January 26, 2022

ON THE BALL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Chet Nweke (No. 25) battles for the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Nweke scored six points in 16 minutes off the bench as Princeton rolled to a 78-35 win over visiting Dartmouth. The Tigers, now 13-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, play at Yale on January 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In developing into a college basketball player, Chet Nweke honed her skills through competing with her older brother Ike.

“We have fights when we play one-on-one, he definitely impacted my basketball career a lot,” said Princeton University women’s basketball sophomore forward Nweke, whose brother Ike is a senior star forward on Columbia.

“He would always push me to get into the gym. Working out with him has just made me tougher as a basketball player. I would go to his AAU practices, playing with boys was a nice thing to do to get stronger and more confident.”

Last Saturday, Nweke displayed her toughness, contributing six points, one rebound, and one assist in 16 minutes off the bench as Princeton rolled to a 78-35 win over visiting Dartmouth, improving to 13-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy League.

“Coming into this game, I wanted to feel like I was a big part of this team,” said Nweke, a 6’0 native of Woodbine, Md., who is averaging 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in 17 appearances off the bench. more

TRIPLE PLAY: Princeton High girls’ track star Ada Metaxas displays the medal she earned for placing first in the triple jump at the Mercer County Championships last Friday. Senior Metaxas, who also took fourth in the long jump and sixth in the 55-meter hurdles at the meet, helped PHS place fourth in the team standings with 47 1/3 points, just two points behind third-place West Windsor-Plainsboro High North.

By Justin Feil

Ada Metaxas proved you’re never too old to learn.

Metaxas may be a senior in her second year as one of the Princeton High track and field team’s sprints and jumps captains, but she felt the pressure of her expectations and challenges outside of her control in a fourth-place showing in the girls’ long jump at the Mercer County Championships on Friday at Lawrenceville School. She responded barely a half-hour later to record a personal-record 34’11 to win the county girls’ triple jump title.

“It meant a lot,” said Metaxas. “I was surprised. Not that I didn’t expect it, but it wasn’t the event I thought I would win. I thought I would win long jump. My previous meets, that was my best event. A lot of it had to do with my mindset.”

Metaxas, who was put off by the cold temperatures at Lawrenceville’s indoor track, didn’t feel fully warmed up and loose, or as comfortable on the jumps runway as at some meets. She jumped 15’10½, a foot off her personal best, to finish behind three other competitors she thought she was confident that she could beat.

“I think I’ve had an expectation like that before,” said Metaxas. “Coming into it, it’s one of the first meets in the season, so I guess it was just a lot. I think having a more positive mentality going in, and just focusing on enjoying it, that’s what I need to focus on. By turning around that mentality, I was able to win the triple jump. That was a positive end to the night.” more

RAY OF HOPE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Rachel Luo heads to the hoop in a game last season. Last Saturday, junior star Luo scored a team-high 13 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 53-31 to Montgomery. The Tigers, who moved to 5-4 with the defeat, play at Allentown on January 28 and then host Trenton Central on February 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Rachel Luo went through her pregame paces for the Princeton High girls’ basketball team when it hosted Robbinsville last week, she was hot from the perimeter.

“During warmups, I was feeling pretty good with my 3s,” said junior guard/forward Luo.

That feeling was a harbinger of things to come as Luo hit a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter. “I found I was open and I just shot it,” recalled Luo.

Despite Luo’s hot shooting, PHS found itself trailing the Ravens 18-8 at the end of the first quarter.

“We were rushing, especially under a lot of pressure,” said Luo.

“We were just not making good decisions. A lot of offensive plays that we ran in practice, we didn’t really go into.”

Facing a 36-14 deficit after three quarters, the Tigers showed some fight down the stretch, outscoring Robbinsville 10-7 in the fourth on the way to a 43-24 loss.

“A couple of our players were being more aggressive, we were just going all out, trying to get back a little bit,” said Luo, who ended up with 10 points in the game.

“That definitely helped a little bit once we got a few fouls and made a few shots and ran a few offensive plays.”

Luo has gone all out to improve as a player. “During the offseason, I just played,” said Luo, who scored a team 13 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 53-31 to Montgomery last Saturday to move to 5-4. more

LIGHTING IT UP: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Jen Lightman dribbles upcourt in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore guard Lightman scored 14 points to help PDS edge Doane Academy 36-33. The Panthers, who moved to 4-4 with the win, play at WW/P-North on January 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After opting out of her freshman season with the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team last winter due to COVID-19 concerns, Jen Lightman is back on the court and having a ball.

“Now that I am finally able to play, it is really nice just to be with the team environment and be around all of these people,” said Lightman.

“I love playing with them so much, it is great playing with them all.”

Lightman found herself in an exciting environment last Friday as the Panthers hosted Doane Academy with a raucous crowd on hand in the PDS Athletic Center. With the Panthers clinging to a 34-33 lead with 23.7 seconds left in regulation, Lightman went to the foul line and drained a free throw to give PDS some breathing room on the way to a 36-33 victory.

“I was so nervous going to the free throw line,” said Lightman, who ended up with 14 points in the win.

“The environment was really nerve-wracking because you have all of these people around you. It was really exciting for us.”

In the early stages, the Panthers jumped out to a 20-4 lead with some exciting play at the offensive end. more

FLYING HIGH: Hun School boys’ swimmer Gabe Huang displays his butterfly form in a race this season. Senior captain Huang has helped Hun get off to a 5-0-1 start this season. The Raiders will be competing in the Mercer County Championships from January 27-29 at WW/P-North. (Photo by Jamie McKee/The Hun School)

By Bill Alden

It may have been a tie, but it represented a triumphant moment for the Hun School boys’ swimming team.

Competing against nemesis Pennington, Hun dueled its foe to an 84-84 deadlock last Wednesday.

“It was very exciting, we had the lead going into the last relay,” said Hun head coach Joan Nuse, whose team moved to 5-0-1 with the tie.

“It was a little disappointing for the kids but they asked is this still historic and I said yes. I don’t think we had ever come close to them. As far as I am aware, we have never beaten them.”

In the meet against Pennington, junior Nick Danko placed first in both the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke while senior Gabe Huang won the 500 freestyle and 100 breaststroke and senior Tom Goritschnig prevailed in the 200 free.

Danko has emerged and solidified his status as a key performer for the Raiders this winter.

“Nick is a great swimmer, he has always done whatever he could do,” said Nuse.

“He has big shoes to fill in terms of being Abbie’s  (former Hun star and current Bates College swimmer Abbie Danko) little brother. When we had our normal season right before the pandemic, he qualified for Easterns. He is a good swimmer. It is great for him to have a regular kind of season and get to going back to having counties this year.” more

SEEING RED: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Will Brown skates up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior defenseman Brown and the Panthers battled hard but came up short in a 4-0 loss to Lawrenceville as they resumed their rivalry with the Rig Red. PDS, which moved to 5-4-2 with a 4-2 defeat to Seton Hall last Friday, hosts St. Joe’s Montvale on January 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a hiatus of two years, the heated rivalry between the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team and Lawrenceville, its neighbor five miles to the south down Route 206, was back on the ice last Wednesday evening.

While there were some attendance limitations at McGraw Rink, the sights and sounds were familiar.

A throng of PDS students arrived early and packed one end of the rink, many wearing Panther hockey jerseys and some holding up handwritten signs with some unfriendly messages for the visiting Big Red.

There was a buzz in the air as the players swirled through their warmups, banging pucks off the glass and whirring around the ice.

Once the opening whistle blew, the rivals went at each other with their traditional verve, delivering bone-crunching hits into the boards and producing end-to-end action.

After a period, the foes were knotted in a scoreless tie. “The first period went better than I could have dictated,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli. “Timmy [Miller] played great in goal.” more

January 19, 2022

RETURNING WITH BANG: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jaelin Llewellyn dribbles past a foe in recent action. Last Monday, senior guard Llewellyn returned from being sidelined for two games due to a leg injury and helped Princeton defeat Penn 74-64. Llewellyn contributed 11 points, five rebounds, and an assist as the Tigers improved to 14-3 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, extending their winning streak to nine games. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Dartmouth on January 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University men’s basketball team got ready to take the court against archival Penn last Monday at Jadwin Gym, it got a lift before the contest even tipped off.

Princeton senior star point guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who had been sidelined the last two games due to a hamstring injury, was back in the starting lineup for the Tigers.

“I felt pretty good, I was just getting back into it pretty much,” said Llewellyn, reflecting on his return.

“I just wanted to go out there and do whatever I could. It is hard sitting and watching because I wanted to be out there with my guys. It is good to be back.”

With Llewellyn back at the controls of the offense, Princeton jumped out to a 34-28 halftime lead. In the second half, the Tigers held off a rally by the Quakers who drew to within 51-49 midway through the half and trailed 61-56 with 4:49 left. In crunch time, Llewellyn hit two jumpers and had an assist as Princeton stretched its lead to 68-58 and never looked back on the way to a 74-64 win.

The Tigers, who improved to 14-3 overall and 4-0 Ivy League with the victory, extended their winning streak to nine games. The triumph marked Princeton’s 13th win in its last 15 games against the Quakers and fifth in a row in the rivalry. more

WILD CARDS: Maddie Bacskai, left, and Clara Roth handle the ball in action this past fall for the Northwestern University field hockey team. The two former Princeton University standouts competed for the Wildcats as grad students utilizing their fourth year of eligibility and helped the program win its first-ever NCAA championship. (Photos provided courtesy ofNorthwestern Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Maddie Bacskai and Clara Roth felt they were part of a potential national championship field hockey team at Princeton University, but ultimately had to go elsewhere to win one.

The two Princeton graduates, who competed for Northwestern University as grad students utilizing their fourth year of eligibility, started all season and helped the Wildcats capture their first NCAA championship as they defeated Liberty 2-0 in the national final in November.

“It was huge,” said Roth, the second leading scorer for the Wildcats with 34 points on 13 goals and eight assists as the squad finished the fall with an 18-5 record.

“It was probably the biggest success I’ve had in field hockey. Having that in your final season is honestly that’s the way you want to do it.”

Roth and Bacskai had hoped to be playing for Princeton in 2020, one year after the Tigers came up short in the national championship game. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the NCAA called off the fall 2020 season and the Ivy League did not play in the reshuffled spring 2021 NCAA season.

Those developments meant a second straight year off for Bacskai, who had also missed the 2019 season after injuring her knee in the spring of 2019. Without any eligibility left at Princeton, but with a year of NCAA eligibility left, Bacskai and Roth found Northwestern, where both are working toward a master’s degree in management studies at the Kellogg School of Management.  more

GOING TO THE MATT: Princeton High wrestler Matt Ellsworth, top, controls a foe in recent action. Senior Ellsworth has gone 9-2 at 165 pounds this season, helping PHS produce a 7-0 start. In upcoming action, the Tigers have a match at Collingswood High on January 19 and a quad at Robbinsville on January 22 before hosting Allentown on January 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Matt Ellsworth has transformed himself into an outstanding wrestler and team leader for the Princeton High squad over his career.

Senior Ellsworth is off to his best start at 9-2 at 165 pounds. He wasn’t in the varsity lineup as a freshmen, then posted an 11-21 season in his first year in the lineup as a sophomore. In the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season last year, he was 4-6.

“I think I’ve been doing well,” said Ellsworth. “I think I’ve improved a lot from years previous. I’m happy how things are going.”

Ellsworth is even happier with the way things have gone for the team. He is one of four seniors setting the tone for the Tigers, who are unbeaten through seven matches. PHS swept Notre Dame (52-24), Hamilton (57-18), and Hopatcong (65-6) in a quad on Saturday.

“New guys have stepped up which has helped us fill up the whole lineup,” said Ellsworth, who went 2-1 on the day.

“Every single day everyone in the room is pushing each other hard and feeding off each other’s energy. You’ll see at all the matches our bench is very lively cheering for other people on the team when they’re wrestling. The team is built like a strong, tight-knit community. It allows us to push each other and that’s reflected on the mat when we’re wrestling.” more

GETTING AFTER IT: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Rosheen Nissangaratchie, right, goes after the puck last Wednesday against Bergen Catholic. Junior forward Nissangaratchie tallied a goal to help PDS tie the Crusaders 1-1. The Panthers, who defeated St. Joseph (Montvale) 2-0 last Thursday to move to 5-2-2, host Lawrenceville on January 19 and Seton Hall on January 22 before playing at St. Peter’s on January 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Rosheen Nissangaratchie is making up for lost time as he has finally hit the ice for the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team after transferring from the Delbarton School.

Sitting out for the first 30 days of the season under New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) rules, Nissangaratchie made his debut for PDS on January 3 against Pope John and picked up an assist as the Panthers prevailed 4-1.

Last Thursday, Nissangaratchie notched his first goal for the Panthers as PDS skated to a hard-fought 1-1 tie against visiting Bergen Catholic.

“I was just practicing,” said Nissangaratchie. “It felt so good to finally play a game at Pope John and then today, my first home game.”

Nissangaratchie’s tally came late in the first period as he got loose on a 3-on-2 rush.

“Will Brown made a nice pass,” recalled Nissangaratchie. “He pulled both defensemen and slides it over and I put it short side.” more

HALL PASS: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jaden Hall fires a pass in recent action. Last Saturday, junior guard Hall scored a team-high 12 points in a losing cause as PDS fell 54-42 to Hopewell Valley. The Panthers, now 1-5, are slated to host the Doane Academy on January 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Before Jaden Hall took the court for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team against the Solebury School (Pa.) last week, he got some words of wisdom from his father.

“My dad told me to be aggressive and get your own shot,” said PDS junior guard Hall.

Following that advice, Hall tallied a career-high 18 points to provide a highlight as the Panthers fell 70-47 to Solebury in the January 11 contest.

After scoring four points in the first half, Hall tallied eight points in the third quarter and added six in the fourth.

“We were driving and kicking for threes,” said Hall, reflecting on his outburst. “We trusted our shooters and we trusted our ball handlers and started knocking down shots. I found my rhythm.”

Coming into this winter, Hall was looking to be more of a factor for the Panthers.

“Last year as a sophomore, I didn’t have that much of a role,” said Hall. “I have been working on my game to become a different type of player. Last year I was a catch and shoot type of guy so I am trying to focus on my ball-handling, being strong with the ball and cutting down on those turnovers. I started becoming more of a point guard type player.”

This past summer, Hall put in extra work to hone his skills.

“I played a lot of AAU ball,” said Hall. “I went to Baltimore to a MADE Hoops camp and got some good advice from a whole bunch of different coaches around Jersey and Pennsylvania. I started working out over the summer to get better as a player and help this team win.” more

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Natalie Celso controls the puck in game last season. Last Friday, senior defenseman Celso scored two goals to help PDS defeat Princeton High 11-1. The Panthers, who moved to 3-2 with the win, host the Portledge School (N.Y.) on January 19 and Morristown Beard on January 21 before playing at Trinity Hall on January 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Natalie Celso is looking to be more assertive this winter in her senior season for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

“I have been used to being a pretty quiet person on the team, I am trying to fill this big role,” said defensemen Celso.

“It is my first year really being in a leadership role for any team I have played with and it is big shoes to fill. It is fun and I think it is really helping me build confidence in myself and my own skills.”

Last Friday evening, Celso displayed her skills, tallying two goals to help PDS defeat crosstown rival Princeton High 11-1 at the Ice Land Rink and improve to 3-2.

“I was just able to keep my head straight and hold on to it,” said Celso. “I am working on trying not to panic with the puck.”

Coming off a frustrating 2-1 defeat to Summit on January 11, the Panthers were focused on finding the back of the net against PHS.

“We really wanted to work on scoring more,” said Celso. “We got stuck on the last game or so; we just had trouble putting the puck in the net. We definitely worked better together today than we have in the past games. When there is not as much pressure, it is really easy to start working on the things we have been struggling with.” more

THORNY SITUATION: Hun School boys’ basketball player Toby Thornburg puts up a shot in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday, senior forward Thornburg hit a three-pointer with 23.7 seconds left in the game to give Hun a 42-40 win over the Shipley School (Pa.) as it overcame a 40-34 deficit in the final minute of play. The Raiders, who defeated Trenton Catholic Prep 54-47 on Monday to improve to 7-6, host the Peddie School on January 19 and Germantown Academy (Pa.) on January 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Toby Thornburg struggled with his outside shooting as the Hun School boys’ basketball team hosted the Shipley School (Pa.) last Thursday evening.

Hun senior forward Thornburg was 0-for-6 from three-point range and had just a layup and a free throw as the contest headed into the final minute of regulation.

But with Hun trailing by 40-39 and 23.7 seconds left, Thornburg finally found the range, draining a three-pointer that proved to be the margin of victory as the Raiders pulled out a dramatic 42-40 win.

“It was a little hectic; Dan [Vessey] got a real good steal, somebody got a real good offensive rebound and it ended up with me,” said Thornburg.

“I was open so I was able to take it and make it. I don’t shoot it if I don’t feel like it is in.”

Thornburg’s shot culminated a frantic rally as Hun trailed 40-34 with 1:11 left in regulation and narrowed the gap as Dan Vessey made a put back after his steal and then Jack Scott hit a three-pointer to make it 40-39.

With Hun having rallied to beat Academy of New Church (Pa.) 89-88 on December 16 as Scott hit a buzzer beater, the Raiders weren’t fazed by the late deficit. more

January 12, 2022

BIRTHDAY PARTY: Princeton University men’s basketball player Matt Allocco, left, lofts the three-pointer that beat Cornell 72-70 at the buzzer last Saturday evening. At right, his teammates mob Allocco after the shot which came on his 21st birthday as he made his first college start. The Tigers, now 12-3 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, host Brown on January 15 and Penn on January 17. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

By Bill Alden

Trailing Cornell 39-25 at halftime last Saturday, players on the Princeton University men’s basketball team trudged disconsolately across the court to their locker room with head coach Mitch Henderson walking behind shaking his head in frustration.

But about an hour later, the Princeton players were jumping for joy and mobbing Matt Allocco on the court after he drained a long buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Tigers an improbable 72-70 win after they trailed by 18 points early in the second half.

It was Allocco’s 21st birthday and his first college start as he stepped in the lineup to replace senior star guard and Princeton’s leading scorer Jaelin Llewellyn, who was sidelined after injuring his leg in an 84-69 win over Columbia the day before.

“It felt good coming off, it was straight,” said Allocco, recalling the buzzer-beater.

“I don’t know how to react in those situations. It went in and I just put my arm up. It was a crazy moment. I did a buzzer beater when I was younger maybe but in this situation in conference play, against a really good team, it was really special.”

It was a crazy finish as Princeton trailed 60-51 with 6:30 left in regulation and then went on an 18-9 run to take a 69-68 lead with 23 seconds left in regulation. Cornell got a layup from Dean Noll to go up 70-69 and Princeton took the ball with six seconds remaining, setting up Allocco’s fantastic finish. more

SPLIT DECISION: Princeton University women’s hockey goalie Rachel McQuigge does a split to thwart a Clarkson player last Friday. Senior star McQuigge made 37 saves in a losing cause as a short-handed Princeton squad fell 3-1 to No. 9 Clarkson. The contest was a family affair as McQuigge battled her younger sisters, Clarkson forwards junior Brooke and sophomore Kristyn. The Tigers, now 7-6-3 overall and 5-3-1 ECAC Hockey, are slated to play at Union on January 14 and at RPI on January 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It turned out to be a fierce ECAC Hockey battle when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted No. 9 Clarkson at Hobey Baker Rink last Saturday afternoon.

The contest was spiced up by a sibling rivalry as Princeton senior goalie Rachel McQuigge battled her younger sisters, Clarkson forwards junior Brooke and sophomore Kristyn.

“That is always really exciting; I played with Brooke growing up a bit in the summer and when I played juniors,” said netminder  McQuigge, a 5’7 native of Bowmanville, Ontario.

“Her freshman year was the first time we ever played against each other. Both of my sisters are very talented. It added an extra level of compete to the game, there is definitely a little trash talk.”

While McQuigge competed hard between the pipes, making 37 saves, it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 3-1 to the Golden Knights to move to 7-6-3 overall and 5-3-1 ECAC Hockey. more

NO BACKING DOWN: Princeton High girls’ swimming star Beatrice Cai displayed her backstroke form in a 200 individual medley race earlier this season. Last Thursday, junior Cai placed first in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke as PHS defeated WW/P-South 125-45 to improve to 7-0. The team has now won 19 straight dual meets since losing in the Central Jersey Group B sectional semifinals in 2020. In upcoming action, the Tigers host Trenton on January 13 and Nottingham on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After going through a season last winter where it could only compete virtually, swimming separately at its pool and then sharing times with foes to calculate meet scores, the Princeton High girls’ swim team was excited for a face-to-face battle at WW/P-South last Thursday.

With both squads bringing undefeated records into the clash of rivals at the WW/P-S bubble, there was plenty of emotion on the deck.

“The energy is totally different when we are all cheering, we get more motivated and faster compared to last year when it was just us,” said PHS junior star Beatrice Cai.

“It felt like we were racing against each other instead of another school. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know which school you were going against.”

Against WW/P-S, the Tigers showed plenty of energy, winning all eight individual races and the three relays in posting a 125-45 win and improving to 7-0.

“We were really pumped up for South,” said Cai, who placed first in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke against the Pirates.

“We have been hyping up this meet for a little bit and we did really well. All our teammates tried our best, we did great. The team spirit was really great as well.” more

FREE AND CLEAR: Princeton High boys’ swimmer Julian Velazquez powers to victory in a 200 freestyle race this season. Last week, junior standout Velazquez helped PHS defeat Notre Dame 115-55 on January 4 and then post a 111-69 win over WW/P-S last Thursday. The Tigers have won 20 straight dual meets since losing in the Central Jersey Group B sectional final in 2020. PHS, now 8-0, hosts Trenton on January 13 and Nottingham on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was rivalry week for the Princeton High boys’ swimming team as it faced two of its historically toughest foes, Notre Dame and WW/P-South, in a three-day period.

Displaying its depth and talent, PHS passed both tests with flying colors, routing Notre Dame 115-55 on January 4 and then rolling to an impressive 111-69 win over WW/P-S last Thursday as it improved to 8-0.

Tiger sophomore star Alvin Tien and his teammates were fired up for the big week.

“We were very anxious against Notre Dame because they were known for being really good,” said Tien.

“When we faced them, everybody put in all their effort to push through and win. It was the same thing with South. These are the hardest meets and our whole team put in the effort and beat them.”

Against South, Tien took first in the 50 freestyle in 23.68 and the 100 backstroke in 1:00.00.

“It goes quickly, I felt I could have done better,” said Tien in assessing the 50 free race. more

SHOOTING STAR: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Jaxon Petrone puts up a shot against WW/P-North last week. Senior guard Petrine scored a team-high 17 points in the January 4 game as PHS pulled out a 48-45 win. Last Friday, Petrone scored 20 points in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 67-61 to Nottingham to move to 1-2. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Hopewell Valley on January 14 and then plays at North Brunswick on January 15 and at Robbinsville on January 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jaxon Petrone and his teammates on the Princeton High boys’ basketball team were pumped to be hitting the court at WW/P-North last week to finally play their second game of the season after a two-week layoff.

PHS had its season opener at Hightstown on December 17 postponed, fell 54-33 to Hamilton on December 21, and then had another game postponed and a holiday tournament canceled.

“We were very excited to get out here, it stunk being at home,” said senior guard Petrone. “There were some nerves out there.”

Trailing 26-22 at intermission, PHS discussed blocking out the nerves and staying in the moment.

“We had a good talk out in the hallway at halftime,’ said Petrone. “It was, ‘we have just got to play, keep your head, no turnovers, get the ball, put it up and get it in the hoop.’”

Responding to that talk, the Tigers outscored WW/P-North 18-9 in the third quarter.

“We came out and hit a couple of shots and got hot,” recalled Petrone. “We settled in during the third quarter.”

Things got dicey down the stretch for PHS as it built a 44-35 lead only to see the Northern Knights respond with a 10-0 run. more

ON THE STICK: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Cooper Zullo, left, controls the puck in recent action. Junior forward Zullo scored three goals to help PHS defeat Lawrence 10-0 last Wednesday. The Tigers, who improved to 9-1-1 with the win, are scheduled to face the WWP Co-op on January 14 and the Hamilton Co-op on January 17 with both games to take place at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Cooper Zullo wasn’t expecting to be installed as the captain of the Princeton High boys’ hockey team this winter as a junior.

“I was talking to Dave (PHS head coach Dave Hansen) at the beginning of the year and he said he wanted me to have the captaincy,” said star forward Zullo.

“I am just trying to do as much as I can for the boys to be a leader. I have next year too, so I am pretty excited about that.”

Zullo’s leadership came in handy last week as PHS skated to a pair of victories, rallying from a 2-0 second period deficit to defeat Robbinsville-Allentown 5-4 on January 3 and then rolling to a 10-0 win over Lawrence last Wednesday.

In Zullo’s view, PHS showed its skill and character as it overcame a slow start to edge Robbinsville-Allentown.

“It was our first game after winter break so there was definitely a little bit of rust on our part. Coach [Dan] Bergan does a good job with them and they are a good team,” said Zullo, who scored a goal in the win.

“I think they wanted it more than we did but we came out in the end. It was definitely a good game by the boys and Johnny [O’Donnell] had the big goal at the end. It was definitely a good game to get back in the swing of things for 2022.”

In the Lawrence game, Zullo got things going for the Tigers, scoring a goal 42 seconds into the contest and then assisting on two others as PHS built a 3-0 first period lead and cruised from there.

“It was the same old, same old, we didn’t know much about them,” said Zullo, who ended up with three goals in the victory. “We tried to move the puck as much as we could.” more

January 5, 2022

RISING STAR: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kaitlyn Chen heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, sophomore guard Chen made a superb Ivy League debut, tallying a career-high 15 points as Princeton defeated Harvard 68-50 in the league opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 8-4 overall and 1-0 Ivy, play at Columbia on January 7 and at Cornell on January 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Princeton University women’s basketball team hosted Harvard last Sunday afternoon, it marked its first Ivy League game in 667 days.

The game also marked the Ivy debut for Princeton sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen and she was pumped.

“It was a lot of fun, just coming out and playing with my team,” said Chen, a 5’9 native of San Marino, Calif., who didn’t get the chance to play last winter as the Ivy League canceled the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We have missed these games, this season has been so much fun. We have been waiting for this.”

Chen had a lot of fun in her first taste of Ivy action, making an immediate impact, scoring a career-high 15 points to help Princeton win 68-50 as it improved to 8-4 overall and 1-0 Ivy.

“I was just looking to be more aggressive and getting into gaps and finding my teammates,” said Chen, who chipped in three assists, three steals, and two rebounds in the win over the Crimson.

Making her third career start after recently having been inserted into the starting five, Chen is developing a comfort level with her new role.  more

STATE OF GRACE: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Grace Rebak controls the puck in a game last season. Senior captain and star defender Rebak is providing athleticism and leadership for PHS. The Tigers, now 0-2-1, return to action after the holiday break by playing the Lawrenceville JV on January 12 at their Loucks Ice Center and then hosting Princeton Day School on January 14 at Ice Land Rink. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It hasn’t taken long for a pair of freshmen, Cece Gibb and Cassie Speir, to form a potent one-two punch this winter for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team.

In a 10-6 loss to Randolph on December 14 in its final action before the holiday break, PHS got three goals apiece from Gibb and Speir.

Tiger head coach Christian Herzog knows he is lucky to have Gibb and Speir join the program.

“Cece is a Tier 1 Colonials player, it is a great pickup for us,” said Herzog, whose team started 0-2-1 before going on holiday break.

“She has the speed, she can shoot. We put her on defense and she has the green light any time she feels like it to make a play. She is a smaller player but she has speed like no other, she has amazing skating. Cassie is big for a freshman, she plays travel too with the Tiger Lilies. She is strong on the puck, she is aggressive and is not afraid. She has a great shot. Those two players are pretty much leaned on all the way.”

A third newcomer, Maya Hagt, is also making an impact in the early going.

“Maya is another freshman who plays for the Tiger Lilies,” added Herzog. “She moves well with the puck.” more

SPEED SKATING: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player Ryan Vandal races up the ice in a recent game. Last Monday, junior forward Vandal scored a goal to help PDS defeat Pope John 4-1. The Panthers, now 4-2-1, host Bergen Catholic on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team has made its debut this season in the highly-competitive Gordon Conference, it has been a bit of bumpy ride.

PDS has posted a 3-2-1 record in Gordon play in going 4-2-1 overall.

“The nice thing about being part of this conference is that every one of our games is a meaningful game,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, whose team topped Pope John 4-1 last Monday in a conference game to avenge a 3-2 defeat to the Lions in the season opener.

“I am excited to come off the break, hopefully the kids are refreshed. I think club hockey has slowed down a little bit.”

Bertoli acknowledges that the season could be slowed by postponements due to the COVID surge resulting from the Omicron variant.

“That is going to be everyone’s reality over the course of the next few weeks; we talked about it today at practice,” said Bertoli.

“I just said we have to plan to play. We will prepare and have ourselves ready until someone tells us otherwise. That is the focus.”

In their last action before the holiday break, the Panthers lacked their usual focus as they fell 7-1 to the Christian Brothers Academy. more

COMING THROUGH: Hun School girls’ basketball player Erin Maguire drives between two foes in recent action. Post-graduate Maguire, a native of Ireland, is leading Hun in points (133), assists (27), rebounds (52), and steals (32) as the Raiders have gotten off to a 3-5 start. In upcoming action, Hun is slated to host Friere Charter School (Pa.) on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Hun School girls’ basketball team suffered defeats in its last two contests before going on holiday break, Bill Holup wasn’t discouraged.

“I thought our defense in both games before the break was good,” said Hun head coach Holup, whose team fell 43-31 to Friends Central (Pa.) on December 16 and 32-23 to Germantown Friends (Pa.) on December 14 and is bringing a 3-5 record into 2022.

“They were very low scoring games. We had couple of girls who were out and that hurt a bit. Offensively we have been struggling a bit in the last couple of games. We just haven’t been able to find the bottom of the net. Our defense has actually kept us competitive.”

In Holup’s view, facing competitive foes will steel his squad for the challenges ahead.  

“My emphasis to the girls after our last game against Friends Central is that this is going to prepare us for the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) games when we see Lawrenceville, Peddie, Hill, Mercersburg, and Blair,” said Holup. “It is good to play tough competition and hopefully we will be ready for our league games. You never like to have a losing record but the schedule that we have played with the Peddie tournament and playing these Friends schools will certainly prepare us.” more

GIFT OF GAB: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Gaby Velazquez brings the ball up the court in a recent game. Senior guard Velazquez has helped Stuart get off to a 2-2 start. In upcoming action, the Tartans Lawrenceville on January 6, St. Benedict’s on January 7, and Life Center Academy on January 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The “next man up” mentality, whereby a starting player can be replaced smoothly by a substitute, has become prevalent throughout the sporting world.

This winter, Justin Leith is employing a next girl up philosophy for his Stuart Country Day School basketball team in the wake of losing six seniors to graduation.

Getting off to a 2-2 start before the holiday break, the new-look Tartans are growing into their roles.

“We are relying a whole new group of people to be contributors,” said Stuart head coach Leith.

“They are forced to because there is nobody else and they have so it is cool.”

Sticking to the staples of the program has helped the revamped lineup come together.

“I am really happy that the culture has been consistent with essentially a new team,” said Leith.

“All of the small things that, when you start a new program, you forget. It takes time for your expectations to be met. It is small things, like making sure that the bench is alive during games at all times, that they are sprinting to the locker room at halftime and after the game and when they are substituting, making sure they are high-fiving the replacement. There were a few reminders early on but the girls embraced it. I think that is the reason we have won the two games that we have. It is the attention to detail and those small things go a long way.” more

December 29, 2021

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Princeton University women’s soccer goalie Grace Barbara whips the ball upfield in a game this fall. Senior star and former Princeton Day School standout Barbara helped Princeton go 15-3-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy League as the Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After the Ivy League canceled competition for the 2020 fall season and the 2020-21 winter campaign due to COVID-19 concerns, Princeton University athletes got some limited opportunities to get back in action this spring.

Princeton rowers were thrilled to get the chance to row in a regatta against boats from Temple and Drexel in Philadelphia on April 25, their first racing since spring of 2019 and the first competition for Tiger athletics in 407 days. The women’s lightweight varsity 8 went on to make history, winning the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final, its first national title since 2003. On the track, star thrower Obi Amaechi punctuated her stellar career by finishing 13th in the discus in the NCAA championships, earning second-team All-American honors.

It was full speed ahead in the fall for Princeton athletes and several teams produced memorable campaigns. Tiger football went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy to share the league crown with Dartmouth. Overcoming a shaky start, men’s soccer caught fire down the stretch, going 7-0 in Ivy play to win the league crown. Led by Australian Olympian steeplechaser Ed Trippas, men’s cross country won the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships and went on to place first at the NCCA Mid-Atlantic regional. Men’s water polo won the Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) tournament and topped Fordham 17-8 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Although women’s soccer didn’t win the Ivy title, it went 15-3-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton posted a 2-0 win over visiting Vermont in the first round of the NCAAs before falling 3-2 in overtime to TCU in the round of 32.

While local high school teams did have a winter season, it was abbreviated and split into segments by sport. That limited campaign, though, didn’t prevent some highlight moments. Princeton High senior Chloe Ayres made history, earning her third straight state title, prevailing at 114 pounds at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) girls’ state wrestling championships.

Both the PHS boys’ and girls’ swimming teams went 12-0, competing in a virtual meet format. The Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team also went undefeated, going 5-0-1 while the Panther boys’ hockey team nearly matched that feat, posting a 4-1-1 record. The Hun School boys’ basketball team made the most out of its shortened season, going 8-2.

There was an increased sense of normalcy when the spring rolled around as postseason play resumed. The Hun baseball team rolled to a 19-2 record, winning its fifth straight state Prep A title in the process. The PHS boys’ tennis team also produced a dominant campaign, going 17-1 and winning both the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and the CVC conference titles. Making coach Sheryl Severance’s 28th and final season coaching the boys’ golf program one to remember, Princeton High had a 15-0 record in dual match play, winning the first-ever CVC Match Play Tournament and taking second in the Central/South Jersey sectional. The Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team placed third in the state Prep B tournament, earning two individual titles as Aaron Phogat and Oliver Silverio won the first doubles flight while the pair of Will Sedgley and Mark Santamaria prevailed at second doubles.

In the fall season, a number of programs made history. Bouncing back from a 0-4-1 season in 2020, the Hun School girls’ soccer team posted a 12-5-2 record, edging Pennington 4-3 in overtime in a thrilling state Prep A final and also winning the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. The Hun football team was a juggernaut, going 9-0 and outscoring foes 374-63 this fall. With Princeton Day School joining the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), two Panther teams earned the initial sectional titles in school history as the girls’ tennis team won the South Jersey Non-Public A championship and boys’ soccer prevailed in the South Jersey Non-Public B sectional.

Led by high-scoring striker Sophia Lis, the Princeton High girls’ soccer team produced a season for the ages, going 21-3, winning the CVC title, the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional championship, and making the program’s first-ever trip to the state Group 3 final along the way. The PHS girls’ tennis team added to its championship tradition, winning the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional crown. The Tiger cross country teams also excelled as the girls’ squad placed first at the Mercer County championship meet while the boys’ team prevailed at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet. more