June 22, 2022

IMPOSING HIS WILL: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Will Doran heads to goal in a game this spring. Senior star Doran produced one of the best seasons in program history, tallying 128 points on 55 goals and 73 assists to lead the state in scoring. PHS finished the season with a 9-7 record, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals along the way. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into the spring, the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team had aspirations of winning the Mercer County Tournament title and making a deep run in the state tournament.

But hit by some untimely injuries and illness, PHS ended up falling to Allentown 18-15 in the MCT quarterfinals and losing 14-9 to Mt. Olive in the first round of the North Jersey, Group 3 sectional.

While Tiger head coach Chip Casto acknowledged that his squad didn’t achieve what it had hoped, he saw important progress in the program nevertheless.

“We fell short of our achievement goals — but surpassed our process and culture goals,” said Casto, whose team posted a final record of 9-7.

“These seniors were tremendous this year and for the three previous. Will Doran and Will Erickson exemplified what we are about. Be a solid student in the classroom and then commit to helping make our team the best that it can be. They really helped the freshman and like 10-11 new sophomores to understand who we are, how we do things, how we talk and treat each other. It was a tremendous team to be around every day.” more

PACKING A PUNCH: Justin Leith makes a point while serving as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day School basketball team. Leith, who was also the Stuart Country Day School director of athletics, is leaving the school to become the AD at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Leading a culture shift to upgrade Stuart sports upon arriving at the school in 2014, the Tartans earned numerous Prep B titles in indoor track, outdoor track and basketball during Leith’s tenure. In addition, the field hockey team advanced to Mercer County Tournament final in 2019 and the basketball squad made the MCT title game in 2020. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When Justin Leith became the director of athletics at the Stuart Country Day School in 2014, he had a mandate to inspire the school’s teams to compete harder and better.

“The reason I took the job was because the school and the administrators were pining for more athletic achievement, there was a want for that and a need for sure,” said Leith, a former basketball star at Princeton Day School who went on to play in the college and pro ranks and had served as an associate athletics director and hoops coach at the Asheville School (N.C.) for three years before coming to Stuart.

“To have that transformation take place, there needed to be a culture shift. It meant small things, like being punctual to practice, making sure that game attendance is required. I remember a lacrosse game in my first year and all of a sudden the day before six of the players couldn’t make because of a Sweet 16 birthday. It is not the kids’ fault, there was no expectation that was created.”

Leith moved swiftly to create a winning culture. “We were able to do that through parent-student contracts, conversations, and a coaches handbook,” said Leith, who also served as the head coach of the Stuart basketball team. “There were a few bumps in the road but everyone was responsive, everyone was great.”

That responsiveness led to more Stuart students getting involved in athletics.

“Without enrollment growth, we have participation go up significantly in the upper school,” said Leith. “That was done, adding some sports but then it was also a culture thing, kids wanting to play multiple sports. We had our sports awards the other day and we had over 25 kids this year that got a certificate for being three-sport athletes. That is a good percentage of kids in the school.”

With the increased numbers and a more serious approach, Stuart has earned numerous Prep B titles in indoor track, outdoor track, and basketball during Leith’s tenure. In addition, the field hockey team advanced to Mercer County Tournament final in 2019 and the basketball squad made the MCT title game in 2020. more

BURCH BARK: Naysean Burch of Majeski Foundation, left, guards a PATH Academy player last Wednesday in the opening night of action of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Star guard Burch scored nine points as Majeski prevailed 57-28 with Pat Higgins scoring 17 and Danny Bodine chipping in 11 for the victors. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

There were plenty of laughs and good-natured ribbing as Naysean Burch and his teammates on the Majeski Foundation squad hit the Community Park court last Wednesday evening to start action in this year’s Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

The team, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey Men’s basketball program, engaged in a spirited pre-game shootaround as people caught up with each other.

“We are just building team chemistry out here with our new guys, the freshmen, and our transfer Pat Higgins,” said Burch, a rising senior guard for TCNJ. “We are getting to know everybody’s game. We are excited to be out here for sure.”

Facing PATH Academy, Majeski got the summer off to an exciting start, building a 23-14 halftime lead and then pulling away to a 57-28 victory.

“I was happiest about our defense, we held them to 28,” said Burch, who scored nine points the win which saw Higgins lead the way with 17 and Danny Bodine chip in 11.

“We just looked like we were having fun. When we are having fun, we are going to win.”

Brunch had fun in helping to top spark Majeski to the win by setting the pace at both ends of the court. more

June 15, 2022

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Grace Rebak, left, runs past two foes in action this spring. Senior star Rebak’s all-around play was a spark for PHS as it went 12-6. Rebak led the Tigers in assists (38), ground balls (63), and draw controls (69). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team ended the spring on a down note with an 11-4 loss to Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the first round of the North Jersey Group 3 sectional, there were plenty of highlights along the way as the program produced another superb campaign.

Katie Federico, who guided the team in 2022 with head coach Meg Dunleavy out on maternity leave, credited her players with battling to the end.

“I told the girls, success is what you make of it,” said Federico, a veteran assistant coach for the program who led the Tigers to a 12-6 record and the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“To me, success is not the wins or losses, it is did you play your best, did you give 110 percent on the field and they did. To me, it was a successful season.”

In Federico’s view, one of the squad’s most intense efforts came in a 10-9 loss to powerhouse Lawrenceville on April 6.

“The fire that they had in them for Lawrenceville was like nothing I had ever seen before,” said Federico.

“The pride that the girls felt when they came off the field that day only losing by one was amazing.”

Sparked by that competitive fire, PHS posted a number of impressive wins. more

BIG FINISH: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Kaitlyn Magnani sprints upfield in a game this spring. Senior star Magnani ended her Stuart career with a bang, tallying six goals and an assist as Stuart defeated Hamilton West 16-10 in its season finale on May 12. The win gave Stuart a 6-8 final record as it caught fire down the stretch after a 1-5 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team got off to a 1-5 start this spring, it would have been understandable if the players had gotten discouraged.

Instead, Stuart saved its best for last, winning five of its last eight games to end the season with a 6-8 record.

Stuart head coach Mark Maser was proud of how his team stuck with things down the stretch.

“You change one loss to a win and we would have had a .500 season,” said Maser whose team topped Burlington City 16-6 on May 10 and then ended the season on a high note with a 16-10 win over Hamilton West two days later. “Our expectations are tempered. We look for the little victories in everything, that is the way we play the game.”

In reflecting on the late surge, Maser attributed continuity and good goalie play as key factors.

“The biggest progress was that we got to play lacrosse without COVID interrupting,” said Maser. “One kid would get sick last year and then you would quarantine three others. It was that type of thing. We had two dedicated goalies in Lauren Gracias and Alex Mandzij and that helped us.”

The production of sensational freshman Allison Lee proved to be a big help for the Tartans, tallying 84 points on 66 goals and 18 assists. more

GOING FOUR IT: Zahrion Blue heads to the hoop last year for Loyaltees in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Former Princeton High standout and current Lincoln University star Blue led the way as Loyaltees won its third straight summer hoops title last year, getting named as both the playoff and regular season MVP. Blue and Loyaltees will be going for a fourth straight crown this summer. The league is tipping off its 33rd year of action with a triple-header at Community Park on June 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

A throng of hundreds jammed the Community Park courts last July as Loyaltees edged Majeski Foundation to win the championship of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League, capping a triumphant return for the league after the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Building on the momentum from the rebound campaign, the league is primed for another big summer as it tips off its 33rd year of action with a triple-header at Community Park on June 15.

The league has grown to 10 teams from eight last year and the action figures to be heated with an intriguing mix of stalwarts and newcomers vying for the crown.

“We have a great reputation, the word is out that if you want to play some good basketball in the summer, Community Park and the Princeton Summer League is the place to be,” said Evan Moorhead, executive director of the Rec Department and longtime summer hoops commissioner.

“It is the first time since 2015 that we have had 10 teams. On paper, this should be a very competitive season. I don’t see any weak links. From what everybody has told me, they have been out there recruiting and trying to stack their roster with some talent. I think it will be reflective of that when we get to the season.”

Led by team manager and former Princeton High standout Davon Black, Loyaltees is fired up to go for a title four-peat.

“Davon has told me that he has the same crew, he has added one or two,” said Moorhead. “He picked up David Rodriguez, who graduated from The College of New Jersey this past year. They have got Zahrion Blue (a former PHS star) who is the reigning regular season and playoff MVP.  He is clearly the best returning player in the league and it is probably not close after the way he was playing at the end of last year. He had a great college season at Lincoln University in which he earned (Division II HBCU) All-American recognition. I am expecting him to have a big season. It is his home court, he has been playing there since he was kid.” more

HEADS OF STATE: Members of Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team celebrate after they won the New Jersey Youth Soccer President’s Cup last month. PFC defeated the Clifton Stallion Turf Boys 3-1 in the final at Marlboro. The squad will now compete in the U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS) Regionals in Barboursville, W.Va., starting on June 17. 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

While the Princeton FC’s Barcelona 2006 team was thrilled to win the U.S. Club State Cup last year, it turned its eyes to another prize this season.

The squad was determined to raise its level of play to win the New Jersey Youth Soccer President’s Cup.

“It was nice to win the state cup but they knew that this is a little bit higher competition and they can progress,” said PFC Barcelona head coach Milen Nikolov.

The squad, which is comprised of players from Princeton High and Montgomery High with some of them having been playing together since the U8 level, showed its competitive fire as it produced a stirring run to earn the President’s Cup.

PFC Barcelona started the competition by falling behind Escuela FC 2006 B 1-0 but rallied to a 3-1 win with goals by Kyle Ingersoll, Archie Smith, and Azariah Breitman. In its second round contest, PFC visited Cherry Hill FC Premier Barca and yielded a goal early in the second half to go down 1-0. Once again, PFC Barcelona battled back as Brandon Urias, Felipe Matar Grandi, and Nick Matese found the back of the net to prevail 3-1. In the third round, PFC Barcelona topped the NJ Santos Rush 2006 B Black squad 2-0 as Urias tallied both goals in the victory.

“Those come from behind wins really helped the boys build their confidence especially the second one, the Cherry Hill game,” said Nikolov. “That was exciting.”

Before it headed into the semifinals of that competition, PFC suffered a rare setback as it lost to Ironbound 2-0 in 2OTs in the State Cup, a loss which only increased its hunger for victory when it hit the pitch to go for the President’s Cup. more

June 8, 2022

GOAL-ORIENTED: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Paige Gardner heads to goal in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B tournament. Last week, junior star Gardner tallied five goals and three assists, including the game-winner, as top-seeded PDS edged fourth-seeded Bishop Eustace 15-14 in the Non-Public B semis. On Saturday, Gardner scored seven goals to help PDS defeat third-seeded Holy Spirit in the Non-Public B final. The Panthers, who improved to 14-8 with the win, were slated to face Oak Knoll in the quarterfinal of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions on June 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The heat was on as the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team hosted Bishop Eustace in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B semifinals last week and Paige Gardner was determined to keep firing away.

With the temperatures soaring into the 90s during the May 31 contest, top-seeded PDS fell behind fourth-seeded Bishop Eustace 10-9 with 18:17 left in the second half.

Junior attacker Gardner took matters into her hands, scoring two goals and assisting on another as the Panthers forged ahead 14-10.

“I think we were concerned and the yellow cards were not on our side, that was something we were really battling with,” said Gardner. “There was a point where we have to go, we have to keep going. Once we get a goal we can’t take a break, we just have to keep going and know your break is coming after the game.”

Bishop Eustace, though, responded with a 4-0 run to knot the contest at 14-14. Gardner came through again, finding the back of the cage with 2:00 left in the game on a feed from Tessa Caputo in what proved to be the decisive tally in a 15-14 win for the Panthers. more

DOUBLING THEIR FUN: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team celebrate after the top-seeded Panthers defeated third-seeded Holy Spirit 17-11 in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state final last Saturday at Hunterdon Central. It also marked the second title this season for the Panthers as they had previously edged Montclair Kimberley Academy 13-12 in the Prep B state final. The triumph gave head coach Jill Thomas a special going away present as the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Famer previously announced that she is retiring at the end of the season after 34 years at the school. PDS, who improved to 14-8 with the victory, was slated to face Oak Knoll in the quarterfinal of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions on June 7. (Photo by Bill Alden)

By Bill Alden

“We before me” has been the mantra all spring for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team and Elle Anhut exemplified that philosophy as PDS battled Holy Spirit last Saturday in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B state final.

With top-seeded PDS leading third-seeded Holy Spirit 12-7 early in the second half at Hunterdon Central, Panther senior star Anhut went down with a cramp in her calf and limped off the field.

Knowing that her team needed her, Anhut furiously worked on her leg to get back into the contest.

“It was at the beginning of the second half so I was thinking there was no shot that I cannot be in this because we weren’t up that much,” said Anhut.

“I just chugged some Pedialyte and I Theragunned a little bit and I was ready to go back in because I knew I was not going to spend my last time on the side of the field.”

Returning to the game with 12:50 left, Anhut made the most of her time on the field as PDS pulled away to a 17-11 victory to win the title in its debut appearance in the competition and the final season for departing head coach Jill Thomas, a New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Famer who previously announced that she is retiring at the end of the season after 34 years at the school.

It also marked the second title this season for the Panthers as they had previously edged Montclair Kimberley Academy 13-12 in the Prep B state final. PDS, who improved to 14-8 with the victory, was slated to face Oak Knoll in the quarterfinal of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions on June 7.

For Anhut, achieving the title double was surreal. “I just got goosebumps; it is crazy, first time in this tournament,” said Anhut, reflecting on the triumph. more

ON THE BALL: Princeton High baseball player Drew Petrone takes a swing in a game this season. Senior infielder Petrone batted .391 this season to help PHS go 11-14. The Tigers saw their season end when they fell 8-1 at Middletown South last Wednesday in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 sectional tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Dom Capuano knew that his 16th-seeded Princeton High baseball team faced a big challenge as it played at top-seeded Middletown South last Wednesday in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 4 sectional tournament

“If you look across another Group 4 bracket or even a group 3 bracket which we are pretty close to, we would have been an 8th seed in North 2 or the Group 3 central so that is unfortunate,” said PHS head coach Capuano. “But with that said, we did that to ourselves, losing multiple games that were winnable and could have set ourselves up for a better seed.”

Having upset Edison 6-4 in the first round of the 2021 state tourney, the Tigers came out swinging.

“Jensen [Bergman] led off the game with a hit so right off that bat I was thinking maybe this could be something,” said Capuano.

But the Tigers could only muster one more hit the rest of the game as they fell 8-1 to the Eagles to end the spring with an 11-14 record.

“It was the same thing all year, we have hot bats at one point and then we don’t,” said Capuano. “We didn’t against them, the pitcher was good and we just didn’t match up well.”

PHS struggled down the stretch, losing its last four regular season games coming into the state opener.

“We just get over the hump in any of those last games, the last four before Middletown South were winnable games against opponents that we matched up with better,” said Capuano. “We had the better talent, we just didn’t win. That is competitive sports.” more

FINAL STATEMENT: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Jonathan Gu hits a backhand during a match last season. Junior star Gu helped PHS make the NJSIAA Group 3 state final last Friday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.He posted a straight-set win at first singles as PHS edged Tenafly 3-2 in the state semis and then earned another straight-set win to give the Tigers their only point in a 4-1 loss to Millburn in the state final. The defeat left PHS with final record of 16-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Jonathan Gu got things off to a good start in what turned out to be a long day for the Princeton High boys’ tennis team as it competed in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 state Final 4 last Friday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

As PHS faced Tenafly in a semifinal contest, junior star Gu made short work of Jon Tsipunyuk at first singles, rolling to a  6-0, 6-1 win to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“Tenafly is a good team, their No. 1 was a good player but I played really well,” said Gu. “I ended points early.”

Melvin Huang followed suit and posted a win at second singles for PHS but then Eric Zhu fell in three sets at third singles and first doubles team of Jason Singer and Nikita Medvedev fell in straight sets to turn the match into a 2-2 nail biter.

With the match hanging in the balance, the second doubles team of Aman Kapur, who moved into the lineup for the match, and Varun Vaidyanathan rallied to win 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 (in a 10-point match tiebreaker) and send PHS to the final.

“Aman and Varun came up clutch, they won the third set tiebreaker,” said Gu, noting that Roberto Haubold, who normally plays first doubles with Singer, was not able to play last week due to another commitment.

“It was a tight one 10-7. Roberto was out and Aman came in and stepped up.”

In the state final, the Tigers faced powerhouse Millburn and Gu came up big again, topping Matias Feoli 6-4, 6-2.

“Matias is really good,” said Gu. “I played really well today. I served really well and won a few crucial points. That made the difference.” more

FAST COMPANY: Wilberforce School track stars, from left, Gwen Mersereau, Laura Prothero, Adeline Edwards, and Sophia Park are all smiles after they finished first in the 4×800-meter relay at the Mercer County Track and Field championships on Memorial Day weekend. The quartet clocked a school-record time of 9:55.75 in winning the program’s first-ever county relay title. Wilberforce will be competing in the NJSIAA Non-Public championship meet this weekend. (Photo provided courtesy of Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

Although the Wilberforce School girls’ 4×800-meter relay took first at the Mercer County Relays earlier this spring, Lois Szeliga knows that guaranteed nothing when the quartet competed at the county meet on Memorial Day weekend.

“Because there are so many relays, coaches have to strategize what relay are we going to put our A team in,” said Wilberforce track head coach Szeliga, referring to the relays competition.

“You only have so many girls that can run certain distances. The county meet is the real test, you only have the 4×100, the 4×400, and 4×800 so you are getting everybody’s A team.”

The group of Gwen Mersereau, Laura Prothero, Adeline Edwards, and Sophia Park passed that test with flying colors at the Mercer County Track and Field championship meet at Robbinsville, taking first in a school-record time of 9:55.75 as they earned the program’s first-ever county relay title.

“We were really excited, we thought we could do well but the big surprise was breaking 10 minutes and just how well they did,” said Szeliga. “They had their eyes on that all year because there is something about the relay, it just multiplies the joy because it is with your teammates. That is what they love the most. They couldn’t stop talking about the 4×8, they were really excited to compete at counties.”

Freshmen Mersereau and Edwards, who took second and third respectively in the girls’ 800, have made an instant impact this spring.

“Gwen is an experienced racer and Adeline is an athlete who just started track,” said Szeliga of the pair, who combined with Park and Georgie Pandolfo to take fourth in the 4×400 relay. “They are great for each other, they push each other. It brings excitement for the future.”

In addition to Mersereau and Edwards, a number of other athletes excelled at the county meet. Junior Park took eighth in the 800 and ninth in the 1,600 while sophomore Maria Madigan placed sixth in the 400 in a school record time of 1:01.14. The squad’s top thrower, Jenna Fischer, set school records as she took 13th in the javelin (77’1) and 15th in the shot put (26’5). more

June 1, 2022

HANGING TOUGH: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Melvin Huang hits a forehand in a match this spring. Last Friday, sophomore Huangposted a 7-6, 6-1 win at second singles over Akul Solanki to help top-seeded PHS defeat the fifth-seeded Rams 5-0 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 sectional semifinals. PHS went on to defeat second-seeded WW/P-North 3-2 in the sectional final last Tuesday to improve to 15-1. The Tigers will now be competing in the state Group 3 semis on June 2 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As usual, Melvin Huang was the last player in action as the Princeton High boys’ tennis team hosted Hightstown last Friday morning in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 sectional semifinals.

Utilizing his grind-it-out style, sophomore Huang posted a 7-6, 6-1 win at second singles over Akul Solanki to help top-seeded PHS defeat the fifth-seeded Rams 5-0.

“I enjoy being on court so I want to stay on it as long as possible,” said Huang. “I want to give 100 percent because if I don’t give it now, when I am going to try. I want to put all of effort into tennis and the hard work has paid off a lot.”

Huang had to work hard to defeat Solanki. “He played really well, he made it really tough,” said Huang.

“He kept getting balls back that I couldn’t get back. He was running all over the court getting everything back. He really wanted to play and stay in the points. He made it hard to finish off points. After the first set, I just tried to calm down a bit and not try to overhit the ball and just make him run even more.”

Moving up to second singles this season, Huang has kept his cool in dealing with better competition.

“It has been kind of the same because I played a lot of second singles last year, it has been fun,” said Huang, who took over that spot after last year’s second singles player, Jack Ling, decided not to play for PHS this spring to concentrate on junior tournaments. “Third singles was kind of easier and now it is more of a challenge at second.” more

ROCK STAR: Princeton High junior sprinter Zach Della Rocca displays his form at the Mercer County Track and Field Championships last weekend. Junior Della Rocca starred at county meet, winning the 400 meters in a school-record time of 48.52 and taking first in the 200 meters. Della Rocca’s heroics helped PHS place fourth in the team standings with 47 points in a competition won by WW/P-North (78). (Photo provided by Ben Samara)

By Justin Feil

Zach Della Rocca’s speed has been a big asset on the soccer field for Princeton High and he always wondered how it would translate in track and field.

The junior in his first year running for the PHS boys’ track team set his second school record while winning a pair of events at the Mercer County Track and Field Championships Friday and Saturday.

“I love it,” said Della Rocca of his introduction to track.“It’s very addicting. It’s a very different type of fitness that you don’t get from soccer. We do a lot of weight training which I really enjoy doing. It’s helped me, especially mentally, focus on being able to compete. It requires a lot of mental attention. Anxiety builds so you have to stay calm. I’ve seen it help me in many ways, and I really enjoy it.”

In the 400 meters at the county meet, Della Rocca took first in 48.52, smashing the previous school record of 49.42.

“At Penn Relays, I split 48.4, which was better than the record, but it didn’t count because it was a relay,” said Della Rocca. “I knew I had it in me and I was just really trying to do it in an open 400 at a time that would count for the record. That was my goal going into it and I gave it everything to try to get it.” more

SO GOOD: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Sophie Jaffe, left, races upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Jaffe tallied three goals to help top-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded St. Elizabeth 15-4 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B quarterfinals. The Panthers, who improved to 12-8 with the win, were slated to host fourth-seeded Bishop Eustace in the semis on May 31 with the victor advancing to the title game on June 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In the early stages of this season, Sophie Jaffe was part of the supporting cast for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team.

With such high-powered stars as Paige Gardner, Tessa Caputo, Ali Surace, and Elle Anhut dominating the scoresheet, Jaffe was overshadowed a bit.

But down the home stretch, junior Jaffe has been emerging as a star for the Panthers. In the Prep B state title game against Montclair Kimberley Academy on May 20, Jaffe tallied a team-high five goals with an assist and helped dominate the draw circle along with senior Ali Surace down the stretch as PDS rallied from a 12-9 deficit to pull out a 13-12 win.

Last Wednesday, Jaffe tallied three goals to help top-seeded PDS defeat eighth-seeded St. Elizabeth 15-4 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B quarterfinals.

In reflecting on her late surge, Jaffe said she has gained a comfort level on the field.

“I definitely feel like I am growing as a lacrosse player,” said Jaffe, who has tallied 40 points this season on 28 goals and 12 assists. “I am making sure that I am seeing the open girl on time.” more

NICK OF TIME: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse player Nick Somogyi, middle, fends off two foes in a game this spring. Junior Somogyi’s hustle all over the field helped ninth-seeded PDS make an inspired run in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B semis. The underdog Panthers defeated eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 11-6 in a first round contest and then stunned top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 7-6 in the quarterfinals. The squad’s bid for the title ended when it fell 12-10 at fourth-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy last Saturday in the semifinals. The defeat left PDS with a final record of 6-11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heading into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B tournament with a 4-10 record and having lost seven of its last nine games, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team didn’t look like a threat to make a deep run in the competition.

But ninth-seeded PDS proceeded to defeat eighth-seeded Morristown-Beard 11-6 in a first round contest then stunned top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 7-6 in the quarterfinals.

Panther head coach Joe Moore, though, wasn’t stunned by his squad’s late-season heroics.

“I think there is a lot that goes into the success that we are finding,” said Moore. “For starters, we are finally healthy for the first time this season. That is a big contributor but I don’t want to use the injuries as a crutch. I would say that the injuries and the adversity that we had made us stronger because our younger players and less experienced guys had to step up. Now that we are back to full strength those guys are actually contributors.”

After losing 6-5 to Mo-Beard in the Prep B state tournament, the Panthers were fired up for the rematch in the Non-Public tourney.

“The obvious difference is having Charlie Hogshire in that game the second time around,” said Moore, of sophomore Hogshire, who scored three goals in the win over Mo-Beard with Sebastian Rzeczycki tallying two goals and three assists, Ollie Hall adding two goals and two assists, and Harry Bernardi contributing two goals. “He is a big contributor, he helps set the tempo on offense.”

The win was a confidence builder for the Panthers. “We are young so any time that we are able to go and steal a quick win or even if it’s a loss but it is a moral victory, you hang on to that moment,” said Moore.

“Being that we are so young and we don’t have a ton of experience at the varsity level, confidence is a big factor. It has been challenging for us to find confidence. Right now things are clicking and we couldn’t be more confident.” more

FLYING HIGH: Stuart Country Day School track star Giselle Jean-Marie flies to victory in the 100-meter hurdles at the Prep B state outdoor championship meet last week. Sophomore Jean-Marie also placed first in the high jump, triple jump, and shot put at the meet to help Stuart finish third in the team standings. (Photo by Kevin Broughton, provided courtesy of Len Klepack)

By Bill Alden

Although the Stuart Country Day School track team didn’t place first at the Prep B state outdoor championship meet last week, the Tartans still produced a winning effort.

With numerous Stuart athletes achieving personal bests, the squad finished a strong third in the team standings, piling up 71 points as Montclair Kimberley tallied 111 to win the title with Villa Walsh coming in second at 71.50.

Heading into the competition which was held on May 23 at Newark Academy, Stuart head coach Len Klepack wasn’t sure how his young squad would perform under the pressure of a state meet, especially since there hadn’t been a Prep B state outdoor championship meet since 2019.

“I was hoping to finish in the top five; we knew Giselle Jean-Marie would get a lot of points but other people reached new levels for us,” said Klepack of sophomore standout Jean-Marie who ended up scoring a lot of points for the Tartans, placing first in the high jump, triple jump, shot put, and 100-meter hurdles.

“They all just did what you want as a coach, we want them to try to be their best and is basically that is what happened.”

Over the course of the spring, the Stuart athletes patiently went about their business with an eye to peaking in May. more

May 25, 2022

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton High baseball player Carl Birge follows through on a swing as PHS hosted Franklin High last Wednesday. Senior catcher Birge went 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs as PHS topped Franklin 16-6. The Tigers, who moved to 11-11 with an 11-10 loss to WW/P-North last Monday, play at Seneca on May 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Carl Birge loved the vibe around the Valley Road field last Wednesday afternoon as the Princeton High baseball team held its annual Senior Day ceremony.

“This was really fun because a lot of people came, a lot of parents and a lot of the old players,” said senior catcher Birge. “It was great to see them.”

With PHS featuring a group of 13 tight-knit seniors, there is no wonder that the game drew a big crowd.

“We are best friends on the field, best friends off the field and it shows,” said Birge. “We are really comfortable with each other, we are quick to adjust to everything.”

After falling behind 4-1 to Franklin, the Tigers adjusted with aplomb, exploding for nine runs in the bottom of the third inning to go up 10-4 and never looked back on the way to a 16-6 victory.

“It was a great hitting game where we show off our offense,” said Birge, reflecting on the win which saw PHS pound out 20 hits.

“Everyone contributed and that is what we love to see. It was the same with our game against Ewing (an 8-4 win on May 13) where we had a six-run inning in the first. It helps to build up that big lead and then it becomes a whole lot easier to pitch and play after that.”

Birge made a big contribution, going 3 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, including driving in the last run of the contest on a single through the infield to end the game on the 10 run-rule. more

ACTION JACKSON: Hun School baseball player Jackson Kraemer heads to first base in recent action. Senior star Kraemer scored a run to help Hun defeat Hamilton West 6-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday. On Saturday, he pitched a shot and hit a homer as Hun deferred Peddie School 15-0 in the semifinal round of Prep A state tournament. Hun went on to fall 5-3 to Pingry in the Prep A final round on Sunday to end the spring with a 22-4 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Jackson Kraemer, helping the Hun School baseball team top Hamilton West 6-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Thursday is something he will never forget.

“Thursday was huge, we have been working for this for four years, our program had never done this in its history,” said senior outfielder/pitcher Kraemer, who scored a run in the win. “It meant a lot. Having our fans out there and the whole setting, it was awesome.”

The bonds that Kraemer has developed with his teammates made the title even more awesome.

“It is just the brotherhood I have been building up the last four years,” said Kraemer. “The friends and the friendships are going to last me a lifetime. I love the sport.”

The love of the game helped Hun push through a baseball marathon last week as it was also competing in the state Prep A tournament. The Raiders fell 8-2 to Pingry on Wednesday in the first round of the double-elimination competition and hosted Peddie on Saturday in a loser’s bracket contest as it looked to keep its Prep title hopes alive.

“Coach (Tom Monfiletto) said last week this would be a marathon in these tournaments with all the scheduling,” said Kraemer. “We just had to go out there and compete.”

On Saturday, Kramer competed hard, pitching in sweltering 90 degree heat and tossed a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and hit a homer as Hun rolled to a 15-0 win over Peddie in the semifinal round.

“I felt good today it was just going out there and doing a job to get us to Sunday,” said Kraemer, who lost his rhythm as Hun exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the third inning. “The long inning slowed me down a little bit. It took me a couple batters and then I felt good. It was very hot out there.”

Kraemer started the 10-run outburst in style, leading off the inning by blasting a homer over the left field fence.

“In the first at-bat, I got caught looking with a curve ball,” recalled Kraemer. “For my second at bat, I was talking to coach [Steve] Garrison and it was just try to hit a ball to right field. The pitcher got me an inside fastball and I just tried to hit it where it was pitched. I got good barrel on it and I saw it going out. That was awesome.”

For Hun head coach Tom Monfiletto, a former Hun player and assistant coach, guiding the Raiders to the MCT title was an awesome achievement.

“It meant more than I can even describe, from the school community, from the alumni, and from the parents with the emotions that were involved in that game,” said Monfiletto, a 2004 Hun alum. more

FINAL INNINGS: Hun School baseball player Carson Applegate fires a pitch in the Mercer County Tournament. Applegate starred as Hun won its first-ever MCT title, beating Hamilton West 6-0 in the final Thursday. Last Sunday, senior star Applegate battled hard on the mound as Hun fell 5-3 to Pingry in the Prep A state final. Applegate went 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and three walks as the Raiders ended the spring with a 22-4 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When it was over, Carson Applegate trudged off the field with arm around Ben Romano as they consoled each other after the Hun School baseball team fell 5-3 to Pingry in the Prep A state final last Sunday afternoon.

The defeat ended a marathon week for Hun which saw it fighting a two-front war as it won the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title on Thursday night and then battled from the loser’s bracket to make the Prep A final in the double-elimination competition.

With his eyeblack smudged by tears, Applegate acknowledged that going for two titles in seven days was a grind.

“It was definitely a highly emotional week with a lot of emotional wins especially Thursday night,” said Applegate. “Winning the MCT, that was a goal for us. With Brody [Pasieka] on the mound and everybody in the field just laying their hearts out, that is the standard we set for this program.”

Applegate and his classmates were heartbroken after coming up just short against Pingry, hugging each other one by one in right field after the team’s postgame talk.

“I think this is the first time I have ever cried on the baseball field,” said Applegate. “These bonds that we have built over the past couple of years are really special.”

Having lost 8-2 to Pingry in the first round of the Prep A tourney, Hun rebounded by topping Peddie 15-0 on Saturday and then defeating Lawrenceville 10-1 early Sunday morning to advance to the final against Pingry.

Even through Applegate was spent, he was psyched to take the mound for Hun in the finale.

“I was drained. I took a four-hour nap when I got home and I felt horrible when I woke up,” said Applegate, who went 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and three walks and went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. more

MEMORABLE RUN: Hun School softball player Lexi Kobryn, right, celebrates with Kat Xiong after scoring a run in a game this spring. Last Thursday, sophomore star Kobryn led the way with her arm and bat as Hun defeated Lawrenceville 11-2 in the Prep A state title game. She hurled a complete game, striking out 10 and yielding five hits and went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs as Hun posted a final record of 18-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Lexi Kobryn has produced some remarkable pitching performances this spring for the Hun School softball team, hurling two perfect games and four other no-hitters.

But sophomore star Kobryn was involved in one meltdown this season as Hun squandered a 7-0 seventh inning lead against Lawrenceville in late April with her in the circle on the way to an 8-7 defeat for its first loss of 2022.

When the rivals met last Thursday in the state Prep A title game at the Adventure Sports and Entertainment Center in Jackson, Kobryn had that setback on her mind.

“I was definitely nervous; it was one inning that really killed us,” said Kobryn. “We wanted to come back and show what we are made of and what we have been working for.”

Kobryn kept her head, putting on a show with her arm and bat as the Raiders prevailed 11-2 over the Big Red. She hurled a complete game, striking out 10 and yielding five hits and went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs as Hun posted a final record of 18-1 on the way to winning its first Prep A title since 2017.

“They have some good hitters but I threw all of my pitches,” said Kobryn. “It was just keeping them off balance. My rise was working, I got a lot of batters on that. I had confidence in myself, I was trying to keep it together.”

Kobryn has gained confidence through the spring as she hurled one gem after the other. more

DOUBLE TAKE: Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse player Elle Anhut heads to goal last Monday as PDS hosted Morris Catholic in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B tournament. Senior star Anhut tallied a goal and three assists to help the Panthers post a 13-1 win over 16th-seeded Morris Catholic. PDS, now 11-8, will host eighth-seeded St. Elizabeth in the quarterfinals on May 26. The Panthers are seeking a title double, having won the Prep B state tournament final last Friday when they rallied for a 13-12 win over Montclair-Kimberley Academy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Elle Anhut and her teammates on the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team looked ahead to the homestretch of this season, they were determined to give retiring coach Jill Thomas a special farewell tour.

The goal was to send out New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Famer Thomas with a pair of state titles, starting with the Prep B state tournament, to honor her impact on the program and players.

“She pushes you to be your best, you might not know you can give it,” said senior star midfielder and tri-captain Anhut, reflecting on the experience of playing for Thomas. “She knows what you can give and she is pushing it from you. It may seem like a bit at times but she is pushing you to be your best and take on certain roles. She believes in you.”

With the Panthers trailing MKA 12-9 in the state Prep B final, the players kept believing, reeling off a four-goal run to pull out a dramatic 13-12 win and earn the program’s first Prep title since 2017.

“I think as a team we worked the best that we have the entire season, everybody was in it the entire time,” said Anhut, who had four assists in the final with Sophie Jaffe tallying five goals and an assist and Tessa Caputo chipping in four goals and an assist.

“Everybody is proud of how they played. We played super well, super strong, especially against a North Jersey team too. It felt awesome because my freshman year, we lost in the semi.”

Getting the Prep B crown was worth the wait. “It was huge, I know the captains and were feeling it, we were freshman on varsity that first year,” said Anhut, who is a team captain along with classmates Ali Surace and Maggie Zarish-Yasunas. more

SPOILS OF VICTORY: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team show off the plaque and trophies they earned for winning the team title at the Prep B state tournament last week. PDS totaled 11 points to edge runner-up Pennington by one point. Pictured, from left, are head coach Michael Augsberger, Steven Li, Jaylen Peng, Farhan Mohammad, Josh Chu, Jason Wu, Dhruv Balajji, Andrew Marshall, Oliver Silverio, Neel Adusumilli, Albert Ming, and assistant coach Jon Brown. PDS is now competing in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B tournament where it is seeded third and topped sixth-seeded Bishop Eustace 5-0 last Monday in a quarterfinal contest. The Panthers will now play at second-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semis on May 27. (Photo provided by Michael Augsberger)

By Bill Alden

Michael Augsberger sensed that his Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team was all in as it hit the court last week to compete in the Prep B state tournament.

“The guys were laser focused, we always talk about peaking at tournament time,” said PDS head coach Augsberger. “Their mental energy peaked at the right time, you could tell going into the first day that they really wanted it badly. Neel Adusumilli is the vocal senior leader. He and Andrew Marshall are the two guys that held everybody accountable and got them worked into a frenzy. I have to give them the credit.”

The Panthers needed that intensity as the tournament turned into a two-horse race between PDS and rival Pennington. In the first day of action, the Panthers advanced to the finals in four of the five flights of the competition to build a narrow 9-8 lead over Pennington.

Heading into the finals on May 17 at Edison, Augsberger wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“We told the guys this is not a coronation day, it is a work day,” said Augsberger. “It could go any way. Even though we have four guys in there, it could easily be a spectacular demise.”

It ended up being a spectacular day for the program as PDS prevailed at both first doubles and second doubles to pull out the crown with 11 points, one better than runner-up Pennington. It was the first team title for the program since 2018. more

May 18, 2022

RED ALERT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Sarah Glenn, right, looks to unload the ball against Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Wednesday evening. Senior star Glenn scored a goal in a losing cause as third-seeded PHS fell 9-8 in double-overtime to the second-seeded Redbirds. The Tigers, now 12-5, will be starting play in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey Group 3 sectional where they are seeded seventh and will host 10th-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood on May 19 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team fell 9-8 in double overtime to Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Wednesday evening, Sarah Glenn made a beeline for an icepack

It was no wonder that PHS senior star Glenn felt some pain after the Tigers came up just short in a bruising battle between the rivals.

While the defeat stung, Glenn was proud of how the Tigers competed.

“We were really excited for this game, we worked hard all season to prepare for this,” said Glenn of the matchup which saw PHS rally to defeat Allentown 10-9 in overtime in a regular season meeting on April 27. “We really brought the intensity, we kept our heads up. I think we played really well as a team.”

Both squads showed intensity on the defensive end in the early stages of the game as PHS trailed 3-2 at halftime.

“We were working hard out there, we definitely stepped it up,” said Glenn. “All the players on defense knew what their goal was; everyone played to their individual best.”

There were a few more goals in the second half as the teams traded tallies and were tied at five different points, including 8-8 at the end of regulation. more

CAN DO: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Danny Cano heads to goal last week in the Mercer County Tournament. Last Thursday, sophomore star Cano tallied five goals and two assists as top-seeded Hun defeated second-seeded and host Hopewell Valley 13-10 in the MCT title game to earn the championship in its debut appearance in the competition. Two days later, the Raiders fell short of a second title as they fell 16-8 at Lawrenceville in the state Prep A championship game and moved to 11-5. Hun will be playing in the Mid-Atlantic Prep Tournament from May 19-22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the top-seeded Hun School boys’ lacrosse team trailing second-seeded and host Hopewell Valley 7-4 at halftime of the Mercer County Tournament final last Thursday evening, the message at the break was simple.

“It was just wake up,” said Hun sophomore star attacker Danny Cano, recalling the discussion at intermission.

“We practiced and played for this all year and then it came to the moment. We knew we had to step up.”

Cano took that message to heart, stepping up with four goals in the first 18 minutes of the second half as Hun reeled off an 8-3 run to seize momentum on the way to a 13-10 triumph.

“They were big goals, it all started with the team,” said Cano, who ended the night with five goals and two assists.

“I happened to be at the winning end of it. Luke Donahue in the cage stepped up a lot. My teammates at attack, Brendan Marino and Jack Moran, set me up a lot. It just worked at the end.”

In making its first-ever appearance in the MCT, Hun realized it was facing a formidable foe in HoVal. more