October 2, 2013
FIRST LOOK: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Jesse McDonough keeps her eye on the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman midfielder McDonough scored her first college goal but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 3-2 to visiting Yale in overtime in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 4-2-2 overall and 0-1 Ivy, play at Dartmouth on October 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST LOOK: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Jesse McDonough keeps her eye on the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman midfielder McDonough scored her first college goal but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 3-2 to visiting Yale in overtime in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 4-2-2 overall and 0-1 Ivy, play at Dartmouth on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A year ago, the Princeton University women’s soccer team rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 2-1 overtime win at Yale in the Ivy League opener.

The bounces went the Tigers’ way in that contest as they prevailed when a Bulldog player inadvertently headed in a ball into her own goal on a throw in.

That victory helped catapult Princeton on a memorable campaign which saw it go 7-0 in Ivy play and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Last Saturday when the rivals met to start their 2013 league campaign, Yale turned the tables on the Tigers, rallying from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to force overtime and then winning the contest 3-2 on a goal against the run of the play.

In reflecting on the setback, a disappointed Princeton head coach Julie Shackford acknowledged that her squad let one get away.

“I thought we did enough to win; we just didn’t finish our chances,” said Shackford, whose team outshot Yale 22-16 on the afternoon, including 4-1 in the extra session. “You can’t let those leads slip away. That was disappointing.”

The Tigers were in the lead much of the day as they jumped ahead 1-0 with 14:28 remaining in the first half as freshman Jesse McDonough converted a feed from junior Lauren Lazo for her first career goal.

After Yale knotted the game at 1-1 early in the second half, Princeton forged back ahead 2-1 as freshman Haley Chow found the back of the net on a scramble in front of the goal for her first career tally. The Bulldogs tied the game up at 2-2 minutes later on a goal by Melissa Gavin and neither team scored over the rest of regulation.

In the first overtime, Princeton put the pressure on, generating four shots and dominating possession. But Yale got loose on a counterattack and Paula Hagopian scored to win the game with 1:16 left in the first extra session.

The breakthrough tallies by McDonough and Chow were highlights for the Tigers.

“I thought Jesse McDonough did well,” said Shackford, whose team moved to 4-2-2 overall.

“I thought Haley Chow came in and did well for us. We definitely have some freshmen who are making contributions.”

While Princeton definitely had its moments, it didn’t show consistency. “It just wasn’t our day,” said Shackford.

“We just weren’t on top of the game for as long as we usually are. There were not enough stretches where we were dominant. I definitely think there were some defensive lapses.”

Despite the lapse against Yale, Shackford is confident that her squad will be in the thick of the Ivy race this fall.

“It was unfortunate; it was a tough Ivy League battle,” said Shackford, whose team gets back into Ivy action when it plays at Dartmouth on October 5.

“We have just got to stick together; as we know it is tough to go through the Ivy League undefeated.”

September 25, 2013
AT HIS BEST: Princeton University running back DiAndre ­Atwater heads upfield last Saturday as Princeton opened its 2013 season with a 31-27 defeat to visiting Lehigh. Sophomore Atwater had a big game in a losing cause, running for a career-best 111 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Atwater and the Tigers will look to get into the winning column when they play at Georgetown on September 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AT HIS BEST: Princeton University running back DiAndre ­Atwater heads upfield last Saturday as Princeton opened its 2013 season with a 31-27 defeat to visiting Lehigh. Sophomore Atwater had a big game in a losing cause, running for a career-best 111 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Atwater and the Tigers will look to get into the winning column when they play at Georgetown on September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2012, the Princeton University football team opened its season by falling behind 17-0 to Lehigh at halftime.

In the second half, the Tigers mounted a furious rally only to come up short in a 17-14 defeat.

Last Saturday, Princeton flipped the script on the visiting Mountain Hawks as the teams renewed their rivalry in the Tigers’ season opener.

With the no-huddle offense clicking, the Tigers roared out to a 22-3 lead by intermission over No. 18 and 2-0 Lehigh.

“We came out pretty strong,” said Princeton senior safety and co-captain Phil Bhaya. “We made a couple of plays. We were playing fast.”

But this time, it was the Mountain Hawks who fought back, outscoring the Tigers 26-6 in the second half to pull out a dramatic 29-28 victory before 6,982 at Princeton Stadium and a national television audience as the contest was shown on NBC Sports.

A forlorn Princeton head coach Bob Surace acknowledged that Lehigh put on a dazzling show over the last 30 minutes of the game.

“They executed great on offense in the second half,” said Surace, reflecting on the defeat which was Princeton’s fourth straight loss in the series.

“We couldn’t get off the field. I think in the third drive [in the second half], they had a 15-play drive. They had a couple of other drives. Both teams had good tempo to their offenses. Not getting off the field on those key plays put some guys on the field more than we would have liked. They did a great job.”

Staying on the field so long appeared to wear down the Princeton defense.

“We’ll look at it on film and see if our energy was the same; my initial impression is no it wasn’t,” said Surace. “We’ll see if we have to rotate more guys. They were on the field a lot.”

Princeton had plenty of energy on the offensive side of the ball as it piled up 501 yards, nearly matching the 513 yards gained by Lehigh.

“Both teams ended up with 500 yards of offense,” said Surace. “It was almost like whatever team had the ball last. I think we punted twice and they punted three times. We couldn’t get each other off the field. If you could get back-to-back drives, that was the key. We wanted to get three-and-outs because they were tired.”

In the first half, the Tigers ran the Mountain Hawks ragged, starting with its first possession of the game. After senior linebacker Jason Ray recovered a Lehigh fumble, Princeton took over at its 24-yard-line and proceeded to march 76 yards in six plays, taking a 6-0 lead on an 18-yard touchdown gallop by sophomore DiAndre Atwater. The Tigers made it 8-0 as Ray ran in a two-point conversion.

Midway through the second quarter, Princeton increased its lead to 15-0 as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly passed and ran the Tigers up the field. Epperly connected on two straight passes to Matt Costello and hit Atwater on a seven-yard aerial to get Princeton to the Lehigh 14-yard line. After Atwater rushed for 10 yards, Epperly made a 4-yard touchdown run.

Lehigh answered with a field goal to make it 15-3 but the Tigers went on the march again, this time triggered by the passing of Princeton’s other junior quarterback, Connor Michelsen, to senior star Roman Wilson. Michelsen found Wilson for gains of 23 and 33 yards as Princeton advanced to the Lehigh 5. Epperly then came on and culminated the 75-yard march with a 5-yard scoring strike to Wilson as Princeton built a 22-3 advantage at intermission.

In Wilson’s view, the Tigers hurry-up offense had the Mountain Hawks on their heels. “That is how we try to play,” said Wilson. “We want to play as fast as we can, whether the defense is ready for it or not.”

In the second half, Princeton seemed ready to put the game out of reach, taking the opening kickoff and marching 55 yards to the Lehigh 21. The drive stalled and the Tigers lost the ball on downs, eschewing a field goal attempt in the wake of a blocked kick by Lehigh in the first half.

Led by senior quarterback Brandon Bialkowski, Lehigh caught fire. With Bialkowski hitting on 7-of-10 passes, the Mountain Hawks drove to the Princeton five. Tailback Keith Sherman took it from there, scoring on a five-yard touchdown run as Lehigh narrowed the gap to 22-9.

After a Princeton three-and-out, the Mountain Hawks went on the march again. Bialkowski connected on 8-of-10 passes, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Zach Hayden as Lehigh made it a 22-16 game.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Hawks flew past the Tigers, marching 73 yards after blocking another Princeton field goal attempt. A pass play of 48 yards from Bialkowski to Josh Parris got Lehigh to the Princeton 4. The quarterback then found Dylan Colgate in the end zone and the Mountain Hawks converted the extra point to edge ahead 23-22 with 11:31 remaining in regulation.

Showing resilience, Princeton responded with a 71-yard scoring march which saw both Michelsen and Epperly make big plays as the former completed three straight passes to get Princeton into Lehigh territory while the latter made a key run and pass to move the Tigers to the Lehigh 17. Atwater produced another big run, spurting 17 yards for paydirt and his second touchdown of the evening. Princeton’s two-point conversion failed, leaving the Tigers ahead 28-22 with 8:03 left in the fourth quarter.

But Bialkowski kept up his hot play, hitting on 7-of-8 passes to get the Mountain Hawks to the Princeton 17. Running the ball four straight plays from there, Lehigh capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Sean Farrell to go ahead by 29-28.

The Tigers got the ball with 2:45 remaining and made one first down on a 13-yard run by Atwater, who ended the game with a career-high 111 yards on 13 carries. A Michelsen pass, though, was intercepted three plays later and Lehigh ran out the clock to seal the victory.

Wilson, for his part, was in no mood to see the performance against Lehigh as a moral victory for the Tigers.

“We showed flashes but it didn’t matter because we didn’t finish,” said a glum Wilson, who made a career-high nine receptions for 168 yards in the game.

“That was the big difference. A lot of the time it is the little things. That is what we are going to have to do, go back and watch the film and fix those little things.”

While Surace was proud of how his team battled, he acknowledged that it squandered a big opportunity.

“When they took the lead by one, for our offense to go down the field and score a touchdown was a good sign,” said Surace, whose team plays at Georgetown on September 28.

“The bottom line is that we didn’t win. We can’t sugarcoat that but when you are looking for positives, that was a real positive. We showed a lot of heart in that drive. There are positives you can take against a team like Lehigh but the bottom line is we had a chance to make a statement and we didn’t.”

MOORE READY: Mike Moore waits for the puck in action with the San Jose Sharks. Former Princeton University standout defenseman Moore ’08 signed with the Boston Bruins over the summer and skated in the team’s training camp before being assigned to Providence of the American Hockey League (AHL).(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

MOORE READY: Mike Moore waits for the puck in action with the San Jose Sharks. Former Princeton University standout defenseman Moore ’08 signed with the Boston Bruins over the summer and skated in the team’s training camp before being assigned to Providence of the American Hockey League (AHL). (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Espousing a philosophy centering on hard work, tenacious play, and skill, the Boston Bruins have written some inspiring chapters in the franchise’s storied history in recent years.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and were two wins away from another title last year, falling 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in the championship series.

Attracted by the club’s approach and success, former Princeton University men’s hockey star Mike Moore signed with the Bruins this summer as he joins his third NHL organization after having spent the majority of the past five years playing in the American Hockey League (AHL).

For the 2008 Princeton alum, moving to the Bruins was a no-brainer, considering his blue collar approach to the game.

“They are such a successful franchise,” said Moore, a defenseman who previously played for the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators organizations.

“You realize there may be an opportunity there and that it’s a good place for you to fit in and play that style of hard-nosed hockey that they play.”

The Bruins, for their part, identified the gritty Moore as a good fit for their organization.

“They were one of the teams that were interested,” said Moore, 28, a 6’1, 210-pound native of Calgary, Alberta who was a free agent after last season and skated in the Bruins training camp before being assigned to Providence of the AHL.

“They’d really like me to play in their system. They’ve watched me play before and they know what to expect. I was excited from what they said when we talked. It looks like it could be a good opportunity, so I’m going to give it the best shot that I can.”

Moore enjoyed an exciting career at Princeton, earning first-team All-Ivy League and first-team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECACH) honors as senior in 2007-08 and getting chosen as the ECACH Defenseman of the Year. He helped Princeton win the ECACH championship in that 2007-08 campaign and received the Blackwell Trophy as the team’s most valuable player and the Class of 1941 Trophy for his inspiration and leadership. He also was one of the recipients of the William Winston Roper Trophy, given to the top Princeton senior male athletes.

In Moore’s view, his experience at Princeton and the chance to skate for Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky, now at Penn State, played a critical role in his ascension to the professional ranks.

“It molded me into the person I am today,” said Moore, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major who tallied 52 points in his Tiger career on 14 goals and 38 assists.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am right now in my hockey career if I didn’t go to Princeton. I had those experiences with my teammates and Guy Gadowsky. The mentoring from the older classmates I experienced there was awesome.”

Moore began his professional career shortly after completing his senior season in Princeton. He played in the San Jose Sharks’ minor league affiliate in Worcester for three games after graduation and went on to spend four straight seasons in Worcester. In the 2010-11 season, Moore got his first taste of the NHL as he played six games with San Jose. Last year, Moore skated in the Nashville Predators’ farm system and participated in 50 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.

As he has toiled in the AHL, Moore has watched with pride as some of his fellow Princeton alums have reached the NHL by dropping the gloves. Standouts such as George Parros and Kevin Westgarth have both advanced to the NHL as fighters, a far cry from their days skating against Ivy League opponents.

“Those guys are in a class by themselves,” said Moore. “There are a lot of tough guys that came out of Princeton. You’re pretty proud to have those guys represent the school at that level. They do an unbelievable job in their communities and they’re well respected in the league. It’s pretty inspiring to see.”

No matter how former Tigers advance through the professional ranks, they are all serving as inspiration for Moore as well as a powerful recruiting tool at Princeton.

“It’s awesome to see for the program,” asserted Moore.  “Guys now see it as a place where they can keep their careers going. I hope they know they can not only get a good education but also that hockey is a path they can follow.”

Moore knows he faces a fight in getting called up to the Bruins. “There haven’t been a lot of promises, but that’s not necessarily what you’re looking for during the process of free agency,” said Moore.

“You just try to work hard for when that opportunity might come. You just battle and keep trying to improve. You want to play the style of game that they say will get you to the next level, and you hope that opportunity is there.”

300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Luis Nicolao to realize that his Princeton University men’s water polo team might be something special this year.

Hosting its annual Invitational at DeNunzio Pool from September 13-15, Princeton opened the season by edging No. 16 Santa Clara 9-7 and went on to beat Harvard 14-7 and Iona 11-6 to make it a perfect weekend.

“It was a good confidence builder, we had some new faces in the water and you never know what you are going to have before the season starts,” said longtime head coach Nicolao.

“We felt like we had a nice squad and some nice additions and once we got into the games, it was good to see that.”

Nicolao saw some good things last weekend as 13th-ranked Princeton went on the road to start Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Southern Southern Division play and came away with three more victories to improve to 6-0. The Tigers topped Johns Hopkins 15-10 and Navy 12-7 on Saturday and then defeated George Washington 9-5 on Sunday.

“We call it the tour of death,” said Nicolao, referring to the annual swing to the DC-Baltimore area.

“Hopkins and GW have different dimensions with a shallow end. We are just looking to get out of there with wins any way we can.”

The win over Hopkins was special as it marked the 300th win for Nicolao at the helm of the Tiger men’s program.

“It means I have been here a long time and I am getting up in age,” joked Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger women’s team and has guided that program to a 348-128 mark as he enters his 16th year at Princeton.

“It’s nice. It is a combination of being here a while and having a lot of good players.”

Nicolao was proud of the way his team took care of business as it started league play.

“I thought we controlled the tempo in all three games,” said Nicolao. “We wanted to shorten the game and milk the shot clock. Regardless of which pool we are in, we want to play good defense. I think we did that except for a couple of quarters.”

The team’s offense showed plenty of balance, triggered by junior star and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg, who has 17 goals and 11 assists so far this season.

“We have multiple guys who can score,” said Nicolao, who is getting good production out of sophomore Thomas Nelson, junior Kayj Shannon, freshman Jovan Jeremic, sophomore Jamie Kuprenas, and senior Kurt Buchbinder.

“If one guy is off, another steps up. Drew is so smart and is such an all-around player. He is enjoying our depth, it takes pressure off of him.”

The defense is sparked by the goalie tandem of senior Ben Dearborn and sophomore Alex Gow.

“Ben is back and healthy,” said Nicolao. “We believe we have two ‘A’ goalies. I have complete confidence in both of them and we will go with the guy who has the hot hand. If we are going to go far, it is with defense. I have been really impressed by our defense, we have played really good defense this season.”

The team’s cohesiveness in and out of the water has also impressed Nicolao.

“I think right now, I am happiest about the chemistry,” said Nicolao. “We have a great group of guys and we are excited about what could happen this season.”

Princeton has an exciting week ahead as it heads west on its annual California swing. On September 27, Princeton plays at Chapman and Long Beach State. A day later, the Tigers are at La Verne, Southern Cal, and UCLA. Princeton wraps up the trip on September 29 when they play at Claremont, McKenna, and Whittier.

“We always look forward to that trip,” said Nicolao. “We are playing high-level teams, we are facing the No. 1 (Southern Cal) and 2 (UCLA) teams next weekend so I don’t think we will be undefeated on Monday. We will just concentrate on our own game, playing our 5-man and 6-man offense. We try to get in as many games as we can.”

September 18, 2013
FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Philip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Phillip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Phillip Bhaya, playing for the Princeton University football team is something he envisioned doing as a grade schooler growing up in nearby Haddonfield.

“I can actually remember coming here with my family in the summer time and just coming onto this field when I was probably 10 years old and thinking it would be great to play here and here I am 11 years later,” said Princeton senior safety Bhaya standing on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium at the program’s annual media day.

Bhaya has not only emerged as a star in the secondary, he is a respected team leader, having been chosen to serve as a co-captain of the 2013 Tigers along with defensive lineman and classmate Caraun Reid.

Despite his current stature with the team and being an All-South Jersey defensive back, Bhaya was not a prized recruit for Princeton.

“When I was recruited, it was the year with the coaching change so it was a little shaky with the old staff going out and the new staff coming in,” said Bhaya.

“I actually didn’t get an offer until after signing day. When they offered, I jumped on it.”

Bhaya quickly jumped up the Princeton depth chart, seeing plenty of action as a freshman in 2010, making 20 tackles and earning the program’s Harland “Pink” Baker ’22 Award as the team’s top defensive freshman.

While Bhaya enjoyed success in his debut season, he acknowledged that it took a while for him to feel a comfort level.

“Probably at first, it was the speed of the game,” said the 5’11, 190-pound Bhaya.

“You have got great athletes at all positions. When you combine that with the mental speed of it, all the new plays, formations, checks that you have to be so locked in on every play, that is probably the biggest jump that you have to make from high school to the Ivy League level.

After a frustrating sophomore year where he was hampered by a quad problem and made only six tackles, Bhaya was back at full speed last fall as a junior and raring to go.

“I was excited; I moved back to safety, which I feel more comfortable with,” said Bhaya. “I had offseason motivation from that injury and it was great being able to come back and really help the team.”

Princeton produced an exciting season in the 2012 as the Tigers improved to 5-5 after two straight 1-9 campaigns.

“I think from top to bottom, just buying into the program, was something that we saw last year,” said Bhaya, who made 52 tackles and had three interceptions in 2012.

“No knock on the other years or some of the other guys but more than any year, last year we had guys stepping up and playing together for the first time. Once we got things rolling against Columbia and Lafayette, I think that really changed our mindset of going out and winning games.”

Winning the Harvard game last October in a rally for the ages which saw Princeton overcome a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to earn a 39-34 victory over the previously undefeated Crimson is still on Bhaya’s mind.

“Obviously, that was a big game,” said Bhaya. “It is probably the best sports memory I have had; that comeback was something else.”

Being named as a team co-captain this spring stands as another great memory for Bhaya.

“It was a humbling honor; there is a lot of senior leadership on this team which now makes my job easy,” said Bhaya.

“We have leaders at every position. To be picked among the guys I have been working hard with for four years is something that was really humbling. I like to lead by example but I am not afraid to speak up. I can be a rah rah guy in the locker room if it needs to be. First, it is leading by example, working hard and doing the right thing.”

During preseason camp, the Tigers have been doing the right things to build on last year’s progress.

“I think we are excited to get going here but also more focused than ever,” said Bhaya.

“There are obviously new offenses and new defenses and different plays that everyone is trying to learn but we have a lot of depth and a lot of experience so guys know how to approach the camp atmosphere and know how to prepare.”

Bhaya is hoping that experience will come in handy when the Tigers host Lehigh this Saturday to open their 2013 campaign.

“It is a great program over there,” said Bhaya of the Mountain Hawks, who are 2-0 and currently ranked No. 19/22 in the country and have a three-game winning streak in the series, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“The last three years have all been pretty close games going down to the fourth quarter and obviously we didn’t come out on the right side the last three times so that is something that we would like to get done here. They are not in the Ivy League but we play them every year so we have developed a rivalry.”

The Tigers are determined to get it done in the Ivies as they look to move up from last year’s 4-3 league mark and third-place finish.

“We definitely have the pieces to take that next step from that 5-5 season last year where we were so close,” asserted Bhaya.

“I think what is going to help us get there is the experience we have had. We have so much coming back on offense, we have so many weapons. Defensively, we lost a couple of guys, Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks, but a lot of the guys played and had that experience from last year. We have been there before and we are going to know how to win and close out games at the end because every game in the Ivy League is close. There is so much parity in the league.”

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After spending the last three years tirelessly laying the groundwork for restructuring the Princeton University football program, Bob Surace is ready to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

“In that first year, you are just trying to get everything organized and get  everything right,” said Princeton head coach Surace ’90 at the program’s recent media day as he reflected on entering his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater.

“You are so intense on making sure everything is done. Now that we have practice schedules and scripts and a lot of our staff members have been here for multiple years, you are not coaching the coaches as much. You are not coaching the players as much because they know what the expectation is. Now you are just playing football and, for me, that is the fun part. Now you can go out and you just wake up so excited to enjoy the practice. I think we have got the process in a good place right now.”

Last fall, Princeton had some fun as it posted a 5-5 record after two straight 1-9 campaigns. In order to take the next step and move to the top of the Ivy League heap after going 4-3 in league play in tying for third place in 2012, the Tigers are fine-tuning their practice approach.

“We really have been hitting situations,” said Surace, noting that he replicates game scenarios in practice, complete with score, time remaining, and down and distance, to help sharpen his team.

“I got this off some things that have been done by a couple of NFL teams. Our coaches have really thought these things through. We are not going to hit all of them, we don’t have enough time in 28 practices for all of them but we can hit a lot of them. There are things you can coach up off the film, not only your technique but they have to know down and distance, they have got to know the score, they have got to know the opponent. They have got to know the tendencies.”

The Tigers face an interesting situation as they may use a quarterback rotation with juniors Connor Michelsen (146-for-238 passing for 1634 yards and six touchdowns in 2012) and Quinn Epperly (480 yards passing and 314 yards rushing in 2012) like they did last year.

“We’ll see how that plays out; they are competing,” said Surace. “We did play multiple guys last year and if that happens, it happens; but be creative and let’s push the envelope. If we have different guys who bring different skill sets, let’s utilize that.”

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach James Perry has no problem with that arrangement and sees it as making things harder for Princeton’s foes.

“Last year, it was somewhat of an organic process,” said Perry. “It evolved into some things that actually made us more dynamic and it evolved in a way that four years ago when I got here, I would not have foreseen. Not to say that it is old hat, it has only been one year but we are past the adjustment and growing pains along those lines which is nice. It is not particularly common to have quarterbacks in those positions, we have that luxury and using it is something we have grown accustomed to.”

Surace believes the Tigers are also blessed with the luxury of depth at running back with the return of junior Will Powers ( a team-high 455 yards rushing in 2012), senior Brian Mills, sophomore DiAndre Atwater (181 yards rushing), and sophomore Dre Nelson (63 yards rushing).

“Our running backs yesterday had the best practice since I have been here,” asserted Surace.

“Brian Mills, who came off a really good spring, he got yo-yoed back and forth. He had a couple of plays where he just dragged guys. There was a lot of short yardage plays; it was four-minute drill and goal-line. Will Powers has been playing better than he has. He has looked really sharp. DiAndre Atwater looked real. He made some guys miss in space, something that we saw last year when he was healthy. For Dre Nelson, those situations aren’t his cup of tea; he is better at them than he was but there have been times at practice where he has really been exciting in the open field.”

In Perry’s view, Princeton has some exciting options at receiver in senior All-Ivy performer Roman Wilson (a team-high 37 catches for 649 yards in 2012), senior Matt Costello (31 catches for 316 yards), junior Connor Kelley (23 catches for 242 yards) and junior Seth DeValve (20 catches for 219 yards).

“It helps to have some depth on the outside at the wide receiver position,” said Perry.

“From an offensive pass game standpoint, we are certainly past the first couple of years where we tried to install a mindset and how we want the pass game to go and it is reflective of how we are playing right now. We have four returners at the wide receiver position who all played a huge number of reps last year. Obviously we have two quarterbacks who played a huge amount of reps last year. From a pass game perspective, we are further along than we have ever been and the kids will try to push that further.”

A battle-tested offensive line that features senior Joe Goss, who has 28 starts, along with junior All-Ivy performer Spenser Huston, senior Max Coale, junior Jack Woodall, and junior Mike Ramos should provide a good push in the trenches.

“To have all the guys returning all across the board is a good place to be,” said Perry.

“Probably equally important, with the tempo that we play, we don’t play five linemen. We are going to play seven or eight linemen by design so we need that many guys ready to go.”

One of the biggest challenges for the 2013 Tigers is to make up for the production on the defensive line with the graduation of Mike Catapano, the 2012 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year who is now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Defensive co-coordinator and associate head coach Steve Verbit acknowledges that it will take a group effort to replace the 12 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss produced by Catapano last fall.

“You do it as a team,” said Verbit. “It is tough to replace an NFL football player but we think we have got some pretty good kids who work extremely hard. Our hope is that a number of those kids will pick up one or two sacks which will enable us to make up for those 12 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.”

Senior All-Ivy performer and team co-captain Caraun Reid, a pro prospect himself, should be able to pick up much of the slack.

“He is 6’2, 303 pounds and runs somewhere around a 4.8 40-yard dash,” said Verbit of Reid, who had 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2012.

“He is extremely explosive, those are a couple of qualities that make him special. He is experienced, he has started since his freshman year so he has a lot of games under his belt. He’s got great physical traits and he is an extremely hard worker in terms of not only understanding of what he has to do on the field, he studies the game off the field.”

Defensive co-coordinator Jim Salgado likes the work he is getting from his group of linebackers, which includes senior Jason Ray, senior Alex Polofsky, junior Garrit Leicht, and junior Mike Zeuli.

“The linebackers are looking good,” said Salgado. “We have a good group of guys there. They are out there working hard, getting better each day. We have good depth. We are happy about the freshman class that came in. That’s what it’s all about — competition.”

The Tiger secondary is certainly competitive, led by senior co-captain Philip Bhaya and sophomore All-Ivy performer Anthony Gaffney  together with sophomore Matt Arends and sophomore Jakobi Johnson.

“We had guys moving around at different positions,” said Salgado. “We had two true freshmen playing at corner for us last year every game so they are back and more experienced. We got some good young guys that came in here that are going to be able to help us.”

Salgado is looking for safety Bhaya and cornerback Gaffney to spearhead that unit.

“Phil has played a lot of football for us,” said Salgado. “We had him out at corner and eventually got him to where he needed to be at safety. He had a great year for us last year and we expect another big one coming up. Anthony has improved; he is having a good camp.”

Princeton is expecting its defense to create more turnovers this fall. “We hear people talk about turnovers all the time,” said Verbit.

“It is about energy, it is about hustle, and it is about effort. The more guys you have around the ball, the more opportunities you have to get turnovers. The first guy in tries to secure the tackle and the next guys in try to get to the ball. If the ball pops out and you have 11 guys running to the ball, chances are that you are going to have an opportunity to get it once it is on the ground. We work at it each and every day and we stress it.”

Surace, for his part, believes the defensive emphasis on taking the ball away has served to make the Princeton offense better with the ball.

“They are thinking about creating more turnovers and that’s forcing our offense to take care of the ball better,” noted Surace.

“I love our approach that way. I think we were minus 10 turnovers in our last four losses; I think we gave up 11 and only got one. That’s not a recipe for success.”

In Surace’s view, honing the team’s up tempo offense is the best recipe for success.

“We ran a no huddle when I was with the Bengals for the best year we had on offense,” said Surace.

“You are still running the same plays but maybe you are getting a more vanilla defense or you are not getting substitutions on defense. I think for the players, if you asked them, they would rather run 85 plays than 60. I think it is exciting. I think recruits really buy into this.”

Princeton faces an exciting challenge in its season opener on Saturday evening as it hosts 2-0 Lehigh, who is ranked No. 19/22 nationally and owns a three-game winning streak in the series between the schools, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“Everybody in the world knows that Lehigh has two more games than us and they started camp three weeks before us and all these things we could use as excuses but instead let’s use it as a weapon,” said Surace.

“Let’s have more urgency at practice, let’s practice better because we can control how good we are. We can’t control the Ivy League schedule or anything else but we can control us. That’s a tough first game. They have been a nationally ranked team three years running, they have a lot of guys back, and they have a very respected program so that forces urgency. I think our guys are getting that. There is a time when you cross the line, school is out and everything else. You need to give us two great hours and they are doing that.”

If the Tiger players can maintain that focus, they could enjoy some great moments this fall.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

As Bryan Windsor went through practice last week for the Princeton University men’s soccer team, the Boulder, Colo. native’s thoughts were on his hometown and the deadly flooding there.

“There is two feet of water in my house which is tough but as long as my family is safe then I am OK,” said freshman midfielder Windsor.

Last Sunday against visiting Seton Hall, Windsor felt a lot better than OK as he knocked in his first career goal and the lone score as Princeton edged the Pirates 1-0 to earn its first victory of the season.

“It was a good team goal; it was a good buildup,” said Windsor, reflecting on his tally which came with 27:09 left in regulation as he volleyed in a rebound of shot by Nico Hurtado.

“We had a good cross and then Nico had a good shot and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. It feels great to help contribute to the team and it feels great to get the first win. I am happy just to help out the team however I can.”

Windsor was happy to see the Tigers get on the right track after losing 3-2 at Rutgers on Friday and 3-0 at Fairleigh Dickinson a week earlier.

“We had a game on Friday so our legs were a little bit tired so we just had to get a couple of minutes under our belt,” said Windsor,

“So when we started livening up, we started calming down and playing better soccer. In our past two games, we have gotten scored on three times. At halftime, we talked about really pushing up the level of play.”

The wiry 5’8, 135-pound Windsor is trying to keep from getting pushed around as he makes the jump to college soccer.

“It has been the pace and size,” said Windsor, reflecting on his adjustment to the next level.

“There are some big kids and they are fast too. Physically, it has been tough. But if I play a quicker game with the ball, then I have been able to settle in. Whatever time I get, I love. Whatever position I am, I just love to be on the field.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow loved seeing Windsor come through with the game winner against Seton Hall.

“The thing with Windsor is that he is a great soccer player,” asserted Barlow. “He sees things, he makes connections. He has struggled in the first couple of games when the game is going 100 miles per hour to find the ball. We felt today that the pace of the game was a little slower and that he could make a difference in the game and he did.”

In Barlow’s opinion, better defensive play by Princeton made a big difference in the contest.

“Defensively we were so frustrated Friday at the kind of goals we were giving away,” said Barlow.

“We would just shoot ourselves in the foot because we play a good stretch and get a lead and the kind of goals we gave away against Rutgers, we thought were preventable. One was a PK, one was off a punt. Give Rutgers a lot of credit, they took it to us for a good stretch of the game. We needed to really be tighter around the goal and it was nice to see us do that today although the last couple of minutes were a little hairy.”

Things have been hairy for Princeton as the squad has been hit by a rash of injuries in the early going.

“Hopefully this week we will get some more guys back from injury,” said Barlow.

“It has been so many guys. Myles McGinley didn’t play against Rutgers, Pat O’Neil didn’t play against Rutgers. Jack Hilger didn’t play in either game. Brendan McSherry played great against Rutgers but hurt his knee and didn’t play today. Julian Griggs is still a little bit off. Dylan Bowman tore his ACL. It has been a tough week injury-wise for us.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan showed toughness in the Seton Hall win, making four saves as he earned his first shutout of the year.

“I thought Seth did a better job today of being ready for plays and being off his line for through balls more and on balls over the top,” said Barlow.

“He cleaned up a lot of those plays. That was a concern of ours in the first two games and he took a step forward today too.”

With Princeton playing at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22, the Tigers will need to take more steps forward to hold their own against such competition.

“You got to keep trying to put the pieces together this early in the season,” said Barlow.

“You can’t drop too many games while you are trying to figure it out and we have the added challenge of trying to figure it out with five or six guys injured. We really needed a good result. It is a good thing that we are playing so many good teams early but you don’t want to fall too far behind by dropping so many early games. We have a huge week now with Loyola, who is undefeated, and Georgetown, who was a national finalist last year. Hopefully we will get a little healthier and keep it going.”

Windsor, for his part, believes that the win over Seton Hall will get the Tigers going in the right direction.

“We just needed this one,” said Windsor. “It really lifts our spirits after two losses. I think we can build off this momentum.”

September 11, 2013
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshman forward Tyler Lussi to make an impact for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Playing in the season opener last Friday night against visiting Richmond, Lussi came off the bench and scored the first goal in the contest early in the second half, sparking the Tigers as they went on to a 2-0 victory.

“To get the first goal in the beginning of the second half was really nice,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md.

“It set the pace for the rest of the game and then Lauren Lazo got the goal right after me. It just settled us down.”

The Lazo-Lussi combination paid dividends two days later as Princeton topped Army 3-0 with junior Lazo scoring the first Tiger goal and Lussi chipping in the other two.

“We are definitely playing off of each other and we know where each other are on the field and we are making good runs,” said Lussi. “We are getting it done.”

Reflecting on her debut, Lussi didn’t see herself emerging as the team’s top finishing threat.

“I think I came out wanting to win the game and came out playing strong and hard and wanting to take shots, getting into the goal area,” said Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982.

“It was really good. I thought my teammates did a really good job, they got me the ball and we just put it away.”

Lussi was happy with the way she put away her goals in the win over Army as she scored on a blast to the low corner in the first half and then deftly volleyed the ball over the Army goalie early in the second period for her other tally.

“Lauren and I were both right there but I hit it nice and hard on the ground into the corner,” said Lussi, who won the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big debut weekend.

“I wasn’t trying to go for power. I was going for pace and I put it away. On the second one, I was trying to lift it over nice and easy.”

For Lussi, sharp finishing is a staple of her game. “I have always had good accuracy on the ball,” said Lussi, who played for the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland in the Elite Clubs National League and entered Princeton ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 player in the Mid-Atlantic region. “When you are around the goal, just relaxing is always what I focus on.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford liked the way Lussi and Lazo worked together around the goal.

“They are both just dynamic,” said Shackford. “They are willing to take people on, they are also good at finishing. They  are very similar. They are both workers. They both know how to find space for themselves. They know how to take people on when they are dribbling. They are really confident and they are both gamers. To me, both of Taylor’s goals were upper class goals, they were great finishes.”

The Tigers displayed class all over the field in the win over Army. “We played really good soccer today,” asserted Shackford.

“We let the ball do the work and the speed of play was really good. I think you always worry about that second game, especially with Army having been in camp for so long. I think that we hung in there for two-thirds of the game with our fitness level and I think we got fresh legs in, you saw maybe a little drop in experience but I think they all hung in.”

Princeton’s experienced defense, spearheaded by senior co-captains Diane Metcalf-Leggette and Gabriella Guzman together with junior Gabrielle Ragazzo, played well all weekend.

“They did great; Diane is a good organizer back there,” said Shackford.

“I actually thought Gabby Ragazzo was the star of the game, she kept getting herself into the attack and we were able to switch the point of attack and get her out on the left side. The decision-making was great. You can’t put a price tag on what Guzman does for us. She is literally a rock.”

Junior goalie Darcy Hargadon was a rock for Princeton as she posted consecutive shutouts and stamped herself as first among equals in the four-way competition for the starting job.

“She did well,” said Shackford of Hargadon. “I give her a lot of credit; she organized well. She made saves when she had to. I know there weren’t a lot. I think for the most part she did really well.”

Heartened by her team’s play on opening weekend, Shackford believes that even better things are on the horizon.

“You never know what is going to happen; I am really pleased with our start,” said Shackford, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.

“Going forward, we need more focus on the speed of play. I think our soccer can be really exciting this year, once we get fitter. We can move the ball quicker and create a little more around the box. Their soccer was good today, I was impressed.”

Lussi, for her part, is excited to build on her superb opening weekend.

“I am trying to figure out each player’s position and what their strengths are,” said Lussi.

“I think that is coming together a little more but it is definitely good. Two wins is big. Going into Thursday’s game, I think we are really confident and ready to get another win.”

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Allison Evans and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team were frustrated heading into halftime last Saturday in their game against visiting Fairfield.

Even though third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton had outshot the Stags 12-0 over the first 35 minutes, the teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at intermission.

“I think it is just about mentality at that point,” said junior forward Evans. “We had a few balls that were just kind of sitting on the goal line and we couldn’t find a way to get them in. That’s more of a mental toughness and will to score than anything else because we definitely have the skill to. It was first weekend and less than a 24-hour turnaround from our first game (a 3-1 win over No. 10 Duke on Friday evening) so we definitely had to get the intensity up again.”

Falling behind 1-0 with 30:11 remaining in regulation, the Tigers picked up the intensity as they responded with three straight goals.

“Obviously going down first is always tough, you have to battle back and not only tie it but to go ahead,” said Evans, reflecting on the Princeton rally. “We got a corner and Teresa [Benvenuti] just nailed it at the top of the circle. I think pressure and being more aggressive is what opened up the goals for us.”

Evans showed her aggressiveness, scoring the third goal of that run as Princeton held on for a 4-3 victory over the scrappy Stags.

“My teammate Hailey [Reeves] had the ball on the left side on the baseline and she crossed and I laid my stick out and tipped it into the goalie and it bounced off and I lifted it over,” said Evans, reflecting on her goal. “You have got to get that rebound in.”

With all-time leading scorer Kat Sharkey having graduated after scoring 107 goals in her Tiger career, Evans is looking to pick up the scoring slack.

“I think all the strikers feel this way; it is our job to be effective in the circle,” said Evans, a native of Macungie, Pa. who scored a total of 23 goals in her first two seasons at Princeton.

“It is our job to score; it is our job to get corners. It is spread out among everyone; it is not just me.”

Evans liked the way the Tigers got the job done over opening weekend. “At the end of it, we are 2-0 and I think we are going to learn a lot after the coaches debrief us and look over the film,” said Evans, who picked up an assist in the win over Duke.

“Final results are great but we have a lot to learn and we can only get better from here. We definitely can’t complain about the two wins.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was definitely proud of the way her team fought back after falling behind.

“I think we started attacking; when that happens, things start to open up,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on the second half rally.

“We have to be smart and be able to know when that penetrative moment is and make sure that we take it. I think that the team was really good at that. Teresa in the back was really good at playing those moments. I certainly give Fairfield a lot of credit for grinding the game out; it takes a lot of discipline to do that and I applaud them for being able to bring that for a majority of the game.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that her team struggled to close the game out as it surrendered two goals over the last 17 minutes of the contest.

“It is just about game management and that is something just being so early in the season we haven’t been able to focus on that as much,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals on the day from Benvenuti with Sydney Kirby and Evans adding the other tallies.

“I think the disorganization at the end is the product of just not being able to get everything in during preseason. We’ll be really slick as we move forward with closing out games and everyone understanding their role. We are not quite there yet. We are definitely shifting players around and we are trying to find ideal spots for lots of different players so it is a work in progress.”

A number of players stepped up in the win over Fairfield. “I thought our back three who kind of rotated in there were really steady; Kelsey Byrne, Cassidy Arner, Kate Ferrara, and Teresa were just really, really steady,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“Allison has been really good. Sydney Kirby’s work rate and Julia Reinprecht’s work rate were just phenomenal. They did so much just clearing space and being available, making space important. They really did a good job with that. Sydney has really been great this season.”

Surviving two tough challenges in the opening weekend was also a great step for Tigers, who have a bull’s eye on their backs after the NCAA championship campaign last fall.

“We felt in control of the Duke game which is a great feeling so early in the season against a quality opponent,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.

“I think in this game, for the most part, we felt in control. We just have to get returns. There are going to be games where you just have to persist. It is good to have these games. You have to perform every time you step on the field. I told the girls just now that is one of the great benefits of finishing the previous season as No. 1, you get everyone’s best. That is better than we could ever hope for because it will make us that much better so if we get that kind of effort from every opponent by the time we get to the end of the season we will be battle-tested.”

Evans, for her part, saw the victory over Duke as a harbinger of good things to come this season.

“I think the Duke game was great yesterday for our first game,” said Evans.

“We finally came together as a team, we improved our structure and spacing. We were working together. I think we are connecting pretty well, that will only get better.”

Jim Barlow knew that his Princeton University men’s soccer team faced a stern test when it opened its season at Fairleigh Dickinson last Friday night.

FDU brought a 2-0 record into the clash along with the confidence of having advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Showing some opening night jitters, Princeton fell behind 2-0 some 40 minutes into the contest.

Tiger head coach Barlow acknowledged that digging an early hole was not the formula for success against the Knights.

“You need to get the first goal against a team like that,” said Barlow, reflecting on the early deficit. “We couldn’t find an answer for their center halfbacks, they were both 6’4 or 6’5, good in the air and athletic.”

While Princeton fought gamely the rest of the way, it ended up falling 3-0.

“We didn’t play poorly,” said Barlow. “We were able to get the ball moving and keep them in their end. When we fell behind, we picked up the tempo and got the ball in their end more, creating some half-chances.”

Barlow noted that sophomores Nico Hurtado and Jack Hilger did create some positive energy for the Tigers.

“Nico and Jack came off the bench and helped us be more dynamic,” said Barlow, noting that Princeton lost stars Cameron Porter and Myles McGinley to leg injuries during the game. “Hilger was good at pressing up on the ball, he took a step forward.”

The Tigers did take a step back in one critical area of the game. “I think the big thing is we conceded two goals on the re-starts,” said Barlow.

“The first goal was on a corner, the ball was kicked high in the air and we didn’t have good communication. On the second goal, one of their center halves headed it in right off the corner.”

With the Tigers playing four games in a nine-day stretch starting with a game at Rutgers on September 13, Barlow hopes to get his squad headed in the right direction.

“We need to keep figuring things out,” added Barlow, whose team will host Seton Hall on September 15 in its home opener.

“We have a bunch of games in a row against some very good teams. We will get better and we would like to get some wins while we are improving. We need to be less naive on restarts and be better around the goal. We will have Thomas Sanner back so that should solidify us up front.”

The Tigers will need to get better quickly in order to hold their own in the clash with the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-2-1 and are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 5 Akron.

“Last year’s game with Rutgers is on our minds; I thought we played poorly,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 loss in the 2012 meeting between the local rivals.

“They came in here and really beat us up. This is a good opportunity to play against a good team and take a step forward.”

September 4, 2013
EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton University field hockey team dealt with the absence of four key players who spent the year away from school training with the U.S. national program.

Despite not having the services of Kat Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, Katie Reinprecht, and Julia Reinprecht, a gritty Princeton team got the most out of what it had and won the Ivy League title that season.

Last fall, the program won its first-ever national championship and as the 2013 season approaches, the Tigers need to fill in some big holes left by graduation.

In assessing this year’s squad, Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn sees a parallel to the situation two falls ago.

“The 2011 season was really an interesting thing to go through, the girls had to dig deep within themselves to find their roles and provide leadership,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to a 21-1 record last fall in its run to the NCAA crown. “We definitely are likening that experience to this year.”

The squad’s experienced players have shown Holmes-Winn that they are not about to rest on their laurels.

“I have been very pleased with the team’s temperament,” asserted Holmes-Winn, whose squad is ranked No. 3 in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll and opens its title defense by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6.

“What we saw in the spring is that the players worked very hard and that carried over into the summer. Complacency is not part of our culture. These girls go to Princeton; they are overachievers in every way.”

The squad’s corps of seniors, Julia Reinprecht, Amanda Bird, Kelsey Byrnes, Christina Maida, and Allegra Mango, are setting the tone in terms of work ethic.

“The juniors from last year are stepping into the shoes of last year’s seniors,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are leading by example and making sure that the players keep up to the standards that have been set in the program.”

It is going to be tough for the Tigers to match the standard set by the one-two punch of the graduated Katie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey. Reinpreccht, the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Player of the Year, had 19 assists last season while Sharkey ended her career as the most prolific scorer in Princeton history as she totaled 107 goals in her career.

“We are going to miss what Katie was able to do in the midfield,” said Holmes-Winn. “She could draw defenders, escape defenders and put attackers in position to score easy goals. Kat Sharkey could create offense by herself.”

Senior standout Julia Reinprecht, an All-American and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, should create opportunities for the Tigers this fall.

“Julia can go forward and split the defense,” said Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who had 10 goals and six assists last fall.

“She has a high hockey IQ. She is a critical piece to both sides of the field. She played deep defense for us and we will move her higher up to midfield.”

The Tigers boast plenty of interchangeable pieces on the offensive end of the field.

“We are looking at Allison Evans (12 goals and five assists in 2012), Allegra Mango (1 assist) and Sydney Kirby (9 goals, 3 assists) to create chances on their own,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have a system where the midfielders are expected to overlap. I am not sure where we are going to play Michelle Cesan (8 goals, 8 assists), probably at center mid or reset striker spot. We will have Kate Ferrara (1 assist) and Kelsey Byrne (3 assists) on wing. Julia Reinprecht along with freshmen Cat Caro and Annabeth Donovan will be in a holding role.

On the backline, the Tigers feature a trio of battle-tested performers. “The defense will be Cassidy Arner, Amanda Bird, and Teresa Benvenuti,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Teresa played center half for the U.S. this summer in the Junior World Cup and we will have her in the same place for us.”

While Princeton has a senior All-American goalie in place with senior Christina Maida, Holmes-Winn indicated that junior Julia Boyle and sophomore Anya Gersoff are in the mix to see action.

“We are really fortunate that we have three really good goalies; they push each other,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I don’t know who is going to start; it could depend on our opponent. Julia was right there last year and Anya competed to start some weeks. What separates them is not much, both Julia and Anya have a lot to offer. There will be a battle but the good thing is that I know they will support each other.”

The Tigers will be in for a battle when they face Duke (2-0) this Friday in the opener.

“Duke has a very talented collection of players,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will also play Fairfield on September 7 in the opening weekend of the season.

“When they put it together, they can be dangerous. They will be a top team by the end of the season. I am looking forward to see how we do against them.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, believes that Princeton can again emerge as one of the top teams by tournament time.

“It is always hard to say; we are going to work really hard,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I think we will be a really dynamic team on offense once everyone understands their role. That is going to take some time. I think we will be a good defensive team. A cornerstone of last year’s team was ability to stay in play and squeeze space. I think we can use numbers to our advantage.”

 

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer star Myles McGinley dribbles the ball in a game last season. Junior midfielder McGinley figures to be a key performer for the Tigers this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2013 campaign with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Catalonia region of northeastern Spain is a soccer hotbed, boasting FC Barcelona, one of the top pro clubs in the world, and its legendary superstar Lionel Messi.

This past March, the Princeton University men’s soccer team spent nine days in the area and was fired up to go 3-1 in four friendly matches against Barcelona-area teams.

In the view of longtime Princeton head coach Jim Barlow, the journey should help the Tigers in several respects.

“It has been a long time since we went abroad, our last trip was 2003,” said Barlow.

“We decided to stay in the Barcelona area and that worked out well. We got settled and we got to see the sights. We toured during the day and had games at night. We got to see FC Barcelona play and Espanyol train. It was a great week of culture and sightseeing. It brought the team together. We were able to do more on the field. I think we are further along in the spring than usual.”

Barlow is hoping his team can go further this year than it did last fall when it went 8-6-2 overall and 4-1-2 in Ivy League action, taking third in the league and not getting invited to the NCAA tournament.

“Any time you go through the Ivy League with one loss, you expect to either win the league or be in the tournament,” said Barlow, a 1991 Princeton alum who is in his 18th season guiding the Tigers and has produced a 127-121-44 record with three Ivy crowns.

“We had an opportunity to do a little better in non-league games. In the league, we had nice wins over Dartmouth and Harvard but we let the Cornell game get away from us. The guys are hungry; the league is wide open.”

The Tigers feature a nice one-two punch at forward in junior Cameron Porter (2 goals and 4 assists in 2012) and sophomore Thomas Sanner (4 goals, 6 assists).

“Porter has so many athletic gifts that sometimes he tries to do too much,” said Barlow, noting that sophomore Nico Hurtado, senior Dylan Bowman and junior Julian Griggs should see time at forward.

“He goes fast and gets out of control. He needs to be on the same page with the midfield. He has had two good seasons and is a real scoring threat. Sanner has matured. He makes good runs and he is a good finisher. He is strong and physical.”

Barlow believes the midfield will be a strong unit for the Tigers. “We have a bunch of guys in the mix,” said Barlow, noting that junior Joe Saitta, freshman Brian Costa, freshman Bryan Windsor, freshman Vikram Pothuri,  sophomore Jack Hilger, sophomore Andrew Doar, junior Alex Wetterman, and junior Myles McGinley have been playing in middle of the field. “We have a lot of depth; separating the eight midfielders is going to be hard.”

McGinley has emerged as first among equals, according to Barlow. “Myles has established himself as the guy who we can depend on day in, day out in the central midfield,” asserted Barlow.

Princeton boasts a trio of three dependable seniors on defense in Chris Benedict, Patrick O’Neil, and Billy McGuinness.

“It will be O’Neil and Benedict out wide with McGuinness providing a good presence centrally,” added Barlow.

“I am not sure who is going to be playing with McGuinness in the center. Andrew Mills and Josh Miller are vying for that spot. Losing Mark Linnville [a 4-time first-team All-Ivy performer] is tough; he did so much organizing and communicating. We need the guys to step up leadership-wise with their communication.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan has been stepping up for the Tigers during the preseason.

“Seth has been great so far, he has been our most consistent and reliable player,” said Barlow,

“Ben Hummel has pushed himself athletically and he is getting to balls he didn’t get to in the past. Freshman Josh Haberman has looked good. I am happy with our depth there. Seth is No. 1 right now.”

The Tigers will get pushed hard in their season opener as they play at Fairleigh Dickinson on September 6.

“They went deep into the NCAAs last year, I think they lost to North Carolina in overtime in the Sweet 16,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 Knights.

“It is always an even, hard game when we play them. We beat them 1-0 in the second game of the Princeton Invitational last year. This is going to be a different atmosphere at their place on a Friday night. We are excited. They beat Drexel in their opener so they are off to a good start.

Barlow believes that his team can produce another exciting season. “I would like to think that we can do really well in the league,” said Barlow.

“We always go into the season feeling that way. We have to continue to improve everyday in training. We need to develop good chemistry and play well together.  How we handle plays in front of both goals will be critical. Last year, we had trouble scoring and the year before we had trouble stopping people. We are concerned right now about where the goals are going to come from for us. We are cautiously optimistic.”

 

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GIFT OF GAB: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Gabriella Guzman controls the ball in action last season. Princeton is depending on senior co-captain Guzman to be a force in the midfield as it looks to defend its Ivy League title. The Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the 2012 season, Julie Shackford was comforted by the fact that her Princeton University women’s soccer team included eight seniors.

Asserting that teams who excel typically have a strong core of seniors, the Tigers added credence to Shackford’s notion, going 14-4-1 overall, 7-0 in Ivy League play, and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

In assessing the upcoming campaign, Shackford acknowledges that the departure of last year’s seniors has left a huge void.

“It is a hard class to replace on so many levels,” said Shackford of the group which had five players earn All-Ivy recognition last fall, led by Jen Hoy, the league’s Player of the Year.

The Tigers do possess some high-level skills at the forward position, starting with junior Lauren Lazo, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall after tallying 11 goals and five assists.

“We need Lazo to pick up Jen’s slack; we are looking for a breakout season from her,” said Shackford, who is entering her 19th season guiding the program and  has a record of 189-103-22 with six Ivy titles and 8 NCAA appearances.

“She was a legitimate threat in the latter half of last season; she scored a lot of goals. We have two other players who are coming back from ACL injuries and are playing phenomenally. Melissa Downey is a junior who is looking really good. Erika Hoglund was just starting to come around last year as a junior and got injured in the Yale game. She has been a leader in preseason. The three of them are a nice combination. Liana Cornaccio is back; she is good on throw-ins and is a presence. We have a freshman, Tyler Lussi, who is slight but strong and fast. We have some good options up top.”

Princeton has some nice options in the midfield, featuring senior co-captain Gabriella Guzman, together with sophomore Jessica Lee, junior Jessica Haley and a pair of promising freshmen, Nicole Loncar and Jess McDonough.

“Gabby Guzman holds the ball really well and wins every 50/50 ball,” said Shackford.

“She is so strong and is a good leader. She is really hard-nosed in those tough Ivy League games. Jess Lee played well last year, she sprained her ankle so she isn’t training right now. We have a player who has been on the U-17 and U-20 teams for Canada, Nicole Loncar, and she will play in the center. Jess McDonough is a shore kid who played for the Wildcats and she will be in the mix. We have Jess Haley back, the Ivy League assist leader last year and she can play in the midfield or up top.”

On defense, the Tigers welcome back a trio of battle-tested veterans. “We have Diane Metcalf-Leggette, Kacie Kergides, and Gabby Ragazzo back,” said Shackford, noting that senior co-captain Metcalf-Leggette, an honorable mention All-Ivy choice in 2012, is a vocal leader along the backline.

“The frontrunner to play in the other spot is Fiona McKenna, who also plays hockey. She is a phenomenal athlete and is tough as nails.”

Shackford acknowledges that the graduation of second-team All-Ivy goalie Claire Pinciaro has left a big hole.

“The big question mark is in goal, we have four players and there is no clear-cut starter yet,” said Shackford, who is looking at senior Cecilia DiCaprio, junior Darcy Hargadon, junior MicKenzie Roberts-Lahti, and freshman Hannah Winner. “We may have to do a rotation with two of them.”

In Shackford’s view, the Tigers can work around the uncertainty at goalie. “If we can defend really well as a team, I think we have enough firepower to outscore teams,” said Shackford.

“This group has potential; I expect us to contend for a title. We have seen some good things in the scrimmages so far but we are not as well oiled as last year when he had all those veterans and everyone knew their spot.”

As the Tigers open the season this weekend by hosting Richmond on September 6 and Army on September 8, the team will be in a tough spot.

“Army has been training since July 1; Richmond has had some mixed results so far but historically they always have some good forwards,” said Shackford.

“Every first game is going to be a challenge for us. I am happy to be at home; it is easier to work out the kinks when you are not worrying about traveling.”

 

August 28, 2013
STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING CLOSE: Andrea Jenkins, left, goes after the ball in a game last fall during her senior season with the Princeton Day School field hockey team. Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field for the Princeton University field hockey squad for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2009, Mariel Jenkins headed to Harvard to join the school’s women’s lacrosse team after a stellar career at Princeton Day School.

Two years later, her younger sister, Sydney, followed in her footsteps, becoming a member of the Crimson field hockey team in the wake of her brilliant play for PDS.

So when the youngest of the three Jenkins sisters, Andrea, emerged as a standout for the Panther field hockey squad, her college path seemed clear.

But while the two older Jenkins girls thrived at Harvard with Mariel making second-team All-Ivy this spring in her senior season and Sydney appearing in all 16 games last fall, tallying a goal and an assist, they weren’t pushy when their baby sister started looking at colleges.

“My sisters didn’t pressure me about Harvard,” said the youngest Jenkins, known as A.J. during her PDS career.

“They wanted me to go where I was happy and they said they would be supportive of wherever that was.”

Jenkins didn’t have to go far to find a school that would make her happy as she committed to join the Princeton University field hockey team last fall.

“I was open to any school, I was grateful to have schools interested in me,” said Jenkins, a four-time All-Prep performer at PDS who served as a team captain and earned MVP honors as a senior when the Panther advanced to the state Prep B championship game.

“In Princeton, I had a school where I loved the campus, the coach, and the team. I was exposed to the program through summer camps. I did an official visit; I wanted to see what it was like to spend a night in the dorm and go to some classes. It balances an engaging academic experience and highly competitive athletics. The girls on the team are great, they are so nice.”

Last Friday, Jenkins hit the field with the Princeton girls for the first time as the defending NCAA champion Tigers started preseason practice.

While her older sisters were supportive of Jenkins’ choice to buck the Harvard trend, she acknowledges that her decision to join Princeton has sparked a family rivalry.

“My sisters were so excited, they were happy for me,” said Jenkins. “We do have some trash talking. I do have my mom [Princeton alum Lisa Gillespie Jenkins] on my side but she cheers for everybody.”

Since the end of her senior season at PDS season, Jenkins has been working hard to get ready for her Princeton debut.

“I have been playing for the Jersey Intensity; I was involved in club championships in July in Virginia Beach,” said Jenkins, who has played with the Jersey Intensity club program the last five years, helping the squad win gold at the National Festival in 2009 and 2012, while medaling at the Disney tournaments from 2009-12.

“I am also doing the Princeton conditioning program each week to build up stamina and strength.”

With the powerful Tigers boasting such All-American performers as Julia Reinprecht, Michelle Cesan, and Christina Maida along with last Year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Teresa Benvenuti, Jenkins knows that she will have to raise the level of her game.

“I am ready to be coached by the best and play with some of the greatest players in college field hockey,” said Jenkins, whose speed and stick skills should see her play in the midfield and at striker. “When you play with players of that high level, you get better.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn has had plenty of exposure to Jenkins’ high-level play over the years as she noted in comments on the Princeton sports website welcoming the team’s freshman class.

“Andrea lives down the road so I’ve had the pleasure of admiring her abilities up close for many years,” said Holmes-Winn, who is entering her 11th season at the helm of the Tigers, boasting a 131-57 record and an NCAA Final 4 appearance and nine Ivy titles to go along with last year’s national title, the first in program history.

“She is a fluid attacker with pace, field sense, and the ability to eliminate. Andrea comes from a family of athletes; her dad played football at Duke and her sisters, Sydney and Mariel play field hockey and lacrosse, respectively at Harvard. Her mom is also a Princetonian.”

As Jenkins looks forward to Princeton’s season opener against visiting Duke on September 6, she is ready to keep her nose to the grindstone and contribute in any way needed.

“Honestly, I am excited to be part of the team,” said Jenkins. “I will work as hard as I can in the preseason and see what happens from there. Coach Arndt [PDS field hockey coach Tracey Arndt] said you always want to be the hardest worker as a freshman.”

RETURN TRIP: Jesse Marsch surveys the action while serving as the first head coach of Major League Soccer expansion team the Montreal Impact before parting ways with the club last fall. After recently completing a trip around with the world with his family, the former Princeton University soccer star has returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the Tiger men’s squad.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

RETURN TRIP: Jesse Marsch surveys the action while serving as the first head coach of Major League Soccer expansion team the Montreal Impact before parting ways with the club last fall. After recently completing a trip around with the world with his family, the former Princeton University soccer star has returned to his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach for the Tiger men’s squad. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Jesse Marsch and his young family recently returned from the trip of a lifetime, traveling around the world for five months and visiting 29 countries.

As the former Princeton University soccer star, assistant coach with the U.S. men’s national soccer team, and head coach of the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer considered his next stop, he decided to go no further than his alma mater.

Earlier this month, Marsch joined the staff of the Tiger men’s soccer team as a volunteer assistant coach and took the pitch at Roberts Stadium last weekend as the squad started preseason training.

For Marsch, a 1996 Princeton alum who earned All-American honors during his college career, totaling 29 goals and 15 assists in four seasons, the chance to help guide the Tigers is one he relishes.

“Working with a college team, I can fully enjoy the game and work with guys who are playing for the right reasons,” said Marsch, who went into pro soccer after graduating from Princeton, enter Major League Soccer where he won three MLS Cup titles and four U.S. Open Cup medals during a 14-year career.

“I remember in college, the feeling of going all out for a team and coming together as a group.”

Marsch’s relationship with Princeton head coach, Jim Barlow, a former Tiger star himself, helped pave the way for the homecoming.

“I reached out to Jimmy,” said Marsch, noting that he already owns a home in town.

“When I was with the US, he coached the U-15 team and I was in some of his camps. I already knew him but I had a chance to work with him. We enjoyed the process of working together and talking about the game. I have great respect for Jimmy.”

As Marsch joins the staff, he is happy to assume a supporting role. “Jim and Steve [assistant coach Steve Totten] work well in running the program, they carry most of the weight,” said Marsch.

“I will fill in the holes, I will try to do some of the dirty work around the office to free some time up for them. I will fill in on the field, helping with things I see.”

After concluding his playing career in 2009, Marsch has seen a lot since getting into coaching.

“I felt really lucky to finish my playing career and to go into a situation where I was working with Bob [former Princeton and U.S. men’s head coach Bob Bradley] and his staff,” said Marsch, who was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2009-11, helping the squad win its group at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time the team won its pool since 1930, before finishing in 12th place.

“It was incredibly rewarding. The number-one thing I learned is what it is like being on the coaching staff from the inside and how a staff comes together and can set a tone for what the team is doing.”

Marsch headed north in August 2011 when he was named the first head coach of MLS expansion team the Montreal Impact.

“It was a great opportunity to take my theories and apply them in a practical way,” said Marsch, who parted ways with the Impact in November 2012 after leading the Impact to a 12-16-6 record in its inaugural campaign.

“What I believed and what I still believe is the recipe for success and a systematic way of building a team.”

Marsch then decided to build some deeper bonds with wife Kim, daughter Emma, 11, sons Maddux, 9, and Lennon, 6, as they embarked on their journey.

“I was lucky enough to do a lot of traveling with World Cup, youth soccer, and in the pros,” said Marsch,

“I told my wife someday I am going to take you to some of those places and she said oh sure. I didn’t do a good job of balancing my personal and professional life when I was coaching in Montreal. I travelled a lot and when I was home I was thinking a lot about the team. We had this window of opportunity and we learned that more families are doing this.”

The Marsch family began the trip in Hong Kong and hit Singapore, many countries in Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, Dubai, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Europe.

Along the way, they gained some new perspectives.

“Number-one was just spending time with us with no distractions other than surviving at times,” said Marsch.

“Some days were good, some days were bad. The kids learned how to deal with adversity and that everything is not just planned out and that you have to stick together. Number-two was that we had 10 friends scattered around the globe. Some of my friends were in new worlds. I had a college friend who is a vet in Hong Kong and knew another family living in Myanamar. One highlight was getting to see Bob [Bradley] in Cairo and seeing what his world is like and how he is perceived. The third was the overall culture.”

Now Marsch is primed to get back into the Princeton soccer culture. “I try to learn and get better everyday,” said Marsch.

“I will look at the way Jim and Steve do things on a daily basis and pick up on what I think works best. I will help in whatever way I can and pick up on what they are good at and what can help me at the next level.”

Marsch acknowledges that he would like to return to the MLS sideline someday.

“I will take things as they happen; I am committed to a season here,” said Marsch.

“I have been around the league a long time and have relationships and experience.”

Experience has taught Marsch, though, not to worry about the next stop.

“I concentrate now more on the work that gets put out everyday and how it makes me feel inside rather than what people on the outside think,” said Marsch.

August 21, 2013
WILL POWER: Will Gillis, second from right, pulls hard in a race for the Princeton University heavyweight varsity 8. Last month, rising senior and team captain Gillis helped the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

WILL POWER: Will Gillis, second from right, pulls hard in a race for the Princeton University heavyweight varsity 8. Last month, rising senior and team captain Gillis helped the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

For Will Gillis, competing at the Royal Henley Regatta in 2009 outside of London with the Green Lake Crew club as a high schooler changed the course of his rowing career.

“It is very special; that’s when I decided I wanted to row in college,” said Gillis, a Seattle, Wash. native, reflecting on his Henley experience.

“In 2009, the Princeton lightweights were there, coached by Greg Hughes and Spencer Washburn. I remembered seeing those guys over there and thinking that is what I want to be doing myself someday.”

Gillis would end up coming to Princeton in 2010 and joining the heavyweight program, which was then being coached by Hughes and Washburn.

This summer, Gillis made an impact on the international scene, helping the U.S. men’s 4- take third at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria.

Making it to the medal stand was a special moment for Gillis. “I was really excited,” said Gillis.

“Obviously when you go to these races, you want to win and you are disappointed if you don’t. We put everything we had into that race and got a result that was beyond expectations.”

When Gillis took up rowing, he wasn’t sure what to expect. “I started my freshman year of high school; I had played football before that and I was looking to play something else,” said Gillis.

“I wasn’t completely hooked by rowing right away. The novice team had a lot of different types of people. I looked up to the older guys; I thought that’s what I want to do.”

With his parents having graduated from Princeton in the 1980s, Gillis thought the school was right for him.

“I had always known at some level that I wanted to go to Princeton,” said Gillis.

“Before I left for my freshman year, we were looking through family albums and there I was as a 10-year-old on my dad’s shoulders at a reunion with him wearing some orange and black thing We would go back to visit family and my parents had friends back east. It is what I thought college should be. That being said, I did consider other schools. I let Greg and Spencer know that Princeton was my first choice and that I was committed to the team.”

Upon joining the program in the fall of 2010, Gillis quickly realized that college rowing required an intense commitment.

“It was the same sport as high school but it was at such a higher level, it seemed different,” said Gillis.

“The level of intensity and focus expected on a daily basis was way beyond that of high school. And then you are thrown in with a different group of guys, some of whom are 22 years old, you had to adjust to that. There are also the typical college things, being so far away from home, a different type of academic load.”

While freshmen can now row on varsity due to rule changes, Gillis thrived under the former model where the newcomers were segregated from their older teammates.

“We had a really good freshman boat,” said Gillis. “We went 8-1, we were second at Eastern Sprints and fourth at the IRAs [the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships]. The experience was really enjoyable.”

As a sophomore, Gillis moved quickly into the first varsity 8 and came under the influence of senior captain Ian Silveira.

“Greg paired me up with Ian; we rowed as a pair in the fall,” said Gillis.

“Ian is an intense guy, he is all business. He forced me to perform at a higher level very quickly. I moved up with the boat. It was a transition year. We took some bumps. We were fourth at the Eastern Sprints with a boat that wasn’t as talented as the boat that finished fourth this year. It was a learning experience.”

That summer, Gillis got his first experience with the U.S. national program as he competed in the men’s 4- at the U-23 World Championships in Trakai, Lithuania and helped the boat take fourth.

“I was invited to the sweep selection camp up in Seattle; I got to live at my house,” said Gillis.

“My cox for two years. Keanan Clarke, and Ian lived at my house. That was a lot of fun. I was picked for the coxless 4. We had no idea what we were getting into.”

While Gillis would have liked to come away with a medal, he grew as a rower from his first taste of international competition.

“We raced really well to get fourth,” said Gillis. “We were third with 150 meters to go and Great Britain passed us. That was disappointing but it was a great experience. I had to learn to row in a different kind of boat. It has the speed of an eight and the instability of a pair. It helped my technique and improved me as an oarsman. At that level of rowing, everyone is putting on a uniform with a flag on it. There is a lot on the line; there is a lot of pressure and high-level competition. It was good for my confidence but since we missed out on a medal, I was not fully satisfied.”

Returning to Princeton for his junior season, Gillis applied the lessons he learned from the U-23 worlds to make more of an impact on the program.

“My experience in the summer enabled me to step into more of a leadership role,” said Gillis, who helped the varsity 8 make the grand final at both the Eastern Sprints and the IRAs.

“I was one of the guys in the boathouse who knows what high level competition was about and that helped. Every year I have been at the boathouse, the resolve and the focus of guys has continued to increase. I think it took the biggest jump from my sophomore to junior year. There are a lot of guys committed to hard work. I think we are at the point where we are very good and we are on the verge of being excellent.”

Gillis‘ hard work paid off this summer as he again made the U.S. men’s 4- for the U-23 Worlds.

“I was the only returner on the 4; I had a bit of a sense of how international races play out and how they are different from American college races and what we should expect,” said Gillis.

“It was a fun progression. In the 2½ weeks before we left, we were making progress everyday. Once we got to Austria, we did a good job of building for our best effort.”

The boat came up with a superb effort in the final, clocking a 6:03.86 over the 2,000-meter course to take bronze with Romania winning in a time of 5:58.72 and Australia next at 6:01.18.

“We had some good points on our heat but we had to race the repechage (second-chance race),” said Gillis, whose Princeton teammate, Tim Masters, helped the Australia boat earn silver.

“We had a better race in the rep and made it to final. In the final, we put all of the pieces together. We put forth our best effort when it mattered most. We were in lane 6 and Italy, which took fourth was in lane one. Our 2 seat said we are going to get a medal. We had a length and they weren’t going to get through us. All four of us put our heads down and made it happen.”

With his senior year starting in weeks, Gillis will be shouldering extra responsibility to make big things happen for the Tigers as a team captain for the heavyweights.

“I am excited to get into that role,” asserted Gillis. “I think we are in a spot where we could do some special things. I am excited to be in a leading role to make that happen. It is not just going to happen, though. It is a project of helping the team take it to the next level.”

JERSEY PRIDE: Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice last winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. The Chatham, N.J. native recently skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JERSEY PRIDE: Mike Ambrosia heads up the ice last winter in his freshman season with the Princeton University men’s hockey team. The Chatham, N.J. native recently skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Growing up as an ice hockey star in Chatham, N.J., Mike Ambrosia closely followed two teams in his home state.

“One of my older cousins went to Princeton and growing up I came to a lot of games at Baker Rink,” said Ambrosia, a star for the New Jersey Colonials travel team and the Delbarton School. “I started playing hockey early and we would go a couple of times a year. I was always a fan of the New Jersey Devils too.”

Ambrosia, who helped Delbarton win three New Jersey state titles, has achieved the rare feat of going from the stands to the ice for his teams.

The 5’11, 180-pound forward joined the Princeton University men’s hockey team last winter, scoring 11 points on six goals and five assists in 21 appearances in his debut campaign. Last month, he skated at his second straight New Jersey Devils Development Camp held on the AmeriHealth Pavillion rink in Newark.

For Ambrosia, committing to Princeton after his junior year at Delbarton was a no-brainer. “Education is very important to my family and I was looking at the Ivy League schools,” said Ambrosia, whose father, David, played hockey at Cornell, while his mother, Lynn, was a lacrosse player for the Big Red.

“In high school, the focus is working hard on and off the ice and seeing how things play out. Princeton was always my No. 1 choice and when they made the offer I jumped on it. It is a great fit with the academics and and athletics. I had met the coaches and the players and I really liked them.”

Prior to starting college hockey, Ambrosia did a two-year stint in juniors with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL.

“It was an awesome experience,” asserted Ambrosia, who was Youngstown’s Rookie of the Year and then served as a captain in his second season, leading the Phantoms in scoring with 65 points in 60 games as the team set a franchise record of 32 wins with its first playoff appearance and series win.

“I was lucky because I was drafted by the team that is farthest east in the league. My family could come to a lot of the games. I know I am biased but I think it is the greatest organization in juniors. The coaches relate to the program. I grew as a player and as a person. We do a lot of work in the community. I took a couple of on-line courses to stay sharp.”

A few months before joining the Princeton squad, Ambrosia took part in his first Devils development camp.

“In any one-week camp, you act as a sponge, taking in as much information as you can,” said Ambrosia.

“You learn nuances, you figure out little things. You don’t get better that week but you work those into your training and game. You are not going to get better that week but you implement the things that you learned. You work on things like where to put your stick on ice and breakouts.”

Ambrosia kept learning as he went through his freshman season with the Tigers.

“Being out of school for two years, time management was a big thing, balancing academics, athletics, and social,” said Ambrosia. “I was really excited to be there.”

An exciting moment for Ambrosia came when he notched his first college goal, scoring in the first period of a 4-0 win over Colgate last November at a packed Baker Rink.

“I remember the play; I passed to [Andrew] Calof, he made a great play and faked his defender,” said Ambrosia. “It looked like he was going to shoot but he made a great pass to me and I was able to put it in.”

During January, Ambrosia put in some of his best play of the season as he was named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Month, tallying three goals and three assists in five games.

“That was the first stretch after I got injured,” said Ambrosia, who was bothered by an abdominal problem and was sidelined for a nine-game stretch from mid-
November into December.

“I was fortunate to have a string of games where our line had chemistry and I was able to score some.”

Ambrosia felt fortunate to get invited back to the Devils camp this summer.

“I was very grateful to attend again,” said Ambrosia, who scored a goal in one of the scrimmages at the camp.

“It was a little different this year because we had the whole NHL coaching staff there. They pass on what they have learned, having coached and played at the highest level. We learned the Devils philosophy and things like on and off ice training and nutrition.”

With Princeton coming off a 10-16-5 season in 2012-13 which saw the Tigers lose 2-0 to Cornell in the first round of the ECACH playoffs, Ambrosia believes the squad is poised to play at a higher level this year from beginning to end.

“The No. 1 goal is to win; every team has to build an identity through the season,” said Ambrosia.

“You want to be playing your best in the playoffs. The process starts in the fall. It comes down to hard work and execution. We have set some high goals; we believe in each other, from the coaches down. Last year we had some injuries but that is not an excuse. It is a long season and it is a grind. Teams get hot and cold. You want to stay pretty even keeled and consistently focus on getting better; that is the way to peak in the playoffs.”

August 14, 2013
BLOCK PARTY: Princeton University women’s water polo star goalie Ashleigh Johnson, left, prepares to block a shot in action last winter during her freshman campaign for the Tigers. Johnson recently made the U.S. squad for the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece. It was the latest achievement for the Miami, Fla. native who was a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and an All-Southern First Team performer in her freshman season.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOCK PARTY: Princeton University women’s water polo star goalie Ashleigh Johnson, left, prepares to block a shot in action last winter during her freshman campaign for the Tigers. Johnson recently made the U.S. squad for the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece. It was the latest achievement for the Miami, Fla. native who was a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and an All-Southern First Team performer in her freshman season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashleigh Johnson didn’t waste any time making an impression this past February as she started her career with the Princeton University women’s water polo team.

Starring in her college debut against fourth-ranked Cal, goalie Johnson made 19 saves in a 7-5 loss, setting a new single-game saves record for the program.

“The Cal game was really fun,” said Johnson. “I knew I had to step it up; they are a really good team.”

The Miami, Fla. native kept stepping up all season, amassing 366 saves, a single-season program record, 47 steals, 22 assists, and a 0.668 saves percentage. She was named a third-team All-American, the CWPA Southern Division Rookie of the Year, and was selected to the All-Southern First Team.

Johnson helped Princeton win the Eastern Championship, earning its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. She ended her season in style, establishing a new saves record in the NCAA tournament with a total of 38 as the Tigers finished fifth.

Next week, Johnson will get to make an impression on the world stage as she plays for the U.S. squad in the FINA Junior World Championships, which runs from August 19-25 in Volos, Greece.

In reflecting on her superb debut season, Johnson is humbled by the recognition she has received.

“I am really gratified to get those honors,” said Johnson. “I enjoy playing and I want to keep playing this way.”

Johnson started playing water polo when she was 12 as a way to keep busy in the summer.

“My mom wanted my sister and me to do something in the summer instead of just sitting around,” said Johnson.

“She put us in swimming but it was boring. There was water polo at the club and we tried it. I liked it right away; I liked that water polo was a game. I guess everybody starts in the field. My sister wanted to play goalie so I said I wanted to try too. She quit and I kept playing. I felt it was the best position.”

Johnson quickly moved up the ranks, starring for her club team, the Gulliver Riptides through her high school career. She earned All-America Honorable Mention at the U18 Junior Olympics in 2010 and 2011, playing for the U.S. Youth National Team Selection Camp in 2010 and the Youth National Team in 2011. Johnson also starred for Ransom Everglades High School, helping the Raiders to three consecutive Florida state titles.

With that kind of resume, Johnson was sought after by a number of college water polo programs.

“I wasn’t thinking about any one school at first,” said Johnson. “I narrowed it down to Michigan, USC, and Princeton. I had a visit to Princeton and I really liked it. I had a friend on the team from Miami and he introduced me to kids in all grades. I really liked the players.”

In addition to getting used to juggling her classwork and water polo at Princeton, Johnson had to adapt in competition.

“I got more used to my teammates and I adjusted how I play,” said Johnson. “My strength is my weakness. I come out a lot to make steals and intimidate. The problem is people can lob over me.”

Few people, though, got the ball past Johnson, whose precocious talent became a pillar for a Princeton team that posted a 28-6 record.

A major highlight for Johnson and her teammates came when they travelled to the University of Michigan in late April for the Eastern Championship with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line. The Tigers rolled past George Washington 16-3 in the opening round before rallying to beat Hartwick 12-11 in double overtime in the semifinals and then edging host Michigan 7-5 in the title game.

“Those games were really good,” said Johnson, who totaled 35 saves in the competition and was voted Rookie of the Tournament, along with earning Eastern All-Tournament First Team honors. “I was really nervous. I was really excited when we won. Our captains really stepped up and motivated us.”

At the NCAAs, Johnson continued her sparkling play, making nine saves in an 8-6 loss to UCLA in the quarterfinals before making 15 stops in a 12-2 win over Iona in a consolation contest and then making 14 in a 12-10 double-overtime win against UC San Diego in the fifth place game.

“I just wanted us to do well and make a name for ourselves as an eastern school,” said Johnson. “I think we will do even better in the future.”

This summer Johnson has dedicated herself to making a name with the national program. She had to survive two weeks of tryouts and successive cuts to make the U.S. squad.

“I just wanted to do my best,” said Johnson, reflecting on the team selection process.

“At first, I was very nervous; I was out of shape. It is different from the youth national team; you are competing against much better players. I am really happy to be going.”

As the U.S. prepares for the competition, Johnson is confident the team can compete with anybody.

“We want to be first,” asserted Johnson. “The girls that we have on this team are really good, we need to be a team and play together.”

Serving as the last line of defense, Johnson knows that she will play a key role in keeping the team together.

“I have to communicate differently, said Johnson. “It is different than being on my college team, I am used to doing more. On this team, I don’t have to do as much but I have to be constantly talking. It is tiring.”

No matter how the U.S. does in Greece, though, Johnson believes that she can make an even bigger impact this winter in her sophomore season for Princeton.

“I think we will be better,” maintained Johnson. “I think I will be the same; I want to be more of a leader.”

INAUGURAL FLIGHT: Sam Ellis heads upfield in action for Israel in the 2013 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, held last month in Oshawa, Canada. The recently graduated Princeton University women’s lacrosse star helped Israel finish 8th as the squad made its inaugural appearance at the competition. Attacker Ellis scored nine points in the tourney on four goals and five assists.

INAUGURAL FLIGHT: Sam Ellis heads upfield in action for Israel in the 2013 FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, held last month in Oshawa, Canada. The recently graduated Princeton University women’s lacrosse star helped Israel finish 8th as the squad made its inaugural appearance at the competition. Attacker Ellis scored nine points in the tourney on four goals and five assists.

Having first visited Israel when she was 10, Sam Ellis came back to the country last month.

The return trip, though, was no vacation as Ellis was in Tel Aviv for a training camp with the Israeli squad as it prepared for the 2013 FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) Women’s Lacrosse World Cup.

“Our week in Israel was great,” said Ellis, a Princeton University women’s lacrosse star who wrapped up her Tiger career this spring with 20 points on 16 goals and four assists in her senior campaign.

“The chemistry was instant from day one. The coaches did a great job of picking the team. No matter how hot and tired we were, we had a good time. We had only 18 players and 2 alternates so we couldn’t scrimmage. We started with basic drills. We did a lot of 7-on-7. We grew a lot as a team over the week.”

Ellis’s appreciation for Israel grew as the team got to do some sightseeing and interact with the people.

“We went to the beach,” said Ellis. “We went to the Dead Sea. We went to Jerusalem, we saw the Wailing Wall and the Holocaust museum. We got to explore Tel Aviv, going to markets and buying souvenirs for our families. We were exposed to religion and aspects of Judaism. We saw what a big event Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) is. On Friday afternoon, the stores start closing down and everything shuts down through Saturday. It is not just a religious thing, it is part of the culture. We saw that everyone does it and that it is a way of life.”

The exposure to Israeli culture helped Ellis and her teammates bring a special spirit into the competition, which took place in Oshawa, Canada from July 10-20.

“It was very interesting to find a spot with a new team,” said Ellis, a 5’5 attacker who hails from Bryn Mawr, Pa.

“You get in and you show what you can do and at the same time you look to work together with other players. There was no rivalry between the players; everyone was happy to play with each other. There was a communal bond; everyone was just wanting to represent Israel. We wanted to make a splash and make a name for Israeli lacrosse.”

Playing in its inaugural World Cup, Israel achieved that goal, turning heads as it went 4-1 in pool play and finished eighth overall in the tourney.

The Israelis got off on the right foot as they topped Germany 15-6 in their opener.

“It was tremendous,” recalled Ellis. “It was the first game for Israel in FIL competition and it was against a country we had a history with. We were ready to show everyone what we were about. It was amazing, it set the tempo for us.”

While Ellis was thrilled to contribute a goal and an assist in the victory over the Germans, she was more focused on the team’s success.

“In college, statistics are seen as a measure of contribution,” said Ellis, who ended up playing in five games at the competition, totaling nine points on four goals and five assists.

“It is a different vibe with a national team. You are representing something more than a university, you are representing a country. It was such a team effort, you want to win as a team.”

Israel did win in the first round of the playoffs, topping New Zealand. 12-9. The team, though, fell 17-5 to Canada in the quarterfinals, and then lost 9-7 to Scotland in a consolation game.

“The Scotland game was tough,” said Ellis, noting that Israel had topped the Scots 13-6 in pool play. “We definitely wanted to do better. I have to compliment them, they were definitely better the second time we played them.”

Due to the loss to Scotland, Israel was slated to play the Haudenosaunee Nation in the tourney’s seventh place game. That contest never took place as Israel forfeited because the game was slated for Saturday, during the Jewish sabbath.

“We were hopeful that the FIL would change the schedule,” said Ellis. “We learned on Thursday that we wouldn’t be playing on Saturday. The team that was playing us was very understanding of our issue. I believe our country did the right thing. It is such a part of the culture; it was the right thing to do for the country. Hopefully, the FIL will be more flexible in the future.”

While Ellis was disappointed that she and her teammates didn’t get the chance to play that final game, she leaves Canada with fond memories.

“It was a really cool experience,” asserted Ellis. “I still think we represented our country to the fullest. If we had been with each other longer, I think we would have done better and cleaned up some things. It was fun being around the greatest players in the world, you not only played against them but you saw them around because we stayed close to each other. It is great to be a part of a sport that is growing and game that I love so much.”

And Ellis’s love for Israel grew as a result of the experience. “I feel much more connected to Israel,” said Ellis, who hopes to keep involved with national program. “I am looking forward to going back there soon.”

GOLDEN STATE: Drew Hoffenberg looks for the ball in action last fall for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Last month, Hoffenberg helped the Team USA take gold in the men’s open competition at the Maccabiah Games in Israel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOLDEN STATE: Drew Hoffenberg looks for the ball in action last fall for the Princeton University men’s water polo team. Last month, Hoffenberg helped the Team USA take gold in the men’s open competition at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Drew Hoffenberg knew that Team USA had plenty of talent but he wasn’t sure how the squad would stack up against the competition on the eve of starting play in the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

“Before the first game, we didn’t really know how good the other teams were,” said Hoffenberg, a rising junior star for the Princeton University men’s squad.

“We had some days of common training with Italy and Hungary so we got to scrimmage and go up and down the pool with them. We didn’t know about Brazil and Israel.”

By routing Italy 30-2 on July 19 to start the men’s open competition, the U.S. team proved it was very good.

“From that moment, the others were scared and intimidated by us,” said Hoffenberg. “We were the team to beat.”

Nobody beat Team USA as the squad went 5-0 in round-robin play and then topped Israel 9-3 in the gold medal game.

In reflecting on his role for the triumphant squad, Hoffenberg said he tried to be more of a playmaker than a scorer.

“I was more of a facilitator,” said attacker Hoffenberg, a native of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. who has piled up 110 goals and 69 assists in his first two seasons with Princeton in earning All-America Honorable Mention honors both years.

“We had two two-meter guys who were about 6’5, 240 and nobody was able to deal with them, they were scoring five or six goals a game. We wanted to try to get the ball to them as much as possible. We also worked on ball movement and passing when teams sagged on them.”

The team had to work hard to get up to speed as it had only played together in a week-long training camp in San Diego this June prior to leaving for Israel.

“We only had two hours every morning,” recalled Hoffenberg. “We had to swim to get in shape and since we had never played together, we had to work on our plays. It definitely helped us to get to know each other better. We were able to work on little things, knowing where guys like the ball and things like that.

The players got to know Israel when they weren’t in the pool. “The Maccabiah USA had an Israel Connect program,” said Hoffenberg.

“We would practice from 6-8 a.m. and then we would get on a bus and see the country. We saw Masada, the Dead Sea, and the Wailing Wall. The sights were all awesome, there is so much history there.”

The U.S. players also felt a lot of support from the Israeli people. “Everyone loved the Maccabiah Games athletes, they were always coming up and taking pictures with us,” said Hoffenberg.  “We got to hang out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

Defending gold medalist Israel proved to be the main obstacle for the U.S. In round-robin play, the U.S. prevailed 16-6 before meeting up again with the hosts in the gold medal game.

“Israel had beaten Great Britain 22-0 in their first game so we were worried about them,” said Hoffenberg. “We were able to beat them by 10 goals so that gave us confidence.”

Despite bringing that confidence into the rematch, Team USA was not taking anything for granted.

“We knew they were a good team; 10 goals sounds like a lot but the first game felt closer,” said Hoffenberg.

“It was more like a 4-goal game for most of it. We knew they would have more fans for the final and that they would be more psyched. We still had to be prepared.”

The gold medal match was close at the start before the U.S. broke open the contest.

“The game got off to a slow start, I think it was 1-1 after the first quarter,” recalled Hoffenberg.

“We had a 5-0 run and we just took off. Our goalie played great, you are not going to lose too many games when you give up only three goals.”

The close-knit United States team reveled in the victory. “It was really fun; we threw the coach into the pool,” said Hoffenberg.

“It was a really great group of guys. It meant a lot; it was the first big national tournament I have ever won. It was awesome. Everyone was close in age and everyone got along. There was no bickering, everyone was willing to make the extra pass and talk to each other in the water.”

Hoffenberg will be bringing a extra level of conditioning and confidence when he returns to Princeton later this month to start preseason training with the Tigers.

“I know that I will have an advantage over the other guys at the start, I won’t have to worry as much about fitness,” said Hoffenberg, who will be serving as a captain of the Tigers. “I can talk to the coaches about strategy.”

In Hoffenberg’s view, Princeton should be a force in tournament play this fall.

“The team should be really good, we are bringing in four freshmen who are good,” added Hoffenberg. “It should be fun. You never know in the east, there are always four or five good teams. As long as we are in the mix, we have a chance.”

August 7, 2013
LEARNING CURVE: Ashley Higginson races through a curve during her illustrious Princeton University track career. Higginson, a 2011 Princeton alum, fell just short of making the U.S. team in the steeplechase for the 2012 London Olympics. Learning from that experience, Higginson placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.  (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

LEARNING CURVE: Ashley Higginson races through a curve during her illustrious Princeton University track career. Higginson, a 2011 Princeton alum, fell just short of making the U.S. team in the steeplechase for the 2012 London Olympics. Learning from that experience, Higginson placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.
(Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Ashley Higginson’s dream of competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics died in the backstretch at Hayward Field last July as she placed fourth in the steeplechase at the U.S. trials, just missing the top-3 finish required to book a spot to the London Games.

While the former Princeton University standout was disappointed to fall just short of the Olympics, she took positives from the experience.

“There was a mix of emotions,” said Higginson, a 2011 Princeton grad who was an All American in the steeplechase for the Tigers and was an eight-time Ivy League champion, winning the indoor mile, 3,000 and 5,000 as well as the outdoor 3,000 and 5,000 and the steeplechase three times.

“I learned a lot. I set a personal record by so much in the race. I did a lot more than people expected.”

Applying the lessons that she learned from the trials, Higginson recently  placed second in the steeplechase at this year’s USA Track and Field championships in Des Moines, Iowa and will get her shot at international glory as she competes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia this week.

“This year I came in a lot more confident and prepared,” said Higginson,” who clocked a time of 9:46.25 in the 3,000-meter event at the nationals in earning her trip to Moscow. “Last year, it was more of a dream. Now I believe I deserve to be in the top 3 and I wanted to take ownership.”

For Higginson, a native of Colts Neck, joining the New Jersey-New York Track Club after graduation from Princeton helped her take things to another level.

“My intensity went way up,” said Higginson, who was a recipient of the 2011 C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, the
highest senior female student-athlete award at Princeton.

“I have to commend coach Farrell [longtime Princeton women’s coach Peter Farrell] for his ability to cultivate great athletes, students and girls. He keeps them fresh, you need to be balanced in college.”

In working with NJ-NY, Higginson was able to make a greater commitment to her training. “It wasn’t the mileage as much as the intensity,” said Higginson.

“In college, we would have two track workouts a week and a long run on Saturday. We would do repeat 800s and miles. With NJ-NY, we do three days of speed training, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday is a strength day with 800s and 1000s. On Wednesday, we do a four or five-mile tempo run in the morning and then do 200s on the track in the afternoon. On Friday, we do speed work; it is the lactic attack. We do hard 800s.”

Higginson decided to start law school because she didn’t want to have all of her eggs in one basket.

“I made a lot of decisions this year; I decided to stay in New Jersey and start law school at Rutgers,” said Higginson, who had been accepted at the University of Colorado law school in 2011 and contemplated relocating to Boulder.

“It was reaffirming to do things my way and have it all work out. It was hard in the fall, Gags [NJ-NY coach Frank Gagliano] was understanding and changed the schedule around for me. You can always have a bad week of school, running, or social life so it is good if you have something else to focus on instead of one thing.”

Higginson had a good week in Des Moines at the U.S. championships as she cruised to a fourth-place finish in her heat and then coolly executed her race plan to earn her second place finish in the championship race.

“Going into final we thought one or two athletes would take it out fast,” said Higginson.

If one went, I could sit back but if two went out I would have to go with them. Only one went out fast and I stayed in the pack. I made my move with 600 meters to go. I was so relieved to make it.”

Since making the worlds, Higginson has been fine-tuning things. “I am sharpening. I went over to Europe; I had one steeple that didn’t go well,” said Higginson.

“I also did a 1,500 (a 4:11.82 in Heusden, Belgium) and mile (a 4:34.47 in Dublin, Ireland) and had PRs in both. I am doing speed work, lowering my mileage and sleeping more. Tapering is tough, especially going from end of June to mid-August. That is a long time, I needed to have some intensity in the middle of that.”

As Higginson looks ahead to the Moscow competition, she knows it will take mental toughness to make an impact.

“I am shooting for a time and to make the final,” said Higginson. “We had two Americans (Emma Coburn and Bridget Franek) in the Olympic final and I think we will be prepared to medal in 2016. It will be hard for me to medal this year. As coach Farrell always said, just run your seed time in the final and be your best self on the day.”

Higginson, for her part, is prepared to make her dream of competing at the Olympics a reality as she aims for a spot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

“I graduate from law school in 2015; I have a year to train full time,” said Higginson. “I am very surprised and thrilled at how far I have come. It is nice to see what you can do when you really put time into it.”

GOLD RUSH: Holly McGarvie Reilly races upfield for the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team. Reilly, 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the recently held 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall. Reilly was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary. (Photo by John Strohsacker, provided courtesy of US Lacrosse)

GOLD RUSH: Holly McGarvie Reilly races upfield for the U.S. women’s national lacrosse team. Reilly, 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers, helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the recently held 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall. Reilly was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary. (Photo by John Strohsacker, provided courtesy of US Lacrosse)

As the U.S. squad underwent its final preparations before starting play in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup, Holly McGarvie Reilly was cautiously optimistic.

“It was definitely go time; it was five or six days of really tough practices and then we tapered,” said Reilly, a 2009 Princeton alum who starred in lacrosse and field hockey for the Tigers.

“We were putting in some new offensive and defensive strategies. It was a mental and physical grind. We were working very, very hard. There were some struggles; some days the defense was not doing well and other times the offense was off. We just wanted to play another team, we were sick of playing against each other. The practices were tougher than games and that’s what you want.”

The U.S. proved to be very tough in the competition held in Oshawa, Ontario, going 7-0 in the way to the gold medal, outscoring its foes 127-34 including a 19-5 rout of host Canada in the championship game. It was the second straight World Cup title for the U.S. and seventh overall.

Reilly, though, will tell you that it wasn’t as easy as it may have looked for the U.S.

“Some people I knew just kept up with the scores but they didn’t tell the whole story,” said defender Reilly, who was a member of the U.S. team that edged Australia 8-7 to win the 2009 World Cup held in Prague, Hungary.

“We still had to work for that. It was due to how we we trained to make that happen. Everyone really bought into what we were trying to do. There were pockets of challenge. We had some ups and downs. We improved as  we went on.”

It was a challenge for Reilly to get up to speed as she has been essentially training on her own since the last World Cup.

“I was ready to go fitness wise,” said Reilly, who resides near San Diego where her husband Brendan Reilly, a former Princeton lacrosse player, is stationed with the Marines.

“For me, the toughest thing was jumping back into a whole game. My stick skills could have been more precise. I struggled at first with the team game. I had to learn that this is my slide and when to talk to people. I had to work extra hard on communication.”

As Reilly took the field for the championship game, she was ready to savor the day.

“I didn’t feel the anxiety that I felt four years ago when I had never been in that position,” said Reilly. “We have got this, we have done this before.

But since this team has really become my team, I wanted to enjoy the moment.”

The gold medal game turned out to be very enjoyable for the U.S. as it jumped out to a 14-2 halftime lead on the way to its 19-5 triumph.

“I remember coming in at half and Ricky [U.S. head coach Ricky Fried] saying we were not going to change much and to just keep playing that way,” said Reilly with a laugh.

“We wanted to show the world the best lacrosse that had been played. I was really happy for the team and the coaches, especially the girls who had never won gold medals before.  Four years ago it was 8-7 and we didn’t know if we were going to win. We were up 19-5 and we knew that we were going to win 20 minutes before the game ended.”

While Reilly acknowledges that the U.S. team was loaded with talent, she points to chemistry as a key factor in its run to the title.

“I think it was the selfless nature of the team; Katie Rowan got eight goals in the final but you wouldn’t even know it,” said Reilly, who played in every game at the World Cup and had one goal, was first on the team in caused turnovers with five, third on the team in draw controls with eight, and third in ground balls with seven.

“It was like we scored again, let’s score another. Everyone was enjoying it and having fun. I give the coaches credit for creating a team culture where everyone wanted to work so hard and became so unified. I wish we could play seven more games.”

For Reilly, the experience of winning a second gold medal will be memorable for more than just the games.

“Four years ago I took as many pictures as I could and wrote down a lot of things in a journal,” said Reilly, who plans to keep playing for the U.S. program on a year-to-year basis.

“This year I took fewer pictures and wrote less. I just wanted to soak it in. I enjoyed being with the team, going on bus rides, being goofy, doing karaoke and inside jokes. Of course, playing was a big part of this. These are some of my closest friends in the world and I will take those memories with me.”

LEGEND OF THE FALL: Dick Kazmaier poses during his legendary Princeton University football career. Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner, died last week at the age of 82, sparking tributes to both his sterling character and athletic  greatness. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

LEGEND OF THE FALL: Dick Kazmaier poses during his legendary Princeton University football career. Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner, died last week at the age of 82, sparking tributes to both his sterling character and athletic
greatness. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

In a week where the sports headlines were dominated by sordid tales of a racial slur uttered by Riley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles, Alex Rodriguez’s impending suspension from baseball due to the continued use of performance enhancing drugs, and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s off-field misadventures, it stood as a mere footnote.

But the passing of Princeton University football legend and 1951 Heisman recipient Dick Kazmaier on August 1 shines a light on a simpler time where such virtues as humility, intelligence, and loyalty coexisted with incredible athletic success.

Kazmaier, who was 82 at the time of his death from heart and lung disease, surely produced a sporting career for the ages.

The native of Maumee, Ohio rose from a 155-pounder buried on the depth chart as a freshman in 1948 to the top of the college football world by the fall of 1951.

Featured on the cover of Time Magazine that year, Kazmaier went on to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide as he led Princeton to a second straight 9-0 campaign. He earned 1,777 points in the Heisman 1951 vote, which at the time was a record by more than 460 points. He also won the Maxwell Award that season.

The quintessential tailback in the single wing, Kazmaier led the nation in both total offense and passing accuracy that season; rushing for 861 yards and completing 123 passes for 960 yards and 13 touchdowns. By his graduation, he was Princeton’s all-time leader in rushing (1,950 career yards) and ranked second in passing (2,404 career yards). His 59.5 career completion percentage still ranks third all-time at Princeton.

While Kazmaier’s football accomplishments were staggering, they were matched by his character and rectitude off the field.

The 1952 Princeton graduate eschewed the NFL to attend Harvard Business School. He eventually founded Kazmaier Associates, Inc., a Concord, Massachusetts firm that has invested in, managed and consulted for sports marketing and sports product manufacturing and marketing businesses since its founding in 1975.

Kazmaier served his country as an ensign in the United States Navy. He also served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

He was also a devoted family man. He and wife Patricia had six daughters: Kathy L. Donnelly, Kristen Kazmaier Fisher, Michele S. Kazmaier, Patricia J. Kazmaier-Sandt ’86, Susan M. Kazmaier ’81 and Kimberly Picard ’77. Three daughters were Princeton graduates, including former women’s ice hockey standout Patricia (Patty) Kazmaier, a four-year varsity ice hockey letterwinner who anchored the Princeton defense and led the Tigers to the Ivy League championship in three consecutive seasons (1981-82 through 1983-84), while earning multiple league honors.

Patty Kazmaier died of a rare blood disease in 1990; in her honor, her father, in association with the USA Hockey Foundation, created the Patty Kazmaier Award. First given in 1998, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Other selection criteria include outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey.

It is Kazmaier’s personal qualities as much as his athletic achievements that were cited as he was remembered by members of the Princeton family.

“Today Princeton University, the Tiger Athletic Program and Tiger Nation are mourning the loss of Dick Kazmaier ’52, one of our most accomplished student-athlete icons of the 20th Century,” said Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 as quoted on the Princeton Athletics website.

“In addition to having won the Heisman, #42’s most enduring trait for me was that he also was a dignified ‘Wise Man.’ Notwithstanding all of the achievements in his athletic, business and philanthropic endeavors, Dick remained one of the most self-effacing individuals I have ever met. He never sought the spotlight and always led in a thoughtful and ethical manner.”

A friend to both the University and the football program over the years, Kazmaier served as a Princeton trustee, as well as a member of the Princeton Varsity Club Board of Directors. He had visited with the team as recently as prior to the 2011 Harvard game, as well as following the 2010 victory over Lafayette, the first victory for current head coach Bob Surace.

“My admiration for Dick Kazmaier goes well beyond the respect earned by his being the greatest football player in the unmatched history of our Princeton program,” said Surace ’90 in remarks on the Princeton website.

“Whenever I talk to our team about Dick Kazmaier, it is not about the Heisman, the undefeated seasons, statues or awards. It is about the traits that Dick shared with me in every communication we had, the qualities that make up the ideal Princeton man — character, dignity, strength, intelligence, humility, unselfishness, commitment and passion to be exceptional in every area of life. “

His legacy was cemented in Princeton lore in 2008 when the school permanently retired the number ‘42’ from ever being used again by any Tiger athlete;  that number was shared by two of its most historic alumni, Kazmaier and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley ’65.

In an October 22, 2008 Town Topics story on the retirement of the ’42,’ Kazmaier acknowledged that he was moved by the honor.

“I have respected 42 for a long time,” said Kazmaier. “This is very nice; it is valuable for football and Princeton athletics in general. It is a reminder that good things can happen and significant accomplishments can happen. It is something I am pleased to be identified with, the number is a symbol that achievement is worth working for and success can happen.”

True to character, Kazmaier emphasized the joint effort with his teammates, not his individual feats.

“In some sports, the individual can dominate but in football, you can’t do anything unless everybody is doing the right thing at the right time,” said Kazmaier. “I happened to have the ball the most and I did some things with it and that’s what people see.”

In putting together that story, this reporter got a first-hand exposure to Kazmaier’s gentlemanly nature. He responded quickly to an e-mail request for an interview, noting that he was taking his car in for service at 8:00 a.m. later that week and would have plenty of time to talk then if that wasn’t too early.

The interview was confirmed and Kazmaier spent 40 minutes graciously answering all of of my questions, although he was uncomfortable dwelling on his honors and awards. At the end, he thanked me for my interest and giving him the chance to relive some of those memories.

But as I told him that morning, no, thank you, Mr. Kazmaier.

July 31, 2013
SABER RATTLING: Princeton University women’s fencing star Eliza Stone ’13 is being interviewed after a recent triumph. Next week, the saber specialist will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

SABER RATTLING: Princeton University women’s fencing star Eliza Stone ’13 is being interviewed after a recent triumph. Next week, the saber specialist will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

In her first three seasons on the Princeton University fencing team, Eliza Stone had already put together a glittering resume.

The Chicago, Ill. native had placed eighth, second, and third in the saber at the NCAA championships to earn All-American honors and was also a three-time All-Ivy League performer.

But Stone decided she had to branch out to get the most out her fencing. “Coming into senior year, I realized that I would have to stop fencing at the end unless I started doing internationals,” said Stone.

“Everything in my fencing changed. Kat [sophomore teammate Katharine Holmes] and I made a pact to go for the senior national team. We decided to go for it together.”

Stone went to national competitions in the fall and competed internationally in England and France in January, piling up enough points to be in the mix to make the senior national team.

Upon returning to the U.S. to wrap up the college season, Stone won the saber at the NCAA championships and helped Princeton win the national combined team title.

In May, Stone was formally named to the U.S. saber team, having accumulated points at various tournaments through a system employed by U.S. Fencing during a window of time that closed in May.

Next week, Stone will be competing in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.

In reflecting on making the national team, Stone is a bit stunned at how far she has come since making the pact with Holmes.

“It was definitely a good feeling, I was very happy,” said Stone. “It was great: I was not even on the point list at the beginning of the year. I was working my way steadily to make the team.”

For Stone, fencing has definitely been a family affair as she took up the sport at age 10 along with younger sister Gracie and younger brother Robert, both now saber All-American for Princeton along with their older sister.

“I did ballet a lot but I hated it,” said Stone. “My dad was trying to find something for us to do. He saw an ad for a fencing club downtown next to a pizza parlor. He told us about it and we were like fencing, OK. We all started at the same time.”

While Stone started out specializing in the epee, she turned to the saber due to family considerations.

“I went to epee and I thought this was pretty good,” said Stone. “My siblings were all doing saber and my dad said I don’t want to have to do different schedules for different weapons so I switched to saber.”

It didn’t take long for Stone to master her new weapon. “I started going to nationals,” said Stone.

“I started beating up my brother in practice so I loved the saber. I was beating the other boys in practice. I did my first national U-10 and I got a medal; I was in the top eight.”

While Stone was a force on the U.S. scene, she didn’t get the chance to make the same impact on the international stage.

“Fencing is really expensive and it is an individual sport,” said Stone. “You have to pay for the plane ride. I went to the nationals a few times a year but it is $2,000 a pop to go to international events and that wasn’t in my budget. I did go to the Cadet World Cup in Canada and won; I was thinking I should do more international events.”

Coming to Princeton in 2009, Stone put international competitions on the backburner as she concentrated on the college scene.

“It was tough going to tournaments every weekend and doing the schoolwork at college,” said Stone.

“I was home-schooled so going to the library and working on my own wasn’t that different. The academics was keeping me very busy and I was focused on the NCAA competition. I am here to study and I can only do it once.

The arrival of Holmes at Princeton changed Stone’s thinking on adding international events to her schedule.

“Kat came to Princeton when I was a junior,” said Stone. “I saw her as a freshman going off to internationals and still keeping up with academics. I saw it was possible. It kind of opened the door for me to do internationals.”

This winter, Stone closed her Princeton career in style, winning the NCAA championship in saber and helping the Tigers to the combined team title.

“It was like some sort of Disney movie where everything comes through at the end,” said Stone, reflecting on the NCAA competition held in San Antonio, Texas.

“I was in the top 8 in the NCAAs as a freshman and I was in the top 4 as a sophomore and junior. In my sophomore year, I got to the gold medal match. I made it my goal to get at least one gold medal.”

Seeing the Tigers achieve their goal of a team title was equally. if not more satisfying for Stone.

“For the team, it was the culmination of four years of work for me and the other seniors,” said Stone, who was later named as one of the recipients of the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, the highest senior female student-athlete award at Princeton.

“We had been close, we knew we could do it. There is luck involved. There are lots of bouts and if the 5-4 decisions go against you, it can be tough. The guys left us in a good position to make a run for first. We knew we had the talent; we just had to have the right focus.”

In mid-June just after graduating from Princeton, Stone showed her focus as she took second at the Pan American Championships in an important tune-up for the worlds. Holmes joined her at the competition and took second in the epee.

“It was good that we went together; we were cheering each other,” said Stone, reflecting on Holmes’ presence in the meet held at in Cartagena, Colombia.

“We were supporting and helping each other. She lost 15-14 in the final to one of the Hurley sisters [Courtney]. I was down 10-2 in my final and got it to 15-12, going against an Olympian [Mariel Zagunis of the U.S.]”

As Stone looks ahead to the worlds, where she will be competing along with Holmes and two fellow Tigers alums, women’s epeeist May Lawrence ’02 and men’s epee performer Soren Thompson ’05, she is going all out.

“I am working on conditioning and trying to get in the best shape possible,” said Stone.

“The saber team will be going to camp in Poland for two weeks. We will be training with Ukrainians and some other international teams. Then we go directly to Budapest.”

Stone believes she can do some big things in Budapest. “After the Pan Am Championships, I am in the top 16,” said Stone. “I am allowed to skip the first day of competition and go directly into the second day. I am starting in the top 64; that is good but there is also pressure, I don’t want to lose my first match. I am hoping for the top 16.”

After the progress she has made this year, Stone is hoping to reach the top of her sport by earning a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I do want to go for Rio,” asserted Stone. “I am looking for a job. Two of the three Princeton fencers on the national team are training in New York City and I will work at a club with them. I will also train with my coach at Princeton.”

BIG KAT: Princeton University epee star Katharine Holmes hones her form. The 5’10 Holmes, a rising junior, is looking to come up big next week at the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

BIG KAT: Princeton University epee star Katharine Holmes hones her form. The 5’10 Holmes, a rising junior, is looking to come up big next week at the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

As a grade schooler, Katharine Holmes was fascinated with tales of Middle Ages derring-do.

“When I was nine, I loved reading books about medieval times and I wanted to be a knight,” said Holmes, a native of Washington D.C.

Acting out those fantasies, Holmes took up fencing. “I fenced along; I was quite terrible at it but I loved it,” said Holmes, who started the sport with the Chevy Chase Fencing Club. “I liked being alone out there on the strip, it was very appealing.”

Holmes got the hang of the sport as an epee specialist and began making a name for herself in regional competitions. “I started doing OK and I decided this is what I wanted to do,” said Holmes.

By the time she was a teenager, Holmes started doing some big things on the world stage. “I went to Cadet World Cup in Germany and then went to Austria,” said Holmes.

“I was awed by the scale of it; I didn’t know what was going on. I went to U-17 World Cup in Belfast and came in second; everything happened so fast.”

Joining the Princeton University women’s fencing team in 2011, Holmes quickly established herself as one of the top epeeists in the country, placing third in the NCAAs as a freshman and then taking fifth this winter and earning All-Ivy honors both seasons.

Next week, Holmes will be testing her skills on the international stage as she competes for the U.S. in the World Fencing Championships in Budapest Hungary, which runs from August 5-12.

In order to book her place to Budapest, Holmes had to perform a balancing act this year as she traveled to national and international events to earn enough points to make the U.S. squad while still competing for Princeton and keeping up with her pre-med class load.

“I had good preparation from my high school days. I am used to it and what it is like to miss a lot of school and make it up,” said Holmes.

“I took organic chemistry and I was only in class for 2 of the 8 exams. I took some on the road or when I came back or before I left. Time management is key. The plane flights are lengthy; they can be eight hours long so that is a good time to work. I have gotten used to it; when I am not fencing, I am working.”

It didn’t take Holmes much time to make an impact on college fencing as she was a first-team All-Ivy League performer as a freshman and then went to take third in the epee at the NCAA championships.

“Fencing is a small world, I knew the fencers on the other teams,” said the 5’10 Holmes.

“It is not the fencing that I had to get used to; it was the format. The Ivy League is a 5-touch format. The NCAA is a million 5-touch matches. The Ivy is like pool competition at international matches. The NCAAs was a grind, you have to be in good shape and keep going. It is a test physically and mentally. Doing well in the Ivies gave me confidence going into the NCAAs.”

While Holmes didn’t do quite as well individually for Princeton as she underwent the grind necessitated by seeking a place in the U.S. senior national team, she was thrilled to help the Tigers win the NCAA combined team title.

“That was an incredible feeling,” asserted Holmes. “We had won before the last round but Susie [Scanlan] and I didn’t know it. We were fencing against St. John’s and going at it, thinking that Notre Dame had won. I talked to Zoltan and he told me we already won. We were going crazy.”

In order to clinch a spot on the national team, Holmes had to go crazy in a World Cup meet in Rio de Janeiro in late May.

“I remember landing in Rio thinking I would know whether I made it when I took off to leave,” said Holmes, who took 30th to gain the necessary points to be in the top four in the U.S. in epee.

“I did pretty well in the first round. I got into round 32; I was going against a 2012 Olympian from China and I was down 10-6; I stopped thinking about making the team, my exams popped into my mind and all of a sudden I won 15-12.”

Looking to show that her spot on the national team was no fluke, Holmes placed second in the epee at the Pan American Championships in mid-June in a key tune-up for the world championships.

“I went in with the attitude that I wanted to prove myself and show that I wasn’t the little kid that didn’t belong there,” said Holmes.

“I won against girls from Amanda Simeao, Joanne Guy, and Cleia Guilhon to get to the final round. In the final I went against arguably our best epeeist [Courtney Hurley] and I didn’t want to let her kill me. I was down 14-11 and I got it to 14-14 before she made the winning touch.”

In preparing for the worlds, Holmes will be training hard to show that she belongs with the best in her sport.

“I am going to get to work with Zoltan [Princeton fencing head coach Zoltan Dudas] at the Princeton camp and some other girls are coming in,” said Holmes.

“When I leave the U.S., I am going to Budapest for a camp there and I will be fencing a lot there. Zoltan is running the camp with the Hungarian team and some other internationals.”

Holmes is hoping for a deep run at the competition. “My goal would be to make the top 32,” said Holmes.

“There are two ways to make it out of first round, one is to be in the top 16 and you jump into the top 64 automatically. You can also fence your way in. I have to take it bout by bout and point by point. I have to compartmentalize things.”

Having former Princeton teammate and close friend Eliza Stone ’13 on hand in Budapest as a member of the U.S. saber team is a good thing for Holmes.

“I am really glad Eliza and I are both going,” said Holmes, who will also be joined at the worlds by two other Tiger alums, women’s epeeist May Lawrence ’02 and men’s epee performer Soren Thompson ’05.

“It will be good to have her cheering me. She reads me so well. We hang out all the time; we have become best friends. She works harder than any fencer I have ever seen.”

Holmes is hoping that her hard work will ultimately land her a return trip to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Rio is definitely a goal; I am going to finish my junior year and take two years off to train and qualify,” said Holmes. “I am going in with the goal of getting a medal; I want to be a contender.”