November 23, 2022

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16, 2022

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAKING HIS MARK: Hun School quarterback Marco Lainez III fires a pass in a 2021 game. Last Saturday, senior star and Iowa-bound Lainez connected on 10-of-16 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 96 yards as the Raiders rolled over Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 54-20 to finish 9-0 for the second consecutive season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Marco Lainez III fulfilled a promise when he helped the Hun School football team complete another unbeaten season.

Senior quarterback Lainez was 10-for-16 for 222 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 96 yards as well to help the Raiders rout Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 54-20 last Saturday to finish 9-0 for the second consecutive season. It sent Lainez and 15 classmates on the Hun roster out as winners in their last 19 straight games.

“Before the game, I knew I had one more thing to do,” said Lainez, a Montgomery resident. “I said, ‘no matter what, if you throw nine interceptions or 10 touchdowns, just keep swinging, you have to finish the job.’ When we finished the job, I just thought, I’m going to miss these guys so much. We’ve sacrificed so much for this. It was awesome.”

Lainez and the Raiders last lost a game on Halloween 2020, in the COVID-19 pandemic shortened season. Hun fell to Malvern (Pa.) 10-8 that day, and Lainez never forgot it.

“I threw four interceptions,” said Lainez. “I was probably the sole reason we lost that game. I walked off that field and said, I never want to feel like this again. So I devoted as much time as I could to winning. I just wanted to win every game.”

Mission accomplished in memorable fashion. The Raiders were absolutely dominant in their second straight unbeaten year. They outscored teams, 413-75, this fall. They broke out to a 21-0 lead against Wyoming before the visitors returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Hun added two more scores by halftime to shut down any hopes of a comeback.

“It was a physical game,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith. “I think even though some of our scores were lopsided, it doesn’t mean they weren’t physical. Wyoming Sem, and Cheshire and Brunswick and Salisbury, those were all super physical games for our kids. It was good football.”

Kamar Archie, JT Goodman, Dom DeLuzio, and Owen Wafle all scored rushing touchdowns, Logan Blake caught a pair of touchdown passes and Liam Thorpe and Bryce Kania each caught a touchdown toss in the balanced attack Saturday. DeLuzio ran for 129 yards and Archie ran for 116. Blake led receivers with 82 yards in the air on four catches. more

November 9, 2022

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bill Alden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SERVING UP A WINNER: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Lois Matsukawa hits a serve in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore star Matsukawa had 16 assists and two digs to help third-seeded PHS defeat seventh-seeded Jackson Memorial 2-0 (25-9, 25-22) in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey sectional semifinals. The Tigers, who improved to 21-4 with the victory, were slated to play at top-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional final on November 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team headed into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey sectional tournament, Patty Manhart was confident that her squad could raise the level of its play.

“Our season is always progressive,” said PHS head coach Manhart. “There is always a certain foundation, no matter what age the girls are coming in. You are going to continually progress.”

The third-seeded Tigers have progressed through the bracket with aplomb, topping 14th-seeded Lakewood 2-0 (25-12, 25-9) in the first round, defeating sixth-seeded Woodbridge 2-0 (25-14, 25-10) in the quarterfinals and then dispatching of seventh-seeded Jackson Memorial 2-0 (25-9, 25-22) in the semis.

PHS, who improved to 21-4 with the win over Jackson Memorial, was slated to play at top-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional final on November 8.

In the match against Lakewood, the Tigers were able to fine-tune their game.

“There are still certain things I want to see on our side of the net,” said Manhart. “Against Lakewood, you couldn’t tip because they didn’t block, so we had to be swinging. In that way, this was making us run a fast, aggressive attack which meant we have to pass well. It was still a style of play that is good to practice. Either way you are still happy with what you do on your side.”

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ON THE BALL: Princeton Day School field hockey player Jadyn Huff, left, controls the ball in a game last season. Last Wednesday, senior star midfielder and co-captain Huff contributed two assists to help seventh-seeded PDS edge 10th-seeded Mount St. Mary 3-0 in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public North sectional. The Panthers went on to fall 6-0 at second-seeded Montclair Kimberley Academy in the sectional quarterfinals last Saturday to end for season with an 8-9 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the lone senior on the Princeton Day School field hockey team this fall, Jadyn Huff has focused on helping her younger teammates succeed.

“I definitely say trusting them and giving them the ability to do what they need to do,” said star midfielder and team captain Huff. “The only way for them to get better is to give them that opportunity. Being a captain, I always have to give everyone the opportunity to use their abilities.”

Coming down the home stretch of her PDS career, Huff has been pushing her teammates to translate those opportunities into victories.

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STICKING TOGETHER: Princeton High field hockey player Gianna DiGioacchino, right, hugs Kayla Christopher after a goal in recent action. Last Friday, senior standout defender and team co-captain DiGioacchino helped PHS put up a valiant battle as the sixth-seeded Tigers fell 4-2 to third-seeded Hillsborough in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 4 Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. PHS ended the season with a 14-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High field hockey team dug an early hole against Hillsborough in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 4 Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals last Friday, nobody was hanging their heads.

“Even when were down 3-0 at the half, we were all in such good spirits,” said PHS standout defender and team co-captain Gianna DiGioacchino. “It was so great to see.”

Entering the fourth quarter trailing 4-0, PHS produced a spirited rally, tallying two goals to narrow the gap to 4-2 with 2:24 left in regulation.

While the sixth-seeded Tigers ended up falling by that 4-2 score to the third-seeded Raiders, DiGioacchino enjoyed the competition as PHS ended the season with a 14-3 record.

“It was amazing because we were all having so much fun the entire time,” said DiGioacchino. “It was great hockey, it was a great game in general.”

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STATE OF JOY: Members of the Wilberforce School girls’ cross country team celebrate after they placed first in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B Group championship meet last Saturday at Holmdel Park. Pictured, from left, are Adeline Edwards, Laura Sallade, Virginia Whitman, Sophia Park, Abby Readlinger, Sophia Vardeman, Gwen Mersereau, and head coach Lois Szeliga. Wilberforce had a winning score of 43 to edge runner-up Villa Walsh, who came in at 54. It marked the second straight Non-Public state title for the program. (Photo provided by Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Wilberforce School girls’ cross country team placed first in the Mercer County championship meet in late October, it brought an underdog mentality into the Non-Public B Group Championships last Saturday at Holmdel Park.

“They come out with the previews and everyone was saying Villa Walsh, Villa Walsh,” said Wilberforce head coach Lois Szeliga. “Villa Walsh is traditionally very good and this year, they have been performing really well. You could see they won their counties, they won their conference. They were ranked 10th in the whole state going into the groups. Clearly they were the ones to mark.”

Having won Bob Kiessling Invitational on October 29 in a tuneup, the Wilberforce girls were up for the challenge.
“That was a really a close one, we won by two points,” said Szeliga, referring to the Kiessling meet which saw the Wolverines edge Paul VI 41-43. “The counties definitely gave us a lot of confidence as far against running against tough completion. Having the Kiessling meet and winning by such a narrow margin just galvanized in everybody’s head that ‘OK, everybody has to really focus and every point matters.’ That is what you want all of your athletes thinking.”

As it turned out, every point did matter on Saturday as Wilberforce won a tough battle with Villa Walsh, posting a scored of 43 to place first with the Vikings coming in second at 54.

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November 2, 2022

LOOKING FORWARD: Princeton University women’s basketball player Julia Cunningham looks to pass the ball in a game last season. Senior star Cunningham figures to be a key performer for Princeton his season. The Tigers tip off their 2022-23 campaign by hosting Temple on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Julia Cunningham is accustomed to big expectations with the Princeton University women’s basketball team.

The stakes feel even higher for the senior and her Tiger teammates, but maybe it’s only from the outside after they became the first Ivy League team to garner an AP preseason top-25 ranking. Last month, Princeton was selected as No. 24 after returning all but one starter from last year’s 25-5 team that reached the NCAA tournament second round. They face a loaded non-conference schedule that begins with them hosting Temple on November 7.

“Looking at the rankings is great, and we’re making history in that regard, but I think we take that in and appreciate it for the time being, but then we realize it puts a big target on our back going into non-conference play,” said star guard Cunningham, a 5’11 native of Watchung. “It means a lot for teams to beat a Top 25 team. Looking at it from that perspective, I think it also makes us pretty hungry and competitive.”

In the first week of the season, they will host Temple and then Villanova on November 11. They are focusing on a strong start and trying not to look ahead to marquee matchups at Texas on November 27 and at UConn on December 8. Seven of the non-conference games will send Princeton on the road, starting with a test at Seton Hall on November 14.

“It’s another really tough one but that’s what we want to do,” said Princeton coach Carla Berube, who guided the Tigers to a 25-5 overall record and 14-0 Ivy League last winter on the way to winning the Ivy postseason tournament and upsetting Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Indiana in the next round.

“We want to play against the best that we can and really see where we’re at. Through tough games, it shows where your weaknesses are so we can be where we want to be come March. Just starting with Temple and Villanova and Seton Hall, they’re all really strong teams and programs so we’re going to be tested early on. That’s what we want. We want to be battle-tested so we’re ready for the Ivy League and beyond. We’re looking forward to it. I’m sure people are looking at UConn and Texas but we’re looking at Temple and that’s all that matters.” more

OH YES: Princeton University women’s hockey player Emerson O’Leary (No. 10) battles a Colgate player for the puck last Friday night in the season opener for Princeton. The Tigers fell 5-1 to No. 4 Colgate. A night later, freshman forward O’Leary tallied her first career goal as No. 10 Princeton lost 3-1 to Cornell. In upcoming action, the Tigers play at Brown on November 4 and at Yale on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The hockey gods didn’t smile on the Princeton University women’s hockey team as it hosted Colgate and Cornell last weekend to start its 2022-23 campaign.

On Friday, 10th-ranked Princeton outshot No. 4 Colgate 28-26 only to fall 5-1 as the Raiders scored three unanswered goals in the third period. A night later, the Tigers built a 34-28 edge in shots against No. 8 Cornell but ended up losing 3-1.

“On both nights we outshot and out chanced opponents that are ranked higher than us and the puck did not bounce the way we needed it to bounce,” said Princeton head coach Cara Morey. “That is the difference in the scores.”

While Morey was disappointed by the results in the two games, she is optimistic going forward.

“The message to the team was be patient and keep buying in,” added Morey. “I thought we outplayed both teams. The offense is going to click. A lot of those scoring chances that didn’t go in the net are going to start going in the net. That will be the difference.”

Princeton’s two star forwards, junior Sarah Fillier and senior Maggie Connors, generated a lot of the shots over the weekend but only had a goal by Fillier, a Canadian Olympian and gold medal winner, on Friday to show for their efforts.

“It is going to happen,” said Morey. “Sarah had a breakaway both days so I am sure that for her, she is probably thinking about those a lot. Those are going to go in. It is just buying in and knowing that we have got to play with the long game.”

Freshman Emerson O’Leary showed some game on Saturday, scoring her first career goal on a breakaway as Princeton made it a 1-1 game in the second period. more

JUMPING FOR JOY: Princeton High girls’ volleyball player Sarah Villamil jumps for joy to celebrate a win earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior star Villamil contributed seven kills to help third-seeded PHS defeat 14th-seeded Lakewood 2-0 (25-12, 25-9) in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association(NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey sectional. PHS, who improved to 19-4 with the victory, was slated to host sixth-seeded Woodbridge in the sectional quarterfinal on November 1 with the winner advancing to the semis on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heading north to Princeton last year from Miami, Sarah Villamil was looking to broaden her horizons.

“I love going to new places and meeting new people,” said Villamil. “That is such a crazy opportunity. This move allowed me to experience new things that would not have been possible if I had stayed.”

Last week, senior star Villamil enjoyed some special experiences for the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team.

On October 25, Villamil helped PHS roll to the Burlington County Scholastic League (BCSL) tournament title as the Tigers topped Sterling 2-0 (25-5, 25-14) in the semis and then defeated Notre Dame 2-0 (25-21, 25-19) in the championship game.

A day later, Villamil and her classmates were honored as the program held a special Senior Night Lights ceremony when it hosted Lenape in the regular season finale.

Last Saturday, Villamil contributed seven kills as third-seeded PHS defeated 14th-seeded Lakewood 2-0 (25-12, 25-9) in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 3 Central Jersey sectional and improved to 19-4. The Tigers were slated to host sixth-seeded Woodbridge in the sectional quarterfinal on November 1 with the victor advancing to the semis on November 4. more

BREAKING LOOSE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Lucy Kreipke displays her form in a race earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior standout Kreipke made a big finishing kick to take eighth individually in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet at Thompson Park. Kreipke’s heroics helped PHS place fifth in the team standings, qualifying for a spot in the in the Group 4 state meet on November 5 at Holmdel Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Lucy Kreipke is done with Thompson Park, but her lasting memory of her most challenging course is a good one, part of shaping a positive start to her final high school season.

The Princeton High senior held on for eighth place individually in 19:50.60 to help the Tigers squad to fifth place at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional meet Saturday. Depleted by injury and illness, PHS narrowly captured the final automatic qualifying team spot by just two points over Montgomery High, and will advance to compete in the Group 4 state championship meet at Holmdel Park this Saturday.

“Cross country is my favorite season,” said Kreipke. “It’s such a great team dynamic and everything. It’s very meaningful to go back and be there for groups and have the whole team with us and try to get everyone healthy and make that effort to be on the line and be able to make a good showing at groups.”

PHS had to fight for each finishing spot to get through the sectional meet. Kreipke was just four-hundredths of a second ahead of her closest finisher. She ran almost six seconds faster than she had at Thompson Park the week before in the Mercer County Championships, and she would have liked to have gone even faster at sectionals when the Tigers needed every possible spot.

“In the very final stretch, I was focusing on catching this girl right in front of me and I think the South Brunswick girl was also sprinting right at the end,” said Kreipke. “Her teammates were screaming. I didn’t notice she was anywhere near me until we crossed the line literally at the same time. I didn’t realize how close they were. But I’m very glad it was just those couple hundredths of a second. That could have made the points different.”

Kyleigh Tangen was 11th in 19:53.29, only 2.6 seconds ahead of 12th place. The junior was a big part of keeping Kreipke pushing hard through the final mile of the race. more

TO THE HOOP: Princeton University men’s basketball player Tosan Evbuomwan looks to get a shot off in the point during a game last season. Senior star Evbuomwan, the Ivy League Player of the Year last winter, is primed to produce a big final campaign for the Tigers. Princeton tips off its 2022-23 campaign by hosting Hofstra on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For Mitch Henderson, paying attention to detail figures to be a key to success this winter for his Princeton University men’s basketball team.

“We have to be able to play with poise but also there is a focus on the littlest things that make a team go that are rarely obvious when you are playing,” said Princeton head coach Henderson, who guided the Tigers to a 23-7 record last winter as it won the Ivy League regular season title and made the NIT. “The main thing I want to see is can we take that step forward on doing the littlest things — a deflection, a difference in a half step defensively, getting your hands on a ball that maybe you should not have gotten. I think we will be able to make shots and we will be able to score around the rim.”

With Princeton hosting Hofstra on November 7 in its season opener, Henderson believes his squad has been taking steps forward.

“Preseason for us is a really short in one way because we lost a lot of pieces from a year ago so we have to piece together what works in practice,” said Henderson. “We are really itching to get going. I love working with the team, they have been responsive, focused. There is a lot of humility with the group. It is led by Tosan Evbuomwan, Ryan Langborg, and Matt Allocco. They have been around, they have seen it, and they know what to do.”

Princeton will be depending on the one-two punch of senior Langborg (10.7 points, 3.5 rebounds a game in 2021-22) and junior Allocco (4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds) to lead the way at guard.

“Starting with Matt and Ryan in the backcourt, they are two veterans who have played in really significant games,” said Henderson. “It is time for them to take over. Year to year, it is just time for the next group to take a big step.” more

GOING TO MASS: Hun School boys’ soccer player Mass Verduci, left, goes after the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Verduci tallied two goals and an assist as Hun defeated Peddie 3-0 in its season finale. The Raiders, who improved to 12-4-2 with the win, clinched at least a share of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title with the win. Earlier in the week, second-seeded Hun fell 4-0 to third-seeded Pennington in the Prep A state semis. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was the third and final installment of a trilogy when the second-seeded Hun School boys’ soccer team hosted third-seeded Pennington in the Prep A state semis last Thursday.

In late September, Hun topped Pennington 3-0 in a regular season contest. On October 18, the Red Hawks turned the tables on the Raiders in the Mercer County Tournament, pulling out a 1-0 win over Hun with a late goal on the way to winning the county crown.

So when the rivals met last Thursday in the rubber match, Hun head coach Pat Quirk didn’t tinker with his game plan

“We didn’t think we had to change much from the two previous games,” said Quirk.

Yet in a big change from the earlier meetings, Pennington charged ahead early on, taking a 2-0 lead in the first half.

At halftime, Quirk urged his players to keep pressing forward.

“We were just trying to continue to bring a little more energy and just try to create a little bit more,” said Quirk. “We had opportunities in the first half, we just didn’t finish them.”

It was the Red Hawks, however, who did the finishing,  scoring two goals in the first four minutes of the second half on the way to a 4-0 win.

“They made a couple of good saves,” said Quirk. “We continued to hold the ball and move it. That is what we were trying to do. They just outplayed us today.”

Quirk credited junior Michael D’Aulerio, senior Will Zeng, junior Joey Bucchere, and senior Mass Verduci with starring for the Raiders in a losing cause.

“Michael played really well in the back, I thought he did awesome,” said Quirk. “Will played well in the midfield. Joey had some good runs. I thought Mass up top worked his butt off and battled nonstop. He was never going to give up.” more

SEEING RED: Princeton University football player Matt Jester shows his intensity last Saturday as the Tigers hosted Cornell. Senior linebacker Jester returned a botched Big Red two-point conversion 100 yards to help Princeton win 35-9. The No. 22 Tigers, now 7-0 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, host Dartmouth (2-5 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton University football team having given up a touchdown to visiting Cornell in the third quarter last Saturday to see its lead shrink to 19-9 and the Big Red going for a two-point conversion, it looked like the tide could be turning against the Tigers.

But Princeton senior linebacker Matt Jester turned the tables on Cornell, picking off a deflected pass on the PAT in the end zone and sprinting 105 yards down the sideline, hurdling a Big Red player in the process, to put Princeton up 21-9.

“Liam [Johnson] tipped that to me, props to him; I caught it in stride and did my best to get as much as I could,” said Jester, whose scoring jaunt made the ESPN College Football Final’s top five plays of the day. “I was able to get the sideline and got two points for our team so that was good feeling. That (hurdling) was just heat of the moment, that is what I decided to do.”

The Tigers never looked back from there, pulling away to a 35-9 win before a homecoming crowd of 7,652 at Princeton Stadium, improving to 7-0 overall and 4-0 Ivy League. Princeton ended the day as the only undefeated Ivy team as Penn fell 34-31 to Brown to stop to 6-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy.

Supplementing Jester’s takeaway, Princeton forced five turnovers on the day with four interceptions and a recovered fumble.

“Turnovers are always the goals, five of them, that was a really awesome feeling,” said Jester, a 6’4, 250-pound native of Spring, Texas. “Half the turnovers don’t happen if the other 10 guys on the team aren’t doing their job. It takes 11 guys to win any game on defense. You like to see that everybody is eating and everybody is making plays. Everybody shares the burden of making plays. I can always count on those guys to do their job and I hope that they can count on me.” more

October 26, 2022

FLYING HAWAIIAN: Princeton University receiver Andrei Iosivas races past a Harvard defender last season. On Friday, senior star Iosivas, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, made nine catches for a career-high 176 yards and one touchdown as Princeton routed Harvard 37-10. The No. 22 Tigers, now 6-0 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, host Cornell (4-2 overall, 1-2 Ivy). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University football team filed on to the field last Friday night at Harvard Stadium, the players had to duck their heads to get through the low doorway at the venerable arena constructed in 1903.

“It is a coliseum. When they built it, the tackles were 5’3,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace with a chuckle. “It is awesome, it is historic. You go in and you feel like warriors on the field.”

Over the next three hours, Princeton played like warriors against Harvard, leaving the field with their heads held high after they routed the Crimson 37-10 before a crowd of 10,793.

Princeton didn’t waste time showing its intent, going for fourth and one at its own 34 on its first possession and getting the first when freshman running back Ryan Butler gained three yards.

“That has been a pretty consistent approach, we did it at the end of the Monmouth game last year,” said Surace, whose team improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 Ivy League and is now ranked No. 22 nationally in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FCS Coaches’ Poll.

“I want our players knowing that we are going to go after them. It is not just because I think we are going to get it. There are going to be times when you get stopped and you have confidence in your defense. If you don’t have a good defense then you don’t do it.” more

CRIMSON TIDE: Princeton University field hockey player Hannah Davey races up the field last Sunday as No. 10 Princeton defeated 15th-ranked Harvard 4-2 in a duel of Ivy League front-runners. Senior midfielder and co-captain Davey contributed two assists in the victory over the Crimson as Princeton moved to 11-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy. The Tigers host Brown on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was a duel of Ivy League front-runners when the 10th-ranked Princeton University field hockey team hosted No. 15 Harvard last Sunday at high noon.

Both squads entered the contest at 4-0 Ivy and with Princeton having lost in a penalty shootout last year to the Crimson to finish second, the Tigers were primed to turn the tables on their rival.

“We went into it with great positivity and energy,” said Princeton senior star midfielder and co-captain Hannah Davey. “We knew exactly what we needed to do.”

The Tigers displayed that energy right away, tallying three unanswered goals in the first quarter as Grace Schulze, Beth Yeager, and Sam Davidson each found the back of the cage in the first quarter as the Tigers built a 3-0 lead.

“To score the first goal was great,” said Davey, a 5’7 native of Derbyshire, England. “To get the next two it was brilliant.”

Davey picked up the assist to Schulze on first goal, slotting the ball to her on the end line. more