basketball team knew it needed a win to make it a three-horse race for the league title at the halfway point.

Entering the evening, Princeton stood at 4-2 in Ivy action while Yale and Harvard were tied atop the league at 6-1.

In the first 20 minutes of the contest, however, Princeton looked like an also ran, falling behind 11-0 and trailing 39-28 at halftime.

Addressing his team at intermission, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t looking for anything fancy.

“The message was really quite simple, there is no 11-point play,” said Henderson, whose team trailed 33-17 at one point in the first half.

“Let’s get it to eight at the 16-minute mark. We were trying to make some adjustments defensively. We said, look are they that much faster than us, what’s the deal here.”

Responding like champions, the Tigers started the half on a 26-7 run to take a 54-46 lead with 10:35 remaining in regulation.

“I am really proud of the way that we came back,” said Henderson. “I thought the start of the second half was great. I thought we were going to have to chip away and then all of a sudden we are tied at the 16 minute mark.”

In the view of Princeton sophomore forward Steven Cook, the rally came down to being tougher.

“We got off to a slow start, some shots didn’t fall and we weren’t playing great defense with them scoring 39 points in the first half,” said Cook.

“We talked about a lot of different things at halftime, we needed to maintain aggressiveness and toughness inside. The 1-3-1 (zone) definitely helped us with staying aggressive on defense. We just attacked on offense.”

But Princeton couldn’t maintain the lead as Yale responded with a 35-19 run over the last 10:20 of the contest to pull out an 81-73 victory.

“I think we are disappointed with that,” said Henderson, reflecting on the setback which left Princeton at 11-12 overall and 4-3 Ivy.

“College basketball is great because you are either going one way or another. We seem to be on a track where we are on the upswing and then we fall down. We are hurting a little bit but nobody is crying for us. We have three weeks and we have an opportunity to get better every day.”

Yale junior forward Justin Sears, a Plainfield, N.J. product, hurt Princeton all night, tallying 25 points and nine rebounds, including a huge sequence with just under 10 minutes left when he blocked a Hans Brase shot and scooped up the ball and went in for a layup and then hit a free throw after getting fouled on the drive.

“He is a really good player; in our league, he is so different,” said Henderson of Sears.

“He is long but fast; the way he got out on Hans’ shot and blocked it, that was a gigantic play. It was a six-point game and all of a sudden. it is three. He gets the and one.”

Princeton got a gigantic effort from junior forward Henry Caruso as he scored a career-high 25 points in a losing effort.

“I like our fight, I love that,” asserted Henderson who got 13 points from freshman guard Amir Bell with Cook adding 12. ”Henry has brought to our team what I want, which is don’t back down from the best players and guard them and play hard. That’s what he is through and through.”

Caruso, for his part, was frustrated that the team’s fighting spirit didn’t result in a victory.

“We just started with our defense, we started to get stops and really causing pressure on Yale,” said Caruso. “As the game went on we got a little bit flat, that was disappointing. We have to get ready for Dartmouth next Friday.”

In Henderson’s view, Princeton can still be a factor on the Ivy title race.

“Over the course of an 80-minute weekend, I think we are playing a lot of good minutes,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Dartmouth on February 20 and at Harvard a day later.

“We can’t have an 11-0 start, we can’t give up a 13-point lead at the end of games. (referring to a 68-60 loss at Cornell on February 7) We can score and we can defend. We show these things in stretches, the pieces are there. We just have to keep our heads up and keep working.”