November 30, 2022

LAST SHOT AT GLORY: Princeton University wrestler Patrick Glory, top, controls a foe in a bout last season. Senior star Glory, who advanced to the NCAA final at 125 pounds last March, is primed to produce a big final campaign for the Tigers. Glory, who won the title at 125 in the Princeton Open earlier this month, is slated to be back on the mat this Sunday as the Tigers have duals against Michigan State and Wisconsin at the Prudential Center in Newark. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Patrick Glory was miserable as he took in the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships from his living room.

“Sitting and watching the NCAA tournament on the couch in the middle of the COVID in that 2021 year was really hard,” said Princeton University wrestling star Glory, who had competed in the 2019 NCAA Championships as freshman, taking sixth at 125 pounds.

“I had a lot of really long conversations with the coaches and just being like hey man, this is awful, this is really hard to watch. Your prime kind of going by and there is nothing really to do about it.”

 more

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Princeton Day School girls’ cross country runner Emily McCann displays her form in a race this fall. Junior star McCann had a breakthrough season for PDS, placing first in both the XC Fall Classic at Thompson Park and the Jerry Hart Cross Country Invitational, third in the Mercer County Championships, fourth at the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational, and 13th in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A group meet. She capped her stellar campaign by taking second in the Prep B state championship meet, pacing the PDS girls’ program to its first-ever Prep team title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Emily McCann hit the road this summer as she looked to take things to a higher level this season for the Princeton Day School girls’ cross country team.

Junior McCann ramped up her weekly running mileage like never before in her preseason training.

“This summer, I put in a lot of miles,” said McCann, who also stars in ice hockey for the Panthers. “Last year I didn’t have a training plan. This summer, I had a specific training plan and basically I crossed off mileage every day and got up to 50 miles per week and an 11-mile long run, which was the longest. It wasn’t a lot of workouts, it was just building base mileage, and I think that’s really where I changed this year versus last.”

 more

GETTING UP TO SPEED: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Ryan Vandal races up the ice in action last season. Senior forward Vandal figures to be a key offensive contributor for the Panthers this winter. PDS opens its 2022-23 campaign by playing at Bergen Catholic on December 8 and then hosting Christian Brothers Academy on December 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Joining the high-powered Gordon Conference last winter and making its debut in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public state tournament, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team took its lumps.

PDS went 6-7-6 overall, falling 3-2 to St. John Vianney in the first round of the Non-Public state tourney to end the season on a down note.

As the Panthers have hit the ice to prepare for the 2022-23 campaign, they are showing a hunger to excel.

 more

ON THE MARK: Hun School boys’ hockey player Mark Gall, right, goes after the puck in a game last season. Senior co-captain Gall has moved to defenseman this winter and has been a spark on the blue line for the Raiders. Hun, now 2-3, hosts Devon Prep (Pa.) on November 30 and the Haverford School (Pa.) on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Hun School boys’ hockey team headed into the Shady Side Academy (Pa.) Thanksgiving Classic last weekend, Ian McNally feared that his squad might not be up to speed.

“When people asked me in the fall, ‘how is the team going to be?’ I said I genuinely didn’t know. I am not sure, we will see,” said Hun head coach McNally. “There have been years where I know we are going to stink or we are going to be very good. This is one I wasn’t sure. I was a little worried about this week.”

 more

DAN THE MAN: Hun School boys’ basketball player Dan Vessey goes up for a shot in game last season. Post-graduate guard Vessey figures to trigger the offense for Hun this winter in his final campaign with the program. The Raiders were slated to start the 2022-23 season by playing at St. Benedict’s on November 29 before hosting the Haverford School (Pa.) on December 1 and then competing in the Coaches vs. Cancer event at the Blair Academy on December 3 and 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Hun School boys’ basketball team has only been practicing for a few weeks, Jon Stone is already feeling good about his squad.

“It has been great, we are probably further along than we normally are on chemistry,” said Hun head coach Stone, who guided the Raiders to a 14-10 record last winter as it reached the semifinals of both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and Prep A state tournaments. “It is just a good group of guys, it has been fun.”

 more

MO BETTER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Sasha Moise heads to the hoop in a game last season. Senior forward Moise will be counted on to provide production and leadership this winter for Hun. The Raiders tip off their 2022-23 season by playing at George School (Pa.) on November 30 and will then compete in the Peddie School Invitational Tournament from December 2-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Sean Costello has taken the helm of the Hun School girls’ basketball team this winter, his players are embracing change.

“It has been great, they are doing awesome,” said Costello, the successor to Bill Holup, who guided the program for 23 seasons. “It is all new. It is new system, new process, new practices, new terminology. They have been super receptive with a lot of energy.”

Costello, who previously built the Shipley School (Pa.) girls’ hoops team into a formidable program, is bringing a lot of energy to the court as well.

 more

Town Topics Sports Editor Bill Alden has won two 2022 New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJ-SPJ) Excellence in Journalism Awards.

Alden was awarded first place for the Best Sports Feature in the Garden State Division for his story, “PU Grad Student Snyder Headed to Tokyo Paralympics, Moving to Triathlon After Dominating Swimming Event,” published on August 25, 2021.

He earned second place in the same category for his story, “Espousing Values of Kindness, Always Doing Your Best, Beloved Coach DiGregorio Touched Countless Lives,” published on October 20, 2021.

November 23, 2022

ORANGE CRUSHED: Princeton University linebacker Liam Johnson races upfield as he made a 92-yard touchdown return of a fumble recovery to give Princeton a 19-7 lead over Penn last Saturday in its season finale. Johnson’s heroics went to naught as the Quakers rallied for a 20-19 win, dashing Princeton’s hopes for a share of the Ivy League title with Yale, which edged Harvard 19-14 earlier in the day. The Tigers ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Princeton University linebacker Liam Johnson raced 92 yards down the sideline with a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter against visiting Penn last Saturday, it felt like a championship moment.

Johnson’s jaunt gave Princeton a 19-7 lead in the season finale with the Tigers needing a win to clinch a share of the Ivy League title with Yale, which edged Harvard 19-14 earlier in the day.

“It comes down to little things; running to the ball, we put our namesake on that,” said junior star Johnson. “Princeton defense runs to the ball, I was just the right man in the spot.”

But over the rest of the game, it was Penn who did the little things, rallying to a 20-19 win as it scored a TD with five seconds left to dash Princeton’s title hopes before a crowd of 6,028 at Princeton Stadium.

The outcome on Saturday left both Princeton and Penn at 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy with Yale earning the league crown outright as it ended up 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

“We lost the big play battle and that is what it comes down to,” said Johnson, who made 11 tackles in the defeat. “You can win the whole game but a blocked punt, an interception, letting down on those fourth downs for us on the defense. It comes down to those big plays. When you don’t win those big plays, you lose the game.” more

ALL HANDS ON DECK: Princeton University men’s water polo head coach Dustin Litvak (kneeling) makes a point to his players earlier this fall. Last Sunday, No. 8, Princeton defeated No. 18 St. Francis Brooklyn 13-8 in the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) championship game. The Tigers, now 26-5, will host Fordham on November 26 in the NCAA Opening Round Game 1. The victor will then face Southern California on December 1 in Berkeley, Calif., in the NCAA Opening Round Game 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

The Princeton University men’s water polo team pulled off a historic repeat, but there are bigger goals ahead.

Last Sunday, No. 8 Princeton captured the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) championship with a 13-8 win over No. 18 St. Francis Brooklyn in Providence, R.I. to repeat as conference winners for the first time in program history. The Tigers will open the NCAA tournament play by hosting Fordham in Opening Round Game 1 on Saturday at DeNunzio Pool. The winner will play Southern California on December 1 in Berkeley, Calif., in the NCAA Opening Round Game 2.

The trip to the NCAAs gives the Tigers, now 26-5, a chance to add to their 12-game winning streak that includes a win over once-No. 1 Stanford.

“The biggest thing for us is going to be staying healthy and staying hungry and understanding we have a great opportunity not just to win the conference this year but do something that’s never been done before and compete for a national championship,” said Princeton head coach Dustin Litvak. “That’s really motivating the guys.”

Princeton started the weekend with a 12-7 NWPC semifinal win over host Brown on Saturday followed by the strong performance in the title game against St. Francis.

In the final, Princeton jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead on goals by Ryan Neapole, Roko Pozaric and Yurian Quinones. Neapole scored another goal to start the second quarter, and the Tigers used strong goalkeeping from Antonio Knez to sustain their lead while getting goals any time St. Francis started to whittle away at Princeton’s advantage. Vladan Mitrovic, Joan Coloma, George Caras, and Keller Maloney also scored in a balanced attack.

“We knew if we played to our ability, we’d have a really good shot,” said Litvak. “I think we have a really deep team this year and that enabled us to rotate a lot of players in and out of games. And we only had to play two games this weekend instead of some teams having to play three. We’re just a little deeper than St. Francis. I think that paid off in the end. We expected to play well. We’re really happy for the guys that they were able to get it done and keep playing.” more

HEADING HOME: Princeton University men’s basketball player Tosan Evbuomwan drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Evbuomwan tallied 11 points with six rebounds and five assists to help Princeton defeat Marist 62-55. Evbuomwan, a native of Newcastle, England, is heading home this week as the Tigers, now 2-2, will be competing in the London Basketball Classic. The Tigers will face Army on November 24 in the opener of the tournament with the victor advancing to the final against either Northeastern or Manhattan on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While millions of Americans will be headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, the Princeton University men’s basketball team is jetting across the Atlantic Ocean to play in the London Basketball Classic.

After falling to Hofstra (83-77 on November 7) and Navy (74-73 on November 11) to start the season, Princeton will be bringing a two-game winning streak into its battle of Britain, having topped UMBC and then topping Marist 62-55 last Saturday.

Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson likes where his team is at as it goes across the pond to an event which will see it face Army on November 24 in the opener with the victor advancing to the final against either Northeastern or Manhattan on November 26.

“We played really well, we needed a game where we came unstuck on making some shots,” said Henderson, referring to the win over UMBC which saw Princeton shoot 57.8 percent from the floor (37-64) and 63.2 percent from the three-point line (12-19). “We guarded well, that is where we made the difference. We did the same thing on Saturday, we were able to guard. We didn’t play great on Saturday, that is a tough one on the road. John Dunne is a terrific coach. Those are really good wins.”

Princeton sorely needed those wins after the setbacks to Hofstra and Navy. more

NO QUIT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Noah de la Durantaye brings the puck up the ice in recent action. Sophomore defensemen de la Durantaye scored the lone goal for Princeton as it fell 4-1 to No. 4 Quinnipiac last Friday night. A day later, the Tigers lost 4-1 in a rematch with the Bobcats to move to 2-5 overall and 2-5 ECAC Hockey. The Tigers will play a two-game set at RIT this weekend with contests slated for November 25 and 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden 

After losing its first three games of the season, the Princeton University men’s hockey team got on the winning track with a pair of shutout wins over Yale and Brown.

“The first couple of weeks at Harvard and home with Cornell and Colgate, I was trying to find out what the identity was of our players and now I know their identity,” said Princeton head coach Ron Fogarty, whose team blanked Yale 3-0 on November 11 and edged Brown 1-0 a day later. “Now it is just building upon it and getting better. We are tough to play against, not just gritty. Our turnover ratio for full possession turnovers in the defensive zone has dramatically decreased where we are not giving second chances. That was a primary focus coming into the season, being quicker on our outlets and getting out of our zone.”

Princeton displayed its toughness against last Friday evening as it hosted No. 4 Quinnipiac, falling 4-1 to the high-powered Bobcats despite outshooting them 23-18.

“It was just clog the neutral zone, finish checks, and just be back on top of the third guy, they are a heavily skilled team,” said Fogarty, who got a third period goal from sophomore defenseman Noah de la Durantaye in the defeat. “I thought we did a really good job of that. They haven’t been held to 18 shots all year or five in one period. I thought we played well tonight.”

Princeton fought hard to generate shots against Quinnipiac but didn’t get the bounces. more

KEY PERFORMER: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Alysse Kiesewetter, right, marks a foe in a game this fall. Junior defender/midfielder Kiesewetter starred at both ends of the field for PHS as it went 8-8-2 this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High girls’ soccer team ended its season by losing 2-0 to Manalapan in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional tournament, Dave Kosa believed the score didn’t reflect how his squad battled.

“We played really well, a couple of things didn’t go our way,” said PHS head coach Kosa, reflecting on the effort he got from 11th-seeded PHS as it battled a sixth-seeded Manalapan squad that ended up advancing to the sectional final. “We had a goal called back on an offsides on a direct kick which you don’t normally see. On the second goal, the ball went out on the touchline, we thought it was ours. They scored on a corner. You take those two things and maybe it is 1-1 instead of 2-0. What we take out of it is that when we are playing our best, we can hang with the best teams.”

PHS didn’t play its best down the stretch as it lost six straight games to finish the fall with an 8-8-2 record, struggling to find the back of the net.

“We had a lot of injuries, we have five, six girls on the sidelines, that hurts,” said Kosa. “Throughout the season, even when were 8-2-2, we weren’t scoring a lot. We would win 2-1, 1-0.”

Kosa was proud of how his players stuck with things as they dealt with adversity. more

JACK SHOW: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jack Serxner boots the ball in a game this fall. Senior defender Serxner starred for PHS as it went 8-8-1 this season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Getting off to a 7-1 start this fall, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team appeared to be on the way to another banner season.

But getting hit with a rash of injuries and plagued by a lack of scoring punch, PHS limped home to finish with an 8-8-1 record, falling 3-0 to Howell in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional in its season finale.

Despite the late season slump, PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe enjoyed the ride this fall.

“It is a young team; Ryan (assistant coach Ryan Walsh) and I had the most rewarding experience working with them every day with their quality, their perseverance, and their honesty,” said Sutcliffe. “They are all good players, they are just a little young. It was a great season, you are dealt these things.”

Unfortunately, dealing with injuries became a theme of the 2022 campaign.

“We had a plethora of injuries; at one point late in the season, we had four starters injured and those four guys were perhaps the most experienced players,” said Sutcliffe, who lost his top returning scorer Richard Wegmann to injury before the season even started and saw such stars as Felipe Matar Grandi, Nick Matese, and Emanuel Noyola sidelined by knocks at times this fall. more

IN TOUCH: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Todd Devin dribbles the ball in a game this fall. Sophomore Devin was a standout this fall for PDS as it went 3-11-4 and advanced to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B South Jersey quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team fell behind 3-0 at St. Rose in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B South Jersey quarterfinals earlier this month, it would have been understandable if it threw in the towel.

Instead, PDS scored three straight goals to make it a 3-3 game late in the second half.

While the Panthers ended up losing 4-3, PDS head coach Brian Thomsen was proud of the way his squad battled to the final whistle.

“The boys have always had fight,” said Thomsen, who got goals from Raag Desikan, Yaseen Mousa, and Aaron Herscovici in the loss as his team ended the fall with a 3-11-4 record. “They have been very unlucky with the outcomes.”

Despite the paucity of wins as it played a challenging schedule, the PDS players didn’t get discouraged.

“If you look at who we played against, we had one of the tougher schedules in the area,” said Thomsen. “I am not very happy about the record itself. But from a culture standpoint and everything, when you see the boys with the record that they have, you would think that they would stop caring about coming to practice and the practices would get worse and worse. The boys actually didn’t want it to end; it was pretty close in that last game, we almost did it.” more

GETTING HER KICKS: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Adriana Salzano kicks the ball in recent action. Junior star Salzano scored a team-high 12 goals this fall to spark the PDS attack. The Panthers posted a final record of 12-7, advancing to the Prep B state semifinal and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A quarters. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Chris Pettit, this fall ended up being the “nearly” season for his Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.

Competing in three postseason tournaments, PDS showed flashes of brilliance but fell short of playing for a title, advancing to the Prep B state semis, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A quarters, and losing on a late goal in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals.

While Panther head coach Pettit, whose team ended up with a 12-7 record, would have liked to see his young squad play for a championship, he saw plenty of progress.

“There were a lot of positives,” asserted Pettit. “Shelby [Ruf] did great in goal, we tightened it up defensively and we gave a lot of minutes to our freshmen. We improved in certain areas that we worked on. We didn’t really give up many goals from corners and we scored a lot of corners. Things like that were positives.”

In a 3-2 overtime loss to Rutgers Prep in Prep B semis, PDS produced one of its best efforts of the fall.

“We were winning 2-1 for a good portion of the second half and they scored with the last kick of the game,” said Pettit, who got two goals from junior star Adriana Salzano in the defeat. “We ran out of steam a little bit and we were hanging on for the last few minutes of extra time with a couple of minutes away from it going to penalties, and they scored again. On the bus going there and from the moment we started warming up, you could see the girls were laser-focused. They really embraced that underdog mentality. We talked a couple of weeks after that game and talked about how do we bring that every weekend. It was a good game.” more

INTERNATIONAL FLAIR: Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS) boys’ soccer player Oliver Gao shows his form in a game this fall. Senior Gao helped lead the way as the PRISMS squad went 2-3-2 under new head coach Jay James May. (Photo provided courtesy of PRISMS)

By Bill Alden

Growing up in soccer-mad England, Jay James May fell in love with the game at an early age.

“We all play, it is like a religion with the approach to it and how you feel about it,” said May. “Every time you have a break you are out playing football. You are on the field as much as you can. I played a lot as a teenager.”

In his 20s, May devoted his energy to academics, matriculating to the University of Sussex, where he was awarded a trio of prizes, including highest-ranked student in its School of English. He later earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of York. May then got into education, teaching worldwide, beginning in his native England before teaching in Spain and China for 10 years.

During his five-year stint teaching in China, May made his debut coaching soccer.

“China is where I really started coaching because they had a gap for it at the school,” said May. “I coached our house team, the schools are divided into houses and you get a quarter of the population.”

Coming to Princeton this past summer to teach English at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS), May took on a labor of love, becoming the head coach of its boys’ soccer team.

At the outset, May wasn’t sure what he had in terms of the talent on hand. more

FAST COMPANY: The top three female finishers in the HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon are all smiles after the race which took place on November 13. Pictured, from left, are Sarah Walker (3rd place), Valentyna Veretska (1st), and former WW/P-South and Cornell track and cross country star Caroline Kellner (2nd). Veretska, who recently came to the U.S. from Ukraine, set a new female course record with her time of 1:18.06. Princeton resident Kanato Goto placed first of 1,383 finishers in a time of 1:11.07. (Photo provided by HiTOPS)

By Bill Alden

Setting the pace at the 10th annual HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon, Kanato Goto placed first of 1,383 finishers in the November 13 event.

Princeton resident Goto, 33, covered the challenging 13.1 mile course in a time of 1:11.07. 

But perhaps the most emotional and historic performance at the race was produced by Valentyna Veretska, who recently came to the U.S. from Ukraine. Veretska was the first women’s finisher and third overall, clocking a time of 1:18.06 to set a new female course record.

Veretska, 32, is an accomplished runner and is ranked 444th in the world of female runners. One of her many accomplishments in the sport include winning the Jerusalem Marathon one month to the day after fleeing Ukraine, wearing borrowed gear and without her coach (and husband). Her husband and daughter were on the sidelines in Princeton to cheer her on.

After the race, she posted a heartfelt message on her social media account.

“Finally my first steps in sports life in USA are made,” wrote Veretska. “It’s a cold rainy day today, but that didn’t stop it. The competition was great! Friendly almost family atmosphere, support throughout the race track, many new acquaintances and a lot of kind words in support of Ukraine. Princeton you will forever be in my heart. First place with a record of a race for not an easy track.”

Additional history was made by Amy Read, 28, of Pennington, who set the a new nonbinary course record with a time of 1:52:43, besting the previous mark of 2:24.28 set in 2019. more

November 16, 2022

EYEING SUCCESS: Princeton University wrestling head coach Chris Ayres, right, and associate head coach Joe Dubuque display their intensity in a 2020 dual match. Ayres and Dubuque are expecting big things from their wrestlers this winter as Princeton comes off a historic 2021-22 campaign that saw Patrick Glory take second in the NCAA Championships at 125 pounds and Quincy Monday place second at 157. The Tigers have their first dual of the 2022-23 season when they wrestle at Indiana on November 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Chris Ayres, falling short of his goal to win an NCAA title during his Lehigh University wrestling career put him on the path to coaching.

“It was an ending goal and then when I didn’t do it; I felt I had more to do in the sport and now I think I am where I belong,” said Princeton University wrestling head coach Ayres, who placed sixth at 157 pounds at the NCAAs in his senior season at Lehigh. “I think I am very analytical in the areas that I failed in. I worked on them to teach other people so maybe they wouldn’t make those mistakes. I am still chasing it. We had some national champs at Lehigh when I coached there. Here at Princeton, it feels like it is a little more invested because I have been here so long and it has been such an uphill climb. Not doing it helped me become a really good coach.”

Last winter, Ayres nearly guided two of his wrestlers to NCAA titles as Patrick Glory took second at 125 pounds in the national final and Quincy Monday was the runner-up at 157.

“It is proof of concept; I know we do the right things, we can produce Olympic champions and national champions,” said Ayres. “Quincy and Pat proved it to themselves because we hadn’t had anyone in the finals. It has been year after year, we keep doing things we haven’t done before. Those guys getting to the finals was one of those things. One of the interesting things is that we have never really taken steps backwards where we didn’t do things we hadn’t done before. That should just make everyone excited that we are going to do something bigger this year and what that bigger thing is.” more

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Sarah Fillier controls the puck in recent action. Junior forward Fillier starred as Princeton swept a two-game set against Syracuse last weekend. She tallied a goal and an assist as the Tigers prevailed 4-2 on Friday and then added an assist in a 1-0 Princeton win a day later. Fillier, who is returning to Princeton after a two-year hiatus which saw her help the Canadian national women’s team win two world championships and an Olympic gold medal, is leading Princeton in scoring with six points on three goals and three assists. The Tigers, now 3-3 overall and 1-3 ECAC Hockey, host St. Lawrence on November 18 and Clarkson on November 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sarah Fillier took a two-year hiatus from the Princeton University women’s hockey team to join the Canadian women’s national team and emerged as an international star in the process.

High-scoring forward Fillier helped Canada win the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in 2021 and 2022 as well as the gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. At the Olympics, Fillier tallied eight goals to rank second among all players in the tournament, and had 11 points to stand sixth.

For Fillier, earning Olympic gold proved to be a highlight of her time away from Princeton.

“A lot has happened; I think winning Olympic gold is a highlight for sure,” said Fillier, a 5’5 native of Georgetown, Ontario. “That is what I grew up dreaming about. Every decision I made in hockey and the decision to come to Princeton was with that in mind. For it to come true and happen, was the coolest experience of my life.”

It is cool for junior Fillier to be back at Princeton to resume her college career.

“It has been exciting, it has been a long wait to come back,” said Fillier. “I have been waiting to come back. To be back on campus and in school and playing with the girls has been a lot of fun.”

Playing with twin sister Kayla, who is in her senior year at Princeton, has been particularly fun for Fillier.

“It has been great, if COVID didn’t happen and I was away at the Olympics, we would have never had the chance to play together for her senior year,” said Fillier. “It is nice. We grew up playing hockey together. To see her grow as a player and a person and watch her develop from a fan’s point of view, it is just really cool to see her live her dream out.”

Living out her dreams on the world stage had helped Fillier grow as player. more

STONE AGE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Grace Stone looks to pass the ball in recent action. Last Friday, senior Stone scored 17 points in a losing cause as Princeton fell 69-59 to Villanova. Stone and the Tigers bounced back on Monday as the Tigers topped Seton Hall 62-58 to improve to 2-1. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts Fordham on November 16 and then plays at Buffalo on November 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Grace Stone struggled a bit on the opening night of her final season for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

While Princeton defeated Temple 67-49 on November 7 in its season opener, senior guard Stone was cold, going 1-for-6 from the floor with three points in 24 minutes of action.

Last Friday as Princeton hosted Villanova, Stone started out sizzling, scoring 15 points in the first quarter, including four 3-pointers, as the Tigers led 21-20 heading into the second.

“I was just trying to be aggressive, just taking whatever the defense gave me,” said Stone, a 5’11 native of Glen Cove, N.Y., who averaged 9.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists last season. “I was just finding open spots and just trying to shoot in my rhythm. Every game is different, every team is different. They were giving me the three so I decided to take them.”

Princeton, though, had trouble guarding Villanova in the second quarter as the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 21-9 to build a 41-30 halftime lead.

“We had a scout, we knew what we were doing,” said Stone. “I think it was a communications thing, that comes with games early in the season. It is something we definitely need to work on moving forward.” more

POWER HITTER: Princeton High girls’ volleyball star Naomi Lygas makes a hit in recent action. Last week, freshman star Lygas contributed 13 kills and 10 digs in a losing cause as third-seeded PHS fell 2-1 to top-seeded Colts Neck in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey sectional final. The defeat in the November 8 contest left the Tigers with a final record of 21-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Competing in the program’s first-ever sectional final, the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team got off to a good start as it played at Colt’s Neck.

Third-seeded PHS won the first set 25-17 over the top-seeded Cougars in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey title game on November 8.

“We served tough, we passed well and that allowed us to run a consistent offense,” said PHS head coach Patty Manhart. “We kept them out of system so they really weren’t giving us their best attack coming over.”

Colts Neck, though, went on the attack after that, taking the next two sets, 25-21 and 25-18, to win the match.

“In the second set right away, we fell into a hole on serve receive and when that happens it is tough,” said Manhart. “Even though it happened early in the game, going down eight points, that is just a really big deficit to overcome. Even though we did chip away and get closer, there are certain things that another team picks on. It is hard to make up for it.”

While the defeat stung, getting to the sectional final was a special breakthrough for the players.

“It is exciting, it meant so much to the girls,” said Manhart, whose team finished the fall with a 21-5 record. “We don’t have any titles in the state sectional or playoffs on the banners in our gym. The banner has a league championship and they all badly wanted to add a state sectional to that.” more

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ cross country team display the trophies they earned for placing first in the Prep B state meet on November 1 at the Blair Academy. Pictured, from left, are assistant coach Chris Devlin, Jesse Hollander, Maddy Weinstein, Emily McCann, Natalia Soffer, Brooke Law, Harleen Sandu, Riya Mani, Jamie Crease, assistant coach Kelly Clark, and head coach Mike Mazzei. It marked the first Prep B title for the girls’ cross country program. (Photo provided by Mike Mazzei)

By Bill Alden

Mike Mazzei brought an intensity and work ethic to the Princeton Day School cross country team as he took the helm of the program this fall.

Having walked on to the Rider University track and cross country program after competing at Middlesex County College, Mazzei developed into a star for the Broncs, culminating his career by helping the team’s 4×800-meter relay to a gold medal at the 2021 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Outdoor Championships and taking seventh in the 800 at that meet.

“The coach at Rider gave me an opportunity and when I met with him, he said I blew him way with how passionate I was to be great,” said Mazzei. “I made something out of myself. I put the work in and started to be one of the better runners on the team.”

Drawing on his Rider experience, Mazzei had high aspirations for PDS in his debut season.

“I came to PDS and my goal was to win Prep championship,” said Mazzei, who helped coach the PDS track program this past spring and had previously coached at his high school alma mater St Thomas Aquinas (formerly known as Bishop Ahr). “When I was in college, I always wanted to win conference titles.”

Mazzei helped the Panthers achieve that goal as the PDS girls’ squad placed first in the Prep B state meet on November 1 at the Blair Academy. The Panthers had a team score of 37 with runner up Rutgers Prep coming in at 80, producing a dominant performance in earning the girls program’s first-ever Prep B crown. more

November 9, 2022

CLOSE SHAVE: Princeton University football player A.J. Barber runs upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore receiver Barber made a career-high seven receptions for 50 yards to help Princeton edge Dartmouth 17-14 to remain undefeated. The No. 16 Tigers, now 8-0 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, play at Yale (6-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy) on November 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As one of the captains for the Princeton University football team, Uche Ndukwe looks to fire up his teammates.

“I am just another cog in the machine; we have a lot of great players on this defense and a lot of guys I respect so much and make me feel so much more confident,” said senior defensive lineman Ndukwe, a 6’4, 270- pound native of Dedham, Mass. “When I am playing, I just try to rally the troops and get everyone excited to come out.”

Sophomore receiver A.J Barber, for his part, has emerged as an important cog for the Princeton offense after stepping in for the injured Jo Jo Hawkins in a 35-19 win over Brown on October 14.

“Jo Jo Hawkins went down and it was that next man up mentality,” said the 5’8, 170-pound Barber, who hails from Old Greenwich, Conn. “When my name was called, I was ready because of all the preparation we do.”

Showing that he was ready to perform, Barber made an 8-yard touchdown catch against the Bears.

 more

KEY PERFORMER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Keeshawn Kellman, right, dribbles the ball last Monday against Hofstra. Senior forward Kellman scored a career-high 21 points on a losing cause as Princeton fell 83-77 to the Pride in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers play at Navy on November 11 in the Veteran’s Classic, at Marist on November 19, and at Army on November 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After being hampered by injury and playing in only eight games last winter for the Princeton University men’s basketball team, Keeshawn Kellman decided to remake his body and his game.

“I focused on a lot of conditioning,” said Kellman, a native of Allentown, Pa., who spent the spring and summer with his nose to the grindstone. “I was very overweight at the end of the season and that was one of the points of emphasis that I had. I thought that just doing that alone would help my overall game along with finishing around the basket. Also just my IQ with watching basketball, things like that.”

Last Monday, as Princeton hosted Hofstra in its season opener, the chiseled 6’9, 240-pound senior forward Kellman showed the fruits of that labor. He scored a career-high 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting with five rebounds and two blocked shots in 26 minutes of action.

Kellman’s heroics helped Princeton build a 76-71 lead with 2:43 left in regulation but the Tigers squandered that advantage, falling 83-77 to the Pride.

While the loss stung, Kellman was happy to finally return to the starting lineup for the Tigers.

 more

FAMILY BUSINESS: Princeton University men’s hockey player Liam Gorman controls the puck against Colgate last Saturday. Senior forward and captain Gorman tallied a goal and an assist but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 4-3 in overtime to the Raiders. Gorman is filling a family tradition playing the Tigers as his father, Sean ’91, was star and a captain for the Tigers and his younger brother, Brendan, is a freshman forward for Princeton. The Tigers, now 0-3, play at Yale on November 11 and at Brown on November 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Liam Gorman, playing for the Princeton University men’s hockey team is a family affair.

Gorman’s father, Sean ’91, was star and a captain for the Tigers. This winter, Gorman’s younger brother, Brendan, has joined the program as a freshman forward.

Last Saturday as Princeton hosted Colgate and held its annual Senior Night, Gorman’s parents were on hand at Hobey Baker Rink to see their sons in action.

For Gorman, following in his father’s footsteps as one of the captains for the Tigers is particularly meaningful.

“It is a huge honor, especially after my father being a captain here,” said Gorman, a 6’3, 199-pound native of Arlington, Mass. “It is really cool, continuing that legacy is something I am really proud of.”

Having his brother add to the family legacy has also been cool.

 more