September 26, 2012

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University field hockey goalie Christina Maida goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday against second-ranked Syracuse, junior standout Maida made some dazzling stops in an 8-save effort but it wasn’t enough as No. 3 Princeton fell 2-0 to the Orange. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, play at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kristen Holmes-Winn is never happy when her Princeton University field hockey team loses a game, she saw plenty of positives when the third-ranked Tigers fell 2-0 to No. 2 Syracuse last Sunday.

“By design we had a game yesterday and a game today,” said Tiger head coach Holmes-Winn, whose club had dismantled Yale 8-0 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in Ivy League play.

“We wanted to play back-to-back to physiologically have that experience. I think we held up physically quite well. I thought our first half today was really good just in terms of how we moved the ball. The finishing stuff will come. There were a lot of really good things from this match that we will take away.”

The skilled teams gave the fans on hand at Bedford Field a demonstration of superb ball movement as the teams generated end-to end-rushes all afternoon. The game was knotted 0-0 at half. Syracuse broke through with a tally on a penalty corner 20 minutes into the second half and then added an insurance goal on a fast break with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

“We knew that Syracuse is a great defensive team and really good on the counterattack and that is exactly what got us,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team fell to 7-1 overall with the loss while Syracuse improved to 9-0.

“They have the ability to really double the ball well and they broke out of their situations and were very effective.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, it was the Orange’s defensive prowess that made the difference in the contest.

“Their ability to get numbers around the ball inside our attacking third and not foul was really the difference,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is one thing  to defend but to be able to defend and not give anything away is a challenge and they did that really, really well.”

Tasting defeat for the first time of the season stung but Holmes-Winn viewed the result in the context of the bigger picture.

“I don’t really care a whole lot about that,” said Holmes-Winn, referring to Tigers losing their chance for a perfect season.

“We just have to keep tacking away at the areas where we are deficient. That is part of playing great teams, they will challenge your structure and your concentration. They show you individually where the weaknesses are and Syracuse did a great job of that.”

The Tigers showed some fight as senior star Kat Sharkey fired blasts on two consecutive penalty corners 25 minutes into the second half with the Tigers trailing 1-0 at that point.

“That’s how this game is, the opportunities are there,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team held a 6-5 edge in penalty corners while getting outshot 16-10.

“The stats weren’t really far off. We were really pushing there at the end so we were exposed. We were playing pretty aggressively which was a result of that second goal and us stretching out our shape a little bit.”

For Holmes-Winn, the main lessons to draw from the defeat center on being more aggressive on finishing and stretching out opposing defenses.

“The passing combinations through our midfield was just awesome; once we got into the final third, they did a great job of getting players around the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, citing the play of the Reinprecht sisters, senior Katie and junior Julia.

“It was never a situation where we were one-on-one. We need to look a little bit where those numbers are coming from and figure how to stretch those zones out of it.”

With Princeton on track for its eighth straight Ivy League title and 18th in the last 19 years, Holmes-Winn is hoping that the experience gained from battling Syracuse will help the Tigers as they pursue their goal of a first national title.

“You have to be perfect in the league, there is no doubt about that, but when it comes to these non-conference games, the point is to be challenged,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team plays at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2.

“It is always great to win but it is not my main concern right now. If we win and play bad hockey, I am not going to be happy either.”

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey star Emilia Lopez-Ona shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, Lopez-Ona scored the game-winning goal as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over Allentown. The Little Tigers, who moved to 4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Saturday, play at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona has established herself as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program.

Last spring, Lopez-Ona scored 123 points on 99 goals and 24 assists in her sophomore season to help the Little Tigers go 14-4 and advance to the sectional semifinals.

While field hockey is Lopez-Ona’s second sport, she is starting to make a similar impact in a game she picked up just three years ago.

Last Wednesday, the junior forward scored the winning goal with 7:59 remaining in the second half as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over powerful Allentown.

In reflecting on the clutch tally, which came on a feed from sophomore Campbell McDonald, Lopez-Ona said she was just taking care of business.

“Campbell really did the work there; she took it down the whole left side,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

“She kept her eyes up and saw me in the middle and my job is just to hit it backside pipe.”

For Lopez-Ona, refining her skills as a playmaker has been one of her main areas of focus this fall.

“Each season is a new beginning; it is a really nice break from lacrosse,” said Lopez-Ona, who had four assists in PHS’ first three games.

“The thing about field hockey is that assists and goals have the same importance.”

The progress that Lopez-Ona has made reflects the improvement PHS has made collectively as it has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season.

“Last year, I feel like we were a really young team starting to develop,” said Lopez-Ona.

“This year almost all of our starting lineup came back and I feel like we have really matured as a team.”

The Little Tigers showed that maturity in the victory over Allentown as they fought back from a 1-0 first half deficit.

“I think after the timeout at the end of the first half, we really collected ourselves and got a ton of chances,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We kept that momentum into the second half; you could see the step up in the level of play.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited Lopez-Ona with helping the Little Tigers step up in their second half rally.

“I think a lot of that spark came from Emilia,” said Serverson. “She really fired up and people feed off of that. When she gets excited and the shots start going, the rest of the team gets excited.”

Serverson was excited about the win over perennial powerhouse Allentown.

“This is one of the key games for us; I am so pleased that we came out with the win,” said Serverson, who got the game-tying goal from senior Vivien Bazarko on another assist by McDonald.

“We didn’t start out really well. We weren’t playing good team defense and we were dumping the ball to their stick. We turned it around and started playing our game. We just started moving the ball and passing stick to stick. We played the passing game that we practice everyday. It was definitely the team I have seen play so far this season.”

In Serverson’s view, her team showed growth by sticking with its game plan. “It is something we have been working on over the season; I think as a program we have to learn to just hang in there and keep playing our game,” said Serverson.

“Things will work out if you just do what you have done everyday in practice.”

With the combination of senior Sydney Watts and sophomore Julia DiTosto anchoring the PHS defense, the Little Tigers can hang with just about anybody.

“They are the core of the team,” asserted Serverson of Watts and DiTosto. “Without the two of them and their composure, their vision, and their ability to transition from defense to offense, we would not be doing as well as we are doing. They are definitely key.”

Bazarko and McDonald have emerged as key contributors for the Little Tigers.

“Vivien is one of our captains, she communicates very well on the field,” added Serverson.

“I think she gives great constructive feedback in the moment when she is playing with the other girls. Campbell is very consistent when she is on and today she was on. She puts her heart into it and moves to the ball.”

Serverson is hoping that her team can show even more heart collectively.

“I think this is going to be a wake-up call,” said Serverson, whose team plays at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2.

“The first half of the season wasn’t as challenging as this game. I think this win today showed them that they need to work harder in practice. I think they just need a little more confidence.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that PHS possesses an unselfish mindset which should help it get through the challenges ahead.

“We work together, that is probably my favorite thing about this team,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We pick ourselves up and just work together. Every connection, every goal, it is not just one person doing the work.”

NET WORTH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas makes a play at the net in a match last fall. Senior first doubles standout and team captain Cahill-Sanidas has provided good play and leadership as PHS has gotten off to a 7-0 start this season. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on September 27, play at Nottingham on September 28, and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With six seniors having graduated from a Princeton High girls’ tennis team that won the Central Jersey Group III title last year, Sarah Hibbert feels like she is back to square one.

“We are starting fresh with a lot of young players,” said head coach Hibbert, noting that nine of 18 players in the program are new.

“You forget that you have to explain things to them. Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] and Lindsay [Eberhart] are the two seniors and they are really working hard to get the group together, doing a lot of team building stuff.”

In Hibbert’s view, the newcomers can build on the program’s winning tradition.

“It is also exciting,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 16-2 record last fall on their way to the state semifinals. “The last senior group did a lot of good things and I think this group can as well.”

PHS has a special player at first singles in freshman Christina Rosca. “Christina has a lot of experience; she has a complete repertoire of skills,” asserted Hibbert.

“She is a solid baseliner who is not afraid to go to the net. She works with private coaches outside of the team; she is always looking to get better.”

The Little Tigers boast another freshman standout, Chenchen Wang, who figures to give the team good work at second singles.

“Chenchen is very steady from the baseline; she is willing to stay in long rallies,” said Hibbert. “She is good at mixing up things and challenging an opponent’s game.”

At third singles, sophomore Katelyn Hojelbane appears to be ready for the challenge of playing at the varsity level.

“Katelyn was on JV last year; it was hard to crack the varsity lineup with the six seniors,” said Hibbert. “She is a good, steady player who has good groundstrokes.”

The steady presence of Cahill-Sanidas will be important as she pairs up with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles.

“Maddie has been our rock, both in terms of her play at doubles and as a captain,” maintained Hibbert.

“She is a great leader; she works very hard to make everyone comfortable. She is a great doubles player. I think Maddie and Rory have similar styles. Rory is also aggressive but younger. As she works her way into the lineup, it is good for her to have Maddie as her mentor.”

Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert should add a lot to the PHS lineup for their spot at second doubles.

“They played together on JV last year,” said Hibbert. “They have complementary styles and they are used to each other. I think they will make a smooth transition into the second doubles spot.”

Based on the early returns, it looks like the young PHS squad is making a seamless transition to the varsity level as the Little Tigers have produced a 7-0 start.

“It is always important to get off to a good start with counties and states coming up so quick,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Ewing 5-0 last Monday and hosts WW/P-S on September 27, plays at Nottingham on September 28 and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“It is a particularly important for a young team to get off to a good start to get some confidence. We opened with Hopewell Valley and won 4-1 with each of the wins coming in straight sets. They have six seniors and I was not sure how our young players would hold up. I was thrilled with the way that went.”

If PHS can keep progressing, there could be some thrills on the horizon.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” said Hibbert “We have some tough weeks coming up with WW/P-N, WW/P-S, counties and states. I am happy that the girls are having fun. On a new team that is getting introduced to high school tennis, that is important.”

ON THE RUN: Princeton High running back Javon Pannell looks for running room in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior Pannell rushed for 28 yards and made two receptions in a losing cause as PHS fell 33-0 to visiting WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, now 1-2, host Hamilton on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Gargione went on the field twice during the third quarter last Saturday to read the riot act to his Princeton High football team as it hosted WW/P-S.

With the Little Tigers trailing the Pirates 14-0 early in the second half, head coach Gargione took advantage of a stoppage in play to go in the offensive huddle and tell his players in no uncertain terms to show more passion.

Later in the quarter, Gargione got in the faces of his players in a defensive huddle with the same message.

While the Little Tigers responded with some stretches of inspired play, they were ultimately worn down by WW/P-S in losing 33-0.

“I tried to lay into the kids to get something going,” said Gargione, reflecting on his third quarter pep talks in the defeat that dropped PHS to 1-2.

“Somebody has got to step up and show a little more fire. We made too many mistakes to overcome; they just outplayed us.”

With PHS having not scored offensively since the first half of the Hightstown game on September 14, Gargione is concerned about mistakes on that side of the ball.

“It is everything,” said Gargione, assessing the offensive drought after a day when his team was outgained 153 yards to 21 yards on the ground and 181-74 in the air.

“It is missed assignments, missed blocks and even minor things like coming out of the huddle in the wrong formation and having to switch back. That just can’t happen.”

While PHS made some good things happen defensively, it also struggled on that side of the ball.

“The defense started off well and then we had a hard time covering the simple flat,” said Gargione. “It wasn’t like he was lasering it in there.”

In Gargione’s view, his squad is at a crossroads having suffered two straight lopsided defeats in the wake of an inspiring 27-21 win over Northern Burlington on opening day.

“We have showed we can play; I just don’t want them to be content with that first win,” said Gargione, whose team hosts Hamilton on September 29.

“We have to turn it around now; this is a turning point for us. We have to turn the season around come Monday. We need to learn from our mistakes and go from there.”

If PHS is to turn things around, their veteran players will have to show the way. “We have to turn to our seniors. They have to be the ones to care,” asserted Gargione.

“If they send out the wrong message, the underclassmen don’t know any better.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Alexa Soltesz controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore striker Soltesz contributed a goal and two assists as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, now 2-2-2, play at Rutgers Prep on September 27, host Blair Academy on September 29, and then play at Peddie on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexa Soltesz may be just a sophomore but she knows the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team is depending on her to provide scoring punch.

With high-scoring forward Janie Smukler having graduated, the Panthers need the skilled striker Soltesz to be a productive finisher.

“My coach [Pat Trombetta] and I talked before the season that I had a big position to fill,” said Soltesz.

“I think I am doing a pretty good job with it but she was a really big loss. She was a great player.”

This past Friday, Soltesz did some pretty good things, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2.

In reflecting on her goal, which opened the scoring late in the first half, Soltesz acknowledged that she poached a tally away from fellow sophomore Kylie Kieffer.

“I saw my teammate Kylie coming onto the goal; she called me off while I was running but I kind of got in her way,” said Soltesz.

“I feel a little bad about it but I am happy to put one on the board; it really got our team up.”

Soltesz did pay Kieffer back, setting her up on the Panthers’ second goal. “I saw her there; I owed her one,” said a smiling Soltesz, recalling the tally which put PDS up 2-1.

On the team’s final tally, which gave the Panthers a 3-1 advantage, Soltesz booted a towering corner kick that Kirsten Kuzmicz blasted home. “I just started to take corners last game and it is working,” said Soltesz.

After not scoring a goal in PDS’ first four contests, Soltesz believes she is starting to get in a groove after breaking the ice with a tally in a 3-3 tie with Hun last week.

“I think I was in kind of a slump,” said Soltesz. “One gets me going, as my father always says.”

Playing with her twin sister, Stefany, a star sweeper for the Panthers helps get Soltesz going.

“We have been playing together since we were two years old,” said Soltesz. “We used to play offense together.”

PDS head coach Trombetta liked the way his squad played better and better in the George game.

“We started a little shaky; our decision-making wasn’t the best for the first 20 minutes,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 2-2-2 with the win over the Cougars.

“We settled down as the game went on. I think in the second half we took complete control of the game. The possession play was better; we got more girls involved in the play.”

In Trombetta’s view, Soltesz is getting settled into her role at striker. “Alexa is starting to pick it up; she started off slowly,”  said Trombetta.

“I think the game against Hun where she scored on a corner broke the ice for her. The first goal is the toughest so that opened it up for her. She is doing really well now.”

Sophomore midfielder Kieffer has been opening things up for the Panthers.

“I thought Kylie Kieffer had an excellent game for us today; she had one goal and one assist,” said Trombetta.

“She is a player we had on defense last year but this year we have moved her up to midfield because she has great touch with the ball and excellent decision-making. She was placing some nice through balls to our outside mids and then she scored the go-ahead goal.”

PDS is getting some excellent play from senior forward Kelsey Scarlett. “Kelsey creates a lot of the opportunities out there,” said Trombetta.

“She is a person we can move around a lot on the field because she is very versatile. Having her on the field with her senior experience helps out a lot, she has just got a great attitude.”

The foundation for the Panthers’ solid start has been some good work at the defensive end of the field.

“For the most part, our defense has been playing really well,” said Trombetta.

“Brit Murray is a solid defender; we always put her on the other team’s biggest weapon. She does a great job as does Stef [Soltesz] at sweeper. Kelly Tarcza coming from Steinert is a physical player out there. You need a presence like that on the field sometimes.”

PDS needs to fine-tune things as it faces some big challenges in the next week when it plays at Rutgers Prep on September 27, hosts Blair Academy on September 29, and then plays at Peddie on October 2.

“I think our decision-making and spacing has to get better,” said Trombetta. “We have just completed one-third of our season and I am looking for our composure to get better. Our possession has to get better.”

Trombetta believes his players have what it takes to get better. “We have a great group of girls; they are hardworking,” said Trombetta.

“I have complete confidence that they will be able to handle the tough stretch that is ahead of us.”

Soltesz, for her part, shares Trombetta’s confidence in the group’s prospects.

“I am really proud of us,” said Soltesz. “We did a great job today. I love this team.”

For the Hun School girls’ tennis team, this fall figures to be one of transition.

“I am looking at this season as an opportunity to rebuild,” said longtime Hun head coach Joan Nuse, whose team opened the season by losing 5-0 to Montgomery High and falling 3-2 to Springside Academy last Saturday before getting into the win column by topping Pennington 4-1 on Monday. “We graduated a lot of seniors. We have a lot of new faces.”

Hun is going with a familiar face at first singles in returning junior Shayna Glassberg.

“Shayna is looking to build on last year,” said Nuse of Glassberg, who played second singles for Hun in 2011. “She played hard in our first match against Montgomery; she didn’t give up in the second set.”

Nuse is looking for some hard play from sophomore Stephanie Taylor. “Steph is a great athlete; I am glad she chose to come out for tennis rather than soccer,” said Nuse, noting that Taylor plays club soccer.

“She showed perseverance in the Montgomery match; she was running around like a maniac.”

At third singles, Hun is welcoming back junior Lauren Kotler. “Lauren played third singles last year,” said Nuse, who got a straight sets win from Kotler in the victory over Pennington.

“She was thinking of not playing this year; it is good to have her back. She makes it fun for everybody else.’

It is good for Hun to have seniors Cansu Cabeci and Lesley Cai at first doubles. Last fall, Cai starred at first doubles while Cabeci is moving up after playing second doubles in 2011.

“They are most experienced doubles players; they are learning to play together,” said Nuse of the pair who breezed to a 6-0, 6-1 win in the Pennington match. “They both have different strengths. Cansu is a solid baseliner while Lesley likes the net.”

The second doubles pair of Olivia Hartman and Lily Razavi figures to give the Raiders some solid play. “They know each other from playing together on JV last year,” said Nuse.

In Nuse’s view, her team should be playing better and better as the fall unfolds.

“I am looking for us to be better at the end than in the beginning,” asserted Nuse, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on September 27, plays at Stuart Country Day on September 29, and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“We only had three girls there for a lot of the preseason so that makes it harder at the start. A lot of the girls were coming from foreign countries.”

AIR SHOW: Hun School quarterback Blake Searfoss airs out a pass last Saturday as the Raiders hosted Poly Prep (N.Y.) Post-graduate Searfoss connected on five touchdown passes to help Hun post a 47-28 victory over the Blue Devils. The Raiders, now 1-1, are next in action when they host the Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While lacrosse may be Blake Searfoss’ first sporting love, football is starting to grow on him.

Searfoss, the all-time assists leader for Hunterdon Central, was set to play college lax but then he got to start at quarterback last fall for the Red Devils.

As a result, Searfoss put his lax plans on hold and opted to do a post-graduate year at the Hun School to focus on football.

“I was going to play lacrosse and then I realized that I wanted to do the football thing,” said Searfoss. “By that time, it was too late to get an offer. That is why I came to Hun.”

Last Saturday, Searfoss showed that he may have a bright future in football, passing for five touchdowns and 212 yards as Hun rolled past visiting Poly Prep (N.Y.) 47-28.

In the wake of suffering a tough season-opening 17-14 defeat at Seton Hall Prep on September 15, Searfoss and the Raiders were primed to break loose.

“After the loss, we just had to go back to work,” said Searfoss. “We had a real nice week of practice; everyone was working real hard. This was a new game and we couldn’t dwell on last week. We came out today and played hard. Everyone showed a lot of heart; I thought we had a great day.”

The Raiders showed great balance, mixing the pass and run effectively. “Today, they both opened up each other real well,” said Searfoss.

“When we started passing, it opened up the run. When we started running a lot, that opened up the play action. We had a pretty balanced set coming into the week and we knew that we should probably be able to do both.”

Searfoss opened up the Poly Prep defense as he connected on touchdown bombs of 71 and 48 yards to sophomore Christopher Sharp.

“We were working this summer,” said Searfoss of Sharp. “I know he is a good player; he is just young. He has got wheels. We were working during the week and we connected a couple of times today. It was real nice.”

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck had a nice feeling about the effort he got from his players in the win over Poly Prep.

“Our numbers are very thin; that is no secret,” said Dudeck. “On a hot day when most of your kids are going both ways and playing on special teams; our kids came up with a phenomenal, phenomenal effort. They showed so much heart.”

The Raiders produced a superior effort on offense as Searfoss’ heroics in the air were augmented by a balanced ground attack featuring Kylan Baker, Chris Cardinali, and Abdul-Malik Majeed.

“We just felt we got into a rhythm offensively and that we had a counter to what they would show us defensively,” said Dudeck.

“It worked out. But don’t give too much credit to the coaches and the play calling, it is the kids on the field.”

Searfoss is developing a good rhythm in triggering the Hun attack. “Blake has a bit of that loose swagger,” said Dudeck.

“He is a fun kid. He likes to sling it and get after it. We only have two PGs with him and Greg Golden. They have come in and have just fit in great with our team.”

Dudeck had fun watching Sharp produce a breakout performance. “Today was Sharpie’s coming out party,” said Dudeck.

“He had a big day for us. He is a young sophomore; he has a ton of potential. He is just learning how to play football. His future is bright. He is a great kid too. He listens and he is easily coached and he has a great attitude.”

If Hun is going to keep in the winning track, it is going to need to display a hard-nosed attitude.

“We are going to be a team that has to grow and mature,” said Dudeck, whose team is off this Saturday and returns to action when it hosts Blair Academy on October 6.

“We are not the type of team that can just show up and win football games. Every week we have to work hard and watch film. We have to understand; we have to execute.”

Searfoss, for his part, has reached a good understanding of how the Hun program works.

“Everybody works so hard here; we don’t have that many guys but everyone is working their butts off everyday,” said Searfoss.

“No. 5 [Golden] and I are the only PGs; they brought us right in and showed us the way. We meshed together pretty well. We have a good bunch of guys.”

September 19, 2012

OPENING MOVE: Princeton University freshman football player Anthony Gaffney looks for an opening last Saturday in Princeton’s 17-14 opening day loss at Lehigh. Gaffney, a former Pennington School standout, made a solid debut, seeing time at defensive back, receiver, and on kick returns. The Tigers trailed 17-0 at half before scoring 14 unanswered points in the second half to put a scare into the 13th-ranked Mountain Hawks. The Tigers will look to get into the win column this Friday evening when they host Georgetown (2-1) in their home opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team started its season by falling behind 13th-ranked Lehigh 17-0 at halftime last Saturday, it looked like the same old story for a Tiger program that has posted two straight 1-9 campaigns.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace wasn’t pleased as he trudged into the locker room with his team at a sun-splashed Goodman Stadium.

“We did not come out and play well in the first half; we struggled up front and all around,” said Surace, whose team was outgained 285 yards to 40 in the half and managed only two first downs.

“They did a great job of getting off their blocks through the first half and we weren’t really giving ourselves a chance. Defensively we were on the field way too long and we struggled on third down.”

But stunningly, the Tigers ended the afternoon by having a chance to win the game as they scored 14 unanswered points in the second half and had the ball near midfield with 3:15 remaining in regulation and down by three.

Lehigh, though, held the Tigers and was able to maintain possession after that as it hung on for a 17-14 victory before a crowd of 7,346 in improving to 3-0.

Surace credited the team’s seniors with holding things together in the face of the Lehigh onslaught.

“The best thing is that some veteran guys kept this thing where there was no panic,” said Surace.

“I felt in the past that some games that were like this snowballed and there was anxiety and a 17-0 game turned into a blowout. We came out in the second half and did a real good job of getting some control of the football and getting some field position. We have a real good group of seniors on defense. We have such high expectations for those guys and they really did a good job. We talked to them about the word believe before the game but I didn’t feel like we really did and then they came together, it was nice to see. Lehigh is a great team but you know what, we can play football.”

Senior running back Akil Sharp exemplified the progress in the tale of two halves as he ended the afternoon with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns after getting just 15 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

“I think we were just coming together as a team” said Sharp. “Just like what coach was talking about, we came out in the second half and the team was really believing. From there, as a team we got our blocks down. We started to get on the same page.”

Sophomore quarterback Conner Michelson, who got the starting nod after a preseason battle with classmate Quinn Epperly and freshman Kedric Bostic, acknowledged that the Tiger offense needed to give defense a rest.

“The offense started to click better, we saw from the first half that we needed to get the team going,” said Michelson, who hit on 14-of-30 passes for 103 yards in his first college start.

“We kept the defense on the field way too long. That is on me, I have got to get first downs for this team. I have to get the team rolling.”

One of the leaders of the defense, senior co-captain Mike Catapano, liked the way his unit came up big down the stretch when it had a chance to catch its breath.

“When we came out of the locker room in the second half, you started to see those big plays on third down, the stuffed runs, things like that,” said Catapano. “We just have to be more consistent with the big plays.”

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like the Tigers were going to get run out of the stadium by the two-time defending Patriot League champions. After the teams traded punts in the first four possessions of the contest, Lehigh went on the march. Mixing the run and pass, the Mountain Hawks drove 58 yards and went ahead 7-0 after a five-yard touchdown run by Zach Barket.

Princeton nearly got on the board in the waning minutes of the quarter after recovering a muffed punt deep in Lehigh territory. The Tigers got to the Mountain Hawk seven-yard line but were stymied when they went for it on a fourth and one.

The Mountain Hawks dominated the second quarter, taking a 10-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by Jake Peery and then going up 17-0 after an 59-yard march that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Keith Sherman.

In the third quarter, the Tigers kept Lehigh pinned in their territory as they tried to rally from the 17-0 halftime deficit. After its first three possessions ended with punts, Princeton started moving late in the quarter. With Sharp catching fire, the Tigers marched through the Lehigh defense. Sharp gained 34 yards on the last three plays of the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown gallop, as Princeton narrowed the margin to 17-6. The extra point attempt was blocked

Minutes later, the kicking game helped Princeton as it recovered another mishandled punt. Starting at the Lehigh 28, the Tigers cashed in this time with Sharp scoring on a one-yard plunge. Michelson then hit Roman Wilson in the end zone for a two-point conversion as Princeton narrowed the gap to 17-14.

The Tigers got the ball one more time and were forced to punt. Lehigh took possession with 2:38 left and never relinquished it, converting on a third down and 11 as tight end Dylan Colgate made a 27-yard reception with just over two minutes remaining to seal the deal.

While Surace was heartened by his team’s rally, he made it clear that another loss was not acceptable.

“There is going to be some attaboys and good efforts and everything else,” said Surace.

“For us to improve as a team, that can’t be the case. It’s got to go beyond the great effort from the hanging in there to winning a game that we gave ourselves an opportunity to. We made some mistakes at the end and we couldn’t get the ball back.”

With the Tigers hosting Georgetown (2-1) this Friday in its home opener, Surace is looking for his players to clean up those mistakes.

“The big thing is that I told them in the locker room last year is last year and unfortunately we weren’t able to turn it around,” said Surace, whose team stumbled to a 34-9 loss to Bucknell last fall after playing well in a 34-22 opening day loss to Lehigh.

“We have a short week this week, we play on Friday night. Tomorrow is the day that we start to correct errors. Whether we were able to make one more play at the end of the game and come back or not, there was going to be a lot of corrections. I am sure if you ask coach [Lehigh coach Andy Coen], they made a lot of corrections from week one to week two and they are playing better right now. It’s just the nature of it so we are going to have to do that and do a great job.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that Princeton’s second half effort shows that the program is on the verge of turning things around.

“I think that it is just a tribute to us continuing to work hard and to push toward getting this thing on the right path,” said Sharp.

BOOTING UP: Princeton University sophomore soccer star Julian Griggs prepares to boot the ball up the field in recent action. Last Sunday, Griggs and the Tigers broke a three-game losing streak as they edged Villanova 1-0. Princeton, now 2-3, hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting nationally ranked Georgetown last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s soccer team seemed overmatched in the early going.

The Tigers were outshot 10-4 by the No. 12 Hoyas and trailed 1-0 at intermission.

“We had a hard time in the first half,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow. “We played a 4-4-2 in the first half and they stretched us out pretty well. I didn’t think that we got our back line up high enough and there was too much room for them to play in the midfield.”

Looking to stem the tide, Barlow made a key adjustment after halftime. “In the second half we went with a 4-3-3 with Thomas Sanner all the way up, Julian Griggs and Cameron Porter out wide, and we put three guys in the middle,” said Barlow.

“It definitely made it harder for them to keep possession in the middle. I thought Pat O’Neil, Matt Sanner, and Myles McGinley did a good job of plugging holes and I thought we took control of the game.”

The Tigers outshot Georgetown 13-4 over the last 45 minutes of the game but were unable to find the back of the net as they fell 1-0.

Still, Barlow drew positives from the team’s second half performance. “This was a big step forward for our team,” said Barlow.

“I thought we got on the same page with how we were going to try to play defense and it went much better. I think we had a few chances that we should have put away. We looked like a soccer team in the second half.”

Two days later, the Tigers built on that second half effort as they edged Villanova 1-0 on a goal by Thomas Sanner.

Freshman forward Sanner has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. “Thomas is a good target up there,” said Barlow, whose team improved to 2-3 with the win on Sunday.

“He has got good feet. He can look to get behind the defense but he can also look to make passes.”

Senior co-captain Mark Linnville helped keep the Princeton defense tight in the Georgetown game. “He is steady back there,” said Barlow of Linnville, a three-time first-team All- Ivy League performer.

“He is a leader; he keeps the back line together. I think he was a little cautious in the first half and kept the line too deep. In the second half, he pushed the line up higher. They didn’t get behind us and I think we now have a little more confidence that we can put our line up higher and play more in their end.”

In Barlow’s view, having started the season by playing five teams from the Big East (Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers in addition to Georgetown and Villanova) should give the Tigers confidence going forward.

“I am always a fan of playing against good teams and the Big East has a lot of good teams,” said Barlow, whose team hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.

“When you only have 17 games to play in a year, you want to play good teams. I know they start earlier. I know they have had a lot more games than us but we can’t focus on that. Georgetown had played six games, a few scrimmages, and have been together a lot longer than us. In the first half, especially, they looked like they are further along but this is how you make progress and I thought we did make some progress.”

BRONZE AGE: Former Princeton University fencing star Maya Lawrence, left, and current Tiger fencer Susie Scanlan enjoy the moment after they were named to the U.S. epee team that competed in the London Olympics. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton grad who has been living and training in France the last seven years, helped the U.S. take bronze, its first-ever medal in the event. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maya Lawrence pulled an upset in her opening bout in the individual epee at the London Olympics last month but ended up being angry with herself for getting eliminated in the next round.

“I performed well but had a bad second bout,” said Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton University grad and former fencing star for the Tigers who topped Italy’s Maria Navarria 15-12 in the Round of 32 before losing 15-7 to Rossella Flamingo of Italy in the next round.

“Navarria was No. 7 or 9 in the world so on paper she was a stronger fencer. I was training to win the first bout. It was really exciting to win the first bout, maybe too exciting. I didn’t have time to process emotions.”

Days later, Lawrence experienced an emotional high she won’t ever forget, helping the U.S. to bronze in the team epee event as it topped Russia 31-30 in the third-place match. It was the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the event.

“We were all really excited; we had been through a lot and being able to get a medal at the ends was great,” said Lawrence, who was joined on the team by Princeton junior Susie Scanlan together with sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley.

“It is an individual sport and we are used to competing against each other. I was proud that we were able to come together. You have to stop and regroup and be a team. We did team-building and we managed personalities.”

As 2012 dawned, Lawrence had the sense that the epee team could build into something special.

“In January, I had a feeling that something big was going to happen,” said Lawrence.

“Teams that had been beating us badly weren’t beating us by that much. In the World Cup event in April outside Paris, we got second. That was the best U.S. finish and, on paper, showed that we were capable.”

For Lawrence, it was fitting that the U.S. did well in France as she lives and trains in Paris.

“I have been there for seven years,” said Lawrence, who trains with Maitre Daniel Lavavasseur.

“I knew that I wanted to train in France; I had been training in the French school with Michel [former Princeton coach Michel Sebastiani]. It is a great place to train. I have great guys to train with. We have fencers from different countries.”

The influence of Sebastiani, a master of traditional French fencing technique who runs Sebastiani Fencing Academy in Princeton, helped spur Lawrence to keep competing on an international level.

“I am not sure I would have continued; he was the only one who thought I could do this,” said Lawrence, a native of Teaneck, N.J., who was a four-time All-Ivy League selection and an All-American during her Tiger career.

“He was the most emotionally supportive coach I have had, expressing to me that I had the ability to do this. He always told me to keep working.”

Lawrence had to work hard to finally qualify for the Olympics, having fallen short in 2004 and 2008.

During the Opening Ceremony at the London Games, the magnitude of making the Olympics hit Lawrence.

“At first, I didn’t feel anything but then I saw a training partner, a Tunisian,” said Lawrence. “We had shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears together. We started bawling.”

Competing together on the U.S. team with fellow Princeton standout Scanlan has been a good feeling for Lawrence.

“I graduated way before she did; we have never been on a team before,” said Lawrence.

“We get along pretty well. She is really good at motivating the team. She is mature beyond her years.”

The U.S. epee team brought plenty of motivation into the competition in London. “The whole second half of the season we have been talking to each other saying that we could do it,” said Lawrence.

“We were definitely the underdogs. There were probably only five or six people in the room that thought we could do it. All the teams that were supposed to get a medal lost in the first round.”

The U.S. pulled an upset in the quarterfinals, topping Italy 45-35 but then stumbled in the semifinals as it fell 45-36 to South Korea.

“Romania was seeded No. 1 and they had lost,” said Lawrence, reflecting on the loss to South Korea.

“This was the tableau of our dream and we couldn’t miss this chance. But we were fencing not to lose, we were to cautious against South Korea.”

In the bronze medal match, the U.S. faced Russia and pulled out a 31-30 triumph.

“We had beaten them a year ago but they had beaten us badly since,” said Lawrence.

“We went back to the strategy that beat them. We didn’t think that we had to run after them. We wanted to be cautious but aggressive when opportunities to score came up.”

In the aftermath of their achievement, Lawrence and her teammates got to soak up the scene around London over the last week of the Summer Games.

“We had some free time to go out and celebrate and see other events,” said Lawrence. “We did a lot of interviews; it was fun to be there without the stress of competition.”

Lawrence, now 32, plans to keep competing with an eye to possibly taking part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I have goals,” said Lawrence. “I am No. 19 individually, I would like to be in the top 16. I would like to do better in World Cup events and the World Championships.”

HELLBENT: Princeton High junior tight end Liam Helstrom celebrates after scoring a touchdown last Friday against Hightstown. Helstrom’s second quarter 15-yard TD reception turned out to be one of the major highlights for PHS as it fell 38-12 to the Rams. The Little Tigers, now 1-1, host WW/P-S on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although his Princeton High football team fell 38-12 at Hightstown last Friday night, Joe Gargione doesn’t feel that there is that much difference between the two squads.

“We didn’t lose outright; we lost because of shooting ourselves in the foot,” said PHS head coach Gargione, whose team dropped to 1-1. “We weren’t using our heads.”

The Little Tigers displayed sloppiness on their first possession when they drove to Hightstown one-yard line but then committed an offsides penalty and had to settle for a field goal.

After falling behind 14-3, PHS came up with a big play in the second quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom with a 15-yard touchdown as the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 14-10.

“We got a TD on a beautiful pass from Zack to Liam,” recalled Gargione. “Zack sprinted to his left and threw a perfect ball.”

But a special teams lapse on the ensuing kickoff hurt the Little Tigers as Andrew Daniels sprinted for an 88-yard touchdown return to help the Rams build their lead to 21-10.

Bouncing back from that setback, PHS recovered a fumble and moved the ball inside the Hightstown one-yard line in the waning moments of the half.

“We had four seconds left in the half and we said let’s do a quarterback sneak,” said Gargione.

“I told the line I needed them to be tough. I thought Zack got in but they didn’t give us the call. I looked at the film over and over and it looked like most of his body was in the end zone. That would have made it 21-16 and 21-17 if we make the point after. That really changed the game.”

Deflated by that sequence, the Little Tigers saw the game get away from them in the second half as the Rams rolled to the victory.

In reflecting on the loss, Gargione pointed to the play of junior lineman and kicker Cal O’Meara as a bright spot for the Little Tigers.

“Cal O’Meara had a big game,” said Gargione. “He laid out for an interception. He kicked a field goal and made the extra point after the touchdown. He also had some big punts that put them in a hole.”

With PHS hosting a powerful WW/P-S (1-1) team this Saturday, the Little Tigers will need O’Meara and his linemates to come up big in the trenches.

“We assume that Schoenauer [WW/P-S star running back Brian Schoenauer] will be playing; he tweaked his hamstring against Steinert and they took him out to rest it,” said Gargione. “The backup played really well. Obviously, we need to stop the run.”

Gargione is looking for his team to regain the headiness it showed in its 27-21 opening day win over Northern Burlington two weeks ago.

“We need to be mistake-free like we were in the opener,” said Gargione. “We need to get the penalties out of our system. We need the secondary playing better. We gave up 240 yards passing to Hightstown and two big pass plays in the opener. We need to be where we are supposed to be and cover better. We need to get the line clicking again.”

GOLD VALUE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jeremy Goldsmith kicks the ball last Thursday as PHS hosted Hightstown. Senior midfielder Goldsmith picked up an assist in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 2-1. The Little Tigers, who rebounded with a 2-1 win over Harrison on Saturday to improve to 2-2, host Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the three campaigns from 2009-11, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team didn’t lose a game in regular season play.

Last week, the proud PHS side dropped two early season games, falling 2-1 to Allentown in overtime on September 10 and then getting edged 2-1 by Hightstown two days later.

While Little Tiger head coach Wayne Sutcliffe wasn’t happy to see his team get off to a 1-2 start, he certainly wasn’t ready to push the panic button.

“I am not discouraged at all,” said Sutcliffe after the loss to Hightstown. “We don’t like dropping games but our best soccer, without a doubt, is in front of us.”

In the Hightstown contest, PHS displayed some superb soccer in the first half as it battled back from an early 1-0 deficit to knot that game on a Kevin Halliday goal.

“We had a great start to the game aside from giving up that opportunistic goal,” said Sutcliffe.

“Our urgency was good, we were winning the battles. Kevin had a great goal. That came from some of the best soccer we have played all season. We worked it really well. It was great to see that response to Hightstown’s goal.”

In the second half, the Rams took the lead at the 5:30 mark and PHS tried valiantly to get the equalizer, putting intense pressure on the Hightstown defense.

“We are getting some bad breaks in the back third; we had most of the possession,” said Sutcliffe.

“You saw how many shots they had in the second half, maybe two or three. We are just not getting the breaks and that is something we will work out.”

Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from senior defender Adam Klein and senior midfielder Zach Halliday.

“Adam Klein had a great game today; he really neutralized No. 44 [Mohammed Sesay] and did a great job,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think Zach has had a great season so far, he has been the guy that has been carrying us.”

PHS, though, needs others to help out Klein and Halliday. “I think it is a matter of a couple of the other guys simplifying things and finding their form,” said Sutcliffe.

The first order of business for the Little Tigers is to develop the imperious defensive form that has characterized the program’s recent run of success.

“We are focusing on keeping a clean sheet; we have to tighten up the defense,” said Sutcliffe.

“We have to work on being a little sharper and more organized. We have given up five goals in three games; that is unusual for us. Clearly that is where we are going to start.”

PHS also has to start being more productive with its offensive possessions. “We are lacking a little quality in the front 18 in the attacking end,” added Sutcliffe, whose team was more productive last Saturday as it edged Harrison 2-1 with Kevin Halliday scoring both goals.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not getting in and creating chances; we are just lacking a little quality.”

With the season barely a week old, PHS has time to get in a groove. “I don’t think it is a wakeup call, the guys all have to know that,” said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24.

“We are going to be a lot better in two weeks and we’ll be a lot better than that in four weeks. It is only the third game of the season.”

FAST START: Princeton Day School field hockey star Andrea Jenkins races up the field in recent action. Senior midfielder/forward Jenkins came up big last week, scoring two goals in a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day on September 11 before chipping in a goal in a 2-0 triumph over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then scoring the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday. PDS, now 3-0-1, hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton Day School field hockey team generated a total of one goal in three preseason scrimmages and tied Germantown Academy (Pa.) 2-2 in its season opener, Andrea Jenkins sensed that the Panthers were about to break out offensively.

“In practice, we have been working on our movement and cutting,” said senior star Jenkins.

“We have new positioning and tactics so I think us playing with each other the last few days has really helped.”

That work paid dividends last week as the Panthers rolled to a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day School to earn their first win of the season and the first victory in the PDS tenure of new head coach Tracey Arndt.

“It is a great feeling getting the first win for the new coach,” said Jenkins, who scored two goals in the win on September 11 with junior Emma Quigley chipping in two and Mary Travers and Bian Maloney scoring one apiece. “I think it worked out really well.”

Jenkins’ first tally in the win came on a rush up the side of the field finished off with a blast that rattled off the back of the cage. She displayed her savvy and coolness under fire on her second score which came on a penalty stroke 10 minutes into the second half.

“All my coaches tell me to look to one part of the net and show the goalie you may be going that way and then fake it and go to the other side,” said Jenkins, who kept up her clutch play, scoring a goal in a 2-0 win over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then knocking home the game-winner in overtime in a 2-1 victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday.

“At first it is kind of nerve-wracking but I have gotten used to it from practicing.”

Jenkins has certainly gotten used to playing with junior standout Quigley, who also scored in the victory over HoVal.

“Emma has definitely gotten better from playing club this year,” said Jenkins. “Our passing has gotten smoother than it has been.”

Learning from older sisters Mariel and Sydney, who starred at PDS and are currently playing lacrosse and field hockey, respectively, at Harvard, has helped Jenkins be a better leader.

“I try to follow their lead and give constructive criticism and support,” said Jenkins, who is a tri-captain of the Panthers along with classmates Corinne Urisko and Cami McNeely.

“I feel like there is a lot of responsibility. This is a great group of girls. They are always willing to give their best effort. It is a really great position to be in this year.”

In one respect, though, Jenkins is taking a different path than her sisters, having committed to join the Princeton University field hockey program.

“I decided to go the other way,” said Jenkins, reflecting on her college choice. “It is relieving to be done with the whole process. I am really excited to work with the coach [Kristen Holmes-Winn] there.”

PDS head coach Arndt was excited to get her first triumph of her Panther tenure.

“To win anywhere is great, let alone your first time on your home turf with a great crowd,” said Arndt, a former Penn State All-American and U.S. National Team player, who coached Pennsbury High to a league title and the state tournament during her tenure there from 2006-09. “We won in a strong fashion. They played well, they did what we asked.”

Arndt is pleased with the strong play she is getting from her attacking trio of Jenkins, Quigley, and junior Emily Goldman.

“Between A.J., Emily and Emma, I think they can be lethal because they are very fast and they have stick skills,” said Arndt.

“If we counter attack, the three of them can almost be like a power play in hockey with odd man rushes. Emma and A.J. are doing really great things together. They have been trying to dribble it a little too much. They have really great skill and now they use that skill together.”

PDS has been getting a great effort from its battle-tested back line that features senior defenders Urisko, McNeely, and Zeeza Cole together with senior Sarah Trigg in goal.

“They have been doing really well,” said Arndt. “One thing that has been our focus is team defense as well as marking in the circle. I think if you can be a solid marker, the forwards are going to start getting frustrated. Corinne, Cami, and Zeeza have really stepped up. Their leadership as well as Sarah Trigg’s in the goal is going to be huge for our success. We are going to rely on them.”

While Arndt saw the 6-goal outburst against Stuart as a confidence builder, she was more impressed by the execution than the final numbers.

“Getting six is great but how they are doing it is even better for me,” asserted Arndt, whose team hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24.

“They are listening to what I am saying and they are making the proper changes.”

Jenkins, for her part, believes that PDS has changed for the better under Arndt.

“We have definitely improved since last year,” said Jenkins. “I think if we keep doing the stuff we are doing now, we are going to move up every game. We are going to give it our all and give it our best effort.”

BRICK-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Jack Brickner, left, goes up for a header against Peddie last Wednesday. Brickner scored a goal in the contest but it was not nearly enough as PDS fell 4-1 to the Falcons. The Panthers, who dropped to 0-4-1 with a 2-1 defeat to visiting Hopewell Valley last Friday, play at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being held scoreless in its first three games this season, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team took a step forward in its contest against visiting Peddie last Wednesday.

PDS gave up an early goal to the Falcons but then responded with its first tally of 2012 as senior Jack Brickner headed home a pass from Marco Pinheiro with 6:26 left in the half.

But seconds away from going into halftime knotted at 1-1, misfortune struck PDS as one of its defenders blocked a Peddie shot with his hand, leading to his disqualification on a red card and a Falcon penalty shot.

Peddie cashed in on the chance to go up 2-1 at intermission and then pulled away in the second half against a shorthanded PDS side, tacking on two more tallies for a 4-1 victory.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence in the waning moments of the first half proved to be decisive.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes, we call it game intelligence,” said Murphy.

“When we lost that possession around the area, that’s when the decision should have been to play the ball away and send it where they can’t do any damage. Instead we wanted to play with it in the middle and it changed the whole game.”

Murphy did like the way his team responded in the early stages of the second half.

“We kept putting the efforts in,” said Murphy of his young squad that includes five sophomores and four freshmen.

“I actually thought that in the first seven or eight minutes of the half that we had some good opportunities but then again you have to put them away. Once they started to spread the field, we started losing our legs.”

While Murphy saw some good signs, he acknowledged that his team needs to develop more resolve when faced with adversity.

“For young players, it is very difficult unless you see something instant,” said Murphy, whose team lost 2-1 to Hopewell Valley last Friday to fall to 0-4-1.

“The battle gets harder and deeper and that’s where we have to learn. Resilience is not in their vocabulary just yet.”

Despite the margin of defeat, Murphy saw some bright spots. “I thought the back four played well,” said Murphy, whose defensive unit includes Brickner, Zach Golden, Chris Chai, and Taran Auslander.

“They were playing a bit of a long ball; it is hard to defend against. We are struggling to find depth in the forwards to take the pressure off of us. We don’t seem to be able to find anybody individually or in a partnership who can stop the source.”

In Murphy’s view, the team will benefit from going back to the drawing board on the practice field.

“We have the opportunity to have more training sessions,” said Murphy, whose team plays at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22.

“We need to step back and go through those sessions with them and show them what we are looking for in units. We’ll get there. We have been there before and they will be there again as long as they show a willingness.”

FULL CIRCLE: Stuart Country Day field hockey goalie Margaret LaNasa, center, controls a crowded circle in recent action. Junior LaNasa has provided solid play as Stuart’s last line of defense to help the Tartans get off to a 1-3 start. In upcoming action, Stuart plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Stuart Country Day field hockey team played at Princeton Day School last week, Missy Bruvik carried on a constant dialog with her players, instructing both those on the field and the others on the bench.

With a roster containing eight freshman and five sophomores, head coach Bruvik knows that her team has a steep learning curve this fall.

“There are teaching moments all game long,” said Bruvik, who is returning to the helm of the program after coaching Stuart 21 years through 2006 and then taking a break to follow her daughter Kelly’s field hockey career at Bucknell.

“I have always talked to the kids on the bench during the games. It keeps them engaged. They are learning and they appreciate what the kids on the field are doing. They have a better idea of what they need to do when they get playing time.”

In the first half against a tough, veteran PDS squad, Stuart applied those lessons, holding its own as it only trailed 2-1 at the half of the September 11 contest.

“They are taking everything that they are learning,” said Bruvik of her club. “PDS is a very good team; it was nice to see us hang in there against them. We were getting the ball in the circle more.”

It was also nice for Bruvik to get some good work from such freshmen as Julia Maser, Tori Hannah, and Sam Servis. “Julia had a nice goal; that was her second goal of the season,” said Bruvik.

“Tori Hannah worked hard at both ends of the field from the right midfield spot. Sam Servis did a good job, she won some 50/50 balls for us.”

In the second half, though, the team’s inexperience was evident as PDS pulled away to a 6-1 victory.

“We ran out of steam against a very tenacious team,” said Bruvik, whose club fell 4-0 to Lawrenceville last Saturday to move to 1-3. “We are still working on figuring out what is the best system for this team.”

The Tartans got some good work in the PDS game from senior Nicole Starke together with juniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret La Nasa.

“I think Nicole Starke and Amy Hallowell did as much as they could,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24.

“Margaret LaNasa did a good job in goal; she faced a lot of shots. She is really holding her own; she is learning a lot from Gia [Stuart assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione]. She is a good student; she is making a lot of progress.”

Bruvik believes that her young squad is studious collectively. “They are learning,” asserted Bruvik. “We go through drills and take our time and tell them this is why we are doing this. We just need to keep playing.”

September 12, 2012

GROUP DYNAMIC: Members of the Princeton University football team enjoy a light moment during the program’s annual media day last Friday. Coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, the Tigers are hoping to smile a little more this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2012 campaign with a game this Saturday at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When assessing the state of a Princeton University football program that is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Tiger head coach Bob Surace cites the words of a legendary figure around town.

“Last Saturday after our scrimmage my daughter said ‘daddy I have a quote for you,’” recalled third-year head coach Surace,

“She said ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.’ That’s a quote from Albert Einstein. It is kind of where we are at. We are learning from the mistakes we made last year, things in the red zone, turnovers; things that we have to learn from if we are going to get this fixed. We live for the moment. We gave out T-shirts right away this year that say ‘believe.’ There is hope for tomorrow.”

The Tigers could take a major step in making believers out of their supporters this Saturday if they can win their season opener at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).

Surace knows the Tigers face a major challenge in the Mountain Hawks, who have won two straight against Princeton and 10 of the last 13 meetings in the series.

“They are a well-coached team,” said Surace, whose squad fell 34-22 to Lehigh in last year’s season opener.

“They get us in their third game and by the time we get them, whatever errors they may have had in the first two weeks have been corrected. They are a physical team. Their receiver Ryan Spadola is as good a football player as I have seen in my two years here. He’s exciting and he makes plays.”

With Princeton losing last year’s Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibilio as he takes a leave of absence after suffering a stroke earlier this year, the Tigers will be depending on senior running back Akil Sharp to make a lot of big plays.

Tiger offensive coordinator believes that the the 5’9, 210-pound Sharp is ready to fill the void left by Dibilio, who rushed for 1,068 yards last fall.

“Akil has shown that he is a trustworthy back and that he can do a lot of things,” said Perry of Sharp, who rushed for 244 yards in 2011.

“His development as a senior has been very good to see. It is nice having a senior who is the guy stepping into a situation like that. He has done a nice job of seizing things and being at the forefront.”

Others in the mix at running back include sophomore Will Powers and Jonathan Esposito together with a pair of promising freshmen, DiAndre Atwater and Dre Nelson.

Perry acknowledged that nobody has seized the starting job at quarterback with sophomores Quinn Epperly (23-for-52 passing for 259 yards, 215 yards rushing in 2011) and Connor Michelson (3-for-5 passing for seven yards) locked in a battle with freshman Kedric Bostic in the mix.

“Right now there is no separation, they have all done a good job,” said Perry, a record-setting quarterback for Brown during his college days.

“I know that is a premier position and people want to know what is going on. We needed depth there in a big way and we have gotten depth. Coach Surace and myself feel very strongly that we are in a much better position having guys who can play and not being hamstrung into a position where you feel if something happens to one guy, you are in a tough spot. I think we will reap the rewards of both the competition at that position in particular but across the board at all positions.”

The competition has been particularly stiff at wide receiver where several players are battling for snaps including senior Shane Wilkinson (38 receptions for 384 yards in 2011), sophomore Matt Costello (29 receptions for 341 yards), senior Tom Moak (9 receptions for 86 yards), sophomore Seth DeValve (1 reception for 10 yards), junior Roman Wilson (2 receptions for nine yards), and sophomore Connor Kelley (3 receptions for 23 yards).

“In modern college football you have to be able to throw the ball period,” said Perry.

“We were able to throw the ball much better in the spring and at this camp because we have a group of wide receivers who are all playing much better. We have been able to generate far more explosive plays in the pass game, those guys collectively have all stepped up.”

Princeton is hoping that senior tight end Mark Hayes (11 receptions for 107 yards) can step up and be a bigger part of the offense.

“Mark is as good a blocking tight end as you will have in college,” maintained Perry.

“He can catch the ball very well. I know last year there were some moments where we wanted to get more productivity out of him in the pass game.”

The Tigers are looking to senior Kevin Mill to help the offensive line be a productive unit.

“Kevin Mill is a guy at the tackle position who is a senior,” said Perry. “He is a guy with terrific ability and last year he came off an ACL and played well. Now he is two years removed from that and playing very well. He is providing leadership across the board. Those guys have a lot of experience and experience together. We are expecting big things out of that unit.”

The line will feature junior Joe Goss at center with junior Taylor Pearson and Max Coale listed as the starters at guard and sophomore Spenser Huston pencilled in at the other tackle spot. Others in the mix include a trio of sophomores Tom Yetter, Jack Woodall, and Ryan Peloquin together with senior Hanur Kim and freshman Britt Colcolough.

Princeton should get some big things out of its defensive line which features senior co-captain Mike Catapano, a two-time All-Ivy selection with 108 career tackles and classmate Caraun Reid, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall when he had 68 tackles and eight sacks. The line also includes two other key veterans in senior Matt Landry and junior Greg Sotereanos.

“It is hard to block Catapano, Reid, and Sotereanos, that is a really deep group,” said Surace.

“You have to game plan to play those guys and it is hard when you have two like Catapano and Reid, you can’t slide the line both ways.”

The Tiger linebacking crew should make things hard for Princeton’s foes, headed by senior co-captain Andrew Starks, a two-time All-Ivy honoree, sophomore Garrett Leicht, and battle-tested senior Tim Kingsbury.

“Andrew plays the game the right way, he plays it hard,” added Surace. “Garrett Leicht has had his hands on the football more times in camp than our linebackers combined in the last two years.”

Surace is hoping that senior strong safety Mandela Shaeffer will get his hands on the ball more as he leads a secondary that includes sophomore star Khamal Brown and junior Trocon Davis at cornerback along with junior Philip Bhaya at free safety.

“It is fulfilling to see Mandela Shaeffer just making plays,” said Surace. “He is not just saying its cover three and I am in my spot, but he is unleashing and making plays.”

The preseason has seen some good playmaking all around, according to Surace.

“The guys are excited; we are having a really good training camp,” said Surace.

“I like the way we are practicing. I like the way we approach things. This team looks like it is going to be a very mature team.”

In Surace’s view, his maturation as a head coach has the team on the same page as it heads into the Lehigh clash.

“You know your team, you know people better,” said Surace. “You build relationships. All those guys who are seniors, I didn’t know their parents, I didn’t know their high schools so you need to build relationships, you need to build trust. Before they were doing it because we told them to. Now I think we have built a family where they now understand what we are trying to do.”

STARK REALITY: Princeton University linebacker Andrew Starks heads to an interview at the program’s recent media day. Senior star and co-captain Starks is looking to start his final college campaign with a bang as the Tigers play at 14th-ranked Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday in their season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Starks made an immediate impact at safety during his freshman season with the Princeton University football team in 2009.

The Plainfield, Ill. native recorded 33 tackles and two pass breakups, earning the Harlan “Pink” Baker Award as Princeton’s top defensive freshman along with lineman Caraun Reid.

After watching Starks’ exploits, the Princeton coaches decided that he could make an impact elsewhere on the field and moved him to linebacker.

Starks was a little out of step initially as he made the transition to his new spot in the field.

“It was definitely an adjustment; I had been playing safety pretty much all my life and then moving to linebacker, things seemed to speed up quite a bit,” said Starks.

“You don’t have quite as much reaction time. Fortunately we have a great coaching staff here and they worked me a lot in the offseason and spring ball and summer camp.”

Applying those lessons well, Starks made the coaches look pretty smart, earning All-Ivy League Honorable Mention as a sophomore in 2010 with 89 tackles. Last fall, Starks recorded 80 tackles in nine games, including five for a loss, on the way to earning second-team All-Ivy recognition.

Growing into a leader as well as a star linebacker, Starks enters this fall as one of Princeton’s team captains and top players as the Tigers look to get back on the winning track after back-to-back 1-9 campaigns.

“I am looking forward going into my senior year having two years under my belt playing linebacker,” said Starks, whose final college season kicks off when the Tigers play at Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday. “It should be a good year.”

Starks acknowledged that it took him much of his sophomore year to develop a comfort level in his new spot.

“It was a bit of an adjustment; it took a little getting used to,” said Starks, who now packs 240 pounds on his 6’2 frame.

“But as the season progressed sophomore year, I felt more like a true linebacker than a safety playing linebacker. I felt pretty comfortable in the Brown game and made some big plays in that one. I started to get the hang of things and loosened up a little bit. It was a lot less thinking and a lot more just running around and playing. I kind of built on that last year as well.”

While last year was disappointing for Princeton in terms of its record, Starks believes the program made strides.

“The record wasn’t anywhere near where we wanted it to be but we did see a tremendous amount of improvement,” said Starks.

“We had a lot of young guys playing last year that are fortunately coming back this year. We have a lot of experience with everyone having another year under their belt and another year of offseason conditioning and lifting, another spring ball, and another summer camp. I think we are in pretty good shape. I think people are starting to feel comfortable and we should see the results.”

Starks feels fortunate to have been chosen as a team captain for the 2012 Tigers.

“It is a tremendous honor on a team where you have so many leaders and so many people doing the right thing,” said Starks, who will be serving as captain along with with senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano.

“To be chosen as one of the guys that everyone else looks to is just a huge honor. I couldn’t be more proud of what this team has done and to be given the opportunity to lead them off the field and on the field this year as a captain.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace is proud to have Starks as one of the leaders of his squad.

“He is just such a good person,” asserted Surace. “He is really mature; he knows how to approach people. He handles all the things you have to handle at a great school like Princeton — academics, social, leadership, and football. He has a great way about him.”

For Starks, having the title of captain isn’t going to change the way he handles things.

“As far as my leadership style I try not to do anything different than I did before; I think I was named captain for a reason,” said Starks.

“I just try to lead by example; I think the guys respect my work ethic and what I am doing. I feel if I keep that up and do the things I have been doing in the last three or four years, everybody else will follow that. I think that is the only thing you can do. You can’t expect the guys to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. If I am doing things right, putting my best effort forward and putting in the time to do extra work, people will see that and they will do the same.”

As Starks looks ahead to the Lehigh clash, he believes Princeton’s hard work over the last few years is going to start paying dividends.

“I definitely feel this program is ready to turn a corner,” said Starks. “I think we showed moments last year; we just didn’t show it for 60 minutes. That is what we need to do this year. Once we can do that, we will have a great season. I am looking forward to getting started against Lehigh this coming week.”

HISTORIC STRIKE: Princeton University field hockey star Katie Reinprecht prepares to strike the ball last Sunday in Princeton’s 2-1 win over visiting Richmond. Midfielder Reinprecht scored the first goal as the Tigers opened play at their new Bedford Field. She later assisted on the game-winning goal by Allison Evans to help the fourth-ranked Tigers improve to 4-0. Princeton opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After taking a leave of absence from the Princeton University field hockey team over the last year to play with the U.S. National Team and compete in the Olympics, Katie Reinprecht was not sure what to expect upon her return to the Tiger program.

“I was a little nervous, I thought it was going to be weird, seeing that I didn’t know two whole grades that are here,” said senior midfielder Reinprecht. “It was definitely a little different than it has felt in the past.”

It didn’t take long for Reinprecht to get back in the swing of things upon her return to Princeton last month.

“It is amazing how natural and familiar it feels once you get into it,” said Reinprecht. “It was pretty seamless.”

Last Sunday, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year displayed her familiar excellence, scoring a goal and assisting on the game-winner as fourth-ranked Princeton edged visiting Richmond 2-1 in the first game played on Bedford Field.

Reinprecht and her teammates were excited to christen the program’s sparkling new facility.

“I feel fortunate to be here for its opening year; it was pretty cool,” said Reinprecht, whose clutch play helped the Tigers improve to 4-0.

“I think today we were a little frustrated with our performance for the opening game. They played us really well today, give them a lot of credit. They had energy the whole game. They definitely gave us a good matchup. It was a good competitive environment.”

Although Reinprecht made history by scoring the first goal at the field, she acknowledged it wasn’t a play for the highlight reel.

“I actually almost screwed it up,” said Reinprecht with a laugh. “I got a little lucky to be honest. I saw I had to take it on my reverse and get it off any way I could.”

Even though Princeton found itself locked in a 1-1 tie with 10:15 left in the second half, Reinprecht was confident that the Tigers wouldn’t screw things up.

“It’s hard not to get a little alarmed but I felt confident in our playing style, the players on our team, and the talent that we have that we would be able to come back and get the win,” said Reinprecht.

“Obviously it is not something you want to have to do with 10 minutes left in the game. It is a good test of our mental strength, I think.”

On the game-winning goal, Reinprecht displayed her strength as a playmaker as she set up Allison Evans’ tally in the waning moments of the contest.

“I saw Sharkey cutting across the top and they were all flocking to her and I knew I could sneak in behind,” recalled Reinprecht.

“She found me on a really nice pass and then there were three Princeton girls in front of the goal and I just had to pick one of them.”

In Reinprecht’s view, the Tigers are off to a really nice start this fall. “That was our goal for the first phase of the season; we wanted to come out and get four wins,” said Reinprecht.

“I am happy with the start we have had in terms of the competition we have matched up against. I think we are excited with the start, especially since we are starting a little later being an Ivy League team.”

While Reinprecht wasn’t excited by the U.S. team’s 12th-place finish at the London Olympics, she believes that competing at that level can only benefit her in the long run.

“It was an absolutely incredible experience; I will definitely never forget it,” said Reinprecht, who was joined on the U.S. team by younger sister and fellow Tiger star, Julia.

“It is something I want to do again. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted but the Olympic experience is more than the two-week tournament. It was really the year building up for me. I learned so much about the hard work it takes to really improve as a player and how you need to push yourself.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn certainly appreciates the work she gets from Reinprecht.

“Katie has such an engine, physiologically she is just a machine,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “The work that she does on both sides of the ball is spectacular.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that Richmond (3-2) gave the Tigers a run for their money on Sunday.

“I give them a lot of credit,” said Holmes-Winn. “What is concerning to me is that we had 14 shots and we only made the keeper play the ball twice. That’s something we look at but there were some really good patches of hockey. We played possession really well. I think we manipulated their structure in a way that we talked about.”

Despite its 4-0 start, Princeton needs to get more out of its possessions. “If someone told me the issue with our team would be finishing that would be a real shock to me but it has been our issue in these past couple of games,” added Holmes-Winn.

“It is just figuring out how to be more effective with our numbers; that will be a big key to that. We have players who are playing well; it is just a matter of breaking through and getting our mojo on attack. We certainly have the personnel to do it. It is just a matter of having that moment where here it is. We haven’t had that and that will come. These guys need to get away from thinking so much, There is a lot of information transferred in the first couple of weeks and now we have to pull back and let them play.”

With Princeton bolstered by the return of the Reinprecht sisters together with Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey from national team duties, the Tigers are going to get the spirited play from their foes.

“A lot of it is team dynamic and chemistry,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team opens Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 15 and then hosts Delaware a day later.

“I feel that it is good that the opposition is going to perceive themselves as the underdog in just about every game. When you are an underdog, I think there is a very clear task orientation and I think for us to have to play against that certainty is amazing. It is good that there is that elevation that is going to occur from the opposition which will make us better in the long run.”

Reinprecht, for her part, believes that the four returners will help Princeton elevate its game on a daily basis.

“We probably demand more out of them than they may be used to because we are used to having that demanded of us,” said Reinprecht,

“I know there is a lot of talent in the four girls who came back, that is just one thing. I think just mentally and personality wise we brought some good flavor back to the program. We have overarching goals and then smaller goals. We have high hopes.”

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton High senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio drops back in a preseason scrimmage this summer. Last Saturday, DiGregorio helped PHS rally from deficits of 7-0, 14-6, and 21-14 to top Northern Burlington 27-21 in the season opener for both teams. DiGregorio threw two touchdown passes in the win. PHS plays at Hightstown on September 14.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton High football team pulled out a dramatic 27-21 win over Northern Burlington last Saturday in the season opener, PHS quarterback Zack DiGregorio made a beeline for his father on the sideline.

The senior star and his dad, Steve, a former Princeton University assistant coach and Nutley High head coach who is helping guide the Little Tigers this fall, embraced each other in an extended bear hug with grins plastered to their faces.

For the younger DiGregorio, it was a highlight moment he will remember for a long time.

“My dad is on the sideline now and that is huge for me,” said DiGregorio. “Hugging him like that was one of the coolest things I have experienced.”

DiGregorio showed his experience in the victory over the Greyhounds, coolly running the PHS offense, hitting four of nine passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

The Little Tigers kept their composure collectively, battling back from deficits of 7-0, 14-6, and 21-14 in rallying for the win.

In the third quarter, PHS marched 40 yards on a drive that culminated with a 15-yard touchdown pass from DiGregorio to Will Xu to tie the game at 21-21.

After Jack Persico recovered Northern Burlington fumble late in the third quarter, DiGregorio engineered a 41-yard march that ended with a 31-yard touchdown gallop by Javon Pannell which put PHS ahead to stay at 27-21.

A key to the PHS win was its superb running game, featuring Pannell (10 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown), Ben Smallzman (7 carries for 108 yards), and Will Harrison (23 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown).

DiGregorio, for his part, thought that offensive balance would be a strength this fall for the Little Tigers.

“As we were coming through camp this year, we saw that we could really spread the ball around a little bit,” said DiGregorio. “Last year we had Eric [Shorter] but this year we didn’t have an offensive force. I feel like we have a lot of pieces we can use equally. It makes us pretty hard to defend.”

In order to make himself tougher to defend, DiGregorio put in extra time in the weight room and got tutored by a legendary former New York Giants quarterback.

“I also had the opportunity to work with Phil Simms up in northern Jersey,” said DiGregorio.

“He knows his stuff, we worked on fundamentals and just being more efficient with my delivery and getting more out of my body than I was getting. It was a huge, huge improvement; that is something I worked really hard on this summer.”

In the win over Northern Burlington, the Little Tigers benefited from a huge effort in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

“We have a bunch of really resilient guys,” said DiGregorio. “I am not the one you should be talking to, it’s the guys up front. They stuck their necks out for everybody; you can’t play harder than they played today. The defense was bearing down when it needed to; it made my job really easy.”

In trying to master the job of quarterback, DiGregorio has learned a lot form his predecessors.

“I have had great role models here as quarterbacks,” said DiGregorio. “From Mike Olentine, who was great in what he did. We still talk. Alex Mitko and I are still really, really good friends. I have learned so much from them.”

PHS head coach Joe Gargione credited DiGregorio with making some great improvements.

“Zack stepped up big time today,” said Gargione. “We didn’t throw the ball that much because the run game was working so well today and we stuck with what worked. When he did throw the ball, he just had confidence. His arm strength has improved so much as has his footwork.”

Gargione liked the strength of character that his players showed as they kept battling back.

“I told the team no matter how tired you are, you dig a little deeper because you are not as tired as you think you are,” said Gargione.

“I think the biggest thing about today is that we didn’t let down. Even when they beat us twice on the long ball, we bounced back. I am so proud of them today.”

The win sparked some déjà vu for Gargione as the Little Tigers started last season by edging Northern Burlington 20-14.

“We knew that the two main reasons we beat them last year were turnover margin and I believe we were more in shape than they were,” said Gargione, whose team won the turnover battle again, recovering two fumbles and making two interceptions without committing any miscues.

“Today it seemed similar in the regard that they were hanging their heads a lot. I said to our guys take a look at them, they are hunched over. It is a key that they are tired and we need to feed off of that.”

The Little Tigers also fed off their togetherness in overcoming the Greyhounds.

“That’s the thing I have been stressing to these guys, we don’t have strength in numbers, we have strength when we all play together as one,” said Gargione.

”You may never come off the field other than for a blow or two. You get a drink of water and then you have to get back on the field. You have to play ironman football here. The line on both sides of the ball played awesome today”

In Gargione’s view, the Little Tigers can build on its encouraging performance.

“It is obviously good momentum going into the game Friday night at Hightstown,” said Gargione. “Beating a team like Northern Burlington at home to start off was awesome. That was huge.”

DiGregorio, for his part, believes that PHS has what it takes to beat a lot of teams this fall.

“This is huge momentum, especially with way we played this game so emotionally,” asserted DiGregorio.

“We know what we are capable of and it is even more than this. Good things are in the future, I am feeling it.”

MS. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally Rogers goes after the ball last Thursday in PHS’s 1-0 loss to Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they play at Hightstown on September 14 before hosting Trenton Central on September 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the season, Greg Hand acknowledged that his Princeton High girls’ soccer team was a work in progress.

Noting that the program is undergoing a youth movement with wholesale changes in the lineup, Hand predicted it would take some time to get in synch.

Last Thursday as PHS hosted Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams, the Little Tigers showed their youth, displaying some good stretches of soccer but coming up short 1-0.

“Although we have scrimmages, in the first 10 minutes, we weren’t organized,” said Hand.

“I thought we were playing pretty responsibly when they had the ball and we started to figure things out on attack. The whole middle of the first half and perhaps a little more after they scored, we tended to rush the play too much. When we played a ball forward to someone facing our own goal, we tended not to organize off of that and make it easy to relieve the pressure and change the point of attack.”

Hand liked the way his team handled the pressure on the defensive end as the Little Tigers stymied the Bulldogs with the exception of one lapse in the second half.

“We had a terrific effort through the back, I thought we played solid defense all day,” asserted Hand.

“There was just one time when they got around us. I don’t think we were marking on the far post and they were able to slip one in.”

PHS got some good efforts from such attacking players as sophomore forward Shannon Pawlak and senior midfielder Kate Kerr.

“I thought we got a great game from Shannon Pawlak,” added Hand.

“She worked really hard; she was winning 50/50 balls and was very tricky at times. Kate Kerr really controlled her piece of the field. We want to find more ways to use our middies better and help get them more touches.”

In Hand’s view, the Little Tigers can get better at controlling the ball. “We are going to continue to grow because we have a great commitment within this team,” said Hand.

“It has been such an impressive preseason leading up to this. We have to figure out to really possess the ball effectively.”

Hand is hoping that his young squad will use the loss to HoVal as a learning experience on its way to figuring things out.

“Tomorrow is another work day; they have established a great training rhythm,” said Hand, whose team plays at Hightstown on September 14 before hosting Trenton Central on September 18.

“They take themselves seriously; it is all business. The outcome today doesn’t make them any worse of a team. I think they are a better team by virtue of the experience and we can build on it by having a great session tomorrow. That is all you can ask.”

ALL TIED UP: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer star Hannah Levy, left, battles a Germantown Academy (Pa.) player for possession in action last Friday in PDS’s season opener. Senior Levy scored a goal and had an assist as the teams played to a 2-2 overtime tie. The Panthers play at Shipley School (Pa.) on September 14 and at Hamilton High on September 15.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

This past spring, Hannah Levy proved to be a superb finisher for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, piling up 94 points on 69 goals and 25 assists.

Last Friday, Levy showed that her scoring knack translates to the soccer field as well. The senior star tallied a goal and added an assist as PDS battled Germantown Academy to a thrilling 2-2 overtime tie in its season opener.

In reflecting on her performance on the soccer pitch, Levy said she drew on her lacrosse skills.

“The sports are similar in a lot of ways,” said Levy. “They are both field sports; they both have a possession aspect and you see the field in the same way.”

Levy’s goal came with 25:15 left in the first half as she converted a feed from sophomore Alex Soltesz.

“That was a great cross,” recalled Levy, noting that her finish wasn’t a thing of beauty.

“I think the crosses were definitely open today. I kind of ran through it. I don’t even know where it hit off of me; it might have been my abs. It was a little too low for my head. I just went with it; it is a goal.”

Germantown tied the game late in the first half and then Levy hit a cross of her own with 13:18 left in regulation on a corner kick which led to a Kelsey Scarlett score.

“That was definitely good; we always focus on having it in the target zone,” said Levy.

“We did a kick called ‘the USA’ that is into the six; there are a lot of touches that can happen on that.”

The Panthers lost their lead less than 30 seconds later as Germantown scored on a run right after the kickoff.

PDS, though, didn’t lose its focus as the team held together and put plenty of pressure on the Patriots as the contest ended in a draw.

“We are lifting each other up on the field, we are out there for each other and playing as one unit,” said Levy. “I definitely think our possession work is much better than it was earlier. We are building off what we did in preseason and coming out really strong.”

“I don’t really know what position I am playing,” said Levy. “I got some minutes on attack. I really like that; it is new to me. I feel with Jane [Smukler] gone, I can pose a threat up there and push some people over and get some shots off. I am also very comfortable at center mid.”

PDS assistant coach Howie Powers is comfortable with Levy’s versatility. “We are asking Hannah to play a couple of things for us, mostly in the middle,” said Powers.

“We want her to use her strength on the ball. She goes after the ball and she shields so she plays a lot of withdrawn striker for us. Alex is there to run fast and hard while Hannah can strike the ball with her left or right foot. We are probably not going to get too many goals down low. We are going to get goals on crosses and shots outside and that’s where we got our goals today.”

Powers liked the way PDS didn’t get down even after Germantown knotted the game at 2-2.

“I think for the first game, to go 100 minutes was huge for us,” asserted Powers. “GA is always a very competitive team. They came right back in a minute and the nice thing was that we could have collapsed on that. I think we had more energy in the overtime; both teams could have won this game.”

In Powers’ view, junior goalie Rory Finnegan deserves a lot of credit for keeping PDS in the game.

“I think our most improved spot on the team is Rory Finnegan out of the goal,” maintained Powers.

“She made some phenomenal saves and her distribution was great. She really worked on her game over the summer. It’s coming out hard on the field and that is giving everybody else confidence.”

Showing its confidence, PDS is playing a more competitive slate this year, taking on teams like Germantown, Pennington, and the Shipley School (Pa.) as it aims to make a big postseason run.

“We upped our schedule, we changed three games where we may have been the favorite and we put in three games where we are the underdogs,” said Powers, whose team plays at Shipley School (Pa.) on September 14 and at Hamilton High on September 15.

“When we are playing the right size schools, it should make us much more competitive and that’s obviously where we are steering for this season. We play a very competitive regular season schedule which might hurt us in seeding and home games but it preps us a little more. It gets us a little more ready.”

Levy, for her part, believes the Panthers are ready to play some good soccer. “We need to look for the easy pass, sometimes we are trying to kick it down the field and we are not really a kick and run team,” said Levy.

“We have a lot of soccer players; we need to play to feet. We need to spread the field with outside midfielders on the end line calling for the ball and doing all the simple stuff.”

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Pete ­Stoddard chases down a ball in action last season. Hun is depending on Stoddard to help anchor its defensive unit this fall. The Raiders kick off the 2012 season by playing at the Haverford School (Pa.) on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling through a 4-12 season in 2011, the Hun School boys’ soccer team will be featuring a new look this fall.

“We have revamped our entire system,” said fifth-year Hun head coach Pat Quirk. “We will be playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. A lot of European teams are playing it. I bought some books and studied them over the summer. I thought it would play more to our strengths; the guys are liking it.”

Quirk also likes the new attitude he is seeing from his returning players. “The core of kids is very dedicated,” asserted Quirk, noting that his team showed character down the stretch last fall as it won four of its last six games after a 0-10 start.

“They want to return to what we were before. I think they all learned lessons from last year and they worked hard through the summer.”

Quirk is expecting some good work from junior Andres Gonzales who will play the lone striker position in the team’s new formation. “Andres is a bit of a target,” said Quirk, whose team kicks off the 2012 season by playing at the Haverford School (Pa.) on September 15.

The trio of attacking players in the new formation will include senior Robert Merfield, sophomore Foster Broad, and senior Alex Griese, with junior Felix Dalstein and senior Nick Revano filling the two holding midfield spots.

“Griese is very slick with the ball,” added Quirk. “Felix is a good offensive distributor while Nick is more defensive; he breaks up plays. They all know their roles.”

The Hun backline will feature a pair of seniors, Peter Stoddard and Zach Winterstein, together with junior Bailey Hammer.

“As much as Stoddard and Hammer want to go forward, they know they have to stay back and protect,” said Quirk.

Quirk is expecting junior goalie Chris Minert to do a good job of protecting the net for the Raiders.

“Chris has gotten a lot better; he worked hard in the offseason with a trainer,” said Quirk.

As Quirk looks forward to the season, he is confident his players will do a better job this fall of playing as a unit.

“The players have a good attitude, they are willing to try anything,” said Quirk.

“None of them are selfish. We need to continue to share the ball and not wait and watch. There needs to be less dribbling and more controlling the midfield and making two-touch passes.”

NOT SO ANGELIC: Hun School girls soccer player Angelica ­Tabares, center, fights for ball in a game last fall. Senior tri-captain and star forward Tabares figures to be a key player for Hun this fall. The Raiders start their 2012 campaign with a game at Montgomery on September 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, a Big Three of senior stars drove the Hun School girls’ soccer team to a superb campaign.

The trio of striker Holly Hargreaves, midfielder Nicole Campellone, and goalie Lexi Golestani sparked the Raiders to a 10-5-2 record.

With those standouts now playing college soccer, Hun head coach Ken Stevenson knows he is going to need all hands on deck to maintain the program’s winning tradition.

“I have been having discussions with the captains and we have been talking that we need to be team-first,” said Stevenson, whose team starts the 2012 campaign with a game at Montgomery on September 13.

“We are more focused on making sure that everyone is involved because we are relying on everyone.”

The team’s togetherness has been tested as star midfielder and tri-captain Joey Crivelli had season-ending knee surgery before practices even started.

“We have already shown that we can bounce back from adversity,” said Stevenson, noting that Crivelli is still around the team on a daily presence, providing a presence and some coaching help. “Joey having surgery before the preseason was a tough blow.”

Stevenson is relying on his other senior captains and forwards Angelica Tabares and Danielle Beal to provide production and leadership.

“Angelica and Danielle are responsible for picking up the scoring mantle,” said Stevenson.

“Both had great junior seasons and need to continue that momentum for us to be competitive. Beal is good in the air so we have to use that. Tabares’ work ethic is incredible. A lot of Division I programs are looking at her but none of that is going to her head.”

Hun is looking for two other veterans, senior Gianna Crivelli and junior Olivia Breander-Carr, to produce some good work in the midfield.

“One of the positive developments is that Gianna is taking Joey’s injury personally,” said Stevenson, whose midfield will also include sophomores Shannon Graham, Erica Dwyer, and Page McGuire together with freshman Sophia Sauma.

“She came into the season in great shape and ready to take on more responsibility. Olivia is a big variable. When she has the ability to put together her speed and toughness, she is a very dynamic player.”

The Raider defense will be spearheaded by a dynamic sister act, senior Allison Maziarz and sophomore Ashley Maziarz.

“Ally is coming off an ACL but she has such an enjoyment of the game,” said Stevenson.

“She is excited to be out there. She has done the work to return and is hungry to make the most out of her senior season. Ashley was a lights-out defender as a freshman who started every game. She is very dedicated and very tough.”

Freshman defender Jess Johnson, who has already exhibited some notable toughness, will bolster the backline.

“Jess Johnson will be a starting central defender, which is a lot to ask of a freshman but she can handle it,” asserted Stevenson.

Another freshman, Courtney Arch, may be asked to handle a major responsibility with returning sophomore goalie Caitlin Hoagland having picked up an injury in the preseason.

“Caitlin got banged up in the Allentown scrimmage and should be back by mid-September,” said Stevenson.

“She is an outstanding goalkeeper who is ready to make her mark after being tutored by Lexi Golestani. Courtney is an unheralded freshman who stepped into the scrimmage and did really well. We may need her to begin the season as the starter.”

In Stevenson’s view, the Raiders need to show togetherness if they are to do really well this fall.

“The biggest thing is that they need to make sure that we are getting contributions from everybody,” said Stevenson.

“Part of that is my responsibility to make sure that everyone is engaged and playing hard.”

CARRYING ON: Hun School field hockey star Carey Million heads up the field in a 2011 game. The Raiders will be looking to senior forward Million to provide offensive production this fall. Hun gets its 2012 season underway by playing at WW/P-S on September 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Hun School field hockey team has displayed a penchant in recent years for getting stronger as the fall goes on, it looks like defense is going to be a strength right from the start of the 2012 season.

In assessing her squad, Hun head coach Kathy Quirk knows that she has plenty of talent on defense, starting with junior Alex Kane.

“Kane has been playing extremely well, you can tell that she has played a lot of hockey since last season,” said Quirk, who guided the Raiders to a 7-8-1 record in 2011 on the way to a spot in the state Prep A semifinals.

“She plays center back and you don’t have to worry about her back there. She communicates well; she has a good feel for the game.”

Quirk doesn’t have to worry about depth along the back line with a trio of seniors in Lauren Apuzzi, Maddie Schade, and Sam Heyrich.

“Lauren is solid; she is doing what we are asking her to do,” said Quirk, whose team gets its 2012 season underway by playing at WW/P-S on September 14.

“Maddie Schade is a tall player with a long reach and can get some balls that others can’t. Sam Heyrich is at sweeper and is doing well.”

The team’s last line of defense, sophomore goalie Reina Kern, figures to be another bright spot for the Raiders.

“She has played a lot; she was in the developmental program and Junior Olympics,” said Quirk, who will be using sophomore Taylor Nehlig as her backup goalie.

“She played all summer long. We need her to take verbal command of the game. She needs to see the ball and direct the other kids.”

At forward, the Raiders boast a tandem in senior Carey Million and junior Francesca Bello who can form a commanding presence.

“When the two of them are working together well, they are a great duo,” asserted Quirk.

“Million is such a great competitor; I have her in the center and she seems to take charge. When Bello is on, she is on.”

Hun needs its midfield to be on the same page. That unit features junior Olivia Albanese, sophomore Julia Blake, sophomore Vicky Leach, junior Kristen Manochio, junior Liz Mydlowski, and junior Courtney Leach.

“Albanese has skills,” said Quirk. “Mydlowski is going to see time; she’s a scrappy hard worker. She can play middie or the back line. Faulkner played in Europe this summer.”

Quirk, for her part, hopes to see her team build off of its defensive foundation.

“We have to play as a team, we need to be unselfish and we can’t be afraid to pass,” said Quirk.

“We have to work on transition from the back line all the way to the forward line. We also have to be hungry.”

September 5, 2012

GOAL RUSH: Princeton University women’s soccer star Jen Hoy controls that ball last Friday in Princeton’s 2-1 loss to Wake Forest in its season opener. Senior striker Hoy scored the Tigers’ lone goal in the defeat and then added three more tallies on Sunday as Princeton tied Colgate 4-4. Hoy was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her performance over the weekend. In upcoming action, Princeton hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Some people around the Princeton University women’s soccer program have dubbed Jen Hoy as “The Franchise” and the senior star certainly looked the part last Sunday.

As the Tigers battled Colgate in the final game of the Princeton Invitational, the speedy forward dominated the proceedings, scoring three goals in the first 50 minutes of the contest to give her team a 3-0 lead.

After falling 2-1 to Wake Forest on Friday in the opening night of action, Hoy and her teammates were determined to get on the board early against Colgate.

“We came out strong, our mantra is ‘fight’ and that is how we have been holding ourselves and how we have been trying to play the game,” said Hoy, who had Princeton’s lone goal in the loss to Wake. “I got us a goal early on and the game seemed to be flowing.”

But the flow of the game turned against Princeton as the Raiders outscored the Tigers 4-1 over the last 38 minutes of regulation to pull out a 4-4 tie in double overtime.

Princeton lost starting goalie Kristin Watson and star defender Diane Metcalf-Leggette to injury by halftime and had trouble holding its defensive shape down the stretch.

“That was a very weird game,” said Hoy. “I think we responded well [to the injuries] but things continued to fall apart and the momentum was working against us.”

Hoy gave Princeton early momentum, scoring at the 19:01 mark as she raced past and through the Colgate defense and blasted the ball into the top corner. Some 20 minutes later, Hoy tallied again, converting a Rachel Sheehy feed.

“This season I have been trying to turn my mind off and do what comes naturally,” said Hoy, a Sellersville, Pa. native who scored eight goals last fall on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy League honors.

“I was able to beat the defender on me and I saw another one coming and I knew I was going to cut across her and the goal. I shot it in the right corner of the net. On the second one, Sheehy is fantastic at playing through balls and it just popped right out in front of me and I was able to tap that one in.”

Early in the second half, Hoy displayed the hustle reminiscent of Princeton assistant coach and all-time leading Tiger goal scorer Esmeralda Negron, galloping into the face of the goalie and converting when she mishandled the ball.

“Es is always telling me to pressure every single ball because you never know what is going to come out of it,” said Hoy, reflecting on the tally which gave her the second hat trick of her career, the first coming when she scored three goals in a 6-3 win over James Madison in September, 2010.

“I definitely thought of her on that goal. You are in the right place at the right time because you worked hard to get there.”

In the wake of last weekend’s frustrations, Hoy is ready to get back to work. “I think life is about taking losses and mistakes and figuring out how you are going to respond,” said Hoy, who was named Ivy Player of the Week for her productive weekend.

“I think what we are going to do now is figure out the best way to move forward because we are going to move forward. I am excited for our next game.

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was certainly excited by the way Hoy played in the opening weekend.

“Jen was phenomenal; she has done really well,” said Shackford of Hoy, who now has 22 goals in her Princeton career.

Shackford acknowledged that the Tigers didn’t play too well down the stretch in the draw with Colgate.

“We fell apart; I just think we panicked and they felt a sense of urgency,” said Shackford, whose team hosts St. Joseph’s on September 7 and Temple on September 9.

“It was a combination of both. They have a few more games under their belt; they had a little more energy at the end.”

Despite being disappointed that her team let a win get away, Shackford knew her squad faced some stiff tests in Wake and Colgate. “It is a tough opening weekend against two good teams,” said Shackford.

“I think we expended a lot in that Friday night game emotionally. I am sure that took a toll on us as well and having to absorb the loss of a couple of starters was pretty difficult for us on a day like today. Maybe on another day it would not have been so hard but today it was rough.”

Shackford hasn’t lost any confidence in her team, realizing that the season is a marathon.

“A lot of it is hard to assess, you don’t know how much is game fitness and mental fatigue,” said Shackford.

“We just lost our legs at the end; it is our second game. I told them that we can’t lose a 4-1 game but at same time I know in the back of my head that the second game is always the toughest.”

Hoy, for her part, believes that she and the seven other seniors on the squad have what it takes to end things on a high note.

“We really want to do something great for this program; we want to lead our team,” asserted Hoy.

“We have struggled in these first two games. We have played great but we have had some unfortunate outcomes. I am going to stop thinking about what happened and look forward because that is the only way we are going to continue with our season.”