January 18, 2012

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
sports1

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.

PDS

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.

PHS

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.

Stuart

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.”

PU Women’s Hockey

PANNING OUT: Princeton University women’s hockey defenseman Ali Pankowski, right, goes after the puck in a recent game. Freshman Pankowski has helped to shore up the defense for the Tigers, who are allowing 2.3 goals a game. Princeton, now 6-9-1 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey play, is next in action when it plays a two-game set at Ohio State on December 30 and 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In last year’s ECAC Hockey quarterfinals, the Princeton University women’s hockey team battled Quinnipiac tooth and nail but couldn’t overcome the Bobcats.

The Tigers fell 2-1 and 2-0 to get swept in the best-of-three series. Princeton was tied at 1-1 heading into the last five seconds of game one and the second game was a 1-0 contest until the Bobcats scored with 16 seconds left in regulation.

Last weekend, Princeton got to spend another weekend with Quinnipiac as the teams played a home-and-home set in the last action before the upcoming holidays.

In an unfortunate case of deja vu, the Tigers dropped two tight contests, falling 1-0 at Baker Rink on Friday and 3-0 a day later in Hamden, Conn.

Reflecting on Friday’s loss, Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal acknowledged he could provide little solace to his disappointed players.

“Our kids played well for a majority of the game,” said Kampersal, whose team is now 6-9-1 overall and 5-6-1 in ECAC Hockey play.

“There is nothing I can really say to make them feel better. They played really hard. They played with a lot of heart. That is all we can really ask of them. We still need to execute better in front of the net.”

Kampersal will be depending on his senior line of Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Heather Landry to help the Tigers find the back of the net.

“They had a lot of oomph tonight,” said Kampersal. “They have played together on and off here for the last four years. Down the stretch, we are going to rely on them.”

The Tiger defense has proven to be reliable. “The defense was solid, their goal was actually a deflection,” said Kampersal, whose team is giving up 2.3 goals a game.

Freshmen Brianne Mahoney and Ali Pankowski have certainly solidified things along the blue line for Princeton.

“Brianne has good vision and was really good last weekend,” added Kampersal.

“She has good vision; there was a play at the end where she fed it back door and our kid couldn’t corral it but it was a perfect play. Pankowski has a presence out there; she is a big, strong kid and she can deliver the puck to the open net pretty well.”

A big issue for the Tigers so far this season has been a propensity for landing in the penalty box.

“We have got a small bench and it does wear you down,” said Kampersal, whose team took five penalties on Friday and then got hit with four penalties the next day.

“You would really like your power play kids to be your power play kids and your killers to be your killers but sometimes we have our power play kids as our penalty killer kids and that doesn’t bode well.”

When the team returns to action after the holiday break, it will need to show a killer instinct in order to get back on the right track.

“It is a mental thing for us,” said Kampersal, whose team isn’t in action again until it plays a two-game set at Ohio State on December 30 and 31.

“We have to be mentally tough. Physically, we are fine. But we have to be mentally tough no matter what; whether we are up or we are down. We are fighting for all the points we can get, for sure.”

December 7, 2011
Princeton University Men's Hockey

GOING OFF: Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Calof, right, battles for the puck in a game last season. Over last weekend, Calof tallied two goals and an assist, helping Princeton beat Rensselaer 5-3 on Friday and tie No. 9 Union 3-3 a day later. The Tigers, now 4-7-2 overall and 3-5-1 in ECAC Hockey play, host Harvard on December 10 before playing at Quinnipiac on December 11.

After earning Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year honors last winter, Princeton University men’s hockey star Andrew Calof experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in the early stages of this season.

Through the first 10 games of the 2011-12 campaign, Calof had no goals and five assists, a far cry from 9 goals and 24 assists he produced as a freshman in leading the Tigers in scoring.

In game 11 on November 26, Calof broke through with a goal to help Princeton top Providence 3-1 at the Denver Cup Classic.

Last Friday against visiting Rensselaer, Calof built on that performance, notching two goals, including the game-winner, as Princeton prevailed 5-3 over the Engineers before 1,616 at Baker Rink.

A relieved Calof basked in the glow of his two-goal outing. “It is really nice, it is being at the right place at the right time,” said the 5’10, 165-pound Calof, a native of Nepean, Ontario.

“I have been getting great passes and having great chances and it is definitely nice that they are starting to go in instead of missing them like I was doing in the previous bunch of games.”

It was definitely nice for Princeton to rally from an early 1-0 deficit in the win over the Engineers.

“It was pretty big because we have gotten down quite a bit in games this year,” said Calof.

“We are getting confidence that we can battle back. It is really good that we are starting to produce offensively because that has been our biggest shortfall this year. We have been getting a lot of chances but have not been getting them in.”

Calof knows that playing on the same line with junior Rob Kleebaum and sophomore Jack Berger has helped him become an assist leader for the Tigers.

“It is really not too hard when you are playing with the caliber of players that are on the team,” said Calof who now has 42 points in his Princeton career on 12 goals and 30 assists.

“I know that if I get the puck to Kleebaum or Berger in the slot, nine times out of 10, it is going to be in the back of the net. If they miss it, they are going to be mad and it will create a rebound and somebody else will put it in. We have been playing together for quite a bit now. We know where each other are and we are pretty comfortable with each other.”

In Calof’s view, the team gained a comfort level from its recent trip to Denver where it fell to 3-0 to the University of Denver before posting the win over Providence.

“When we played Denver, they were the 10th ranked team in the country and after playing them, we didn’t feel like they were that much of a better team than us,” asserted Calof.

“We felt we could compete with them on every aspect of the game so it gave us the confidence going into the next game.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier is happy to see Calof playing with confidence.

“Andrew Calof had a couple of goals tonight; he has the monkey off his back,” said Prier, who got two goals and an assist in the win from sophomore forward Jack Berger.

“You see it a lot with a lot of second year guys; it is just a common thing. So now that he has gotten going, with a guy as talented as him, it is not going to stop.”

In the win over Rensselaer, the Tigers showed some grit to go with their talent.

“It was tough on the bench tonight because we were mixing and matching all over the place,” said Prier, whose team showed more toughness on Saturday afternoon when it overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie No. 9 Union 3-3 and improve to 4-7-2 overall and 3-5-1 in ECAC Hockey play.

“When you lose a guy that early in Jimmy Kerr, to a concussion, and you lose a couple of d-men that early to sickness, it was a big grind. The guys responded well. I think Derrick Pallis showed some leadership qualities tonight. He logged a lot of ice, particularly in the third period and he was gassed. He made some really good poised plays while he was in a state of exhaustion and those are plays that your seniors have to do because it settles everyone else down.”

Like Calof, Prier sees the Denver trip as a possible turning point for the Tigers.

“It was huge for us to do that and get some momentum coming back to Baker for three of the next four,” said Prier, whose team hosts Harvard on December 10 before playing at Quinnipiac on December 11.

“You play a team the caliber like Denver and you want to win those games, don’t get me wrong. But you can also take a lot from it and then to beat Providence on the road like that was great for us. Winning breeds winning and winning breeds confidence. You have to get the Ws. I think these guys are starting to learn what it takes little by little and that’s the most important thing.”

It took some time for the Tiger players to adjust to the new systems that first-year head coach Prier has installed.

“Obviously there is a bit of a learning curve but this is an extremely responsive group of young men, more so than any I ever worked with,” said Prier.

“I am pretty sure that they do understand it all, and, at the end of the day, it just comes down to their execution. You can install whatever systems you want with a team but you need all five guys on the ice to do them at the same time. There are no secrets to it; it is just making sure that they are playing together and communicating a lot and knowing what their job is at that time.”

In Calof’s view, everybody around the program is now on the same page.

“It was kind of off and on in games in the past; we weren’t completely buying into the system,” said Calof.

“The problem is that we were doing the systems right some of the time but not right all the time. We just have to focus on making sure that we commit to it all the time. Now that we have been buying into it, things have been going a lot better. We have been getting a lot more chances and we have been seeing the benefits.”

November 30, 2011
Princeton University Women's Basketball

RESERVE STRENGTH: Princeton University women’s basketball player Megan Bowen drives to the hoop in a game last winter. Junior reserve center Bowen has provided the Tigers with a big spark off the bench, averaging 8.5 points a game and 3.0 rebounds a game. The Tigers, now 6-0, host No. 24 Delaware on December 1 before playing at Maryland-Baltimore County on December 3.

Megan Bowen admits to being a project when she joined the Princeton University women’s basketball team in 2009.

“I came in freshman year and I wasn’t ready for the collegiate level,” said the 6’3 Bowen, a native of Bath, Pa.

“It was a learning process for me. I defend Devona Allgood in practice everyday; that’s naturally going to make you a better player. You can only take Devona’s hook shot in your face so many times until you learn to defend it.”

Bowen rarely left the bench that winter, playing 88 minutes in 20 appearances and scoring 33 points. As a sophomore, Bowen proved she could succeed at the college level, getting into 25 games and tallying 136 points.

“I take pride that I have gotten better to help Devona everyday,” said Bowen. reflecting on her progress. “We need people who are going to challenge our starters. I take pride in coming off the bench and having that energy.”

Last Friday in a 53-44 win over visiting Davidson, Bowen provided a spark in 13 minutes off the bench, scoring six points with two rebounds and an assist.

“I am in my junior year so I know what coach wants; she wants you to bring in energy,” said Bowen.

“I think everyone was trying; it was a great team effort. We pulled out the win so that is what is important. We have to just keep growing from it.”

Bowen and her teammates have put in extra effort to help their growth. “I think it is putting the extra time in with coach [Melanie] Moore,” said Bowen, who is averaging 8.5 points a game.

“You do a lot in practice but coach only really has 2½ hours. Getting the extra time is great, I think our whole team has been doing that. Niveen [Rasheed] has been working on 3-point shots. It wasn’t something that was huge in her game when she came here but she puts in the extra time on the shot.”

Missing some time due to a concussion had Bowen fired up to get back in action against Davidson.

“I had a concussion; I took an elbow to the head in practice,” said Bowen, who was sidelined two games as a result of the injury. “I passed the concussion test this morning and got clearance. The doctor looked at it and I was good to go this afternoon.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was happy to have Bowen back.

“It was great; she is a competitive kid,” said Banghart of Bowen, who had another strong game Sunday, scoring 10 points with four rebounds and three assists as Princeton topped Rider 75-55 to improve to 6-0.

“She takes a lot of pride in her position and being a spark off the bench. I think her rhythm was a little bit off because she has been out for a week. She has been a big bright spot for our team, for sure.”

Another bright spot for the Tigers has been the return of junior star Niveen Rasheed from a knee injury in last year’s Davidson game that sidelined her for most of last season.

“I think the greatest part about Niveen is that she always plays at that level with that speed, that pace, that desire, that competitive fire,” asserted Banghart of Rasheed who is averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game.

“Whether at practice or a game, it doesn’t matter. She has always been able to change the game on her own very quickly. When you take that away from her, i.e., put her on the bench, she has had to learn the game. She still has that ability to create and change the game instantly but now she understands the game a little bit better so I think she will just continue to get better.”

Utilizing a high pressure approach, the Tigers have gotten better on the defensive end.

“We are way better defensively because we are way better athletically,” maintained Banghart, whose team is giving up just 50.0 points a game and has held foes to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor.

“We are very versatile; we can switch all over the floor, we can trap. These guys have really bought in to being disruptive, both over 94 feet and the quarter court. We challenge every shot, so defensively, we are just giving people fits. If we can buy into that same poise on the offensive end, we’ll be really good.”

With two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton now getting votes in the ESPN coaches’ poll and Associated Press media poll, the rest of the country is getting the idea that these Tigers are really good.

“I think the neat thing about that is that it shows that other people are taking notice,” said Banghart, whose team has a chance to turn more heads when it hosts No. 24 Delaware on December 1.

“I told them after the Marist game [a 68-51 win] that we are writing our own story with this group. The people in the room are what matters. It would be great for the Ivy League to have a team in the Top 25. It would be great for this team to to be recognized nationally for their efforts.”

Bowen, for her part, believes the Tigers can make an impact on the national scene.

“Coach gave us a hard schedule but we prepared for a hard schedule,” said Bowen.

“It gives you confidence going into Stanford, DePaul, Delaware, and those bigger games. I think a few years ago, this program would have looked at playing Stanford as a nice way to get another game in where you will have a lot of media and a big crowd. Now we are looking at Stanford saying they are a great team but we want to have a chance.”

Princeton University Men's Water Polo

YOUNG BUCH: Princeton University men’s water polo star Kurt Buchbinder fires the ball in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Buchbinder has scored 17 goals this season to help No. 14 Princeton advance to the NCAA Final Four this weekend at Berkeley, Calif.

Even though the Princeton University men’s water polo team dropped five of six games on its annual California swing earlier this season, Luis Nicolao saw signs that his squad could play with the best in the college game.

“We had some competitive games; it helped us a lot,” said head coach Nicolao, whose team beat Long Beach State 8-4 and suffered a pair of two-goal losses to Loyola Marymount and a tight 11-7 defeat to UC Davis. “With the youthfulness of the team, we tried some things.”

Upon its return to New Jersey in early October, the Tigers did plenty of good things as it took second in the Southern Championships and then won the Eastern Championships.

By virtue of taking the Eastern crown, Princeton earned a return engagement to California where it will play in the NCAA Final Four this weekend at Berkeley.

The 14th-ranked Tigers, now 21-9, will play top-seeded and three-time defending national champion USC (22-3) on December 3 in one semifinal with UC San Diego meeting UCLA in the other semifinal.

The winners of the semis will play for the title on Sunday while the losers will face each other in the third-place game.

In order to make it back west, Princeton had to overcome a tough Navy team that beat the Tigers 10-5 in the Southern Championships.

While that result was disappointing, Nicolao wasn’t discouraged. “After watching the video of that game, we saw things we could fix,” said Nicolao.

“One guy scored six goals and we had some mental breakdowns. Coming off that loss, we felt if we were fortunate enough to play Navy in the Easterns, we could do some things to win.”

Nicolao acknowledges that his team was fortunate to edge No. 16 St Francis 13-11 in overtime in the Eastern semis.

“That was a gift; we had no business winning that game,” said Nicolao. “We were down three with three minutes left. Things fell our way. Drew [Hoffenberg] played great; Ben [Dearborn] had a big game in goal. We got some breaks.”

That victory set up the rematch with No. 15 Navy in the Eastern title game. “I always tell the guys that the toughest game is the semis on Saturday night,” said Nicolao.

“The season is on the line. Once you get into finals, anything can happen and you can play your game.”

Princeton was able to play its game as it pulled away to a 10-7 win over the Midshipmen.

“We made sure we had the right matchups,” explained Nicolao, who got three goals in the title game from Hoffenberg with Dearborn making 14 saves.

“We knew the two or three guys that we didn’t want to beat us and we shadowed that side of the pool. We shot the ball well. We got up 2-0, 3-1, and then they tied it at 3-3. We ran off five straight goals. Once you get a three-goal lead, so much changes. You are able to take some chances.”

Seizing the chance to win a second Eastern title in the last three years was special for Nicolao, who is in his 14th season guiding the Tigers.

“It was a great feeling; it is a great group of guys,” said Nicolao. “We had it under control, we were able to enjoy it.”

Nicolao has enjoyed this fall, blending a superb group of precocious freshmen with a core of battle-tested veterans.

Freshmen Hoffenberg (43 goals), Matt Weber (44 goals), Kayj Shannon (35 goals) and Thomas Nelson (28 goals) have made an immediate impact while such veterans as junior Tim Wenzlau (38 goals), senior Mike Helou (28 goals), senior Chris Cottrell (16 goals), junior Tommy Donahue (18 goals) and sophomore Kurt Buchbinder (17 goals) have provided stability.

“The young guys added a little swagger and we have great balance,” said Nicolao.

“We have six guys with around 30 goals. We don’t have to rely on a couple of guys.”

With the Tigers having hosted the NCAAs in 2009 and edging Loyola Marymount 6-5 in the third-place game, Princeton does have some national tournament experience upon which to rely.

“We talked about that,” said Nicolao, referring to the 2009 tourney. “The juniors and seniors have played in this; they know what this is like. We have nothing to lose; we want to show our stuff.”

As the Tigers look to thrive on their second trip to California, Nicolao is planning to use the blueprint that former Princeton men’s basketball coach Pete Carril perfected to bedevil foes on the national stage.

“We need to take care of the ball,” said Nicolao. “We can’t make turnovers or let them get on fastbreaks. We have to keep it 6-on-6. We can’t get into a shootout. We have to control the tempo and slow the game down.”