By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Like every year, 2017 was filled with outstanding athletic achievements by the teams and athletes in the Princeton Packet coverage area. There were numerous team and individual championships won at the scholastic and collegiate levels.
While the accomplishments were many, we’ve narrowed the top 10 down to the biggest achievements. They are presented in reverse order from No. 10 right up to the No. 1 moment of the year.
10. Doubling their pleasure: The Hun School softball team has won plenty of titles over the course of Kathy Quirk’s long career as head coach. But in 2017, the Raiders finally achieved the elusive championship double, winning both the state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships.
After claiming the MAPL title by going 5-0 in league play, the Raiders won the Prep title with a 7-0 victory over Blair Academy. Alanna Pearson struck out nine and pitched a shutout, while also delivering a pair of hits and driving in a run in the triumph. Senior catcher Julie Fassl and freshman shortstop Gigi Venizelos provided the spark to help the balanced Raiders to a pair of championships.
9. A big leap forward: In just its fourth season as a varsity program, the Princeton High girls’ volleyball team is now a two-time league champion and earned its first trip to the Group IV state tournament quarterfinals.
Princeton finished 31-2 on the season, winning its second straight West Jersey Interscholastic Volleyball League title. One year earlier, Princeton had qualified for the state tournament and lost to Clifton in the opening round. This time around, the Little Tigers won state matches against East Orange Campus and Monroe before falling to Westfield in the quarterfinals.
Seniors Rachel Cheng, Anna Cao, Sara Vigiano, Sydney Rubin and Tia Giblin helped transform the program from one filled with novice players to one that has now won two straight WJIVL titles and has established itself as one of the state’s finest.
8. To be the best, beat the best: The Montgomery High boys’ lacrosse team plays in perhaps the state’s toughest conference — facing many of New Jersey’s top programs in the Skyland Conference. Competing against strong programs all spring prepared the Cougars for a run through the state tournament that resulted in a Group IV state championship.
The state title was the program’s second after having won the Group III championship in 2007.Montgomery captured the South Jersey, Group IV title with a 16-8 victory over Lenape as Niko Ipeker scored eight goals and Kyle Marripodi added five goals and two assists. Montgomery followed that impressive result with a 7-5 victory against Ridgewood in the Group IV state final as Dan Engles led the way with three goals.
Montgomery, which finished with a 17-6 record, would fall in the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions, 9-4, to the Pingry School. Jared Reinson was selected as the New Jersey Player of the Year by the state’s high school coaches.
7. Re-writing the record book: The Princeton University football team has had its share of prolific passers over the course of its history. But no quarterback has ever put together the type of season Chad Kanoff did this past fall.
The senior broke the Princeton and Ivy League records for passing yards in a season with 3,474. He also set Princeton and Ivy records for passing completion percentage in a season as he connected on 73.2 percent of his passes. His passing efficiency mark of 168.4 set a new Princeton record, while he also set a school record with his 29 touchdown passes. Kanoff completed a school-record 284 of his 388 passes this season, throwing for over 400 yards in three games and over 300 yards in eight games.
Kanoff won the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Year. For his career, he threw for 7,510 yards, breaking Doug Butler’s school record. His 655 career completions also set a Princeton record.
6. Jumping or joy: Montgomery High sophomore Abrianna Barrett saved her best performance of the season for last, clearing 5-feet, 10-inches to finish first in the high jump at the Meet of Champions this past June.
Barrett went into the MOC with a seed height of 5-4, but cleared a jump six inches higher to capture the gold medal at the state’s biggest track meet. Barrett and Tierra Hooker of Timber Creek each cleared 5-10, with Barrett earning the top spot by clearing on just her second attempt.
Barrett won the MOC high jump title after successful winter season that saw her finish second at the MOC behind Courtney Campbell of South Brunswick.
5. Back-to-back made easy: Winning two championships in the same season is never easy. Winning two championships in the same season and then repeating and winning those titles again the next year is the sort of thing dynasties are made of.
The Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team made it two straight years of winning the state Prep B and Mercer County Tournament titles when the squad successfully defended its crowns this past spring. Rich D’Andrea’s squad repeated as MCT champion with a 9-5 victory over Princeton in the championship game. Elon Tuckman scored three goals and assisted on three others to lead the scoring in the victory.
The Panthers then added another state Prep B title when they topped Rutgers Prep, 11-2, in the championship game to repeat the championship double. Tuckman scored four goals and Will Brossman added three in the victory for the Panthers, who finished the season with a 14-2 record.
4. Sustained success: The Princeton High boys’ soccer team comes into every season with the same goal–to play for championships. This past season the Little Tigers got their chance to play for a title on more than one occasion.
First, Princeton captured its first Central Jersey, Group IV title by defeating Hunterdon Central, 1-0, on an overtime goal by Andrew Beamer. On its way to the title, Princeton defeated Middletown South, Long Branch and Monroe before the victgory over top-seeded Hunterdon Central, which was the defending Group IV state champion.
After defeating Washington Township, 1-0, in the Group IV state semifinals, the Little Tigers fell to Kearny in the Group IV state final, 3-1. Kearny, one of the premier programs in New Jersey, has won 17 state group titles.
Princeton, which reached the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament before falling to Pennington in overtime, finished the season with 17-6-1 record.
3. Hare is no tortoise: After a junior year as a solid No. 2 runner behind Alex Roth, Princeton High’s Will Hare staked his claim as one of the top runners in New Jersey with an exceptional senior season on the cross-country course.
The University of Pennsylvania-bound Hare hit the ground runner and never let up on his one to one of the best seasons ever for a PHS runner.
Hare finished first at the Mercer County meet, helping the Little Tigers to a team title by covering the course in 15:46 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. Two weeks later on the same course, Hare finished first in 15:39 to help Princeton to the team championship in the Central Jersey, Group IV meet. In the state Group IV meet at Holmdel Park, Hare once again finished first, covering the course in 16:01 and helping Princeton to a second-place finish behind Kingsway. Hare then went on to finish fourth at the Meet of Champions, which was also held at Holmdel Park, finishing in 15:55.
The Little Tiger senior wasn’t finished with his outstanding season after the MOC, finishing fourth at the Nike Northeast Regional meet to qualify for the Nike Nationals, which were held in Portland, Ore. Hare finished 103rd at the national meet.
2. Picture perfect: The 2016-17 season saw the Princeton University men’s basketball team reach perfection in the Ivy League. The Tigers went through the Ivy League regular season with a 14-0 record, which in every season prior to last year would have earned them a berth in the NCAA tournament.
But before heading to the tournament, the Tigers needed to win the first Ivy League Tournament title, which they did with victories over Penn and Yale at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
The perfect mark earned Princeton a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tournament and a first-round matchup with Notre Dame in Buffalo, N.Y. The Tigers, who entered the game with a 19-game winning streak, gave the Fighting Irish everything they could handle before falling, 60-58. Spencer Weisz, the Ivy League Player of the Year, led the Tigers with 15 points in the loss.
1. Courting success: It was quite a year for Montgomery High tennis coach Raheel Saleem, who nearly saw his boys’ and girls’ tennis teams pull off a rare Tournament of Champions sweep.
In the spring, the Cougar boys finished 22-0 and capped off their season with a 5-0 win over Newark Academy in the Tournament of Champions state final. The Cougars won the Group IV title with a 5-0 victory over Livingston. That crown came after Montgomery slipped past West Windsor-Plainsboro South, 3-2, to win the Central Jersey, Group IV title. Earlier in the season, Montgomery swept all five flights to win the Somerset County Tournament title. The Cougars’ James Hopper and Chris Guo won the state doubles title, while Vishnu Joshi reached the finals of the state singles tournament.
In the fall, the Montgomery girls won the Central Jersey, Group IV and state Group IV championships before falling to Holmdel, 3-2, in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions. The Cougars beat Watchung Hills to win the Group IV title after having defeated West Windsor-Plainsboro South in the Central Jersey sectional final.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor