March 7, 2012

MAN UP: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Mike Grossman flies up to fire a shot in recent action. Last Friday, senior star Grossman tallied two goals and two assists in a losing cause as Princeton fell 10-8 to second-ranked Johns Hopkins. Princeton, now 2-1 and ranked 14th in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll, faces No. 8 North Carolina (4-1) on March 10 in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mike Grossman and the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team couldn’t find a rhythm offensively in the early stages of their clash against visiting Johns Hopkins last Friday evening.

The 11th-ranked Tigers were outshot 19-7 by No. 2 Hopkins in the first half and found themselves trailing 5-2 at the half.

“I thought we could have come out and played better in the first half,” said senior attacker Grossman, reflecting on a night which saw the Tigers generate zero shots in the second quarter.

“I thought we had jitters; we kept tossing the ball away. I honestly feel like I didn’t break a sweat in the first half, which is a little frustrating.”

The Tigers, though, did make the Blue Jays sweat in the second half, cutting the Hopkins lead to 7-5 at one point and then making a late surge in ultimately falling 10-8 before a crowd of 2,407 at Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium.

Princeton’s formula for getting back into the game was basic, according to Grossman.

“I thought we just had to toughen up and play harder on ground balls and get the ball,” said Grossman, in assessing a second half which saw Princeton outshoot the Blue Jays 29-10 and hold a 16-13 edge in ground balls.

“We just didn’t have the ball enough in the first half and you really can’t win without the ball.”

Once Princeton got the ball, Grossman did some good things with it. “I felt nice when we had the ball,” said Grossman, a 6‘1, 195-pound native of Potomac, Md. who tallied two goals and two assists on the evening.

“I have been playing both attack and coming from the box. Today I was getting a pole more often than not so that was a change. It is just six offensive guys; it works well. They definitely switched up the matchups which was the first time we had seen that but the offense works when we are all moving well together.”

In Grossman’s view, the Tigers, now 2-1, are moving in the right direction. “We know we can play with them, but we beat ourselves which is frustrating,” said Grossman, who has seven points this season on three goals and four assists.

“They are a very good team. It is just one game and it is the third game of the season. There is a long way to go. We showed plenty of promise today.”

Princeton head coach Chris Bates concurred, noting that the Tigers hung in there against the powerful Blue Jays even though they weren’t at their sharpest.

“I thought we did a decent job in the second scratching and clawing; I think Hopkins did a decent job making plays when they needed to,” said Bates.

“We don’t feel like we played well anywhere but we were within striking distance. It is a missed opportunity. There are some positives we can take out of this. It was a B- effort. If we play an A effort, we can go toe-to-toe with anybody.”

Bates likes the effort he is getting from Grossman in his final campaign.

“Mike is a senior; I feel like he is embracing a leadership role and wants to make a play,” said Bates.

“What Michael does isn’t pretty but he has got a great IQ. He has got his head up; he sees the slide and distributes the ball well. We are comfortable at the end of the game putting the ball on his stick. He’s ready to take that next step in terms of being a fourth quarter guy that makes big plays.”

In the game Friday, the Blue Jays came up big in the early stages of the fourth quarter, going on a 4-1 run to build a 10-5 lead.

“I give Hopkins credit; they inverted and they possessed the ball,” said Bates who got two goals from Jeff Froccaro in the loss to Hopkins with Tom Schreiber chipping in a goal and two assists.

“That’s Hopkins and it forces you out of rhythm but then we broke down at times. They capitalized when were a step slow. I thought they shot the ball relatively well.”

With Princeton facing No. 8 North Carolina (4-1) on March 10 in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Bates is hoping his team will capitalize on another shot at a traditional lax power.

“That is a big stage; I think that will be good for our guys,” said Bates. “They are talented, they are deep and well coached. We’ll start thinking about them in a day or two. I think the guys will be ready. It is team that we have had great games with the last two years. It’s top-ranked team in that venue so I think we’ll be excited to make amends for this one.”

In Grossman’s view, the Tigers’ corp of seniors are ready to lead the way as Princeton looks to get back on the winning track.

“It is a big class, there are 13 of us,” said Grossman. “When we came in here we made it our goal to go to the Final 4 and do whatever it takes to get there and we obviously haven’t done that so that’s the ultimate goal. We feel with so many kids contributing that we know what it takes. We just can’t have the jitters that we had today.”

February 29, 2012

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Lauren Edwards drives to the hoop in recent action. Last Saturday, star guard Edwards came up big on her Senior Night, scoring a career-high 29 points as Princeton topped Dartmouth 94-57 to clinch the Ivy League title outright and a berth in the next month’s NCAA tournament. The Tigers, now 21-4 overall and 11-0 Ivy, play at Yale on March 2 and at Brown on March 3 before hosting Penn on March 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Edwards is not one to grab the spotlight for the Princeton University women’s basketball team, preferring to go about her business in an understated manner.

But last Saturday, senior guard Edwards took center stage as Princeton hosted Dartmouth, needing a win to clinch the Ivy League title outright and a berth in the next month’s NCAA tournament.

Prior to the game, Edwards and her two classmates on the team, Devona Allgood and Laura Johnson, were honored in the program’s annual Senior Night ceremony.

“It was certainly really emotional, walking up there with my family and seeing where the program has come in our four years,” said Edwards, a native of Los Angeles.

“Seeing how it has transformed into this great tradition of having a great team and a program that really prides itself on working hard, practicing hard, and earning our wins. It is really emotional and it was great to see.”

Riding that wave of emotion, Edwards hit the court and produced one of the greatest games of her career, pouring in a career-high 29 points as the Tigers rolled to a 94-57 win over the Big Green, improving to 21-4 overall and 11-0 Ivy and ensuring a third straight trip to March Madness.

“This was one of my last two home games of the season and I have to give all I have got,” said Edwards, who hit 11-of 16 shots on the evening, including 7-of-10 from three-point range.

“I am probably not going to play after Princeton so this is my last time playing in an organized sport. I love this team and all I want to do is go out with a bang.”

The Tigers were banging in their shots as they ended up going 36-68 (52.9 percent) from the floor.

“I think a lot of the shooters were clicking today, we were sharing the ball well,” said Edwards, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her weekend which also saw her score 17 points in a 74-44 win over Harvard on Friday.

“Laura Johnson came out and she hasn’t really started much. She starts tonight and came out with a 3-pointer. After that I knew it was going to be a good night.”

One of the greatest moments of the night for Edwards came when she left the game for the final time and hugged each of the Princeton coaches on her way down the bench.

“It was great to whisper a little something in their ear, telling them how they have helped me through the years and how much I have grown because of them,” said Edwards, who now has 1,273 points in her career. “I love them and I love this team.”

Edwards has loved having an impact on her younger teammates this season as a senior leader.

“This is a team that I have to lead now, Devona and I as co-captains and LJ [Johnson] as the other senior,” said Edwards, who is a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

“We had to take control of our underclassmen and teach them the way our seniors taught us. The seniors set the foundation when we came in with this new coaching staff with a whole new system of play, a whole new offense, and a whole new defense. They taught us and we want to play it forward.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart appreciated the leap of faith her seniors took when they decided to join the program.

“They took a big chance on me and the university and on the program and they have only done right by it,” said Banghart.

“I had never coached a college basketball game when they committed and in our first year, we were 7-23 and now this. We have three straight titles, they could become the only class in Ivy League history to have two undefeated seasons. They have done it the right way, they have done it by celebrating each other. They have done it by a great work ethic. They have done it by setting high standards. These are really special people.”

Banghart was thrilled to see Edwards experience such a special game on Senior Night.

“Her parents are here; they came all the way from Los Angeles for this,” noted Banghart.

“I think she is peaking at the right time; she is not the kind of player who likes to stand out in front of everybody. I think she realizes now that the next step for our program is that she does need to step out in front of everybody and it’s nice to see. She did look great tonight, we felt we could get her some open looks and we did and she knocked them down. She is catching fire late; it is the right time for us.”

While another perfect Ivy campaign would be nice, Banghart has her sights set on catching fire in the NCAAs.

“Every game is its own entity and as long as we are making steps forward, I don’t really care about the undefeated record,” said Banghart, whose team plays at Yale on March 2 and at Brown on March 3 before hosting Penn on March 6.

“I care that my team gets better every single day and that we are the better team that day on the opening round.”

For Banghart, the joy of winning the Ivy title is tempered by her desire to see Princeton make an impact on the national stage.

“All my coaching friends say enjoy it,” added Banghart, reflecting on winning the title.

“I say I am trying to but I see such a high ceiling for this team that I want to just keep going. To win one at a school is pretty special but to win three in a row shows the collective effort of this group year after year. We have a great staff; we work hard for it and we want to enjoy it.”

Edwards, for her part, enjoyed the title clinching moment and the post-game celebration which saw the Tigers cut down the net on the basket near their bench.

“It is great; it is not something we take for granted,” said Edwards. “We work hard to get it. We work for every win and every championship. We punched our ticket today; we are pretty excited about that.”

In order to produce an exciting NCAA run, Edwards knows that the Tigers have to keep working hard.

“The last two years we have had to play more athletic teams and we haven’t been able to match their athleticism,” said Edwards, referring to NCAA first round losses to Georgetown last year and St. John’s in 2010.

“This year we want to focus on being able to do that and keeping up our intensity, especially the intensity that we have had in the preseason, playing against top-ranked teams like Stanford and Delaware.”

UPLIFTING START: Princeton University men’s lacrosse players Mike MacDonald (No. 26) and Tom Schreiber, second from left, lead the celebration after a goal last Saturday in Princeton’s season-opening 12-6 win over Hofstra. Freshman attacker MacDonald scored three goals in his college debut while sophomore star Schreiber tallied a career-high seven points on three goals and four assists. MacDonald was later named the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week along with Brown’s Nick Piroli while Schreiber was chosen as the Ivy Player of the Week. In upcoming action, No. 11 Princeton hosts second-ranked Johns Hopkins on March 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last spring, Tom Schreiber became the first freshman to lead the Princeton University men’ lacrosse team in both goals and assists.

But while Schreiber earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors for his production as he scored 29 points on 16 goals and 13 assists, he didn’t get a lot of help as the Tigers stumbled to a 4-8 record.

Last Saturday in the 2012 season opener against visiting Hofstra, Schreiber again triggered the Tiger offense, scoring a career-high seven points on three goals and four assists.

But this time, the 6’0, 190-pound sophomore got plenty of help as the Tigers pulled away to a 12-6 victory over the Pride as Princeton christened its new Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium before a crowd of 1,222.

Schreiber certainly noticed a difference from last year. “We flowed a lot better; everybody was in the right spots,” said Schreiber, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.

“Guys were breaking off ground balls. We were getting transition goals. It was a team effort and things went our way finally. We had a lot of assisted goals today. Everyone was moving out there and everyone is moving the ball. It doesn’t matter who is putting it in the net; we are  just happy to put 12 goals on the board.”

Schreiber helped get things flowing for the Tigers as he saw time at attack and in the midfield.

“Like any other player, you love being out there, “ said Schreiber, reflecting on his dual role.

“I did that a little bit in high school; I didn‘t come off the field much. If I can keep in good enough shape, hopefully I can continue to do it and get a lot of looks.”

Over the offseason, Schreiber worked hard to refine the game he showed during his freshman campaign.

“Shooting is one thing I worked on a lot; I struggled with that a little bit today,” said Schreiber. “And just like anybody else, I worked on getting stronger and faster.”

Freshman attacker Mike MacDonald credited Schreiber with being a catalyst of Princeton’s strong effort in the opener.

“Tom Schreiber stepped up and put some in the net,” said MacDonald, who scored three goals in his college debut and was named the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week along with Brown’s Nick Piroli. “He kept us calm and kept us going.”

In MacDonald’s view, the offensive effort Saturday is a harbinger of things to come.

“It is still early but I think our offense is going to click,” said MacDonald, a native of Georgetown, Ontario, who starred at Trinity Pawling.

“We have a new system under coach Bates [Princeton head coach Chris Bates] here. We are all working hard everyday with it in practice and I think it is going to go really well.”

MacDonald admitted that it took a while for him to get his game going in his first taste of college action.

“I was a little bit nervous going in there; I threw a couple of balls away at the start,” said MacDonald.

“There were a couple of guys who helped me through it and calmed me down. Coach Bates trusted me and left me out there even when I threw balls away. I think when the nerves calmed down a little bit, it went my way.”

Princeton head coach Bates trusted his offense to fire away. “We talk a lot about generating shots,” said Bates, whose team outshot the Pride 39-20 on the day.

“At halftime we have 17 or 19 shots. We are like OK because that is how an offense gets a rhythm. We backed up the cage and shot it relatively well.”

With Princeton coming off a rough season and having played unevenly in preseason scrimmages this year, Bates was looking to see some fire in his players.

“I saw the emotion; it started with face-offs and ground ball stats,” said Bates, whose squad won 13-of-22 face-offs and had a 28-19 edge in ground balls.

“If we are going to shoot the ball 39 times and out-face-off and out- ground ball teams, we are going to be very good. Defensively I thought we were OK, that will be a work in progress. I think we learned that when the lights go on, we have got some guys who can play.”

There is no question that Schreiber has emerged as a prime-time player for the Tigers.

“Tom is going to make plays but he is going to make other people around him better,” said Bates.

“He is a kid who wants the ball on his stick. At attack, when Michael Grossman had played down there with Jeff Froccaro and Mike MacDonald, you don’t have a real quarterback. With Tom back there a little bit, he is going to get the ball in transition and settle everybody down.”

In Bates’s view, the win should have a settling effect on a program that had its confidence shaken in 2011.

“It is huge; it is relief in some ways,” said Bates, whose team is ranked No. 11 in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll and will face No. 2 Johns Hopkins on March 2.

“It is the first one so you just don’t know. You watch us play last week and you think we are OK. You just aren’t sure what you are going to get when the curtain comes up. I thought the energy was really good. We played through mistakes. It was a good way for us to start; it gives them  some validation for hard work. It has been  a lot in the off season and for them to just come and get off on the right foot is a nice relief.”

Schreiber, for his part, believes Princeton is headed in the right direction.

“The coaches just keep pushing us; we did a lot of shooting,” said Schreiber. “We finally got the offense going, we got our confidence up. Once we start scoring early, we got a little momentum.”

PIVOTAL POINT: Princeton University men’s squash player ­Kelly Shannon goes after the ball in recent action. Senior star Shannon battled through injury to help Princeton edge Trinity 5-4 two weeks ago in the College Squash Association (CSA) national team championship, ending Trinity’s 13-year run as national champion. Shannon, playing at No. 4, won his match to break a 4-all tie and clinch the crown for Princeton. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

After dealing with a series of injuries over the first three years of his career with the Princeton University men’s squash teams, Kelly Shannon reached the breaking point last winter.

“I was very close to quitting,” said Shannon, who had hurt his back as a freshman and then dealt with a nagging hip problem the next two seasons.

“I went into coach’s office and told him I was not having fun doing this. I was not part of the team, I couldn’t go back to dinner with the other players because I was always rehabbing and icing.”

Shannon decided to stick it out and that turned out to be a fortuitous decision for the Tiger program and squash history.

After returning for his senior campaign this winter and battling through more injuries, Shannon recorded the victory that took down a dynasty, winning the final match as Princeton edged perennial champion Trinity 5-4 in the College Squash Association (CSA) national team championship, ending the Bantams’ 13-year title run.

As Shannon and his teammates gathered before the final at Jadwin Gym on February 19, there was a sense of confidence among the Tigers.

“It was a pretty electric atmosphere; we were all ready, playing music in the locker room and making jokes,” said Shannon, a native of Calgary, Alberta who plays at No. 4 for the Tigers.

“In the past we felt we had the talent to win; we thought we had five wins in us if everything fell into place but we didn’t get ourselves in position to do it. Our win at Harvard in the regular season was huge. We built from there; we were on fire at the end. The biggest difference is that we felt like we earned it, not just waiting for it to happen.”

Even though Princeton was down 4-2 when Shannon took the court for his match against Trinity’s Reinhold Hergeth, he had a feeling that things would turn out OK.

“I actually thought it might go that way,” said Shannon, who was joined in the final shift by teammates Todd Harrity at No. 1 and Dylan Ward at No. 7.

“The biggest mismatches for us were in the final shift, matches that I thought would go our way the majority of the time. I was still nervous but confident.”

Shannon had to work through some nerves in pulling out the first game of his match.

“I came out, the crowd was crazy and the new ball was flying,” recalled Shannon, who fell behind early before rallying to a 13-11 win in game one.

“It was tough to settle in right away. I relied on my match experience. I got into my zone; I was playing my game.

After taking the second game 11-8, Shannon hit a rough patch in the next game.

“I go up 5-0 and then he fights back to 5-5,” said Shannon. “I was getting a little nervous; he made me work hard. He was starting to hit the wall, I didn’t have to do anything special, just tighten up my game.”

As Shannon pulled ahead, he didn’t want to get tighter and tried to take his mind off the gravity of the situation.

“I had in the back of my mind that it was the last match but I wanted to block that out,” said Shannon.

“I blocked it out intentionally but when I saw people come over from Todd’s match, I kind of knew what was going on.”

When Shannon prevailed 11-9 to win the match and the elusive title, he didn’t know quite how to react.

“It was so surreal, I thought I would celebrate more,” said Shannon, who had won his match in the epic 2009 CSA final which saw Princeton drop a 5-4 heartbreaker to Trinity.

“I felt like a weight was lifted. We had talked about this for years. It was hanging over the squash world for 13 years. Now I can breathe again, I wanted it so bad.”

For Shannon, the win made his struggles worthwhile. “I have had a tough college career; I have had hip injuries the previous two years,” said Shannon, who will end his college career this weekend by competing in the CSA individual championships at Amherst College.

“I then had a shoulder injury in the fall and twisted my ankle when I got back from that. I found a routine to keep the hip injury calm. What is key for me is feeling comfortable, getting my timing back, and playing my game.”

Longtime Princeton head coach Bob Callahan was comfortable having the title match resting on Shannon’s shoulders.

“I couldn’t think of another guy I would want out there other than Shannon when it was 4-all,” asserted Callahan, who is in his 30th season at the helm of the Princeton program and last led the Tigers to the national crown in 1993.

“This year, he was all about the team. He cared so deeply; he called me everyday and said what could I do to help the team.”

The win over Trinity touched past and present Princeton team members.

“I got 500 e-mails the next day,” said Callahan. “The former players were so happy, they had been saddled with the losses to Trinity. Mauricio Sanchez (former Tiger star and 2009 Princeton alum) sent me an e-mail, saying it was the happiest day of his life. I think it is wonderful for the program and wonderful for the kids. We had nine competitors, everyone won at least two matches in the tournament.

Like Shannon, Callahan wasn’t sure how to celebrate after the win. “I wouldn’t allow myself to breathe until the last point,” said Callahan. “It was not elation, it was a relief. I could exhale after all these years. Paul [Trinity coach Paul Assaiante] was the first guy to come and give me a hug.”

Callahan has gained a lot of affection for his championship squad. “They showed guts all season and a belief that they could make it happen,” said Callahan, who credited Shannon and classmates Chris Callis, Clay Blackiston, and David Pena with providing inspired senior leadership.

“On one Sunday in 2012, things came together for a bunch of good kids who had been working hard for a long time. They brightened the lives of former Princeton players and supporters.”

The championship campaign has left Shannon with memories that will last for a long time.

“I will never forget this year’s team, not because we won but because we went through so much together,” said Shannon.

“Chris Callis and I were the senior captains and we were going to whip the team into shape but once you get down to it we couldn’t do everything because of schedules and people missing practices. We did do as much as we could. We had mandatory runs for the first time; we did lots of track work and did some tough fitness stuff. We got through the whole thing as a team. Different people stepped up at different times. We came together as a team. The chemistry was there and that is what made the difference.”

SLINGSHOT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing heads up the ice in recent action. After spending much of last week in a sling due to a collarbone injury, sophomore forward Laing came up big as the seventh-seeded Tigers faced second-seeded Harvard in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals over the weekend, tallying two goals and an assist in the series. Laing’s heroics, though, weren’t enough as the Tigers fell 5-3 on Friday and 4-3 in overtime the next day to finish the season at 12-15-4 overall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Denna Laing personified the grit that is a hallmark of the Princeton University women’s hockey team when the Tigers played at Harvard last weekend in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals.

Playing through several injuries, Laing tallied two goals and an assist in the matchup between seventh-seeded Princeton and the No. 2 Crimson.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal admired Laing’s courageous effort. “I give Denna a lot of credit; she was banged up with a couple of bad ribs and then she hurt her collarbone in practice,” said Kampersal.

“She was in a sling most of the week and then comes out and plays like that. She is a pretty tough kid.”

While Princeton showed its toughness in the series, it wasn’t enough as the Tigers dropped two nailbiters to get knocked out of the playoffs and end the season at 12-15-4 overall.

In the opener on Friday, the Tigers battled back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to tie the game at 3-3 early in the third period only to lose 5-3. A day later, Princeton scored a goal with 1:04 left in regulation to knot the game at 3-3 and force overtime. But the Crimson found the back of the net 17:59 onto the extra session to win the game and the series.

Kampersal was proud of his team’s pluck. “We didn’t start off well and that was a bummer,” said Kampersal, noting that the Tigers found themselves trailing 2-0 after the first period of the opener.

“We played five strong periods after that and stormed back in both games. The kids did a really good job; I think we put a scare into them.”

The Tigers, though, couldn’t close the deal when they had the Crimson on the ropes.

“On one hand, I think we deserved better,” said Kampersal. “But when we had chances to put them away, we didn’t hammer the nail into the coffin. In the overtime, we had three golden opportunities and didn’t score. They had two and they scored on their second.”

For Kampersal, the finality of the loss was heartbreaking. “It is tough this year with the quality of the kids in the locker room,” said Kampersal. “You don’t want it to end. You feel a void the next day and then you have to start to pick up the pieces.”

Over the course of the winter, Princeton pieced together things under trying circumstances.

“I am proud of the way we played this season,” asserted Kampersal. “We were shorthanded the whole year. We played 13 skaters in some games and 14 in others. The kids were resilient. They were flexible with changing positions; everyone contributed.”

The team’s group of seniors certainly made a major contribution this season and over their careers. “The seniors brought a lot of heart and soul; they leave a big void for leadership and as players they really helped us out,” said Kampersal of his Class of 2012 which includes Ann-Marie Elvin, Julie Johnson, Heather Landry, co-captain Charissa Stadnyk, co-captain Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Rachel Weber.

Going forward, the Tigers
will have a different look without those seniors. “I didn’t have to do a ton of coaching; they were an experienced group,” said Kampersal, who was recently named to serve as the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 women’s national team.

“We will have a younger group next year; we will spend more time on the basics.”

In Kampersal’s view, those younger players have the potential to give Princeton’s foes a hard time.

“If the sophomores have a good summer and stay healthy, they can be a dominant group,” asserted Kampersal.

“We need to get stronger physically; we knocked off the puck at times. We really need to make a commitment to the off-ice training.”

While the result last weekend was disappointing, the Tigers achieved one of their main goals coming into the campaign.

“We said at the beginning of the year that we were not going to worry about results as much this season and worry more about effort and giving your best everyday,” said Kampersal. “If you do that, you can leave the room with your head held high.”

As the Princeton players left Cambridge last weekend, they had every reason to hold their heads high.

February 22, 2012

STEPPING OUT: Princeton University women’s lacrosse star Cassie Pyle strides up the field last year. Senior midfielder Pyle, who had 38 goals and 19 assists in 2011, figures to be a catalyst this spring for the Tigers. Princeton opens its 2012 campaign on February 25 when it plays at Villanova (1-0). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chris Sailer didn’t have to wait until this spring to start feeling good about her Princeton University women’s lacrosse team.

“Going back to the fall, we were further ahead at that point than we have been in years,” said longtime Princeton head coach Sailer, a Hall of Famer who has 314 career wins as she enters her 26th year at the helm of the program.

“I feel like we picked up last fall where we left off in the spring. The team has a really good energy about it. There is a positive approach and good intensity in every practice.”

Last spring, the Tigers ended the season on a positive surge that saw them win six of their last eight games, prevailing in the Ivy League tournament and advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals as they finished with a 12-7 record.

As Princeton looks forward to opening its 2012 season with a game at Villanova (1-0) on February 25, Sailer is welcoming back plenty of firepower on attack.

Leading the way will be junior Jaci Gassaway (33 goals and 13 assists in 2011) along with senior Barb Previ (17 goals, eight assists) and junior Sam Ellis (16 goals, 11 assists).

“Jaci has been doing a great job; she will be the leader of the attack group” asserted Sailer, who also plans to use sophomores Mary Kate Sivilli and Grace Bowen in her attack unit.

“We are expecting a big season from her, she continues to get better and better. Previ is a sparkplug; she makes things happen in transition. Her value comes in doing the little things, getting ground balls and helping with the connection game. She sets up her teammates and does things that don’t show up in the box score. Ellis has had some injuries but she is starting to turn it on.”

Promising freshman Erin McMunn figures to turn some heads this spring at attack.

“McMunn is doing great,” asserted Sailer of the native of Westminster, Md. who helped the U.S. win the U-19 World Championship last summer.

“She has incredible hands, she has a sure stick right or left. She has good vision; she is going to make an impact.”

The Tigers boast some impact players in the midfield with senior Cassie Pyle (38 goals, 19 assists), junior Charlotte Davis (27 goals, nine assists), and sophomore Sarah Lloyd (15 goals, 12 assists).

“She is hard to contain one versus one and on defense, her quick feet are a big help,” said Sailer of the second-team All-Ivy performer from  Alexandria, Va.

“Charlotte Davis brings such energy to the team. She is a really competitive player. She has speed and she can score. Lloyd is just getting back from mono. She is looking awesome; she is really fit and confident with the ball. Erin Slifer has been fantastic. She played on the same club team as McMunn, they were quite the pair. She is tall and strong.”

On defense, Princeton features some strong leaders in senior All-American Lindsey deButts together with senior co-captain Cathy Bachur and junior co-captain Caroline Rehfuss.

“Lindsey is the backbone of the defense; she has experience and vision,” said Sailer, noting that deButts is on the mend from a hip injury.

“We need to get her back as soon as possible. Bachur is really solid. We moved Rehfuss to defense from midfield; she can make big plays.”

Sailer notes that sophomores Liz Cutting, Colleen Smith, and Erin Williams are “chomping at the bit” to see more action.

The biggest question mark for Princeton coming into 2012 is at goaltender, where the Tigers are replacing graduated star Erin Tochihara and Sailer is deciding between freshman Annie Woehling and sophomore Caroline Franke as the new starter.

“It is hard to replace Toch, we can’t ask either of them to be Toch,” said Sailer of Tochihara, who ended her stellar career by posting a 10.18 goals against average last spring.

“Annie has the edge right now. She is pretty solid and consistent. She is good out of the cage on ground balls and interceptions. Caroline is good on positioning. She is a lefty which can be a problem for shooters. She is a big, solid kid and plays the angles well. I think they will both see action.”

In Sailer’s view, the team’s success will depend in large part how it plays around its goalie.

“I think this team has good potential,” said Sailer. “The defense has to play well because there is going to be a new goalie no matter what. We have to deny high percentage shots. We also have to put some points on the board; we have an offense that is capable of doing that.”

As the Tigers prepare for their season-opening clash at Villanova, who beat Wagner 16-7 last Saturday in its first action, they are concentrating on themselves more than their foe.

“I feel like in the first game the focus is on you and what you are doing and not the other team,” said Sailer, whose team is ranked seventh in this week’s Inside Lacrosse national media poll.

“Our theme this year is having a mindset where we don’t focus on the outcome or the score but on one play at a time.”

LAST CALL: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Paula Romanchuk sets up in the crease in recent action. Senior forward Romanchuk and her classmates will be looking to end their careers on a high note as they compete in the ECAC Hockey playoffs. The seventh-seeded Tigers (12-13-4 overall, 10-10-2 in ECACH) will start postseason play when they head up to No. 2 Harvard (20-8-1 overall, 17-4-1 ECACH) this weekend for a best-of-three ECACH quarterfinal series starting on February 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julie Johnson and her classmates on the Princeton University women’s hockey team didn’t get their senior weekend off to a good start.

Hosting Rensselaer last Friday evening, the Tigers fell behind 1-0 23 seconds into the contest.

“That first goal on the first shift puts you back on your heels and kills momentum,” said senior forward Johnson.

The Tigers did answer back as sophomore Denna Laing found the back of the net midway through the first period. With the game knotted at 1-1 after one, the Tigers did some soul searching during the first intermission.

“We rallied between periods,” recalled Johnson. “We knew that we just had to work hard and focus on winning our one-on-one battles.”

Early in the second period, Johnson won a key battle, gaining possession of the puck along the boards and setting up a Sally Butler goal that turned out to be the game winner in a 2-1 Princeton victory.

“I came off the bench and I just tried to play high and read what their defense was doing coming out of their zone,” said Johnson.

“I saw that the puck was coming loose near the boards and I tried to hop on it with speed. I knew Sally was in the slot so I just turned and gave her a little backhanded pass and thankfully she found the back of the net. It was pretty nice.”

While Johnson was happy to get on the score sheet, that was not her main goal in her last weekend of action at Baker Rink.

“This year I have been struggling to get points; it hasn’t been my focus,” said Johnson.

“I am trying to enjoy it; that is the big thing with senior weekend. You come in and try to enjoy it with your team and everyone rallies around each other. It doesn’t matter who gets the points as long as we win.”

The Tigers went on to win a day later, beating Union 3-0 to finish the regular season at 12-13-4 overall and 10-10-2 in ECAC Hockey action. The seventh-seeded Tigers will head up to No. 2 Harvard (20-8-1 overall, 17-4-1 ECACH) this weekend for a best-of-three ECACH quarterfinal series starting on February 24.

In Johnson’s view, Princeton will come ready to play well when they arrive at Cambridge.

“We have some work to do and we owe it to ourselves to play well there next weekend,” said Johnson.

“We have to tighten up a little bit in the d-zone and get the power play going. We need to focus on winning those blue lines. We are so close, it is just doing a couple of little things and we’ll be good.”

Over the course of her career, Johnson has done a lot of things for the Tigers, moving from her natural forward position to defenseman when Princeton has been shorthanded in that area.

“I have been ready to do whatever the team needs me to do,” said the 5’7 Johnson, a native of Calgary, Alberta who has three assists this season and 37 points in her Tiger career of 13 goals and 24 assists.

“This season I feel like I have played that role pretty well. Sometimes I feel lost on defense and I just try to keep things simple back there and work hard to get the puck. On offense, it is just grinding in the corners and the walls and trying to get my teammates the puck.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal liked the way Johnson grinded in the win over Rensselaer.

“For sure, JJ worked really hard, she was strong on the boards today,” said Kampersal.

“She did a good job for us on that goal, that was a nice shot by Sally over the shoulder.”

While Kampersal was happy to see Princeton get the win, he knows the team has to raise the level of its play of it is going to prevail in the playoff series at Harvard.

“It was definitely nice to get the win today; we played well for two periods but not three,” said Kampersal, whose team split with the Crimson in regular season play, blanking Harvard 3-0 at Baker Rink on January 6 but losing 10-1 in Cambridge on February 4.

“We need to fix coverage in front of the net and we need to fix our power play which is still mediocre at best.”

Kampersal is expecting a powerful effort in the playoffs from his group of seniors which includes Ann-Marie Elvin, Heather Landry, co-captain Charissa Stadnyk, co-captain Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Rachel Weber in addition to Johnson.

“I would consider them a hockey group in the way they care about the sport,” asserted Kampersal.

“They show up, they play hard. Most of them have been in the lineup most games so very few times have we missed them. They bring a lot of heart and soul.”

Johnson, for her part, has put her heart into the program and has developed some deep bonds with her classmates in the process.

“We were extremely close our freshman and sophomore years and we still are that close,” said Johnson.

“Princeton hockey is a family and these are the girls that you spend every day with. You battle through the ups and downs; it is a special thing to be a part of and it is going to be sad to leave.”

STICKING IT OUT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player John Cunningham heads up the field in action last spring. Senior longstick midfielder Cunningham brings intensity to a Princeton program that is looking to rebound from a rough 4-8 campaign last spring. The Tigers open their 2012 season when they host Hofstra on February 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

This Saturday, the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team will christen brand-new Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium when it hosts Hofstra in its season opener.

For the Tigers, playing on the sparkling FieldTurf surface emblazoned with a striking Princeton logo in the middle of the field symbolizes the fresh start sorely needed by a program that endured a nightmarish campaign last spring.

Coming off an inspiring 2010 season that saw the Tigers win the inaugural Ivy League tournament and go 11-5, Princeton stumbled to a 4-8 mark last year with 16 players sidelined by injury at some point in the season.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates believes his players are excited to get rolling in their new digs.

“They are fired up and ready to go,” said Bates, who is starting a new chapter in his personal life, dealing with personal tragedy as his wife, Ann, died last November at age 43 after three valiant fights against cancer.

“It is nice to be out there on the new field; we never practiced on the old one so that shows you what we thought of it. The new one is soft and it will give us a rise. It is nice.”

There is nothing soft about a Princeton defense that features three senior All-Ivy performers and co-captains in goalie Tyler Fiorito, defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, and longstick midfielder John Cunningham.

The rock of the Princeton defense is goalie Fiorito, who has been a starter since his first game as a freshman.

“It is a luxury to have a senior goalie like that,” said Bates of Fiorito, who posted a 7.53 goals against average in 2011 and ended the season with a sensational 20-save effort in a loss to Cornell.

“He gives everybody a sense of confidence. It can be a double-edged sword, he bails you out when you are not playing good defense. There is no secret as to how good he is. We want him orchestrating the defense and being more vocal on the field. We need him to be more of a presence and get out of his comfort zone in the crease.”

Senior defender Wiedmaier is known for closing down foes when he zones in on them.

“As captain, people look to him not just for his skill set but for his preparation,” added Bates, whose team is ranked 14th in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll.

“People feed off of that; he is a high energy guy. You can leave him on an island and that allows the defense to slide to other players. He can take the best attacker and neutralize him.”

Cunningham brings a high level of intensity to the mix. “On and off the field, his motor is always running and by that I mean he is always dialed in,” said Bates.

“He elicits the best effort from teammates; he not afraid to bark at them. He is very intense. He has good stick skills and is really good on the ground. On face-offs, he gets the ball for us. He can handle the ball and shoot the ball. He has logged substantial minutes; he gives you good experience.”

The Tigers boast some good experience along the back line in sophomore Rob Castelo and a trio of seniors, Jonathan Meyers, Bill Coughlin, and Mike Flanagan.

“Rob is fiery and a very strong communicator,” added Bates of Castelo  who got off to a promising start last season before suffering knee injury in the second game.

“He understands the game well. He has made great progress with his knee. He looks healthy, you can’t tell that he is coming off an injury. Meyers is very athletic; he has a big presence. He has become a good close defender; he anticipates plays well. Coughlin and Flanagan are two seniors who are seasoned. They are solid with the Xs and Os; they have a good understanding of our team defense.”

Princeton also figures to get some good work in the defensive midfield from sophomores Jack Strabo and Nick Fernandez.

“Jack is so smart; he’s got that energy like the Energizer Bunny,” said Bates, who will also be using Bobby Lucas, Chris White and Peter Smyth in the defensive midfield.

“We have high expectations for Nick. On a team of athletes he stands out; he is so fast. We want to tilt the field. We need to be more creative in transition and create more shooting opportunities. We need to use those athletes.”

One of the team’s stand-out athletes is sophomore midfielder Tom Schreiber, who led Princeton in scoring last year with 29 points on 16 goals and 13 assists, getting named as the Ivy League Rookie of the year and earning third-team All-American honors.

“We are trying to help him take the next step; he lived up to expectations last season,” said Bates.

“He comes into this year ranked as the No. 5  playmaker and is on the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list. That is a lot of stuff for a kid to shoulder; he needs to make other people better. There are times when he is unstoppable, we are trying to get him to relax. The challenge is to surround him with complementary parts. I think we can be good there if we play as a unit.”

Princeton has some good complementary parts in the midfield with Jeff Froccaro (13 goals, 3 assists in 2011), Tucker Shanley (5 goals), Mike Grossman (4 goals, 1 assist), Alex Capretta (3 goals, 2 assists) and Forest Sonnenfeldt (10 goals).

“We have Froccaro going between midfield and attack, he is so savvy around the cage,” said Bates.

“Tucker can be unstoppable at times; he shoots the ball well and has good vision. We are trying to get him to make simple plays instead of trying to make great plays. Mike takes good shots. Alex is a very good finisher. He has a shooter’s mentality and has had a phenomenal spring. We have Forest and him at midfield; he needs to get his hands free to shoot. He is not a ball carrier; he is a shooter.”

In order to generate more shots, Princeton needs to improve in the face-off area as it won 40 percent of its draws last season compared to 50 percent in 2010.

“Bobby [Lucas] and Peter [Smyth] will take the most, they are technically sound face-off guys with different styles,” said Bates.

“Jeff [Froccaro] can give us a look. If he has your number, he can dominate. Freshman Justin Murphy is out for another month; he is a face-off specialist. He may surprise us. He is so focused; he was a wrestler in high school.”

Bates is hoping Princeton’s attack unit will provide some pleasant surprises. “Luke Armour (9 goals, 5 assists) is looking real solid there,” said Bates, noting that senior playmaker Cliff Larkin (3 goals, 6 assists) is currently sidelined.

“Hunter deButts (1 assist) gives us a different look; he is so fast. He has spun around Chad in practice at times. You don’t get wowed by freshman Mike MacDonald but he has a really good lacrosse IQ. He can do the right things on the perimeter. Canadian players are typically good inside and he can put the ball in the back of the net. He has good vision and can carry the ball. ”

Princeton will get a good test on Saturday against No. 13 Hofstra, which opened its season last weekend by beating Sacred Heart 11-9

“It is going to be exciting; they have some knowns and unknowns,” said Bates.

“They lost three senior attackers so they might have a different look. They  have been predictable on offense in the past but very good at it. Seth [head coach Seth Tierney] does a great job, it is a good program.”

Bates is confident that the Tigers can rebound from last year’s struggles to have a great spring.

“We think we can be as good as anybody but we don’t focus on the that,” said Bates, who is in his third season at the helm of the Tiger program.

“The focus is on today and getting each unit to be better. We need to play together at both ends of the field.”

February 15, 2012

CALLIS TREATMENT: Princeton University men’s squash player Chris Callis battles a Yale foe in recent action. Senior star ­Callis, who plays at No. 2 for the Tigers, will look to come up big this weekend as Ivy League champion Princeton hosts the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s national team championships. Second-seeded Princeton, 12-1 overall, will be looking to end top-seeded Trinity’s 13-year championship run.

The last time Princeton University hosted the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s national team championships, the Tigers came within an eyelash of derailing the Trinity College dynasty.

In the titanic 2009 title match that lasted more than six hours, Princeton came within two points of taking the crown before falling 5-4 to the Bantams.

This weekend, Princeton is again hosting the CSA competition and longtime Tiger head coach Bob Callahan believes his team could have what it takes to end Trinity’s 13-year championship run.

Noting the high level of parity in the sport and the fact that Yale snapped Trinity’s 252-match winning streak in January, Callahan sees the 2012 CSA as more wide open than it has been in years.

“Everyone feels excited that it is not preordained; any one of six teams feels that they could win,” said Callahan, whose team is seeded No. 2 behind the Bantams after going 12-1 overall and 7-0 in Ivy League action in winning the program’s 17th league title.

Since Trinity lost to Yale, they haven’t been in that position before coming into this. On the basis of that alone, teams think they have a chance.”

Coming into the season, Callahan wasn’t sure that his team had a chance to be a title contender.

“The biggest question marks were would Chris Callis and Kelly Shannon be healthy,” said Callahan, referring to his senior standouts who have struggled with injuries during their Princeton careers.

“Chris came in ready to go right off the bat, his back was better. Over the fall, he regained confidence and conditioning. Shannon came in healthy but injured his shoulder on our fall trip. When he was coming back from that, he twisted his ankle. He is just getting back in the lineup. We had some good freshmen coming in but you are not sure how good they will be compared to the players they will see in college.”

Callahan acknowledged that he had an ace in the hole with defending national champion Todd Harrity firmly ensconced at No. 1.

“Todd has such a spectacular season last year,” said Callahan of the junior who didn’t lose a single game during the individual championship tournament as he become the first American-born player to win the title in 21 years.

“In just about every match, you can figure that he will win and you only need to win four of the remaining matches.”

After cruising to a 7-0 start this season, Princeton pulled off a spectacular win at Harvard in mid-January.

“That was a huge win for us,” asserted Callahan, pointing out that Harvard had won the preseason Ivy scrimmage and received an added boost from the debut of international star Ali Farag in the January match.

“With all the parity, it has become the year of the home court advantage. The top 6 teams have all been winning their home matches. We went up to Harvard who had Ali Farag and pulled out a win on the road. It was one of the most rewarding wins I have had at Princeton.”

Two weeks later, Princeton suffered its only loss of the season as it fell 7-2 at juggernaut Trinity, who brings a 16-1 record into the CSA competition. Despite the lopsided final score, Callahan drew positives from the match.

“Three of the matches were close, going to five games with 11-9, 13-11, and 11-8 scores in those games” said Callahan, who is in his 31st season at the helm of the program and guided the Tigers to the 1993 CSA Potter Cup national team title.

“If six points go the other way, it could be a 5-4 match. They are a very good team, as always. They have responded very well to the Yale loss with 7-2 wins over us, Harvard, and Rochester.”

Princeton responded well to the Trinity setback, rolling past Yale three days later.

“We played Yale here and won 8-1; we were helped quite a lot by the home advantage,” said Callahan.

“That was a big win; there was a lot of talk about Yale after they beat Trinity.”

That triumph set the table for Princeton to gain the outright Ivy title which they clinched last Sunday with 8-1 victory over Columbia.

“That is my No. 1 goal every year,” said Callahan, reflecting on winning the Ivy crown.

“We got it without sharing, that is a great tribute to our kids. It was great to see the kids rise to the occasion in those matches. We came really close the last two years, it is nice to have something go your way. It was good for seniors to bookend their careers; they won the Ivies as freshman but lost the famous match to Trinity at the CSA.”

Callahan is hoping his players can rise to the occasion this weekend in the friendly confines of Jadwin.

“It is absolutely huge; we hope to be able to take advantage,” said Callahan, referring to the home court advantage.

“It does dissipate as the tournament goes on with three straight matches. Every time you play on the court, you get more comfortable.”

In Callahan’s view, there are four basic keys to success in the eight-team draw at the CSA.

“We need to be ruthlessly efficient in the first round and make every match a 3-game match,” said Callahan.

“You need to get off the court and preserve energy. So efficiency is No. 1 Second is to stay healthy and get as much rest as possible. The third is to have confidence and be optimistic, and the fourth thing is to have a little luck.”

The Tigers have established a blueprint for success which gives Callahan additional cause for optimism coming into the weekend.

“We do matches in three shifts, starting with Nos. 3, 6, and 9,” explained Callahan.

“We have done extremely well in the first shift; we had a 2-1 lead in all of our big matches except for Trinity. They have set the tone; hopefully they can keep doing that this weekend.”

If so, Princeton could use this weekend at Jadwin to make squash history.

HUMMING ALONG: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer heads to the basket last Saturday in Princeton’s 70-62 win over No. 21/25 Harvard. Junior forward Hummer sparked the Tigers to victory, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Ian Hummer, the cold front this weekend arrived early when he couldn’t buy a basket Friday night as the Princeton University men’s hoops team hosted Dartmouth.

The junior star went 0-for-11 from the floor with four points on free throws as the Tigers sleepwalked past the Big Green 59-47.

In the wake of his cold shooting, Hummer consulted two former Princeton hoops stars for some tips in order to get back on track.

“I talked to my dad and I talked to my uncle; they just gave me some advice,” said Hummer, whose father Ed was a three-year letterwinner from 1965-67 and ranks 10th all-time in Princeton history with 550 career rebounds while Uncle John was a two-time first-team All-Ivy Leaguer and scored more than 1,000 points in his Tiger career from 1968-70.

“Basically I was rushing all of my shots, not really looking at the basket when I was shooting. They said keep your head up and just take what comes to you.”

A night later, Hummer took it to No. 21/25 Harvard, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists as the Tigers topped the Crimson 70-62 before a delighted Jadwin Gym throng of 5,266.

“To get that first one to go down was quite a bit different from yesterday, said Hummer, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner 3:20 into the game to break his shooting drought.

“I was a little frustrated yesterday; I just knew that shots were going to come my way.”

Things weren’t quite going Princeton’s way in the early going as it trailed 27-22 at halftime. But with the Tigers down 42-38 with 11:04 left in regulation, they caught fire, reeling off a 21-7 run that broke open the game.

The win lifted Princeton 13-10 overall and 4-3 in Ivy League play while league frontrunner Harvard fell to 21-3 overall and 7-1 Ivy.

In addition, the triumph marked Princeton’s 24th straight win over Harvard at Jadwin Gym since 1989 and was the Tigers’ first home win against a nationally-ranked team since a victory over No. 2 Notre Dame in 1977.

For Hummer and his teammates, those streaks paled in significance to simply beating an arch rival.

“We don’t pay attention to the ranking overall,” maintained Hummer, who starred last year when Princeton edged Harvard in an Ivy title playoff game to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“Harvard has always been a big opponent of ours and we just wanted to come out and play them as hard as we can every time. It is just a great rivalry. We are just happy to come out with the win against a very good Harvard team.”

The Tigers were also happy with the raucous support they got from their fans, who stormed the court to mob the players when the buzzer sounded.

“It really lifts you, it gives you motivation to play well,” said the 6’7, 230-pound Hummer, who recently passed the 1,000-point milestone and is leading the Tigers with 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.

“We take energy from the crowd both on defense and offense. For them to come down to see us and have another great game with Harvard is special. We love when people come to our games and cheer for us. I think it was a great game for them to come to. Every time we have a packed house, we seem to play really well.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson loved the performance he got from his players as they tightened up the Ivy title race.

“First of all, we are very happy with the win, this is a really good Harvard team,” said Henderson, who got 12 points and four assists from T.J. Bray in the win with Brendan Connolly scoring 11 points and Denton Koon and Mack Darrow chipping in 10 points apiece.

“We knew they have games where it is almost like a fight and they have been defending so well. Up until 12 minutes left in the game it was the same thing for us and then we hit a spurt. I thought it was really spurred by Ian’s play and T.J.”

Henderson acknowledged that his team had to pick things up after its lackluster effort a night earlier against Dartmouth.

“I just didn’t feel like there was much life on the team,” said Henderson, noting that the Tigers trailed the Big Green 11-1 at one point.

“I felt like the team that showed up in the last 12 minutes of this game is a group that is pretty tough to beat. We have played like that at times all year. Ian had six assists and one turnover, that is Princeton basketball. We just keep talking about sharing the ball and making each other better. When we are committed to that, we can be pretty good.”

Sharing the ball led to a balanced attack which saw five Princeton players score in double figures.

“We weren’t going to get much if we didn’t get balanced scoring,” said Henderson.

“We had a really nice contribution from everybody; it was hugely important because when you are playing a good team like that you have to have balance.”

In Henderson’s view, the 6’11, 255-pound junior center Connolly made a big contribution, getting the start instead of Mack Darrow.

“We got some quality minutes from Brendan Connolly; I thought Brendan established a little bit of a swagger for us early which we needed,” added Henderson of Connolly, who also contributed six rebounds.

“I think because Mack and Brendan support each other so much off the floor and on the floor, it is an easy thing to do. I thought it presented a nice matchup for us with Keith Wright.”

While the win Saturday was sweet, Henderson knows that it isn’t going to be easy for the fifth-place Tigers to catch the league-leading Crimson in the Ivy race.

“We have got to go up to their place in a little while; we are pretty focused on what we have got at hand and ahead of us,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Columbia (14-10 overall, 3-5 Ivy) on February 17 and Cornell (10-12 overall, 5-3 Ivy) a day later.

“They are doing a great job and I know they are going to finish the year strong. In terms of league play we have work to do and we need help. I want to build on what happened tonight and take it into next weekend.”

In Hummer’s view, the Tigers are working their way back into contention.

“We dug ourselves a hole in the beginning of Ivy League play,” said Hummer.

“We knew we had to come out as hard as we could tonight. We had a disappointing game against Dartmouth. Even though we won, we didn’t play as well as we should have. We are still in a hole a little bit but it is a little shallower now. We just hope other teams play as well and we can just keep on trucking.”

February 8, 2012

FAMILY TRADITION: Princeton University men’s hockey player Marc Hagel prepares to send the puck up the ice in recent action. Senior captain Hagel is following in the footsteps of his brother, Kyle, a former Princeton hockey star and assistant captain. Last Friday against visiting Dartmouth, Hagel provided leadership in the form of a third period goal as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie. Princeton, now 7-10-6 overall and 5-8-3 in ECAC Hockey action, plays at Clarkson (13-12-5 overall, 7-6-3 ECACH) on February 10 and at St Lawrence (10-15-3 overall, 6-9-1 ECACH) the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kyle Hagel distinguished himself as a leader during his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team from 2004-2008.

The rugged Hagel, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, served as an assistant captain of the Tigers and helped Princeton win the ECAC Hockey championship in his senior campaign.

Now another member of the Hagel clan, has stepped into a leadership role for the Tigers as younger brother, Marc, is serving as Princeton’s captain this winter.

The younger Hagel is relishing the chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps as a team captain.

“It is an honor and a great privilege,” said senior forward Hagel, reflecting on his post. “I get to lead a great group of guys.”

In handling that responsibility, Hagel has consulted his brother. “Kyle is a special guy; he was actually down last weekend,” said Hagel. “We were able to hang out and have coffee and had some good talks. He saw us play UConn; it was good to see him.”

Hagel knows that it is a stroke of good fortune for the brothers to share their Princeton hockey experience.

“Coming to an institution like Princeton is the best opportunity I have had in my entire life,” asserted Hagel. “For two of us to come here, we are really grateful.”

Last Friday against visiting Dartmouth, Hagel took advantage of a scoring opportunity as he scored early in the third period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

“I saw Jeremy Goodwin winding up from the point and and two guys crashed the net from my right side,” recalled the 6’0, 200-pound Hagel, reflecting on his sixth goal of the season and the 16th of his Princeton career.

“He shot far left and it popped right to me. I knew the goalie was going to jump across so I just laid her on the ice.”

The Big Green tied the game at 3-3 a minute later and then the game took a strange turn as a Dartmouth shot shattered a pane of glass with 12:36 left in the period, causing a delay of more than an hour as the panel was replaced.

The hiatus prompted some creative leadership by Hagel. “We got unchanged and played a little one-touch soccer in a circle in the room,” said Hagel.

“Then with about 15 minutes left in the break, we put our stuff back on and went around the room and had a good little talk. Everyone put in their input.”

Once play resumed, Princeton put in a good effort. “We had a face-off in our own end,” said Hagel. “I took the face-off and we won it clean. We got it out of our end and went right to work.”

The game ended in a 3-3 tie as neither team could break through in the remaining 12:36 plus five minutes of overtime before a sellout crowd of 2,292 at Baker Rink. The tie left Princeton at 7-10-6 overall and 5-8-3 in ECAC Hockey action.

While Hagel would have preferred to see Princeton end the night with a win, he saw the effort as progress.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” asserted Hagel, who has helped the Tigers go 3-1-4 in their last eight contests.

“We have a young team and it is hard to tell the guys what it takes to win. It has to happen and it needs to build. We have been doing a good job; we have been playing some good teams. Ties are not what we want but it is a step in the right direction.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier saw the performance as a step forward. “I thought our guys did a really good job, we have a lot of guys banged up,” said Prier.

“With the absence of guys like Brodie Zuk and Will MacDonald, who have both been incredible for us, a lot of guys stepped up. I thought Will Ford had a great game; he had a couple of great opportunities. I thought Andrew Ammon played his heart out tonight; he is so explosive. He looked like the type of player who is on the verge of being a dominant college player. There were a lot of good things.”

Prier saw some good things in the way the Tigers responded after the unusual delay.

“I thought we had great jump coming out for those last 12 minutes; our guys played extremely hard,” added Prier, whose team outshot Dartmouth 39-32.

“I look at that game and 45 minutes of it and if you break it down, we deserved a better fate. But with a team like Dartmouth that is that skilled offensively; they just need a few openings and they are going to capitalize. We gave them too many opportunities and they certainly capitalized on a few of them.”

Although Princeton failed to secure the win and accompanying two points in the league standings, the tie could come in handy.

“This could be a crucial point moving forward when we are fighting for a bye and the league is still up for grabs,” said Prier, whose team heads to New York this weekend to play at Clarkson (13-12-5 overall, 7-6-3 ECACH) on February 10 and at St Lawrence (10-15-3 overall, 6-9-1 ECACH) the next day.

“We have 12 points available to us. A game over .500 in the league could get you a bye, .500 could get you a bye. It is going to be competitive, it is going to be down to the wire.”

In Prier’s view, Hagel’s leadership will be a crucial factor for Princeton down the stretch.

“Marc gives you so much; his leadership, his intangibles are incredible,” said Prier.

“He wants this thing so darn bad and it is evident everyday in practice and no matter what we are doing. From day one, he understands his charge and the  guys understand what it is. He has got a very young team to lead so the job that he is doing is just outstanding along with the help from Brodie, Michael Sdao, and Derrick Pallis.”

Hagel, for his part, is determined to get the most out of everyday as he wraps up his college career.

“I am an in-the-moment type of guy,” said Hagel. “I am living every single day and every single game. I don’t worry about the future because I know we are going to do great things here.”

HARD DRIVE: Princeton University sophomore guard Nicole Hung drives to the basket last Saturday in Princeton’s 72-47 win over visiting Yale. Sophomore guard Hung scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench to help Princeton improve to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League action. The Tigers will look to keep rolling this weekend when they play at Dartmouth (3-16 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on February 10 and at Harvard (11-8 overall, 4-1 Ivy) a night later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Nicole Hung doesn’t try to do anything complicated when she comes off the bench for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

“I just focus on immediately bringing a spark and energy, whether it be offensively or defensively, whatever we are lacking at the time,” said sophomore guard Hung.

Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Hung achieved that goal, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds in 22 minutes to help Princeton top the Bulldogs 72-47 and improve to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League action.

Coming into the game, Hung had a feeling that she could get to the hoop against Yale.

“Their style of defense is conducive to my style of play, which is driving to the basket,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles.

“With them climbing all over us and pressuring us, it opened up driving angles and a lot of lanes. It allowed us to push the pace and run which our team likes to do.”

After producing a subpar effort Friday in a 57-45 win over Brown in its first action since a 19-day hiatus for exams, Princeton was looking to pick up the pace collectively in a showdown with second place Yale, who brought  a 4-1 Ivy record into the contest.

“We just wanted to show that yesterday was just us having to brush off some rust,” said Hung.

“Today was a very important game because it was essentially for first place. With this win, we gave ourselves some breathing room. We really wanted to execute today.”

The Tigers displayed some sharp execution in the second half, outscoring Yale 37-21 to turn a tight game into a rout.

“I think everyone started being more aggressive and I think we locked up the boards better,” said Hung, reflecting on Princeton’s second half effort.

“I think we doubled them; I think we had 60 something to 30 something (61-30) so I think giving ourselves multiple looks on the offensive end helps us a lot. We really got out and ran more in the second half.”

Hung is showing an increased aggressiveness in her second college campaign. “I really think it is confidence, not necessarily in games but in everything,” said Hung, who is averaging 7.2 points and 17.4 minutes a game this season, up from the 3.1 points and 8.9 minutes she posted as a freshman.

“I have a role and I know what my role is on this team. Last year, everything was new and you don’t know where you fit. With one year under my belt, it is giving me confidence knowing what my role is.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the mentality her players displayed in pulling away from Yale.

“That was a good game; we just blew it open later,” said Banghart. “You always hope that when Niveen [Rasheed] doesn’t play her best how are we going to play when teams are pushing us around. We had 61 rebounds and I thought we defended for 40 minutes, the best I’ve seen this year. Although not everyone played equal minutes, there wasn’t a dropoff in toughness. When they pushed us in the face, we pushed back so that was great.”

Banghart is proud of how Hung has toughened up after one season under her belt.

“This is a good game for her; she came in early today because she didn’t like how she played yesterday and I appreciated that,” said Banghart.

“I think what Nicole is trying to do is to mix up her athleticism and talent with toughness. She was that talented last year, she was that fast last year but she wasn’t as tough. She is investing into it. She is not a sixth man; she is an important part of our team. We don’t really have a sixth man and starters. It is who can help, how, and in what way. She was huge tonight.”

The Tigers could really help themselves in the league race if they could produce a road sweep when they play at Dartmouth (3-16 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on February 10 and at Harvard (11-8 overall, 4-1 Ivy) a night later.

“It is a big weekend; it is on the road and there is a lot of competitive fire in the league,” said Banghart.

“It is a big separation if we can get two more. If we can get Harvard with another loss so that everyone else below us has two losses not even one way through the league, that is pretty important.”

In Hung’s view, the superb performance against Yale was important for the Tigers.

“I am glad it was our performance today on a Saturday as opposed to yesterday because that would have been kind of a dampener on what we are trying to do next weekend,” said Hung.

“I think it is really good because it gives us a lot of momentum, especially going on the road. We have tomorrow off and then Monday we are going to start with Dartmouth.”

February 1, 2012

BIG EFFORT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Brendan Connolly puts up a free throw in a game earlier this season. Last Monday, the 6’11, 255-pound junior Connolly had a breakthrough game against Penn, scoring 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Connolly’s heroics, though, weren’t enough as Princeton fell 82-67 to the Quakers. Princeton, now 10-9 overall and 1-2 in Ivy League action, plays at Brown (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on February 3 and Yale (13-5, 3-1 Ivy) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite having not played since January 14, the Princeton University men’s basketball team showed little rust offensively as it faced Penn last Monday night in Philadelphia.

The Tigers hit 13-of-19 shots in the first half in their annual trip to the storied Palestra.

But the Princeton’s normally stingy defense seemed out of synch as Penn made 14-of-22 shots, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range, to build a 40-32 halftime lead.

“I thought we played pretty well offensively,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, reflecting on the first 20 minutes of the 225th meeting between the archrivals. “We shot over 50 percent and had less than 10 turnovers.”

In the second half, the Tigers tried to claw back into the contest, narrowing the gap to five points several times. In the end, though, the Tigers couldn’t stop the Quakers as Penn pulled away to an 82-67 win before a crowd of 6,835, led by a brilliant 28-point performance from senior guard Zack Rosen.

Henderson acknowledged that Rosen was the difference in the game. “I really felt like Penn dictated things on offense,” said Henderson, whose team fell to 10-9 overall and 1-2 in the Ivy League while Penn improved to 11-9 overall and 3-0 Ivy.

“We really had no response or answer for Zack Rosen. He was terrific tonight, throughout the game for 40 minutes. His understanding of tempo, it’s special, not just for this game, but as an Ivy League basketball player. He’s a good one. We knew that going in. That’s not to take anything away from the other guys.”

The Tigers didn’t exactly stifle Penn’s other guys as three other Quakers hit double figures.

“They were quicker than us to everything in the first half, and the second,” said Henderson, whose team was outrebounded 33-19 in the contest.

“Forty in the first, and 42 in the second. And that was a real 82. We just consistently couldn’t stop them. It’s supposed to be what we’re hanging our hat on, but maybe we need to hang our hat on something else.”

A major bright spot for Princeton was junior center Brendan Connolly, who was unstoppable at times as he tallied 15 points in 30 minutes off the bench.

“I was very pleased with Brendan Connolly tonight,” asserted Henderson, who also got 21 points from Ian Hummer and 14 from Douglas Davis.

“Brendan has been playing pretty well in practice. I think you saw tonight a little bit of what we see in practice every day. He’s been working hard, and that’s what happens when you work hard.”

Connolly, for his part, saw his effort as the fruits of that labor. “I was just trying to replicate what I’ve been doing at practice lately, which is being more aggressive,” said the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly, who thundered home several dunks as he went 7-of-8 from the field.

“All the coaches have been working with me, and my teammates have helped me out and put me in good spots for most of my baskets today. I was just trying to build off that. It wasn’t necessarily this game. I’d like to do it every game.

Senior star Davis acknowledged that defending Ivy champion Princeton put itself in a hole with the defeat to the Quakers as it now trails Harvard (18-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy), Yale (13-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy), and Cornell (7-11 overall, 2-2 Ivy) in addition to Penn in the league standings.

“It’s tough; whenever you play Ivies, if you lose, you’re basically putting yourself at a disadvantage,” said Davis, whose class was trying to become the first group of seniors to win four straight games at the Palestra.

“Every loss counts and there’s no tournament at the end where you can hopefully try to win. It’s tough. We’re 1-2 right now, so we have to win. We have to find a way to win.”

Despite the setback, Davis doesn’t believe that the team’s will to win has been diminished.

“I don’t think our team is shaken at all, but it definitely puts us behind the eight-ball,” maintained Davis. “We have to find a way to get back to where we need to be.”

In Henderson’s view, it is going to take toil and luck for the Tigers to make their way up the league standings.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re going to need some help,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Brown (7-14 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on February 3 and Yale a day later. “We know that.”

PRODUCTIVE RETURN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Danielle DiCesare speeds up the ice in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward DiCesare chipped in a goal as Princeton edged Robert Morris University 3-2 in returning to action after a 16-day hiatus for exams. The Tigers, now 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3 and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having spent much of January dealing with exams, Danielle DiCesare was bursting with energy when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted Robert Morris University last Monday.

“We were excited to get out of the library and finally have a game, for sure,” said senior forward DiCesare, a native of York, Maine.

“We haven’t played Robert Morris yet so we didn’t know what to expect. We were fired up and ready to go.”

DiCesare got the Tigers off to a good start in their first action since a loss at Cornell on January 14, scoring a goal late in the first period to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over the Colonials.

“We always pass on our line when we have scoring opportunities,” said the feisty 5’4 DiCesare, reflecting on her fifth goal of the season and the 25th in her Princeton career.

“So this game, every time we had a chance, we wanted to shoot. That was exactly what Cookie [Kelly Cooke] did and it was a great rebound. It was great to see the line effort.”

The Tigers continued that effort in the second period as defensemen Rose Alleva and Ali Pankowski scored to give Princeton a 3-1 edge heading into the final 20 minutes.

“All of our goals were team efforts; that was nice to see,” added DiCesare. “There were assists on each goal.”

Things weren’t so nice in the third period for Princeton as the Colonials scored to narrow the gap to one and got a late power play and then pulled the goalie to add an extra attacker to put the pressure on Princeton.

DiCesare, together with Cooke, Alleva, and Gabie Figueroa, held the fort on the penalty kill as the Tigers ultimately prevailed 3-2.

“The 6-on-4 is always interesting; it was definitely dicey,” said DiCesare. “We almost got it out a couple of times but then it got fumbled. We had our defensemen blocking shots and Rachel [Weber] made some great saves. We got it done.”

With Princeton now at 9-10-4 overall and 7-7-2 in ECAC Hockey play, the Tigers will need to get it done if they are to earn home ice for the playoffs. Princeton currently sits in seventh place in the ECACH standings, six points away from fourth and the last spot to host a series.

“We have six huge games to set us up for the playoffs,” said DiCesare. “It was really nice to get back; normally we don’t have a game before we get back into the ECAC play. It was awesome to get this game and get ready. We know what we have to do for the next six games.”

In DiCesare’s view, the formula for success is simple. “We just need to play consistent; I think we just beat ourselves in the first half of the season,” asserted DiCesare.

“We came back after the holiday break and we put together six consistent games and we had a pretty good record and now we need to do the same thing.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, for his part, liked how his players took care of their business on and off the ice during the exam break.

“The kids worked really hard during exams,” said Kampersal. “They definitely paid attention to their academics and did well there. The captains and the seniors made sure that they were down here. There was not a lot of quantity time but just quality with a half hour, or 40 minutes to do their work and get on with their academics. They stayed in great shape, just like over the holiday break.”

The Tigers showed fresh legs in the early stages of the game against Robert Morris.

“I thought we played really well; we had the advantage for sure,” said Kampersal. “Robert Morris is a solid team but they had played a tough weekend against Niagara so it was their third game in four nights. We definitely understood that.”

DiCesare’s early tally gave the Tigers an advantage. “Danielle worked hard; Cookie made a nice play throwing it to the net,” recalled Kampersal. “Danielle took it from her skate to her stick so it was a nice goal.”

The tallies by Alleva and Pankowski were the products of some good work.

“Rosie made a nice fake and shoot on her goal,” said Kampersal. “We have been working on the power play with Pankowski. Corey [Stearns] made a nice pass to her. Ali has an absolute bomb, it was a nice catch and shoot for Pankowski.”

Kampersal acknowledged that the Colonials put a scare into the Tigers over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“I think we were expecting to come out a little stronger and I think they found their second wind in the third period and we were holding on for dear life,” said Kampersal.

With 5:36 remaining in regulation, Kampersal called a timeout to settle things down.

“I told them they have worked so hard and that they are starting to let it slip away and that their will should outlast their skill right now,” said Kampersal, recalling the message he gave to his players.

The Tigers showed iron will on the game-ending penalty kill. “Cookie, Rosie, Gabie, and Cheesy [DiCesare] did a phenomenal job,” said Kampersal. “They showed a lot of heart and soul at the end there; that is what we need.”

In Kampersal’s view, the Tigers needed the challenge presented by Robert Morris before they get back into ECACH action by playing at Dartmouth (14-6-2 overall. 10-4-2 ECACH) on February 3, and at Harvard (14-6-1 overall, 11-4-1 ECACH) a day later.

“We wanted to play a good, solid hockey team,” said Kampersal. “Hopefully it will get us ready for next weekend. I don’t think we could have gone three weeks without a game and then go on the road against Harvard and Dartmouth and expect to compete the way that we want to against those guys.”

Princeton’s seniors are primed to compete hard as they put the finishing touches on their superb careers.

“Now we have the last six ECAC games with four at home,” said Kampersal, whose group of seniors includes Charissa Stadnyk, Paula Romanchuk, Heather Landry, and Julie Johnson in addition to DiCesare and Weber.

“They know that the home games are coming to an end at some point so hopefully they take advantage of each and every one. It is a special group; I know they realize how special this time is.”

DiCesare, for her part, is ready to take advantage of her last few weeks in a Princeton uniform.

“I am just trying to have fun, that’s my biggest thing,” said DiCesare. “I will give my best effort every game because I am not going to have anything left.”

January 18, 2012

SUPPORTING CHARACTER: Princeton University women’s basketball player Laura Johnson drives to the hoop in recent action. Senior reserve guard Johnson has embraced her supporting role, providing leadership and outside shooting off the bench as Princeton has started 13-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play. The Tigers are currently on exam break and will be back in action when they host Brown on February 3 and Yale on February 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Laura Johnson knows that she doesn’t have to be a star to be a major contributor for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

As one of three seniors on the squad, reserve guard Johnson has soaked up some telling lessons on leadership during her college career.

“The past two years when we won the Ivy League we have been led by really good seniors,” said Johnson.

“We have had a wide range as to what role those seniors have played on the team. We have had someone like Tani [Brown] who didn’t really play that much but was a leader on and off the court; she was vocal and everyone’s best friend. Then we had someone like Addie [Micir] who was the Ivy Player of the Year.”

The affable Johnson is crafting her own leadership style this winter. “I just looked at them and realized that no matter what my role is on the court, I can always be that leader,” said Johnson, who is averaging 3.1 points in 12.6 minutes a game this season. “I can be vocal and show the freshman how it is done and be the voice of support to my teammates basically.”

Last Sunday against visiting Columbia, Johnson provided some deadeye shooting to go with her words of encouragement.

The 5’8 Johnson scored 12 points on 4-of-7 three-pointers in 18 minutes off the bench as Princeton routed the Lions 94-35 before 742 at Jadwin Gym to improve to 13-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy play.

Acknowledging that Princeton had been sluggish in a 64-35 win over Cornell on Friday, Johnson said the Tigers were looking to be sharp against Columbia as they played their last game before going on an 18-day exam hiatus.

“We had a sour taste in our mouths after the game Friday; we won big and the points looked good but we had a lot of turnovers and we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked,” said Johnson.

“Our first five came in really big for us and set the tone immediately. It is really easy going in off the bench when you have a first five that takes care of business in the beginning.”

The Tiger reserves took care of their business as they helped extend the Princeton lead to more than 50 points for a good portion of the second half.

“It is good to get the second group coming in more and getting some more playing time together in the game,” added Johnson, a native of Lower Gwynedd, Pa., who now has 424 points in her Princeton career.

“It gets everyone feeling really good when they start making some shots. Mariah [Smith] was doing really well; Alex [Rodgers] came in and hit some shots. Meg Bowen went off. Getting people like that to get shots up and start getting the confidence they need really helps us as we move into the rest of Ivy League play.”

Getting off to a 3-0 start in Ivy play sends the Tigers into the break feeling good about themselves.

“We are happy with what has happened so far,” said Johnson. “It is a tough period for us because no one wants to be studying all day. Practicing without playing is also tough in general. We are happy that our last game before that period was a good game for us. Coach was happy so we know she is not sitting and brooding about this weekend. It really sets a good tone for us going into these next three weeks so we will just keep practicing.”

Princeton head coach Banghart set an intense tone Sunday, making it clear that she didn’t want a repeat of the effort she saw against Cornell.

“It is basically you don’t want me crabby for the next three weeks,” said a grinning Banghart, who got 21 points from Niveen Rasheed in the win over Columbia with Lauren Edwards chipping in 19.

“Also, these guys have so much pride, they know they didn’t play well on Friday. I was about to tell them I am going to quit on your transition game and you don’t want me to get to that point. I think they showed ‘coach don’t quit on our transition game, we are willing to push it and take open shots.’ They did that, as you saw, which is really hard to guard. We had over 100 rebounds in two games [57 against Columbia and 55 against Cornell]; we just want to own the glass all season long.”

Banghart likes the pride the Tiger reserves have shown in pushing the starters.

“The only way they can gain experience is to get it,” added Banghart. “You  earn it in practice. They are sitting behind some very talented players so they have to stick with it. I thought defensively there were a couple of lapses but you would expect that. They haven’t had a lot of game experience yet but overall I think they are growing up.”

In Banghart’s view, Johnson has grown into a key leader for the Tigers. “LJ has had to develop into appreciating and executing in a reserve role,” said Banghart.

“That role is as important as everybody else’s. She has bought into it and is making a difference when she is in. That’s all we can ask. I always say you don’t remember individual performances, you remember the senior class of every team you are on so be the senior class that wins another title. Lauren is quiet, she barely has a pulse; Devona is a thinker so she is really pensive and LJ is a perfectionist so the three of them together cover all the spectrums. It is a very eclectic group.”

That class has the Tigers on track for another special season. “I am very pleased; I would never have guessed we would be 13-4 given the schedule we gave them,” said Banghart.

“The kids really had to find and discover their roles and our leadership had to find their voices. To go 13-4 with the schedule we had is remarkable.”

Banghart believes her team can build on its superb start when it returns to action in February.

“The good thing is that we have three weeks now and then we have two very important back-to-back weekends and we’ll be ready,” asserted Banghart, whose club hosts Brown on February 3 and Yale on February 4.

“We got what we needed to get and now we have time to get better at certain areas. We will bring the boys in so we play against bigger, stronger, and faster people. That will help us get sharper because we need to get sharper by February.”

Johnson, for her part, is ready to savor the last few weeks of her college career.

“I know I am going to miss it; the seniors try to take a picture at every away game on the court,” said Johnson, who will be working after graduation for Deutsche Bank in New York City, doing sales and trading.

“It is getting very sentimental; I don’t think it has really 100 percent hit home yet that this will be the last few games I will ever play competitive basketball in my life. I am trying to take the little moments and not take them for granted, just cherishing this experience.”

JERSEY GUY: Princeton University men’s hockey player Aaron Kesselman heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday against visiting Colgate, freshman forward Kesselman, a native of Mays Landing, N.J., produced a breakout game, scoring two goals and adding an assist as Princeton topped the Raiders 6-2. The Tigers, who tied Cornell 3-3 on Saturday, are 6-10-5 overall and 5-8-2 in ECAC Hockey play. Princeton is currently on exam break and will next be in action when it hosts Connecticut on January 31. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Jersey guy Aaron Kesselman didn’t need a lot of arm-twisting when it came to joining the Princeton University men’s hockey program.

“My sister went here; she graduated this past spring,” said freshman forward Kesselman, a native of Mays Landing, N.J., referring to sister Megan, who rowed for the Princeton women’s lightweight program.

“When she would come home, she would tell the family how it was. The way she described things, it seemed almost too good to be true. When I was invited on my visit here, I was like you are absolutely right about everything you said. I loved it.”

While it was love at first sight for Kesselman when it came to Princeton, it has taken him a little longer to get up to speed on the ice. The 5’11, 190 pound Kesselman appeared in 12 of Princeton’s first 19 games, notching just four points on two goals and two assists.

“The beginning of the year was the toughest part,” said Kesselman, who played three seasons with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs of the EJHL, scoring 96 points in 112 games.

“You have to adjust to the speed of the game and how quickly you need to get the pass up to the guys. It’s just the next step from juniors to this level.”

Coming into the 2012 portion of the season, Kesselman started to feel a comfort level.

“Coach [Bob Prier] talked to us at individual meetings and told us how the second half of the season should be easier because you are already used to it,” said Kesselman.

“You come back after break feeling great. You are not really a rookie any more, you have that experience from the first half under your belt.”

Last Friday against visiting Colgate, Kesselman didn’t look like a rookie, tallying two goals and an assist as the Tigers cruised to a 6-2 win over the No. 12 Raiders.

As Kesselman took the ice Friday night, he had a feeling that Princeton was primed for a big effort.

“We definitely came out with a lot of energy; we had our best week of practice by far, the most intensity for sure,” said Kesselman. “We had momentum from this week and we came in confident.”

The Tigers gained momentum from the play of Kesselman and his linemates, Brodie Zuk and Will MacDonald as they were responsible for three of Princeton’s goals, including two in a 4-0 second period outburst.

Kesselman tallied the first and third Princeton goals and assisted on the fourth.

“On the first goal, I got a little piece of it,” recalled Kesselman “I thought someone else got it in but I will take it. In the second one, I kept my stick on the ice and went to the net and got a great pass from Brodie and it just went in. Coach is always telling the second guy to crash the net.”

In Kesselman’s view, his outburst Friday could be a turning point for him.

“I’d like to think so; that would be great,” said Kesselman. “I am just going to keep working my hardest. Definitely the way we practiced this week benefitted all of our games, myself included. We brought ourselves to the playoff mentality that we need to be at and we are just going to keep on getting better and hopefully I can do the same.”

Princeton head coach Prier believes that Kesselman is getting better and better.

“He is a kid who plays hard; he is a tough kid,” said Prier, whose team showed its toughness a day later against No. 9 Cornell, fighting back from a 3-0 third period deficit to tie the Big Red 3-3 and move to 6-10-5 overall and 5-8-2 in ECAC Hockey play.

“He is starting to figure out the game at this level and understanding that opportunities are a little more limited than in juniors. He really capitalized on it tonight. They were hardworking goals, going to the net. He stuck around for one and he beat a guy to the net on the other one. He kept his stick on the ice.”

Prier liked the way his players kept their noses to the grindstone in the win over Colgate.

“They came out and played physical; they reloaded the forecheck so much,” said Prier, who got two goals from Jack Berger in the win with Matt Farris chipping in another.

“They had an opportunity to hem in a really good team; they outworked them and they were rewarded. Outworking the opposition in this league is the main ingredient for success and the guys did it.”

After some early struggles as it has adjusted to new coach Prier and his staff, Princeton appears to be finding a rhythm.

“We needed a game like that; I think the guys have been working hard to try to get one and we needed to pop,” said Prier.

“You could kind of see it coming the last few games since they came back from Christmas break refocused and reenergized. They have done great in the second half, we have one blemish so far and that was at Yale [a 6-2 loss on January 7].”

Princeton’s progress this weekend bodes well for the rest of the second half of the season.

“Confidence breeds confidence; wins breed winning,” said Prier, whose team is on exam break and returns to action when it hosts Connecticut on January 31.

“Now we have to start stringing some together. These guys have been great here in the second half. From here on out, it is kind of playoff mindset. You are fighting for positioning going into the playoffs so you have to start playing like it is the playoffs. You can’t pass up on any hits, you have to crash nets. You have got to stop at the net. Doing those little things is going to pay off down the stretch.”

Kesselman, for his part, is confident that the Tigers can produce a big stretch drive.

“We have had a ton of road games; that is tough and we battled through it,” said Kesselman.

“All of our wins have been a really great team effort; tonight was a perfect example of that. I don’t see any complacency in the locker room after this. We are going to keep building on this and be a better team.”

January 11, 2012

Over the course of her career with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, Massachusetts native Heather Landry has produced some of her biggest highlights against Harvard.

In her freshman season in 2008-09, Landry scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Princeton victory at Harvard. A year later, she notched the game-winning tally in a 2-1 win over the Crimson.

Last Friday evening, Landry was up to her old tricks when Princeton hosted 10th-ranked Harvard at Baker Rink. The 5’5 senior forward notched two assists as the Tigers posted a 3-0 triumph.

Afterward, Landry acknowledged that her success against Harvard was no coincidence.

“I think it is definitely a Boston-area kid thing; especially when I go there because I usually have 40 fans in the stands,” said Landry, who hails from Lexington, Mass.

“I think everyone here is up for them. Part of the thing is that they are always ranked and on top. They are someone to shoot for and they are someone we can beat so it is always a big game.”

Landry helped Princeton get a big shot of momentum late in the first period as she set up Sally Butler on a goal; that put the Tigers up 1-0.

“Denna [Laing] was coming wide I just went to the net to bother the goalie,” said Landry.

“I was trying to see if there was anything I could do. The goalie came out really far and the puck was sitting there and Sally came in and knocked it right in.”

Minutes into the third period, Landry tormented Harvard again as she fed Butler for an insurance goal.

“I was coming along the boards and I knew Sally was right next to me,” recalled Landry.

“Their defense was closing up on me and I kind of put it behind me knowing Sally would get it. It is sort of a dangerous play but I knew she would get it. She took a nice shot right through their five hole.”

Landry knows she is lucky to be teamed up with sophomores Laing and Butler, having recently been moved to that line after Olivia Mucha was sidelined.

“Those two work well together and it is fun to play with them,” asserted Landry.

“I think they are both really good goal scorers. If I give them the puck, they will score; that’s good. When I was a freshman I was playing with seniors; it is fun to play with different people.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal had fun seeing Landry pestering Harvard.

“Our Massachusetts kids definitely looks forward to the opportunity to play Harvard,” said Kampersal, a Boston-area native himself.

“Harvard has been a top program for so long; I always think there is extra incentive to play them because of their excellence.”

In Kampersal’s view, his team produced its top performance of the season so far in the win over the Crimson.

“We got two good efforts against Ohio State but this is our best in terms of being disciplined and our execution,” said Kampersal, whose team had two ties in its recent trip to Ohio State.

The Tigers did get a break as an apparent Harvard goal was disallowed after a video review by the officials.

“Being down 1-0 in the first minute would not have been a great way to start,” said Kampersal, who got a 20-save effort from senior goalie Rachel Weber as she posted her third shutout of the season.

“It was a fluky play but our kids, whether they were up or scrambling, kept their composure the whole time. They never really panicked so I thought it was a good solid team effort. Everyone chipped in and contributed. The defense broke out when they needed to break out for us and got it in deep when they needed to get it in deep.”

The Tigers got another big effort from Butler, who has emerged as the team’s top finisher.

“Sally was a monster out there today; she had a lot of jump in her step,” said Kampersal of Butler, who has a team-high 11 goals.

“Her skating was good; she is always good around the net. We need that finishing touch and it is nice to see her get in double digits for goals. That is the kind of effort we need out of her everyday. If we get it, we’ll be in really good shape.”

Kampersal is hoping that the win over Harvard will get Princeton rolling.

“It is definitely a big win; we will definitely enjoy it but we need to have a good consistent effort against Dartmouth tomorrow,” said Kampersal, whose team ended up skating to a 2-2 tie with the Big Green on Saturday to improve to 7-9-4 overall and 6-6-2 in ECAC Hockey play and move up to third in the league standings. “I thought all the lines played well.”

Landry, for her part, is determined to enjoy the final weeks of her college hockey career.

“I think all of us realize coming after the Christmas break, half the season is over,” said Landry, who will look to keep rolling this weekend as Princeton plays at Colgate (8-11-1 overall, 3-5-1 ECACH) on January 13 and at third-ranked Cornell (12-2 overall, 8-1 ECACH) on January 14.

“I think we have a really good group; we are all really close. There is a sense of camaraderie. We really want to put all we have into it because it is the last time that we will get to play together and play in a really competitive environment.”

For Brendan Connolly, the win by the Princeton University men’s basketball team over The College of New Jersey last Sunday wasn’t just the last tune-up before entering Ivy League play.

After struggling offensively all season long, junior center Connolly used the game against Division III TCNJ as a launching pad to gain some confidence in his scoring touch.

The 6’11, 255-pound native of Brentwood, Tenn. poured in a career-high 16 points in 17 minutes off the bench as the Tigers posted a 79-68 win over their local foes.

“It is nice to see the ball go through the basket; that was something that was lacking for most of the first part of the year,” said Connolly, who had been averaging 2.9 points a game this year with a season-best of just six.

“I would say the past few days in practice have been more so or just as much. I have been working a lot on it.”

Connolly is hoping that his performance will be a harbinger of things to come over the rest of the winter.

“As long as it keeps going in that direction for myself, it will be fine,” said Connolly, who added a game-high nine rebounds to go with his scoring output as the Tigers improved to 9-7 before a crowd of 2,246 at Jadwin Gym.

“It felt nice to have a breakthrough; I have just got to keep it going in the Ivy League season.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson will be looking for his team to play better defense when it starts the defense of its Ivy crown with games at Cornell (5-9) on January 13 and at Columbia (11-5) on January 14.

“Tonight, I thought we played a little like a team that was feeling good about itself,” said Henderson, whose team had trouble stopping former Princeton High star Skye Ettin as he led the Lions with 15 points, drawing cheers from his many fans on hand.

“Our defense has actually been pretty good in practice. We have identified and earmarked our defense as the thing that is going to help us win games. They had 35 points at the half which I think is way too many.”

The matchup with the D-III TCNJ afforded Henderson the opportunity to get a good look at his bench players.

“We wanted to play everybody if we could; I think everybody got a chance to play,” said Henderson.

“If anything, it identified some of the things we can get better at, that is what we are about. We come to work, that is what we do.”

In Henderson’s view, reserve guard Ben Hazel gave the Tigers some good work.

“I liked that we were able to get Ben Hazel some time today,” added Henderson of the sophomore who chipped in four rebounds, two assists, and two blocked shots in 15 minutes of action. “I thought he brought energy and talk. It was something we needed and he brought it.”

With the Tigers heading to New York this weekend to resume a road swing that will ultimately see them play 12 of 13 games away from Jadwin, Henderson is looking for his players to bring physical and mental energy.

“It has been hard but I think if you have a team like this, you can get through it,” said Henderson, reflecting on Princeton’s travels.

“You really need great leadership, not just from the staff but from the seniors because they know what it takes to win games on the road in the league. I like to look at it this way; we are certainly not looking ahead but if we can start off the right way, we finish up nicely at home.”

Connolly has the sense that the Tigers have been steeled by their time away from home.

“Going into those games, we are going to know what it is like to be on the road a lot,” said Connolly.

“It should be nothing new for us. We have had some success on the road in these past few games. We know what we need to do in order to get the wins.”

January 4, 2012

Competing in the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis, Minn. last weekend, the Princeton University men’s hockey team drew a tough opening round assignment.

The Tigers were matched against Northeastern, who brought a six-game winning streak into the game with victories over No. 18 UMass Lowell, No. 2 Notre Dame, and No. 11 Michigan during that stretch. Moreover, the Huskies held a 25-13-3 edge in the all-time series with Princeton.

Tiger head coach Bob Prier realized his team had its hands full with Northeastern.

“It was a tough challenge; they have eight [NHL] draft picks,” noted Prier.

Building on some good practice sessions last week after returning from the holiday break, the Tigers proved to be up for the challenge.

Battling back from three one-goal deficits, Princeton knotted the game at 3-3 midway through the third period and forced overtime.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the extra session, necessitating a shootout to determine which team would advance to the championship game.

The shootout turned into an eight-round marathon with Northeastern prevailing after Princeton goalie Mike Condon had stymied its first seven shooters.

“It was extremely disappointing to lose the shootout,” said Prier, who also got goals from Jack Berger and Tyler Maugeri in the game with junior goalie Condon making 38 saves.

“It is a lousy way to end a hockey game but it had to happen. I thought we had the advantage going into the shootout because Condon was playing great. He was great in the shootout, we just couldn’t get one past their guy.”

While the ending left Prier with a lousy feeling, he thought his players did gain from the experience of battling the Huskies.

“It was the right test for the guys,” said Prier. “We need to compete against those type of teams; we got a lot out of it.”

A day later, the Tigers got a second tough test as they faced another hot team in Niagara, which had gone 3-0-3 in its six games prior to the Minneapolis trip.

This time, Princeton held two one-goal leads. The Tigers went up 2-1 early in the third period on a goal by senior captain Marc Hagel and gained a 3-2 advantage with 7:34 left in regulation as senior forward as Brody Zuk found the back of the net.

But taking a penalty in the waning moments, Princeton got burned as Niagara scored on a 6-on-4 situation with 54 seconds left in the third to force overtime. That was the last tally of the contest as the teams skated to a 3-3 tie.

Prier wasn’t pleased by his team’s second tie of the weekend. “We didn’t play as well as we did against Northeastern; at the same time, they are also one of the hotter teams,” said Prier, whose team moved to 4-9-4 with the tie.

“I feel like it was a loss, when you have a lead like that. Not to take anything away from them, we let that game get tied. You take a late penalty that gives them a 6-on-4; that is a pretty good advantage. I hope that we have learned from that.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers can take some good lessons from the weekend. “We played two tough teams on the road and came out of it with two points,” said Prier. “We need to take that kind of play when we come back to the league.”

Princeton got some tough play from senior defenseman and assistant captain Derrick Pallis as he played through illness to notch a goal and an assist against Niagara.

“Pallis had a very good game against Niagara,” said Prier, whose team got 35 saves from sophomore goaltender Sean Bonar in the tie with Niagara.

“Certainly offensively with a multi-point game and he was really good on defense. He competed like we need him to. He was under the weather; he had a flu and I didn’t play him against Northeastern. He still looked like death; I think he lost 12 pounds. It is nice to see him do really well, maybe it was good for him to watch a game and see that he needs to really bring it when he is on the ice.”

With Princeton currently in 10th place in the ECAC Hockey standings sporting a 3-7-1 league mark, the Tigers will need to bring it if they are going to get points out of this weekend when they play at Brown (6-6-1 overall, 3-3 ECACH) on January 6 and at No. 20 Yale (7-5-1 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on January 7.

“Brown is a lot better than people think; Yale is going to be tough,” asserted Prier.

“We have to be spot-on the whole time to get a sweep on the road. We have got to have focus and prepare well. We have to be prepared to outwork them. We need to pay attention to detail and be in the right place.”

The Tigers are in a good place health-wise, so Prier has the depth to make things tough for Princeton’s foes.

“Health will do that; we are in good shape,” said Prier. “People have to compete to play and practices are elevated. You have to work harder if you want to be in it. We have the legs and speed to get in the grill of other teams and frustrate them. At this point, you have to do it all the time; you can’t do it on eight of 10 shifts.”

SUPER SAVER: Princeton University women’s goalie Rachel Weber stands tall in the crease in recent action. This past weekend in a pair of games at Ohio State, Weber came up big, making 38 saves in a 2-2 tie on Friday and then posting a career-high 44 stops a day later as the teams skated to a 1-1 draw. Princeton, now 6-9-3 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey action, hosts Harvard (8-4 overall, 6-2 ECACH) on January 6 and Dartmouth (6-5-1 overall, 4-3-1 ECACH) the next day.

Although the Princeton University women’s hockey team didn’t pull out a victory in its two-game set last weekend at Ohio State, it showed a spirit that should help it post some wins down the homestretch of the ECAC Hockey season.

Getting outshot 86-46 over the weekend in Columbus, Ohio, the Tigers still rallied to pull out a 2-2 tie on Friday and a 1-1 stalemate the next day.

“The compete level was really good; we played hard 65 minutes two straight days,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, whose team moved to 6-9-3 overall with the two ties.

“We came from behind in both games; there was no letdown in the second game. It was a good sign.”

Coming into the trip to the midwest, Kampersal had a good feeling about his team’s mindset.

“We got back to practice on December 26,” said Kampersal. “It was a travel day so we were a little out of synch. The girls had gotten the rest they need but they have stayed in shape. We practiced hard on Tuesday and Wednesday. When they practice hard like that, they usually play well on the weekend.”

In the opener on Friday, the Tigers played well in spurts. After the Buckeyes scored in the second period to take a 1-0 lead, sophomore defenseman Gabie Figueroa notched her first goal of the season to knot the contest at 1-1. Ohio State scored early in the third period but sophomore forward Sally Butler scored with 3:19 left in regulation on a feed by classmate Rose Alleva to force overtime and the game ended at 2-2.

“The first three shifts on Friday were some of the best we have had in a while; we had Ohio State on their heels,” said Kampersal.

“Ohio State came back and had us on our heels; they have some firepower. We battled back, the kids played hard the whole time.”

It was encouraging for Princeton to see defensemen Figueroa and Alleva firing away.

“Figueroa started off slowly this season with her injury,” said Kampersal. “She and Rose had a really good weekend; they have been both been battling injury. They are starting to look like they did at the end of their freshman year.”

Butler continued to look good offensively the next day as she notched a second period goal that ended up giving Princeton a 1-1 draw.

“Sally has a good nose for the net,” said Kampersal of the 5’9 forward from   Etobicoke, Ontario who has a team-leading nine goals on the season. “She knows where the puck is and is strong on the puck.”

The strength of the Tigers, though, continues to be the superb goaltending of senior Rachel Weber, who made 38 saves on Friday and then posted a career-high 44 stops a day later.

“Weber was really sharp, no question,” said Kampersal, referring to Weber who has started all 18 games this winter for Princeton, compiling a 2.11 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

“She looked like she did during her shutout streak last year. She was even crisper on Friday than Saturday. They had a lot of breakaways and quality shots in that first game.”

With Princeton having gone 5-6-1 in ECACH play to tie St. Lawrence for fifth in the league standings, the Tigers will have to be crisp collectively as they host Harvard (8-4 overall, 6-2 ECACH) on Friday and Dartmouth (6-5-1 overall, 4-3-1 ECACH)  the next day.

“It was good for us to get going,” said Kampersal. “We need to pick up some points in the ECAC. There is not a better time than with Harvard and Dartmouth coming in. They have a great tradition. I think the girls always get fired up for the Ivy League games.”

December 28, 2011

MR. BIG SHOT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Douglas Davis heads to the basket in Princeton’s 59-57 loss to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past March. It was Davis’ buzzer beater in a 63-62 win over Harvard in the Ivy League championship playoff game that punched Princeton’s ticket to the Big Dance. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

In the local sports scene, 2011 was a year that saw senior leadership make a big difference for several championship teams at Princeton University while new faces and young players spiced up a number of area high school programs.

Over at Princeton University’s Jadwin Gym, senior stars Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox developed into star players and gritty leaders, sparking the Tigers to a 25-7 season and the Ivy League title. Guard Mavraides earned second-team All-Ivy recognition and passed the 1,000-point mark in his career while the 6‘8 forward Maddox controlled the paint on the way to being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Ivy choice.

Sharpshooting senior guard Addie Micir turned out to be the linchpin for the Tiger women’s hoops squad. The 6’0 Micir became the first player in program history to be named the Ivy Player of the Year as she led the Tigers to a second straight league title and 24-5 record.

Displaying her will and talent, senior distance star Ashley Higginson helped the Tiger women’s track team to both the Indoor and Outdoor Hep crowns. In the winter meet, the Colts Neck native won both the 3,000 and 5,000 runs. Outdoors, she won her third straight steeplechase title.

When spring rolled around, the Princeton baseball team displayed a renewed commitment to excellence as it looked to rebound from a dismal 2010 season that saw the Tigers set a program record for losses with a 12-30 record. Led by captains Matt Connor, Matt Grabowski, and David Palms, the team’s senior group was determined to rekindle the passion that has made the program a consistent winner. They succeeded as Princeton went 4-0 in its first Ivy weekend and never looked back in winning the Gehrig Division title. The Tigers went on to defeat Dartmouth 2-1 in the Ivy championship series to give the program its 17th league title but first since 2006.

A pair of seniors, attacker Lizzy Drumm and goalie Erin Tochihara, helped the Princeton women’s lacrosse team write its own turnaround story. Coming off a 6-10 season in 2010, the Tigers got hot late, winning the Ivy tourney and topping James Madison in the first round of the NCAA tournament on the way to a 12-7 season.

Sparked by a quartet of seniors, Ashton Brown, Emily Reynolds, Michaela Strand, and Lauren Wilkinson, the Princeton women’s open crew top varsity boat made history. The Tigers went undefeated in regular season regattas and then triumphed in both the Eastern Sprints and NCAA grand final.

With its four top players taking a leave of absence to train with the U.S. national program, it looked like it could be a rough fall for the Princeton field hockey team. Instead, a core of seniors, Rachel Neufeld, Alyssa Pyros, Erin Jennings, Allison Behringer, and former Princeton High standout May-Ying Medalia, held things together as the Tigers overcame a shaky start to win their seventh straight league title.

Senior Donn Cabral showed his toughness and talent as he braved a rare October snow storm and a spill to take third at the Ivy League Cross Country championships, helping the Tiger men’s squad to its second straight team title and fifth in the last six years.

At DeNunzio Pool, senior captain and center Mike Helou provided leadership and offensive production (25 goals and 15 assists) to help guide a young Princeton men’s water polo team to the NCAA Final 4 where it ended up finishing third.

For area high school teams, youth was served time and time again as new faces and underclassmen made key contributions for several programs.

In winter action, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team emerged as a dominant squad, breezing to the county title and missing a state crown by a few points. A key factor in the team’s rise was the arrival of a quartet of precocious freshmen, Will Stange, Matt Purdy, Peter Kalibat, and Colburn Yu.

The clutch play of sophomore forward Alex Nespor and sophomore goalie Connor Walker helped the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team win the state Prep title while freshmen Mike Wasson and Pat McCormick together with sophomore Matt DiTosto played an integral role in helping PHS take the county crown.

Once spring hit, Hun girls’ lacrosse sophomore attacker Kate Weeks renewed her assault on the program’s record book, tallying 61 goals on the season as she passed the 100-goal mark in her career. Sophomore pitcher Austin Goeke stepped into the role as the mound ace for the Hun baseball team, helping the squad win the state Prep A championship. Freshman Elizabeth Jacobs and sophomore Emilia Lopez-Ona made valuable contributions as the PHS girls’ lax team caught fire and won the Mercer County Tournament.

The Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team took the first county title of the fall season, as the freshman doubles team of Emily Dyckman and Hope Boozan piled up some key points in support of junior star Samantha Asch, the first singles champion.

The PDS girls’ soccer team featured five freshman starters, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stefany, as it went went 10-7-1 while the Hun girls’ soccer squad saw two freshmen, Jess Sacco and Ashley Maziarz, play vital roles on the way to a 10-5-2 season.

A sophomore newcomer, Conor Donahue, became a frontrunner for a PHS boys’ cross country team that won its first sectional title in 25 years while three freshman starters, Julia DiTosto, Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald, helped the Little Tiger field hockey team go 11-6.

Winter Winds

When sophomore star Niveen Rasheed went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-December, it looked like it might be a long winter for the Princeton University women’s basketball team. But with senior guard Addie Micir showing leadership and raising the level of her game, the Tigers continued their domination of the Ivy League.

Princeton went 13-1 in Ivy play under the guidance of head coach Courtney Banghart on the way to a second straight Ivy title. The Tigers ended up falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament to a Big East foe for the second season in a row as they lost 65-49 to Georgetown a year after losing to St. John’s in the first round of the 2010 tourney.

The loss, though, couldn’t dim the luster of Micir’s final campaign as she was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, the first member of the program to attain that honor. Point guard Lauren Polansky was named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Year with Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood achieving All-Ivy recognition as the Tigers went 24-5.

The men’s hoops team rose to the top of the Ivy League but it had company as it battled Harvard in a two-horse race for the title. The rivals ended up tied at the wire and had to meet in a one-game playoff to decide the winner.

In what became the signature moment for Princeton sports in 2011, guard Douglas Davis, a former Hun School standout, hit a buzzer beater to give the Tiger the title and a trip to the NCAAs. The win was particularly sweet for senior stars Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox, who went from afterthoughts earlier in their career to stars.

Head coach Sydney Johnson’s club produced a riveting effort in the NCAA tournament as it took traditional power and eventual Final 4 team Kentucky down to the wire, falling 59-57 and ending the winter at 25-7.

Afterward, Johnson shed tears of disappointment at the post-game press conference in reflecting on his team’s heroic effort. Weeks later, there were tears in Tiger nation as former Princeton standout Johnson unexpectedly left his alma mater to take over the Fairfield University program.

In April, one of Johnson’s former Princeton teammates, Mitch Henderson ’98, took over the program, returning to his alma mater after a decade as an assistant coach at Northwestern.

Over at Baker Rink, the men’s hockey team looked like it could be headed for some postseason heroics. Displaying the freewheeling style instilled by head coach Guy Gadowsky, the Tigers produced a 14-6-1 start and were ranked No. 19 in the country heading into February.

Princeton, though, struggled down the stretch, going 3-7-1 the rest of the way. The season ended with a thud as 6th-seeded Princeton fell to No. 11 St. Lawrence in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs. Princeton’s Class of 2011 ended their careers as the winningest class in program history with 72 triumphs. One of the leaders of that class, senior defenseman Taylor Fedun, was a first-team All ECACH and All-Ivy pick. Freshman forward Andrew Calof was a third-team All-ECACH choice and the Ivy Co-Rookie of the Year.

In late April, the Tigers suffered a huge loss as the dynamic Gadowsky left to become the first head coach of the Penn State men’s hockey program after seven years at Princeton that included ECAC and Ivy League championships, and two NCAA tournament appearances. One of the architect’s of Princeton’s loss in the ECACH playoffs, St. Lawrence assistant coach, Bob Prier, was tabbed to take over for Gadowsky.

For the women’s hockey team and head coach Jeff Kampersal, things looked bleak by early December as the Tigers started 3-10-1. But with junior goalie Rachel Weber emerging as a star, Princeton caught fire. The 5’9 native of Hudson Wisc. got so hot that she ended up setting an ECACH record with a shutout streak of more than 289 minutes.

Sparked by Weber’s brilliance, Princeton went 13-3 over its last 16 regular season games to climb to fourth in the ECACH standings and earn home ice for the quarterfinals. The Tigers’ late surge ended in disappointment as Quinnipiac won two tight games to eliminate Princeton in the best-of-three series. Weber and senior defenseman Sasha Sherry earned second-team All-ECACH honors.

Princeton also suffered a loss on the coaching front as longtime top assistant Amy Bourbeau left the program to become the head coach of the Brown women’s hockey team. She was ultimately replaced by Cara Morey, a former Brown hockey and field hockey standout.

The men’s swimming team saved its best for last, producing a dramatic finish as it held off the host Harvard by a mere 5.5 points to win the 2011 Ivy League title for its third straight championship. Head coach Rob Orr’s squad was led by junior Jon Christensen, a first-team All-Ivy performer in two individual events and three relays and classmate Colin Cordes, who made first-team All-Ivy in one individual event and three relays.

No such drama took place as the women’s swimming team cruised to the Ivy title, with Princeton winning 12 of the 21 events and four of the five relays to score 1,562 points with Harvard finishing second at 1,496. It was the 10th Ivy title in the last 12 years for Tiger head coach Susan Teeter. Princeton was led by senior Megan Waters, a first-team All-Ivy performer in three individual events and four relays, and freshman Lisa Boyce, who made first-team All-Ivy in one individual event and four relays.

Junior distance star Donn Cabral led the way as men’s track breezed to its second straight Indoor Ivy League Heptagonal, piling up the most points in meet history. Cabral won the 3,000 and 5,000 in getting named as the Male Outstanding Performer of the meet to help the Tigers accumulate 215 points, 43 more than runner up Harvard. Coach Fred Samara’s team boasted two other double first-team honorees in Austin Hollimon and Mike Eddy who won the 400 and 500, respectively, and were also members of the winning 4×400 relay quartet.

Distance running stars set the pace as women’s track won its second straight Indoor Heps crown and third in the last four years. Head coach Peter Farrell’s squad was led by Ashley Higginson, the winner in the 3,000 and 5,000, sophomore Alexis Mikaelian, the first place finisher in the mile and a member of the winning 4×800 relay, and junior Alex Banfich, who took second in both the 3,000 and 5,000.

Sophomore Todd Harrity captured the attention of the college squash world, winning the College Squash Association (CSA) national individual championship in dominant fashion, posting 3-0 sweeps in every match of the competition. Harrity became the first American-born player to win the title in 21 years. Head coach Bob Callahan’s squad finished third in the CSA team championships.

The women’s squash team matched the men’s finish as they also took third in the team standings in the Howe Cup national championships. Head coach Gail Ramsay’s squad was led by sophomore Julie Cerullo, who ended up advancing to the CSA individual semifinals.

Sophomore Garrett Frey was the standout for the wrestling team, making it to his second straight NCAA championship meet at 125 pounds. Head coach Chris Ayres squad went 5-12 in dual match competition, highlighted by a 21-16 win over Brown.

Spring Surges

The baseball team had nowhere to go but up this spring after enduring a dismal 2010 season that saw the Tigers go 12-30, setting a program record for single-season losses. Led by a group of determined seniors who instilled a renewed commitment to winning and a bevy of talented younger stars, the Tigers started Ivy play with a 4-0 weekend and never looked back.

Head coach Scott Bradley’s team went 15-5 in Gehrig Division play and faced Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series. With Sam Mulroy triggering the offense, the Tigers won the decisive third game of the series 8-5 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

The Tigers fell 5-3 to Texas and 3-1 to Texas State to end their campaign at 23-24. Junior catcher-outfielder Mulroy was named as a first-team All-Ivy selection while freshman pitcher-first baseman Mike Ford, a former Hun standout, was the league’s Rookie of the Year.

The women’s lacrosse team also produced a reversal of fortune. After going 6-10 in 2010, Hall of Fame head coach Chris Sailer guided the Tigers to the championship in the Ivy tournament. Princeton knocked off top-seeded Penn 10-8 in the semis and then edged Harvard 12-10 in the title game.

Advancing to the NCAA tournament, Princeton kept rolling as it nipped James Madison 11-10 in the first round. The Tigers fell to Maryland in the NCAA quarters to end with a 12-7 record. Junior defender Lindsey deButts earned All-American and first-team All-Ivy status while senior Lizzy Drumm joined her as a first team All-Ivy performer with junior midfielder Cassie Pyle being named to the second team, while honorable mention accolades were given to senior goalie Erin Tochihara and sophomore attacker Jaci Gassaway.

At the beginning of the spring, the women’s open crew first varsity boat was ranked No. 2 in the country. By the end of the season, head coach Lori Dauphiny’s crew was unquestionably the top boat in the country, going undefeated in regular season regattas before rolling to the Eastern Sprints title and winning the NCAA grand final, edging Ivy rival Brown for the title.

A quartet of seniors Ashton Brown, Emily Reynolds, Michaela Strand, and Lauren Wilkinson together with junior coxswain Lila Flavin were recognized as Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) first-team All-America selections while Dauphiny was named as the Coach of the Year.

Nearly matching the feats of their open counterparts, the women’s lightweight first varsity produced a breakthrough season. Under head coach Paul Rassam, the Tigers went undefeated in regular season regattas and topped perennial nemesis Wisconsin to win the Eastern Sprints.

In the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final, Princeton missed a perfect season as they fell to Stanford with the Cardinal clocking a time of 6:32.39 over the 2,000-meter course at Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J. with the Tigers second in 6:33.07. The top boat was led by seniors Yuna Sakuma, Michaela Glaeser, Emma Bedard, Lauren Sykora, Caroline Clark, and Elena Martinez.

Under the tutelage of head coach Greg Hughes, the men’s heavyweight crew continued its progress. The Tigers placed second at the Eastern Sprints and sixth in the IRA grand final. Princeton was led by a stellar group of seniors including coxswain James Connolly, Ian Silveira, Jack Lindeman, Blake Parsons, Philip Thalheim, Michael Protesto, and Carl Thunman.

Heading into late April, the Tiger men’s lightweight boat appeared to be on track for a three-peat of its Eastern Sprints and IRA crowns. Head coach Mary Crotty’s top boat was undefeated and ranked No. 1 nationally coming into its annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton regatta. The Tigers finished second that day and never regained their form.

The first varsity took fourth at the Eastern Sprints and faded to fifth at the IRAs. Those results were a disappointing finale for the boat’s senior stars, cox Mike Perl, Nick Donald, Christian Klein, and Robin Prendes, but they left Princeton with a special legacy including their back-to-back Eastern and IRA titles together with a Temple Challenge Cup win at the Royal Henley Regatta.

It turned into a painful spring for the men’s lacrosse team as it saw five players suffer season-ending injuries and a total of 15 get hurt. The injury bug derailed things for head coach Chris Bates as the Tigers ended up 4-9 overall and 2-4 in Ivy action. Princeton did receive some high-level play from those who made it through the season as goalie Tyler Fiorito, defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, and midfielder Tom Schreiber earned third-team All-American honors.

Tragedy struck before the season started for the softball team as freshman infielder Khristin Kyllo died of natural causes in January. A cloud seemed to follow head coach Trina Salcido’s team through the spring as the Tigers went 16-26 overall and 7-13 in Ivy play. Juniors Kelsey VandeBergh and Nicole Ontiveros and sophomores Lizzy Pierce and Alex Peyton provided some highlights as they earned All-Ivy League recognition.

The men’s track team accomplished a rare feat, winning the Outdoor Heps to give the program three Ivy titles in the school year as the Tigers won the 2011 Indoor Heps and the 2010 Cross Country Heps. Distance star Donn Cabral stood out for head coach Fred Samara’s squad, being named the outstanding male performer of the meet after winning the steeplechase and the 10,000.

In addition to Cabral, the Tigers boasted a bevy of first-team All-Ivy performers including freshman Tom Hopkins in the long jump and the 4×400, senior Mark Amirault the 1,500 and the 5,000, junior Austin Hollimon in the 400 and in the 4×400, seniors Mike Eddy and Ricky Kearns as part of the 4×400 and Craig Peace in the hammer throw.

Cabral went on to take second in the steeplechase and eighth in the 5,000 at the NCAA championship meet with Amirault taking 12th in the 5000.

Showing balance and depth, the women’s track team matched the achievement of their male counterparts, winning the Outdoor Heps to get their triple crown. Head coach Peter Farrell’s team featured several first-team All-Ivy performers, as junior Eileen Moran took home double first-team honors in the 100 and 4×100, sophomore Alexis Mikaelian in the 4×800, sophomore Tory Worthen in the pole vault, senior Ashley Higginson in the steeplechase, freshman Kristin Smoot, freshman Molly Higgins, and sophomore Greta Feldman in the 4×800, sophomore Abidemi Adenikinju, sophomore Erin Guty, and freshman Lily Miller in the 4×100.

Higginson went on to take fifth at the steeplechase at the NCAA championships while junior Alex Banfich finished 20th in the 5,000.

The women’s water polo team produced a solid season, going 18-11 and finishing fifth at the Eastern Championships. Head coach Luis Nicolao’s team was led by freshman Katie Rigler and sophomore Brittany Zwirner, who each received CWPA Southern first-team honors, while junior Kristen Ward and freshman Molly McBee were named as second-teamers.

Led by junior Hilary Bartlett, the women’s tennis team went 12-9 overall and 5-2 in Ivy action, giving it eight straight winning seasons in league play. Bartlett was a standout performer for head coach Megan Bradley’s squad, making first All-Ivy League in singles and doubles along with Taylor Marable.

Junior Rachel Saiontz received second-team singles honors for the third straight year and second-team doubles honors for the second straight year after receiving honorable mention in doubles in 2009. Sophomore Monica Chow, Saiontz’s doubles teammate throughout the league season, also received second-team All-Ivy doubles honors.

Sophomore Matija Pecotic sparked the men’s tennis team to a superb season that saw the Tigers go 13-7 overall and 6-1 in Ivy play. With an undefeated Ivy League record atop Princeton’s singles ladder, Pecotic was unanimously chosen as the Ivy Player of the Year, the fourth Princeton player to earn that honor since the award began in 1987.

Head coach Glenn Michibata’s team also got excellent play from freshman Augie Bloom, who earned second-team All-Ivy League singles honors, compiling a 6-1 record while playing six of the seven Ivy League matches at third singles.

The men’s golf team took fifth at the Ivy League Championship, as head coach Will Green’s team had three players in the top 20. Senior Eric Salazar was 14th while junior Evan Harmeling was T18 and sophomore Bernie D’Amato was T20.

Senior Rachel Blum ended her career with the women’s golf team on a high note, tying for third overall as the Tigers placed third in the Ivy championships. Freshman Kelly Shon emerged as a star to watch for head coach Nicki Cutler’s squad, finishing T5 at the Ivy tourney and then going on to compete in both the U.S. Amateur Public Links Tournament and the U.S. Women’s Open over the summer.

Undergoing a rebuilding campaign, the men’s volleyball team went 3-19 overall. Head coach Sam Shweisky’s squad figures to be stronger in the future as it only lost senior Vincent Tuminelli to graduation.

Fall Fates

With four of its top players, Kathleen Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, and the Reinprecht sisters, Julia and Katie, taking a leave of absence to train for the U.S. national program, it looked like the field hockey team’s domination of the Ivy League might come to an end. Head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, though, welcomed the situation as a coaching challenge.

Things got very challenging for the Tigers as they lost their Ivy opener to Dartmouth and a seventh straight league title looked unlikely. Led by seniors Rachel Neufeld, Alyssa Pyros, Erin Jennings, Allison Behringer, and former Princeton High standout May-Ying Medalia, Princeton regrouped and went on to win the Ivy crown, its 17th league title in the last 18 seasons.

Princeton fell 3-2 to No. 4 Connecticut in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to end 10-8 but the disappointment of that loss couldn’t take away from what the team accomplished this fall. Seven Tigers earned All-Ivy recognition with freshman Allison Evans, sophomore Amanda Bird, junior Charlotte Krause, and Pyros getting first-team recognition with Jennings, and freshman Sydney Kirby being chosen as second-team selections and junior Amy Donovan getting honorable mention. Evans, the team’s leading goal scorer, was the league’s Rookie of the Year.

There was a buzz around DeNunzio Pool regarding the talented freshman class that joined the men’s water polo team this fall. Skillfully blending those freshman standouts with a core of battle-tested veterans, head coach Luis Nicolao’s wasted no time showing its skill, producing a 10-1 start.

The Tigers went on to take second in the Southern Championships to Navy and then avenge the defeat to the Midshipmen by pulling out a 10-7 win over their rivals in the Eastern Championships title game. That triumph earned Princeton a spot in the NCAA Final Four for the second time in three years. Princeton ended up taking third, edging UC San Diego 10-7 in the third place game to finish the season at 22-10.

Freshmen Drew Hoffenberg, Matt Weber, Kayj Shannon, and Thomas Nelson have made an immediate impact for Nicolao’s squad while such veterans as junior Tim Wenzlau, senior Mike Helou, senior Chris Cottrell, junior Tommy Donahue, and sophomore Kurt Buchbinder provided stability.

Battling through a rare October snowstorm, the men’s cross country team won its second straight Heps crown and fifth in the last six years. Senior star Donn Cabral set the pace for head coach Steve Dolan’s team, placing third in the individual standings. Senior Peter Maag was fifth while sophomore Tyler Udland was seventh and sophomore Chris Bendtsen took 10th in the race which was run at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields course. Cabral went on to finish 19th at the NCAA championship meet to lead the Tigers to 19th place in the team standings.

The women’s runners couldn’t overcome the snow and the competition at the Heps as they saw their five-year winning streak at the event come to an end. Head coach Peter Farrell’s team took third with senior Alex Banfich placing third in the individual standings. Banfich later placed fifth at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish at that meet in program history.

Coming off a magic 2010 season that saw it go undefeated in Ivy play, the men’s soccer team saw the bounces go against it this fall. Suffering some key injuries and developing a penchant for losing close games, head coach Jim Barlow’s team went 5-10-2 overall and 1-5-1 in league play with eight 1-goal losses along the way.

Senior Antoine Hoppenot, a former Princeton Day School standout, and juniors Mark Linnville and Matt Sanner were named first-team All-Ivy performers while freshman Julian Griggs earned honorable mention. Hoppenot, the 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year, was a three-time first team All-Ivy choice and tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his stellar career.

The women’s soccer team suffered a similar fate to their male counterparts as they had five 1-goal defeats on the way to a 6-10-1 overall record and a 2-5 Ivy mark. Head coach Julie Shackford’s squad did show some promise for the future as her junior-laden team went 5-2 in its last seven games.

Senior Sara Chehrehsa and junior Jen Hoy were first-team All-Ivy selections while freshman Lauren Lazo and senior Kim Menafra earned honorable mention.

The arrival of former Tiger star and assistant Sabrina King as head coach gave the women’s volleyball program a jolt of energy. Under the guidance of King, Princeton went 18-8 overall and 11-3 in Ivy play.

Senior Cathryn Quinn and junior Lydia Rudnick were named as first-team All-Ivy performers while freshman Ginny Willis got second-team honors and senior Hillary Ford was an honorable mention pick.

The rebuilding process continued for the football team as it went 1-9 for the second straight season. Head coach Bob Surace’s squad featured several young performers who give hope for the future.

Freshman running back Chuck DiBilio made the biggest impression, producing a record-breaking campaign which saw him rush for 1,068 yards, the most ever by a true freshman in Ivy history. DiBilio was named the league’s Rookie of the Year and was a first-team All-Ivy choice.

Junior defensive lineman Caraun Reid also garnered first-team All-Ivy League recognition while senior offensive lineman Matt Allen, senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano, junior punter Joe Cloud, senior linebacker Steven Cody senior kicker Patrick Jacob, and junior Andrew Starks each earned second-team All-Ivy League honors.

Hun School

Led by a core of seniors, the Hun School boys’ basketball team showed some flashes of brilliance as it posted big wins over Hill, Rutgers Prep, and St. Benedict’s. But head coach Jon Stone’s team couldn’t get over the hump in postseason action as it went 12-15.

While the team’s group of seniors, Dylan Sherwood, Doug Macrone, Jared Cotton, Lou Adesida, Will Wise, Grant Fiorentinos, and Dylan Setzekorn, had hoped for a better ending to their Hun careers, most of them will be playing at the next level.

Longtime Hun girls’ hoops head coach Bill Holup faced a different situation with his team as he welcomed eight new faces. The team jelled early as it started 8-0 but hit some bumps down the stretch. Still, the Raiders ended with a 13-12 record, an improvement in the 9-14 mark posted the season before. With such returning starters as Ashley Ravelli, Jackie Mullen, Johnnah Johnson, and Carey Million, Hun appears to be headed in the right direction.

Led by seniors Terry Ryan, Matt Johnson, Will Sweetland, Greg Seelagy, and Nick Pierce, the Hun boys’ hockey team was competitive as it went 8-10-2.

Head coach Francois Bourbeau left the program over the summer when his wife, Amy, became the head coach of Brown University women’s hockey team. Former Princeton University player Ian McNally took the helm of the program as it looked to build on the progress of last winter.

The Hun baseball team gained momentum as the spring unfolded, climaxing with an 11-2 win over Peddie in the state Prep A championship game. Dave Dudeck, Stevie Wells, and Gavin Stupiensky triggered the offense for head coach Bill McQuade while sophomore Austin Goeke became the ace of the pitching staff as the Raiders went 12-7 in winning their first Prep A title since 2008.

A pair of senior stars, pitcher Meghan Hayes and first baseman MacKenzie Pyne, provided inspired play and leadership as the Hun softball team enjoyed another winning season. Head coach Kathy Quirk’s team went 10-6 and advanced to the state Prep A semifinals. With such returners as Emily Kuchar, Carey Million, Kristen Manochio, Stefanie Fox, Joey Crivelli, and Danielle Beal, Hun looks poised to maintain its winning tradition.

With new head coach Beth Loffredo taking the helm, the Raider girls’ lacrosse team went through a transition season. Hurt by a series of injuries, Hun went 4-9. Sophomore Kate Weeks solidified her status as one of the top players in the area, scoring 61 goals to give her more than 100 in her career.

With a quartet of seniors, Will Sweetland, Scott Munley, defenseman Brian Patriarca, and goalie Mike Buckbinder, setting a positive tone, the Hun boys’ lax team went 9-8. Head coach Tom Kelso stepped down over the summer and was replaced by Steven Bristol.

Junior Chris Seitz added to his impressive resume, placing second at first singles in the Mercer County Tournament and then winning the event in the Prep A tournament. Head coach Todd Loffredo’s squad placed sixth in the MCT team standings and fourth in the Prep A.

Entering the fall, Hun football head coach Dave Dudeck liked the talent he had on hand but he wasn’t sure how the pieces would mesh. But as Hun stoically juggled its preseason training around after the school’s fields were damaged by hurricane Irene, Dudeck sensed a special resilience around his team.

The team’s character was displayed as the Raiders pulled out a 20-13 win at Episcopal in its opener and went on to prevail in several tight battles over the course of the fall. The passing combination of quarterback John Loughery and wide receiver David Dudeck, the coach’s son, provided points to go with the resilience as Hun went 7-1 and won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.

Led by a trio of senior standouts, defender-midfielder Nicole Campellone, goalie Lexi Golestani, and striker Holly Hargreaves, the Hun girls’ soccer team was a force to be reckoned with.

Head coach Ken Stevenson’s squad got off to an 8-1-2 start with wins over Lawrenceville and PDS and a dramatic 0-0 draw with perennial state Prep A champion Pennington. The Raiders ended up advancing to the semifinals of both the Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep A tourney and finished with a 10-5-2 record.

Welcoming a bevy of new faces, the Hun boys’ soccer team struggled in the early going, losing its first 10 games. But with head coach Pat Quirk providing steady leadership, the Raiders made some nice progress. Jared Golestani and Peter Stoddard provided some inspired play down the stretch as Hun ended the fall at 4-13.

Younger players also sparked the Hun field hockey team. Sophomore Francesca Bello and junior Carey Million provided offensive punch while junior Lauren Apuzzi, sophomore Alex Kane, and freshman goalie Reina Kern spearheaded the defense. Head coach Kathy Quirk’s team posted a 7-8-1 record and has the pieces in place for greater success in 2012.

The second doubles team of junior Cansu Cabeci and senior Lexi Gray advanced to the Prep A finals to provide a major highlight for the Hun girls’ tennis team. Head coach Joan Nuse’s squad showed progress all around, doubling its win total from 2010 with senior Katie Seitz providing stability at first singles.


A pair of senior captains, Skye Samse and Peter Blackburn, set a serious tone for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team as they went after a state Prep title that had eluded them during their careers.

Their determination combined with the clutch play of sophomore forward Alex Nespor and sophomore goalie Connor Walker helped the Panthers achieve that goal in dramatic fashion.

Hosting defending state champion Pingry in the prep title game, head coach Scott Bertoli’s team pulled out a 4-2 win. PDS, which also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, finished the winter at 16-9-1.

The one-two punch of senior center Tiffany Patterson and junior guard Janie Smukler made the PDS girls’ basketball team one of the best in the area. Under new head coach Mika Ryan, the Panthers advanced to the state Prep B final for a second straight year and made it to the county semis.

The Long Island University-bound Patterson ended her career with over 1,000 points while Smukler passed that mark in December as the Panthers posted a final mark of 16-9.

With sophomore guard Davon Reed emerging as a star and attracting the attention of major college programs, the PDS boys’ hoops team had a promising season. Head coach Paris McLean’s team went 15-11 and made it to the county quarters.

The arrival of freshman forwards Mary Travers and Mimi Matthews, freshman defenseman Robin Linzmayer together with sophomore transfer Daisy Mase at goalie gave the PDS girls’ hockey team a lift.

That influx of talent combined with such veterans as junior forward Megan Ofner and sophomore Zeeza Cole helped head coach Kat Smithson’s team prosper. The Panthers went 11-5-5 and won the ‘B’ bracket tournament at the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) playoffs.

In the spring, the combination of seniors stars Carly O’Brien, Katie Gibson, Jacqui Stevens, and Jess Frieder helped the PDS girls’ lax team enjoy another solid campaign. Head coach Jill Thomas’ squad went 11-5 and advanced to the county semifinals and state Prep A semis.

Led by seniors Aaron Shavel, Peter Blackburn, Dan Reynolds, and Will Kearney, the PDS boys’ lacrosse team made strides. Head coach Rob Tuckman’s team went 10-5. With such returning players as Garret Jensen, Tyler Olsson, Mike Davila, and Cody Triolo, the Panthers are poised to continue their ascension.

It was a rebuilding year for the PDS baseball program as it dealt with the loss of nine players to graduation from a squad that won the state Prep B title in 2010. Head coach Ray O’Brien’s squad posted a record of 4-14 with seniors Skye Samse, Jon Walker, and Kevin Francfort having big years to end their careers in style.

The softball program nearly had to take the year off as it started the season with eight players. With Stuart Country Day School’s Margo Schmiederer joining the team, PDS was able to field a team. Head coach Heather Pino-Beattie’s team went 1-7 but showed promise as freshmen Dina Alter and Jess Toltzis had solid debut seasons.

The loss of star Neil Karandikar to graduation left a major void for the PDS boys’ tennis program. New head coach Will Asch focused on developing his young players as the Panthers placed 10th at the MCT.

In the fall, Asch’s daughter, junior star Samantha Asch, played a pivotal role as the PDS girls’ tennis team won its first county team title since 1986. Asch cruised to her second straight title at first singles, not losing a set.

First-year head coach Ed Tseng’s team got good performances from Nicole Keim at second singles and Mary Atkeson at third singles together with the freshman pair of Emily Dyckman and Hope Boozan at first doubles as it edged Princeton High 17.5-16.5 to pull out the team crown. Asch went on to win the state Prep B title at first singles as PDS placed fifth in the team standings in that event.

A core of senior stars, Rui Pinheiro, Paul Zetterberg, Connor Gibson, and Jacob Eisenberg, helped the PDS boys’ soccer team remain competitive despite heavy graduation losses from a 2010 squad that won both the Prep B and county titles.

Head coach Malcolm Murphy guided the Panthers to a second straight trip to the Prep B title game where it fell 3-0 at top-seeded Montclair Kimberley to end the fall at 9-7-2.

The PDS girls’ soccer team only had one senior in Janie Smukler but her tenacity and finishing skills alone were enough to keep the Panthers in most games. The combination of Smukler and five talented freshman starters, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer, and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stefany, helped head coach Pat Trombetta’s squad get off to an 8-2 start.

A series of injuries derailed the Panthers down the stretch but the team still managed to finish with a 10-7-1 mark. Smukler was the team’s leading scorer for a fourth straight season, tallying 25 goals on the fall to give her 73 in her stellar career.

A pair of juniors, goalie Sarah Trigg and attacker Andrea Jenkins, provided some major highlights for the PDS field hockey team. Head coach M.C. Heller’s squad struggled in midseason as the team was hit with some key injuries. PDS played some of its best hockey down the stretch, advancing to the state Prep B semis and finishing with a record of 7-8-1.

The PDS cross country program said goodbye to legendary coach Eamon Downey and welcomed Merrill Noden to the helm. Noden presided over a youth movement as the Panthers underwent a rebuilding campaign.


Sparked by a talented corps of juniors and the addition of some precocious freshmen, the Princeton High boys’ swimming team became a dominant force.

Head coach Greg Hand’s team cruised to the county title and the Public B Central Jersey sectional championship.

After beating Haddonfield in the Public B state semis, PHS suffered its only defeat of the winter as it narrowly lost to Scotch Plains Fanwood in the championship meet.

The group of juniors featured Victor Honore, Matt Kuhlik, Addison Hebert, Harun Filipovic, and Derek Colaizzo while the freshmen standouts were Will Stange, Matt Purdy, Peter Kalibat, and Colburn Yu. With all of that talent returning, the Little Tigers will have their sights set on taking one more step in the 2012 state tourney.

While the PHS girls’ team didn’t have the depth of its male counterparts, it produced a stirring run in the state tournament. Sparked by sophomore stars Serena Deardorff, Marisa Giglio, and Jen Enos, the Little Tigers won the sectional title.

Coach Hand’s squad fell to Chatham in the state semifinals but that loss couldn’t dim what the team achieved over the course of the winter.

The leadership and skills of senior co-captains Fraser Graham and Dean DiTosto helped the PHS boys’ hockey team skate to the county crown. Head coach Tim Campbell’s team topped WW/P-N and Hopewell Valley on the way to the finals and then defeated Notre Dame 4-1 in the championship contest.

Junior goalie Josh Berger was the MVP of the tournament as PHS enjoyed it first MCT title since 2005. The Little Tigers then produced some more drama as they made their first appearance in the state tournament since the 2006-07 season. The Little Tigers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Bernards 4-3 in overtime in the opening round and then fell 5-2 to Middletown South in the next round to finish 18-5.

Senior star Eamon Cuddy provided inside punch and junior guard Davon Holliday-Black guided the backcourt as the PHS boys’ hoops team returned to the state tournament for a fourth straight season. Head coach Jason Carter’s team edged Hopewell Valley 51-47 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional before falling to Colts Neck in the quarters to finish with a 12-13 record.

Senior guard Molly Barber provided a major highlight for the PHS girls’ basketball team, hitting the 1,000-point mark in her career. Head coach Steffanie Shoop’s team struggled with injuries as it finished 7-14.

Focusing on developing skills and camaraderie, the PHS girls’ hockey team went 0-14-1. Head coach Christian Herzog’s squad featured some fine individual performances by junior stars Keely Herring and Abby Hunter.

The PHS wrestling team also got some fine individual performances as it posted a 9-7 record in dual matches. Head coach Rashone Johnson’s team showed improved depth as Ian Snyder, Tim Miranda, Frank Bozich, Jeff Barsamian, and Nick Gillette had superb seasons.

Tragedy turned to triumph for the PHS girls’ lax team as it wrote one of the more inspiring stories in recent years. Getting off to an uneven start, the squad was shocked by the passing of senior player Emma Brunskill in April.

Head coach Christie Cooper’s team came together in the face of its grief, going on a hot streak that culminated with the team winning the program’s first-ever county title. Senior Taylor Blair, a close friend of the late Brunskill, scored eight goals in the title game as the Little Tigers topped WW/P-N 11-8. PHS advanced to the second round of the state tournament where it fell to West Morris to finish with an 11-5 record.

Featuring a battle-tested defense, the PHS boys’ lax team nearly won its first county title. Senior defenders Robby Dowers, Michael Irving, and Dean DiTosto together with goalie Griffin Peck shut the door on the opposition as PHS advanced to a championship showdown against Notre Dame.

Head coach Peter Stanton’s squad fell behind the Fighting Irish 6-3 heading into the fourth quarter. The Little Tigers outscored the Fighting Irish 4-1 in the quarter to force overtime but ended up falling 8-7. Rebounding from that setback, PHS advanced to the Group III state quarterfinals where they fell 10-5 at Ridge to end the spring at 14-5-1.

Led by senior distance star Zaid Smart and junior sprinter/jumper, the PHS boys track team had a solid season. Head coach John Woodside’s team placed ninth in the county meet and 14th at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet.

The combination of distance runners Elyssa Gensib, Amelia Whaley, and Jenna Cody together with jumping standout Rebekka Vuojolainen helped the PHS girls’ track team enjoy another strong campaign. Head coach Jim Smirk’s team placed fifth in the county meet and fifth in the sectionals.

Senior star Fraser Graham solidified his place as one of the greatest players in PHS boys’ golf history, winning his second straight county crown and taking the Central/South Sectional title. The heroics of the Delaware-bound Graham helped head coach Sheryl Severance’s squad take fourth in the county team standings.

The PHS boys’ tennis team maintained the program’s winning tradition, going 15-3-1. Head coach Sarah Hibbert’s team advanced to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals and with singles players Robert Zhao, Eddie Percarpio, and Julian Edgren slated to return, the future looks bright for the Little Tigers.

With sophomore Marisa Gonzalez establishing herself as one of the top players in the area, the PHS softball team continued to make progress. Head coach Craig Haywood’s team finished 8-14 and made a second straight trip to the state tournament.

It was another frustrating spring for the PHS baseball team as it finished with a 5-19 record. Head coach Dave Roberts is optimistic going forward with such young players as Nico Mercuro, Ellis Bloom, Matt Farinick, Clay Alter and Mike Dunlap making strides in 2011.

Featuring the stingy defense that has become the hallmark of the program, the PHS boys’ soccer team posted a third straight undefeated regular season. Head coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s team went on to win the MCT title and the Central Jersey Group III sectional crown. It was PHS’s fourth county championship in the last five years and its fourth sectional title in the last eight years.

Going for a second state title in the last three years, PHS fell short as it outshot Timber Creek in the Group III semis but ended up losing 2-0. While Sutcliffe and his players were disappointed over falling short of their ultimate goal, the plusses surely outweighed the minuses in a 20-1-2 campaign. Afterward, Sutcliffe lauded his group of seniors, Ben Davis and Kyle Ehrenworth, George Kusserow, Bruce Robertson, Ajami Gikandi, and Kellen Kenny, for what they contributed to the program in helping PHS go 53-3-7 over the last three years.

With sophomore Conor Donahue hitting his stride, the PHS boys’ cross country team broke a long drought as it won its first sectional crown since 1986.

Donahue finished sixth in the meet with Will Flemer taking eighth and Sage Healy placing ninth. For head coach John Woodside, a member of a PHS team that won the sectional title in 1973, that breakthrough made it one of the more memorable seasons in recent years.

Led by a core of six seniors, the PHS girls’ tennis team produced a breakthrough of their own as they won the sectional title, the program’s first crown in the competition since 1999. The team’s Class of 2012 featured Sarah Cen, Keely Herring and Alyssa Taylor at singles with Helena Ord, Lena Sun, and Vinita Su playing doubles.

Head coach Sarah Hibbert’s squad ended the season by dropping a 3-2 nailbiter to Montville in the Group III state semis. Hibbert was proud to see her seniors get that far and credited them with leaving a legacy of achievement and class.

Senior Jenna Cody also ended her career on a high note, winning the individual title at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet. Cody went on to place seventh at the Group III state meet, helping head coach Jim Smirk’s team place 11th in the team standings.

A pair of senior defenders, Mia Haughton and Katie Reilly, combined with junior goalie Lauren Ullmann to give the PHS girls’ soccer team one of the stingiest defenses in the area. While head coach Greg Hand’s team had trouble scoring goals, the Little Tigers rode that defense to the MCT quarterfinals and the sectional quarterfinals. PHS ended the season at 10-4-4, yielding only eight goals all fall.

The arrival of three promising freshmen, Julia DiTosto, Lucy Herring, and Campbell McDonald, gave a lift to the PHS field hockey team. The combination of that trio and veteran standouts Sydney Watts, Vivien Bazarko, Tobi Afran, and Emilia Lopez-Ona transformed the Little Tigers into one of the more dangerous teams in the area. Head coach Heather Serverson’s team went 11-6 as it advanced to the MCT quarterfinals and made the state tournament.

The PHS football team didn’t wait long to snap the 11-game losing streak it brought into 2011, edging Northern Burlington 20-14 in the season opener. Head coach Joe Gargione’s squad continued to progress through the fall, going 3-7. Senior receiver Eric Shorter produced one of the best seasons in program history, making 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Battling through injury, senior guards Amber Bowman and Jasmine Smarr, gave their all in their final campaign with the Stuart Country Day School basketball team. Head coach Tony Bowman’s squad ended up 6-11 as it dealt with the lineup juggling necessitated due to the injuries. With such returning players as Paris Branker, Angela Gallagher, and Jen Diaz, the Tartans will be looking to regain their winning ways in the 2011-12 season.

Undergoing a youth movement, the Stuart lacrosse team predictably took some lumps. Head coach Sara Wagner’s team went 2-10 as it focused on developing skills.

Wagner credited her group of seniors, Kristi Hallowell, Katie Keith, Whitney Charbonneau, and Kate Neubert, with holding things together and setting a good example. Such young players as Meghan Shannon, Christine Zeppfield, Emily Tindall, Cat Reilly, and Isabel Soto made progress and laid the foundation for future success.

In the fall, the Tartan field hockey team also featured a bevy of new faces as it went through a transition year. Head coach Julie Martelli guided the squad to a 5-7-1 mark with the team showing progress down the stretch by beating Hun 1-0 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament and topping Blair 3-2 in regular season contest. The team’s seniors, Colleen Baker, Ani Hallowell, Susan Knox, Angela Gallagher, Kassidy McNair, and Margo Schmiederer, set a positive tone which aided the development of the younger players.

The Stuart tennis team made strides as it finished 12th at the Mercer County Tournament. Head coach Dede Webster saw juniors Mariah Guarnaccia and Kanika Sharma place first at second doubles in the MCT backdraw consolation bracket while Kyra Bradley advanced to the semis of the backdraw at third singles. First singles player Katherine Hagestad advanced to the second round of the main draw.

With new athletic director Kim Ciarrocca taking the helm, Stuart started a club soccer program. Under the direction of head coach Megan Lipski, the Tartans played against mainly JV teams and posted three wins. Senior stars Lexus Rodriguez and Amethyst Carey were key factors in the team’s progress. The success enjoyed this fall in terms of number of players and on-field competitiveness has the program on track to reaching varsity status in the next few years.

Devona Allgood is known among her teammates on the Princeton University women’s basketball team to be a person of few words.

While the quiet Allgood settled into the background upon joining the Tigers in the 2008-09 season, it didn’t take long for her to make some noise on the court. After coming off the bench in Princeton’s first 13 games that winter, Allgood broke into the starting lineup against Rider on January 6, 2009 and never left.

The 6’3 native of Huntersville, N.C. scored 12 points that day and went on to make the Ivy League All-Rookie team as she ended up averaging 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.

As a sophomore, Allgood was a second-team All Ivy choice, averaging 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as the Tigers went undefeated in league play on the way to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

Last winter, Allgood scored 11.9 points a game with 7.2 rebounds to make All-Ivy first team honors and help the Tigers win a second straight league title.

Coming into this week, Allgood is on the verge of a career milestone, standing at 987 points with Princeton slated to play at Hofstra on December 29 and at Drexel on December 31.

For Allgood, the most important milestone for her may have come before the season when she was named as a co-captain of the Tigers along with classmate Lauren Edwards.

While Allgood was typically understated as she reflected on earning the leadership role in an early-season interview, it is clear that it deeply touched her.

“It is an honor considering this is the team’s decision and the coaches’ decision.” said Allgood, who is averaging 8.8 points 6.3 rebounds a game this season for the 8-4 Tigers.

“They have their reasons for choosing us and I think it is going to be really exciting to work with Lauren side-by-side and having the influence of the other senior, Laura Johnson. It is going to be great working closer with them and making decisions on the team’s behalf.”

Acknowledging that she is not a vocal leader, Allgood believes she and Edwards bring other qualities to the table.

“I think there is going to be a lot of complimenting going on,” said Allgood. “We are going to take out own personalities and see how that goes. We are not like the captains two years ago, Tani [Brown] and Cheryl [Stevens] who were extremely outgoing and yelled all the time. We are not like Addie [Micir] who was a great floor leader or Krystal [Hill] who led by example. We have some attributes and we will put those together.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart realizes the pair of Allgood and Edwards isn’t high volume. “We can’t have the same captains every year,” said Banghart.

“I always say the team plays to the personalities of its leaders and I am excited to see how this team plays under its new leadership. Lauren has gone for every rebound on every possession in every practice since she was a freshman. Devona couldn’t shoot a left-handed layup when she got there, now she has legitimate three-point range. They have led by example one day at a time.”

While Allgood is proud of her progress, she isn’t going to let up in her efforts to hone her game.

“I am much more comfortable with the offense and my expectations,” said Allgood. “I am going to do my best; I will be working hard on the offensive and defensive end.”

The Tigers gained a deeper comfort level with each other last year through their 8-day jaunt to France and Senegal in early September.

“The summer trip was amazing; it was team building on and off the court,” said Allgood.

“We were spending a lot of time together off the court like we always do but in a completely different setting. On the court, we were playing against those foreign teams so that was basketball that we are not used to typically seeing. We were having to make adjustments right when we were out there because it is not like we scouted them.”

With Princeton having done some amazing things the last two years in going 50-8 overall and 27-1 in Ivy play, Allgood and her teammates are looking for even more success

“I wouldn’t say there is added pressure; we always hold ourselves to a pretty high standard,” said Allgood, noting that the Tigers harbor lingering disappointment from suffering one-sided losses in their two NCAA first round games.

“If we feel like a 3-peat is something we can attain that is what we are going to hold ourselves to. We don’t make our goals based on the thoughts of others; it is completely based on what we feel we can accomplish so I don’t think there is really any added pressure. We want to be able to grow from what we learned in those tournament games.”

In Allgood’s view, the Tigers possess the right mindset to achieve their goals.

“We all have to be on the same page which I think we are,” asserted Allgood.

“We all have to be willing to do what it takes in practice and outside of practice. I really think our team has the heart to do as much as we set for ourselves. Our key is to be a team and play together.”

December 21, 2011

There were welts on her right arm, her hair was tousled, and her dark brown eyes were blazing as Niveen Rasheed emerged from the Jadwin Gym locker room.

While Rasheed wasn’t happy that the Princeton University women’s basketball team had just lost 78-67 to No. 20 DePaul, her postgame appearance spoke volumes about how the Tigers scrapped on the evening.

“We just knew we had to play hard; we had to bounce back from our Navy game [a 65-52 loss],” said junior forward Rasheed.

“We had to play with intensity. It’s a tough loss but I am proud of everyone. We just made some little mistakes that cost us but we stuck with it and fought to the final buzzer.”

Rasheed didn’t make many mistakes in the December 13 contest that saw her score 23 points and grab a career-high 18 rebounds.

“I just needed to take ownership,” said the 6’0 Rasheed, reflecting on her effort.

“We have to go after every loose ball. It is our gym and we don’t want 50/50 balls to go to them. I just wanted to win, whatever that meant and today it meant me diving on the floor to go for loose balls and rebounds. I fed off my teammates’ energy and they fed off my energy.”

Rasheed and the Tigers have been looking to break through with a win against a top 20 team but have fallen short in an 81-70 loss to Delaware on December 1 and the defeat to DePaul.

“The first half of the Delaware game was not us,” said Rasheed. “In the second half, you saw more of us. The Navy game was all around no effort, we only played in spurts. This game was a tough loss but we played for the full 40 minutes.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart acknowledged that the loss to Navy turned into a wake-up call for her squad.

“We had an important conversation, the upperclassmen and I, about who we are,” said Banghart.

“We asked for a tough schedule and that means we are going to find out where our holes are and we can’t be babies about it. We have got to regroup and hold ourselves accountable. Tonight was a group of Tigers holding themselves accountable.”

Last Saturday, the Tigers gave a good account of themselves, battling valiantly in an 85-66 loss at No. 4 Stanford.

“Defensively, I thought we did a really good job,” said Banghart, in assessing the Tigers’ effort in the setback to the Cardinal as quoted on the Princeton sports website. “Offensively we never stopped attacking. We never quit.”

In the loss to DePaul, Rasheed certainly never quit. “Niveen is a great example of holding herself accountable; I think the way she competes needs to be contagious,” asserted Banghart.

“But it also has to be disciplined; sometimes her desire to win takes over for her ability to stay within a disciplined system defensively and offensively. Tonight, I thought she was very composed and when she does that, she is very effective. To have 23 points and 18 rebounds against a Big East team; that is a pretty super performance by a superstar.”

In Banghart’s view, her team’s performance against DePaul bodes well for the future.

“It is a step forward,” said Banghart. “If this is not only the type of effort but also the discipline and accountability that we have, the sky is this group’s limit. We showed that against a very, very good team.”

Like Banghart, Rasheed believes that playing against very good opposition should help Princeton down the road.

“The last few years we have been yearning to play teams like this,” said Rasheed, a native of Danville, Calif. who had a special homecoming last Monday, tallying 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists as the Tigers won 77-61 at Santa Clara to improve to 8-4.

“A Big East team coming to our gym is great. We are challenging ourselves and that is making us a better team. Hopefully it plays off in the long run.”

Kyle Wente

Kyle Wente

About 10 years ago, Kyle Wente emerged as an indispensable player for the Princeton University basketball team.

The 6’4 Wente, though, didn’t dazzle you with a silky smooth jump shot or flashy moves to the hoop.

Instead, the understated guard gave the Tigers steadiness and filled up the stat sheet by doing a little bit of everything. As a senior in 2002-03, he averaged 5.9 points, 3.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game.

This year’s Tiger squad appears to have found its version of Wente in 6’5 sophomore guard T.J. Bray.

As the season has gone on, the Tigers have been relying more and more on Bray to provide stability and be a jack-of-all-trades.

Last Wednesday evening at Rider University, Bray showed his worth to the Tigers, scoring 11 points with eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals as Princeton rallied for a thrilling 72-71 overtime victory over the Broncs before 1650 at Alumni Gymnasium.

Significantly, Bray didn’t leave the court for a second of the 45-minute contest.

Afterward, Bray acknowledged that he is developing a comfort level in his first season as a starter.

“My teammates have a lot of confidence in me to do good things,” said Bray, a native of New Berlin, Wisc. who was named the state and conference player of the year as a senior at Catholic Memorial High.

“When my teammates have confidence, it makes my job so much easier. We have shooters everywhere; it just makes life easier when you have good players around you.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said that Bray is making his life easier, asserting that he plans to keep the sophomore on the court as much as possible.

“He’s not coming out,” said Henderson. “We need balance and T.J. is a good part of the balance because he is making all the passes too. He’s making guys better; that is a big key for Princeton players.”

In Henderson’s view, Bray’s style is reminiscent of Wente. “He’s got a mind for the game; any limits that he has physically; he makes up for with brains for the game,” said Henderson, who got another strong game from Bray last Sunday as he scored 12 points with three assists and two steals as Princeton topped Northeastern 71-62 to improve to 6-6 and post its fifth win in its last six games.

“The Kyle Wente comparison is right on. Kyle got his hand on more passes as a Princeton player. He was always in the right spot; he stole more 2-on-1s when he was the one guy back. That is a T.J. Bray thing. The numbers really favor T.J. when we are doing well; he seems to be filling up the stat sheet.”

The numbers didn’t favor Princeton early in the Rider game as the Tigers found themselves trailing 36-20 with just under five minutes left in the half. Stepping up its defensive effort, Princeton went on a 13-2 run to narrow the gap to 38-33 at the half.

“I thought that was a huge key to the game for us,” said Henderson, reflecting on that stretch to end the half. “They didn’t score. and we started playing the way we want to play. We can’t come out the way we did tonight and win many games.

Bray acknowledged that Princeton came out flat. “We got down big early because we didn’t come to play and then coach said ‘hey guys you are not playing defense’ and to be honest we weren’t,” recalled Bray.

“We were not helping each other out. Once we started helping each other out, that’s when things started clicking on offense and that’s when we started to make a run.”

In the second half, both teams made furious runs in the topsy-turvy contest. The Tigers went on a late 19-8 run to go ahead 65-61 with 34 seconds left in regulation but the Broncs responded by scoring four unanswered points to force overtime.

In the extra session, Rider took a 71-69 lead with 20 seconds left and then missed two free throws that could have put the game out of reach. Princeton got the ball with eight seconds left and pulled out the game in dramatic fashion as Douglas Davis kicked the ball out to Mack Darrow who drained a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Henderson recognized that the Tigers were lucky to escape up Route 206 with a victory.

“We were very fortunate tonight,” said Henderson, whose team is next in action when it plays at Siena on December 22. “I thought Rider played very well and we just happened to have the ball in our hands when time ran out and Mack made a huge shot.”

Darrow knew he was fortunate to end up as the star of the evening. “I was kind of expecting Doug to be the hero like always,” said Darrow, who missed his three previous shots in the game.

“I just kind of stood still and let him rub off my screen and I figured I would let him do his thing. I walked in to get a better look at his buzzer beater and it turns out I found one. It was a little bit crazy; that is a good feeling.”

For Bray, it is a good feeling to see his hard work paying off. “Coach has had me coming do for shots; I am getting  more shots up just about every day, “ said Bray. “Confidence comes with that, just working hard and putting the extra time in.”

December 15, 2011

(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski) ROAD TEST: Princeton University men’s basketball payer Ian Hummer makes an inside move in recent action. Last Wednesday, Hummer banged in a last-second lay-up to provide the margin of victory as Princeton nipped Rutgers 59-57. Three days later, the Tigers fell 64-60 at Drexel as Hummer scored a team-high 18 points. Princeton, now 4-6, will continue an extended road swing when it plays at Rider on December 14 and at Northeastern on December 18. Over a two-month span between December 7 and February 4, the Tigers will play 12 of 13 games away from home.

It was the first stop on an extended road swing for the Princeton University men’s basketball team and it exemplified the pitfalls of playing in an unfriendly environment.

Playing at Rutgers last Wednesday in the Louis Brown Athletic Center, commonly known as the RAC, Princeton quieted the normally raucous crowd as it jumped out to a 49-32 lead with 7:38 left in regulation.

But with Rutgers turning up the defensive heat, things started to unravel for the Tigers and the gym was transformed into a caldron of noise as the Scarlet Knight supporters tried to yell their team into the lead.

Amazingly, Princeton found itself trailing 56-55 with 47 seconds left and tied 57-57 seconds later. Junior star forward Ian Hummer saved the day for Princeton, rattling in a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Tigers a thrilling 59-57 win.

Afterward, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson made no effort to hide his relief at escaping with the narrow victory.

“It was a crazy game but we are really happy to be on this side of it,” said Henderson. “That is a good Rutgers team so we are happy to come here and get a win.”

Henderson acknowledged that his team nearly succumbed to the pressure exerted by the Scarlet Knights. “They were playing as hard as you possibly can and it really affected us,” said Henderson, whose team was outscored 20-3 over a 5:25 stretch as Rutgers clawed back into the contest.

“We were stuck at 52 for what seemed like the whole night but Ian made two free throws down the stretch and we said we wanted to get the ball to him in the post on that last play. Everybody committed to that; we got the ball to him and he made a heck of a play to win us the game.”

In Henderson’s view, it was critical to get off to a good start on a journey that will see Princeton play 12 of 13 games away from Jadwin Gym.

“This is huge because we are starting a pretty brutal road trip and we needed this in a bad way,” said Henderson, whose team had a bad time on the road last Saturday as it lost 64-60 at Drexel to move to 4-6.

“I am very happy for the guys that we had success on what was really 30 minutes played well and 10 minutes not played so well.”

There were some big guys on hand to support Henderson and his players as former Princeton head coaches Pete Carril and Bill Carmody were sitting behind the Tiger bench.

“I have won two games here with both of those guys as head coaches and one of them as an assistant,” said Henderson, who spent a decade as an assistant coach for Carmody at Northwestern.

“It was great to see both of them in the stands. I think Bill was wearing some orange so that was a good sign.”

It was a good sign for the Tigers to have senior guard Douglas Davis find the shooting range in the second half as he hit three 3-pointers on the way to 16 points.

“I really felt like he was a huge factor in us pulling away,” asserted Henderson.

“I think Doug was 2-for-8 in the first half and then 3-for-5 in the second. I was very happy with Doug. We need Doug to do a lot for us, not just score. I think tonight when we were making our leads, it was obvious that Doug was the guy that was pulling away for us.”

Like Henderson, Davis was happy to get out of the RAC with a win. “It is huge like coach said because we have a tough road trip coming up,” said Davis, a former Hun School standout who now has 1,238 points in his Princeton career.

“It was a good confidence builder but the most important thing is just getting a win period. We played hard and Rutgers did too. It is always good to get a win.”

In Hummer’s view, the win spoke volumes about the team’s resilience.

“It is hard, the pressure they were putting on the last five minutes of the game was the longest five minutes of my life,” said Hummer, who had a game-high 21 points and is leading the Tigers in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.8).

“We had a lot of turnovers but I think we stayed in there and that really shows the character of our team. No matter what happens we are going to keep doing our thing and running our offense. We got a good win out of it.”

Henderson saw some good things to build on from the win. “We made free throws down the stretch,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Rider on December 14 and at Northeastern on December 18.

“For the game, we were 12-of-17 on the line which still isn’t great but Ian made his two at the end when it really mattered and I think T.J. [Bray] went 3-for-4 down the stretch. I think you saw what we can be like defensively for 30 minutes. I knew that but we can really defend and this team likes that about themselves and I like it about them.”