October 29, 2014

When it comes to racing, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team keeps things simple.

“You notice on the back of shirts it says ‘run,’ we don’t need any fancy slogans,” said PHS head coach Mark Shelley. “That’s our philosophy, it is just run, trust your training.”

That philosophy came in handy as PHS competed in the Mercer County championship meet last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. With senior star Jacob Rist and sophomore standout Alex Roth sidelined with nagging injuries and senior James Cao dropping out of the race in the early going, the remaining PHS runners trusted their training and came through with a fifth place finish of 19 schools.

“I was pleased,” said Shelley, who got a 25th place finish individually from junior Noah Chen as he clocked a time of 17:34 over the 5,000-meter course with sophomore Jonathan Petrozzini taking 33rd, freshman Nick Delaney coming in 34th, and freshman Alex Ackerman placing 40th.

Shelley liked how Chen took care of business. “Noah had a tough week with some school stuff; he has had kind of an up-and-down year,” said Shelley.

“We have really talked about consistency and I was so pleased that he not only ran well but in the absence of these other guys being able to finish or run, he stuck it out.”

Sophomore Petrozzini ran surprisingly well, considering that he has been dealing with injury.

“Petrozzini wasn’t going to run and we threw him in,” said Shelley. “In the past week he has been able to do a mile or a mile and a half of hard training and it tightened up. He warmed up and said it felt OK. I said go for it. Today he was better in the second half of the race than the first half; that shows me he has been rehabbing and stretching.”

The two newcomers, Delaney and Ackerman, stretched themselves in making outstanding county debuts. “I told those two that there is always pressure,” said Shelley. “What makes you good is your ability to handle pressure.”

Shelley is confident his runners can handle the pressure of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, which is slated for November 8 at Thompson Park.

“We are really focusing on sectionals,” said Shelley. “The hardest thing about sectionals is figuring out who to run. Aidan [Donahue] and Karl [Bjorkman] didn’t run as well today but they have been much more consistent and they are older. We’ll evaluate the training over the next two weeks, there are some tough decisions to make. It is hard because you don’t want to make workouts a race ever but at the same time, we have to see who can run what interval and this kind of thing.”

THREE-PEAT: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team are all smiles after they won the program’s third straight state Prep B title last Thursday. Pictured, from left to right, are head coach Ed Tseng, Anna Kovacevich, Devika Kumar, Emily Dyckman, Maria Martinovic, Renee Karchere-Sun, Arya Jha, and assistant coach Trevor Campbell.

THREE-PEAT: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team are all smiles after they won the program’s third straight state Prep B title last Thursday. Pictured, from left to right, are head coach Ed Tseng, Anna Kovacevich, Devika Kumar, Emily Dyckman, Maria Martinovic, Renee Karchere-Sun, Arya Jha, and assistant coach Trevor Campbell.

While the Princeton Day School was confident that it could win a third straight state Prep B title, things didn’t go as planned in the opening day of this year’s tourney.

Falling at first singles and first doubles, PDS found itself trailing Gill St. Bernard’s 8-7 coming into the finals last Thursday.

“Even before the season began, we thought we had a shot at counties and preps but nothing is guaranteed in sports,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.

“I was a little concerned, both of those are matches we could have won. You want to have all five through to the finals.”

On the ride to the finals at the Garden State Tennis Center in Edison, Tseng had a clear message to PDS’s remaining players, Maria Martinovic at second singles, Emily Dyckman at third singles, and the pair of Anna Kovacevich and Arya Jha at second doubles.

“We definitely wanted it; we were only behind by one point,” said Tseng. “I told the girls that all three needed to win for us to get the title outright, otherwise we could tie or lose. I have been instilling in them the idea that I don’t care if you lose but play how you play and give it your best effort.”

Tseng got good efforts across the board from his players as PDS won all three flights to edge Gill and earn the Prep B three-peat.

The team of Kovacevich and Jha gave the Panthers an early lift. “The second doubles got done first, the other team, Montclair Kimberley, was
pretty good,” said Tseng.

“We were able to beat them to the net. Anna and Arya are a nice team, they peaked at the right time. They gained some experience from playing strong teams. The combination of peaking and believing in themselves was key.”

Senior star and co-captain Martinovic punctuated her superb autumn as she added the Prep B second singles title to the county crown she won in the flight.

“Maria had a tough match, the score didn’t indicate how tough it was,” said Tseng.

“It was straight sets but there were a lot of long games. It was closer than the score. That was big. Maria has had a great season. She is a great No. 2. She would be No. 1 on most teams and she is a great leader.”

Dyckman found herself in a tough match at third singles as she looked to clinch the title for the Panthers.

“Emily won the first set, which was key because she had a good opponent,” said Tseng.

“She was a consistent player. It was like playing against a wall, she hits everything back at you. You can try to be consistent back but she is better at that; or try a blend of aggressiveness and consistency. In the second set, Emily played her opponent’s game and they split sets.”

Trailing early in the third set, senior standout and co-captain Dyckman found the right blend of aggressiveness and consistency to pull out the victory.

“She was down love-3 but I know from experience that it ain’t over until it’s over, as Yogi Berra says,” said Tseng.

“She kept battling and battling and before you know it, she won six games in a row. I told her you have got to go for it and do what it takes to win. You can be more comfortable and play it safe and lose.”

Dyckman’s win triggered an emotional response from the team. “I am really happy for Emily, I know how much she loves the game and what this means to her,” said Tseng. “The team sprinted on the court and hugged her when it was over.”

While Tseng would have preferred to see his team cruise to the title, he acknowledged that it was special to win it the hard way.

“I would have liked it to be done the first day,” said Tseng. “I would prefer that it is not close but at the same time when it is close and you win, that makes it that much sweeter. Winning a country or prep title never gets old. This is the deepest team I have had since I have been at PDS. From the 1st singles to the 2d doubles, this is the most talent I have had.”

In achieving the three-peat, the team showed class to go with its talent. “It’s special to win three years in a row, nothing is guaranteed in sports,” said Tseng.

“It is nice for the players to do it for themselves and for the team. I always tell them that they are not just playing for themselves, they are representing PDS and the town of Princeton.”

Oscar Vik’s tenacity has helped make him a mainstay on the back line for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team.

But as the senior defender heads down the stretch of his PDS career, that quality has been put to use at the offensive end of the field.

Coming into Panthers’ Prep B opening round contest against visiting Golda Och last Thursday, Vik had goals in three of the last four games for PDS.

Vik kept up his scoring surge, scoring a second half goal as third-seeded PDS pulled away to a 4-1 win over sixth-seeded Golda Och.

“I won the interception and they kept stepping back,” said Vik, reflecting on his tally.

“I played it to Marco [Pinheiro], he played it back to me, and whenever I can, I like to score goals. Playing defense, you don’t get a lot of chances.”

In assessing his recent scoring surge, Vik said it came down to desire and a connection with the skilled Pinheiro.

“I guess I just really wanted goals,” said a smiling Vik. “All of the other ones have been on corners; Marco and I have some things set up.”

Bouncing back from a 3-11-3 campaign in 2013, PDS has shown a lot of progress this fall as it will bring an 11-5-2 record into its Prep B semifinal clash at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30.

“This has been our best chance since I was a freshman to do something,” said Vik, who scored another goal as sixth-seeded PDS topped 11th-seeded Trenton 3-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday and then fell 5-0 to third-seeded Steinert in the MCT quarters on Monday.

“It has been more pressure but we are more together as a team. I think we definitely think we can win the Prep B and we can really challenge in the MCTs. All I really want is to win one of those.”

In Vik’s view, the team’s turnaround has been the product of a more hard-nosed mentality.

“It is a lot of the same guys but it is a new maturity,” added Vik, whose twin brother, Christian, also stars on the PDS backline.

“The kids have been able to take responsibility and understand what we have to change to be better.”

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that it took his team a while to find its groove in the win over Golda Och.

“It was the jitters, they just wanted to try and get the first goal and relax,” said Murphy.

“I think in the second half, we changed the tactics a little bit. We put players out there who were capable of holding the ball a little bit better. We moved Marco back in the middle. Instead of trying to get to a 4-2-4 with four across the top, we tried to keep four across the middle to keep possession.”

Murphy is happy with how Vik has put himself in the middle of the action at both ends of the field.

“Oscar has really had a tremendous season running it from the back end,” said Murphy.

“To be honest, I did not know that he was that good on the ball or all that good in the air. He has turned himself around tremendously, he’s got some great goals. He is very good in the air, it is something that we hadn’t really seen because we like to keep the ball on the ground. He has great tenacity at the back, he plays clean.”

For Murphy, it has been great to see his squad improve so much from last fall.

“Last year, we had the injuries that just took us out,” said Murphy. “This year, we have come back from the injuries. This group was fairly young last year, there were too many breakdowns because of their insecurity. This year, they are more confident and more mature. That’s what it is, there is a lot more confidence.”

The Panthers will need that confidence in order to make a run at the Prep B title.

“It comes down to your back four, sometimes when you go away and you are in a different environment, it is a different game,” said Murphy. “If we stay composed and play our game, we can keep the ball. If we have got it, they can’t score. We’ll see from there.”

Vik, for his part, is confident that PDS will keep playing its game to the end. “I think we need to stick to our game, we can’t get pulled out when it is not going our way,” said Vik.

“We have to focus on what we can do well and we have to take our chances when we get them.”

BACK IN FORM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Oscar Vik boots the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star defender Vik contributed a goal as third-seeded PDS defeated No. 6 Golda Och 4-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The Panthers, now 11-5-2, play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 in the Prep B semis with the victor advancing to the title game on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BACK IN FORM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Oscar Vik boots the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star defender Vik contributed a goal as third-seeded PDS defeated No. 6 Golda Och 4-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The Panthers, now 11-5-2, play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 in the Prep B semis with the victor advancing to the title game on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton Day School cross country team was venturing into the unknown as it competed in the Mercer County Championships last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

“We have never run on this course before; we didn’t know it,” said PDS head coach Merrell Noden.

The team’s lack of familiarity with the surroundings didn’t dampen its competitive spirit.

“On a relatively tough day with the wind, I had advised my guys to tuck in behind other runners as best they could whenever they were going into the head wind,” said Noden, whose boys’ team finished 14th of 19 schools with junior Nick Chen placing 80th as he clocked a time of 20:07 over the 5,000-meter course and sophomore Kevin Sun coming in 81st.

“With those things taken into account, we didn’t run too badly. We can be fairly pleased. Kevin Sun and Nick Chen both ran pretty well.”

As for the PDS girls’ squad, sophomore Morgan Mills set the pace as she took 47th in a time of 22:47 while junior Emma Sharer took 59th.

“We had a real trooper on the girls’ side in Morgan Mills, she had some Achilles problems and she has been sick,” said Noden, whose girls’ team placed 13th of 14 schools.

“Both of those have contributed to her not training as well or as much as we would have liked. I think she was very conscious of that as she went to the starting line. I really thought she would run 19:30 and she ran 22 something. There was a question whether she would run at all, she gutted it out for the team. We only had five scorers. We needed her if we were going to score as a team so I was pleased with that. Sharer had an OK race. We are such a walking wounded team. Tillie Lighte came out and ran her first race in a while. I was happy she did that so we could have a scoring five.”

With PDS wrapping up its season by competing in the state Prep B meet on October 29 at the Blair Academy, Noden wants to see his runners gut things out to the end.

“I am hoping we can pull it together; that is that last meet of the season so we have nothing to look forward  to beyond that,” said Noden, who is hoping to have boys’ sophomore star Ian Moini back for the prep meet.

“The kids have been training for today and Wednesday. If we run smart races on Wednesday, I think we can do pretty well and end our season on a pleasing note.”

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Hun School football player Justin Morrison races to the end zone in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior standout Morrison scored two touchdowns to help Hun rout Lawrenceville 62-14 and take sole possession of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 MAPL, play at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Hun School football player Justin Morrison races to the end zone in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior standout Morrison scored two touchdowns to help Hun rout Lawrenceville 62-14 and take sole possession of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 MAPL, play at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was no messing around last week as the Hun School football team prepared for its showdown against the Lawrenceville School.

With both squads boasting 2-0 records in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) play, Hun head coach Todd Smith demanded attention to detail.

“We knew this game meant a lot to the coaching staff and we required the players to be extra focused,” said Smith. “We wanted them to do a better job, both the scout team and the starters. We weren’t tolerating anything.”

Hun showed that focus right from the start on Saturday, drawing first blood with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Cameren Kitchen. Senior running back Chris Sharp took over from there, scoring on three touchdown runs as Hun took a 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Hun doubled its lead to 56-0 by halftime with another Sharp TD run, an interception return for a touchdown by Kyle Horihan, and two scores from Justin Morrison.

Cruising from there, Hun posted a 62-14 win in improving to 5-1 overall and taking sole possession of first place in the MAPL standings.

“We played well in both phases of the game,” said Smith. “Any time the defense scores touchdowns, that sets you apart. The defense scored 12 points and every time they came up with a stop, the offense had a short field.”

Hun dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. “I thought the offensive line got great push,” said Smith.

“C. J. Williams is a freshman and he started at guard and had a great game. Fred Hansard was also great on offensive line. On defense, Jordan McGriff played out of his mind; he had six tackles and a sack and sniffed out a screen. Kitchen has been a force on defense all season and he had TD for us on an interception.”

The University of Virginia-bound Sharp has been a force of nature this fall, piling up some eye-popping statistics.

“We watched the tape today and he had 222 yards rushing on 11 carries with 5 TDs,” said Smith, noting that senior Morrison also produced some good numbers, rushing for 81 yards in five carries.

“He is out of this world. He is getting our schemes and he is reading the cutbacks. He has the size to run over people and the speed to run away from them.”

The game film from Saturday made for pleasant viewing by Smith and his staff.

“We are always looking for that perfect game and that first half was pretty near perfect,” said Smith.

“We had just a couple of penalties. It is just about us, if we control ourselves and do our job, we can score like that every week.”

With Hun playing at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1 in another league clash, Smith will push his players to keep chasing perfection.

“We didn’t win the MAPL yet but we are the team that controls our destiny,” said Smith.

“We have to take care of business to make sure that we don’t share it with anybody. The guys are self motivated, some of them are playing for looks in college. The whole senior class is seeing what can happen if they play as a team.”

Angela Rieder believes that her Hun School cross country team took a step forward at the Mercer County championship meet last Friday.

“I think we had a strong performance,” said Hun head coach Rieder, whose boys’ squad placed 13th of 19 schools while the girls placed 12th of 14 teams in the meet held at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

“Our varsity has been working really hard this week. They have been really motivated. The heat, hill, and wind were a little off-putting. We didn’t have any personal records but on reflection afterward, I was really happy with them.”

Rieder was particularly happy with sophomore Alex Ill, who took 28th individually in the boys’ race with a time of 17:42 over the 5,000-meter course and senior Sean Duffy, the 62nd finisher.

“When we saw him originally, he was in 41st at around a mile or mile and a half and he made it up to 28th,” said Rieder.

“He was really steady, really strong, he went out smart. Sean Duffy did great as well. He is a senior so he only has a couple of races left. He has that mindset right now. He is focused so we are hoping to see good things from him in the next couple of races.”

On the girls’ side, junior Caitlin Murray showed good focus, taking 51st individually in a time of 22:31.

“Caitlyn Murray had a very strong race today,” said Rieder. “She was very positive, very focused, and very determined.”

Rieder is looking for some determined efforts as her runners conclude the season next week by competing in the state Prep A meet on October 29 at the Blair Academy and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championships at Peddie on November 1.

“We still have Preps and the MAPL meet,” added Rieder. “They are Wednesday and Saturday. The training is a bit tricky this week so we are going to use preps for training.”

October 22, 2014
RELIEF PITCHER: Princeton University senior quarterback Connor Michelsen lofts a pass last Saturday against visiting Brown. Starting in place of injured classmate Quinn Epperly, Michelsen had a big day, hitting on 33-of-45 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers prevailed 27-16. Princeton, now 3-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, faces a critical league clash when it hosts Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RELIEF PITCHER: Princeton University senior quarterback Connor Michelsen lofts a pass last Saturday against visiting Brown. Starting in place of injured classmate Quinn Epperly, Michelsen had a big day, hitting on 33-of-45 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers prevailed 27-16. Princeton, now 3-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, faces a critical league clash when it hosts Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the past two seasons, Connor Michelson has become the understudy for Quinn Epperly at quarterback on the Princeton University football team.

The two seniors started last fall on equal footing but lefty Epperly emerged as a star, capturing Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year honors as Princeton shared the league title with Harvard.

Michelson, meanwhile, was relegated to a change of pace role in 2013, hitting on 73-of-129 passes for 757 yards while Epperly passed for 2,137 yards and rushed for 570.

The 6’0, 205-pound native of Plano, Texas has been utilized in the same capacity for the first four games this season, passing for 177 yards while Epperly had thrown for 800.

But last Saturday against visiting Brown, Michelson stepped into a leading role as Epperly was sidelined for the contest, due to being banged up after Princeton’s 31-30 loss to Colgate on October 11.

“When you get opportunities, you have to take advantage of them,” said Michelson.

“I was lucky, it was my first game to play the whole game by myself. Any time you get an opportunity, you have to execute.”

Michelsen proceeded to execute very well, hitting on 33-of-45 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns as Princeton topped the Bears 27-16 before 5,807 at Princeton Stadium, improving to 3-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy League.

“I just felt good throwing the ball,” said Michelsen, who passed for 267 yards in the first half as the Tigers built a 24-6 lead.

“I had Seth [DeValve] out there which is nice. Anybody can throw balls to Seth and throw for a lot of yards. There were still a lot of throws that I missed and some mental errors, especially late in the game. They are unacceptable and you can’t win tight games with some of those missed throws and errors.”

DeValve, for his part, felt comfortable with Michelsen at the control of the Tiger offense.

“I have just as much confidence in Connor as I do in Quinn,” said DeValve. “Both of them have run this offense for a long time, they both bring different things to the table. When the guy at the time goes down, we have other guys who can play football and Connor can sling the ball. I was excited for him to be able to play, he played a helluva game.”

After missing the last three games due to injury, senior DeValve had a big game against Brown, making 10 receptions for 120 yards.

“It was a joy to be back, it was maybe the most fun game I have played in college,” said DeValve.

“When you are out, you realize what you really have and that you sometimes take it for granted. I was just really happy to be able to play today and go out and help my team win. I was very pleased to have the opportunity.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was pleased with the intensity his team showed from the start against Brown.

“I showed a clip yesterday of Muhammad Ali fighting Ernie Terrell, just about his identity, saying what’s my name,” said Surace.

“I thought our identity today was how physical we played. I told them in the locker room how proud I am of them. It was really fun to see, some of those effort plays on all three sides of the ball. The finishes were terrific. There are some execution things that we have to work on but when we play that hard, it is very gratifying to see.”

It was gratifying for Surace to see his team’s depth on display as the Tigers prevailed without leading rusher DiAndre Atwater, who was sidelined along with Epperly.

“Will Powers plays every week and it is next man up,” said Surace, referring to senior tailback Powers.

“When Seth is out, other guys had to step up. The beauty of our offense is that we have got a lot of guys playing on any given week. When we have some guys out, it tightens down just a little. Any time we give them any type of role, they just step up to the challenge. We didn’t have some big pow-wow and say my god DiAndre is out, Quinn is out, what are we going to do. Connor has played a lot of football and the football he has played this year, last year and the year before has been terrific so it is not like there is any panic. We just keep playing and it meant he played 70 plays instead of 30 or 40 plays.”

Michelsen started making big plays from the outset on Saturday, completing passes to Matt Costello and Powers to get the Tigers deep in Brown territory on their first possession. The 42-yard drive culminated with a 26-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck as the Tigers took an early 3-0 lead.

Hooking up with DeValve on four completions, Michelsen engineered another scoring march later in the first quarter. The drive went 80 yards and ended with a nine-yard touchdown run by Powers as Princeton increased its advantage to 10-0. The score marked the fourth straight game that Powers has rushed for a touchdown.

Minutes later, Michelsen hit Costello with a 49-yard scoring strike as the Tigers made it 17-0 with 2:14 left in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Michelsen found Costello again in the end zone as the pair combined on a 17-yard touchdown pass to put Princeton on top 24-0. Brown responded with field goals on successive possessions to cut the gap to 24-6 at halftime.

In the second half, the Bears went to the air repeatedly as quarterback Marcus Fuller put up 43 passes, giving him a school-record 71 attempts on the evening. He completed a total of 29 on the evening for 454 yards. Despite the aerial assault, Brown was only able to generate a third quarter field goal and a touchdown pass with 6:13 left in regulation.

The Tiger defense showed its mettle, utilizing a bend-but-not-break mentality to stall the Bears when they were knocking on the door, holding Brown to field goals for the most part.

“One of the things that we have had trouble with the first four games is the red zone defense,” said junior safety Matt Arends, who had eight tackles and two pass breakups in the contest.

“This week, we stepped up and I know that it was a huge confidence boost. Each time it happened, we felt the energy. I think that carried on throughout the entire game.”

Michelsen, for his part, kept chucking the ball. He found DeValve for a 31-yard completion in the third quarter that set up the final Princeton score of the day, a 26-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck with 2:56 left in the quarter.

With powerful Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) coming to Princeton Stadium on October 25, Surace knows that his team has to display even more intensity and execution.

“We have got to clean some things up obviously,” said Surace. “We talked about getting ready starting tomorrow and we will do that. To play a Brown team, that is extremely tough and physical year in, year out, like that was fun to see.”

But no Tiger had more fun Saturday than Michelsen. “I am always comfortable when I get out into the game because I know the coaches trust me,” said Michelsen.

“You go out on the field with confidence and you play every game with confidence.”

BRINGING IT: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Brianna Leahy goes after the puck in action last winter. Senior forward Leahy, Princeton’s leading returning scorer after tallying 8 goals and 13 assists last winter, figures to be a go-to player for the Tigers in 2014-15. Princeton starts regular season play this weekend with a two-game set at Penn State on October 26 and 27.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BRINGING IT: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Brianna Leahy goes after the puck in action last winter. Senior forward Leahy, Princeton’s leading returning scorer after tallying 8 goals and 13 assists last winter, figures to be a go-to player for the Tigers in 2014-15. Princeton starts regular season play this weekend with a two-game set at Penn State on October 26 and 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In an effort to skate past its foes this winter, the Princeton University women’s hockey team is putting in some extra time on its dry land training in its preseason preparation.

“The kids are working hard,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, who guided the Tigers to a 14-13-4 record last winter and a spot in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals.

“We are looking to build a good aerobic base so we have been having them do a lot of weight lifting and running in addition to what they are doing on the ice.”

The Tigers have also been putting in some good work on the ice so far in the preseason.

“We had our first full practice on October 10 and we had a scrimmage on October 11,” said Kampersal. “The scrimmage against McGill went better than I expected. We showed a good compete level.”

With the Tigers opening their regular season action by playing a two-game set at Penn State on October 26 and 27, the players are chomping at the bit to compete.

“They are looking forward to getting over preseason and getting into games,” said Kampersal, whose team topped Brown 4-0 last Saturday in its final scrimmage. “They are pushing each other, the seniors are leading on and off the ice.”

Princeton is looking for senior forward Brianna Leahy (8 goals and 13 assists in 2013-14) to lead the Tiger offense.

“We are expecting Bri to step up,” said Kampersal, a 1992 Princeton alum and former Tiger men’s hockey star who is in his 19th season at the helm of the program and has a record of 270-228-51.“She gets up and down the rink well. She is sneaky good on angles and can make explosive plays.”

A pair of juniors, Jaimie McDonell (6 goals, 9 assists) and Molly Contini, along with sophomores Audrey Potts, Cassidy Tucker (7 goals, 6 assists), Morgan Sly (1 assist), Hilary Lloyd (3 goals, 8 assists), and Fiona McKenna (4 goals, 2 assists) have the potential to make some big plays this winter for the Tigers.

“We expect Jaimie to be a solid all-around player for us; Molly is back and should do well,” said Kampersal.

“The whole sophomore class is looking good. I think the biggest improvement usually takes place in the summer between freshman and sophomore year. Kiersten Falck is the most ready of the freshmen; she is strong on her skates and has good hockey instincts.

The corps of defensemen features seniors Ali Pankowski (6 goals, 10 assists) and Brianne Mahoney (1 goal, 2 assists) along with sophomores Kelsey Koelzer (6 goals, 4 assists,  and Molly Strabley (3 assists).

“Ali has had a good career, she has a heavy shot from the blue line and is good in the offensive zone,” said Kampersal, noting that he is still figuring out his pairings along the blue line.

“Bri is a really good skater and sees the ice well. We moved Kelsey Koelzer to defense and she played well in the McGill scrimmage; it looks like she may be tailor made for that. Strabley is coming back from shoulder surgery. She is almost at full speed. We will see how the freshmen (Hannah Sorkin and Emily Achterkirch) fit in.”

Junior goalie Kimberly Newell (2.74 goals against average and .906 save percentage in 2013-14) figures to be particularly sharp after competing with Canada’s national team this September at its 2014 Fall Festival.

“Any time you play for your country it is an honor; each time she plays with them she learns something new,” said Kampersal, whose back-up goalies are senior Ashley Holt (1.66 goals against average, .934 save percentage) and freshman Alysia DaSilva.

“It helps to be going against the best players in the world; she will come back even better. We are looking for her to be consistent in each practice and game. She has been looking good in practice so far.”

Kampersal is looking for his players to show consistency and grit collectively this winter.

“The mantra is to compete for 60 minutes and make good hockey plays,” said Kampersal.

“I think we have to stay out of the penalty box and when we get opportunities on the power play, we need to be a 20 percent team. We need to do the little things on the ice, like blocking shots.”

Starting the season on the road should be a positive thing for the Tigers as they look to develop some early chemistry.

“It will be good to be on the road; we haven’t done that with this group yet,” said Kampersal.

“It is a great rink, Penn State will have six games under its belt so it will be interesting.”

ON TARGET: Princeton University field hockey player Ryan ­McCarthy makes a hit in a recent game. Last Saturday, freshman striker McCarthy scored two goals to help Princeton beat Brown 4-0. The Tigers, now 4-9 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host Harvard (5-5 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON TARGET: Princeton University field hockey player Ryan ­McCarthy makes a hit in a recent game. Last Saturday, freshman striker McCarthy scored two goals to help Princeton beat Brown 4-0. The Tigers, now 4-9 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, host Harvard (5-5 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ryan McCarthy had the sense that she would be a good fit for the Princeton University field hockey program.

“I am the third Oak Knoll player in the past few years to play here,” said McCarthy, a resident of Madison, N.J.

“There was Michelle Cesan and now there is Teresa Benvenuti. I just knew that this was the school for me, visiting here, meeting the team and the coaches, it is a special place.”

Those previous Oak Knoll standouts have made a big impact for the Tigers. Cesan, a four-time All-American, helped Princeton win the 2012 NCAA title and graduated in 2014 with 44 goals. Benvenuti, currently a star junior midfielder, has earned All-Ivy League honors in her first two seasons for the Tigers.

McCarthy is following in those footsteps, emerging as a bright spot as Princeton has struggled in the early going.

Last Saturday, striker McCarthy scored two goals to help Princeton top Brown 4-0 and improve to 4-9 overall and 3-1 Ivy.

Coming off of an 8-1 loss to No. 2 Maryland on October 15, McCarthy and the Tigers were determined to get back on the right track against Brown.

“We were fired up, Kristen told us to treat this like it is the most important game of the season,” said McCarthy. “All the Ivy games are important to us. We need to get that good record to win the title.”

The Tigers came out fired up against Brown as Allison Evans scored with 27:19 left in the first half and then McCarthy added a second tally 25 minutes later.

“Getting those two goals really pumped us up and got us fired up for the second half,” said McCarthy.

In reflecting on her tally, McCarthy said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

“It was a lot of commotion in the circle,” said McCarthy. “My teammates did all the work and I tapped it in.”

Princeton did some good work in the second half, pulling away from the Bears as McCarthy scored at the 36:17 mark and Evans scored four minutes later.

“We sort of calmed down and were composed for the second half,” said McCarthy. “We were excited to get out there and finish it off.”

On her second goal, McCarthy was excited to take advantage of another good feed. “It was a great pass from Sydney and I just finished it,” said McCarthy.

With 13 games under her belt in her college career, McCarthy is calming down on the field.

“I think getting used to the transition and the speed was a challenge,” said McCarthy, who now has five goals, tied with senior Sydney Kirby for the second-most on the team. “The team really helped all the freshmen get into it and get excited.”

Princeton University head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was excited to see her team’s hard work pay off against Brown.

“They have been training really well,” said Holmes-Winn. “They need to trust that and bring the same level of intensity that they exhibit in the training environment and apply that on game day.”

Princeton showed intensity from the start of the game on Saturday. “It was really good,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Brown is a good team, they know how to hang around so we knew that if we had opportunities we had to find ways to capitalize and we did. We had lots of shots.”

Senior star Evans was due to cash in some opportunities, having scored only two goals on the season before Saturday.

“That was so good for her and they were great goals,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I think personally that she needed that. She has been getting some good balls, it has just been one of those things so we have been working on trying to get her the ball in better spots on the field here so she can use her hits.”

McCarthy has been giving Princeton a lot of good things. “Ryan is all over the field,” said Holmes-Winn.

“She looks dangerous, she gets a lot of touches and she creates a lot. She is starting to find ways to combine a little bit more effectively and picking those moments of when do I take it on and when do I create for someone else. She is making better decisions there.”

While the Tigers have dealt with some tough moments this fall, Holmes-Winn believes better days are ahead for her squad.

“We are a good team; we played a lot of really good teams and there were a bunch of overtimes so we are close,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We haven’t been able to do enough to create and have those lucky moments turn in our favor. I tell the girls I don’t believe in luck, it is what we do every single day and the choices that we make.”

With Princeton locked in a four-way tie for first in the Ivies with Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth, the Tigers have a big day coming up this Saturday as they host Harvard (5-5 overall, 2-2 Ivy).

“I think we just have to stay the course and be smarter,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have looked pretty critically at where we are turning the ball over and how we are turning the ball over and making sure that we are shoring that up.”

McCarthy, for her part, knows that Princeton must stay on the ball if it is going to emerge as the Ivy champion.

“This was a confidence builder for the whole team,” said McCarthy. “We just need to keep up the hard work and keep our confidence going. We have to stay composed in all of the games.”

ON THE SAME PAGE: The Princeton High girls’ tennis first doubles team of Zhenia Dementyeva, left, and Nikhita Salgame consults with PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, right, during a match earlier this season. Last Friday, Dementyeva and Nikhita Salgame fought valiantly in defeat as PHS lost 4-1 to to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE SAME PAGE: The Princeton High girls’ tennis first doubles team of Zhenia Dementyeva, left, and Nikhita Salgame consults with PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, right, during a match earlier this season. Last Friday, Dementyeva and Nikhita Salgame fought valiantly in defeat as PHS lost 4-1 to to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been understandable if Zhenia Dementyeva was down in the dumps last Friday moments after the Princeton High girls’ tennis team fell 4-1 to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals.

PHS senior star Dementyeva and junior Nikhita Salgame fell 7-6, 6-2 at first doubles to Millburn’s pair of Anya Zakusilo and Sydney Zirlin, a defeat that clinched the title for Millburn.

But Dementyeva was all smiles as she reflected on the closely fought match that featured a number of marathon deuce games.

“It was probably the most fun match we have ever had because it was so neck and neck,” said Dementyeva.

“In the first set we were down 1-4 and we came back to a tie break, for us, that is remarkable. At the same time, we weren’t nervous. We were just having the time of our lives.”

While Dementyeva and Salgame understood that PHS was on the verge of falling to Millburn, they kept their minds on the task at hand.

“We weren’t thinking about that but we had that in the back of our minds,” said Dementyeva. “We were so wrapped up in the present that we didn’t think about the other scores.”

The pair has developed a positive mindset that has helped set them apart from other teams.

“Nikhita and I fit like two puzzle pieces,” said Dementyeva. “We have our own jokes; we whisper things to each other to crack each other up. I think what makes us successful as a team is the way we understand each other. We are able to criticize each other during a match. If we think we are doing something wrong, we tell each other, we correct it, and then we play better.”

Dementyeva and senior teammates, Katelyn Hojeibane and Rory Lewis, have reached a deep understanding over the last four years.

“The whole tennis team is like a great big family, the three of us are especially close,” said Dementyeva.

“I have known Rory since 6th grade, we walk home together. Katelyn and I  take tennis lessons together. I think one thing that people wouldn’t expect about a girls tennis team is that we are drama free. There is no gossip, we mesh in such a perfect way that it makes us really comfortable with each other.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert liked the way her team created some drama in the match against Millburn, fighting back from straight-set losses in second and third singles from Hojeibane and Lewis, respectively, to turn the three remaining matches into nailbiters.

In addition to the hard-fought defeat at first doubles, PHS first singles star Christina Rosca fell in three sets to Stephanie Schrage while the second doubles team of Elise Gerdes and Gillian Samios pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Ingrid Waung and Rebecca Blevins.

“We had no delusions of anything less than a real battle,” said Hibbert. “I was really pleased with the way the doubles fought through, both of them were down 1-4 in the first set and they came back. Second doubles won the first set and first doubles forced a tie break. They proved that they could compete with the best doubles teams in the state and beat them, in this case, the second doubles.”

Rosca showed her competitive fire as she rebounded from losing the first set to turn her match into a tense battle that saw Schrage prevail 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

“Chris fought incredibly hard, Stephanie is a quality opponent as well,” added Hibbert.

“That could have gone either way, it came down to a point here or there and a bad bounce off the net, one missed shot, They had a great match. We fought and we at least scared them a little bit.”

The Little Tigers were determined to put a scare into undefeated and nine-time state champion Millburn.

“The one thing we said is that if it doesn’t start well, we are not going to give up and roll over, we are going to fight back,” said Hibbert.

“That’s one of the biggest things I was proud of, they fought back. Even though we didn’t start well, we gave them a fight and we worked hard. I think against most of the other teams here, we would have been able to pull out a victory. Unfortunately we ran into the No. 1 team in the state.”

This bunch of PHS players has established themselves as a top team in the annals of the program’s proud history.

“This is a really great group of girls, they have won the sectional title four years in a row and made it to the group final the last three so that was really exciting,” said Hibbert.

“To add the county tournament title this year as well was icing on the cake, especially for our three seniors. It is a nice way for them to go out. It would have been nicer if we had been able to win it, but we take little victories from making it through. We had a close semi match (a 3-2 win over Northern Highlands), they were a strong team too. You don’t get there if you are not a good team.”

In Hibbert’s view, her three seniors are leaving quite a legacy. “We’ll obviously miss them tremendously next year as players, as captains, as leaders, as people,” said Hibbert, whose team moved to 15-3 with a 3-2 loss to Group 4 champion WW/P-S last Monday in a regular season match.

“They are all really nice people and hard workers. They set a good tone. You can really see that they are all waiting and ready to congratulate each other. They really like being on the team together. We will miss them a lot next year.”

Dementyeva, for her part, will long remember what it was like being on the court Friday and playing her heart out to the end.

“It is so special to finish on a match like this,” said Dementyeva. “Of course I wish we won but I don’t think I would want it any other way. I am just elated. I was thinking like wow, I am never going to be able to play with these amazing girls ever again. I was just enjoying it, every moment of it.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis follows through on a forehand in recent action. Last Friday, senior Lewis prevailed at third singles against Northern Highlands to clinch a 3-2 win for PHS and book the squad a spot in the NJSIAA Group 3 team state finals. The Little Tigers ended up falling to Millburn 4-1 in the championship match.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis follows through on a forehand in recent action. Last Friday, senior Lewis prevailed at third singles against Northern Highlands to clinch a 3-2 win for PHS and book the squad a spot in the NJSIAA Group 3 team state finals. The Little Tigers ended up falling to Millburn 4-1 in the championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis headed into the latter stages of the second set against Charlotte Hagan of Northern Highlands last Friday in the NJSIAA Group 3 team semifinals, a crowd gathered around court 13 at Mercer County Park to witness the showdown.

The teams were knotted at 2-2 and a spot in the state finals depended on the outcome of the third singles match.

While senior Lewis sensed what was drawing the onlookers, she didn’t dwell on the situation.

“I had an inkling, I suppose; I thought that’s what was happening,” said Lewis. “I didn’t want to psyche myself out so I pushed it out of my mind.”

Instead, she proceeded to push Hagan around on the court, posting a 6-3, 6-1 win to book PHS’s spot in the finals and earn the hugs of her teammates.

In defeating Hagan, Lewis kept the focus on her strokes and tactics. “My backhand has gotten a lot better, I worked on it a lot yesterday,” said Lewis.

“She was a very tough opponent. I had to stay in my head and not let up because she was fighting me. I think experience also helped a lot.”

It also helped Lewis to have her teammates cheering her on. “It is really nice, you feel the support,” said Lewis. “It is great, they are cheering you on no matter what, that is really nice. It is a good feeling.”

There is a great feeling around the PHS squad. “We are a small team so we know each other really well and we all support each other,” said Lewis. “We don’t push against each other; we all want to get better together.”

Although PHS ended up falling 4-1 to Millburn later Friday in the state final, making it that far was special for Lewis.

“It is very, very nice; we have done it all three years since I have been on varsity,” said Lewis.

“It means a lot, you want to go out with a bang. We have had a good season so far so I am getting my wish.”

FEELING LOW: Princeton High football player Ben Danis carries the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior Danis had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause as PHS fell 48-29 at Winslow, suffering its first defeat of the season. The Little Tigers, now 5-1, will look to get back on the winning track when they host WW/P-S on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING LOW: Princeton High football player Ben Danis carries the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior Danis had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause as PHS fell 48-29 at Winslow, suffering its first defeat of the season. The Little Tigers, now 5-1, will look to get back on the winning track when they host WW/P-S on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High football team brought a 5-0 record into its clash at 1-3 Winslow last Friday evening, PHS was geared up for a dogfight.

“Despite the record, we knew they were a good program,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher. “They had talented kids on both sides of the ball.”

That talent showed early on as Winslow took a 12-7 lead into intermission.

Having battled through plenty of adversity in its magical run this fall, PHS wasn’t fazed by the deficit. “The message at half was that we had put a lot of points on the board in the second half this year,” recalled Gallagher.

While the Little Tigers ended up putting up 21 points in the second half, it wasn’t enough as Winslow pulled away to a 48-29 win.

“We moved the ball up and down the field,” said Gallagher. “We had some turnovers that hurt us. We were right there, we had back-to-back touchdowns to make it 36-29. For the most part, it was a pretty even game. It got a little out of hand, they tacked on two TDs at the end.”

Junior tailback Rory Helstrom gave the Little Tigers some touchdowns and a large dose of character.

“Rory had a really good game, he showed his leadership at the end of the game,” said Gallagher of Helstrom, who rushed for 113 yards and made two touchdown receptions in the loss.

“We look to him as a playmaker. When the going got tough at the end, he stepped up and kept the guys going.”

The combination of junior quarterback Dave Beamer and senior running back Ben Danis helped keep the PHS offense going as Beamer passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns while Danis made a number of key catches.

“Dave made a lot of good plays but we need to help him manage the game better and make better choices,” said Gallagher.

“He has 11 TD passes and 11 interceptions so far, that is not where he wants to be. We really like him; he is still young. He has only had 11 or 12 starts. Ben Danis had a big game, he made five catches for 67 yards and a TD. He made a couple of big catches. On a 4th and 5 late, he had a 6-yard catch. It was good to get him involved.”

On defense, the Little Tigers got a number of good efforts. “Defensively, Sam Smallzman did a nice job and Tommy Moore had a good game,” said Gallagher.

“Jack Cook was back from a broken finger and did a good job at corner, shutting things down. He is 6’3, he is a tough guy to get around.”

While tasting defeat for the first time this fall was tough for PHS, Gallagher put things in perspective for his players afterward.

“The first thing I said afterward is the bottom line is that to be 5-0, after where we were last year (0-10), was a great accomplishment and no one can take that away from us. We were looking to go 6-0. People were saying if Princeton got two or three wins the whole season, that would be great.”

The Little Tigers are determined to get that sixth win this Saturday when they host local rival WW/P-S.

“They are from just across the tracks, so to speak, and there is a lot of familiarity,” said Gallagher.

“It is our Senior Day and we want to get back on track. We will be amped up. I hope it’s a good game, we will work hard this week to be ready.”

Stepping into the starting goalie spot for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team from day one this fall as a freshman, Grace Barbara has been under the gun.

“There are some very strong players on some of these opponents’ teams,” said Barbara. “Since I am a freshman it has been a little bit difficult with these very skilled players.”

Last week, Barbara faced one of the toughest opponents around as PDS played at Pennington, the perennial state Prep A champion.

“Pennington is a great team, I have a lot of friends from my club team, YMS, on that team so it is definitely a rivalry,” said Barbara.

“We knew going into the game that it was going to be a tough one,  Pennington is ranked second in the nation. They had lost to Hun 2-0 and we were strong with Hun so we felt going into the game that if we played our best and played to the level of the opponents, we would pull through with a win or a tie.”

The squads were level through the first half, locked in a 0-0 stalemate with Barbara making several good saves to thwart the Red Raiders.

“I felt pretty good in the first half, attacking two corners,” said Barbara. “Winning those definitely boosted my confidence and the team’s. Everyone played their hearts out.”

In the second half, however, Pennington’s attack broke through with two goals as PDS fell 2-0 in the October 14 contest.

While Barbara was disappointed with the loss, she gained some valuable experience from the setback.

“They are a skilled team so I can learn a lot, especially from the goals,” said Barbara, who ended up with 10 saves in the setback.

“I can work on sets and high balls coming from long and the short balls pegged down in the corners. I can definitely work on that in practice.”

Barbara has developed a good working relationship with the PDS defensive unit. “I feel like my defense back here with Erin Hogan, Alexis Davis, and Stef Soltesz has been working great with me,” said Barbara.

“Abby Atkeson was stepping back on defense today. I feel quite protected back here, even though we are only playing with three in the back a lot of the time.

Playing goalie since grade school, Barbara is relishing her debut campaign for the Panthers.

“I was always interested in the position and I started in U-8 so I have been playing for quite a while,” said Barbara, who made two saves to earn the shutout as PDS topped New Brunswick 7-0 last Monday in improving to 9-3-3.

“My club team, the YMS Pride, really got me ready for the high school season and this is just a great opportunity because I am just playing with high skilled players on my team and the other teams. It is really building me up.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta saw the matchup with Pennington as a great opportunity with postseason play around the corner.

“We usually play them late in the season and it gives us a measurement of where we stand,” said Trombetta, whose team is the defending Mercer County Tournament champion and is seeded sixth in this year’s MCT where it will host No. 11 Notre Dame on a first round contest on October 25.

Trombetta liked the way his defense stood tall all night long against Pennington.

“We put Abby [Atkeson] and Kirsten [Kuzmicz] in the back, that’s something that we haven’t done all year,” said Trombetta.

“I think it worked, it kept us in the game. Grace made some good saves, she was in control. Abby and Kirsten had good games today. Stef did a great job in the back again; she was solid.”

The Panthers didn’t do as good a job at the offensive end of the field as they generated chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“We couldn’t connect,” lamented Trombetta. “We had a couple of opportunities here in the second half that we probably could have done better with.”

While Trombetta hoped for a better result against Pennington, he had no qualms about his team’s competitiveness.

“I was proud of the effort, we played aggressive, we played physical, and we stayed with them,” said Trombetta, whose team is also competing on the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded first and has a bye into the semis.

“We played toe-to-toe with them and that’s all you can ask as a coach when you are playing one of the top teams around.”

Barbara, for her part, believes the Panthers can emerge as a top team in postseason play.

“I feel like even though we did lose, we played a great game,” said Barbara. “This was a great segue way for the tournaments. We will be playing some skilled teams in the postseason just like Pennington and it got our heads in check.”

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Emily Pawlak tracks the ball during a game earlier this season. Senior defender Pawlak has been trying to hold the fort as the Little Tigers have been hit by the injury bug. PHS, which fell 6-0 to Allentown last Thursday to drop to 7-5-1, starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week. The Little Tigers are seeded 9th in the MCT and are slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Emily Pawlak tracks the ball during a game earlier this season. Senior defender Pawlak has been trying to hold the fort as the Little Tigers have been hit by the injury bug. PHS, which fell 6-0 to Allentown last Thursday to drop to 7-5-1, starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week. The Little Tigers are seeded 9th in the MCT and are slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite being shorthanded due to a number of injuries, the Princeton High girls’ soccer team battled Notre Dame on even terms in the early going when the rivals met last week.

Displaying some scrappy play, PHS thwarted a number of Irish runs and the teams went into halftime locked in a 0-0 stalemate.

“The 11 that I chose to put out on the field to begin did a great job of defending and then trying to build when we won the ball,” said PHS head coach Val Rodriguez.

“We had a little bit of fire when we put some subs into the game. They generated a few things in the first half.”

In the second half, though, Notre Dame generated the offense as it scored three unanswered goals to pull away to a 3-0 win over the Little Tigers.

“We got a little bit flat and we had a couple of defensive breakdowns,” said Rodriguez, in assessing the second half.

“We didn’t keep our shape to build anything and then it is injury after injury. I was down to one sub by the end of today’s game from a 20-girl roster.”

For PHS, having senior striker and top offensive threat Shannon Pawlak sidelined for the rest of the season due to a leg injury has proven to be a huge problem.

“We have to find a way to have a target up top to somewhat replace Shannon,” said Rodriguez, whose team struggled again last Thursday as it fell 6-0 at Allentown in dropping to 7-5-1.

“We never found a rhythm today, we had to keep shifting people from one spot to another. Shannon could go forward and have high pressure on her back, get the ball and keep it for a couple of seconds and be able to dish it off or turn and shoot. She did it very, very well.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting this week, Rodriguez is hoping that PHS can find a rhythm down the stretch.

“Getting healthy is a big piece of it,” said Rodriguez, whose squad is seeded 9th in the MCT and is slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest. “We have some positive stuff, they are doing their best.”

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Chris Sharp races upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp totaled four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, to help Hun rout the Hill School (Pa.) 49-6. The Raiders, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action, host Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Chris Sharp races upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp totaled four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, to help Hun rout the Hill School (Pa.) 49-6. The Raiders, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action, host Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though his Hun School football team was coming off two successive routs, Todd Smith was looking for sharper execution as the Raiders played at the  Hill School (Pa.) last Saturday.

“We were really concentrating on the offensive side of the ball and limiting mistakes,” said Hun head coach Smith, whose team had topped Blair 46-16 on October 11 and Germantown Academy 42-21 on October 2 in its previous two outings. “We hadn’t played that perfect game yet.”

Against Hill, the Raiders got the lead before the offense touched the ball as Donavon Harris returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, giving Hun a 7-0 lead.

“That is one way to take care of things, it was a good way to start,” said Smith, whose team led 28-0 after the first quarter on Saturday. “It is always good to get a special teams touchdown.”

The Raiders proceeded to score six more touchdowns on the day as they romped to a 49-6 victory, improving to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action.

Senior star and University of Virginia-bound Chris Sharp led the way with four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving. Jacob Gallahdari chipped in a 16-yard scoring jaunt while Dan Seelagy broke away for an 81-yard TD gallop.

While the talented Sharp turned heads with his
brilliance, it was a group effort.

“We actually spread the ball around; we didn’t want to overwhelm Chris with touches,” said Smith.

“He made the most of his opportunities. Both his catches were touchdowns; he had 80 yards receiving and ran the ball well (131 yards on 12 carries). Jacob had more than 45 yards on five carries. Danny Seelagy went over 100 yards (126 yards on five carries) rushing.

Ever the perfectionist, Smith sees room for improvement. “We still have to fine tune some things,” said Smith. “I am really happy with the intensity; we are coming off the ball hard.”

The Raiders displayed some very good intensity on the defensive side of the ball against Hill.

“I thought we did a great job of stopping the run and did well when we were backed into the red zone,” said Smith.

“We also forced the most turnovers we have had in a game this year. We had three interceptions on the day and a fumble recovery. We really swarmed to the ball.”

Hosting arch-rival Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25, Hun will look to click on all cylinders.

“We are excited; they are probably the most complete team we will see the rest of the year,” said Smith.

“We have to play smart and be comfortable with the game plan. I couldn’t be happier with where we are, the kids are really jelling and competing hard.”

HITTING HER STRIDE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah dribbles the ball upfield in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior star Hannah scored both goals as Stuart pulled out a 2-1 last-second win over South Hunterdon. On Monday, she added a goal and an assist as the Tartans topped Nottingham 4-0 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest to improve to 5-12. In upcoming action, Stuart will start play in the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded sixth and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HITTING HER STRIDE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah dribbles the ball upfield in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior star Hannah scored both goals as Stuart pulled out a 2-1 last-second win over South Hunterdon. On Monday, she added a goal and an assist as the Tartans topped Nottingham 4-0 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest to improve to 5-12. In upcoming action, Stuart will start play in the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded sixth and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tori Hannah has been talking more on the field this fall in her junior season with the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

“I think I am communicating more with the team and am helping them with stopping the ball and boosting their spirits,” said Hannah.

Last Wednesday, Hannah boosted her team’s spirits with her stickwork, scoring goals on penalty corners right before halftime and at the end of regulation as Stuart pulled out a thrilling 2-1 won over South Hunterdon.

“I have been working on my hits and my stick and ball skills and it’s come a long way,” said Hannah. “It has been great.”

In Hannah’s view, Stuart’s 5-0 win over Nottingham in a Mercer County Tournament (MCT) play-in game a day earlier gave the Tartans a big boost coming into the South Hunterdon contest.

“I think the win from yesterday really helped us in this game today,” said Hannah. “I think we were really pumped. We were ready to win and we really brought it.”

Even though Stuart fell behind 1-0 in the early going against South Hunterdon, Hannah and her teammates weren’t fazed.

“I think we were concerned but we didn’t let it take over our game,” said Hannah. “We still played a hard game; we tried to get back and we did.”

The Tartans showed some game with its penalty corner execution in the waning moments.

“It looks complicated but we pulled it off and it was such a great feeling,” said Hannah. “I was ecstatic, it was amazing.”

Having struggled in the early going this fall, the victory over South Hunterdon was sweet for the Tartans.

“It means the world, we have practiced so hard this year,” said Hannah.

“To come out against a really hard team and beat them was great. I think we have been more intense and we have wanted it a lot more than the other teams. We have just come out strong and stayed strong throughout the whole game.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik liked the strength of character her team displayed in pulling out the win, battling rain showers along with a tough foe.

“I thought we did a great job keeping the ball inside of our attacking zone,” said Bruvik.

“It was very important to get that goal in the first half. We talked about that, we said we have to call that timeout before the end of the half and not wait until halftime. They play better with urgency. You give them the small goals and they accomplish them. We were trying to build off of that.”

In Bruvik’s view, the Tartans showed a good build up offensively against South Hunterdon. “I thought the midfield did a great job of supporting the offensive line this time,” said Bruvik.

“I am seeing the attack push up and really make more of an effort to get in the circle and finish. That had been a struggle for us the first half of the season.”

Hannah is providing Stuart with some good production on attack. “Tori had a huge game today,” said Bruvik. “She has better decision-making, she is staying poised. She is a good communicator on the field, she talks a lot. I am seeing improvement.”

Junior Sam Servis has improved as the season has gone along. “Sam had a big game yesterday,” said Bruvik. “She is starting to take it to the goal. She is understanding that with that talent, we need her in the circle. Her assets and skills are important to us.”

Another important factor in the win over South Hunterdon was Stuart’s work at the defensive end.

“We gave up an early goal but we hung tough; I thought the defense did a better job stepping up to the ball,” said Bruvik.

“I think South Hunterdon’s attack gave us a really good challenge. They are a big hitting team.”

While Stuart ended up falling to Princeton High in the opening round of MCT last Saturday, Bruvik feels her team can do some damage in the state Prep B tourney.

“The kids don’t dwell on the record, they are taking it game by game,” said Bruvik, whose team is seeded sixth in the Prep B tournament and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest.

“I feel like we are definitely stepping up. I think the kids are realizing that the season is coming to an end.”

Hannah and her teammates are looking to get the most out of the season.

“We are going to have to play our hearts out in every single game,” said Hannah, who had a goal and an assist as Stuart topped Nottingham 4-0 last Monday in an MCT consolation contest to improve to 5-12.

“We have to practice with intensity. I think we just need to be ready and have our heads in the game all the time.”

October 16, 2014
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GOAL RUSH: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi chases after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Lussi notched her first college hat trick, helping Princeton beat Brown 5-0 as the Tigers improved to 4-3-3 overall and 2-0-1 Ivy League. Lussi, who has eight goals in her last four games, was later named the Ivy Player of the Week. Princeton, that is tied with Harvard (7-3-2 Ivy, 2-0-1 Ivy) atop the Ivies, will look to keep on the winning track when it plays at Columbia (5-2-5 overall, 1-1-1 Ivy) on October 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After leading the Princeton University women’s soccer team with 10 goals in 2013 as a freshman, Tyler Lussi found herself in a scoring drought this fall.

Lussi scored only one goal in Princeton’s first six games as the Tigers got off to a shaky 1-3-2 start.

In the seventh game, Lussi scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win at Yale in the Ivy League opener and something clicked for her.

“I think that Yale was a nice, simple goal and if I keep myself doing simple things, it works out easier,” said Lussi. “I think that definitely started me off and kept me hungry for goals.”

Satisfying that hunger, Lussi scored two goals in each of Princeton’s next two games, a 2-2 tie with Dartmouth on October 4 and a 4-1 win over Lehigh last Wednesday.

Last Saturday against visiting Brown, Lussi was simply great, scoring three goals in a 5-0 win, recording the first hat trick of her college career.

“It is an amazing feeling,” said Lussi, whose heroics helped Princeton improve to 4-3-3 overall and 2-0-1 Ivy, tied for first in the league with Harvard (7-3-2 overall, 2-0-1 Ivy).

“I think I have had a couple of two-goal games but I think getting the third one was definitely good and I was really excited.”

The Tigers came into the evening excited by their outburst in the win over Lehigh.

“Coming off that really motivated us and in the first 25 minutes, we were coming in very strong and hard,” said Lussi.

After sophomore Haley Chow scored twice in the first 15 minutes to give Princeton a 2-0 lead, Lussi found the back of the net on a feed from senior star Lauren Lazo.

“It was an amazing pass from Lauren,” said Lussi, who scored with 26:29 remaining in the first half. “I just had to ‘nice and easy’ put it in the corner and it worked out.”

In the second half, Lussi scored on a rebound at the 56:48 mark and then blasted a volley off the post five minutes later for her third tally of the evening.

“I think we were moving the ball and I think just getting the little touches and it worked well,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md., who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.

“We were all moving off the ball and moving for each other, it was very good.”

With a season of college soccer under her belt, Lussi is moving more smartly on the field.

“I think as a sophomore I know where each of my teammates is, how they play, where they play, and what type of balls they want,” said Lussi, who now has a team-high and league-high nine goals.

“I know where I need to be on the field and what type of runs I need to make. I am more confident, so going forward it is definitely good.”

Tiger head coach Julie Shackford enjoyed a milestone herself in the win over Brown as the triumph marked the 200th win in her 20-year tenure at Princeton.

“It means I have been here for a long time,” said a smiling Shackford, reflecting on her achievement which comes in her final season at Princeton as she announced this summer that she will be stepping down at the end of the fall. “It’s cool to do it at home for an Ivy League game in a game we played so well.”

Shackford credited Chow with breaking the game open for the Tigers. “She was a big-time catalyst; she is definitely coming into her own,” said Shackford.

“She is starting to defend better and because of her size, she is always going to be good in the air.”

In Shackford’s view, Lussi’s big-time scoring prowess comes down to desire.

“I just thinks she wants it so much, she has a phenomenal work rate,” said Shackford.

“She has gotten a little better tactically. Last year in the league, she had a hard time shaking defenders and I think that she is starting to figure out how to get herself into spots and good goal scoring positions. I think most importantly it is just her will to score, she just has it. She was holding the steering wheel too tight earlier.”

Shackford liked the way her defense tightened things up in the shutout of the Bears.

“Jesse McDonough had a great game for us today, she stepped into the plays and read things better,” asserted Shackford.

“I thought our shape in the back was better overall. Lauren Lazo was phenomenal, she did a lot of dirty work, she does so much dirty work. Darcy Hargadon played well in goal tonight, everything was clean, everything with her feet was good.”

With Princeton having dealt with a rash of injuries, everything seems headed in the right direction for the Tigers.

“I think just getting people relatively healthy has been a big piece of it,” said Shackford, whose team is 3-0-1 in its last four games after the 1-3-2 start and plays at Columbia (5-2-5 overall, 1-1-1 Ivy) on October 18.

“I would say also getting to this point that a lot of people have stepped up to do things and have done them really well. Kids played in different spots and I think they did well adjusting to people being out. It is a fighting team, they have a really good spirit about them. They are really fun to coach.”

Lussi, for her part, believes the Tigers have developed a special spirit from facing adversity.

“I think with all the injuries we have just come even closer as a team and worked even harder for each other,” said Lussi.

“I think it has showed and we are improving every game. We are hitting it right on the head and we are moving forward and getting stronger.”

 

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STOPPED AT THE GATE: Princeton University linebacker Mike ­Zeuli heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior co-captain Zeuli made 10 tackles in a losing cause as Princeton fell 31-30 at Colgate. The Tigers, now 2-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when they host Brown (2-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing a distressing penchant for falling behind early in games last season even as it went 8-2, a major point of emphasis for the Princeton University football team in 2014 has been getting off to faster starts.

Playing at Colgate last Saturday, Princeton achieved that goal. With junior speedster Dre Nelson returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to get things rolling, the Tigers roared out to a 16-0 lead.

“It was the second time in three weeks that we returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown,” said Princeton head coach Bob Surace.

“It was really good execution and really good blocking. We forced some three-and-outs and got the ball in good field position. We ran the ball well.”

Things didn’t go as well in the second quarter as Princeton was outscored 21-7 to find itself clinging to a 23-21 lead at halftime.

“They are a good football team, they will probably finish first or second in the Patriot League,” said Surace. “They hadn’t thrown the ball quite as much as they did on Saturday.”

Although Princeton’s lead had been cut to just two points at intermission, Surace wasn’t pushing the panic button.

“At halftime, it was play the next play,” said Surace. “Focus on the next play and on not anything that happened at the end of the half. We were our worst enemy with the turnover and then their QB throws a TD pass. We were still ahead. We came out in the second half and played well.”

Princeton scored a touchdown on its first possession in the third quarter to increase its lead to 30-21 but it never scored again, succumbing to a Colgate rally in losing 31-30 before a crowd of 4,402 at Andy Kerr Stadium.

“Ten of our 12 drives went to the 50 or beyond,” said Surace, whose team dropped to 2-2 overall with the setback. “We didn’t finish drives as well as we need to. It was a penalty here or a thing there.”

Things were looking very good for Princeton in the early going. In its second possession after Nelson’s jaunt to paydirt, the Tigers put together a 90-yard scoring march that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Quinn Epperly.

Princeton forced a three-and-out and was on the move again. Sparked by a 38-yard pass from Epperly to Matt Costello, the Tigers got deep in Colgate territory. Although the drive stalled, the Tigers cashed in with a 38-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck to go up by 16-0.

The Raiders, though, started to get going in the second quarter as quarterback Jake Melville started finding the range with his passing game. Midway through the quarter, Colgate got on the board as a 3-yard TD run by Demetrius Russell capped a 64-yard march and narrowed the gap to 16-7.

Princeton answered back as Connor Michelsen hit Costello with a 28-yard TD pass to make it 23-7.

But that lead was short-lived as Melville hit some big passes, including a 24-yard scoring strike to Alex Greenawalt to draw Colgate to within 23-14.

Then, in a pivotal sequence, Epperly threw an interception which Colgate later converted to a touchdown on the last play of the half as Melville found John Quazza in the end zone for a 13-yard TD to make it 23-21 going into halftime.

Seemingly stemming the Raider tide, Princeton started the third quarter by forcing a three-and-out and then going on a scoring march. Driving 64 yards, the Tigers took a 30-21 lead as Will Powers scored on a 12-yard run.

Colgate responded with a big drive of its own, going 76 yards and scoring on a 24-yard pass from Melville to Risley Lesko to narrow the gap to 30-28.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Raiders forged ahead for the first time as Jonah Bowman hit a 23-yard field goal.

Princeton advanced to the Colgate 29 and 35 on its next two possessions but both drives ended with incomplete passes. In the waning moments of the contest, the Tigers forced a fumble and got the ball at their own 28 with 1:15 left in regulation. After picking up one first down, Princeton’s bid for a last minute victory ended with incomplete passes on the third and fourth downs.

In reflecting on the defeat, Surace rued his team’s failure to come through on a day when it outrushed the Raiders 201 yards to 111.

“The effort and physicality were there, they are one of the more physical teams we will see in four or five years,” said Surace, who got 131 yards on the ground from DiAndre Atwater with Powers gaining 43.

“We needed to execute a little better with all the good things we did in the running game.”

One of the things that has hurt Princeton is coming up short in the turnover battle.

“We were +10 in turnovers last year and this year we are -3,” said Surace. “We are not taking care of the ball as well. We have to keep attacking the ball in defense. We are playing with physicality but we are not doing a good job of getting the ball away from the other teams.”

With Brown (2-2 overall, 0-1 Ivy League) coming to Princeton Stadium on October 18 for a key Ivy clash, Princeton is poised for another physical battle.

“Coach [Phil] Estes and his group year in, year out does a good job,” said Surace, whose team is 1-0 in Ivy action. “They always play physical and have a really solid defense. I think the Colgate game prepared us well for them.”

In Surace’s view, Princeton is prepared to play a complete game. “We were close on Saturday; we are playing good teams and that is what it looks like when two good teams play each other,” said Surace.

“We have got to be better on a few plays. If we are playing 200 plays, I can’t be talking about seven where we were a little off. We need to take better care of details.”

 

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HEADLINER: Princeton University men’s soccer player Thomas Sanner, left heads the ball in recent action. Junior forward ­Sanner tallied three goals and an assist in a 5-2 win over Rutgers on October 7. Last Saturday, Sanner and his teammates rallied from a 1-0 deficit to pull out a 2-1 win over Brown in improving to 5-3-2 overall and 1-1 Ivy League. Sanner was later named the co-Ivy League Player of the Week along with Dartmouth senior forward Alex Adelabu for the week ending October 12. The Tigers resume league action with a game at Columbia (4-5 overall, 1-1 Ivy) on October 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Dartmouth in its Ivy League opener on October 4, the Princeton University men’s soccer team could have felt sorry for itself.

Instead, the Tigers displayed an upbeat mentality under the circumstances. “This team has shown some resilience and good leadership,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow.

“We have had good training sessions and the spirit is high. They were not discouraged after the Dartmouth loss, they still believed they could do some good things.”

In its next game against Rutgers three days later, Princeton did a lot of good things as it pulled away to a 5-2 over its local rivals.

“We came out and went down by one goal but we responded well, it was our best 90 minutes of the season,” said Barlow, who got three goals and an assist from Thomas Sanner in the win over the Scarlet Knights with Cameron Porter adding two goals and an assist.

“We were sharp with the ball. It was not just that we got five goals but four of them were really good goals. We were on the same page in the buildup. It was a lot more of an open game than some of the others.”

Heading into a critical Ivy contest against visiting Brown last Saturday, Barlow sensed that the game wasn’t going to be as open.

“They had four shutouts in a row so we knew it was going to be tough,” said Barlow.

“If we had lost the first two games at home in the league, it would have greatly diminished our chances of winning the title.”

Despite finding themselves trailing the Bears 1-0 at half, the Tigers still liked their chances.

“When we got to the half, the theme was that we had the ability to get goals, we just had to pass sharper to open up their defense a bit,” recalled Barlow

Senior star Porter got things going, drawing a penalty kick and then burying it as the Tigers knotted the game at 1-1 at the 68:46 mark.

“Cameron is a big, strong guy and there are a lot of big, strong, defenders and they get tangled up a lot,” said Barlow. “It is tough on the referees. He was in a good spot and Brendan McSherry did a really good job getting a cross into him.”

About 15 minutes later, Princeton took the lead as senior midfielder Joe Saitta scored his first career goal, a tally that proved to be the difference as Princeton prevailed 2-1.

Nico Hurtado started the winning play in the midfield, finding Vikram Pothuri, who crossed the ball to Saitta.

“Vikram is a good passer; we haven’t used him a lot but we started him in the second half and he had a really good game and helped set up the winning goal,” said Barlow, whose team improved to 5-3-2 overall and 1-1 Ivy with the victory.

“Saitta has had a lot of games recently where he has been strong. He didn’t have his best game against Dartmouth but he had a great game earlier against St. John’s and he was really solid against Rutgers. He did a great job against Brown, not only scoring the winning goal but passing really well.”

Barlow knows that the Tigers have to keep playing well to stay on the winning track in a league known for its parity.

“It is still going to be the same thing every week,” said Barlow. “There are four teams that are 1-1 in the league (Princeton, Penn, Brown, and Columbia), two are 2-0 (Dartmouth and Harvard) and two are 0-2 (Cornell and Yale). From week to week, you could be really happy or very disappointed.”

After hosting Loyola in a non-league contest on October 14, the Tigers head to New York City on Saturday for what shapes up to be another hotly-contested Ivy battle.

“We have a tough game at Columbia (4-5 overall), they lost their first league game, and then they came from behind to beat Penn on Saturday,” said Barlow.

“It is a tough place to play, we have benefitted from having four home games. Now we have to see if we can win on the road.”

 

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NO ORDINARY JOE: Princeton High football star Joe Hawes grabs some water during a game earlier this season. Hawes has made an immediate impact for PHS, taking up football this fall after spending last year as the backup goalie for the Little Tiger boys’ soccer team. The senior has emerged as a go-to receiver and ball-hawking defensive back for undefeated PHS. Last Saturday, he made four receptions for 55 yards and a game-sealing touchdown as PHS topped Steinert 28-14 to improve to 5-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Hawes didn’t want to spend the fall of his senior year sitting on the bench for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

Realizing that he had hit a dead end as a little used back-up goalie for the PHS squad, Hawes decided he would get more action on the gridiron.

“I hadn’t tried football; my parents never really wanted me to,” said Hawes.

“This year, they were like you can’t do anything else why don’t you try football. I wasn’t getting playing time in soccer so I was — why not.”

Having never played organized football, Hawes underwent a crash course in the game over the offseason.

“I went to some summer league stuff,” said Hawes. “Defense wasn’t necessarily a problem but the offense was tough, learning routes, learning where you are on the field.”

Starring at lacrosse helped Hawes pick up his new sport. “The footwork and the physical play of lacrosse was a help,” said Hawes. “Knowing that you have a set play and doing what you have to do.”

The lanky Hawes has been doing well this fall for the Little Tigers, emerging as a go-to receiver and ball-hawking defensive back for the undefeated squad.

Last Saturday, he made four receptions for 55 yards and a game-sealing touchdown as PHS topped Steinert 28-14 to improve to 5-0.

On the TD, Hawes showed how quickly he has picked things up, changing his route to be an option for PHS quarterback Dave Beamer.

“I was just supposed to run down the field and I saw Beamer scrambling,” said Hawes. “We are taught to run across where he is and he just hit me.”

Against Steinert, the Little Tigers ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half only to see the Spartans narrow the gap to 21-14 as the game headed into the fourth quarter.

“Personally I was concerned, it was 21-14 and one more score and then you are tied up and it is a whole new game,” said Hawes. “We just couldn’t let that happen.”

Executing on both sides of the ball, PHS held off the Spartans. “It was our offensive line blocking and our defense communicating and marking up correctly,” said Hawes. “Our O-line really won the game.”

Hawes got the sense early that he could make a mark on the football field.

“I think it was the Ewing game, our homecoming,” added Hawes, who made an 80-yard TD reception in the PHS’s opening day win over Hamilton. “I was just super confident. I knew in my mind what I had to do and I got it done.”

With just five games under his belt, Hawes acknowledges that he hasn’t mastered the fine points of the game.

“I am still working on it, there are still some things I need to do better,” said Hawes.

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher was proud of the way his team got things done in the victory over Steinert.

“A lot of credit goes to coach [Dan] Caruso and the Steinert ball squad because they grinded it out, they took it one touchdown at a time to cut it to 21-14,” said Gallagher.

“But you know that when you look at the four games we have played so far, we are talking about Hamilton being up by a point in the first game. We are talking about being in a stalemate in the Ewing game at halftime. We are talking about a slugfest, a heavyweight fight against Hightstown and then we are down a point in the fourth quarter against Lawrence. It is a resilient team, we are just battling through.”

Along with that resilience, PHS boasts a number of weapons to help it win battles. In addition to getting a big game from Hawes in the win over Steinert, PHS got 102 yards rushing and a 57-yard punt return for a TD from junior star Rory Helstrom with junior quarterback Dave Beamer passing for 155 yards. Sam Smallzman returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown and Colin Buckley added a one-yard touchdown run.

“Joe is doing well, we would like to call his number more often,” said Gallagher.

“What is great about the squad right now is that we have a lot of playmakers, whether it be Rory Helstrom or Sam Smallzman or Joe Hawes or Colin Buckley or Dave Beamer or the special teams. Tad Moore made a great play today on that punt, he seals Steinert’s fate. He just wanted that ball and it pops out. Special teams is a third of the game, just as important as offense or defense. The offense or defense might be out there longer but special teams can win the game. We had a punt return for a TD. We are scoring in a variety of ways, which is great.”

There is a great feeling around the program as it has made a stunning turnaround from a 0-10 campaign last fall to its undefeated start this season.

“They have jelled from the very beginning,” asserted Gallagher. “It is great team chemistry and we are just happy to be coaching them up.”

Hawes, for his part, is very happy to have made the switch to football. “I couldn’t get this excited about a soccer game any time of the year except maybe a state championship,” said Hawes.

“This has been the best. I think the thing is that we just all want it. We are making history here, bringing football back into Princeton. We are all working for the same goal and we want it in our hearts.”

 

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CHASING VICTORY: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in recent action. Senior striker Ealy scored three goals in PHS’s 4-0 win over WW/P-N on October 7. Ealy and the Little Tigers edged Nottingham 2-1 last Thursday to improve to 10-1. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Allentown on October 16 before playing at Hightstown on October 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chase Ealy covered a lot of territory for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team last Thursday as it hosted Nottingham.

The senior striker raced up and down the field, making dashes toward goal and serving crosses into his teammates.

Ealy’s industry didn’t result in any goals or assists by his name on the scoresheet but he was all smiles as PHS pulled out a 2-1 win over Nottingham.

“I was running all over the place and we were really building plays and that is what I am looking for,” said Ealy. “I did get some shots off but at the end of the day if the team gets goals, it doesn’t matter to me if I don’t get any.”

It did matter a lot to Ealy that PHS outlasted Nottingham via a Jake Caddeau goal late in regulation which decided the tight contest that saw the Little Tigers jump out to a 1-0 first half lead only to see the Northstars knot the game at 1-1 with 10:53 remaining in the second half.

“That is something we are going to have to get used to in the playoffs,” said Ealy. “The fact that we came back and got that goal showed a lot of character. I was proud of the guys for keeping their heads up. The guys that were coming off the bench came in with the right attitude. We decided we were going to win this one.”

As a battle-tested senior and team co-captain, Ealy looks to instill the right mentality.

“I think my role on the field is to be a leader foremost,” said Ealy. “I want to help the guys along, I want to make sure that the attitude is where it is. I have played under great captains, like Kevin Halliday and Zach Halliday. I want to do everything I can to really be those guys on the field for these guys for this team.”

Ealy knows that he also has to produce offensively. “I want to be the best striker I can be,” said Ealy, who scored three goals in PHS’s 4-0 win over WW-P-N on October 7. “My job is to put balls away, but at the same time, if it helps to pass it to other people and create opportunities, then that is what I will do.”

With PHS improving to 10-1 with the win over Nottingham, Ealy believes the team is headed in the right direction.

“We are getting everybody back and we are starting to get back in the groove,” said Ealy.

“We are starting to pass the ball around like we were doing early in the season. We are building up, getting ready for the counties. We are very excited.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was excited to see his team come through late in the victory over the Northstars.

“They tie the game and you are thinking how can we adjust and what can we do,” said Sutcliffe.

“One of our goals is to be at our best when the pressure is greatest,  maybe this is indicative of a little of that. Going into the tournaments, there will be that little added pressure where you are level 1-1 late in a game. It is about finding a way.”

Junior defender Caddeau found a way to get the win with his clutch tally. “Jake is doing great,” said Sutcliffe.

“He is a wide outside back and he’s having a great season. I can’t say enough about his work rate. His decision-making is great, he can win balls out of the air, his distribution is good. He has a good mentality which he showed there, scoring the game winner.”

Ealy has also been providing some good work for PHS. “Chase gives us another dimension to our attack; he has been fantastic,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“He’s got to keep getting better, just like the rest of them. He had a good day the other day against North, it was good to see him get on the scoresheet.”

Some of the team’s younger players have been getting better and better as the season goes on.

“The three sophomores, Andrew Goldsmith, Sam Serxner, and Alex Ratsen have been fantastic,” added Sutcliffe. “Alex scored the opening goal today.”

The Little Tigers have some big challenges looming before they start play in the  county tournament as they finish the regular season by playing at Notre Dame on October 14, hosting Allentown on October 16, and then playing at Hightstown on October 21.

“We are just looking forward to the next week, it is the most important week of the regular season,” said Sutcliffe.

Ealy, for his part, believes that PHS is ready for a big week. “I would definitely say that we have been improving as the season goes on,” said Ealy.

“We are already a great squad and I think we are going to continue to get better. We have three very tough teams coming up. Allentown is a great team, Notre Dame is a great team, and Hightstown is there, too, so we just have to be ready.”

 

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IN STRIDE: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner James Cao heads to the finish line in a recent race. Last Saturday, senior Cao placed 34th individually in the Boys Varsity A race in the Fall Classic at Thompson Park, helping PHS to finish fifth of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mark Shelley, getting the best out of his Princeton High boys’ cross country team this fall is about marshaling his resources.

“We have been battling some injuries over the last few weeks,” said PHS head coach Shelley, whose squad took fifth of 17 teams in the Boys Varsity A race last Saturday in the Fall Classic at Thompson Park as senior Jacob Rist placed 28th individually followed by junior Aidan Donahue in 31st and senior James Cao in 34th.

“We have not run our top guys in the middle-of-the-week meets in the last few weeks. We can’t do seven races in three and a half weeks and be good in November.”

In order to be very good, PHS will need senior star Rist to be at full speed. “Jacob has been dealing with some leg tightness; he  had some achilles tendinitis problems and he hasn’t done all of our workouts,” said Shelley, noting that sophomore star Alex Roth has been sidelined the last few weeks.

“Rist is a great senior leader, he knows running and he understands his body. He is still one of our two or three best runners but he isn’t running where he can. He ran 17:15 at Thompson Park and he can be in the 16:00s.”

One of Rist’s classmates, Karl Bjorkman, has been running well for the Little Tigers.

“Karl came into the school last year as a rising junior, he has really taken off this season in terms of his times,” said Shelley.

“He is a great leader, he is coachable, and second to none in terms of work ethic.”

Shelley is getting good work from his sophomores, led by Jonathan Petrozzini and Patrick O’Connell.

“We have a real strong and deep sophomore class,” asserted Shelley. “When someone on the team runs under 19:00 they are invited to run intervals. We have 22 kids running intervals now and I would say almost half are sophomores.”

The Little Tigers also boast some freshmen who are making an impact. “Two of the freshmen are doing well,” said Shelley.

“Nick Delaney has been in our top 5 and Alex Ackerman has been in the low 17:40s, he was our fifth runner on Saturday. Jackson Donahue is another 9th grader and he is going to be solid. It is really exciting to see freshman breaking into the lineup and doing well in big races.”

The older Donahue, junior Aidan, has been doing well this fall. “I have been very pleased with Aidan, last year he got down on himself at times,” said Shelley.

“This year he is running the way he should. He is outleaning people at the line and that is a good thing to see from a runner. He keeps impressing us and moving up the ladder.”

It is good for PHS to have Cao back in action. “James is a fifth-year senior and was cleared by the NJSIAA to run last Monday,” said Shelley. “It is only his third year of running. He was third overall for us at Thompson Park. He is a great kid and the kids love him.”

Shelley is hoping that his team can produce a great finish this fall. “Our focus is ultimately the divisional, county, sectional, and group meets,” noted Shelley.

“Part of doing well is getting better on a weekly basis, another part of it is getting healthy. The key is to have Jacob getting his times down to where they have been and getting Alex Roth back so we have a big three of those two and James Cao. Then guys who have been running second and third can be fourth and fifth. That gives us the depth to do well.”

 

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CAMP FIRE: Princeton High field hockey player ­Campbell ­McDonald heads upfield in recent action. Senior star ­McDonald started this month on fire, producing two straight hat tricks as PHS topped Lawrence 5-0 on October 1 and Princeton Day School 6-1 on October 7. Last Monday, McDonald chipped in two goals as PHS beat Steinert 5-1 to improve to 13-2. The Little Tigers are seeded second in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament (MCT). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hampered by a lingering hamstring injury, Campbell McDonald got off to a slow start this fall for the Princeton High field hockey team.

But getting up to speed with her leg feeling better, senior striker McDonald has caught fire as the calendar has turned to October.

On October 1, McDonald scored three goals to help PHS defeat Lawrence 5-0. Six days later, McDonald registered another hat trick as the Little Tigers topped Princeton Day School 6-1.

In reflecting on her hot streak, McDonald said it is a joint effort. “I do feel like I am in a good groove,” said McDonald.

“I think it is just knowing that is my last season and it is so close to ending. I want to get it while it is hot. I cannot take all of the credit for that, my team is always behind me. I just try to be where they need me.”

The PHS team was clicking on all cylinders in the win over PDS, jumping out to a 3-0 first half lead.

“We have been working really hard in practice,” said McDonald. “At this point, everything is just looking toward MCTs and states. We are just trying to raise our game to the highest level we can play so that we are ready for what is coming.”

Falling 3-1 to Lawrenceville in late September helped PHS get better ready for the stretch drive.

“I think we went into Lawrenceville knowing that it was going to be a tough game and it definitely challenged us more than we anticipated,” said McDonald.

“We are going to hopefully see them again in MCTs so we have had to step up all over so that we are ready for that. We work really hard in practice and it is showing. I could not be happier with the girls I am out there with. They all work so hard and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

McDonald loves being out on the field with her classmates on the squad, who include Lucy Herring, Julia DiTosto, Elisa Kostenbader, and Cara Straus.

“We have been together since middle school so we have always had this strong bond,” said McDonald, who scored two more goals last Monday as PHS topped Steinert to improve to 13-2.

“I think it just grows and grows as we come towards our end. It is bittersweet so we are just trying to use all the time we have together and make the most of it.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes her team is getting stronger and stronger on the offensive end.

“We have been working a lot on finishing in practices, especially that midfield transition into the circle,” said Serverson.

“It is really starting to pay off, both in that press to goal and our offensive corners.”

Serverson likes the way McDonald has been going to goal over the last few weeks.

“Campbell has really stepped up her game; she wasn’t playing as well in the beginning of the season,” said Serverson. “Somewhere in the middle she found the old Campbell and she is back.”

In Serverson’s view, senior star and Stanford-bound DiTosto has emerged as a force in the middle of the field for the Little Tigers.

“I think Julia has done a great job controlling the middle of the field, more offensively than defensively, so we are working on that defensive part of it,” said Serverson of DiTosto, who had two goals on the win over Steinert on Monday.

“She is a good offensive playmaker and we are starting to really feed off of that. It starts in that midfield transition and, in particular, if Julia is the one that starts it, things are just clean, perfect, and in all the right spots.”

For PHS, its losses to Lawrenceville and Allentown have helped the team focus on bringing the right mentality to each game.

“The biggest lesson that we took from Lawrenceville, and actually from Allentown too (a 1-0 defeat on September 5), is that we need to set the tone,” asserted Serverson, whose team is seeded second in the upcoming MCT and will play the winner of the Stuart Country Day-Nottingham play-in game in the first round of the tourney. “We need to go after every team with the same intensity right from the start.”

PHS is poised for a big finish. “I think we are just trying to stay healthy, we are trying to stay well rested,” said Serverson.

“We have been taking some days off so that the girls can fully recover. Luckily our schedule right now isn’t as challenging so we are able to utilize the depth of our bench and get everyone in the games and actually see what they are capable of. Some of them are really stepping up their games as well. I think we are going to peak at just the right time.”

McDonald, for her part, believes that last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Hopewell Valley in the MCT semis will help fuel this year’s postseason run.

“That gives us a lot of motivation,” said McDonald. “We are just so determined to get where we were last year and hopefully go farther.”

 

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HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton Day School field hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a stop in recent action. Senior Alden and classmates Dana Poltorak, and Niki van Manen have provided positive leadership this fall as PDS has battled through a tough season. The Panthers, now 2-10, will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament this week where they are seeded 13th and will be playing at No. 4 Lawrenceville in a first round contest. PDS is also slated to play at the Hill School (Pa.) on October 15 and host Hopewell Valley on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Borrowing a page from the U.S. Marines playbook, “the few, the proud” motto applied as the Princeton Day School field hockey team celebrated its Senior Day last week.

Through attrition and injury, the program’s Class of 2015 was whittled down to three with Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter], Dana Poltorak, and Niki van Manen as the only seniors remaining on the team.

Of those three, only two are still in action with van Manen having been sidelined indefinitely as she recovers from mono.

For Alden, the ceremony, which occurred before the team’s game against cross-town rival Princeton High on October 7, triggered mixed emotions.

“It was obviously a bittersweet moment, it was really sad that we couldn’t play with Niki since she is out,” said Alden.

“She is one of our best players and we really depend on her in the backfield. We want her to be healthy; we don’t want anything bad to happen to her so we know it was right of her to not play as much as she wanted to.”

On the other hand, Alden appreciated the support she felt from the team’s younger players.

“Every year since my freshman year, on senior day I always want to play harder for my seniors,” said Alden.

“I looked up to them. This year, they were playing for me and that flipped the table as to what it usually is for me. They got us gifts, it was sweet. They were like play great Katie, this is for you, and that really pumped us up before the game.”

While the game didn’t turn out great for PDS as PHS posted a 6-1 win, Alden played hard to the final whistle, piling up 17 saves.

“I just want to stay in it, no matter what the score is,” said Alden. “It is easy to get your head out of the game but you really have to stay focused and keep the score as low as you can. You know that it has to go through everyone to get to you and that they are leaning on you to stay in this game.”

With a roster that includes eight freshmen and six sophomores, Alden knows that she has to call the shots along the backline.

“I try to communicate as often as I can because as the goalie, I can see everything,” said Alden.

“This is my seventh year playing field hockey so I can anticipate plays and put people in better positions than I could as a freshman. I am not scared to direct players. I know that they will understand if I scream at them, they will mark up, and get their sticks down. I know that with my direct communication, it’s going to be the best field hockey we play. We really need to have that structurally sound and technical game, that basic game.”

Although PDS has struggled to a 2-10 record, Alden and her teammates aren’t hanging their heads.

“We try to make everything fun; even though we are losing, I still walk off the field happy,” said Alden

“We are a lot more cohesive than we have been in the past couple of years, especially because there is no JV team. Everyone is on the same team which I think made a big difference. We have a locker room to ourselves, which is fun. We give them little inspirational notes before every game. I think we really try and support them because we want the program to stay together and keep building. The only way for that to happen is if we have a fun year. We may not have the best record but is has always been fun and I think that’s key.”

PDS head coach Tracey Arndt credits her trio of senior tri-captains with holding things together through a challenging fall.

“They have been great,” said Arndt. “They have been on the varsity for four years and with me for three years. They had good leaders in the classes before them and they have emulated them. They understand how I want things done.”

Arndt notes that the team’s younger players have been positively influenced by the seniors.

“We have a brand new team and the freshmen didn’t know stuff, like this is what happens on game day and this is what we need to do when we play on the road,” said Arndt.

“The younger girls have been looking to them. I am not at school during the day and they make the transition smooth.”

The Panthers have looked to Alden to hold the fort in the goal. “What I enjoy seeing is that when things are under pressure and getting tougher, Katie is stepping up,” said Arndt.

“She has played her best in some of the harder games. She had older players in front of her on defense in the past and now there are a lot of young players in front of her. She has taken on the role of communicating. It is tough when you are also making the saves. She has been adaptable and flexible.”

Poltorak has provided a maternal approach along with some aggressive play. “Every team has a mom; Dana is always caring for everyone, making sure that everyone is OK,” said Arndt.

“In terms of hockey, she has played with fluidity. Even as she is in the last weeks of her senior season, her confidence is increasing. She is coming into her own. She has worked hard to get her hit perfected. That comes to light when we play on grass fields where it is harder. She is the one we depend on to get the ball up the field.”

While van Manen hasn’t been on the field as much as she would have wanted, she has gained from the experience. “She is a player, she is hoping to go on and play at the next level and I am sure she will,” said Arndt.

“We have put her in a lot of positions, we moved her to defense from midfield and she did a great job even though it is riskier there if you lose the ball. Being out, she is seeing it from a different perspective this year and gaining a greater understanding of how the game is played. It will help her when she goes to college.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting this week, Arndt is hoping to have more games with the seniors.

“The three of them have been class acts,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded 13th in the MCT and will play at fourth-seeded Lawrenceville in the first round.

“It has been great to have had them the last three years. I wish I had them for a couple of more years. We are trying to extend the season so we have as much time with them as possible.”

Alden has enjoyed spending time this fall with her teammates. “I think this year has made me more patient,” said Alden.

“You play as a team to be together. It is about who you are with and not how you are doing as a team. We don’t see who we are playing next, it is kind of a nameless, faceless team when you walk into the game. We focus on playing our best hockey.”

PDS is bringing that focus on the present into the postseason. “I think the goal is to go as far as we can and be the little team that could,” added Alden.

“Even though we have a lot of injuries and a young team, I think that if we play our best hockey, we could shock teams. They are going to be very confident going into games with us. I think we can take advantage of that and really capitalize on those moments.”

 

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RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Hun School girls’ soccer player Becky ­Barus goes after the ball in recent action. After taking last season off, senior Barus returned to the squad this fall and has become a key contributor. Last Saturday, Barus scored two goals to help Hun beat the Blair Academy 5-0 and improve to 6-2-1. The Raiders play at the Life Center on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being plagued by injury in the first two years of her career with the Hun School girls’ soccer team, Becky Barus decided to take a break from the game last fall.

While the respite gave her a chance to heal, Barus realized there was a void in her life.

“I just missed it so much so I said I want to be with my team and play and have fun,” said Barus. “It is my senior year and my last year.”

Barus has been having a lot of fun this fall, emerging as a key contributor for Hun, bringing energy and spirit to the squad.

Last Saturday, she brought some offensive punch as well, scoring two second half goals as the Raiders rolled to a 5-0 victory over visiting Blair on a waterlogged field.

“We practice slotting and finishing the ball,” said Barus. “It was so muddy over there and I saw the balls bouncing around and I decided to go for it.”

Coming into the game with Blair, Hun was primed to go for it collectively.

“We have a goal list and one of our goals was to win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and it started here with our first MAPL game,” noted Barus. “We pumped ourselves up and did what we wanted to do.”

A 2-0 victory over perennial state Prep champion Pennington on September 30 pumped up the Raiders.

“That was another one of the goals on our goal list, to beat Pennington,” said Barus. “We hadn’t beaten them in so long and our mindset was that we thought we have a lot of potential this year and we came in focused. It was a huge win.”

In addition to their potential and skill on the field, the Raiders boast a special team unity.

“We have really good team chemistry,” said Barus. “It is important to us to be able to get along and play well together and we have fun doing it.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac had a lot of fun watching her team’s display against Blair.

“We just played some really beautiful soccer in the first half with the way we were knocking the ball around,” said Hallac.

“We were doing the same in the second half and finishing even better. That’s what really impressed me the most, the way we played despite the conditions and the circumstances. They really did take care of business. They were doing everything right on both sides on the ball. They were working hard but they were working smart.”

Hallac likes the hard work she has been getting from Barus upon her return to the squad.

“I talked to her in the spring and she decided to play and I am really glad that she did,” said Hallac.

“She’s been working her tail off. She takes advantage of the minutes that she gets. She just works like an animal out there for us. The girls love her and she loves them. She brings a lot of positive energy to the team.”

The pair of senior stars, defender Ashley Maziarz and midfielder Jess Sacco, is another big positive for Hun.

“Ashley and Jess are the tandem in the back there,” added Hallac. “It is hard to separate them, they are both so solid. I really never get too worried about our defense.”

Sophomore Abby Gray is emerging as another solid performer for the Raiders.

“Abby is very composed, she is maturing very nicely as a player,” said Hallac. “She is really starting to take off.”

In Hallac’s view, the win over Pennington has helped her team take off in recent weeks.

“They went out there and played their hearts out,” said Hallac. “I was really proud of the way they performed. It finally convinced them of what they could do. I think they were starting to believe it last year but they walked into that game believing that they could truly play with anyone and they proved it.”

With the county and state Prep A tournaments around the corner, Hallac believes her squad can be a title contender.

“I think with the group we have got and the way we are playing, the sky is the limit,” asserted Hallac, who guided the Raiders to the state Prep A title game last fall.

“I think we have seen a recommitment to the goals we set and to each other, knowing that you are going to make mistakes on the field but we have got to be  able to settle down and overcome those challenges. You don’t try to do everything yourself, you play within yourself, trust your teammates, and work together.”

Barus, for her part, is confident that things will come together for Hun in postseason play.

“We just have to stay focused and play every game like it’s a game against a big team,” said Barus.

“We have the potential to win every game; we are a solid team. I think the win against Pennington gave us a lot of confidence. Our practices have been really focused. We like to have fun. We play best when we are having fun together and enjoying the game that we love to play. Every practice I think we are all getting better, individually and as a team.”