August 10, 2022

PIPING UP: Community Park Bluefish swimmer Piper Dubow displays her butterfly form in a meet this summer. Dubow helped the Bluefish take first in Division 1 at the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) championship meet in late July. Dubow was named the 18-and-under girls MVP at the PASDA meet, taking first in both the 50-yard breaststroke and 100 individual medley. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was a record-breaking summer on many levels for the Community Park Bluefish swimming team.

First, the venerable program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, drew 280 swimmers and 60 divers for its 2022 campaign.

“That is the most we have ever had, it blew away the most we had before,” said Bluefish co-head coach Mike Uchrin. “This is our first year back to normal season, 2021 was a transition. We weren’t really sure what to expect this year. As the year went along, I was talking to Kelsey (co-head coach Kelsey Schwimmer), saying these are really big numbers. A lot of families in the post-COVID times wanted to get their kids back into the water and back into a sport where they will have fun. It worked out great.”

Featuring such depth, the Bluefish went 5-0 in dual meet competition in Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA) Division 1 action and then dominated the PASDA championship meet in late July, taking first in Division 1 with 4,441 points, well ahead of runner-up Hopewell Valley, which had 1,999.

“It is the most points we have ever had at the championships, we had the most PASDA MVPs (six) we have ever had,” said Uchrin, whose team has been undefeated since 2015 and hosted the PASDA championship meet. “We had multiple PASDA league records that we set. It wasn’t just our collective performance but we had a lot of great individual performances.”

While proud of the team’s achievements, Uchrin is more focused on making sure that the swimmers have a great time.

“It is not about the wins and losses, it is about the fun,” said Uchrin, noting that Friday practices are devoted to playing sharks and minnows and water polo rather than grinding out laps. more

STRONG FOUNDATION: Majeski Foundation’s Jason Larranaga looks to make a pass in a June game in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Friday, Larranaga scored a game-high 16 points to help ninth-seeded Majeski defeat third-seeded Athlete Engineering Institute 45-43 in overtime at the Community Park courts in game three of the league’s best-of-three championship series. Larranaga was named as the Foreal Wooten Playoff MVP. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Majeski Foundation trailing Athlete Engineering Institute 22-10 late in the first half last Friday night at the Community Park courts in the finale of best-of-three championship series of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League, it was on the ropes.

But displaying the resilience that fueled ninth-seeded Majeski’s unlikely run to the finals, it started to fight back, narrowing the gap to 26-18 at halftime and pulling ahead 29-28 five minutes into the second half.

“We started to make a little progress at the end of the first half,” said Majeski star and team manager Jason Larranaga. “We came in at halftime and kept emphasizing the same things. We have got to get through this. When we started to make our run, we started believing in ourselves a little more. It was all about keep it going and upping the intensity more and more.”

The fierce battle got more intense as the second half unfolded with the foes were knotted at 43-43 at the end of regulation.

The Majeski squad, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey’s men’s hoops team, felt it had momentum heading into overtime.

“By the end, we had the second wind and the pressure was on them,” said Larranaga of the squad which had fought off pressure to get to game three, dropping the opener of the title series 50-41 on August 1 before topping AEI 45-36 last Wednesday in game two to stay alive in the series.

“We came out energized and ready to go. They are a good team for sure, they play really hard. Those guys are strong too, they are grown men.”

Both squads played hard defense in the extra session with the score remaining at 43-43 until Larranaga got loose on the baseline and dropped in a lay-up which proved to be the margin of victory in a 45-43 triumph. more

DAN THE MAN: Danny Bodine of Majeski Foundation unloads the ball in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Bodine scored a game-high 14 points to help ninth-seeded Majeski defeat third-seeded Athlete Engineering Institute 45-36 at the Community Park courts as it evened the best-of-three championship series at 1-1. Two days later, Majeski edged AEI 45-43 in overtime in game three to earn the title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Hampered by a sore arm, Danny Bodine was sidelined for a couple of playoff games in late July as Majeski Foundation advanced to the best-of-three championship series in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

But with ninth-seeded Majeski, which is comprised of players from the The College of New Jersey’s men’s hoops team, having lost 50-41 to third-seeded Athlete Engineering Institute in game one of the series on August 1, Bodine wasn’t about to sit out game three on Wednesday night at the Community Park courts with his team on the brink of elimination.

“It is a win or go home situation, that is all the motivation you need,” said Bodine, a 6’9, 190-pound native of Langhorne who was second on TCNJ in scoring (12.1) last winter and first in rebounding (7.3). “You just come out and punch them in the mouth early and keep that lead the whole time.”

Shrugging off the pain from his sprained elbow, Bodine delivered some blows to AEI, tallying a game-high 14 points, including four 3-pointers as Majeski pulled out a 45-36 victory to stay alive in the series.

“Our team was moving the ball, it was our team getting good looks for us,” said Bodine, reflecting on his performance. “I am confident in anyone shooting and they are confident in me shooting. Whatever shot we can get, I will take it.”

Playing with their backs to the wall, Majeski produced a stifling defensive effort, building a 24-15 lead at halftime. more

August 3, 2022

HIGH CAL: Cal Caputo, right, heads to goal this spring for the Williams College men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton Day School star attacker Caputo tallied 40 points on 36 goals and four assists in his debut campaign for the Ephs. (Photo provided courtesy of Williams College Athletics)

By Bill Alden

For Cal Caputo, making his debut for the Williams College men’s lacrosse team in early March proved to be worth the wait.

After his senior season for the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team in 2020 was canceled due the pandemic and he was at home for his freshman spring semester at Williams studying remotely, Caputo didn’t wait to make an impact as he hit the field against Trinity College on March 5 for his first taste of college game action.

The 5’8, 150-pound sophomore attacker tallied two goals in the first half and ended up with a hat trick as Williams prevailed 9-5.

“It was awesome, I was really nervous,” said Caputo. “It had been two years since I had played a game, it really meant something for me. I was shaking. I think I had to get hit once and settle in and see one go in. I got a few that game which was good. At the end of the day, you can never really complain about a hat trick, but it is one of those games where I could have had another two or three goals.”

Caputo’s performance in the opener proved to be a harbinger of things to come this spring as he ended up tallying 40 points on a team-high 36 goals and four assists.

“I think the speed and physicality stand out to anyone, but I also think the level of how players are scouted and how teams prepare,” said Caputo, reflecting on the transition to college lacrosse.

“In high school, I feel like I could score a million goals with Coby (former PDS teammate and current Christopher Newport star Coby Auslander) dodging and someone sliding off and there being no two slides. But college teams figure out pretty quickly what you are good at on offense. They spend all week preparing on how to shut you down and how to take away your strengths. After that first game, it was pretty obvious that I was a catch and shoot guy in the crease and you have to have a two slide ready to go. There aren’t any easy goals at the college level.” more

JUSTIN TIME: Justin Kovacevich of Athlete Engineering Institute goes up for a shot last week in playoff action in the Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Kovacevich tallied a game-high 20 points to help third-seeded AEI defeat ninth-seeded Majeski Foundation 50-41 in the first game of the league’s best-of-three championship series. Game two is scheduled for August 3 at the Community Park courts with game three, if necessary, slated for August 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Athletic Engineering Institute advanced to the best-of-three championship series in the Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League this year, Jalen Parham has sparked the squad.

Former Hillsborough High and Montclair State standout Parham led the league in scoring at 20.6 points per game and was named as the regular season MVP.

But when third-seeded AEI hit the Community Park courts last Monday night to face ninth-seeded Majeski Foundation in game one of the title series, Parham was missing, away on vacation.

While AEI’s Justin Kovacevich acknowledged that not having Parham on court was a challenge, he and his teammates were unfazed.

“He has definitely been carrying the scoring load for us throughout the season, but we knew we could step up and move the ball around,” said Kovacevich of Parham. “Everybody played their part tonight.” more

July 27, 2022

AIMING HIGH: Ben Amon delivers a pitch this spring in his junior season for The College of New Jersey baseball team. Former Princeton High standout Amon emerged as the ace this year for TCNJ, going 4-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 61 innings. Amon earned All-NJAC Second Team honors and was also named as Rawlings/American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Region Team and D3baseball.com All-Region performer. (Photo provided courtesy of The College of New Jersey Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Ben Amon began his sophomore season with The College of New Jersey baseball team in 2021 as a relief pitcher, but injuries thrust him into the starting rotation.

“We had two of our top starting pitchers get hurt, they both had shoulder and arm injuries,” said former Princeton High standout Amon. “I was thrown into that first game on Saturday role — that helped me take a big step. I got very used to coming out and facing the ace.”

After going 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA and 37 strikeouts on 44 1/3 innings over the rest of that season, Amon emerged as the ace for the Lions in 2022. The lanky 6’5, 170-pound right-hander posted a 4-4 record with a 2.51 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 61 innings. more

RECORD PACE: Coby Auslander, left, races upfield in a game this spring in his junior season for the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton Day School star Auslander produced a historic campaign for the Captains, setting a program single-season record for assists with 46. Midfielder Auslander, who also scored 30 goals, earned first-team United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) All-American recognition, among other honors, as CNU went 18-2 and advanced to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. (Photo provided courtesy of Christopher Newport University Athletics)

By Bill Alden

After the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four in 2021 for the first time in program history, Coby Auslander and his teammates were primed for a return trip to the national semis this spring.

“There was just a completely different mindset in fall ball,” said former Princeton Day School standout midfielder Auslander. “I think over the summer a lot of guys were just absolute freaks and just took their game to a completely different level. We knew we had the culture and the teammate vibe where everybody was already close-knit. We just needed to take our skills to a different level and I think we did that in the fall.”

This spring, junior Auslander and the Captains took things to a higher level, going 16-0 in regular season play and rising to No. 1 in the D-III national polls. Cementing his status as one of the top playmakers in the country, Auslander set a program single-season record for assists with 46.

The squad had four players earn United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) All-American honors, including Auslander, who was a first-team selection.

But CNU fell short of its ultimate goal as it lost 10-9 in overtime to York College in the NCAA D-III quarterfinals, ending the spring with an 18-2 record. more

July 20, 2022

POWER SURGE: Luke Franzoni follows through on a swing this spring for the Xavier University baseball team. Former Princeton Day School standout Franzoni enjoyed a huge season for Xavier, batting .385 with school single-season record in homers (29) and RBIs (78). He was named the BIG EAST Co-Player of the Year and earned American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings All-America Third Team honors as the Musketeers went 33-27 and advanced to the championship game of the conference tournament. (Photo provided courtesy of Xavier Athletics)

By Bill Alden

When the pandemic halted the sports world in March 2020, Luke Franzoni headed home from the Xavier University baseball team and went to work.

Along with his older brother Paul, a star catcher for NJIT, and younger brother Ian, a Brown University running back, they turned their garage in Robbinsville into a weight room.

“We wanted to take it upon ourselves to just get stronger,” said Franzoni. “A bunch of our friends just donated any gym equipment that we had into our garage and everyone would come every day. It was a lot of lifting and lot of eating. Kudos to my parents for feeding all of us. They were probably only used to feeding Ian, who was the only one home at that point. For the summer they had me and Paul and the other guys, it was like feeding an entire village.”

That work paid off as Franzoni packed on 20-25 pounds of muscle, going from 185 pounds to around 205, and enjoyed a superb 2021 junior season, batting .279 with nine homers and 28 RBIs as Xavier went 28-26 and lost to UConn in the BIG EAST tournament final.

“It was great to get a full season, we made a good run,” said Franzoni. “We were pretty young at that point. That year was a really good step in the right direction because a lot of guys matured.”

Coming into the 2022 season, Franzoni followed a similar formula last fall along with his teammates.

“Our coaches were really big in the fall, trying to get our entire team really strong,” said Franzoni. “We lifted like five days a week in the fall, they did a really good job. It was after we lost to UConn in the BIG EAST tournament our junior year where our coach said it was clear that they were a more physical team. They were bigger than us and that could contribute to why we lost. So that was a main focus.” more

SHO TIME: Shoshi Henderson heads upfield in game this spring in her freshman season for the Pomona-Pitzer College women’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton High star Henderson came up big for the Sagehens in her debut campaign, tallying 132 points on 42 goals and 90 assists to help Pomona-Pitzer go 18-1 and advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2022 NCAA Division III Tournament. In the process, Henderson broke the Sagehens’ single-season record for points and assists and broke the NCAA Division III record for assists in a season. (Photo provided by Pomona-Pitzer College Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Shoshi Henderson wasn’t sure how much she would contribute in her freshman season this spring with the Pomona-Pitzer College women’s lacrosse team.

“My goal was to be on the field, I wanted some playing time,” said Henderson, a former Princeton High standout. “I wanted to fit in, I wanted to make a difference.”

Henderson didn’t waste any time making a difference, tallying two goals in the first 2:11 of the season opener against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) on February 23, ending up with three goals and seven assists on the day as the Sagehens prevailed 15-7.

“I was, this is my first college game, that is kind of crazy,” said 5’7 attacker Henderson. “I am pretty nervous about this, I am starting. All I want to do is just help in any way I can. I had two fast break goals right off the bat which is so fun. I had a hat trick in the first quarter. I was in shock. That game opened my eyes, like wow this could be a really good season, not only for me personally but for the team. We crushed CMS, which is unheard of.”

It turned out to be a great season for both Henderson and the Sagehens as she tallied 132 points on 42 goals and 90 assists, helping the team go 18-1 and advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2022 NCAA Division III Tournament. In the process, Henderson broke the Sagehens’ single-season record for points and assists and broke the NCAA Division III record for assists in a season.

While Pomona-Pitzer kept rolling after the opener, it wasn’t always a smooth ride.

“We definitely had some ups and downs, we had a couple of injuries,” said Henderson. “I was the only attacker who never missed a game with injury so we had a lot of different players filling in spots all over the field. We had so much depth that it never really mattered too, too much. We definitely gained confidence.”

For Henderson, a key confidence builder came when she tallied four goals and four assists in a 19-4 win at Colorado College in early March.  more

HISTORIC DISTRICT: Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball player Jaxon Petrone hits the ball in recent action. Last Sunday, recent Princeton High grad Petrone got two hits, including a homer, in a losing cause as Post 218 lost 5-3 to Washington Township Post 521 in an elimination game at the N.J. District 4 tournament at West Deptford. It makes the first-ever appearance in District play for Post 218, which finished the summer with an 8-12 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team looking to make its first-ever trip to the New Jersey District tournament, it wanted to clinch a spot by beating Allentown last week rather than relying on help from other teams.

Allentown, though, posed a formidable obstacle to Post 218’s plan as it had already clinched a share of the Mercer County American Legion League (MCALL) regular season title.

Undaunted, a scrappy Post 218 team jumped out to an 11-2 lead over Allentown and held on for an 11-9 win to punch its ticket to the Districts.

“It was huge, at the time they were 14-3,” said Post 218 manager Benito Gonzalez. “We played them well the first time, it was Rohan [Sheth] starting in that game too. It was the fifth inning that was the issue the first time. The second time around was probably the best overall offensive effort that we put up the whole year.”

The victory epitomized the resilience that Post 218 displayed as it battled down the stretch.

“Our last four, five games we responded by winning a bunch of ones that we had to,” said Gonzalez. “We knew when we won against Allentown, we clinched it. We said guys, congratulations, you didn’t not let it go to fate.” more

YOUNG AT HEART: Freddy Young Jr., right, unloads the ball for Homestead in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday night, Young, a former Princeton Day School and Trenton Catholic standout, tallied 12 points to help Homestead edge Athlete Engineering Institute 69-68 as it improved to 6-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Freddy Young Jr. was primed to make his debut for the Lincoln University men’s basketball team this past winter, but he was stopped in his tracks before he even played a game.

“I hurt my foot in the first scrimmage,” said Young, a former Princeton Day School and Trenton Catholic standout guard. “I was running through a play and I happened to break my foot. It was really unlucky but I got to learn a lot.”

While being sidelined, Young developed a better feel for the college game.

“I got to hoop in college before I broke my foot so I was experiencing it,” said  the 6’3, 180-pound Young.

“I saw how fast it was when I was hooping. When I had to sit back and watch, I got to see how slow that game actually was. I got to slow down my mental approach. I am a more complete player because I can see what everybody can do and what I can do better.”

Young did keep busy as he rehabbed his injury. “The team kept me with them throughout everything,” said Young of the squad which also includes Princeton High alum Zahrion Blue and Princeton Day School grad Ethan Garita. more

July 13, 2022

GOING FOR GOLD: Andrew Goldsmith goes after the ball in a 2016 game during his senior season for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team. After wrapping up a superb career for the Vassar College men’s soccer team last fall, Goldsmith is currently in Israel playing for the U.S. open men’s soccer team in the Maccabiah Games. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Last fall, Andrew Goldsmith enjoyed a superb senior season for the Vassar College men’s soccer team.

The former Princeton High standout served as a team captain for the Brewers, helping the squad go 11-4-2, earning United Soccer Coaches Division III All-Region third team and All-Liberty League Honorable Mention honors in the process.

“It was my last season and it was definitely my favorite season; it was a combination of doing well record-wise but it was also the playing style,” said Goldsmith, a 6’0 defensive midfielder.

“It is keeping the ball moving, the one and two touch approach  that fit my playing style. I was able to help the rest of the guys and we were all able to mold to that system and win games by playing the right soccer. That is the best feeling of it all. I have never been one to care for accolades but I felt like I had my best season and getting honored as an all-regional player was a great feeling as well.”

This month, Goldsmith is savoring another honor as he is playing for the U.S. open men’s team at the 21st Maccabiah Games in Israel to get his last taste of competitive soccer.

“To be able to wear the USA jersey and compete against other countries is a dream come true,” said Goldsmith. “It is something I have aspired to do for a while now. One of the reasons I chose Vassar was that I believed I would get a lot of playing time and be a leader right away. I got four years of playing soccer and I wanted to make the most of it. To be able to have this final encompassing soccer event is going to be an extremely incredible experience.” more

NATIONAL STAGE: Members of the Princeton FC Barcelona 2006 squad show off the trophy and medals they earned for winning the boys’ 16U final in the US Youth Soccer (USYS) 2022 National Presidents Cup tournament. PFC Barcelona defeated Chicago KICS FC 2006 City MWC 2-1 in the national final last Sunday in Greensboro, N.C.

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton FC Barcelona 2006 faced Chicago KICS FC 2006 City MWC last Thursday to open play in the boys’ 16U bracket in the US Youth Soccer (USYS) National Presidents Cup tournament in Greensboro, N.C., it got off to a shaky start.

PFC Barcelona trailed 1-0 at halftime and some doubts started to creep in.

“We didn’t really know how it would go at the start, there were a lot of nerves,” said PFC Barcelona center back Nick Matese, a rising Princeton High junior. “It was a stage none of us had been on before. The coaches always say that the first game of the tournament is the most important because if you lose, you are basically out so you have to get a result. We went down in the first half so it was definitely worrying and there were thoughts, ‘Are we really up to this?’”

PFC Barcelona proved to be up to the challenge, pulling out a 1-1 draw.

“We knew we had to fight back to get the result,” said PFC midfielder Felipe Matar Grandi, also a rising PHS junior. “We got a tie, we got the job done. We learned a lot about them, it was a tough game.”

Getting the job done in the rest of Bracket A action, PFC Barcelona topped 2-0 Tuzos Garfio 06 (Ariz.) and then edged Bayern Munich 2006 Boys White (Texas) 1-0. As a result, it finished tied for first in the bracket with Chicago KICS, setting up a rematch between the foes in the national final last Sunday at the Bryan Park –Truist Soccer Complex.

Matar Grandi and his teammates were primed for the second round with the Chicago side. more

SWINGING AWAY: Princeton Little League (PLL) player Brady Lee takes a swing in recent action. Lee helped PLL take third in the Section 3 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week as it posted an 11-3 win over Old Bridge last Wednesday to go 1-2 in the double elimination competition won by Toms River East. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad suffered a lopsided 22-0 defeat to powerhouse Toms River East last week to open the Section 3 Intermediate 50/70 tournament, its players could have thrown in the towel in the double-elimination competition.

As PLL manager Matt Bellace addressed his players before they faced Old Bridge in a knock-out game last Wednesday in the division which utilizes a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths and is open to players ages 11-13, he challenged them to bounce back.

“I was thinking about the moment for those guys and I talked about a book I wrote, Life is Disappointing and Other Inspiring Thoughts,” said Bellace. “The one conclusion I came to after writing that whole book is that sometimes after huge disappointments, the only thing you can do is ask yourself is what is this going to inspire. So here we are against Old Bridge; we have just gotten crushed by Toms River East and the question is what is this going to inspire. Does it inspire you guys to say we can play in another level. We can give it everything we have and not just say, ‘oh well, woe is me, we are not going to win the Section, who cares.’”

PLL produced an inspired performance, defeating Old Bridge 11-3 to stay alive in the competition.

“I really do think that clicked ultimately,” said Bellace, referring to his pregame message. “Old Bridge was more to our level age-wise and the speed of the game. We had no errors on that game and we also hit the ball really, really well. We had 13 hits so it seemed like every inning we were getting guys on base.”

Victor Espita and Noah Prete led the hit parade for Princeton as they each went 3-for-4 in the win with Brady Lee going 2-for-4.

On the mound, Matthew Brophy stymied Old Bridge with some crafty work.

“Matthew pitched a gem, he is so calm under pressure,” said Bellace. “He went six of seven innings. He lulls teams to sleep, he is consistent. They don’t know what to do, they are hitting pop-ups and grounders. They can’t figure him out. He is not trying to overpower anybody. He is throwing location at the right time with a little curveball and a little off speed. Hitters can’t sit back on it.” more

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Peter Hare makes contact in a recent game for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Last Sunday, recent Princeton High grad Hare had three hits and two RBIs to help Princeton defeat Trenton Post 93/182 9-2. On Monday, Post 218 defeated Trenton again, prevailing 9-5 to improve to 7-10 and stay alive in the race for a spot in the upcoming Legion State District Tournament. Princeton was slated to end regular season play by hosting Allentown on July 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Peter Hare was dragging a bit when he arrived at Smoyer Park last Sunday to play catcher for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Trenton Post 93/182.

“Waking up this morning I was tired,” said Hare, who had reason to be fatigued as Post 218 had a marathon Saturday, falling 16-3 to Broad St. Park Post 313 and then losing 13-6 to Bordentown Post 26. “I think everyone else was too.”

With Post 218 trailing Trenton 1-0 heading into the second inning on Sunday, Hare helped key a rally in improbable fashion, laying down a bunt with two runners aboard that was misplayed and found himself standing on third with two runs in.

“I joked that I was going to hit for the cycle,” said Hare, reflecting on the sequence which gave Princeton a 2-1 lead.

Hare kept hitting, smacking a two-run double in the bottom of the third to put Post 218 up 5-2 and added two singles as Princeton pulled away to a 9-2 victory.

“I think it was two strikes and their right fielder was playing closer to the line,” said Hare, reflecting on his double. “I knew if I got it to right center there was some room so I just flared it out there and then he sort of bobbled it and I took second.”

On Monday, Princeton took it to Trenton again, topping Post 93/182 9-5 to improve to 7-10 and stay alive in the race for a spot in the upcoming Legion State District Tournament. more

TEEING IT UP: Nick Davidson unloads the ball in a game last year for LoyalTees in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Davidson tallied 21 points to help LoyalTees defeat Princeton Supply 72-47 as it improved to 5-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With its sights set on earning a fourth straight title in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League, the LoyalTees squad has hit some bumps in the road this season.

The proud team lost 51-38 to Athlete Engineering Institute on June 24 and then fell 65-49 to Majeski Foundation last Friday evening.

But as LoyalTees got ready to hit the Community Park courts last Monday to face Princeton Supply, one of its veteran stars, Nick Davidson, was unfazed by the recent setbacks.

“Every loss we have had this season, we haven’t had our full roster or we have had guys coming late,” said Davidson.

On Monday, LoyalTees was missing some key players in Zahrion Blue and Vince Anfield, leading Davidson to assume a playmaking role.

“I tried to get the ball around and get everyone involved,” said Davidson. “I wanted TB (Terrance Bailey) to have a good game. We need a lot out of TB and he played great for us.” more

July 6, 2022

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FITTING THE BILL: Bill Quirk displays the trophies and plaques earned by Hun School athletic teams in the 2021-22 school year. It amounted to a special swan song for longtime Hun director of athletics Quirk, who announced this spring that he was stepping down after heading Raider sports since 1983. During Quirk’s legendary tenure, Hun teams won 37 Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles, 68 prep statechampionships, and 25 Mercer County Tournament crowns. In addition, the Raider crew program won three national titles, three Stotesbury Cup regatta championships, six Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) titles, and six New Jersey scholastic titles. (Photo provided courtesy of Bill Quirk)

By Bill Alden

When Bill Quirk came to the Hun School in 1980, he was hired as a full-time math teacher and part-time athletic trainer.

Quirk, though, never taught a day of math at the school. “By the time school had started, the person who was running the health program left,” said Quirk. “They said, ‘How about you take over the health program?’ and I said, ‘Fine.’ All I had to do was to run the health program for the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth graders and be the athletic trainer.”

It didn’t take long for Quirk to start doing a lot more as he began to help out with coaching football and softball. By 1983, he was named as the school’s athletic director.

This spring, Quirk announced that he was stepping down, ending a legendary tenure that produced a spectacular number of titles. During his time at the helm, Hun teams won 37 Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) titles, 68 Prep state championships and 25 Mercer County Tournament crowns. In addition, the Raider crew program won three national titles, three Stotesbury Cup regatta championships, six Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) titles, and six New Jersey scholastic titles.

In reflecting on his decision to retire, Quirk, who turned 67 on July 5, said a conversation with his sons, Bill Jr., a local attorney, and Patrick, a Hun teacher and coach, helped him realize that retiring now was the right move.

“At the time I was talking to both of my sons and they are saying what are you going to do,” said Quirk, whose wife Kathy, a legendary softball coach in her own right, came to Hun before Quirk and served as an assistant athletic director with him for years.

“I said, ‘I am not finished with what I want to do’ and they are like, ‘What do you want to do, what aren’t you finished with?’ I said, ‘You know what, they are right. There is always going to be something to do.’ I came to the reality that maybe the place needed some fresh blood, a new outlook.” more

FOR THE RECORD: Members of the Wilberforce School girls’ 4×800 relay team show off the medals they earned for placing eighth at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Meet of Champions last month. The quartet posted a time of 9:50.26. A week earlier at the Non-Public B championship, the foursome clocked a school-record time of 9:44.3 in placing first, besting the previous meet record of 9:46.45 set by Villa Walsh in 2016. Pictured, from left, are Adeline Edwards, Gwen Mersereau, Sophia Park, and Laura Prothero. (Photo provided courtesy of Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

While the members of the Wilberforce School girls’ 4×800 relay team were thrilled to place first at the Mercer County championship meet in late May, they outdid themselves two weeks later at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B championship meet.

The quartet of freshman Adeline Edwards, freshman Gwen Mersereau, junior Sophia Park, and senior Laura Prothero not only placed first, they set a school and meet record of 9:44.3, besting the previous meet record of 9:46.45 set by Villa Walsh in 2016.

In reflecting on the fab four’s historic effort, Wilberforce head coach Lois Szeliga sensed that they were primed to do something special.

“All of those girls who came in third (Mersereau), fourth (Edwards) and fifth (Park) were really fired up for this 4×8,” said Szeliga, noting that the three runners just missed making the Meet of Champions individually.

“It is the end of the season and they want those fast times. They were so motivated to go out there, even though they were all by themselves. Each of them wanted to run the fastest leg that they could. They won and they were so excited but then to find out that they broke the meet record was great. It is great to have something on the books like that.” more

RAISING THE BAR: Gefen Bar-Cohen heads to the hoop for Market on Main against Planet Fitness in action last Wednesday in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Former Princeton High standout and current Kenyon College player Bar-Cohen tallied 22 points in a losing cause as Market on Main fell 69-44 to Planet Fitness. Two days later, Bar-Cohen scored 14 points to help Market on Main defeat Jefferson Plumbing 55-49 as it improved to 3-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When a downpour drove the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League from Community Park into the Princeton High gym last Wednesday evening, Gefen Bar-Cohen felt a comfort level.

“It definitely brings back a lot of memories,” said former PHS standout Bar-Cohen, who is playing this summer for the Market on Main squad that is comprised of his high school teammates. “I like to think that I play a little better on this court than anywhere else.”

Bar-Cohen, a 2020 PHS grad, played very well for Market on Main as it battled Planet Fitness, tallying a team-high 22 points. 

But Bar-Cohen’s heroics weren’t enough as Planet Fitness pulled away to 69-44 win over Market on Main with Myles Mitchell-White pouring in 22 to lead the way for the victors.

Reflecting on the setback, Bar-Cohen acknowledged that Market on Main wasn’t at its sharpest despite its home-court advantage.

“I thought we were going to come here and we were going to be able to put up a good fight,” said Bar-Cohen. “We were a little tired, we were a step behind.” more

June 29, 2022

STRONG CONNECTION: Hun School softball player Lexi Kobryn belts the ball in action this spring. Sophomore Kobryn starred with the bat and with her pitching as Hun went 18-1 and won the state Prep A title. Kobryn threw two perfect games and four other no-hitters with 190 strikeouts in 87 innings this season. At the plate, Kobryn hit a team-best .500 with team highs in homers (7), RBIs (28), and runs (30). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While Jonathan Gu was disappointed when the Princeton High boys’ tennis team fell 4-1 to Millburn in the NJSIAA Group 3 state final in early June, he was proud of how the squad competed.

“Millburn is a big test, they are a top team in the state and we are not that far off,” said PHS junior star Gu, who won his match at first singles to give PHS its only point in the defeat.

With another big test, the NJSIAA boys state singles competition, on the horizon, Gu was primed to show that he was a top player in the state.

“It is just one match at a time, no match is a given match,” said Gu, looking ahead to the singles tourney. “Every match, you have to focus.”

Displaying his focus, Gu rolled through the competition, posting a series of straight-set wins on the way to the final against East Brunswick’s Jack Wong.

Surviving a marathon match, Gu prevailed 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 to earn the singles state crown in a match played on June 16 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. more

RIGHT DIRECTION: Rohan Sheth fires a pitch in recent action for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Last Thursday, Hun School rising senior Sheth had two hits and two RBIs to help Post 218 rally from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Hopewell Post 339 7-4. Princeton, which improved to 3-3 with a 10-0 win over Bordentown Post 26 last Sunday, plays at Broad St. Park Post 313 on July 1 and at Trenton Post 93/182 on July 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Rohan Sheth was a member of the supporting cast this spring for a powerhouse Hun School baseball team that won its first-ever Mercer County Tournament title and advanced to the state Prep A final.

While Sheth didn’t see a lot of action this season as the Hun roster was packed with Division I talent, he soaked up some valuable lessons.

“They are the hardest workers I know and I try to learn everything from them,” said Sheth. “You see the work they put in everyday and what they they get out of it. You have to trust the process. They lead by example and I am trying to follow in their footsteps.”

This summer, rising senior Sheth has been taking a leading role for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team, emerging as a solid pitcher and getting some key hits.

Last Thursday, Sheth came up big to help Post 218 rally from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Hopewell Post 339 7-4. Sheth slapped an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning to put Princeton up 5-4 and then drove home an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth

“We fell behind early but we knew Jaxon [Petrone] could go long, we knew he had in him,” said Sheth. “We just had to keep faith in him and keep putting runs across.
After the second, I think we won pretty much every inning. We just chipped away one run at a time and we got the job done today.” more

GOING TO THE MATT: Princeton Little League (PLL) pitcher Matthew Brophy fires a pitch last Friday in the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament. Brophy pitched 5 2/3 scoreless inning for PLL as it defeated Millstone-Roosevelt 13-4 to win the tournament held at the Farmview Fields. PLL will now compete in the Section 3 Intermediate 50/70 tournament next week which will also take place at the Farmview Fields. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

“Finish the journey” became the theme for the Princeton Little League (PLL) team as it competed in the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last week.

Hosting Millstone-Roosevelt at the Farmview Fields in the two-team, best-of-three competition in the division which utilizes a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths and is open to players ages 11-13, PLL manager Matt Bellace almost didn’t make it to game one on Thursday, getting stranded in Chicago on Wednesday when his flight home got canceled.

Driving through the night, he made it back to Princeton and described his harrowing travel tale and how he finished his journey to his players in his pregame message.

“I met the team in the beginning for a few minutes before we went out and I told them the story,” said Bellace. “They are looking at me with these wide eyes and I said that showed how much I want to be here and how much I want to win. I said, ‘do you want to win that much, would you drive from Chicago?’ and they were saying, ‘we would, we would.’”

PLL’s  journey got off to a rocky start last Thursday as it fell behind 9-2 against Millstone-Roosevelt by the fourth inning.

“It was just crushing to start that way, it looked kind of hopeless there,” said Bellace.

Undaunted, PLL rallied to pull out a dramatic 10-9 win, scoring the winning run when Asa Collins stole home in the bottom of the last inning.

“We had some big hits from Victor Espitia, Asa Collins, and Brady Lee,” said Bellace, noting that the players were chanting “finish the journey” as the comeback was unfolding. more

EASTERN EXPRESS: Members of Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team celebrate after they won the US Youth Soccer (USYS) Eastern Presidents Cup Regional in Barboursville, W. Va., last week. PFC defeated the Beadling SC 2006 Boys South Elite 2-0 in the final on June 21. The squad will now compete in the US Youth Soccer (USYS) National Presidents Cup tournament in Greensboro, N.C., from July 7-10. The team includes Jacob Battoglia, Azariah Breitman, Zach Brunell, Brian Donis, Paras Goswami, Connor Hewitt, Izayah Huynh, Kyle Ingersoll, Zeb Jerdonek, Matthew Kim, Chris Lee, Ashwin Lobo, Felipe Matar Grandi, Nick Matese, Francis Savard, Archie Smith, Brandon Urias, Calvin Hopkins, and Liam Kennedy. (Photo provided courtesy of PFC)

By Bill Alden

Heading into the US Youth Soccer (USYS) Eastern Presidents Cup Regional in Barboursville, W. Va., last week, Milen Nikolov believed that his Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team could outlast the competition.

“The No. 1 thing for me is for them to stay healthy, to have no injuries, and keep them fresh,” said PFC Barcelona head coach Nikolov looking ahead to the competition. “If we want to go all the way, this is five consecutive days.”

Staying strong and showing skill at both ends of the pitch, PFC Barcelona went all the way, going 4-0 on the way to the title, topping Beadling SC 2006 Boys South Elite (Pa.) 2-0 in the final. more

ATHLETIC MOVE: Kevin Johnson dribbles the ball for the Packer Hall All-Stars in a 2017 game in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Playing for the Athletic Engineering Institute this season, Johnson helped AEI defeat three-time defending champion LoyalTees 51-40 last Friday to improve to 3-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When Kevin Johnson put together the Athletic Engineering Institute team to compete in Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League this season, he was cautiously optimistic.

“I definitely did feel it was a good group but you don’t know until you play,” said team manager Johnson, a former standout guard at The College of New Jersey who led the Speed Pro team in the summer league last year and noted that the AEI squad is a mix new and old faces from that group.

Last Friday evening at the Community Park courts, AEI played very well as it defeated league powerhouse LoyalTees 51-40 to improve to 3-0.

“This is the third game, we are doing pretty well,” and Johnson. “We are starting to mesh a little bit, even without our whole team.

Johnson and his teammates were fired up for matchup with LoyalTees, the league’s three-time defending champs.

“We definitely wanted to play the so-called best,” said Johnson, a 6’0, 170-pound Belle Mead native who starred at Montgomery High before heading to TCNJ. “I am definitely eager to see when we have our full team and they have their full team how we really match up.”

Reeling off an 18-11 run to end the first half, AEI built a 22-19 halftime lead at intermission. “That run definitely helped us, mostly on defense that is where we are starting it,” said Johnson. more

June 22, 2022

STROKE OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Jonathan Gu blasts a forehand last Thursday in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. Junior Gu defeated East Brunswick’s Jack Wong 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 to win the title and cap an undefeated season. Gu is the first state boys’ singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Christina Rosca won the girls’ state singles crown in 2013 to earn the most recent title for PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jonathan Gu had just gone to a new racket tied, 3-3, in the first set tiebreaker of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) boys singles championship match when he dropped three straight points to fall a point away from losing the set.

As was a theme all day, the Princeton High junior rallied when he needed it most. He won the next three points, held off one more set point for East Brunswick’s Jack Wong, then won the final three points of the set to build momentum for a 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-2 marathon win to earn the singles state crown last Thursday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“It feels pretty good,” said Gu. “I didn’t expect it at all, but with the withdrawals and a couple of matches that could have gone either way it feels pretty good.”

Gu becomes the first state singles champion from PHS since Jacob Leschly in 1984. Mark Leschly was the last Little Tigers male to reach a state final in 1986. Gu joins Christina Rosca, who won the girls state singles crown in 2013, as state champions coached by Sarah Hibbert.

“It’s absolutely fantastic for Jonathan,” said Hibbert. “He really works hard. He has had an amazing season this year. Obviously Christina winning it in 2013 was super exciting for the school. We hadn’t had a champion in certainly my time and looking back in the record books, it’s been since 1984 since we had a boys’ champion. It’s been decades since we had a state champion be able to put it all together.”

Gu’s state title capped an unbeaten season for him. He also won his first Mercer County Tournament title — in his first time playing in it because of prior year’s cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gu was a guaranteed point for the Tigers at first singles, who reached the Group 3 state final, and he appreciated the return of a full season schedule.

“It’s definitely fun,” said Gu. “Last year we didn’t have the county tournament. This year the county tournament was a new thing for me since freshman year it was canceled. That felt pretty good winning that. Last year, in the state tournament, I had a tough loss. I was glad I could play better and get farther this time.”

Gu fell to eventual state finalist Newark Academy’s Nicolas Kotzen last year in the fourth round of the state singles tournament. This year, Gu was seeded in the 5-8 range. He went through four opponents on his way to the final without dropping a set, including a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over Kotzen’s brother, Andrew, in the semifinals last Wednesday while Wong needed three sets to overcome top-seeded Eric Li of Montgomery High.

“I felt good,” said Gu. “I played pretty well yesterday (Wednesday). And I know that Jack beat Eric, which is a huge match but they played a while so he might have been a little tired.” more