November 6, 2012

Luke Bozich has hit some bumps in the road this fall in his senior campaign with the Princeton High boys’ cross country team.

In a race in late September at Mercer County Park, Bozich slipped in a rut and sprained his ankle. After returning to action weeks later, Bozich got hurt again when he tripped over a log on the course at Holmdel.

While such bad luck could be discouraging, Bozich has been unfazed. “I have been injured a lot through cross country in high school; I have been able to deal with it,” said Bozich. “Plus, I used to get injured all the time running when I was a kid.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Championships at Washington Crossing Park, a healthy Bozich had a great time, placing seventh in the race to help PHS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.

Following Bozich for the Little Tigers was junior Kevin Vahdat in eighth, sophomore Jacob Rist in 11th, senior Matt Wong in 34th, and junior Conor Donahue in 35th.

For Bozich, who covered the 5k course in 16:22, the top 10 finish was something to savor.

“This is the first time I have ever run varsity here; it feels great,” said Bozich, noting that his best time in the course was 19:07.

“I ran varsity at sectional my sophomore year but I fell apart last year. I came back for my senior year and I was ready to go.”

Running with teammate Vahdat at the front of the PHS pack helped Bozich come through in the county meet.

“Kevin took the lead towards the second loop of the woods and up the last hill so I tried my best to keep up with him,” recalled Bozich of Vahdat who clocked a 16:24 time.

Displaying a strong finishing kick, Bozich passed Vahdat in the last few yards of the race.

“I was mad so I went for it,” said Bozich. “I have asthma so during the race if I can’t breathe as much it gets me irritated. I am hoping to do my best and it hinders me.”

While Bozich was proud of his seventh place finish, the main goal is to give his all for the squad. “I never really shoot for a time,” explained Bozich. “I just try and go out there and do the best race I can for the team and wherever that puts me; that is fine.”

Bozich draws strength from the group dynamic surrounding the PHS squad. “I feel like as a team, we are more unified,” said Bozich.

“There is something about us when everybody is in the huddle before the race. Everyone gets going and everyone is really happy and I feel like that helps a lot.”

With the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional meet slated for this Saturday at  Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Bozich and his teammates are primed for another big effort.

“We are just going to go out and do our best,” said Bozich. “We are going to save all that power for the states and whatever may come after that.”

Even though his Princeton High football team was mired in a slump, Joe Gargione brought high hopes into its game at Trenton Central last Saturday.

“I told the kids that this was a good opportunity to snap a 6-game losing streak and start a 3-game winning streak,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

Giving Gargione additional optimism was the fact that the Little Tigers had scored 18 unanswered points in the second half of their 35-18 loss a week earlier to Burlington Township.

But PHS got out of the gate slowly against the Tornadoes, falling behind 20-0 by halftime.

“We had pretty good practices last week but we started out slow,” lamented Gargione. “It wasn’t that we were sluggish, we just weren’t getting it done and they put up 20 points quickly.”

The Little Tigers valiantly tried to get it done after intermission. “We started the second half with a pooch kick and Javon [Pannell] pounced on it,” said Gargione. “That gave us momentum. We got down there and had two chances to score but we didn’t convert.”

The Little Tigers did convert later in the quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Christian Giles on an 8-yard scoring pass. But that was the end of the scoring as Trenton won 20-7 and PHS dropped to 1-7.

“We scored in the second half and they didn’t,” said Gargione, noting that Giles’ TD was his first ever in varsity competition for the senior receiver.

“I told the kids afterward that there are four quarters in football; maybe you can’t win them all but we can’t dig that kind of hole, You can’t put yourself in that position and expect to win.”

With his team playing at winless Pemberton on November 3 in the regular season finale, Gargione hasn’t lost hope.

“We can have a two-game winning streak and match our win total from last year,” said Gargione.

“They may be 0-8 but then have some big kids, a running back who is pretty good and some good receivers. It is going to be tough; we have to get to the QB to stop their receivers.”

MID POINT: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Kate Kerr dribbles the ball upfield in action earlier this fall. Last week, senior midfielder Kerr contributed an assist as second-seeded PHS edged 10th-seeded Ewing 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. PHS went on to lose to eventual champion Pennington in the semifinals on penalty kicks. The Little Tigers, now 12-3 are seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional and are slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the first round of the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr was primed to assume a lot of responsibility this fall for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“I wanted to be in the center because I thought that is where I could be the most help for my teammates,” said senior midfielder Kerr.

“I think the middle is the engine of the team; I need to make sure I am looking for both sides. I need to make sure I am helping the team making runs, keeping the momentum and going forward. I also need to instruct our defense and make sure that everyone sees what’s going on and where they should be marking.”

Last week, as second-seeded PHS hosted 10th-seeded Ewing in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament, Kerr displayed her full repertoire of skills.

The enterprising Kerr helped key a strong defensive effort as the Little Tigers stifled Ewing and then assisted on the game’s lone goal as PHS posted a 1-0 victory on October 23.

In reflecting on setting up Ally Rogers’ decisive strike, Kerr said it as a matter of applying a training routine.

“We do this a lot in practice, we try to go to the endline and then cut the ball back,” said Kerr.

“We make sure that our runs are coming from the center so that is what I was trying to do. I turned on my player and cut it back so someone could easily run onto it.”

In producing its superb run this fall, PHS has developed a special unity. “I think we all just have really great teamwork; we all enjoy playing with each other,” said Kerr, who provided more good work as PHS fell to eventual champion Pennington on penalty kicks in the MCT semis.

“In our practices, we have all been focused on playing as a team and supporting each other well. We all know our positions well and we make sure that we are always there for each other.”

Even Kerr is surprised at how well PHS has done this fall as it has gone 12-3 and is seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional.

“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t expect to do this well,” said Kerr. “Not having expectations, we all worked hard, had fun and we ended up coming up with a better record than we expected.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand, for his part, views the team’s success as the product of daily effort.

“It has been a steady progression; this team works hard and really wants to learn,” said Hand.

“We have developed a vocabulary, a way to talk about what we are trying to do. I’d say we are certainly playing our best soccer right now. The Notre Dame game (a 5-2 win on October 16) was by far the best of the season; we have had substantial chunks of other games that were just what we were looking for.”

Kerr has given Hand what he is looking for in the center of the field. “She never stops,” said Hand of Kerr.

“If you are working as hard defensively as she is, it is a huge challenge to shift gears and instantly compose yourself and get your eyes up and find the next target. She has just gotten better and better at that throughout the year.”

Hand believes his team can end the year with a good postseason run. “I have a lot of confidence in the intensity that we show and with the presence of mind that we have when we win the ball,” said Hand, whose team is slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the opening round of the state tourney. “I like our basic desire to do what is necessary to win.”

Kerr, for her part, is having a ball as she comes down the homestretch of her PHS career.

“Right now I am just trying to enjoy it,” said Kerr. “Being a senior, I am really, really happy that we are doing so well. I want to end on a really strong note.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton High field hockey star Sydney Watts clears the ball in 2011 action. Last Wednesday, senior star Watts helped sixth-seeded PHS top No. 11 Middletown South 2-0 in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional. It was PHS’s first win in the state tournament since the 1990s. The Little Tigers, now 14-4-1, are slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sydney Watts has played a big role in helping to transform the Princeton High field hockey team into one of the top teams in the area.

In Watt’s sophomore year in 2010, PHS dipped to 6-10-1 after a 9-8 campaign the season before. Last fall, with Watts emerging as a top player with her defensive prowess and stick skills, the Little Tigers improved to 10-6.

This season, PHS started 11-2 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Mercer County Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals where they dropped a 1-0 nailbiter in overtime to defending champion Lawrenceville.

Despite this improvement, the Little Tigers have not been able to get over the hump in the state tournament, losing three straight years in the first round after not having been in the tourney for the previous decade.

Last Wednesday, as the sixth-seeded Little Tigers prepared to face No. 11 Middletown South in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional, Watts wasn’t ready to see her career come to an end.

“I was just hoping this wasn’t going to be my last game,” said Watts. “I was trying as hard as I could to get this win and play for these girls because they have put in so much effort this year.”

Keying the defense and making some sharp passes to get the PHS attack going, Watts helped PHS break through with a sweet 2-0 victory.

“I am really excited that we won this game,” said Watts. “We have been working on this as long as I can remember. We have only made it to the first round ever in my high school career so this was a big win for us.”

In Watts’ view, the lessons learned by PHS from past state appearances combined with its skill made the difference in the win over Middletown South.

“I think it was definitely the experience but I also think this is the most talented team that Princeton High has seen in a long time and I am really proud of these girls,” said Watts.

With the teams deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS displayed its offensive talent in the second half, controlling possession and taking advantage of its chances in the circle.

“We really picked it up in the second half,” said Watts. “I think our passing game really improved; we connected on more balls. We realized what we needed to fix from the beginning and we really picked it up.”

The Little Tigers’ work on the backline helped trigger the offense. “Our defense is a big part of our team; we try and support as much from the back and work forward,” said Watts.

“We really start the game in the back of the field and everyone really plays defense, even the forwards. I think an issue in the beginning of the season was connecting from the defense to the offense with our passes. Now we are able to connect and we are able to get the ball up the field really fast.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was more relieved than anything else in the wake of the win which lifted her team to a 14-4-1 record.

“I feel like I can finally breathe; I feel like I really haven’t been able to breathe in the state tournament over the last four years,” said a grinning Serverson.

“We are finally at that point where we made it past that first step. I think it is huge in terms of building our confidence and in general, for the program, it is a statement.”

In order to advance, PHS had to step up in the second half. “We needed to tighten things up, we just weren’t moving the ball well,” said Serverson, who got goals from Emilia Lopez-Ona and Kelly Dredger in the victory with Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald picking up assists.

“We weren’t passing soon enough. I think that once people realized that we had a chance to win this game, they realized that they had to buckle down and do the fundamentals well.”

Serverson knows she will get fundamentally sound play from her defensive unit, led by Watts and sophomore star Julia DiTosto.

“They are always pretty tight down there; they do a great job of holding the fort,” asserted Serverson.

“I never have any complaints about them. They are steady and consistent; thank goodness we have them to rely on.”

With PHS slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals, Serverson knows her team needs to put an even greater emphasis on ball movement in order to prevail.

“I think we need to work on an even quicker, faster passing game,” said Serverson. “We need to tighten everything up. This team hasn’t played at that level yet. Hopefully, they will respond well.”

Watts, for her part, is confident that PHS will raise the level of its play in the clash against Freehold.

“I think we were very dangerous in the MCT; we just couldn’t come up with a win against Lawrenceville,” said Watts.

“In the state bracket as a No. 6 seed, we have a pretty big role. We still have to make a name for ourselves.”

IN HIS GRASP: Hun School football player Abdul-Malik Majeed corrals a ball carrier in recent action. Last Saturday at Peddie, senior star Majeed scored on a 43-yard pass play in the waning seconds to give Hun a 21-14 lead. The Falcons, though, responded by scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion in the waning seconds to pull out a 22-21 win. The Raiders, now 3-3, wrap up their season by hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Two weekends ago, the Hun School football team trailed Lawrenceville 21-0 at halftime only to rally for a 35-21 victory.

Last Saturday, Hun trailed Peddie 14-7 at halftime but was undaunted as it displayed resilience for a second week in a row.

The Raiders tied the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter as Hun senior Chris Cardinali bulled towards the end zone and classmate Quashae Hendryx alertly fell on his fumble.

Peddie took the ensuing kickoff and marched all the way to the Hun 10-yard-line. The Raiders, though, held the fort as they blocked a field goal attempt and took over on their own 16.

With Hun quarterback Blake Searfoss coming up with some clutch pass completions, Hun marched to the Peddie 43. Searfoss then hit Abdul-Malik Majeed across the middle in a slant pattern and the senior running back raced all the way to the end zone as Hun took a 21-14 lead with 28 seconds left in regulation.

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck was impressed with the resolve he saw from his squad.

“I thought that our kids were really courageous,” said Dudeck. “We were down again and things looked bad. We had enough courage to come back and stick one in with 28 seconds to go and make the PAT and keep on fighting.”

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Peddie didn’t stop battling as quarterback Dominic Borelli ran 14 yards and then hit a 42-yard pass play to Ben Pagan to get the Falcons to the Hun one-yard line with five seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Borelli raced into the end zone to make it a 21-20 game. He then put the final nail into the coffin as he bolted into the end zone for a two-point conversion to give Peddie a 22-21 win.

“My hat is off to Peddie,” said a subdued Dudeck. “They didn’t give up; they kept on pushing and they kept on playing to the end. Even when we went ahead with 28 seconds left, they drive the length of the field and score a touchdown and not only score a TD but get the extra two.”

Over the course of the afternoon, Hun opened the door to Peddie with some sloppy play.

“If I was to point to one thing today that I felt really hurt us; it was the number of penalties we had,” lamented Dudeck, whose team dropped to 3-3 with the defeat.

“All day long, from the beginning of the game to the end, we kept on giving Peddie chances and they took advantage of them. We kept on shooting ourselves in the foot.”

With his team lacking the depth of past years, Dudeck knows that there is little margin for error this fall.

“The other important thing is all year we talked about the type of team we are, that we don’t have enough talent to just show up,” said Dudeck.

“We have to play hard and finish. I think that today was an example where we didn’t finish.”

The Raiders will be looking to finish the fall on a high note as they host Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4 in the season finale.

“Our kids always play with confidence; they never got down,” said Dudeck. “They hung in there for the whole time. They felt that they were going to win the game. We went up; we just didn’t close the deal.”

October 24, 2012

ROMAN GLADIATOR: Princeton University junior receiver Roman Wilson heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Harvard, Wilson caught the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left as Princeton overcame a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 win. In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy. Princeton looks to keep on the winning track as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team played at Harvard last fall, it put 39 points on the board but it wasn’t enough as the Crimson piled up 56.

Last Saturday, when the foes renewed their rivalry at Princeton Stadium before a sun-splashed crowd of 10,823, the Tigers again totaled 39 points.

But this time, that was enough to culminate one of the most remarkable, dizzying rallies in Ivy League football lore as Princeton fought back from a 24-point fourth quarter deficit to pull out a stunning 39-34 triumph over the nationally ranked and previously undefeated Crimson.

In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy.

In reflecting on his team’s rally for the ages, Princeton head coach Bob Surace pointed to belief.

“It is not only me believing in them but they have to believe in themselves and they do,” said Surace whose team was outgained 634 yards to 419.

“They never, ever thought there was anything but a chance and that we were going to make play after play. The Harvard team is terrific. I am looking at those stats, their quarterback [Colton Chapple] is outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about their players and how hard fought that game was.”

The Tigers got some good fortune to help bolster their self-belief. “We kept fighting; we got a few breaks,” said Surace.

“In other games we have lost because that fourth and one ended up being a first down at the end of the game. In this game, we were able to keep them one yard shy and they had to punt. We made a few plays to get down the field. I am glad we don’t play a seven-game series with them.”

Junior receiver Roman Wilson made the final big play, leaping to catch a Quinn Epperly pass for a game-winning 36-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.

In recalling the play, Wilson wasn’t surprised that it worked. “We lined up quick and Quinn threw a good ball and I had the leverage on the safety and I just had to go up there and make a play,” said Wilson.

“It is something we do every week in practice and all the guys believed that it is going to work.”

Wilson’s grab triggered a wild celebration that saw his teammates mob him in the end zone and then moments later, the Princeton fans stormed the field after the final gun.

With his voice cracking, Wilson said the scene was something he’ll never forget.

“It is just an incredible feeling, looking up and seeing all the fans, and seeing all the alumni, and seeing all my teammates come in,” said Wilson, who ended the day with five catches for 111 yards.

“It means so much because we work so hard everyday. We believed in each other; we believe in every single day of practice. We believe that we are going to come out and give our best and win.”

Sophomore quarterback Epperly, who came on in the last drive in relief of the shaken up Connor Michelson, believed he could get the job done.

“I just had confidence that I could step in and pull it off too,” said Epperly. “This is a big time but just stay calm and try to win it for us.”

For most of the day, the idea of Princeton winning the game seemed farfetched, at best.

Harvard got out of the gate on fire; scoring two early touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Crimson added a touchdown early in the second quarter but their extra point attempt was blocked to make it 20-0.

As the teams headed into the locker room at halftime, Harvard maintained its 20-0 lead, having essentially run the Tigers out of their own building, outgaining Princeton 415 yards to 51.

In the locker room, Surace reminded his players that they had already shown this season that they could fight back from a big halftime deficit.

“I went in there and I told them, we were in this same spot against Lehigh,” recalled Surace.

“It was 17-0 and we fell a few plays short [in a 17-14 loss on September 15]. I said we are going to find out about the character of this group and see if we can show that we have grown as a team.”

The Tigers didn’t waste any time showing their character in the second half as Epperly made a one-yard touchdown run with 10:17 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-7. A Nolan Bieck 22-yard field goal made it 20-10 midway through the quarter.

But showing its championship mentality, Harvard responded with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to Kyle Juszczyk to end the quarter with a 27-10 lead.

Just 1:58 into the fourth quarter, the Crimson increased their advantage to 34-10 as Chapple found Cameron Brate for a 14-yard scoring strike.

With less than 12 minutes left in regulation, many fans headed to the exits. The Tigers, though, started heading to the end zone, beginning with a seven-yard TD pass from Michelson to Dre Nelson. Michelson proceeded to hit Tom Moak for a two-point conversion as Princeton cut the lead to 34-18.

Minutes later, Michelson hooked up with Matt Costello for a 29-yard touchdowns pass. Epperly came on and hit Shane Wilkerson for another two-point conversion as the Tigers made it a 34-26 game.

With the remaining crowd on its feet, Michelson struck again, hitting Seth DeValve for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-32 with 2:27 remaining. Princeton’s two-point conversion attempt failed and Harvard took possession needing a first down to run out the clock. The Tigers held on third and seven, forcing Harvard to punt.

The Tigers got the ball on their own 10-yard-line with 1:57 left. Michelson, who ended the day with 237 yards passing and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, started the drive and hit two passes and made a run to get the ball to the 33. After getting sacked and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct on Harvard, Michelson left the game with an apparent hand injury.

Epperly then came in and after two runs had Princeton at the Harvard 36. With the crowd in an uproar, Epperly launched the ball to a far corner of the end zone where Wilson snatched it and the victory.

In reflecting on Princeton’s rally, senior defensive lineman and team captain Mike Catapano said the team’s ability to stay in the moment made the difference.

“You have to stay focused; you can’t let the big picture get to you and you focus on technique and making plays and that’s what this team did great today,” said Catapano,

“We just did not quit; we did not let the big picture overwhelm us. That is what we have done all season and that’s what we are going to continue to do, not relent, not give up, and believe.

Surace, for his part, knows that his team needs to maintain that focus as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on Saturday with three games after that in November.

“It is week six; we have to keep playing,” said Surace. “There is a lot of wow right now. There have been Super Bowls where the ball hits off the helmet and you win the game and celebrate and everything else. The problem was that this wasn’t the Super Bowl; you have to play next week.”

While there is plenty of football to play, Princeton’s super comeback last Saturday will go down as one of the most celebrated games in Ivy history.

FACING OFF: Princeton University men’s ice hockey star Andrew Calof races up the ice in action last year. The Tigers are depending on junior forward Calof, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12 with 31 points on 17 goals and 14 assists, to provide even more production as they look to improve on last year’s 9-16-7 record. Princeton starts regular season action by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s hockey team, rebounding from a frustrating 2011-12 campaign that saw it go 9-16-7 comes down to developing greater trust across the board.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier, for his part, needs to trust that he will work smarter after his first season at the helm of a college program.

“I am more patient overall,
taking more time to digest things,” said Prier. “I am thinking things through more clearly. We are being more efficient with advancements in technology.”

In Prier’s view, his players have gained a greater trust in themselves as they head into the season.

“They feel more organized; we have an agenda that we are sticking to now,” said Prier, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day.

“This group believes in each other. They want to do what they need to in order to be champions and be successful.”

Princeton’s success could depend on how much production it gets from its trio of star forwards, junior Andrew Calof (a team-high 31 points in 2011-12 on 17 goals and 14 assists), junior captain Jack Berger (22 points in 10 goals and 12 assists) and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum (21 points on 13 goals and eight assists).

“I expect a lot from those three,” said Prier. “The big thing for them is to get off to a good start. Given the depth of the team, it is not going to all be on their shoulders. We should have scoring by committee and they should be able to play looser and have some fun.”

Junior Berger provides leadership to go with his scoring prowess. “Berger has been a great leader, he is extremely thorough, extremely organized, and he conveys the proper things,” said Prier.

“We have an incredible group of captains with the three other guys (assistant captains Kleebaum, junior Kevin Ross, and senior Michael Sdao). It is a good mesh of personalities.

Prier believes that the skilled Calof can be one of the leading scorers in ECAC Hockey this winter.

“Andrew’s goal is and should be to be the biggest scoring threat in the league as a junior,” asserted Prier.

“It is something he can do with hard work. He is extremely instinctive and could end up being the leading scorer in the league.”

The Tigers should get some scoring at forward from junior Andrew Ammon (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), sophomore Aaron Kesselman (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), and senior Will MacDonald (11 points on 2 goals and 9 assists).

“It is exciting to see Ammon have a healthy year; Kesselman is hitting his stride after getting injured,” said Prier, noting that his quartet of freshman forwards, Mike Ambrosia, Kyle Rankin, Jonathan Liau, and Michael Zajac, looks promising.

“Willie MacDonald brings it everyday. He has as good a work ethic as anyone we have. All are veterans with another year under their belts.”

Princeton boasts an exciting talent at defenseman in senior Sdao, a 6’4, 230-pound bruiser who earned first-team All-Ivy league and second-team All-ECACH honors last winter as he scored 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists.

“Sdao has picked up a step; he is quicker,” said Prier. “He has always had the bomb but he is even better offensively. It is his senior year; this is his last crack at it and he is going to bring it. He could be a top defender in the league.”

The Tigers are looking for Ross (10 points on 3 goals and 7 assists) and senior Eric Meland (15 points on 2 goals and 13 assists) to bring up their games.

“Kevin Ross is coming off an injury but will be back soon; he brings poise, great stick skills, and is a great decision-maker,” added Prier.

“It is Meland’s first full year on defense. He really worked on his acceleration and backpedaling. He has offensive instincts. He is dangerous with the puck; I think he could get a lot of points.”

Juniors Alec Rush (4 assists) and Jeremy Goodwin (8 assists) should see a lot of time along the blue line.

“They were sophomores last year but it was almost like their first full season because they didn’t have a lot of playing time as freshmen,” said Prier.

“They learned a lot; they have adjusted to the speed of the game. They come with a lot more confidence.”

Prier is confident that his two top goaltenders, senior Mike Condon (2.88 goals against average in 2011-12) and junior Sean Bonar (3.17 goals against average), together with sophomore Ryan Benitez, can hold the fort between the pipes.

“They are both looking pretty good and Benitez is pushing them,” said Prier.

“The top two can be elite goalies and Benitez has worked hard. It is a nice competition between the three. It is up to them as to who will play. We play to win and we will go with whoever seems to be playing well. Sean worked hard  and has a great mindset and focus. Mike had a good summer of conditioning and Ryan has shown drastic improvement.”

In Prier’s view, the Ivy Shootout weekend will provide a good opportunity for his team to show its improvement.

“The big thing is the first game, working out the kinks and going against another team that is working out its kinks too,” said Prier.

In order to work through those kinks, the Tigers will rely on the trust it has forged since last winter.

“The culture is in a good spot; the mindset is good,” said Prier. “We are getting more trust within the team. We need to get the puck moving to spots and trust that a teammate will be there. Trust leads to consistency; we are much closer to that than we were last year at this point or even at midseason.”

RAY OF HOPE: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Rachel Sheehy boots the ball in action last season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sheehy got two assists to help Princeton top Harvard 3-1. Sheehy was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for her performance. On Monday, the Tigers topped LaSalle 2-1 in overtime to win their ninth straight game and improve to 11-3-1 overall. Princeton is 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play. The Tigers play at Cornell (1-12-1 overall, 0-4-1 Ivy) on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University women’s soccer team was knotted in a scoreless draw with visiting Harvard last Saturday evening as the second half started, Tiger senior star Rachel Sheehy could sense the tide turning.

“We were going forward; we were finding our targets,” said midfielder Sheehy. “Caitlin Blosser and Jen Hoy were awesome holding the ball. We got in a rhythm.

Taking a corner kick 15 minutes into the half, Sheehy found Blosser in the box and she converted the feed to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. After Harvard tied the game at 1-1, Sheehy struck again, slotting a free kick into the crease which Blosser slammed home. Princeton added an insurance goal by Hoy minutes later to put the finishing touches on a 3-1

The win was the eighth straight for the Tigers and improved them to 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play.

Sheehy pointed to the team’s response to the Harvard goal as emblematic of the team’s will to win.

“I think that is a testament to the leadership we have with upperclassmen on the field,” said Sheehy, a native of Exton, Pa. “In the past, we have kind of panicked. We really settled down and we just fought back.”

In getting her two assists, Sheehy coolly took care of business. “We have great targets like Blosser and Gabriella Guzman,” said Sheehy, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week as she posted her first career multi-assist game, and now has a career-best five assists on the year.

“They were open back post, I find them and they do the hard work. On the second one, I wanted to take that one and I took it back post and Guzman got her foot on it.”

In Sheehy’s view, the team’s great run has been sparked by the desire of the team’s seniors to go out on a high note.

“We are definitely on a mission; the senior class hasn’t won the Ivy League yet and we are just hungry for it,” asserted Sheehy, who is one of eight seniors on the squad which stretched its winning streak to nine as it edged LaSalle 2-1 in overtime on Monday in improving to 11-3-1 overall.

“Really nothing at this point is going to stop us as long as we keep playing well. We have two more games. We are going to get through Cornell and get the final one at Penn.”

In playing the best soccer of her career, Sheehy is feeding off that sense of urgency.

“I think the fact that this is it,” said Sheehy in reflecting on her late surge. “I have such a finite number of games left. My whole life has come down to this.”

CORE STRENGTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Corey Stearns heads up the ice in action last winter. Last Saturday, senior forward Stearns scored a goal and added three assists as Princeton topped Robert Morris 6-3 to go 2-0 in its opening weekend of action. The Tigers, who topped Rochester Institute of Technology 2-1 on Friday in their season opener, start ECAC Hockey play by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University women’s ice hockey team didn’t have to wait long to be bailed out by freshman goalie Kimberly Newell.

Playing at Rochester Institute of Technology last Friday evening in its season opener, the Tigers labored to pull out a 2-1 victory as Newell made the difference.

“We played lousy against RIT; it was a combination of things,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, who got 33 saves from the Vancouver, B.C. native in her debut with Gabie Figueroa scoring in the first period and Sally Butler tallying the winning goal in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

“They had a crowd of 1,350 for their Brick City Homecoming weekend. We may have taken them lightly and they forced us into some bad plays. The goalie pulled it off for us, we knew before that Kim was good but we learned that she is really good. I give the kids credit, they came back when they had to.”

A day later at Robert Morris, the Tigers came back with a superb effort as they trailed 2-1 early the second period before pulling away to a 6-3 victory. The Tigers got two goals and two assists from senior Kelly Cooke in the victory over Colonials with classmate Corey Stearns chipping in a goal and three assists and Butler, Rose Alleva and Brianna Leahy scoring a goal apiece.

“We played much better; we didn’t deserve to be down,” said Kampersal, noting that netminder Newell came up big again as she recorded 33 saves in the victory.

“Cooke had a big shorthanded goal; she was hustling all over the ice. Corey made some big plays around the net. We need those two as well as [Alex] Kinney to be dangerous; we are playing them together. It was good overall to get two wins.”

As Princeton opens ECAC Hockey action by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27, Kampersal knows his team will need to make more big plays to get two wins this weekend.

“We need to improve in some areas; we have to worry about ourselves and our game,” said Kampersal.

“We respect both opponents. Hopefully they will both be close competitive games. Dartmouth always has good forwards; they lost some to graduation but have replenished them from recruiting. They are strong, top to bottom. Harvard has got a goalie (Emerance Maschmeyer) who is like Kim Newell and they are always strong up front.”

NET GAIN: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Allison Hubert returns the ball in action earlier this fall. Last Wednesday, the second doubles team of Hubert and Lindsay Eberhart pulled out a tiebreaker to help PHS defeat Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis. The Little Tigers went on to fall 4-1 to Mendham in the state championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The sun was setting behind the trees ringing the tennis courts at Mercer County Park last Wednesday but the Princeton High girls’ tennis team battled on as it faced Mendham in the Group 3 state championship match.

Trailing 2-1, PHS needed to win both doubles matches to pull out the title. Showing resolve, the Little Tigers forced a third set in each match.

PHS’s hopes for a title, though, faded into the evening twilight as the first doubles team of Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and Rory Lewis fell 6-2 in the third set to Veronica Fojtu and Lauren Hernandez.

While PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was disappointed by the final result, she savored what her team had accomplished this fall.

“This whole year has been icing on the cake because we weren’t expecting much after graduating six seniors,” said Hibbert, whose team moved to 17-1 with the loss to Mendham.

“To not only win back-to-back sectional titles but to win the state semifinals and make the group final for the first time since 1999 was an amazing thing with this many new players.”

PHS certainly did something great earlier in the day in the state semis as it edged Moorestown 3-2 in a nailbiter that saw three matches decided by tiebreakers.

“It was an amazing match this morning,” said Hibbert, who got a win from freshman Christina Rosca at first singles in the victory over Moorestown with Cahill-Sanidas and Lewis prevailing at first doubles and the second doubles team of Lindsay Eberhart and Allison Hubert clinching the match by winning their tiebreaker.

“We didn’t start off well in a few flights but we were able to fight back and keep cool under pressure. We did a really good job of staying tight under pressure; playing aggressively and playing clutch tennis.”

The doubles team of Cahill-Sanidas and Lewis played aggressively against Mendham, winning the first set 7-6. The PHS pair, though, lost the second set 6-2 and then ran out of gas as Mendham went on to win the third set.

“Their first doubles team was the runner-up in the whole state tournament and we fought hard against them,” said Hibbert. “We lost a really, really close match that absolutely could have gone either way.”

The Little Tigers have been fighting hard for weeks as they lost freshman second singles star Chenchen Wang to a season-ending knee injury days before the start of the Mercer County Tournament.

“Losing our No. 2 player right before counties and states was tough,” said Hibbert.

“We all had to reshuffle and shift our lineup a little bit. The girls all came together and worked really hard. They rose to the occasion and they raised the level of their game. They were not just playing for themselves; they were playing for Chenchen.

The team’s seniors, Cahill-Sanidas and Eberhart, played a key role in holding the team together through adversity.

“They have been great this year,” asserted Hibbert. “They have really kept the girls focused. They helped everyone feel a part of the team; they have done a lot of team bonding exercises and activities. It is nice that they have all meshed so well. They have really had a great season.”

With five of its top seven players slated to return, there should be some great things ahead for PHS.

“Hopefully, it bodes well for the future,” said Hibbert. “If we have everyone healthy, we can do some great things. We were so close today, it didn’t happen but I am really proud of the way they fought.”

SMASHING DEBUT: Princeton High girls’ tennis freshman star Christina Rosca smacks a forehand last week on the way to beating Hopewell Valley’s Natalie Kawalec 6-2, 6-2 last week in first singles in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals. The Little Tigers posted a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs and went on to edge Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before succumbing to Mendham 4-1 in the state championship match on Wednesday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christina Rosca may be just a freshman but she holds herself to a high standard.

After beating Hopewell Valley’s Natalie Kawalec 6-2, 6-2 last week in first singles in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals to help the Princeton High girls’ tennis team to a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs, Little Tiger star Rosca saw room for improvement.

“I can’t say I was playing well but I think I played OK,” said Rosca. “Natalie played well; I think I could have played better. I think my serve was pretty good today.”

Rosca has been better than good in her freshman year, making the finals at the Mercer County Tournament in early October and then advancing to the semis in the state singles tournament later in the month.

Last Wednesday at Mercer County Park, Rosca posted two victories as PHS edged Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before succumbing to Mendham 4-1 in the state championship match.

For Rosca, excelling at the high school level has involved some juggling. “It is difficult because even though I play high school tennis, I do my own training program,” said Rosca.

“Time management is something I have to cope with. For example, I had a team match last Monday and then practice from 6 to 9 p.m.”

In making the state semis in the singles tourney, Rosca had to cope with illness.

“I was actually sick right before the second weekend of play,” said Rosca, who was eliminated by eventual champion Lexi Borr of Westfield in the semis.

“I think I could have played better in the semis. I played well overall, getting to the semis is pretty good, especially for a freshman.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believes Rosca will keep getting better and better.

“I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Hibbert. “She plays a lot. She works really hard; you can always count on her to give 100 percent in her matches. She raises the level of play to whom she faces. She is very mature for a freshman and will be a great player for us in the future.”

Rosca, for her part, feels that she has raised the level of her game this season. “I think playing more matches really helps,” said Rosca.

“I especially like playing in the state tournament and the county tournament because I play very good people, especially in the later rounds. It has been a good experience. It has definitely been fun to be on this team.”

STRONG FINISH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas powers through on a shot last week in the Group 3 state tournament. Senior first doubles star Cahill-Sanidas helped PHS defeat Hopewell Valley 4-1 on October 16 to win its second straight Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. A day later, the Little Tigers nipped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before falling 4-1 to Mendham in the state championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Maddie Cahill-Sanidas feared that her senior campaign with the Princeton High girls’ tennis team was going to be a rough ride.

“Honestly, coming into the season, I wasn’t thinking we were going to have a good team,” said first doubles star and team captain Cahill-Sanidas, the only returning starter on the squad.

Instead, the Little Tigers developed into a very good team with the addition of some precocious newcomers and the improvement of some key veterans.

PHS defeated Hopewell Valley 4-1 on October 16 to win its second straight Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and then nipped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis a day later before falling  4-1 to Mendham in the state title match.

“It is the best feeling ever, I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Cahill-Sanidas last week after PHS won the sectional final. “We have some crazy, amazing players. I love everyone on this team.”

Cahill-Sanidas certainly loved being teamed with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles this fall. In early October, the pair won their flight at the Mercer County Tournament and later advanced to the third round in the state doubles tourney.

“Winning the county was probably one of the best moments of my high school career in sports,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who also stars for the PHS girls’ basketball and softball programs. “That was the cherry on top of my senior year, it was wonderful.”

The Little Tigers have benefitted this fall from some wonderful team chemistry which can be traced to efforts by Cahill-Sanidas and fellow senior Lindsay Eberhart.

“Lindsay and I have really stressed team bonding,” said Cahill-Sanidas, noting that the team got even closer after losing second singles star Chenchen Wang to a season-ending knee injury days before the county tournament. “I know that tennis can be such an individual sport but the JV and varsity have become so close. We do so many bonding things. It comes from my other sports; getting everyone psyched up for this is the best feeling.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert recognizes that Cahill-Sanidas’s graduation will leave a void for the program.

“Maddie has been an amazing leader, getting all the new people excited and comfortable for the season,” said Hibbert.

“We will obviously really miss her next year; she has been a staple of our lineup.”

Punctuating her strokes with shouts of encouragement, Cahill-Sanidas shows her excitement when she is on the court.

“I really get intense in my matches; that is how I play better,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who was exhorting herself to the end last Wednesday as she and Lewis fell in three sets to the Mendham pair of Veronica Fojtu and Lauren Hernandez.

“I think my love for the sport has helped everyone get focused and ready for the matches.”

While that focus didn’t result in a state title, PHS’s fight to the end symbolized its memorable ride.

“The whole season has been a challenge with Chenchen getting injured,” said Cahill-Sanidas.

“We have faced matches that are hard; we know how to accomplish a win in sectionals. We know how to do this.”

GOLD STAR: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Jeremy Goldsmith dribbles the ball up the field in recent action. Last Friday, ­Goldsmith scored two goals as fourth-seeded PHS rolled to a 6-1 win over No. 13 Trenton Central in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 13-2 with the victory, were slated to host No. 5 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 23 with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, Jeremy Goldsmith rode the bench as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team won the Mercer County Tournament.

Last Friday, senior midfielder Goldsmith starred as fourth-seeded PHS rolled to a 6-1 win over No. 13 Trenton Central in the opening round of this year’s MCT. Goldsmith scored the first goal of the contest and then banged home the final tally of the day as PHS won its 12th straight game to improve to 13-2.

On his first score, Goldsmith used hustle to find the back of the net. “I saw Kevin Halliday taking the ball down the line and I knew I had to be on the back post,” recalled Goldsmith.

“He took a shot and the goalie got a touch on it but luckily I was right there to put it away.”

Goldsmith’s second tally of the day demonstrated his growth into a dependable finisher.

“When John Blair was making the run in the middle I knew that I was open so I was screaming for the ball,” said Goldsmith. “I got it and the defender caught up but I was pretty confident I could get around him and then I took the shot. It was a lot of fun.”

It took Goldsmith a while to develop a comfort level with his move from benchwarmer to starter this fall. “I was nervous in my first game starting,” said Goldsmith. “Once we got our lineup pretty much set after the injuries at the beginning of the year, I found my role at outside mid.”

Classmates Zach Halliday and Aidan Passannante have played a key role in helping with Goldsmith’s transition.

“Zach and Aidan have told me that I can come out and play with these guys and that I am good enough to stick around and not be a player on the side,” said Goldsmith.

“It feels good to know that it is true; I have been playing well and proving it.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe liked the way his team started well against Trenton, jumping off to a 3-0 lead by halftime. “It was a good start in that regard, any time you get three in the first half and build on that, it is great,” said Sutcliffe, who got two goals from sophomore transfer Chase Ealy in the win over Trenton with Kevin Halliday and Colin Lamb also finding the back of the net.

Sutcliffe is excited with the great progress Goldsmith has made in his final year with the program. “It’s his first start in the county tournament and he’s all over,” said Sutcliffe.

“He had a great game; he has come a long way through his hard work and his determination. It is great to see.”

Tenacious midfielder Ealy has proven to be a great addition for the Little Tigers.

“Chase is having a nice season; he is finding his way in the lineup,” said Sutcliffe.

“He has made a good impact as a young player; he’s learning from the older guys. Chase is a tough kid; he has the mentality that you hope to see in all 11 players you put out there.”

Junior star Kevin Halliday has shown toughness around the net, having tallied a team-high 18 goals.

“Kevin has had a great run; he is all over the place,” said Sutcliffe. “His mobility and his finishing in the penalty area have been fantastic. It is a credit to Kevin.”

Sutcliffe believes his squad is poised for a big finish. “We have won some big games late in the season by big margins and we are really starting to play our best soccer of the season,” said Sutcliffe, whose team was slated to host No. 5 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 23 with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. “But our best soccer is in front of us, there is no doubt about it.”

Goldsmith, for his part, believes PHS is headed in the right direction. “I think we are peaking at the right time,” said Goldsmith.

“We always take it one game at a time so you don’t want to look too far ahead. We knew that Trenton would be a tough one; we wanted to make sure that we got the win and played well.”

SWEET LOU: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Lou Mialhe strides to the finish line in recent action. Freshman Mialhe has produced a superb debut season for PHS, placing 26th in helping the Little Tigers take third at the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic on October 13 at Thompson Park. PHS is next in action when it competes in the Mercer County Championships on October 26 at Washington Crossing State Park.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into this fall, Jim Smirk knew that he needed some young runners to come through in order for his Princeton High girls’ cross country team to maintain its winning tradition.

“We graduated the majority of our leaders and the two top runners in Elyssa [Gensib] and Jenna [Cody],” said PHS head coach Smirk.

“We have been figuring out how this team is going to be successful; everyone had to find a way to do it.”

With such young runners as sophomore Julie Bond and Mary Sutton together with freshman Lou Miahle stepping up, PHS has been enjoying plenty of success this season.

The Little Tigers took third in the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic on October 13 at Thompson Park, building on fourth place finish at the Shore Coaches Invitational, and taking third in the Passaic Coaches Invitational.

Sophomore Bond has emerged as a frontrunner for the Little Tigers taking 14th at the Fall Classic and 10th at the Passaic meet.

“Julie has been great,” said Smirk, noting that his JV team produced a great performance at the Fall Classic in winning its division with seven runners in the top 14.

“She is still figuring out the consistency piece but when the moment has been there, she has seized it. She is not just running better times; she is better in all facets. She is approaching each practice with focus, she is taking care of academic stuff, she is getting her rest. Last year, she fell in behind the top two but now she finds herself in the limelight.”

Bond’s classmate, Sutton, is also showing a special focus. “Day in, day out, Mary grinds it out,” said Smirk of Sutton who took 29th at the Fall Classic. “She is going to be good at it and she is going to keep at it. She is the consummate worker.”

The Little Tigers have been getting some superb work from precocious freshman Lou Mialhe.

“Lou is a fantastic athlete, she could have hopped into any sport and been a starter,” said Smirk of Mialhe, who came in 26th at the Fall Classic.

“It is a testament to the quality of our program and the culture we have built over the years, that she joined us. She has seen that the girls have done some good things over the years. She started out raw. She is a neophyte but she is making moves in races and the veterans are saying, hey that was a good idea. She is getting them to take more risks.”

While the young runners have made key contributions, Smirk knows that his team wouldn’t be on a winning track without several star veterans, starting with senior Amelia Whaley.

“We call her the voice of truth; she doesn’t say much but when she does, everyone listens,” said Smirk of Whaley, the team’s top finisher at the Fall Classic as she placed 13th.

“She is an honest racer; she gives you what she has got. She gets stronger, the deeper she goes into the season. She learns lessons as she goes along.”

Junior Belinda Liu has learned some valuable lessons in leadership as she has learned to contribute even though injury has kept her from being at the front of the pack.

“Belinda is one of our captains along with Amelia and Helen Eisenach,” said Smirk.

“She has been dealing with a lower leg injury and to her credit, she said to me if I am not at 1-2-3, how can I help 5-6-7-8. She has really stepped up; she has been very vocal. She is helping us know what it takes to be great. She is good at motivating the people around her.”

Eisenach has displayed great discipline as she has fought through injury.

“Helen transformed herself,” added Smirk. “She has hip flexor problems from squatting so much from playing catcher in softball. She went to the weight room everyday before softball and did hip flexor exercises. That shows a lot of commitment with the season six months out. She took care of fundamentals.”

With the Mercer County Championships coming up this Friday at Washington Crossing State Park, Smirk is hoping that the team’s collective commitment will lead to a good performance.

“If we do what we have done at dual meets, it should be good,” said Smirk.

“It will be interesting to see what we can do. I am still figuring out who our top seven are going to be. It is an exciting opportunity.”

Smirk is excited by how his runners have worked together even as they have competed for spots in the lineup.

“The kids have not been worrying about themselves,” asserted Smirk. “It has been how do we get this group to do things to the best of its ability. Sometimes that means you step to the sideline to help the team. It is exciting to see a group of high school kids take that approach.”

TITLE CHASE: Princeton Day School field hockey player ­Emily Goldman chases down a foe in recent action. Last Friday, junior star Goldman scored three goals to help top-seeded PDS defeat No. 17 Nottingham 9-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Panthers were slated to host No. 8 WW/P-N on October 23 in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emily Goldman and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey weren’t about to take Nottingham lightly when the two teams met last Friday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

Even though PDS was seeded first in the MCT and the visiting Northstars were No. 17, the Panthers knew nothing was guaranteed.

Two days earlier, the Panthers had closed the regular season by losing to underdog Hun and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

“I think Hun brought us back to earth,” said junior star Goldman. “We had such a good streak going, only having one loss. I think it was the best thing for us even though I would like to beat them. It showed us that no matter what team we face, no matter what their ranking is, we need to work just as hard.”

As the Panthers hit the turf at Baker Field on Friday to face Nottingham, they were determined to work hard from the opening minute of the contest.

“I think we try to show each team that we are not here to mess around and this is our turf,” said Goldman. “We need to be victorious on our turf so we come out strong.”

Goldman led the charge on Friday scoring two goals in the first five minutes as the Panthers seized control on the way to a 9-0 rout and improving to 10-2-3.

“I think the rush of the playoffs kind of got me going,” said Goldman, who added a second-half tally to end the day with a hat trick. “I was really excited and adrenaline just made me finish.

In assessing the improvement in her finishing this year, Goldman credits her teammates.

“I think it is more about experience,” said Goldman. “We have basically had the same team for the last two years, only losing three players. I think the unity in general is a lot better and that makes everyone play at a higher level.”

The arrival of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped to raise the level of the team’s game.

“Coach Arndt has definitely led us in the right direction,” said Goldman. “She was a breath of fresh air and I think she has brought us along quite well.”

Arndt, for her part, concurred with Goldman’s assessment of the impact of the Hun loss.

“Hun was a really good team and they certainly came out firing; they finished when they needed to,” said Arndt.

“We had some nice moments of plays but mentally a lot of things were not working out as well as we wanted. All in all, it could have been the best thing that could have happened to us. It helped us understand what we really needed to focus on and that the playoffs are a whole new season.”

In Arndt’s view, the thrust of that focus comes down to taking care of business around the goal at both ends of the field.

“For me right now, it is finishing in both circles,” said Arndt. “In the attack circle, we have to be putting away goals when we need to. We took a lot of shots today which was great but we need to get them on cage. Defensively, we are working on our marking and being tight and just having a tenacious attitude in there to not let it go in.”

Goldman’s tenacity in the circle helped set the tone for the Panthers in the win over Nottingham.

“It was really exciting to see Emily get her stick down and she did what she needed to do,” said Arndt, who also got a hat trick from Emma Quigley in the win over Nottingham. “She got in the right spots and finished hard and that’s exactly what we needed from her.”

Arndt is hoping that that there is plenty of excitement ahead for the Panthers as they play in the MCT and then compete in the state Prep B tourney.

“Hopefully, we have a lot of games ahead of us but we have got to focus on each one,” said Arndt, whose team was slated to host No. 8 WW/P-N on October 23 in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25.

“We can’t focus on three or four games coming up because they may not come. We have to focus on each game and each half. We’ll go back to work on Monday and get some things accomplished.”

Goldman, for her part, is confident that the Panthers will maintain their winning focus.

“Rankings don’t matter for us at this point,” said Goldman. “We need to work hard, no matter if we are playing the last seed or the second seed.”

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Hun School field hockey goalie Reina Kern, center, controls the crease in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore star Kern made 14 saves as Hun edged Princeton Day School 1-0. In upcoming action, Hun, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the years, the Hun School field hockey team has typically saved its best for last, displaying a penchant for playing well down the stretch.

Last Wednesday, as Hun played at Princeton Day School, Alex Kane and her Raider teammates had a late-season surprise in store for the once-beaten Panthers.

“They are seeded No. 1 [in the Mercer County Tournament] and we really wanted to upset them,” said junior defender Kane. “We were excited to play, I think that is the best way to put it.”

Hun proceeded to put it to PDS, holding the fort on defense and finding the back of the cage on a Vicky Leach goal with 3:26 left in the second half for the lone score of the game in a 1-0 win.

“The girls’ attitude was unbelievable; I think we really stepped up,” said Kane.

“We are a team that builds off of each other so when we do really well, it really raises the morale.”

In Kane’s view, the Hun defense raised the level of its game in the victory over PDS.

“I think we have had an issue staying calm and the main goal today was just to relax because they have aggressive girls on their line,” said Kane.

“I think our midfield was really strong today and they were able to keep the ball further up the field so we didn’t really get hurt and it wasn’t coming into us over and over.”

Kane feels a responsibility to help control the middle of the field for the Raiders.

“As a center back, I try to keep them out of that area and push them wide,” said Kane.

“I am able to help the offense; I can have some good give-and-goes with the midfield now that Carey [Million] is there. She looks back to us and that is really good.”

It also helped to have a really good goalie in sophomore star Reina Kern. “Reina is unbelievable,” asserted Kane.

“She knows the game and is able to tell us where to go. She is our control center.”

Kern, for her part, who made 14 saves in the win over PDS, maintained control throughout the contest.

“I just keep my eye on the ball; I know a bunch of girls on this team but I don’t worry about who is shooting what,” said Kern.

“You tell your players what to do and watch the ball. I played my game and I guess I did that pretty well.”

A starter from game one as a freshman last fall, Kern is feeling a greater comfort level this year in the cage.

“Last year, I was new to the team and I had to adjust,” said Kern. “This year, I really have made the full adjustment. We had a very young team last year. We only lost one senior so we feel this year was our year. We came out this season and we were ready to play.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk sees a growing maturity in Kern. “Reina has really progressed; she is a team player,” said Quirk, whose team was seeded 10th in the MCT and fell 3-1 to No. 7 Lawrenceville last Thursday in an opening round contest.

“She talks to the girls; she has them move where they are supposed to move.”

Quirk credited Kane with helping to spearhead a superior defensive effort. “I think my whole defense did a great job,” said Quirk.

“Alex stepped up in the middle a few times and caught them off guard and took the ball away. Sam Heyrich saved one behind Reina. The whole defense just worked together.”

Hun brought an underdog mentality into the PDS contest; catching the Panthers off guard with their intensity.

“We knew they were seeded No. 1 in Mercer County; we talked about that and said wouldn’t it be great to come out on top,” said Quirk, whose team, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29.

“It has always been a good crosstown rivalry. We played the game of our life today. If we played like that every game, we could have won games that we have lost.”

Kane, for her part, believes the Raiders can maintain that mindset down the stretch.

“I feel like we are going to build off of this,” said Kane. “We are all so excited and so happy; it is just a great feeling.”

October 17, 2012

BROWN OUT: Princeton University defensive lineman Caraun Reid, right, corrals Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly for one of his 2.5 sacks in Princeton’s 19-0 win over the Bears last Saturday. Senior star Reid was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the victory, which was Princeton’s third straight and lifted the Tigers to 3-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy. Princeton now hosts defending champion and 22nd-ranked Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the players on the Princeton University football team convened this summer for their preseason camp, they were issued T-shirts saying “Believe.”

But after falling 17-14 at Lehigh and 21-20 to Georgetown in its first two games of the 2012 campaign, it was hard to believe that Princeton was any different from the teams that posted a combined  2-18 record over the last two seasons.

But then the Tigers rolled to a 33-6 rout at Columbia and followed that up with an impressive 35-14 win over Lafayette.

Last Saturday, the growing belief around the program officially turned to swagger as Princeton suffocated Brown 19-0 before a crowd of 6,482 at Princeton Stadium, stamping itself as a bona fide contender for the Ivy League title.

In handing Brown its first shutout since 1996 and snapping its Ivy record 162-game scoring streak, the Tigers improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Ivy play, tied atop the league standings with Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) and Penn (2-3 overall, 2-0 Ivy). Princeton hosts the defending champion and 22nd-ranked Crimson this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.

Senior star defensive lineman Caraun Reid exemplified Princeton’s self-belief as he reflected on the win over Brown.

“We kept the focus all game; there wasn’t a moment where we had to worry about what we were doing,” said Reid, who had a safety to go with six tackles and 2.5 sacks.

“We were confident from the get-go. We’re playing with an extra little bit of oomph today, which was great. That’s what we need to do. I feel like we just played well. This is what we’re supposed to do. At times, we made mistakes in other games that would cost us, but today we just played really well and it showed.”

The win was even sweeter considering that the Tigers had suffered some adversity during the week as star sophomore cornerback Khamal Brown was lost for the season with a head injury on Tuesday. Brown, who is still hospitalized, wore his game jersey in his hospital bed as he watched the NBC Sports Network broadcast of the contest.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace said the team’s support of Brown gave its post-game celebration a special feel.

“It’s just a real fun, emotional locker room,” said Surace, whose team outgained Brown 380 yards to 242 on the day.

“We’ve had a tough week. Khamal’s dad called Coach [Jim] Salgado and asked for his jersey to see if he could wear it in the hospital yesterday. Just to see our guys come together — they do it every day, but sometimes it takes something like adversity to show it to everybody else. I’ve been coaching and playing around my dad’s team, and you’re just so proud of these guys. I’ve never been more proud of a team than how we just came together this week and supported Khamal while at the same time handling our academic and football duties. It’ll be something we’ll all remember for a long time, and we’ll continue our prayers and support for him. I thanked the guys for everything they’d done.”

The Princeton defense certainly handled its business with aplomb, holding Brown to 17 yards rushing, producing six sacks, coming up with interceptions by Anthony Gaffney and Phil Bhaya, and a fumble recovery by Alex Polofsky in addition to the safety by Reid. The Tiger defense is now ranked first in the Ivies in total defense and scoring defense.

Reid, for his part, said the unit planned to pitch a shutout. “We are not really surprised (at shutout); this is what we expect to do,” asserted the 6’2, 305-pound Reid, a first-team All-Ivy performer last fall.

“Last week, we expected a shutout. There were little things we messed up on, but the expectation is to not let them score. We’ll force them to kick a field goal, then block the field goal. We’re not letting them score. This is what we want to do. This is what we’re supposed to do. We’re happy we’re at this point and we’re going to get better.”

A surprise play helped Princeton draw first blood in the contest as left tackle Spenser Huston gathered in a throwback from quarterback Connor Michelson and raced 15 yards for a touchdown with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Huston, for his part, was thrilled to hit paydirt. “This is my first touchdown at any level,” said the 6’4, 270-pound sophomore.

“I was definitely excited. I had the easiest job on the field. Connor threw a great ball, we blocked it perfectly. When I caught the ball, there was nothing but green grass in front of me, and it was a walk in there.”

After a Nolan Bieck field goal gave Princeton a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, Reid came up with his scoring play. With Brown backed up at its own one-yard line after mishandling the kickoff, Reid swooped in and tackled Mark Kachmer in the end zone for a safety as the Tigers stretched their advantage to 12-0.

“I just got off the ball as fast as possible,” recalled Reid, who was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week and was awarded a helmet sticker honor by ESPN’s College Football Final broadcast.

“That’s a great credit to our punt team (it was a kickoff actually), but the ball was barely on the one. We just knew we had to get there. We were all hungry.”

Starting the second half up 12-0, the Tigers kept up their hungry play. Princeton extended its advantage to 19-0 early in the third quarter after Will Powers ran eight yards for a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, the Tigers kept the Bears at bay, forcing three punts and stopping Brown on downs to put the finishing touches on the shutout.

In Reid’s view, the Tigers made a major statement with the win over the Bears.

“Absolutely we believed that (we were Ivy contenders going into the game); I believe we sent a message, a very physical message, to other teams in the league,” asserted Reid.

“We beat Columbia this year, and it was like, we beat them last year, great. But we have teams we haven’t beaten in my four years here. I haven’t beaten some teams yet. It’s like a checklist — we beat Brown, we’re going to beat Harvard, we’re going for it. I think we sent that message

The Tigers could send quite a message if they could upset Harvard, which is riding a 14-game winning streak and is scoring 41.0 points a game and giving up just 13.4 points per contest.

In order to overcome the Crimson, Princeton will need to rely on its veteran leaders and the confidence they have developed through maintaining their self-belief.

“When I got the job here; you see some things you’re going to emulate,” said Surace.

“I noticed Brown and I loved how their seniors replace seniors. They just have veteran guys. When you see a junior like Phil Bhaya coming on, Mandela Sheaffer coming on, Andrew Starks coming on, Caraun, Cat, Sotereanos, those names you’ve been saying for a long time, and now they’re finally, finally becoming mature men. That’s what we needed. We still have some young guys, but it’s a mixture and those young guys are being led by mature guys. I can’t say enough good things about their leadership.”

BUTLER SERVICE: Princeton University women’s hockey star Sally Butler heads up the ice in action last winter. Junior forward Butler, who led the Tigers in scoring last season with 26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists, will be looking to build on that success as Princeton gets its 2012-13 campaign underway this weekend. The Tigers open up by playing at RIT on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey program, the players in its Class of 2012 left an indelible impact.

The group of Ann-Marie Elvin, Julie Johnson, Heather Landry, co-captain Charissa Stadnyk, co-captain Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Rachel Weber were immediate contributors when they joined the program in 2008.

Over the next four seasons, they provided production, leadership, and spirit in helping Princeton remain in the upper echelon of ECAC Hockey.

As the Tigers got together and started going through their paces in preparation for the 2012-13 campaign, the void was apparent to Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.

“In preseason, a lot of the players couldn’t get over the fact that Paula and Rachel and those kids are gone,” said Kampersal, whose team went 12-15-4 overall last winter to finish seventh in the ECACH standings and ended up falling to Harvard in the league quarterfinals. “The preseason was a little fractured, different kids were doing different things.”

As the Tigers look forward to opening the season by playing at Rochester Institute of Technology on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20, Kampersal senses that a new team identity is being forged.

“Since the first practice, things have come together,” said Kampersal, a former Princeton men’s hockey star who is in his 17th season at the helm of the program and is also the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team. “Our group this year is good. We just need some more team bonding.”

The Tigers took a good step last weekend as they topped the Toronto Jr. Aeros 4-1 on Friday and Brown 4-2 the next day in two exhibition contests.

“We played pretty well; we had good production offensively,” said Kampersal. “We need to get better defensively; our power play needs to be a little better.”

Kampersal is confident that freshman goalie Kimberly Newell can emerge as a reliable last line of defense along the lines of Weber, who developed into one of the top goalies in the ECACH.

“Newell is young but she comes with a lot of experience,” said Kampersal, who will be using sophomore Ashley Holt as his backup goalie. “She is legit. She played on the Canada U-18 team; she is one of the top goalie recruits in the country.”

The Tigers welcome back their two top scoring forwards from a year ago in Sally Butler (26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists in 2011-12) and team captain Denna Laing (22 points on 11 goals and 11 assists). In addition, talented junior Olivia Mucha (10 points on 4 goals and 6 assists in 12 games) should return to action as she battles back from shoulder surgery.

“Both Butler and Laing are strong,” asserted Kampersal of the junior stars. “Mucha is back; she may be out the next 8-10 days but she should help us.”

The Tigers will also need help from a group of veteran forwards which includes senior assistant captain Kelly Cooke (9 points on 4 goals and 5 assists) and classmates Alex Kinney (7 points on 3 goals and 4 assists) and Corey Stearns (6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists) together with sophomore Brianna Leahy (9 points on 6 goals and 3 assists).

“We need the seniors and juniors to lead the way,” said Kampersal. “We have good freshmen. They are good players but they need older players to help them get up to speed.”

The defensive unit will need to be good as the Tigers don’t boast much depth along the blue line. Junior assistant captain Gabie Figueroa (7 points on 2 goals and 5 assists) and classmate Rose Alleva (8 points on 2 goals and 6 assists) should form one defensive pair with sophomores Ali Pankowski (13 points in 3 goals and 10 assists) and Brianne Mahoney (5 points on 2 goals and 3 assists) working together. Promising freshman Karen MacDonald figures to get plenty of ice time as well.

“Gabi and Rosie will lead the way; Pankowski and Mahoney have to step up,” said Kampersal.

“MacDonald is a steady Eddie; she is a good learner. She just needs to adjust to the speed of the game. All of the kids are going to play a ton; they are going to have to work hard.”

Kampersal realizes that his team is going to have to put in some good work to have a successful opening weekend.

“We don’t know much about RIT; they were Division III champs last year and are making the move up to Division I,” said Kampersal.

“They brought in some transfers; it is going to be a big weekend for them. We played Robert Morris last year and they have some real good players. They picked up some players from Niagara when that program was discontinued. It is going to be a long road trip; we are going to Rochester and then heading to Pittsburgh.”

As he looks ahead to the season, Kampersal believes his squad has what it takes to maintain the legacy of last year’s seniors.

“I want them to play hard, play smart, and be tough; we expect to compete in the ECAC,” maintained Kampersal.

“We don’t know where we will end up; it is a really tight league. We need goaltending and defense to be solid; we have to tighten up in the D-zone. Our power play has to be good; it was substandard last year.”

NICK OF TIME: Princeton University women’s volleyball player Lydia Rudnick goes after a ball in recent action. Senior outside hitter Rudnick has played a major role in helping Princeton go 9-8 overall and 6-1 in Ivy League play, second in the league standings to Yale (11-5 overall, 7-0 Ivy). The two-time All-Ivy performer leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148). The Tigers are next in action when they host Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

As her Princeton University women’s volleyball team got off to a 3-7 start this season with four of the defeats coming in five-setters, Sabrina King felt uneasy.

“There were lots of nerves in those losses; we were also figuring out who our starters are,” said second-year Princeton head coach King.

“It was making me concerned. Last year, the five-setters were falling our way. Some of it is luck but some teams have the mental strength to pull out five-setters. I was wondering if this might not be our year.”

In its Ivy League opener at Penn in late September, though, Princeton was on the right side of a five-set marathon, beating the Quakers 26-28, 25-22, 14-25, 25-23, 15-13.

In King’s view, that victory showed that the Tigers could be a strong team.

“That is always a really intense game; mentally it did a lot of things for us,” said King.

“To win a five-setter, to win on the road, and to start the Ivy League with a win was big. We had played a match earlier that week and three of our starters were out with injuries. We didn’t know what to expect.”

The win started the Tigers on a winning streak as they ended up producing a 5-0 start in Ivy play coming into a showdown at fellow league leader and defending champion Yale last Friday.

As Princeton looked forward to that challenge, it realized it had to play a complete game to topple the Bulldogs.

“Yale has few weaknesses; we knew we had to play really well to beat them,” said King.

Princeton started out well, winning the first set 25-22 but Yale showed its championship pedigree, responding by winning the next three sets 25-22, 25-19, and 25-22 to post a 3-1 victory.

“We won the first set and were ahead late in the second but I could feel the tide turning,” recalled King, a 2001 Princeton alumna and former All-Ivy star for the women’s volleyball program during her college days.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum; I called two timeouts but we just didn’t have the mental edge.”

In King’s view, the defeat to the Bulldogs reinforced some important themes. “We need to play consistently; we can’t have lulls against a good team like that,” said King. “We have to keep focus through the whole set; that is something we have been working on.”

A day later, the Tigers showed a laser-like focus as they posted an impressive 25-17, 25-20, 25-14 victory at Brown.

“It felt like a completely different game,” said King, whose team improved to 9-8 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the victory over the Bears.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to mourn our loss and we took care of business. Brown can be excellent defensively; the ball keeps coming back at you. We had to be patient.”

Princeton has been getting excellent play all season long from senior star Lydia Rudnick, who leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148).

“Lydia is an outstanding player,” asserted King of the two-time All-Ivy outside hitter.

“She is really a gamer; she wants the ball all the time. She has evolved as a player; she is trying to do more and work on being more successful consistently.”

The team’s sophomore players have become more consistent as well. “There is a ton of athleticism with that class; I didn’t recruit them but started with them last year so we developed a bond,” said King, whose star sophomores include Nicole Kincade, Tiana Woolridge, Sarah Hanna, and Ginny Willis. “They are great people and great athletes.”

With Kendall Peterkin (161 kills) and Sarah Daschbach (a team-high 226 digs) leading the way, Princeton’s group of freshmen have made an immediate impact.

“It is a talented class” asserted King. “They bring a lot to practices and games. They have a work hard attitude, there is no drama.”

With Princeton starting a critical five-game Ivy homestand, King doesn’t want to see too much drama.

“We have played really well at home; I hope it stays that way,” said King, whose team hosts Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

“We are talking about getting Yale at our place; I think we can do that. But we have to beat Penn, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown before we get to that. We can control our own destiny.”

In view of the pieces in place, Princeton’s destiny could be an Ivy championship.

“We do have a lot of good stuff,” said King. “This is a different type of team. It is an ensemble; it is not as distinct a lineup as last year. People are coming in off the bench and they are hungry to do well.”

D-ZONE: Princeton High field hockey star Julia DiTosto swats the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender DiTosto has been a key performer for PHS as it has produced an 11-2 record. The Little Tigers are seeded second in the Mercer County Tournament and are slated to play No. 15 Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After cruising to a 10-1 start this fall, the Princeton High field hockey team hit a speed bump when it played at the Princeton Day School last Thursday.

Generating 12 shots but unable to find the back of the cage, PHS fell 1-0 to their crosstown rivals.

While the Little Tiger players were hanging their heads after coming up on the short end of the nailbiter, PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes the setback could be a blessing in disguise for her squad.

“I thought we played well; we just weren’t finishing,” said Serverson. “They caught us off-guard; we are not used to that speed of play. It is a good thing that we lost to them because now we are ready for that. The girls honed in on that; they brought it up and I think we are going to focus on that tomorrow.”

While Serverson noted that some of her attacking players weren’t up to speed, she credited PDS with setting the tone in the midfield.

“Seventy-five percent of our forwards are ill right now; they are not their normal speedy selves but that’s no excuse,” said Serverson, whose team rebounded from the loss to the Panthers by beating Steinert 4-0 last Saturday as Sydney Watts, Emma Crain, Vivien Bazarko, and Jackie Chmiel all scored goals.

“I think the impact today was more in the midfield; I don’t think our midfield today was playing cohesively. We weren’t adjusting. They were very fast with the passing and we weren’t playing the good roll defense that we worked on all day yesterday.”

The Little Tigers had trouble breaking down the PDS defense even though they played with a heightened sense of urgency down the stretch of the game.

“We didn’t have the number of opportunities that we normally have,” said Serverson, whose team did generate four penalty corners in the last five minutes of the contest against the Panthers.

“I think percentage-wise it really stuck out because normally we get more opportunities so we put more on goal.”

In Serverson’s view, PHS has a great opportunity to do damage in postseason play.

“I think we just need to pick up the speed of the game; we need to play with intensity right from the start,” said Serverson, whose club, now 11-2, is seeded No. 2 in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to play 15th-seeded Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest.

“I think we are still gaining that confidence. They are not used to being a winning team so they are defensive at first. Once we put in a goal, then everyone starts to go and say oh yeah we are Princeton. We need to get the ball down there more often. We need to get more opportunities because once we start, we don’t stop.”

BACK-UP PLAN: Princeton High senior linebacker Carl Helstrom looks to make a hit in a game earlier this fall. Last Friday at Willingboro, PHS dug a 19-0 hole in the first quarter only to close the margin to six early in the second half after 13 unanswered points. The Little Tigers, though, couldn’t hold the fort as Willingboro pulled away to a 38-13 win. PHS, which has lost five straight to fall to 1-5, hosts Burlington High on October 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High football team fell behind 19-0 last Friday evening at Willingboro, the Little Tigers could’ve folded.

PHS entered the night mired in a four-game losing streak that had seen it outscored 140-16.

Showing some pluck, though, the Little Tigers stiffened up defensively in the second quarter and then forced a turnover late in the half when Willingboro fumbled a punt.

PHS cashed in on the miscue as senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom on a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it a 19-7 game at halftime.

Utilizing a little trickery, the Little Tigers started the second half with a perfectly executed onside kick to get possession. PHS converted that into a score as Javon Pannell ran five yards for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 19-13.

But that was as close as the Little Tigers would get as the Chimeras reeled off 19 unanswered points to post a 38-13 victory.

PHS head coach Joe Gargione saw improvement from his squad notwithstanding the final score.

“We were only six points back but they had so much speed compared to us,” said Gargione, whose team fell to 1-5 with the setback.

“We definitely showed more than the week before. We ended our streak of not scoring a touchdown. We had not scored a touchdown in three and a half games and we only had three points in a three-game homestand. It was definitely good to get some points.”

While Gargione knows his team can’t afford to dig a big hole like it did on Friday, he believes the pride his players displayed in fighting back could lead to success down the stretch.

“I told them at the end of the game that we can’t put ourselves in that kind of a hole,” said Gargione.

“I think the kids realize that even if you get down 19-0 to a good team, crazy things can happen. I said to them that I think we can get three more wins, 4-6 sounds a lot better than one and something.”

The Little Tigers are getting winning efforts from DiGregorio, Helstrom, and Pannell.

“Zack and Liam are two of our three captains,” said Gargione. “We are using Liam everywhere and Zack is dong a great job. Javon is a little guy but he keeps fighting. He hits the hole hard and has some great moves.”

Even though PHS faces a big challenge when it hosts Burlington this Saturday, Gargione thinks his club can make a move in the right direction.

“We are playing another tough team; it is our Senior Day and I want us to have a good showing,” said Gargione.

“I don’t want the seniors to leave with a bad taste in their mouths. We have so much to work on but scoring two touchdowns is a small improvement. I would like to see us score three or four next week and have the defense do better.”

RISK MANAGEMENT: Princeton Day School field hockey star Corinne Urisko clears a ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday against visiting Princeton High, senior tri-captain and sweeper Urisko contributed an assist and her usual stellar defensive play to help PDS edge PHS 1-0. The Panthers, who topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3, host Hun on October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). PDS is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will face the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior star Corinne Urisko and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad were disappointed in late August when they got outclassed in falling 3-0 to Princeton High in a preseason scrimmage.

As a result, there was a heightened level of intensity in the air last Thursday when PDS welcomed their crosstown rivals for their annual regular season meeting as Urisko and her classmates were honored in the program’s annual Senior Day.

“We were really fired up going into this,” said sweeper and tri-captain Urisko. “We wanted this more than anything.”

The Panthers didn’t wait long to show their desire to win as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 5:35 into the contest when Andrea Jenkins banged home a feed from Urisko. PDS was able to hold the fort the rest of the game, repelling several Little Tiger attacks as it held on for a 1-0 victory.

When the final buzzer surrounded, the Panthers mobbed each other on the field, riding an emotional high that had several players crying for joy.

“Having this on Senior Day made everything worth it,” asserted Urisko. “I have never been happier; we all pulled together and worked as a team.”

The Panthers worked really well together in the defensive end as they continually thwarted the high-powered PHS attack.

“We really worked on our communication and marking our players really tight,” said Urisko.

“We didn’t want any balls going into the circle. We have been working on our defense for a long time now in practice so it really helped.”

Urisko was happy to help offensively as she slotted a pass into the circle early in the game that Princeton-bound classmate Jenkins converted for the only score of the contest.

“I saw the opening and I passed it,” recalled Urisko. “I have a lot of confidence in Andrea. I knew she would get it in for us.”

The team’s group of seniors, which includes defenders Cami McNeely and Zeeza Cole and goalie Sarah Trigg, along with Urisko and Jenkins, is looking to write a special final chapter to their PDS career.

“We have been together for so long and some of us are going to play in college, this is really important to us,” said Urisko.

“We want to end this season well. We want to win the county tournament and hopefully the preps. Those are goals this season.”

In Urisko’s view, the influence of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped give PDS a championship mentality.

“She fuels our fire; she gets us pumped up,” said Urisko. “She always knows what to say and she has been a great coach for us. We have come a long way since last year. She is very encouraging; she has helped us so much.”

Arndt, for her part, saw the win over PHS as exemplifying how far her team has come this season.

“We had played them in the preseason and they were really strong then,” said Arndt.

“I knew that we had so much improvement. I knew it would be a great game. I knew Senior Day would pick things up and the energy was high.”

After battling Montgomery to a 2-2 tie two days before the showdown with the Little Tigers, PDS had to fine-tune things.

“We played Montgomery on Tuesday and they were a very strong team,” said Arndt, whose team topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3 and will wrap up regular season play by hosting Hun on October 17.

“We both gave each other a really close game but I thought there were parts of our game that had just a little bit of a mental breakdown. We worked on the things that we needed to work on, one of them being defensive corners. It was really good that we did; we had great defensive corners today. I give the Princeton attack credit for getting the corners.”

Arndt credited Urisko and her fellow senior defenders McNeely and Cole together with goalie Trigg for producing some great work in the win over PHS.

“They really came together; they had to be really strong and forceful together,” said Arndt.

“Cami came up with some great plays for us. Corinne had a great play on the goal. Trigg came out when she needed to. Zeeza plays simple and poised; you are not going to hear her ranting and raving. She is just going to do it simple and get it out. We really proud of what they have done.”

In Arndt’s view, her team can use the victory over the Little Tigers as a springboard heading into the postseason.

“We have the MCTs coming up and we have the state tournament coming up,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will host the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20.

“Mercer County is strong and any time you beat a public school, that is good. I think this just gives us momentum going into our last two games and the playoffs.”

Urisko, for her part, believes that the Panthers can make a strong playoff run.

“We need lots of communication and everyone has got to give it their all and 110 percent,” said Urisko.

“This year I feel like we really want it; we have a lot of drive. There is a high intensity out on the field and it is nice to see.”

TOUCH AND GO: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kirsten Kuzmicz boots the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Kuzmicz has provided the Panthers with offensive production and physical play this fall. PDS is going through a rough patch, having gone 0-5-1 in its last six games. The Panthers, now 3-7-3, will look to get on the winning track when they have a game at Abington Friends School (Pa.) on October 17 and then begin play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For much of its game against visiting Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team controlled possession of the ball.

But letting its guard down for a five-minute stretch in the first half, PDS’s good work went for naught as it fell 5-2 to the Blues.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta acknowledged that the Panthers wasted that possession, committing miscues at the wrong time.

“If you look at the possession, we possessed the ball most of the game,” said Trombetta, whose team trailed 4-0 at intermission, surrendering three goals in a decisive five-minute stretch midway through the first half.

“We made a lot of mistakes, we turned the ball over in the back. That hurt us today.”

PDS did fight back in the second half, displaying some sharper soccer. “We played better in the second half; we showed more composure in the second half and we put two away,” said Trombetta, who got goals from Kylie Kieffer and Britt Murray.

“We had a couple of golden opportunities that we didn’t cash in on in the first half. If you get on the board first, you have a little momentum and things can happen from there. Unfortunately we didn’t convert on the chances that we had and they cashed in on our mistakes.”

In Trombetta’s view, his club has been snakebitten in a recent stretch which has seen it go 0-5-1.

“I knew the schedule was competitive,” said Trombetta, whose team fell 2-1 in overtime to Lawrence High on Friday before tying Hopewell Valley 1-1 on Saturday.

“The Peddie game (a 1-0 loss on October 2) was an unbelievable game. It went to double overtime; we had chances and they converted on a corner kick. The Blair game (a 1-0 loss on September 29) was a tough game. The Lawrenceville game (a 4-2 loss on October 5) was really a 3-2 game. We gave up an easy goal at the end of the game when we were knocking on the door. I don’t look at it as being outplayed; I look at it as making mistakes. You can’t make mistakes at this level because good teams are going to convert on them and beat you.”

In order for the Panthers to get back on the right track, Trombetta believes his team needs to fine-tune things around the goal at both ends of the field.

“Our distribution in the back needs to improve,” said Trombetta, whose team entered this week with a 3-7-3 record.

“We have been speaking a lot about playing better defensively and offensively in the box. We are getting opportunities but we have been inconsistent. We put three on the board against Hun, we had two on the board against Lawrenceville so we are scoring against good teams. But then we come up with a couple of goose eggs against Blair and Peddie.”

Despite the team’s recent struggles, Trombetta is confident that his players can still produce a good postseason run.

“Today is not a good feeling but overall I have been very pleased,” said Trombetta, whose team plays at Abington Friends School (Pa.) in October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20.

“Coming into today, this is one of the teams that probably had been the most consistent since I have been here. We fell flat today but we can definitely make noise come tournament time.”

MAKING HIS MARK: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro dribbles the ball in recent action. The skilled play of sophomore midfielder Pinheiro has been a bright spot for a PDS team that fell to 2-8-2 with a 7-0 loss to Pennington last Friday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having won just twice in its first 11 games, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer knew it faced an uphill battle last Friday when it hosted a powerful Pennington squad that has just two defeats in its first 13 games.

For the first 33 minutes at Baker Field, PDS held the fort as the teams played to a scoreless stalemate.

But after a disputed corner kick and penalty kick led to Pennington goals, the roof fell in on the Panthers. PDS gave up anther goal in the first half to fall behind 3-0 at intermission and then surrendered four unanswered goals in the first 17:03 of the second half on the way to a 7-0 defeat.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence late in the first half changed the tone of the contest.

“We had some good work in the beginning,” said Murphy, whose team moved to 2-8-2 with the loss.

“That changes the psychology; they took charge in that last seven or eight minutes and we just couldn’t recover from that. You can’t take it away from them, they are good players.”

In Murphy’s view, his players can gain a lot from going against such high level competition as Pennington.

“I was actually proud; the one thing I did like is that we did say that we were going to play soccer throughout the game rather than just whack it up the field,” said Murphy, citing the efforts of sophomore Marco Pinheiro, junior Culver Duquette, and senior Willy Cara.

“We can use this as a great experience because there are not that many teams around like Pennington.”

With the Panthers having lost five straight games since wins over the Solebury School and the Blair Academy, Murphy knows that his team’s resilience is being tested.

“You just have to recognize who can come through it psychologically tight,” said Murphy, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 17.

“I thought this was the best game of possession that four or five of these kids have played because when we have been playing teams below our level, we have dropped to their level. Today we actually came with a game plan and tried to push it through.”

Now, Murphy is hoping his team can make a good push in postseason play as it competes in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).

“If we can manage to defend like that and learn how to break out of the back, we have a chance in the Prep Bs,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded 17th in the MCT and will face No. 16 Hun on October 18 in a play-in game with the winner facing top-seeded Allentown in the first round on October 20.

“We are also doing the counties. We are going in so we can give some of the players a better chance.”

STRIKING PRESENCE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Danielle Beal goes after a ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior striker and tri-captain Beal scored Hun’s lone goal as it played to a 1-1 tie at the Hill School (Pa.). The Raiders, now 3-2-4, host the Blair Academy on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deluge that hit the area Monday afternoon led to the cancellation of a number of high school athletic events.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the Hun School girls’ soccer team as it headed out for practice.

“Sometimes when it is like that, it is let’s go in,” said Hun head coach Ken Stevenson.

“I asked them if they wanted to go out and they were like yeah, let’s play. They were into it.”

For the Hun players, cheerfully dealing with a downpour was in character for a squad that has been overcoming adversity throughout the 2012 campaign.

Before the season even started, senior captain and star midfielder Joey Crivelli suffered a season-ending knee injury. That started an injury bug that has plagued the Raiders all season long.

“One of the challenges we have had and to which they are responding well is that our string of injuries continues unabated,” said Stevenson.

“When I sat down on Friday to do my lineup for the Hill game the next day, I had only 11 players so I called up two JV players and said here is your chance.”

Hun was up to the challenge as it battled to a 1-1 tie with the Blues in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener.

“Getting a tie against someone in your league on the road after a long bus ride is a good result,” said Stevenson, whose team moved to 3-2-4 with the tie.

“Danielle Beal got the goal on a good feed from Paige McGuire, who is working her way back. Paloma Rodney and Anna Weinand got called up and they got in and played well. Courtney Arch was already called up; she was our JV goalie and she is playing in the field and doing a good job for us. It is like the NFL with the next man up. I can’t complain about the effort or commitment.”

In the draw with Hill, sophomore defender Jess Sacco exemplified the commitment that Stevenson has been getting from his players.

“Jess Sacco excelled when I put a lot of pressure on her in the Hill game,” said Stevenson.

“We lost both Maziarz sisters [Ashley and Ally] for that game and I changed the formation to deal with it. Hill had one very fast and dangerous forward and I told Sacco she would be marking her but that I also needed her to help the offense. She went out and played, by far, the best game of her high school career against Hill when we really needed it the most.”

While senior star Crivelli hasn’t been able to play, she has been giving the team some needed leadership.

“I give Joey a lot of credit; she loves soccer and is very passionate about the game,” said Stevenson.

“She knows how much she could contribute but is unable to. That is very hard for a senior. I talked to her about going from frustrated player to helpful assistant coach. Her encouragement and talking to the girls has been a big help. I am sure it has made a difference. She is relentlessly upbeat. She is critical but in the sense of I know you can do better.”

Although the Raiders will be shorthanded down the final stretch of the season, Stevenson is upbeat about his team’s prospects.

“The biggest challenge is that every game from here on out is huge; we have Blair, Lawrenceville, Peddie, and Mercersburg coming up, every game is going to be either a MAPL or a state Prep A game,” said Stevenson, whose team hosts Blair on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20.

“When we are on our game, we are really good. We tied East Brunswick and they are 13-1-2 or something like that. We tied Episcopal and they have beaten all the MAPL teams they have played. When we start well and stay in our system we are competitive. We are good at connecting and playing to feet. When we do that, I like our chances.”

—Bill Alden