March 13, 2013
PARTING SHOT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Rob Kleebaum heads up the ice in a game earlier this winter. Senior forward Kleebaum saw his Tiger career come to an end last weekend as Princeton fell 2-0 to visiting Cornell in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. The defeats left the Tigers with a final overall record of 10-16-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PARTING SHOT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Rob Kleebaum heads up the ice in a game earlier this winter. Senior forward Kleebaum saw his Tiger career come to an end last weekend as Princeton fell 2-0 to visiting Cornell in a best-of-three ECAC Hockey opening round playoff series. The defeats left the Tigers with a final overall record of 10-16-5.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Rob Kleebaum and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team worked hard to earn home ice for the opening round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

“I thought our last three games we were doing the things that we needed to do to be successful,” said forward Kleebaum, reflecting on a 1-1-1 stretch which helped Princeton clinch eighth place in the ECACH standings and the right to host No. 9 Cornell last weekend in a best-of-three series.

“I thought we showed that coming into tonight, that definitely gave us momentum.”

For senior Kleebaum, it was special to get some more action in the friendly confines of Hobey Baker Rink.

“I wanted to get back to Hobey; it is nice to play some more games here,” asserted Kleebaum, a 6’0, 210-pound native of Sherwood Park, Alberta.

“The more important thing is that we get home ice, that is a huge advantage, especially against a team like Cornell. You don’t want to go play in their rink.”

Unfortunately, Princeton squandered that advantage as it fell 4-0 on Friday and 4-2 the next night to get eliminated from the playoffs and end the season with a a 10-16-5 overall record.

In Game 1, Princeton looked like it was continuing its spirited play of late, playing Cornell to a scoreless tie midway through the season period.

“I thought we played well,” said Kleebaum, who was all over the ice and generated several scoring chances for the Tigers.

“We were jumping on pucks and reloading hard. We need to be harder around the net though. When we get chances, we have to put them in and bury a team.”

The Big Red finished their chances, scoring two goals in the last 8:51 of the period and then adding two more in the third.

As Kleebaum looked ahead to Game 2, he knew that the Tigers needed to show a sense of urgency in the offensive zone.

“We need to get hungry around the net,” said Kleebaum. “Everything needs to be a life-or-death chance if you are in the slot or anywhere around the net.”

Early in Saturday’s contest, the Tigers showed that hunger, outshooting the Big Red 13-7 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead on a Will MacDonald goal at the 12:27 mark.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier, for his part, liked the way his team got out of the gate.

“I thought we started pretty well; I thought we started like last night,” said Prier.

“It was good to get that first goal. It was a pretty good start; it looked like it was going to be our game.”

The game started to unravel for the Tigers in the second period as they were outshot 18-6 and got whistled for three penalties as the Big Red knotted the contest at 1-1.

“We took some poor penalties and lost momentum, it is as simple as that,” said Prier, reflecting on the period.

“It is a lesson that I had hoped we had learned throughout the year, obviously we didn’t and it came back to really bite us in the tail here this weekend. When you get less power plays than the opposition two games in a row against the third penalized team in the country, you do that and it is tough sledding.”

After Princeton fell behind 3-1 in the first 5:57 of the third period, the Tigers got a tough break as they had an apparent goal waved off with 10:59 remaining in regulation.

“It was a high stick or a high glove,” said Prier, when asked about the sequence.

“That is what review is for; it is a good call. It would have been nice to have it but at the same time, the technology is used to make sure that we get the right calls and it’s the right call.”

Undeterred, Princeton kept battling as Andrew Calof scored with 45 seconds left in an extra attacker situation. The Tigers made a final push in the waning seconds but Cornell was able to get possession and tally an empty net game to seal the end of the series.

“It is tough to end a team’s season; these kids want to play together, they want to keep it going,” said Prier.

“Cornell did a really good job of playing trap hockey for the whole second half of the game. We had a tough time penetrating that, they did a good job. It was probably boring to watch but hey, a win is a win.”

It will be tough for Prier to say goodbye to Kleebaum and his fellow seniors. “It is a great group of guys, an awesome group of guys,” asserted Prier, whose Class of 2013 includes Eric Meland, Will MacDonald, James Kerr, Michael Sdao, and Mike Condon in addition to Kleebaum.

“I wish them the best of luck. I know that a lot of them are going to play hockey beyond here and some may not. They are all class act kids, good men.”

In Prier’s view, the progress his freshman class made this winter gives the program cause for optimism.

“I think we got a lot better; we had a beat up freshman
class, unfortunately a lot of guys were injured but a lot of them came a long way,” said Prier.

“I thought Michael Zajac had a terrific game today. He really showed up for both games, he really moved his feet really well. If he has a big summer, he could certainly propel himself. It would have been nice to have Kevin Liss all year, that’s for sure. Once he gets healthy, he’ll be really strong. Mike Ambrosia and Kyle Rankin came a long way this year. They have all certainly had a chance to develop. On this team, the young guys get a lot of ice time. I think the future looks bright; it is promising.”

GOING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore attacker McMunn scored a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener. The Tigers, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4) on March 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOING IN: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Erin McMunn heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore attacker McMunn scored a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener. The Tigers, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4) on March 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a freshman on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team last spring, Erin McMunn utilized her passing skills to make an immediate impact.

The attacker passed for a team-high 30 assists on the way to being named the Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

Coming into the 2013 campaign, McMunn was looking to diversify her game.

“I liked to focus a lot on feeding last year but this year I have switched my focus a little bit,” said McMunn, a 5’8 native of Westminster, Md.

“I just go out there and have fun everyday and see what happens and see what kind of game it turns out to be. That’s what I am looking for. I think coming in as a sophomore and just really relaxing and wanting to expand and do new things is something that is really fun and exciting for me this year.”

Last Saturday, McMunn had a lot fun with her shooting, firing in a career-high five goals to help Princeton top Brown 18-11 in its Ivy League opener.

“I think it was just seeing what was opening up on attack,” said McMunn, reflecting on her scoring outburst.

“If I had it, I wanted to be able to take it. But at the same time, if a couple of girls were getting hot on attack and things were opening up for them, we were just trying to get it to the open spots and see what we could create when we are moving.”

While Princeton didn’t open up well against Brown, trailing 4-2 midway through the first half, McMunn and her teammates weren’t fazed. “I don’t think there were any concerns, I think we were just very excited to be out here on a nice day and we were a little jittery to get off to a good start,” recalled McMunn.

The Tiger offense, though, started working well after that, closing the half with an 8-1 run with McMunn scoring four goals in that pivotal stretch.

“I think the biggest thing is that we just calmed ourselves down, took a breath, and focused on executing the little things,” said McMunn.

“We really started stringing some plays together in transition, getting some solid one-on-one looks in the settled offense, and I think just the little things we were doing right made a big difference for us.”

Princeton played a solid second half as it pulled away to the victory and improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy.

“I feel like in the second half we just came out confident and we wanted to have a good time and finish the game,” said McMunn, who now leads Princeton in points (16) and goals (11).

“I think we did a good job. They started to come out a little more and get excited but we weren’t letting their pressure waver us or letting their hype bring our level down at all. I think we did a really nice job of responding to that and just playing our game and doing what we do on the field.”

For McMunn, the performance was even more heartening, considering that it came in the Ivy opener.

“I think this was a huge game for us; for our attack to be able to put up 18 goals was huge,” said McMunn.

“Our defense came up with some big defensive stands. We did a really great job of putting together all the things we have been working on in practice in the game today. It is really starting to come together for us. We wanted to start with a strong showing in the Ivy League. I think this was a great confidence booster for us.”

The Tigers will need another strong effort this Saturday as they head south to take on 11th-ranked Virginia (2-4).

“We are hungry to get back into NCAA competition,” said McMunn.

“We felt like we could have played better against Georgetown [an 11-6 loss on March 1]. We have really been working on little things in practice and trying to up our game to that next level, so I think playing against UVa is going to be a great chance for us to really see where we are and how far we have come.”

AMBLING ALONG: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler heads up the field last week against Villanova. Freshman attacker Ambler contributed five points on three goals and two assists as the Tigers rallied for a 14-11 win in the March 5 contest. Sixth-ranked Princeton, which fell to 3-1 with a 16-15 loss at No. 8 North Carolina last Saturday, was slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AMBLING ALONG: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Ryan Ambler heads up the field last week against Villanova. Freshman attacker Ambler contributed five points on three goals and two assists as the Tigers rallied for a 14-11 win in the March 5 contest. Sixth-ranked Princeton, which fell to 3-1 with a 16-15 loss at No. 8 North Carolina last Saturday, was slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team trailed Villanova 10-8 heading into the fourth quarter last week, Ryan Ambler and his Tiger teammates weren’t feeling any sense of panic.

“The coaches said keep fighting,” said freshman attacker Ambler, recalling the message the players received in their huddle after the third quarter of the March 5 contest.

“We were getting opportunities on offense. On defense, I thought we did a pretty good job. Villanova is a great team; they ran around and threw picks at us. They were pretty unconventional and I think coach [Chris] Bates said keep playing our game offensively, keep moving the ball and keep working off ball.”

In the fourth quarter, Ambler raised his game. scoring two goals in the first four minutes to spark a 6-1 Princeton run.

“I took my chances; I let the game come to me,” said the 6’1, 180-pound Ambler, a native of Rydal, Pa. who ended the game with five points on a career-best three goals and two assists.

“One time I had a shorty, they didn’t slide to me and I took my chance. On the other one, Jake [Froccaro] made a great play and fed it to me inside and I capitalized.”

For Ambler, playing in the same line with sophomore Mike MacDonald and senior Jeff Froccaro has helped his production.

“It is great; Mike MacDonald moves the ball really well and Jeff is a great veteran leader,” said Ambler of the trio which combined for nine goals in a losing cause last Saturday as Princeton fell 16-15 at North Carolina.

Both of those guys are dynamic as well as first line and second line middies. I think we can throw six, seven guys at people, maybe more. I think we are pretty dangerous. When we play together and work the ball, I think we are a very hard team to guard.”

Princeton head coach Bates, for his part, liked the way his team kept working in the win over Villanova.

“We stayed composed,” said Bates, who got three goals from Jeff Froccaro in the win with MacDonald, Kip Orban, and Jake Froccaro adding two apiece.

“Being down most of the game, I give  our guys credit, we took the next step in terms of getting ground  balls. We started to face off a little bit better and then offensively, we honestly felt like if we had the ball, we were going to be able to score goals.”

Putting Jeff Froccaro on face-off duty in the fourth quarter of the Villanova game turned the tide as he won 5-of-7 face-offs.

“We wanted to try to save Jeff, his knees are old,” said a smiling Bates of Froccaro, who went on to score four goals in the loss to North Carolina with MacDonald tallying five and junior star Tom Schreiber contributing four.

“Just tying the ball up and winning some forward, he gave us the ball and he gave us momentum. You could tell that was the difference in the game. We started to feel a little bit better offensively. We started to generate some shots and goals. We planned on not using him at all today. We were struggling so much there that we absolutely needed to get another look. Every time that kid gets into a game, he is a gamer, scoring big goals. He doesn’t always make the best decisions but I’ll take them.”

Bates certainly likes the game that Ambler has displayed so far in his freshman campaign.

“He is great; Ryan keeps making plays,” asserted Bates of Ambler, who now has 10 points on four goals and six assists for the 3-1 Tigers.

“He doesn’t back down from the stage. He shares the ball, he sees the field so well. Our guys love playing with him; he really makes us better. He finished some plays, he made some great feeds. They shorted him early which is a slap and he ran right by them. I give that kid credit. He had a whale of a game. He and Jeff were the differences really.”

Ambler, for his part, credits Bates, who coached his older brother, Colin, at Drexel, with paving the way to his sizzling start.

“He knows what he is doing when he is recruiting,” said Ambler, who will look to keep up his good play with sixth-ranked Princeton slated to host Manhattan on March 12 before playing at No. 13 Penn (4-1) on March 16 in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“He brought me in, the transition has been pretty smooth with these guys. That is probably the best part, working on the chemistry with these guys.”

HARD TO SAY: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson instructs freshman Hans Brase in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, Princeton saw a chance at an Ivy League title slip out of its grasp as it fell 71-66 at Yale on Friday and 80-67 at Brown the next night. Those defeats combined with two wins by Harvard clinched the title for the Crimson as they improved to 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy while Princeton dropped to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy. The Tigers were slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (9-21 overall, 6-7 Ivy) on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HARD TO SAY: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson instructs freshman Hans Brase in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, Princeton saw a chance at an Ivy League title slip out of its grasp as it fell 71-66 at Yale on Friday and 80-67 at Brown the next night. Those defeats combined with two wins by Harvard clinched the title for the Crimson as they improved to 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy while Princeton dropped to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy. The Tigers were slated to wrap up regular season play with a game at Penn (9-21 overall, 6-7 Ivy) on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend, the Princeton University men’s basketball team controlled its own destiny.

Sitting in first place in the Ivy League standings with a one-game edge on second-place Harvard in the loss column, Princeton needed to post wins over Yale and Brown over the weekend and then finish the deal with a victory at Penn in the regular season finale on March 12 to clinch the outright league title and a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

On Friday, though, Princeton couldn’t slow down Yale as the Bulldogs hit 60.5 percent of their shots to earn a 71-66 win and complete a season sweep of the Tigers.

Even with the loss to Yale, Princeton still was in play for a shot at March Madness as a win over Brown on Saturday combined with a victory against Penn would send the Tigers into a one-game playoff with Harvard for a spot in the NCAAs.

But Princeton ran into more trouble against Brown, falling behind early as news came in that Harvard was pulling away to a victory at Cornell. With things looking bleak, the Tigers did a get a jolt of momentum as Denton Koon hit a halfcourt three-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Tigers within four at the half against the Bears.

“I thought Denton’s three at the end of the half was going to be a boost for us because we were really struggling,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson in his postgame comments on the Princeton athletics website.

The struggles, however, continued as Princeton found itself trailing 62-50 with 3:36 left in regulation. The Tigers got the Brown margin down to four points on five occasions in the last 1:28 but couldn’t get closer as the Bears pulled away to an 80-67 win and extinguished Princeton’s chances for an NCAA bid.

“I thought they did some nice things defensively but once again it was us, that was a major concern,” said Henderson, whose team moved to 16-11 overall and 9-4 Ivy in the wake of its lost weekend with champion Harvard ending the regular season at 19-9 overall and 11-3 Ivy.

“If we could make more free throws or a three in there and it could have been a totally different game. We just couldn’t quite get over the hump.”

The team’s defensive struggles against Yale and Brown were particularly perplexing since the Tigers entered the weekend leading the Ivy League in scoring defense, giving up 57.0 points per game.

“We were hanging around a little too much; there was less substance,” said Henderson.

“I think that is what happens when you are not defending. This hurts, this is not where we want to be. It is not what we hung our hat on all season. You have to be the aggressor on the defensive end, we have been good at that most of the season but we lost sight of a couple of guys. We just couldn’t find our way.”

It also hurts to see the Princeton seniors fall short of what they saw as their destiny.

“I am really disappointed for our seniors,” said Henderson, whose group of seniors features the program’s second all-time scorer, Ian Hummer, together with Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly.

“We have one game left and we are going to prepare for that but to be officially out of the race is tough; this is why those guys came to school here. It is a very special senior class and I am very disappointed right now.”

Lisa Sweeney had a good feeling about her Princeton University softball team before it even played a game this spring.

“We went into the first weekend with confidence,” said first-year head coach Sweeney, referring to the team’s season-opening appearance at the North Florida Osprey Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla. from March 1-3. “We knew we had put in the work in February to be ready for games.”

The Tigers went 3-2 in the Florida event and then improved on that last weekend as they posted a 3-1 record at the UMBC Dawg Pound Invitational in Baltimore, Md.

In action last Saturday, Princeton fell 4-3 to Seton Hall before bouncing back to top Coppin State 6-3.

“Seton Hall is a good team; we had a freshman [Shanna Christian] pitching and it was a good test for her,” said Sweeney.

“It came down to one pitch, a good hitter for them hit a home run. It was a good test to go against competition like that. Coppin State is a very good hitting team, they are consistent and have power. Alex Peyton threw very well.”

A day later, Princeton was clicking on all cylinders as it defeated Mt. St. Mary’s 4-2 and then routed host UMBC 11-2.

“There are still things we need to work on but we can take away a lot of positives,” said Sweeney, reflecting on the Sunday sweep which lifted the Tigers to a record of 6-3.

“Up and down the lineup, we are hitting well. This week, we are talking about not leaving runners on. When we get runners in scoring position, we have to capitalize.”

Sophomore Alyssa Schmidt has been capitalizing on her opportunities so far this season as she is hitting at a .514 clip with a team-high 19 hits in nine appearances.

“I can’t say enough about her,” said Sweeney, referring to Schmidt. “Her approach in the box is beautiful. She is relaxed in every situation; her approach to each at-bat is the same. She is really confident right now.”

Sweeney is developing confidence in her batting order as five players besides Schmidt are hitting .300 or better in Kayla Bose (.529), Sarah McGowan (.438), Maddie Cousens (.333), Peyton (.321), and Tory Roberts (.300).

“I think that is due to all the hard work we are putting in and confidence,” said Sweeney, who team is hitting .313 overall and has scored 47 runs in nine games. “We are not just working on the physical part of hitting, we are working on developing confidence mentally and taking a positive approach.”

Pitching has been another positive for the Tigers in the early going as Princeton has a team ERA of 2.55 spreading innings among several hurlers.

“Liza [Kuhn], Alex, and Shanna are all doing well; Meredith Browne is a sophomore and she will also help,” said Sweeney, a four-time Patriot League Pitcher of the Year at Lehigh during her college days.

“The pitchers have all been working hard, they are some of the grittiest players on our team and some of our hardest workers. We have a real pitching unit. When someone is on on the mound, the others are happy for her and want her to do well. When you are on the mound, it is great to know that everyone is behind you.”

Princeton has been getting some great leadership from its corps of seniors which includes Candy Button, Nikki Chu, and Lizzy Pierce in addition to Peyton and Kuhn.

“All five seniors bring it everyday,” said Sweeney, “They are relentless. They set the tone for the team; what we are about and where we are heading. Their time is limited, every senior goes through that. They fall in love with the program and they want their time to be meaningful.”

Sweeney feels that she and her players have wasted little time in getting on the same page.

“I think we are melding very well; they have shown a willingness to embrace a new coach,” asserted Sweeney.

“They are good people; they are willing to learn and to do things a little differently. My assistant coach, Jen Lapicki, is unbelievable. In terms of the culture we want to create and our values, we match up perfectly. The players see that we are a united front.”

March 6, 2013

 

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer celebrates in the waning moments of Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard last Friday. Senior star Hummer contributed 23 points and 14 rebounds in the victory as he moved into second on Princeton’s career scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 13 points to help the Tigers beat Dartmouth 68-63. That win combined with Harvard’s 75-72 loss at Penn left Princeton atop the Ivy standings as the Tigers moved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy and Crimson fell to second at 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy. Princeton wraps up regular season action by playing at Yale (12-17 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 8, at Brown (12-14 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 9, and at Penn (8-20 overall, 5-6 Ivy) on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer celebrates in the waning moments of Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard last Friday. Senior star Hummer contributed 23 points and 14 rebounds in the victory as he moved into second on Princeton’s career scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 13 points to help the Tigers beat Dartmouth 68-63. That win combined with Harvard’s 75-72 loss at Penn left Princeton atop the Ivy standings as the Tigers moved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy and Crimson fell to second at 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy. Princeton wraps up regular season action by playing at Yale (12-17 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 8, at Brown (12-14 overall, 6-6 Ivy) on March 9, and at Penn (8-20 overall, 5-6 Ivy) on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In its two Ivy League losses this season, the Princeton University men’s basketball team showed plenty of heart but failed to make enough big plays to avoid defeat.

Falling short against Yale on February 9 in a 69-65 defeat, the Tigers couldn’t get off a shot in the waning seconds when a three-point bucket could have won the contest. A week later at Harvard, Princeton misfired down the stretch, hitting just 31 percent of its second half shots on the way to a 69-57 setback.

Last Friday in a showdown with Ivy frontrunner Harvard, it looked like Princeton was letting another game slip away as it squandered a 46-36 second half lead to find itself trailing 51-48 with 2:44 left in regulation.

But this time, Princeton came up with the clutch plays in crunch time and pulled out a 58-53 win over the Crimson to delight a Jadwin Gym throng of 4,413.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was proud of how his team came through when it counted against the Crimson.

“At times this season when we have been down, we haven’t been able to find that moment where we can kind of push through something,” said Henderson.

“I thought tonight was just a huge thing for our program. At 51-48 Will Barrett gets fouled and makes both free throws. We get a huge stop and then Ian [Hummer] comes down and gets the tip-in. Not to mention the tip out on the missed free throw and T.J.’s diving play. That was a big moment for us. I am just really happy.”

Henderson was even happier a night later when Princeton topped Dartmouth 68-63 and Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn, leaving the Tigers in first place in the league standings at 16-9 overall, 9-2 Ivy with the Crimson next at 17-9 overall, 9-3 Ivy.

While Princeton’s win over Harvard wasn’t a thing of beauty, Henderson was impressed with his team’s grit.

“The box score doesn’t look that pretty on our end and it didn’t look pretty the first time,” said Henderson.

“I thought the game was won on the free throw line and with our defense. We didn’t give up too many second chance points.”

Senior star Hummer effectively ended Harvard’s chances for a win when he punched back a missed Mack Darrow free throw in the waning seconds that a diving T.J. Bray batted to Denton Koon, who was then fouled.

“I knew I couldn’t get it; [Steve] Mondou-Missi is a handful but the miss was so perfect, it just came off the back iron and popped right back and I tried to just hit it right out. I was afraid I hit to too hard but luckily TJ was right there to make a diving play.”

After Koon drained two free throws to make it 58-53, Hummer turned to the Princeton student section and gleefully pumped his fist.

“I knew it was going to go our way, the way we were shooting the ball on the free throw line,” said Hummer, recalling his impromptu celebration.

“I wasn’t really worried; whoever was going to be on the line was going to make them. The excitement got the best of me and I went in the opposite direction, I had no idea what I was doing. It is what it is, I got caught up in the moment.”

The Tigers realized that Friday was a pivotal moment of the season, having entered the game trailing Harvard by one game in the loss column.

“We know it is a must-win,” said Hummer, who ended the evening with 23 points and 14 rebounds and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for the seventh time this season and ninth time in his career.

“I think the way we played last weekend, we were pretty confident coming into this game. I thought we didn’t play our best game up at Harvard. I thought the way we were playing, we could really give them a good run. It is always a good game when we play Harvard and it is always a dogfight. I am just so glad that we came out on top.”

Henderson, for his part, is glad to have Hummer on his side. “He was just terrific; I am an alum here too and I think first, I have to say I am so happy for him because he cares about winning,” said Henderson, a 1998 Princeton grad and former Tiger basketball star.

“But as alum it is just fun to watch him play. I am proud that he wears the orange and black. He just does everything for us; 23 and 14, 7-of-7 from the line. He has really worked at those things, especially the free throw shooting. That is huge for us. That is what we want to be, constantly improving and he is a walking example of that.”

Hummer has improved into one of the greatest players in Princeton history, becoming the second leading scorer in Tiger history, passing Kit Mueller (1,546 points) and Douglas Davis (1,550) on the career list with his output on Friday and ending the weekend at 1,577 points.

That milestone, though, wasn’t nearly as important to Hummer as the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of Friday evening.

“It means nothing if I didn’t get the win tonight,” said Hummer, who will be looking for more wins this week as the Tigers wrap up regular season action by playing at Yale on March 8, at Brown on March 9, and at Penn on March 12.

“It is just icing on the cake. First and foremost, I want to be in contention for an Ivy League title and whatever happens, happens. I am just happy it came in a win.”

STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s  58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STRETCH DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly heads in for a layup in Princeton’s 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday. A night later, senior center ­Connolly contributed six rebounds to help the Tigers Princeton top Dartmouth 68-63 on Senior Night. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Will Barrett started his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team as a member of the Class of 2013 but a foot injury set him back a year.

Brendan Connolly, meanwhile, has been a stalwart of the class, providing yeomen’s work in the paint over the last four years.

On Saturday, both played key roles as the Tigers celebrated Senior Night with a 68-63 win over Dartmouth before 3,167 at Jadwin Gym.

The 6’10 forward Barrett scored a game-high 24 points, including 18 in a second-half outburst which saw him hit five three-pointers, while the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly clogged up the middle getting six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

In reflecting on his big performance, Barrett said he was fired up to help things go well for his original classmates in their final Jadwin appearance.

“I work my butt off day in, day out for my teammates so it is nothing really different but just losing five of my best friends, it changes everything for me,” said Barrett.

“I have 15 other best friends that I get to have after this but we were all a little teary eyed in the locker room after the game, we went up and hugged each other.”

Connolly, for his part, admired Barrett’s effort Saturday and on a daily basis.

“It was special,” said Connolly. “He is right when he said he has worked his butt off, he is down here all the time, getting shots up. I was hoping that Will and Jimmy [Sherburne] would be there tonight with us. That was part of the initial plan. I am really happy for Will and I am happy Jimmy is back and he says he is doing well and his shoulder is healing up. I am really happy for them and what they are going to be able to do next year.”

In reflecting on his last game at Jadwin, Connolly is happy for the experience he has enjoyed over the last four years.

“Mack [Darrow] and Ian [Hummer] are two of the best friends I have ever had and I think they always will be,” said Connolly.

“I trust those guys with my life and I think they trust me with theirs. It is  pretty amazing; coming in here, you have no idea that is what the result is going to be four years later. I just thank God that I have those guys and some other guys on campus too that I can always turn to. It is just special, there is not one way to pinpoint how exactly it is, it just is. I think anyone who has gone here and played with the same guys for years will tell you that.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson pinpointed Barrett and Connolly as key contributors in the win over Dartmouth.

“Will made some huge shots, I think it was a five-point lead and it went to eight; it might have gone to 10 or 11 once,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 16-9 overall and 9-2 Ivy League and got a huge lift when it found out later that Harvard fell 75-72 at Penn in dropping to 17-9 overall and 9-3 Ivy, prompting roars from the Tiger locker room.

“He shot the ball with confidence, you have got to make shots. I think it is indicative of how our team is; we have different ways to beat people which is good. I thought Brendan was important because [Gabas] Maldunas was hurting us. A couple of times they were really looking for him and Brendan took away six rebounds tonight which was important.”

In Henderson’s view, his senior players have made a huge impact on the team.

“It is a special group,” said Henderson, whose senior corps also includes reserve guards Ameer Elbuluk and Isaac Serwanga.

“When I first got here, I thought Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox and Bobby Foley and those guys in that class, had to do something that no Princeton class has ever had to do, which is take the program back to where it needed to be. This class, Ian, Brendan, and Mack, have been very successful. They have kept it where it needs to be and that is really important too.”

Barrett and his teammates know that the weekend sweep, which started with a 58-53 win over Harvard on Friday, doesn’t guarantee success in the Ivy title race which sees Princeton play at Yale on March 8, at Brown on March 9, and ending the regular season at Penn on March 12.

“After the game last night, we were talking to each other and we said this game means absolutely nothing if we don’t take care of what we have to take care of tomorrow and the next weekend,” said Barrett. “We just have to stay focused.”

While Connolly is focused on ending his Tiger career on a high note, he has already gained memories that will last for a lifetime.

“It is a good way to reflect back on everything and just remember how special things have been and some of the things we have been able to do here,” said Connolly.

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

INSIDE TRACK: Princeton University women’s basketball player Meg Bowen battles for inside position in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior center Bowen scored 21 points to help Princeton top Dartmouth 68-60 and get back on the winning track after losing 58-55 at Harvard a day earlier to snap a record 33-game Ivy League winning streak. Princeton, now 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy, can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

All good things must to come to an end and so it was for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last Friday at Harvard.

After winning 33 straight Ivy League games, Princeton fell 58-55 to the Crimson, suffering its first league defeat since a 73-67 loss at Harvard on February 4, 2011.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart had no qualms with her team’s effort in defeat.

“We expected Harvard to play well, they have nothing to lose,“ said Banghart.

“They know they are playing for the NIT. I thought we came prepared. We shot 7-of-35 in the second half and still had a chance to win so that tells you how hard we played. It was not from lack of effort, we had a lot of free throws and we hit the glass.”

It was Princeton’s misfiring, though, that proved to be the difference as the Tigers made just 16-of-62 shots (25.5 percent) on the evening.

“We missed more open shots than in any game I can remember since I have been here,” said Banghart, whose team outrebounded Harvard 47-39 and made 20-of-28 free throws.

“We are used to getting good looks and winning by 30. When they didn’t go in, it made us tense. We missed two uncontested layups in the second half.”

In reflecting on the winning streak, Banghart takes pride in what it says about the way Princeton takes care of its business.

“What the streak means is that the program is doing something right on a daily basis,” said Banghart.

“As graduation falls, the program is not falling. The people not getting time are still getting better. You have seen that with our sophomores this year like Blake [Dietrick] and Mariah [Smith]. I don’t believe that the players think that much about the streak. I don’t think they felt under pressure to continue it. We are just a part of their day at Princeton.”

In Banghart’s view, the loss could lead to some good things down the road. “It means that if we don’t shoot well in the NCAA, we have done that before,” said Banghart.

“It was the first time all year that we didn’t shoot well and we weren’t able to right the ship. The more times you do something, the better you get at it. When you are in so many games where you win by 30, that doesn’t help you. We are not going to be up by 20 at half in the first round of the NCAAs. We will need to grind through possessions and this will make us better able to do that.”

A night later at Dartmouth, Princeton handled the grind well, overcoming a 36-33 halftime deficit to pull out a 68-60 win and improve to 19-6 overall and 10-1 Ivy.

“Their hearts were heavy and we didn’t know how they would respond,” said Banghart, reflecting on the mood around the team as it took the court against the Big Green.

“We know we are going to get everyone’s best shot. We didn’t shoot that well again. We were playing like we were scared to lose rather than going for the win.”

Seniors Niveen Rasheed and Meg Bowen each scored 21 points to key the Princeton rally.

“They were huge, this is a league for seniors,” asserted Banghart. “Meg commanded presence inside. Niveen willed us to win, she was making the hustle plays. She had three offensive rebounds in the last few minutes. She knew that the bench wasn’t playing as well as it has been and she said I’ll take care of this tonight.”

With Princeton leading the Ivy race over Harvard (17-8 overall, 8-3 Ivy) and Penn (15-10 overall, 8-3 Ivy) by two games with three to play, the Tigers can clinch its fourth straight league crown this weekend as it hosts Yale on March 8 and Brown a day later for its last weekend this season at Jadwin Gym.

“I told them after the Dartmouth game, we are going home to win a fourth Ivy title and that’s pretty cool,” said Banghart.

“We got what we needed last weekend. You don’t get used to winning the Ivy League title, it isn’t an easy thing to do. We are just going to enjoy it. Hopefully, we get to cut down the nets on Senior Night against Brown, we couldn’t script it any better than that.”

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Michael Sdao handles the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao scored a goal to help Princeton edge Harvard 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, who improved to 10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECAC Hockey with the win, ended the regular season in eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH) this weekend. Princeton swept the Big Red in the teams’ previous meetings this year, topping Cornell 5-3 on November 9 and 1-0 on February 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SEEING RED: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Michael Sdao handles the puck in recent action. Last Saturday, senior defenseman and assistant captain Sdao scored a goal to help Princeton edge Harvard 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, who improved to 10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECAC Hockey with the win, ended the regular season in eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH) this weekend. Princeton swept the Big Red in the teams’ previous meetings this year, topping Cornell 5-3 on November 9 and 1-0 on February 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Entering last weekend, the Princeton University men’s hockey team was in position to finish anywhere from seventh to 10th place in the final ECAC Hockey standings.

But heading on the road to play at Dartmouth on Friday and at Harvard the next day in the wake of having dropped four straight games at home, the Tigers seemed destined to settle towards the bottom of the pack.

Displaying a steely resolve, the Tigers battled back from 1-0 deficits each night to earn a 2-2 tie with the Big Green and a 2-1 overtime win against the Crimson.

Princeton’s undefeated weekend combined with other results lifted the Tigers (10-14-5 overall and 8-10-4 ECACH) to eighth place, earning home ice for the opening round of the playoffs as they host No. 9 Cornell (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-3 ECACH). The best-of-three series starts Friday night at Baker Rink with Game 2 set for Saturday and Game 3, if necessary, slated for Sunday.

Reflecting on his team’s work in New England, Princeton head coach Bob Prier saw a lot of positives.

“We played six solid periods this weekend, it is the most consistent we have played all year,” said Prier.

“The resilience was great all weekend. They stuck to the process and played to win. They were reloading on the forecheck and going hard. They were really moving their feet all weekend. We created offensive zone time in both games. We had a lot of shots and lot of opportunities.”

In the tie with Dartmouth, Will MacDonald and Andrew Ammon both cashed in on opportunities with MacDonald scoring a first period goal that evened the game at 1-1 and Ammon scoring to make it 2-1.

“It was such a good response, he worked so hard,” said Prier of MacDonald’s tally.

“He was flying all weekend. Ammon had such a nice goal. It was hard work by Tyler Maugeri and Kyle Rankin to get control of the puck. Ammon got the puck off as soon as it hit his stick and got it right under the goalie’s stick.

In the win over Harvard, senior assistant captain Michael Sdao scored the tying goals and junior star Andrew Calof notched the winning tally, hitting the 100-point mark in his career in the process. “

“Sdao played fantastic, he was skating really well all weekend,” said Prier. “The guys can tell how much he wants it and they are inspired by him. Calof is a unique player, he has turned it up a notch in recent games even if it hasn’t necessarily shown on the scoresheet. He has the puck a lot and he is a one man transition game. He skates right by the forecheck.”

Senior goalie Mike Condon did a good job of keeping Princeton’s foes in check, making 30 saves against Dartmouth and 28 in the win over the Crimson.

“Condon gave up only three goals against two tough teams on the road,” said Prier of Condon who now sports a goals against average of 2.42. “He is so good with the puck, it resonates with the team.”

Prier is hoping his team will be tough at home this weekend against traditional power Cornell.

“It is an advantage, we are excited,” said Prier, who is expecting more big crowds in a season that has seen Princeton post an average attendance of 2,208. “We have a good opponent coming in. It is not who you play, it is how you play. It is up to us to play well and take advantage of being home.”

With Princeton having beaten Cornell 5-3 on November 9 at Baker Rink before edging the Big Red 1-0 on February 9 in Ithaca, Prier is confident about his team’s chances in the opening round and beyond.

“We like the matchup but we are not thinking as much about our opponent as we are focusing on us,” said Prier.

“If we continue to play this way and continue to skate like we have in the last three games, we can be dangerous in the playoffs. When you have the puck more, you start seeing the smaller parts of the game. You get more power plays. This weekend was the first time this year where we had back-to-to back games with more power plays than the other team. We worked hard for that.”

OH BROTHER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro unloads the ball in a game last season. This past Friday, senior attacker Froccaro scored three goals to help Princeton top Johns Hopkins 11-8. Froccaro’s younger brother, freshman midfielder Jake, played a big role in the win, tallying two goals and two assists. The No. 5 Tigers, who improved to 2-0 with the victory, were slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OH BROTHER: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Jeff Froccaro unloads the ball in a game last season. This past Friday, senior attacker Froccaro scored three goals to help Princeton top Johns Hopkins 11-8. Froccaro’s younger brother, freshman midfielder Jake, played a big role in the win, tallying two goals and two assists. The No. 5 Tigers, who improved to 2-0 with the victory, were slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at storied Homewood Field against high-powered Johns Hopkins last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team knew it was going to be hit with an early barrage.

The third-ranked Blue Jays lived up to expectations, outshooting No. 12 Princeton 17-5 in the first quarter.

But counterpunching effectively, Princeton avoided a knockout punch, ending the first period locked in a 3-3 tie.

“They generated a lot of shots, they were not all high-quality,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates.

“Matt O’Connor [Tiger freshman goalie] made a few saves early and settled in. We only had five shots but we got three goals so we were efficient.”

The Tigers maintained that efficiency all evening long, pulling out an 11-8 win before a crowd of 2,352 watching in Baltimore and a national audience tuning in on ESPNU.

“I was pleased with our composure,” asserted Bates in reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 2-0.

“We played with focus and we played together. It was a big stage and we handled it.”

Princeton handled things particularly well down the stretch, outscoring Hopkins 3-1 in the fourth quarter.

“I thought Hopkins pressed a little, we settled down and made plays,” added Bates.

“I thought they were trying to solve us. When it was 10-8, Chris White made a huge goal. It might not have been the most high percentage shot but when your senior captain is playing with that kind of emotion, it is great to see. It put a nail in the coffin.”

It was great for Princeton to see the Froccaro brothers come through in a big way against the Blue Jays. Senior attacker Jeff Froccaro scored three goals while freshman Jake Froccaro tallied two goals and two assists. The brothers combined for a goal in the third quarter with Jake assisting and Jeff scoring.

“Jake just came out and said that kid can’t cover me, give me the ball,” said Bates of the younger Froccaro, who scored two of Princeton’s first four goals on Friday.

“As a freshman, that is a good level of confidence to see. He was probably not at the top of their scouting report so to get production out of him was probably a little demoralizing for them and set a tone for us. Those guys play together so well. They love to play the game, there is a big brother, little brother connection, Jake gave it to Jeff just like in the back yard, great to see that it works on a stage like Homewood Field. Jeff is playing with confidence.”

Another confident Tiger is sophomore attacker Mike MacDonald, who scored two goals in the win over Hopkins and now has five on the season.

“Mike can play, when he is in the flow our offense is better,” asserted Bates. “He is strong and confident. He can dodge and get to the cage. He is only a sophomore but he is already a leader for us. He adds a layer to our offense.”

The Tiger defense continued its strong early play. “I thought they did a good job,” said Bates, whose team gave up just one goal over the last 24:23 of the contest with freshman goalie O’Connor making 10 saves on the evening.

“When the lights are on, we are doing a good job. We have made some mistakes back there and Matt has bailed us out. Each week, I give credit to Greg Raymond [assistant coach], he has them prepared.”

With Princeton, now ranked No. 5, slated to host Villanova on March 5, play at No. 11 North Carolina on March 9, and then host Manhattan on March 12, the Tigers need to cut down on their mistakes to keep winning.

“We are playing with confidence and we are seeing rewards so that is good,” said Bates.

“Day in, day out we have to continue to improve. This can’t be the peak for us. I am happy to take 2-0 but it won’t mean anything if we go out and lose two this week. We are confident and loose and I like that. I told them that healthy nerves are good, they will regret it if they don’t put in a 60-minute effort.”

ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd heads upfield last Sunday in Princeton’s 18-13 win over Southern California. Junior midfielder Lloyd passed for six assists in the victory, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season. The Tigers, now 2-1 overall, open Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Sarah Lloyd heads upfield last Sunday in Princeton’s 18-13 win over Southern California. Junior midfielder Lloyd passed for six assists in the victory, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season. The Tigers, now 2-1 overall, open Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Lloyd didn’t score a goal but she proved to be a catalyst as the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team topped Southern California 18-13 last Sunday.

The junior midfielder passed for six assists, tying the program’s single-game record, to trigger Princeton’s most impressive offensive outburst of the young season.

Coming off a disappointing 11-6 loss to Georgetown two days earlier, Lloyd and her teammates were primed for a big effort against the Trojans, who are in their first year as a Division I program.

“We were really looking forward to coming out as soon as we could and making an impact,” said Lloyd, who hadn’t scored a point this season until Sunday.

“We didn’t think we played as well as we could have against Georgetown so we were ready for the second chance to prove ourselves.”

The Tigers were ready to go to the net. “We were definitely looking to be more intense and aggressive on the attack and I think we did a good job of that,” said Lloyd, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 2-1.

Lloyd’s record day was a product of that aggressiveness and the savvy she has gained over her college career.

“I was just kind of looking to see what opens up,” said Lloyd, who now has 32 goals and 23 assists in her Princeton career and tied the single game assist record established by sophomore Erin McMunn in a game last year.

“We were trying to push transition a lot. I guess the experience definitely helps in seeing the field and knowing what my teammates are going to do.”

With Mary-Kate Sivilli scoring five goals and Anya Gersoff and Erin McMunn both tallying three, Lloyd benefited from some sharpshooting teammates.

“We needed that,” said Lloyd, a 5’7 native of Severna Park, Md., whose spirited play and bright red hair make her stand out on the field.

“In our first couple of games, we haven’t had great shooting games; we did a lot better in that area today.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer saw the win over USC as something the Tigers needed.

“I was really pleased with the start we got off to,” said Sailer, whose team jumped out to a 6-2 lead. “Like I told the kids, it’s not perfect yet. There is a long way that we have to go but we made some good strides today and we definitely did compete.”

The Tigers definitely pushed the pace on offense, making run after run straight to the crease.

“It was definitely a focus to be a threat in the transition game; to look for some fast break goals, to look for goals off the secondary options off the break and before we just settled down and got into our sets,” said Sailer, whose team outshot the Trojans 34-23.

“I didn’t realize that she had that many assists; what really stood out about Lloyd today for me was her play on the draw,” said Sailer of Lloyd. who had eight draw controls and three ground balls to go with her six assists on the afternoon.

“She was phenomenal; digging out those ground balls, controlling the draw. Just her fight was really, really impressive. And then to see her line on the assists; I think a lot of those were off transition and I think she worked really hard to get herself in that position, she would win the draw and come down or she would get the ball in transition doing that extra work. She is a smart kid, she saw the open players and was able to give them the ball.”

It was extra special for the Tigers to get two goals from senior star Jaci Gassaway, who is playing through a knee injury.

“That is just so huge, you saw everybody’s reaction,” said Sailer. “It is just such an emotional lift for the team, Jaci is such a great player so anything we can get from her this season, we are happy for.”

Sailer wasn’t as happy about her defense which was shredded by USC freshman star Caroline de Lyra, who scored eight goals.

“We need to be able to figure out the play sooner and make those adjustments,” said Sailer.

“I think if we made those same adjustments in the first half that we were able to make at halftime, it would have been a different story. We did make the adjustments after halftime and took away that option. Number 25 [de Lyra] was just a really smart player for them and she took advantage of our miscues. But we did sort it out and I think our defense plays tough.”

With Princeton starting Ivy League play by hosting Brown (3-0 overall, 1-0 Ivy) this Saturday, Sailer knows that the Tigers need to play smarter.

“We are really excited for the Ivies, I think it is a solid win for us to build on,” asserted Sailer.

“We can play a whole lot better than we did today but it is a big improvement. I think we are definitely moving in the right direction and I think we will have some good energy coming off of this win.”

Lloyd, for her part, believes that Princeton is primed for a good effort against Brown.

“We are going to go into Brown and really look to keep getting better,” said Lloyd.

“We just need to improve a couple of fundamental things, a couple of things in transition and a couple things on defense.”

February 27, 2013

 

MIGHTY MAC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald prepares to unload the ball in a 2012 game. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman MacDonald scored three goals to help Princeton top Hofstra 10-7 in its season opener. The 12th-ranked Tigers play at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) this Friday in Baltimore.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY MAC: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike MacDonald prepares to unload the ball in a 2012 game. Last Saturday, sophomore attackman MacDonald scored three goals to help Princeton top Hofstra 10-7 in its season opener. The 12th-ranked Tigers play at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) this Friday in Baltimore. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Featuring a lineup stocked with freshmen and untested upperclassmen, Chris Bates knew that he had to exercise some patience as his Princeton University men’s lacrosse team opened its season at Hofstra last Saturday.

“We reminded ourselves as coaches to stay calm and not start barking at guys; we needed to stay composed,” said Princeton head coach Bates, who started four freshmen on Saturday and unveiled a totally revamped defense.

“There was so much uncertainly with new faces, more on the defensive end. You don’t know how that is going to jell and how the guys are going to do with the nerves of a game.”

After trailing 3-1 in the first quarter, Princeton jelled, scoring four unanswered goals in the second period on the way to a 10-7 victory before a crowd  of 1,556 at Shuart Stadium.

Showing composure, Princeton was not rattled when it fell behind early. “I didn’t think Hofstra did anything that we didn’t expect,” said Bates.

“We didn’t play well offensively, we had some turnovers. I give everybody credit, everybody stayed true to what we were trying to do.”

After a Mike MacDonald goal made it 3-2, it became the Ryan Ambler show for Princeton in the second quarter as the precocious freshman tallied a goal and two assists to help the Tigers take a 6-3 halftime lead.

“The fourth goal was Ryan’s, we exhorted him from the sidelines to be more aggressive and he sped right by his guy and fired it in,” said Bates of Ambler, who got another assist in the fourth quarter and was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

“He doesn’t turn the ball over and he shares the ball, he gets assists by getting to people at the right spot at the right time.”

Senior midfielder Bobby Lucas came through at the right time for Princeton, winning six-of-eight face-offs in the second half.

“We had a man up to start the half and we seemed settled in defensively,” said Bates.

“They get a goal and it is 6-4; you are never comfortable. We weren’t doing well on face-offs to that point. In the third and fourth quarter, Bobby Lucas was the change. He really gave us life, he controlled the face-offs.”

Junior star Tom Schreiber helped Princeton control the fourth quarter, tallying a goal and an assist as the Tigers outscored the Pride 3-1 over the last 15 minutes of the contest.

“Schreiber gave us some goals and he controls the game with his energy,” said Bates of Schreiber, who had two goals and an assist on the day with sophomore Mike MacDonald chipping in three goals. “He got some ground balls and did things that don’t show up on the scoresheet. He settles you down.”

The new-look Princeton defense settled in nicely, giving up four goals over the last 51:18 of the game after yielding three goals in the first 8:42 of the contest.

“They started to play better as a unit, they got more confidence,” said Bates, in assessing the defensive effort.

“Jack Strabo and Chris White gave us veteran leadership at shortstick middie. That is the most underrated position, it is thankless. They played so well that we didn’t need to slide as much. Derick and Nick settled down, Alex Beatty and Mark Strabo also played well. Greg Raymond (assistant coach) did a good job of preparing them; we were ready for what Hofstra does.”

Freshman goalie Matt O’Connor appeared to be ready for prime time, making six saves in his college debut as he follows in the footsteps of four-year starter Tyler Fiorito.

“One of the reasons we recruited him is that he has such high character; he is unflappable, he doesn’t get too high or too low,” said Bates of the former Lawrenceville School standout.

“He had a good week of practice. I think he is going to get better and better. He is a gamer, he always gives you his best. He just has to be consistent, he doesn’t have to be brilliant like Tyler was at times.”

Leaving Hofstra with a victory was a major high for the Tigers. “We are excited to get out of there with a win, it is a tough place to play,” said Bates.

“The weather was brutal, it was raining sideways and it was cold. It affected our stickwork. If we had gone up to Hofstra and come out with a loss, we might be doubting ourselves. It was great to get a win in that environment, Princeton hadn’t won up there in six years.”

This Friday, 12th-ranked Princeton heads into another hostile environment as it plays at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (3-0) in Baltimore.

“As Greg Raymond said, Hopkins is Hofstra on steroids,” said Bates. “They are a very seasoned team, they have upperclassmen everywhere. They are playing with a lot of confidence, they are feeling pretty good about themselves. They play with a lot of energy and they have no weaknesses.”

Bates promises that Princeton will bring plenty of energy into the annual showdown with the Blue Jays.

“We have to be opportunistic and play smart,” said Bates. “We can’t turn the ball over and we have to face-off well. I can tell you that the guys will be excited to be playing at Homewood Field, this is always an important game for us. It is a going to be on national TV and there is going to be a buzz. We have got to withstand their early barrage, we know they are going to try to knock us out. We have to bob and weave and counter punch.”

If the Tigers can build on their effort at Hofstra, they should have a puncher’s chance against Hopkins.

LAY OF THE LAND: Princeton University men’s senior hockey player Eric Meland controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Yale, defenseman Meland  came up big on Senior Night, tallying a goal and an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 before a packed house at Baker Rink. The Tigers, now 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LAY OF THE LAND: Princeton University men’s senior hockey player Eric Meland controls the puck in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Yale, defenseman Meland came up big on Senior Night, tallying a goal and an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 before a packed house at Baker Rink. The Tigers, now 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, wrap up regular season play with games at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Eric Meland and his classmates on the Princeton University men’s hockey team, there was a short-term goal when they took the ice at Baker Rink for Senior Night.

“We wanted to win,” said senior defenseman Meland. “A win would go a long way to securing home ice so it isn’t our last game here.”

The night’s festivities, which included a ceremony at the first intermission with the six seniors and their families, prompted Meland to reflect on the longer-term significance of his Tiger hockey experience.

“Princeton hockey really helps you grow as a person,” said Meland, whose fellow seniors include Rob Kleebaum, Will MacDonald, James Kerr, Michael Sdao, and Mike Condon.

“You go through ups and downs and you do it as a team. It is always nice to look at the guy across from you and know that he is going through everything you are going through. Successes and failures are shared by all.”

Battling No. 13 Yale before a packed house of 2,374 at Baker Rink, the Tigers battled hard to make it a successful evening. Coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss to Brown on Friday, the Tigers took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period.

“We came out with more jump,” said Meland,  who assisted on a Jack Berger goal that opened the scoring. “I think the effort was there.”

The rivals were knotted 2-2 heading into the third period and Meland put the Tigers up 3-2 with 10:48 left in regulation.

“In my position back there, I have the ability to sneak in the back door,” said Meland.

“I saw Rob Kleebaum had the puck on the side of the net and he slid it across the front of the net. I happened to be a victim of circumstance and I was able to backdoor it.”

Unfortunately, Yale came back and scored two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game to pull out a 4-3 win.

“It is game of bounces but we control our own fate,” said Meland, reflecting on the Yale rally that dropped Princeton to 9-14-4 overall and 7-10-3 ECAC Hockey, tied for ninth in the league standings.

“We can’t blame anybody but ourselves for this loss; it is something we can learn from.”

Meland, a 6’1, 190-pound native of Grand Forks, N.D., has proven to be a good learner as he has moved to defenseman from forward.

“I was excited about it; you have a little more time on the puck on defense,” said Meland, who has 13 points on two goals and 11 assists this season and 60 career points on 16 goals and 44 assists.

“I was excited to fill an offensive defenseman role and do everything I can to help the team win this year.”

With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (13-10-4 overall, 9-8-3 ECACH) on March 1 and at Harvard (8-16-3 overall, 5-13-2 ECACH) on March 2, the Tigers will need to get on the winning track to move up to eighth place and earn home ice for the first round of the ECACH playoffs.

“We can go out there and give it our all; it is a matter of the puck bouncing here or there,” said Meland.

“It is a results-based game so it is just a matter of bearing down at this point.”

Last fall, Anya Gersoff did her best to thwart shooters as a goalie for the Princeton University field hockey team.

Freshman Gersoff yielded only one goal in a back-up role for the national champion Tigers.

This spring, Gersoff has shed her pads and is trying to beat goalies as an attacker for the Princeton women’s lacrosse team.

Last Saturday, Gersoff was primed to make her lax debut as Princeton hosted Villanova in its season opener.

“It was so exciting to get out there,” said Gersoff, noting that her field hockey experience last fall helped calm her nerves.

Gersoff ended up making an exciting debut, scoring two goals to help the Tigers pull away to a 10-5 win over the Wildcats.

In reflecting on her effort, Gersoff said that playing goalie in the fall helps her be a savvy scorer in the spring.

“You kind of know what a goalie doesn’t like to see,” said Gersoff. “When I am playing goalie I always hate it when there is a shooter and they look at you and you are like oh no so there is that little bit of intimidation stuff.”

The Tigers had a little trouble with their shooting in the first half as they led just 3-0 despite having piled up 15 shots.

“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to the whole game,” said Gersoff. “In the first half, our shooting was a little rough but we will get better.” Early in the second half, Villanova drew to within 3-2 and Princeton responded with its best stretch of the contest, going on a 6-1 run to seize control.

“We just have so many great leaders on this team and they made it so we should step up,” said Gersoff, reflecting on Princeton’s second half surge.

“We just followed suit and we were able to put it in the back of the net a few times.”

Gersoff got into the act, scoring two straight goals in that run. Her first career goal put the Tigers up 8-3.

“I remember I picked up the ball and I had an open lane and I went to goal,” said Gersoff, recalling her initial college tally. “I was like wow I scored.”

The Tiger freshmen accounted for six of Princeton’s 10 goals as Gersoff’s classmates Alex Bruno and Stephanie Paloscio also scored two apiece.

“We have always gotten along well as a freshman class,” said Gersoff. “I knew that there was something special about us when we came in.”

Not being available to take part in the lacrosse fall training has required a special effort on Gersoff’s part this spring.

“It was a really hard adjustment,” said Gersoff. “I figured it out eventually, it is going OK. It is still an adjustment.”

Princeton head coach Chris Sailer, for her part, is confident her team figured some things out as it overcame a sluggish start.

“I think we definitely had the jitters a little bit,” said Sailer. “We didn’t look like we have been scrimmaging and practicing. I think it was just a little bit of that first game jitters that hopefully we worked out and we’ll come out a little stronger next time.”

Sailer liked her team’s strong play as it pulled away from Villanova in the second half.

“I think our kids knew that we had to make things happen so we got some turnovers in transition,” said Sailer. “We had some fast breaks, we had some nice connections in the attack end.”

The production of Gersoff and classmates Bruno and Paloscio was a nice plus for the Tigers.

“They really did lead the way finishing but the other kids did a lot between the lines,” said Sailer, referring to the trio of freshmen.

“I was really pleased, those three are all just smart shooters and really strong players so it was great to see them have such a great day on their first day out.”

Princeton got some smart play from such veteran performers as junior midfielder Sarah Lloyd and senior defender Caroline Rehfuss.

“I thought Sarah Lloyd did a really good job on the draw,” asserted Sailer.

“I thought Rehfuss did really well, she had four caused turnovers and No. 40 (Villanova offensive star Jackie Froccaro) had just one goal.”

With senior star attacker Jaci Gassaway sidelined due to a knee injury, the Tigers are going to need to do a better job of communicating on offense.

“We have to be confident in ourselves,” added Sailer, whose team plays at Georgetown on March 1 before hosting Southern California on March 3.

“We need more vocal leadership from our upperclassmen on the field. We didn’t have anyone in the attack end who was settling people and being that voice down there. Jaci was that person for us; we have got to work through that. It was an ugly win but we will take the ‘w’ to start the season.”

Gersoff, for her part, believes Princeton can build on its positive start. “It is always great to get a win in the first game of the season,” said Gersoff.

“We have been playing really well in our scrimmages and practices. We can just step it up a little more all over the field.”

OUT OF CONTENTION: Princeton University women’s hockey player Molly Contini heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, freshman forward Contini scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Brown 2-1. A day later, Princeton fell 4-2 at Yale to drop into ninth place in the final ECAC Hockey standings and end an 11-year streak of making the league playoffs. The Tigers finished the winter at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OUT OF CONTENTION: Princeton University women’s hockey player Molly Contini heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, freshman forward Contini scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Brown 2-1. A day later, Princeton fell 4-2 at Yale to drop into ninth place in the final ECAC Hockey standings and end an 11-year streak of making the league playoffs. The Tigers finished the winter at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, the task last weekend was clear.

If the Tigers won their games at Brown and Yale, they would clinch eighth place in the ECAC Hockey standings and the final spot in the upcoming league playoffs.

Princeton achieved step one on Friday as it edged Brown 2-1 with junior Olivia Mucha and freshman Molly Contini finding the back of the net in the first period and freshman goalie Kimberley newell making 23 saves.

“Mucha got us going early, she made a nice move and found a seam,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.

“When she is scoring goals, we are a better team. Contini took a pass from Kelly Cooke on a 2-on-1 and roofed a backhand, that was a big-time goal. That was early in the game, I was hoping we would get more but Brown played really well. Kim Newell (freshman goalie) played solid all weekend, she did what we needed.”

Against Yale the next day, it looked like Princeton was on the way to the win it needed as it jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.

“We got the lead but we were not playing that well,” said Kampersal who got goals from Mucha and sophomore Brianna Leahy.

“We got a shorthanded goal to go up 2-0. We didn’t take our foot off the pedal but Yale played with a lot of passion. It was their Senior Day.”

Even though Princeton led 2-1 going into the third, Kampersal had a bad feeling.

“I knew we were hanging on,” said Kampersal. “We were tired on Saturday. Our fatigue and their passion made the difference in the third period.”

Things fell apart in the third period as Princeton yielded three unanswered goals to lose 4-2. Princeton’s loss combined with a victory by Colgate over Rensselaer left Princeton at 11-16-2 overall and 6-14-2 in ECAH play and in ninth place and out of the league playoffs for the first time since 2001.

The abrupt ending to the season was painful for Kampersal and his players.

“It’s definitely hard to go out like that,” said Kampersal. “It is not the year we hoped for. We have some things to be proud of but we have to coach better and play better. The three seniors (Alex Kinney, Kelly Cooke, and Corey Stearns) all had good years. Cookie and Corey carried us to the end, they played great.”

In Kampersal’s view, this year’s disappointment could sow the seeds for future success.

“It was definitely a negative but it can also be a positive,” asserted Kampersal.

“It is a slap in the face, but it can get us to focus more on things and be re-motivated to get back to where we were in 2006 and 2007. We need to work hard and come back in unbelievable physical shape. We need to be more disciplined and be better hockey players.”

February 20, 2013

 

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Nick Fernandez races up the field in action last spring. Junior Fernandez has been moved to defense from midfield this spring and will play a key role as Princeton deals with the loss of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito to graduation. The Tigers open their 2013 season by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Nick Fernandez races up the field in action last spring. Junior Fernandez has been moved to defense from midfield this spring and will play a key role as Princeton deals with the loss of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito to graduation. The Tigers open their 2013 season by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

They were a trio of stars who not only formed the backbone of the defense for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team but also helped the proud program make it back to the NCAA tournament.

The Big 3 of defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, longstick midfielder John Cunningham, and goalie Tyler Fiorito earned All-American honors and helped spur a bounce-back season for Princeton in 2012 that saw the Tigers go 11-5 after a nightmarish 4-8 campaign the year before.

Although Wiedmaier, Cunningham, and Fiorito have graduated along with 10 classmates, their influence will be felt this spring.

“The senior class was so strong on the field and off the field,” said Princeton head coach Chris Bates, whose team went 6-0 in Ivy League regular season play in 2012 and ended the spring by losing 6-5 to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We have vowed to them to build on that foundation. It is not going to happen overnight. We have some holes to fill and kids need to get game experience in those areas.”

The Tigers do boast a nice foundation at attack where they welcome back senior Jeff Froccaro (27 goals and 12 assists in 2012) and sophomore Mike MacDonald  (22 goals and eight assists).

“Jeff is playing well and Mike’s game has developed,” said Bates, whose team opens its 2013 campaign by playing at Hofstra (1-0) on February 23.

“Ryan Ambler, a freshman, is the third attacker. He is really doing a lot for us. He is going to give us 60-minute games. He complements the other guys real well; I think we have a chance to be really good there.

Bates has some other good guys who should provide depth up front in sophomore Will Rotatori and senior Luke Armour (three goals and three assists).

“Will Rotatori is the fourth guy; he played well in the fall and is doing well so far this spring,” said Bates, who is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Princeton program and has a 26-18 record guiding the Tigers. “Luke Armour is another option there; he is a veteran.”

Princeton’s top offensive option figures to be All-American junior midfielder Tom Schreiber, who scored 32 goals and 28 assists last spring, the first Tiger to hit 60 points since Ryan Boyle in 2004.

“Schreiber is a captain as a junior, it is his team,” said Bates. “Tom brings something different when he is out there. Day in, day out, his competitive nature shines through. It is great when your best player is your hardest worker. We want the other guys to grab hold of that.”

Bates also wants Schreiber to spread the wealth, when necessary. “We are trying to help develop his game,” said Bates. “He doesn’t have to be Atlas with the players we have around him; there are days when he is going to be neutralized and he has to be a facilitator.”

The Tigers have some skilled players around Schreiber in the midfield. “Kip Orban (eight goals and three assists) ended up being on the first line last year; I think he is going to blossom into a prime-time player,” said Bates.

“He is a big, strong kid with a great shot. Hunter DeButts (two goals and four assists) needs to cut down on his turnovers and be smarter on his shots. He is very hard to cover so he could be good. Jake Froccaro, Jeff’s brother, has helped on extra man. He is skilled and savvy like his brother; he is going to get better and better.”

Princeton will feature two savvy veterans in the defensive midfield in junior Jack Strabo (four goals and one assist) and senior Chris White (two goals and four assists).

“Jack is ready to take the next step; the fact that we moved Nick Fernandez to close defense shows the confidence we have in him,” said Bates.

“Chris White is a captain and he is doing a really good job with that. He is playing really, really well; he is very steady and understands our defense.”

At longstick midfielder, lanky sophomore Alex Beatty is trying to fill the big shoes left by Cunningham.

“Alex Beatty is at long pole; he is 6’7 and he is a nemesis to Tom [Schreiber] everyday in practice; he is pretty athletic.”

In order to shore up the depleted defense, Bates has moved one of his most athletic players, junior Fernandez, to close defense from the midfield.

“Fernandez is so athletic and so mobile; he has picked things up very well,” asserted Bates.

“He has been working very hard with the pole. There are going to be a lot of eyes on him. He needs to direct our defense.”

The defense will feature a bevy of new faces with juniors Derick Raabe, Rob Posniewski, and Brian Reilly together with freshmen Mark Strabo and Brian Pickup in the mix.

“Derick Raabe has been good,” said Bates. “It is a new world for those guys. It is going to take some games for those guys to pick everything up. Mark Strabo is tough as nails; he has been playing very well. Rob Posniewski, Brian Reilly, and Brian Pickup should also help.”

At goalie, Princeton faces the daunting task of replacing Fiorito, who started from day one as a freshman and posted a goals against average of 7.07 last spring. In a case of what goes around, comes around, Bates is leaning toward installing freshman Matt O‘Connor as the starter over sophomore Eric Sanschagrin and junior Brian Kavanaugh.

“Matt O’Connor is ahead of Eric by a nose,” said Bates. “Matt is a strong lefty. He saves a lot of balls; he has a commanding presence. Eric is a pure stopper, he reads the ball so well. We have confidence in all three guys. We want one guy to emerge; we don’t want to have anyone looking over their shoulder.”

At face-off, Bates has confidence in several guys. “Bobby Lucas is the prime guy,” said Bates of the senior who won 91 of 164 face-offs last season.

“Justin Murphy (15-of-30) is a dedicated, hard worker. The Froccaros are very streaky; when they are on, they can get three in a row and you can pick up a couple of goals.”

Bates acknowledged that Princeton is going to need to score a lot of goals to keep its head above water as the new defense takes shape.

“The schedule is pretty unforgiving, Hofstra, Johns Hopkins, and North Carolina in the first few weeks,” said Bates.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. It is going to be a roller-coaster. We can score goals and I am confident the defense will jell. Greg Raymond [assistant coach] does a great job with the defense, they are coming along.”

MID-RANGE WEAPON: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads up the field in action last season. The Tigers are depending on senior star Davis (20 goals, five assists in 2012) to be a force in the midfield this spring. Princeton opens its 2013 season by hosting Villanova on February 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MID-RANGE WEAPON: Princeton University women’s lacrosse player Charlotte Davis heads up the field in action last season. The Tigers are depending on senior star Davis (20 goals, five assists in 2012) to be a force in the midfield this spring. Princeton opens its 2013 season by hosting Villanova on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While missing out on postseason play last spring left the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team with an empty feeling, Chris Sailer believes the experience gave her players a fuller appreciation of what it takes to excel.

“Last year was a tough year for all of us,” said Princeton head coach Sailer, who is entering her 27th season at the helm at Princeton and has won 322 games and three NCAA titles in her Hall of Fame career.

“It led to some important reflection and renewed commitment. The girls have been motivated all year long in the off season and now in the preseason.”

The team’s offseason featured a trip to Malta and London in October that Sailer believes gave her players a boost as they look to rebound from last spring’s disappointment.

“The foreign trips always help a team; you spend so much time together and you do cool things together,” said Sailer, whose team opens the 2013 season by hosting Villanova (0-1) on February 23.

“This group has a unique chemistry. They are so supportive of each other; they get along so well. They enjoy being out on the field and playing together. I think we are in a good place.”

The addition of new assistant coaches Jenn Cook and former Princeton standout Anne Murray ’09 has positively impacted the team’s chemistry.

“That has been awesome, they add a new energy,” said Sailer. “They bring new sets of eyes on everybody and new ideas. There are new drills. The kids have really enjoyed working with them.”

Sailer enjoys having the one-two punch of senior Jaci Gassaway (38 goals and 16 assists in 2012) and sophomore Erin McMunn (18 goals and 30 assists) back to trigger the Princeton attack.

“Jaci and Erin are both good players and they play so well together,” said Sailer. “They lift other people around them.”

While Gassaway and McMunn figure to be the Tigers’ biggest offensive weapons, Sailer believes she has other people who are going to be dangerous.

“I think we are going to have a balanced attack,” asserted Sailer, whose team went 8-7 overall last spring with a 4-3 mark in Ivy League play.

“We have a lot of kids who have stepped up, both returners and freshmen. It is not going to just be the Jaci and Erin show.”

Among those in the mix on attack are senior Sam Ellis (9 goals and seven assists), junior Mary-Kate Sivilli (10 goals, nine assists), sophomore Erika Grabbi (two goals), junior Grace Bowen, together with freshmen Alex Bruno and Anya Gersoff.

“Sam Ellis is a senior; she is an explosive kid,” said Sailer. “Mary-Kate Sivilli started about half the games for us; she plays solid in front of the net. Grabbi and Bowen have both improved from last year; they can help us out in certain situations. We have a couple of good freshman. Bruno is really smart; she is a good shooter and she knows how to read defenses and finish. Gersoff played field hockey last fall and had a great experience. She jumped in with us this spring. She is a lax rat; she has incredible stick skills.”

The Tiger midfield is led by skillful senior Charlotte Davis (20 goals, five assists).

“Char is off to a great start in preseason; we had a scrimmage with Temple this week and she was so solid,” said Sailer. “She is hard to contain with her drive and shot; she is going to be a huge leader for us.”

Junior Sarah Lloyd (17 goals and five assists) and freshman Erin Slifer (10 goals and seven assists) could prove hard for Princeton’s foes to contain this spring

“Sarah Lloyd has been doing well,” said Sailer, whose midfield unit will also include senior Jenna Davis and a pair of promising freshmen in Anna Menke and Stephanie Paloscio.

“She is more of a 1-on-1 player this year; we want her to go to goal. Slifer is an all-around solid player at both ends of the field. She is a good defender and a solid attacker. We are looking for her to do more on attack.”

Sophomore Blake Dietrick, who is currently starring at guard for the Ivy-leading Princeton women’s basketball team, could be a solid addition for the Tigers.

“Dietrick is an athletic kid; we really wanted her to play lacrosse but basketball is her first love and she didn’t play for us last year,” said Sailer, noting that Dietrick was an All-American lax player in high school. “She will join us in mid-to-late March and we will see how she fits in.”

Senior captain Caroline Rehfuss (one goal, three assists, 15 groundballs) adds athleticism and leadership to the Princeton defense.

“Rehfuss is playing so well, she has been on fire,” asserted Sailer.

“She is so smart on the field, her positioning is great. She is also good in transition. She is going to be the backbone of the unit.”

The unit will also feature juniors Colleen Smith and Liz Cutting along with talented freshman Liz Bannantine.

“Colleen Smith is aggressive and very smart; Cutting is playing really well, she made a lot of progress,” added Sailer, who will also be using junior Erin Williams and sophomore Erin Curley on defense.

“Liz Bannanine is doing really well; she is like deButts [former All-American defender Lindsey deButts] in transition.”

Sophomore goalie Annie Woehling is doing well as she builds on a freshman campaign that saw her post a goals against average of 9.50 in 15 starts.

“Annie has a year under her belt and has been tested under fire,” said Sailer.

“She is much more confident and less nervous. She knows what is expected at this level. She is a quick kid.”

Sailer is confident that her squad can rebound from last year’s frustration. “Our goal is certainly to make it to the postseason,” said Sailer.

“We have the potential to be one of the top teams in the Ivies, we are going for the title. It was tough to be left out last year. We have a good group of kids. We have good senior leadership; we have a senior leading every unit. We have good balance; it is not a situation where we have a strong unit and a weak unit.”

AD LIB: Princeton University women’s squash star Libby Eyre strokes the ball in recent action. Last weekend, Eyre and the Tigers placed fourth at the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament to finish the season with a 12-2 record. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 for much of the season and went 7-0 in Ivy League play to win their first league title since 2009. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AD LIB: Princeton University women’s squash star Libby Eyre strokes the ball in recent action. Last weekend, Eyre and the Tigers placed fourth at the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament to finish the season with a 12-2 record. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 for much of the season and went 7-0 in Ivy League play to win their first league title since 2009.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Gail Ramsay could sense that there was something special about her Princeton University women’s squash team before the season even began.

Taking a trip to South Africa last October, the Tigers came together on and off the court.

“Any change of scenery with squash is great because you get to see different styles; we won three close matches there,” said longtime Princeton head coach Ramsay.

“It was great for team bonding. Any time you can get them to have a deeper commitment to each other that is a help. I felt that there was a good dynamic on this team.”

Princeton displayed its commitment to excellence when it upset top-ranked Harvard 5-4 in mid-January to improve to 5-0 and take the top spot in the national rankings.

“Looking at it on paper, they had a lot of experience,” said Ramsay, noting that the Crimson boasted players with national team credentials.

“We have some top players but they had the upper hand in experience. We were at home, felt comfortable on the court. There were a lot of close matches, we hung in there and made it happen. It was a perfect storm. It was quite an energy boost for us.”

The victory helped catapult Princeton to a perfect 11-0 regular season and the program’s first Ivy League title since 2009.

“The seniors had just missed out earlier in their careers,” said Ramsay. “I was excited that they had a chance to take a championship with them in addition to having a tremendous experience.

Last weekend, Princeton hoped to add another championship as it headed to Yale to compete in the Howe Cup national collegiate team tournament.

“We went in at No. 1,” said Ramsay. “We wanted to win and we thought we could.”

But after cruising past Brown 9-0 in a quarterfinal contest, the Tigers fell 6-3 to Trinity in the semis to see their title hopes dashed.

“Trinity was a big challenge,” said Ramsay, whose team went on to fall to Penn 7-2 in the third-place match.

“We played well enough; we could have pulled that out. We didn’t play the big points well, we didn’t capitalize when we had chances.

While Princeton didn’t come up big last weekend, Ramsay is proud of how her squad overcame challenges throughout the season.

“We were so excited to be Ivy champs; it is one of the toughest years in years to do it,” said Ramsay.

“That is always our first goal. We were the only team to beat Harvard this year; they went on to beat Trinity in the Howe finals. We have been working at it with this group for a few years, looking for that extra 5 or 10 percent improvement. I thought they accomplished a lot; we just didn’t get the icing this weekend.”

Senior star Julie Cerullo certainly accomplished a lot for Princeton in her stellar career.

“Julie was No. 1 for four years, a 3-time All American, and will probably get a fourth,” said Ramsay.

“It was great to have a leader like that at the top of the lineup. She came back every year improved and pulled her teammates along with her. She was disciplined and organized. Seniors at Princeton have a lot going on and she was very accountable. She was a good example for me and the team.”

Cerullo’s fellow senior, Casey Cortes, also set a good example for her teammates.

“Casey contributed a lot; she had some huge wins for us over the years,” said Ramsay, noting that Cortes played at No. 9 and No. 10 for most of the year.

“When she was determined to win, she usually did. She was an incredibly strong person emotionally, playing the 8-9-10-11 is tough, going against your best friend to make or not make it. She ended up 10th for us at the Howe Cup but that didn’t sway her leadership.”

The future looks bright as Princeton returns eight of her nine top players including junior Libby Eyre, sophomore Nicole Bunyan, freshman Rachel Leizman, sophomore Alex Lunt, junior Lexi Saunders, junior Alex Sawin, freshman Tara Harrington, and sophomore Hallie Dewey.

“I think we will be better,” said Ramsay, noting that she has some promising freshmen on the way who could crack the top nine.

“It is hard for me to see what the other teams will be like. But within our space, if everyone continues to improve at the rate we are improving, we will be better. They are all pretty bright, they need to take the conceptual and turn it into reality. The need to get over the match and past it but then break it down and figure out how to do A or do B better.”

PULLING AWAY: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior star Rasheed overcame some poor shooting to pile up 42 points and 22 rebounds as Princeton topped Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeated Harvard 67-51 a night later. The Tigers, now 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, host Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PULLING AWAY: Princeton University women’s basketball player Niveen Rasheed dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, senior star Rasheed overcame some poor shooting to pile up 42 points and 22 rebounds as Princeton topped Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeated Harvard 67-51 a night later. The Tigers, now 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, host Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Niveen Rasheed’s shot was off last weekend but that didn’t upset the senior star for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

Although Rasheed hit just 11-of-36 shots for a 30 percent clip, she was thrilled to help Princeton top Dartmouth 77-65 on Friday and defeat Harvard 67-51 a night later.

“It’s OK when I have an off shooting day, I don’t really care because we are still winning the game and we have players like Blake [Dietrick] and Michelle [Miller] coming off the bench and making up for it,” said 6‘0 senior guard Rasheed, a native of Danville, Calif.

“That just shows you about our team. I am a little off, but that’s why I got my teammates covering my back. As long as I am playing good defense and making an effort on the court, I still feel like I am making a contribution.”

Rasheed was happy to see the Tigers produce a better effort against Harvard than they did Friday in a subpar performance in the win over Dartmouth.

“Yesterday was just a negative feeling after the game; even though we got the win, it didn’t feel right,” said Rasheed, who scored 25 points in the win on Friday.

“It was great to see the team rally back and come with intensity. Harvard played their best, better than we have seen them play on film. They gave us a battle but I was proud of everyone; it was a total team effort right there. In the battle with the Crimson, Princeton trailed 15-7 early in the first half but then hit four straight three-pointers to seize control of the contest.

“It was a very mature thing for us to not get down,” said Rasheed. “Our backs were against the wall so we just turned it up and went on our run. We got hold of the momentum and we kept it and didn’t look back.”

The wins helped Princeton maintain its momentum in its quest for a fourth straight Ivy title as the Tigers improved to 16-5 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, two games ahead of second place Penn and three games ahead of Dartmouth and Harvard.

“You know that both these teams really needed this win and wanted this win and even if they were two games down in the league, beating us would have been huge for them,” said Rasheed, who ended up with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Crimson which was the 31st straight league triumph for Princeton. “So both teams came in fighting and they gave us games both nights.”

With the games winding down for Rasheed and her classmates, she is not taking anything for granted.

“We know we have the leadership role on this team and we are cherishing every moment,” said Rasheed.

“It’s sad, knowing that this is the last time we will ever see these teams. It is definitely bittersweet and we are enjoying every moment.”

Rasheed is nearing some more milestone moments in her stellar career as she ended the weekend with 1,497 career points.

“Once I hit 1,000 points, I haven’t thought about that,” said Rasheed, the Ivy Player of the Year last season who is leading the league in scoring (16.9) and is second in rebounding (9.2). “Now it is one mission, one goal, get to that tournament and get that win.”

While the Tigers hit some bumps in their non-conference schedule working in some new faces and adapting to a different offense, Rasheed believes that things have come together.

“It took us a little while; we have such a young team with some new players,” said Rasheed, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for a third straight time.

“Our offense is clicking, our defense has been solid. Our freshmen are getting experience, our sophomores were key contributors to this game. It is really comforting knowing that when you go on the bench, there is going to be the next five coming in with the same energy and attack.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, for her part, is comforted by her team’s depth which was on display Saturday as the bench players outscored the starters 35-32 with back-up point guard Dietrick scoring a career-high 19 points and Miller adding eight.

“It is great, that second group is very offensive and if they continue to progress defensively, we are going to get even better,” said Banghart.

“That is why it is a team, you can’t be good at everything, you have to have people who are good at everything and that’s what we have.”

The Tigers need a solid team effort to subdue the Crimson. “This was a great battle, a good Ivy League game,” said Banghart.

“It was two teams playing hard. Harvard was desperate for a win, coming into our gym already with two losses and we matched and exceeded that effort. We gave up maybe 20 second half points against a team that we held to 17 points below their average. That is sign of a good team.”

All the signs now point to Princeton making it four straight Ivy crowns. “We said it was separation weekend so no doubt, I think we separated ourselves really nicely,” said Banghart.

“We have one more road weekend and two more home weekends so if we take care of our business we will be what we wanted to be at the beginning of the year which is Ivy League champs.”

The presence of Rasheed helps separate the Tigers from their league foes.

“As the lights turn on, Niveen Rasheed comes to play,” said Banghart.

“It is what we have come to expect, it is what you guys come for, it is what the fans come for. We are running out of time with her, so people should come and enjoy her.”

Banghart is determined to help her players make the most of their time over the balance of the regular season.

“I like our defense but offensively we need to understand pace, timing, recognition, and purpose,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Columbia (3-18 overall, 1-6 Ivy) on February 22 and Cornell (11-10 overall, 3-4 Ivy) the next day.

“We show signs of that and then signs of not. It is just tinkering and critiquing and getting really picky.”

Rasheed, for her part, acknowledges that the Tigers must pick up their game if they are to achieve their lofty goals.

“It doesn’t really matter where we stand in the league, if we are three games up or not,” said Rasheed.

“We still have to get better and not get complacent about how we play because we have a bigger mission. We can’t develop bad habits, we have to play better basketball and we have a lot of things to work on.”

February 13, 2013

 

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CONDO VALUE: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Mike Condon controls the puck in a game earlier this winter. Last weekend, senior netminder Condon came up big as the Tigers posted a 4-2 win at Colgate on Friday and then triumphed 1-0 at Cornell the next day. Condon, who made 36 saves against Colgate and then had 39 in his shutout of the the Big Red, was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week. Princeton, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last weekend’s trip north to Colgate and Cornell, the Princeton University men’s hockey team hadn’t exactly been road warriors.

The Tigers went 1-7-3 in their first 11 away contests and were coming off a rough New England jaunt which saw them fall 4-2 at No. 8 Yale on February 1 and then absorb a 5-1 setback at Brown the next day.

While Princeton head coach Bob Prier acknowledged that he was disappointed by that weekend, he was confident his team could benefit from the experience. “We tried to forget about it,” said Prier.

“We had a good week. We needed a day off so we didn’t practice on Wednesday. We were pretty tired. The Yale game took a lot out of us. We didn’t play poorly but we didn’t play well enough to win. We weren’t ourselves in the Brown game. We learned from it, we compiled videos of some habits that weren’t strong that weekend. We didn’t watch it as a team. We had the guys watch it on their own.”

Even though the Tigers were down to 16 skaters as they braved the blizzard and made their way to New York last weekend, Prier was upbeat about his team’s prospects against Colgate and Cornell.

“It was a challenge, not a concern,” said Prier. “We had three solid lines and three pairs of defensemen. If we wanted to be successful this weekend, everyone had to pitch in.”

In the early going against Colgate, it looked like undermanned Princeton was on its heels as it was knotted at 1-1 after the first period but had been outshot 18-8.

In the second period, however, the Tigers found their stride, scoring two unanswered goals with Alec Rush and Jack Berger both finding the back of the net. Princeton went on to a 4-2 victory as Jonathan Liau added an insurance goal and senior goalie Mike Condon made 36 saves.

“We had 16 scoring chances and they had nine, we didn’t waste too many opportunities,” said Prier.

“We did a real good job in tight on the goal. We generated a lot of chances and kept them out. It was nice to see Jack get his first goal. Alec got another and Liau got his first. It was nice to get balanced scoring; all three lines were involved. Guys did things they don’t usually do, everyone helped with the penalty killing.”

A night later, Condon did some great things, making 39 saves as Princeton blanked Cornell 1-0.

“Mike was the MVP of the weekend, he was clearly the best player on the ice,” asserted Prier of his netminder who was later named the ECACH Goaltender of the Week for his performance on the trip.

“He made a huge save with a minute and a half left and he made another big one in the second. He came up huge.”

In Prier’s view, his team’s performance before a crowd of 4,267 jamming Lynah Rink marked a huge step forward.

“The guys played really well on the road,” said Prier, whose team got the lone tally of the contest on a second period goal by Andrew Ammon as it improved to 9-10-4 overall and 7-6-3 ECACH, moving into a three-way for third place in the league standings with Rensselaer and Dartmouth.

“Cornell is a hostile environment, their crowd is electric. It is a tough place to win. It gives you a lot of confidence to win on the road like that.”

The play of sizzling netminder Condon, who now sports a goals against average of 2.42 and a save percentage of .926, is making the Tigers tough to beat.

“When your goalie is playing that well, it really gives your team confidence,” asserted Prier of Condon, a 6’2, 195-pound native of Needham, Mass. who is now sixth in the ECACH in goals against and fourth in save percentage. “It makes everyone better, they don’t grip the stick as tightly.”

The play of junior captain Berger together with bruising senior defenseman and assistant captain Michael Sdao helped Princeton enjoy one of its better weekends of the season.

“Jack Berger scored on Friday; we keep stats tracking impact on the game and he was fabulous,” said Prier of Berger, who now has nine points on a goal and eight assists.

“He played like a captain, he played like a leader. Mike Sdao was also outstanding. He kept the puck safe and made things hard on our opponents. He was not on the ice on any of the goals against us. It is great when you have a leader on the front end and one on the back end playing like that.”

Prier is hoping for a great home weekend when Princeton hosts Clarkson (7-14-7 overall, 6-7-3 ECACH) on February 15 and St. Lawrence (13-11-4 overall, 6-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We approach every game the same,” said Prier, whose team has a 6-2 record so far this season in the friendly confines of Baker Rink.

“We get their tendencies on special teams but we need to focus on ourselves. We need to sprint to spots. Our transition game is getting so much better. We have got some momentum and we want to use it this weekend.”

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

HOME DAMAGE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ian Hummer drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior star Hummer scored 15 points in a 63-46 win over Brown to reach 1,455 career points, moving him up to fourth on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. A night later, Hummer scored 14 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 69-65 to Yale to see their 21-game home winning streak in Ivy League play snapped. Princeton, now 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy, plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 and at Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Ian Hummer moved up two spots on the career scoring list for the Princeton University men’s basketball team last Friday as the Tigers hosted Brown.

The senior forward scored 15 points in Princeton’s 63-46 win over the Bears to give him 1,455 points, moving him up to fourth all-time, passing Craig Robinson ’83 (1,441) and then Pete Campbell ’62 (1,451).

Hummer, though, is focused on the moment, not his place in Tiger hoops history.

“I want to go out and play as best I can, I want to put two halves together,” said Hummer, when asked what the scoring milestones mean to him. “There have been a couple of times where I have had some good first halves … and I have kind of shot away the second half.”

In the victory over Brown, Hummer liked the way the Tigers played collectively.

“A lot of guys are stepping up,” said Hummer. “I think Denton Koon made a couple of jump shots and went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers. Hans [Brase] is playing quite well. Will [Barrett] is playing well. T.J. [Bray] is playing extremely well. Brendan Connolly is really stepping up. Overall, it is an inside-out effort. We have athletic, mobile forwards and guards.”

Still, Hummer saw room for improvement. “Even though it was a good win, we need to rebound better, myself included,” said Hummer.

“A couple of their guys had offensive rebounds. If we cut those out and cut down on our turnovers a little bit, we are looking pretty good.”

A night later against visiting Yale, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers and things didn’t go well as Princeton fell 69-65 to suffer its first loss this winter in Ivy League play.

In reflecting on the setback, Hummer acknowledged that he wasn’t at his sharpest.

“I kind of forced the issue,” said Hummer, who ended up with 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds in the loss which dropped Princeton to 11-8 overall and 4-1 Ivy.

“I had seven turnovers, which is way too many. It is more the fact that I forced a little too much rather than them frustrating me. The last couple of games I have been taking care of the ball and cutting down on my turnovers. This is first game in a little while where I have had a lot of turnovers so I have to play a little better and lead my team.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson tipped his hat to Yale, who shot 65 percent in the first half to lead 34-26 at intermission.

“I thought Yale played lights out,” said Henderson, whose team came into the evening riding a 21-game home winning streak in Ivy play.

“They got us on our heels and we never responded. We never had a counter punch. We made a little bit of a run but it is a disappointing result. I thought they were terrific. They turned us over and we have been taking care of the ball nicely.”

The Tigers had the chance to pull out the win as they had the ball with 38 seconds left in regulation and trailing by 67-65. Princeton, though, couldn’t get a shot and ended up losing the ball and Yale made two free throws to seal the victory.

“At the very end without being able to get a shot off, that really hurt us,” said Henderson, reflecting on that final sequence.

“We wanted to get the ball to the basket. Against a zone, you have to get it inside and I think that pass that was turned over was just a poor angled pass into the post. We just got spread out and there was a lot of deferring; somebody has got to make a play.”

Henderson was disappointed with his team’s failure to make plays on 50/50 balls.

“As a coach of this team and as an alum, I don’t think this is what Princeton basketball should be about,” lamented Henderson.

“We lost a lot of loose balls and we didn’t come up with the rebounds that we needed to come up with. Those things have been hallmarks of this program for a long time.”

Still, Henderson believes that Princeton can live to the program’s tradition of winning Ivy titles.

“We have got nine games left,” said Henderson, whose team trails Harvard (13-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) in the league standings and plays at Dartmouth (6-14 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on February 15 before playing at the front-running Crimson a day later.

“I never thought we were going to go undefeated in the league. I am disappointed to lose at home; we have been playing really well. I am disappointed and I know the guys are too but we are not hanging our heads for a second here. We are going to get right back out there.”

Hummer, for his part, is confident that the Tigers will remain in the title chase.

“I think we still have the mindset that we are one of the better teams in the league,” said Hummer.

“This doesn’t change it at all. It stinks that we had to lose at home and lose against a team I thought we could play well against.”

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COOKING TIME: Princeton University women’s hockey player Kelly Cooke heads up the ice in recent action. Senior forward and assistant captain Cooke has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer this winter, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey. The Tigers, now 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH action, play at No. 6 Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After scoring a total of 11 goals in her first three seasons on the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Kelly Cooke has saved her best for last.

The gritty 5’1 forward has emerged as Princeton’s go-to scorer in her senior season, tallying a team-high 13 goals in 25 games, the eighth best in ECAC Hockey.

For Cooke, her outburst has been a bit surprising, even to her. “I don’t know; I think it is partly desperation,” said Cooke, a native of Andover, Mass. who starred at Noble and Greenough before coming to Princeton.

“I think a lot of it is playing with Corey [classmate Corey Stearns]. We played together in high school. We have played all year together and it has worked out well for both of us. She is such a great playmaker. I have been getting lucky, she has been setting me up all year.”

Coming into its game against visiting Cornell last Saturday, Cooke and the Tigers were desperate to bounce back from a disappointing 6-1 loss to Colgate the day before.

“I think every one realized after last night that in order to make the playoffs, we have to play our hearts out every night,” said Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal in the defeat to Colgate.

The Tigers went out and fought the No. 4 Big Red tooth-and-nail, trailing just 1-0 heading into the third period.

“It was great that everyone came back and played the way we did today,” said Cooke. “We had all of our lines and defensive pairs playing well tonight which gave us a chance to win.”

Princeton tied the game at 1-1 with 18:04 left in regulation and it looked like the Tigers might pull off the upset. But the Big Red scored seven minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory as Princeton dropped to 9-14-2 overall and 4-12-2 in ECACH play.

“We hung on for a long time and once we got that goal, we definitely had the momentum,” recalled Cooke. “But when they scored, it took the wind out of our sails.”

Cooke and classmates Stearns and Alex Kinney have made a habit of hanging out together before games this winter.

“It is crazy how fast time flies; you always hear that from the seniors when you are coming up through the ranks,” said Cooke.

“After the first warmup, Kinney, Corey, and I always sit in the stands for just a minute or two before we go to the locker room. It was weird sitting there today, knowing that we are not going to come back here as players.”

For Cooke, moving up the ranks to serve as an assistant captain this season has presented some challenges.

“It is definitely tough,” said Cooke. “Our coaches always say that instead of just worrying about yourself, you have to worry about the whole team which is a tough place to be but it is also great to see the team grow throughout the year.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal wanted his team to show some growth in the wake of its disappointing performance against Colgate.

“Yesterday was really unfortunate; we were really flat,” said Kampersal. “It was just a real bummer, we laid a big egg. That was a humongous game; it is still not over for us but that was a humongous game. Today, the kids wanted it. I thought yesterday, they didn’t want it as much as Colgate did. Today they wanted it badly.”

In Kampersal’s view, the team brought some extra emotion to the table on Saturday, knowing it was the last home game for the seniors and that it had fallen to ninth place in the ECACH standings, one spot out of a playoff berth.

“It was Senior Day and the fact that they know that every point right now is really critical,” said Kampersal

“Cornell scored a really nice goal there at the end to make it 2-1. They made a nice zone entry and a nice catch. They are a really skilled team and they made the most of their chances but I thought Kim [freshman goalie Kimberly Newell] played great and everybody played really well, staying out of the box and doing the little things, all that stuff that we didn’t do the day before.”

Cooke has certainly done a lot of good stuff this winter for the Tigers. “Cookie has had a humongous year, no question,” said Kampersal.

“She brings a lot of heart and soul with a lot of quickness and good penalty killing. She has scored some big goals this year. I think that her and Corey playing together helps.”

The Tigers have also been sparked by the play of Stearns and Kinney. “Corey is a really good playmaker, she is a dynamite puck handler and passer,” asserted Kampersal of Stearns, who leads Princeton in scoring with 27 points on four goals and 23 assists.

“Kinney has had a good solid senior year, no question. She had some big goals earlier in the year. She has been a steady, calm player.”

Princeton will need to come up with some big goals if they are to get back into the top eight and earn a spot in the ECACH playoffs.

“We have to get points in the north country, no question and then it is the Yale, Brown weekend,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at sixth-ranked Clarkson (23-7 overall, 15-3 ECACH) on February 15 and at St. Lawrence (16-11-3 overall, 11-5-2 ECACH) a day later. “Hopefully that will set up to be another playoff weekend, we’ll see.”

Cooke, for her part, believes that the Tigers have the spirit to force their way into the playoff picture.

“We all brought it tonight and the will was just to compete with a team that is fourth in the country like that; it shows a lot about our team’s will,” said Cooke.

“We have definitely hit rock bottom at times but we have always managed to come out of it. We had great games against Yale and Brown last weekend; we were really flowing well. I definitely think that if we play this way next weekend and the weekend after, we are good to be in the playoffs.”

No matter what happens, Cooke is enjoying the way she has played in her final campaign.

“I guess we have been appreciating it all year, we knew it was going to come to an end so we definitely savor our moments,” said Cooke, who now has 44 points in her Tiger career on 24 goals and 20 assists. “Corey and I are having the seasons of our life so it has been a pretty fun ride so far.”

February 6, 2013

 

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SALLYING FORTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sally Butler skates up the ice in recent action. Last Friday, junior forward Butler contributed a goal and an assist as Princeton rallied from a one-goal third period deficit to top Yale 3-1. A day later, the Tigers scored early and often as it defeated Brown 6-1 in improving to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. Princeton hosts Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final home games of the regular season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s hockey team having lost six of seven games heading into exam break last month, the players needed to recharge their batteries.

“I definitely think we had time to refocus,” said Princeton junior forward Sally Butler.

“Things weren’t necessarily going our way before the break and we spent time together training, practicing, and getting ready. Our coaches definitely got us refocused for the end of the season.”

In returning to the ice last week, the Tigers showed a renewed focus as they topped Penn State 3-0 in a non-league contest on January 29 before resuming ECAC Hockey play by topping Yale 3-1 on Friday and routing Brown 6-1 a day later.

Starting the weekend in 10th place in the ECACH standings, two spots away from the top 8 and a playoff berth, Butler and her teammates knew they had to pick it up, starting with the Yale game.

“It was definitely a must win and the coaches got us pumped before the game and ready to go,” said Butler. “We know they are all teams we can beat so we just have to bring it.”

Against the Bulldogs, Princeton brought it from the beginning, generating a number of good scoring chances in the first two periods. But a Yale goal late in the second period left the Tigers trailing 1-0 going into the third and in danger of falling further behind in the race for a playoff spot.

“It is a little frustrating because we were all over the net; their goalie played very well, I thought,” said Butler.

“We definitely needed to reduce the turnovers at the blue line because that was something we weren’t doing too well. Beyond that, coach [Jeff] Kampersal was telling us to just keep going hard on them and get shots to the net and things will go in.”

Minutes into the third period, Butler helped get things going for the Tigers as she rushed the net and fed classmate Denna Laing, who banged home a goal.

“Our line has been jelling a little bit recently, I got back together with Laing and [Olivia] Mucha,” said Butler, a 5’9 native of Etobicoke, Ontario.

“It was a great forecheck by Mucha. Laing shot it down low to me and I was able to get it back out to her and she just buried it.”

Just over three minutes later, freshman Cristin Shanahan tallied on a superb diving effort to put the Tigers ahead.

“Oh my goodness, that was a big goal,” said a grinning Butler. “It was a great pass by [Alex] Kinney. Shanny just dove in there, no mistaking that one, it was a beautiful goal.”

Butler added an insurance goal, tallying an empty netter with 1:12 left in the contest to make the final margin. “It was nice to finish them off,” said Butler, who now has 14 points on the season with seven goals and seven assists.

Princeton head coach Kampersal was exhorting his players to finish better as they headed into the third period of the Yale game.

“I thought we controlled most of it early; there were a couple of times when Kim [goalie Kimberly Newell] bailed us out big time and that’s what we need from her,” recalled Kampersal.

“The message after the second period was that we need to bear down on our chances and that if we get one on that goalie, we can get a couple. She is real good but you have to get that first one.”

Sure enough, breaking through early in the third period helped lead to a three goal outburst.

“The first one ignited us,” said Kampersal, reflecting on the Butler to Laing combination. “It wasn’t pretty. It was just getting the puck in the net and good things happen when you do that.”

A day later, the Tigers got the puck in the net a lot against Brown, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after two periods on the way to the 6-1 triumph. Freshman Molly Contini led the way with three goals, her first college hat trick, with senior star and assistant captain Kelly Cooke chipping in a goal and two assists and sophomore Brianna Leahy notching two goals.

The big weekend improved Princeton to 9-12-2 overall and 4-10-2 in ECACH play, good for eighth place in the league standings. With Princeton hosting Colgate (8-16-3 overall, 3-10-3 ECACH) on February 8 and Cornell (19-4 overall, 14-2 ECACH) the next day in its final regular season home games, Kampersal doesn’t want his players dwelling on league playoff scenarios.

“We do think of games but we literally think of shift to shift and battling for that shift,” said Kampersal.

“I think they know exactly what is going on but you can’t think about clumps of games. There is so much that can happen so you really need to focus on the immediate present and doing your job because if you don’t then nothing else really matters.”

Butler, for her part, feels that the team has bought into Kampersal’s stay in the moment approach.

“We are trying to get each other pumped up and staying focused is definitely part of it,” said Butler. “We only have a few games left and every single game is crucial so we have to stick with this.”

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

BENCH STRENGTH: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly drives to the basket in Princeton’s recent win over Bucknell. Last Saturday, 6’11 senior center Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes off the bench to help the Tigers edge visiting Columbia 72-66. Princeton, now 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

On Friday night, Brendan Connolly hardly left the bench as the Princeton University men’s basketball team topped visiting Cornell 76-59.

The 6’11, 255-pound senior center played one minute and had only a foul to show for his limited appearance.

A day later, though, Connolly played a critical role off the bench as Princeton held off a gritty Columbia team in posting a 72-66 win before 3,180 at Jadwin Gym.

Coming through down the stretch against the Lions, Connolly contributed four points, a rebound, and a blocked shot in 15 minutes of action as he helped Princeton improve to 10-7 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

Connolly’s two hoops helped swing the game in Princeton’s favor. With just over eight minutes left in regulation, he hit a reverse layup to give the Tigers a 54-52 lead. Then with 1:56 remaining, he lofted a hook shot from 12 feet out to put Princeton up 66-61.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson had a feeling that Connolly could excel against Columbia based on favorable matchups against Lions’ centers Mark Cisco and Cory Osetkowski.

“I think it was a good game for him,” said Henderson. “I thought that it was a better game with Mark Cisco. I think Osetkowski was a big factor tonight; he finished with seven but he had a lot of low touches and Brendan really changed that for us. He is just such a big defensive presence for us.”

Henderson liked the way that Connolly made an impact at both ends of the court.

“Brendan is highly skilled offensively; I think when given the opportunity, he came through for us big tonight,” said Henderson of the Brentwood, Tenn. native who is averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds a game this season.

“I thought he did a really nice job changing the tone. [Steven] Frankoski got loose and Brendan switched up on what could have been a 3 from the corner and that was a huge defensive switch for us. He plays a very important role.”

Although Connolly’s role had lessened over the last month as he went from a starter to a reserve who averaged six minutes a game in his previous four appearances before Saturday, he wasn’t hanging his head.

“I am in here everyday with the guys like I should be,” said Connolly. “I just look for the opportunities when given and I will take what I can get with those.”

Connolly took everyone by surprise with his hook shot, which Henderson referred to as a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar move. “It just felt right,” said Connolly when asked about the shot.

Things were feeling right for Princeton as it hit six straight three-pointers and jumped out to a 27-13 lead, looking like it was going to run the Lions out of the gym.

“We were hot, no doubt about it,” said Henderson. “You just shut up when you are a coach and let them do their thing.

But then Columbia started doing its thing, going on a 23-10 run to trail by just 37-36 at the half.

“I really respect the way Columbia plays,” said Henderson. “That’s a 1-3 team in our league. They have had a tough start here but they don’t play any games that aren’t close. They are young, they are learning how to win and they are going to get there. They play a nice style of ball with some inside presence and some really good shooters on the perimeter. It is a tough team to play.”

Princeton junior guard T.J. Bray showed his toughness when he drained a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and less than three minutes left in the second half to give the Tigers a 64-59 lead.

“They kind of doubled down on Ian a little too hard with the clock ending and Ian [Hummer] made a great kick out to me,” said Bray, recalling the shot.

“I saw the guy coming so I pump-faked and just shot it and let it fly and luckily it went in.”

A lot of three-pointers went in for Princeton on Saturday as they went 8-of-11 from long distance.

“We shoot everyday in practice and get a ton of shots up,” said Bray, who scored a game-high 17 points, hitting all three of his three-point attempts on the evening.

“It is starting to come. They are coming in the flow of the offense more which is good. There is a lot of inside-out stuff and when you are stepping into shots, they are a lot easier to make.”

Henderson liked the way his squad stepped up when pushed by Columbia.

“We are thrilled; I am very happy,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Brown (8-10 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on February 8 and Yale (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) the next night.

“This is really an important win for our program. I am just really proud of our guys. When you are home, you have to win those games in the league. We can get so much better; I think there is improvement right in front of our eyes right now which I am really happy about.”

In Connolly’s view, having battle-tested guys on the court in crunch time was an important factor in the win for the Tigers.

“Looking around, none of the guys on the floor were afraid of the moment at all,” said Connolly.

“That is a big thing that all of my coaches have talked about over the four years and it is something we have done pretty well. They had some familiar faces and guys we have seen a lot with [Brian] Barbour and Cisco but we were ready for it and we responded to it. I think everyone felt pretty ready for everything they were throwing at us.”

And Connolly proved ready to contribute on Saturday when his number was called.

January 30, 2013
TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey player Andrew Calof controls the puck in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Calof tallied a goal and three assists as the Tigers topped Sacred Heart 5-2 in their first action after a lengthy exam break. It was the second straight four-point outing for Calof, who leads the Tigers with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Princeton, now 7-8-4 overall and 5-4-2 ECACH, heads to New England this weekend to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Calof picked up right where he left off as the Princeton University men’s hockey team hosted Sacred Heart last Sunday in returning to action after a lengthy exam break.

In Princeton’s last game before the hiatus, junior forward Calof notched a goal and three assists to help Princeton top Rensselaer 4-1 on January 12.

Against Sacred Heart, Calof duplicated that one goal-three assist output, sparking the Tigers to a 5-2 triumph over the Pioneers before a crowd of 1,974 at Baker Rink.

The 5’10, 175-pound native of Nepean, Ontario registered his first assist on a Mike Ambrosia tally which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead after one period. Calof then scored a goal 1:11 into the second period and fed Tyler Maugeri for a tally 1:37 later as the Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead. After the Pioneers narrowed the gap to 4-2 early in the third period, Calof got his final assist of the day on another Ambrosia goal which made the final margin 5-2.

Calof was happy to see the Tigers return on a winning note even if there were some lapses.

“It was a good way to start off the post-exam break,” said Calof, reflecting on the win which improved Princeton to 7-8-4 overall.

“It would be nice if we kept it consistent during the whole game instead of giving them some chances. We took it in stride and we ended up winning the game which is the most important thing. We need to work hard and try to sharpen up for next weekend.”

In assessing his sharp play this season, Calof credited his teammates with making his life easy.

“I think it is about who you are playing with,” said Calof, who now has a team-high 28 points on the season with 10 goals and 18 assists, tying him for third in ECAC Hockey in both points and assists.

“I know that the guys I am playing with right now are incredible hockey players when you see Ambrosia with two goals today and Maugeri up there in points too. They are two really offensively creative guys and [Andrew] Ammon as well, when you give him the puck it is going in the net. I know I have way more assists than goals so all you have to do is touch the puck and they are putting it in. It is a lot easier to do better offensively.”

Calof’s exploits have Princeton promoting him as candidate for All-American honors and the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top male player.

Individual awards, though, are the last thing on Calof’s mind. “It is cool and I am honored but at the same time that is not my goal right now,” said Calof, who led Princeton in scoring in his first two seasons and has earned All-ECACH and All-Ivy League honors along the way.

“The most important thing that I want to do is to win the ECAC. If anything comes along with it, that is great. You want to win the ECAC and get a berth to the national tournament and win the national championship.”

With Calof nearing 100 career points, he views the milestone as indication of good fortune rather than individual achievement.

“It is incredible and I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to come in as a freshman and a sophomore and now as a junior,” said Calof, who currently has 92 points on 36 goals and 56 assists.

“The coaches have played me a lot and put a lot of faith in me. It has ended up working out well for me and I hope to deliver something back to the school with a championship.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier likes the way Calof has been delivering for the Tigers.

“His explosiveness has come around a little bit; he certainly has some more leg strength,” said Prier in assessing Calof’s progress.

“You can see that as he changes gears coming up the ice; it looks like guys are standing still when he goes by them. He has always had the poise. I think he is becoming more vocal out on the ice. He is getting the puck more. I think he is doing a lot of good things like that. He is just getting stronger and he has gained some experience. He is certainly an All-American type kid and a Hobey Baker candidate. It is nice to see him perform well consistently here over the last few games.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers performed well as they got back on the ice after exams.

“It seems like it has been a while since we played so I was proud of the guys and the way they came out,” said Prier, whose team outshot the Pioneers 17-7 in the first period and 14-3 in the next frame.

“I thought they came out really hard for not being able to battle against each other and have real good practices here the last couple of weekends. They came  out and they didn’t look like they missed much of a beat. It was nice to see the guys put up some goals. It was a good game, all in all.”

Princeton got a good effort from bruising forwards, junior captain Jack Berger and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum, who combined to set up junior defenseman Alec Rush as he scored the first goal of the game and his career.

“I think Jack Berger and Rob Kleebaum are playing hard; they are playing like leaders,” said Prier.

“Certainly Rob, being a senior, his attention to detail over the last few games has been really strong so it is nice to see that. They had an awful lot of chances tonight as a result of hard work. They generated the first goal and really got us going with their hard work and finishing checks.”

Freshman Ambrosia, who now has five goals, is emerging as a strong performer for the Tigers.

“Coming in, he was a blue chip prospect kind of kid but unfortunately he ran into some injury problems early on,” said Prier of the Chatham, N.J. native.

“He is only eight or nine games into his career and he already is a very good player. He is certainly someone who is going to be an elite type of player in  college hockey.”

With Princeton currently sitting in fifth in the ECACH standings at 5-4-3 in league play, Prier feels the Tigers have the potential to be an elite squad.

“If we limit or eliminate our mistakes, we are as good as anyone,” asserted Prier, whose team has won four of its last five games.

“I think we are getting there. These guys have good habits. We looked strong systematically tonight; I didn’t see much inconsistency.”

The Tigers will need a strong effort this weekend as they head to New England to play at No. 8 Yale (12-5-3 overall, 8-4-1 ECACH) on February 1 and at Brown (7-9-4 overall, 3-6-4 ECACH) the next day.

“We are going to really prepare hard this week,” said Prier. “We have the ability to have a really strong week of practice here with the guys being out of session a little bit. We certainly want to take advantage of that; we can certainly do a lot of teaching off of the Sacred Heart game in video this week. It can be a real good week to improve in a hurry here, getting ready for our stretch run with 10 games left.”

Calof, for his part, believes the Tigers have improved in the area of consistency.

“It is just mental focus; we have gotten a lot better at it since the beginning of the year,” said Calof, who has already been named ECACH Player of the Week twice this season.

“You saw a lot more lapses at the beginning. We are going over a lot more stuff on video and trying to keep things as simple as possible to make sure that there are no communication errors that lead to good chances against us. The more we limit those, the more chance we have of winning.”

In Calof’s view, Princeton has a good chance to make up some ground on its upcoming trip to New England.

“It is going to be a big weekend; I know they [Yale] beat us early in the season so we are hoping to have a little better showing than the game we had against them in the Ivy Shootout,” said Calof, referring to a 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs on October 27 in a game that didn’t count in the league standings.

“They are pretty hot right now so it is going to be a really good game. I am looking forward to playing it.”

If Calof can keep up his hot play, the Tigers could have a really good weekend.