December 19, 2012

STRONG WILL: Princeton High boys’ swimming star Will Stange flies through the water last year as he helped PHS to an undefeated season and the program’s first state Public B title. Junior Stange has helped PHS get off to a 4-0 start this season. The Little Tigers swim at Trenton Central on December 20 before going on holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High boys’ swimming team produced a season for the ages last winter, going undefeated on the way to the program’s first state Public B title, the squad doesn’t feel like it has a bull’s eye on its back as it gets the 2012-13 campaign underway.

“I don’t think there is any pressure from what we did last year,” said longtime PHS head coach Greg Hand.

“What we did last year has no bearing on this year other than the kids who are back were excited to have been part of something like that. As far as any expectations about what we can or ought to win, they are not there at all. It will be real exciting to see if we can bring home a trophy at counties.”

Hand was excited about the effort his team put in last week as it topped Lawrence 115-55 in an early test. PHS showed its talent and depth in the meet. The team’s trio of junior stars, Will Stange, Colburn Yu, and Peter Kalibat, looked formidable. Stange placed first in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke while Yu won the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and Kalibat was victorious in the 500 freestyle. Senior John Bond added a win in the 200 free.

“In our Lawrence meet last Tuesday we got to swim a strong lineup,” said Hand.

“I am interested to see where we are swimming and how balanced we are. We are well below the power points that we had at the same meet last year.

With the program losing such stars as Victor Honore, Derek Colaizzo, Addison Hebert, Matt Kuhlik, Jacques Bazile, and Harun Filipovic to graduation, seniors John Bond and Daniel Andronov have taken on bigger roles this winter.

“I have known John for four years; he is such a great person and a dedicated athlete,” said Hand, whose team topped Ewing 125-41 last Thursday to improve to 4-0.

“He always gives a great effort but there is no fanfare. He is so unselfish.

I got to know Dan last year; he has really come along. He has gotten comfortable at PHS and is really enjoying his swimming. He is excited about applying to some challenging colleges.”

Hand is excited about having two of his other seniors, Steven and Patrick Schultz, training with the team on a daily basis.

“The Schultz brothers have been swimming throughout high school and before,” said Hand.

“They decided because of the demands of high school academics the best situation for them was to do all their swimming with the school team. They have been adding great value to our workouts. They push themselves and set the tone on the deck.”

PHS’s chances of having another great postseason run will come down to how far junior stars Stange, Yu, and Kalibat can carry the squad. “They are the real center of gravity for us,” asserted Hand.

“Each of them is really committed to swimming and is in the middle of at least five more years of competing in the sport. I wouldn’t put any limits on them. These guys are improving in the sport and they each have an incredible work ethic They love the sport, who knows what they can achieve.”

Hand certainly loves having the chance to deploy the terrific trio. “They are very versatile but each brings special talents,” said Hand.

“We could put them anywhere but when the chips are down we know where to put them and they always come through.”

For the Princeton High girls’ swimming team, posting a solid win over Lawrence last week could portend some big things to come.

“I think we did well; we got a better sense of who are,” said PHS head coach Greg Hand, reflecting on his team’s 108-62 victory over the Cardinals. “They love to race; they are very excited about competing.”

Hand is excited to have a pair of senior stars, Serena Deardorff and Marisa Giglio, leading the way for his team. In the victory over Lawrence, Deardorff posted wins in both the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle races while Giglio was victorious in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

“They are just terrific kids; they take a lot of pride in swimming relays for us,” said Hand, referring to Deardorff and Giglio.

“They know who is out there in the CVC and they are very involved in helping to craft the lineup. Each of them could swim absolutely everything in a typical meet. Marisa has changed her specialty; she has gone from a breaststroker to a very good backstroker. Serena is a technically sound butterfly swimmer who is also good at the backstroke and the freestyle.”

PHS has some other terrific senior leaders in Victoria Carroll, Nicole Kratzer, Felicia He, and Cory Allikas.

“Victoria Carroll has been with us for four years and is the fourth from a great family to swim with us; she has a good backstroke and is a good relay swimmer,” said Hand, whose team topped Ewing 130-34 last Thursday to improve to 4-0.

“She is a terrific leader. Nicole Kratzer hurt her shoulder and is our manager this year. She provides a terrific presence on the deck. Felicia He had been with us for four years, she is a great trainer and a positive presence on the team. Cory Allikas is another contributor.”

The team’s Class of 2013 sets a positive tone for the squad. “The senior crew just creates a terrific climate for the team,” asserted Hand. “It is a situation where the kids like to work with each other. It is low pressure, high effort.”

Hand is looking for some good work from such younger veterans as Taylor Chiang, Hannah Ash, and Stephanie Tam.

“They scored significant points for us last year and we need them to be scoring points for us this year if we are to have a chance in some of the big meets
coming up,” said Hand, whose team faces a gauntlet of WW/P-S, Steinert, WW/P-N, and Notre Dame early in 2013.

With PHS already getting significant contributions from precocious freshmen, Madeleine Deardorff and Brianna Romaine, the Little Tigers should be right there in the big meets to come.

“Madeleine is a terrific swimmer with extraordinary energy and great power in her swimming,” said Hand, whose team swims at Trenton Central on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break.

“She is very fast in the fly and is solid in the free. Brianna is lights out fast. We will be using her a lot in the 50 and 100 free and the backstroke. Both of them have a terrific attitude. They are able to race hard and then have a great capacity to move on to the next thing regardless of how they did.”

NO ORDINARY JO: Princeton High girls’ basketball player ­Jocabed Muflam surveys the situation in 2011-12 action. Last Friday, Muflam scored a team-high 13 points as PHS fell 63-37 to Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers are next in action when they play at Hightstown on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jocabed Muflam was not about to give up even though the Princeton High girls’ basketball team trailed Hopewell Valley by more than 20 points in the waning moments of last Friday’s season opener.

The senior forward made a steal with 1:05 left in the game and raced as hard as she could up the floor. Moments later, Muflam wrestled for a rebound on the way to scoring the last basket in PHS’s 63-37 loss to the Bulldogs.

For Muflam, showing effort to the final whistle was a matter of applying lessons she has learned over her PHS career.

“Over the years, I have learned a lot from my freshman year to my sophomore year to my junior year,” said Muflam.

“A lot of what I have learned has been from on the court but also from the older people I have played with, girls like Molly Barber, Julia Maltby, and Tara Thomas. I want to be that influence on my team and have the underclassmen look to me and take a lot from me as I took a lot from my upperclassmen. Like Talya Nakash, every game she had a whole lot of heart and I thought that was really inspirational and I definitely took from that.”

The Little Tigers showed heart collectively last Friday as they fought hard against powerful HoVal, a finalist in the Mercer County Tournament last year.

“Hopewell is always a definitely a really good team,” said Muflam, who scored a team-high 13 points in the contest.

“We knew that they were a quick team, an athletic team and a team with a lot of shooters. It was definitely challenging like it always is. It is really motivating to play a team this good because it shakes you and gets you ready for the rest of the season.”

PHS showed improvement within the game, culminating with a superb fourth quarter, which saw the Little Tigers outscore HoVal 16-15.

“We just want to come out stronger; we were just talking about it in the locker room,” said Muflam.

“The way that we got intense in the fourth quarter is how we need to start the games. So we are going to change our warm-ups to get us an intense start right away.”

Coming off a season that saw PHS post just one victory as the team broke in some new faces, Muflam believes the Little Tigers can win more games this winter.

“Last year was new for us because we lost so many players, it was a transition year for us,” said Muflam.

“Having the opportunity to play with the new girls, I think we were definitely learning a lot from each other. We are still learning. We have got two new players on varsity and they look pretty solid.”

PHS head coach Steffanie Shoop saw some solid work from her team in the opener.

“Throughout the game, they consistently got better,” asserted Shoop, whose team plays at Hightstown on December 21.

“I think every quarter my girls improved. Obviously you can see that they don’t have quit in them. They don’t stop, they could have rolled over and played possum. They didn’t stop. They worked hard. I am proud of their work ethic, I am proud of their hustle. I am proud their no-quit attitude. All of my girls contributed in one way, shape, or form.”

Shoop liked the contribution she got from junior forward Liz Jacobs, who chipped in 10 points.

“Liz is strong, she is capable, she is an athlete,” said Shoop. “You could see that she really gained confidence in that game. Hopefully she maintains that.”

PHS draws confidence from Muflam’s intensity. “Jocabed is an incredible kid,” said Shoop.

“She is not only an amazing student, she is an incredible athlete. I think one of the girls in the locker room, Catherine Groome-Curran, said ‘come on guys, it’s not fair that Jocabed is always the one on the box.’ We need to step up our game and that’s something a player like Jocabed does, she inspires the other kids to do better.”

Muflam, for her part, is determined to leave everything she has on the court for the Little Tigers.

“I definitely try to do what I can; I try to give my team as much of me as possible,” said Muflam.

“I know that sometimes my shot is off and rather than getting down on myself for missing a layup, I try to hustle because that is something I always have control over. That is something I can always give to my team so I really try to focus on that every single game.”

FIRST TAKE: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Scott Bechler heads up court in action last season. Last Friday, senior guard Bechler contributed 14 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 67-62 at Hopewell Valley in overtime in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers host Hightstown on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High boys’ basketball team didn’t deliver a win to new head coach Mark Shelley in his debut at the helm of the program last Friday at Hopewell Valley, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Little Tigers led 27-25 at halftime and 46-43 after three quarters and held a five-point advantage with less than three minutes to go in regulation. The Bulldogs, though, forced overtime and went on to a 67-62 win.

“I liked our energy; I thought we had good chemistry,” said Shelley.

“I thought we played well offensively to be in the 60s against a team that plays good defense like that. It was a really close game. You start with a road game and they had a huge crowd but our guys were not rattled. They showed resilience.”

Shelley saw that resilience right from the start of the contest. “There were three or four times in the first half where they went up by three or four and we came down on next possession and scored,” said Shelley.

“We hit a 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first to cut it from four to one. I think that says a lot about the team.”

Senior star Lior Levy showed a lot in the opener, pouring in a game-high 25 points.

“He played fantastic; it was not a selfish 25,” said Shelley. “It was a recognition from him that he is skilled and a recognition from the other players that he does have a special skill set. We are much better when we are touching the ball in the post. He made some beautiful moves in the post and he popped some 3’s trailing on the fast break. It was a senior being a leader.”

The Little Tigers got some good play from two other key veterans as junior forward Peter Mahotiere chipped in 11 points with senior point guard Scott Bechler scoring 14 and triggering the PHS offense.

“Peter does so many good things for us,” said Shelley. “He is a tough rebounder and goes a really good job playing in the middle of our zone. Scott played the entire game. He handled the pressure well and they were checking him good all night long. We talked at halftime about getting to the line more and Scott did a good job of that in the second half. He was a warrior out there.”

In reflecting on the loss, Shelley believes his team has to do a better job at the defensive end of the court.

“We gave up too many points; we worked on backside rotations and our zone in our weekend practice,” said Shelley, whose team hosts Hightstown on December 21. “We made some bad decisions and mental errors that led them to get some easier shots than I would have liked. That is coachable.”

Shelley is confident that both he and his players gained some important lessons from the HoVal game.

“Everyone can improve,” said Shelley. “I probably should have subbed more in the first half. We all learned.”

LOOKING GOOD: Hun School boys’ hockey player Alec Karanikolas looks for the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward Karanikolas has been a key contributor this season as the Raiders have produced a 4-1-1 start. In upcoming action, Hun plays at St. John’s Vianney on December 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter ended in disappointing fashion for the Hun School boys’ hockey team as it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime in the Independence Hockey League (IHL) title game.

Getting off to a 0-1-1 start this winter, the Raiders were looking to their December 5 meeting with Pennington as a way to get things going in the right direction.

Showing a balanced attack, Hun achieved that goal posting an 8-2 win over its local rival.

Hun head coach Ian McNally saw the victory as a big step forward.

“It was a nice win, a lot of people got involved on the offensive side and it kick-started our confidence,” said McNally, who got two goals apiece from Alex Vukasin and Alex Bidwell in the victory with Brad Stern, Jordan Wang, Justin Grossman, and Chris Rossi chipping in one apiece.

Two days later, the Raiders achieved another confidence-builder as they topped defending state Prep champion Pingry 4-1.

“I told the boys before the season that I was looking at games against Pingry, St Joe’s Metuchen, and Princeton Day School as good marking sticks for us,” said McNally.

“They beat us pretty handily in the Prep tournament last year before beating PDS so it was a nice surprise to beat them by a few goals.

In McNally’s view, having more talent at his disposal made a big difference in the matchup against Pingry.

“We just have more depth than last year,” said McNally. “Most of the team came back and we added players in the middle. We are rolling three or four lines and three or four sets of defensemen.”

Two young players, sophomore forward Chris Rossi and freshman forward Jon Pensler, have helped get the Raiders rolling.

“Rossi played a strong role for us last year as a freshman but he is putting up more points this year,” said McNally.

“Pensler has been a great addition for us. He plays defense for his club team and we had him at defense in the first few games. We felt we needed some offensive punch so we moved him to forward and he has been scoring in every game.”

The Raiders have been getting increased punch from some of their more experienced players.

“We have two other veterans, Alec Karanikolas and Jordan Wang, who are not going to be our leading scorers but they have been very reliable,” said McNally.

“They have stepped up a lot. We knew what we were going to get from guys like Alex Vukasin and Brad Stern so it is nice to see other guys in the mix.”

Another nice development for Hun has been the leadership it is getting from senior defenseman Eric Szeker.

“We named Eric Szeker captain this year and he has really stepped up both in terms of his play on the ice and showing a good demeanor off the ice,” added McNally.

Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has stepped up in recent action. “Cheifetz wasn’t himself in the first few games but he was really good in the Pingry game and that was a big sigh of relief,” said McNally, who got 26 saves from his star netminder in the win.

“The offense won the Pennington game but the Pingry game was really his. Since then we have had a number of goals but we have also given up some 2-on-1s and breakaways and he has been right there for us.

With Hun having topped Chestnut Hill (Pa.) 8-2 on December 11 and then posting an 11-0 win over Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Wednesday to improve to 4-1-1, McNally is hoping his team can keep on a roll.

“I am looking for more of the same,” said McNally. “We have four road wins in a row and if we can win at St. John’s Vianney [on December 20] that would be five. I told the boys that is good in any league.

The Raiders will close out the 2012 portion of their schedule by competing in the Pa. Hockey Scholastic Showcase from December 28-31 in Pittsburgh Pa.

“I heard about this, I liked the number of teams and the format,” said McNally.

“I am looking at it as a fun break and hopefully we will do well. The main purpose for us is to get away for a few days. The idea is to have some fun and play some hockey over the break.”

So far this season, the Raiders have been having a lot of fun on and off the ice.

“There is a different feel around the team; there is a buzz at the rink, on the bus, and in the dressing room,” said McNally.

“It is a much better feeling. Everybody is getting on board and playing for each other. It is really nice. We had a secret Santa after practice the other day with gag gifts and it was a blast with a lot of laughs.”

MULLING IT OVER: Hun School girls’ basketball player Janelle Mullen heads to the basket last week in Hun’s 58-48 loss to visiting Lawrenceville. Sophomore guard Mullen scored nine points in the defeat. Hun, now 4-2, plays at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After battling a formidable Lawrenceville squad to a 27-27 standstill at halftime last week, the Hun School girls’ basketball team ran into some adversity in the second half.

Having trouble dealing with the Lawrenceville press, the Raiders were outscored 16-8 in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. Then in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, junior star Erica Brown went down with a knee injury that sidelined her for the rest of the contest.

Still, the Raiders battled on, cutting the Big Red lead to 52-48 on a Carey Million jump shot with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Lawrenceville, though, hit its free throws down the stretch to pull away to a 58-48 victory as the Raiders dropped to 3-2.

While Hun head coach Bill Holup was disappointed to see his team fall to its rival, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“We were competitive with Shipley (a 67-44 loss on December 1) for three quarters and obviously competitive in this game,” said Holup, who got 15 points from junior center Johnnah Johnson in the loss with Brown chipping in 11 and sophomore guard Janelle Mullen adding nine.

“We just came up on the short end in this game but the effort was there. I can’t complain, we are still above .500.”

The loss of Brown certainly played a factor in Hun coming up short against the Big Red.

“Brown is great at getting the defensive rebound and starting the fast break,” asserted Holup.

“She is extremely quick and athletic. We weren’t quite as aggressive defensively or on the boards when Erica was out of the game.”

Holup acknowledged that his team had trouble slowing the Lawrenceville backcourt.

“They have two really good ballhandlers and it was really tough to defend against,” said Holup, whose team showed its toughness last Saturday as it topped Germantown Friends (Pa.) 41-26 last Saturday with Johnson scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

“In the past two games that we have played, the teams have had a very good point guard. When they have two people who can really handle the ball, it makes it really tough to defend against.”

The Raiders have played a tough schedule in the early going by design, as Holup believes that will strengthen his team in the long run. “This stretch that we have already played with these last four games, Friends Central, Penn Charter, Shipley, and Lawrenceville, those are very good teams,” said Holup.

“Each one of those teams has Division I caliber players so we have been thrown in the fire pretty quickly.”

Holup likes the way his players have met that early challenge. “Overall, the whole attitude of the team is really positive,” said Holup. “It has been a great overall effort through the first five games. I am completely happy with the attitude and the effort that the kids have right now.”

With Hun playing at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 20 in its last action before the holiday break, Holup is looking for his team to be sharper in its offensive decision-making.

“We just have to make sure that we recognize when to pull up in transition and settle things down and when to actually take it,” said Holup.

“That is correctible. They just need to learn when the opportunity is there and when it’s not.”

December 12, 2012

CAT FIGHT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Jack Berger battles for the puck in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, junior forward and captain Berger and the Tigers fought hard but came up short twice against No. 9 Quinnipiac. Princeton dropped a 3-1 decision to the Bobcats at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. on Friday evening before losing 3-0 to Quinnipiac the next day at Baker Rink. The Tigers, now 3-6-3 overall and 2-3-3 in ECAC Hockey action, are on winter break and will return to action when they compete in the Catamount Cup from December 29-30 at the University of Vermont. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jack Berger and his teammates on the Princeton University men’s hockey squad got an up close and personal view last weekend of what is making Quinnipiac one of the hottest teams in the country.

Playing a home-and-home set against the Bobcats, the Tigers dropped a 3-1 decision at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. on Friday evening before losing 3-0 to Quinnipiac the next day at Baker Rink. The wins extended the Bobcat’s unbeaten streak to 10 as they have risen to No. 9 in the national polls.

Although junior forward and captain Berger had hoped to lead Princeton to a pair of victories over the weekend, he believes the Tigers still gained something valuable from the experience of battling the Bobcats (12-3-2 overall, 8-0 ECACH).

“We wanted to get more points than zero, we wanted to win both games,” said Berger, reflecting on a weekend which left Princeton at 3-6-3 overall and 2-3-3 in ECAC Hockey action.

“We have a lot of positives, that is the hottest team in the league, maybe in the country, right now, and we definitely hung with them and we know that is a team that when we are playing our game, we can take it to them so we get a little confidence out of that.”

Berger liked the way Princeton started the game Saturday as it looked to rebound from the defeat on Friday.

Our first period was definitely better than the first periods we had last year,” said Berger, assessing a period which saw the Tigers get outshot by a slim 12-10 margin.

“That is something we have been trying to focus on and it has been coming out a little better. It wasn’t our best period but it was good. We were happy to be in the game like that and we felt good going into the second.”

While things went awry for the Tigers in the second period as they surrendered two unanswered goals, Berger didn’t think there was a wide gulf between the teams.

“I think we felt pretty good, there were a couple of details we weren’t taking care of,” said Berger. “I think we were in the game, it could have gone either way but we didn’t get the bounces.”

With Princeton headed to winter break, Berger thinks the hiatus will do the team some good.

“I think we are optimistic, we have a really good group of guys this year, asserted Berger.

“We get a lot of guys back after Christmas. We are doing a lot of good things. It will be nice to have some home games coming up and I think we are going to keep staying committed to our game and I am confident it is going to work out for us.”

In Berger’s view, the Tigers could be a force when they get back into action later this month by playing in the Catamount Cup from December 29-30 at the University of Vermont.

“I think we are really close to being a pretty good team,” said Berger. “I think the guys believe in what we are doing this year and they are going to work for it and keep plugging away.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier concurred with Berger’s analysis. “It is not like we have to go back to the drawing board or anything,” maintained Prier.

“We just have got to improve on the way we play and the systems. The guys are doing pretty darn well at this point. It is just more of those individual turnovers at lines that we have really got to sharpen up and making sure we are staying inside our checks defensively. It is fundamental things.”

Prier had no qualms with the effort he got from his team in the game on Saturday.

“I thought that was as physical as we have played all year,” said Prier. “When you have a guy like Andrew Ammon out who is your energy guy, a tough kid, other guys stepped up and I think they did a really good job against one of the top three or four teams in the country right now. I thought we played much better than we did last night so it was a big improvement. I think we were more physical, we played with more emotion, we played with more energy so it was good to see.”

While Princeton would like to have a better record going into the break, Prier is optimistic about the team’s prospects going forward.

“We are scoring a lot of goals in the first half and we have to learn how to keep them out of our net,” added Prier.

“We have had a decent first half and there is a lot to build on once we get a little depth. We have a lot of guys that are going to come back, we will be getting guys like Ammon back, [Mike] Ambrosia back, [Will] Ford back, and [Tucker] Brockett back. We are not as good as Quinnipiac right now but I tell you what, we are going to be awfully damn close or as good in the second half with the depth that we are going to have in the lineup.”

Berger, for his part, is determined to provide good leadership to help the Tigers get on the winning track.

“You want to just try to be as committed to the things that the coach stresses as much as you can,” said Berger.

“You try to lead by example. You just have to keep guys on the right track. You have to keep them upbeat and confident because I think everyone here really does believe that we have a good team. We just have to play like that every night.”

LAYER OF CLAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson turns up the defensive heat in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Drexel, sophomore guard Wilson scored 12 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 64-57 to the Dragons. Princeton, now 3-5, plays Fordham on December 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Boasting a roster with 10 players 6’7 or taller, the Princeton University men’s basketball team believes it should be an inside force this winter.

But the Tigers have been held to a standstill on the boards in starting 3-4, getting outrebounded 222-216 by their foes.

Last Saturday against visiting Drexel University, some lackadaisical work on the glass helped doom Princeton as it squandered an early 30-17 lead on the way to a disappointing 64-57 setback before 1,970 at Jadwin Gym,

The Tigers outrebounded the Dragons 16-13 in the first half but got beaten to the punch in the paint in the second half as Drexel won the war of the boards 19-4 over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was disappointed by his team’s failure to use its size advantage in the second half.

“I thought we could be a very good rebounding team but we just didn’t have any rebounding presence to finish the game which ended up really hurting us,” lamented Henderson, whose team had previously blown early leads in losses to Northeastern, Rutgers, and Wagner.

“There were a couple times where we were boxing out nicely and we had a couple of those calls called against us. I think that they just turned up the heat defensively. I think when your two centers have two rebounds, we have to do more in that situation.”

Tiger senior star Ian Hummer, who had a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds, expressed his frustration with the team’s failure to get the ball inside.

“I think there has to be an understanding of the team regarding when and where our strengths are,” said Hummer, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.

“I thought, as coach said, we are strong inside. We are not shooting the ball well so we are going to have to look at it and understand the game. Where does the ball need to be at what point in time. I think we are learning but we are not there yet. We need to be there ASAP.”

Henderson also saw a lack of offensive execution. “Who is going to make that one extra pass that makes that one possession offensively that much more valuable; let’s make them guard a little bit,” said Henderson, reflecting on a game which saw the Tigers shoot 5-of-19 from three-point range and 8-of-13 from the foul line.

“We couldn’t get anything going and then we missed our free throws. You had to make your free throws in that game to withstand another long run.”

While the Tigers made a nice late run to knot the game at 57-57 with 2:32 remaining in regulation, they were outscored 7-0 the rest of the way.

“We were down 55-50 and came back; I like the way we executed there and the way we defended,” said Henderson, whose team plays Fordham on December 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

We left [Damion] Lee on a wide-open 3 at the top of the key; it was a defensive mistake and he makes a 3. We executed offensively again and got a nice look and it didn’t go in. Clay Wilson, one of our better shooters, had a nice look from the corner. No excuses, that’s a nice win for Drexel.”

COLD STREAK: Princeton University women’s hockey player Brianna Leahy goes after the puck in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore forward Leahy scored a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to Quinnipiac. A day later, the Tigers fell 4-0 to the Bobcats in the second game of a home-and-home set as they suffered their third straight loss. Princeton, now 5-9-2 overall and 2-8-2 in ECAC Hockey action, is currently on winter break and will resume action when it plays a two-game set at the University of Connecticut on January 2 and 3.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey team, the holiday break couldn’t come at a better time.

The Tigers stumbled as they ended the 2012 portion of their schedule, dropping three straight games to fall to 5-9-2 overall and 2-8-2 in ECAC Hockey action.

Last weekend, Princeton got pushed around by Quinnipiac, coming up short in both ends of home-and-home set with the Bobcats, falling 3-2 at Baker Rink on Friday and then losing 4-0 a day later at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn.

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal acknowledged that his squad has been struggling against Quinnipiac recently.

“Quinnipiac is a really solid team, they have a good goalie and a dominant scorer,” noted Kampersal, who got goals from Kelly Cooke and Brianna Leahy on Friday as the Tigers valiantly fought back from an early 3-0 deficit.

“They are a tough team to play against and it has been a tough matchup for us the last few years. I think we are like what Terry Francona said about the Red Sox in his last season there, we are leaking oil. We are finding new ways to lose. We showed up ready to play on Friday and then we give up three goals. Quinnipiac always works hard but we put them on a platter for them. We did make a rally but we can’t dig out of that kind of hole. The next day we didn’t have enough gas in the tank.”

With Princeton not slated to return to action until it plays a two-game set at the University of Connecticut on January 2 and 3, Kampersal is hoping that the break will be utilized for some soul searching.

“We need to coach better and we need to play better,” said Kampersal, who won’t be back behind the Tiger bench until later in January as he will be coaching the U.S. women’s team at the U18 World Championships in Finland as 2013 rolls around.

“We need to use the break as time to reflect on what we need to do and putting in the time and effort to get better.”

Kampersal thought the Tigers were getting better when they fought hard in a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 3 Clarkson on November 17 and then won two of their next three games.

“We had a middle stretch where I thought we were figuring things out but we haven’t played well the last two weekends,” said Kampersal, whose team is currently seventh of 12 teams in the ECACH standings.

“The kids definitely need a break; we have small numbers and tough practices. It has been a grind.”

Princeton has shown a penchant in recent seasons to grind out wins after the break and Kampersal is hopeful that history can repeat itself.

“The good news is that in the past few years, we have come back stronger after the break,” said Kampersal. “We’ll see if this group has what it takes to do that.”

ABOVE THE REST: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Kevin Halliday, center, flies up for a header in action this fall. Junior forward Halliday scored 23 goals to help PHS earn a share of the state Group III title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kevin Halliday showed plenty of promise in his first two years with the Princeton High boys’ soccer team, providing solid play at forward.

But this fall, with PHS getting off to a rocky start as the team’s defense struggled to find its form, Halliday lifted his game to a higher level.

Utilizing his athleticism, competitiveness, and burgeoning finishing skill, Halliday became the go-to offensive star for PHS, emerging as one of the top scorers in the area in helping the Little Tigers catch fire.

Before the regular season was half over, Halliday hit the 10-goal mark, becoming the first PHS player in double figures since Andrei Spirin in the Little Tigers’ 2009 state title campaign. It was no coincidence that PHS reeled off 11 straight wins after losing two of its first three games.

Once PHS hit the state tournament, Halliday was even more deadly. He scored a goal in a 4-3 opening
round win over Jackson Liberty and then scored the game winner in a 2-1 overtime triumph over Middletown South in the sectional semis. In the sectional title game, Halliday had one of the best games of his career, notching two goals as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown 4-3.

In the Group III semis against Moorestown, Halliday found the back of the net three minutes into the contest, setting the tone as PHS went on to a 2-0 win. The Little Tigers ended up tying Ramapo 1-1 to share the state title, the program’s first Group III crown since 2009.

In reflecting on his scoring prowess which saw him end the season with 23 goals, Halliday pointed to his experience and work ethic as key factors. “I think just being in the right place at the right time,” said Halliday.

“To be honest, I wouldn’t say that any of my goals have been beating five guys and ripping it up. It is just knowing where the pass is going, knowing where the ball is going to end, and finishing it. I think it is matter of that little bit of luck and a little bit of experience and hard work.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe lauded Halliday’s combination of skill and desire.

“First of all, he has got great technique,” maintained Sutcliffe. “His tactical awareness complements that. He is a terrific athlete and he is a great competitor. He just gets in and combines with Zach [Halliday], Aidan [Passannante], Colin [Lamb] and Jeremy [Goldsmith]. He has this great ability to read the game. I think he separates himself a little bit because of his desire and his athleticism.”

For providing the offensive production that helped spark PHS to a state title, Halliday is the choice as the Town Topics’ top male performer of the fall high school season.

Top Female Performer


amantha Asch came into the fall with her sights set on two competitions as as she started the final campaign of her stellar career with the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team.

First, she wanted to win her fourth straight Mercer County Tournament singles title and help the Panthers repeat as team champions.

Then she wanted to end her PDS career with a bang by taking the Prep B title at first singles and leading the squad to the team title at the tourney.

Displaying her skill and focus, Asch did everything in her power to achieve those goals.

At the MCT in early October, she marched to the first singles title, not dropping a set on the way to the crown. In so doing, she put herself in elite company as one of the select few players to ever win four straight singles titles at the event. Asch won the second singles crown as a freshman and then took the first singles title the next three years.

“I think I have gotten a lot stronger since last year and I have more power,” said Asch, reflecting on the development of her game. “I have gotten bigger and my serve has gotten a lot better.”

While Asch was proud of her undefeated MCT record, she didn’t leave Mercer County Park totally happy about the competition as PDS fell short of the team title, finishing fifth in the team standings.

“I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the team title because I feel like our team was even better going into this year,” said Asch. “That is the way it goes but I am still really happy about it.”

Noting that the Panthers were hungry for the Prep B crown, Asch wrote a happy ending to her career in late October. Asch didn’t lose a set on the way to the title at first singles and PDS outdueled Morristown-Beard for the team title as freshman Renee Karchere-Sun won at second singles and the first doubles pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Mary Atkeson prevailed in their flight.

Asch ended the season undefeated and lost just two matches over her PDS career.

In the view of PDS head coach Ed Tseng, though, Asch brought a lot more than just wins to the Panther program.

“The thing I will remember is the leadership she brings to the younger players,” said Tseng of Asch, who will be continuing her tennis career at Wake Forest University.

“For her senior project, she organized a tennis charity event for Eden and raised more than $10,000. Helping the community like that is more important than all of her wins. She has a great work ethic. She doesn’t want to miss a day. She loves it and she is putting in the time; that is a pretty great combination.”

For culminating her brilliant PDS career with county and Prep titles, Asch gets the nod as the Town Topics’ top female performer this fall.

Top Newcomers


hen John Woodside gathered his Princeton high boys’ cross country runners together before the season, he emphasized that he was looking for a team effort and that different runners would step up at different times as needed.

Sophomore Jacob Rist took the coach’s message to heart as he made the move up to the PHS varsity squad.

Hitting his stride in postseason competition, Rist took 11th at the Mercer County Championships as PHS ended up second in the team standings. He followed that by taking 12th at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet, helping the Little Tigers to their second straight team crown at the meet.

Rist capped his breakout season with a 51st place finish at the state Group III meet as PHS placed fifth in the team standings.

In Woodside’s view, Rist’s performance in the Group meet at Holmdel Park exemplified how the sophomore standout grew as a runner this fall.

“He didn’t run on varsity as a freshman; he has improved dramatically in a year,” asserted Woodside.

“For a sophomore, he ran a savvy race. He started further back on purpose in the first mile. It is tough, you want to be competitive but the first mile can eat you up. It rises 130 feet. It doesn’t hurt that he has talent. He works hard and he is very consistent.”

Rist’s emergence as a key performer for a championship PHS team makes him the choice as the top male newcomer this fall.

As Sarah Hibbert assessed her 2012 team, she made it clear that freshman Christina Rosca was destined to make an immediate impact this fall at first singles.

“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.”

Rosca got better and better as the season on. She helped PHS to an undefeated regular season and starred at the Mercer County Tournament, taking second at first singles.

With PHS losing second singles star, Chenchen Wang, to a season-ending knee injury right before the MCT, Rosca had to come up big if PHS was going to make a deep run in the state tournament.

Displaying an all-around game and a maturity beyond her years, Rosca picked up big wins as PHS won the Central Jersey Group III sectional and then topped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis. Rosca won her match against Mendham in the finals but that was PHS’s sole win as it fell 4-1.

In addition to helping the Little Tigers to a brink of a state team title, Rosca advanced to the semis in the state singles tourney.

All in all, it was a memorable fall for Rosca. “I especially like playing in the state tournament and the county tournament because I play very good people,
especially in the later rounds,” said Rosca. “It has been a good experience. It has definitely been fun to be on this team.”

It was certainly fun for Hibbert to see Rosca live up to expectations. “I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Hibbert.

“She plays a lot. She works really hard; you can always count on her to give 100 percent in her matches. She raises the level of play to whom she faces. She is very mature for a freshman and will be a great player for us in the future.”

For producing a great debut campaign and coming up big when it mattered most, Rosca is the top female newcomer of the fall season.

Top Coaches


fter having not lost a regular season game over the three campaigns from 2009-11, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team got off to a rough start this fall.

The proud PHS program dropped two of its first three games, falling 2-1 to Allentown in overtime on September 10 and then getting edged 2-1 by Hightstown two days later.

But longtime head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was not concerned. “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.”

With junior striker Kevin Halliday emerging as one of the top scorers in the area and the PHS defense stiffening up, the Little Tigers started playing some very good soccer as it reeled off 10 straight wins heading into the Mercer County Tournament.

After topping Trenton in the opening round of the MCT, PHS suffered a lopsided 4-0 loss to eventual champion Pennington in the county quarters.

While Sutcliffe and his players were bitterly disappointed by the result, they used the loss as motivation, redoubling their training intensity in the hiatus that followed due to Hurricane Sandy.

“We had some key injuries to key players early on in the first half and then we found our form,” said Sutcliffe.

“But then we sort of lost it a little bit. The storm, for everyone, was a challenge. We were without a game for two weeks and I am proud of the team for having the maturity and the strength to get through that and get better in that two weeks because we got better even though we didn’t play a game. We were out here everyday training.”

The Little Tigers showed their maturity in clutch situations as they won four straight one-goal games in the Central Jersey Group III sectional tourney, culminating with a dramatic 4-3 win over top-seeded Allentown in the title game as PHS earned its second straight trip to the Group III semis.

Facing a battle-tested Moorestown team coached by Sutcliffe’s brother, Mike, in the semifinal at Toms River North, the Little Tigers scored two goals in the first four minutes to set the tone in a 2-0 win. The triumph was particularly sweet since PHS had lost 2-0 to Timber Creek on the same field in the 2011 Group III semis.

By virtue of that victory, PHS earned the unenviable task of battling undefeated and defending state champion Ramapo for the Group III title. The Little Tigers trailed 1-0 at halftime but they weren’t fazed.

PHS knotted the game at 1-1 midway through the half and then the game escalated into a pulsating hand-to-hand battle with the Raiders hanging on for dear life as the Little Tigers continually pressed forward.

“I just thought that our urgency and our experience and our quality just came through in the second half,” said Sutcliffe, reflecting on his team’s rally.

While PHS ended up outshooting the Raiders 17-4 on the day, the game ended up in a 1-1 draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime with the teams being declared as co-champions under NJSIAA rules.

Although Sutcliffe felt that his team had the better of the play and should have won the crown outright, he was able to appreciate the shared title.

“It is still a state championship and I am so proud of our guys,” said Sutcliffe, whose team ended the season with an 18-3-1 record giving him 253 victories in his 17 years guiding the program.

“It has been a really demanding season with the hurricane and the injuries and the postseason. The postseason tournament was very demanding on all of us. I am so proud of them. There are 12 seniors and they gave us everything we had.”

And for being the steady hand at the helm through the rocky ride that ended up with a state crown, Sutcliffe is the choice as the top coach of a male team.

The Princeton High girls’ soccer team underwent a major changing of the guard as it entered the fall.

The Little Tigers lost five key seniors from a 2011 squad that went 10-4-4 and added 11 new faces to its roster.

“The whole 11 looks different, said PHS head coach Greg Hand. “We are a substantially different team than we were. The challenge is to find the right players and the right mix.”

In the early going, PHS had trouble mixing in its new players, starting 2-2, losing to Hopewell Valley and Robbinsville. But then the Little Tigers started to click, featuring athleticism all over the field and anchored by senior goalie Lauren Ullmann.

PHS ended the regular season at 10-2 and advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals where it battled eventual champion Pennington to a scoreless draw through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. While the Little Tigers ended up getting
eliminated on penalty kicks, the performance gave the team confidence going in the state tourney.

Looking sharper and sharper as the season went on, PHS outscored its foes 10-1 in the first three rounds of the Central Jersey Group III sectional on the way to the title game against Colts Neck. Locked in a scoreless stalemate at halftime, the Little Tigers went on to a 1-0 win and the program’s first sectional title.

Going against a speedy and tough Moorestown side in the Group III semis, PHS saw its run end with a 2-0 loss.

Proud of how his team battled to the end, Hand marveled at how far PHS came this fall.

“Our second half tonight was the best soccer we have played,” said Hand, whose team posted a final record of 16-3-1.

“And the fact that this team was very new, essentially reconstituted from last year’s team, and could learn so much about how to play the game on all levels, from individual through the whole team is a real exciting thing and a great accomplishment.”

Hand’s role in crafting the mix that led to a breakthrough season makes him the choice as the top coach of a female team.

As Mark Shelley takes the helm of the Princeton High boys’ basketball team, he will be pulling in the reins a bit on the racehorse style that has characterized the program in recent years.

“We will run more of a precision offense,” said Shelley, who served as the PHS junior varsity coach last season and is taking over for Jason Carter, now an assistant with The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team.

“We want to have sound positioning on defense and do the little things right. I think we will be holding teams to fewer points than we did last year but the scores may not be as high. I believe strongly in a match-up zone. We will be running more half-court traps and less full-court pressing. On offense, we will run more sets.”

While the Little Tigers may not be as fast-paced as they have been in the last few seasons, Shelley believes his team can maintain the program’s recent success.

“The varsity lost a lot of close games last year, I think we can be as competitive as last year,” said Shelley, who is taking over a team coming off a 12-13 season.

“I don’t set long term goals; I want us to get better every day, individually and collectively. I am a process guy. If we do that, good things will happen.”

A key part of that process will center on getting everyone on the same page.

“The biggest thing is mixing
the newcomers in with the veterans,” said Shelley, whose team tips off the 2012-13 campaign by playing at Hopewell Valley on December 14.

“There is chemistry within each group and now I need to develop chemistry between them.”

Shelley is depending on skilled senior center Lior Levy to play a big part in helping with PHS’s on-court chemistry.

“I don’t think we will be at our best if Lior is doing most of the scoring, we need to share the ball,” said Shelley.

“He is such a good passer. We will be setting him up in both the high and low post. He is key player but he won’t be our leading scorer every night. We had a scrimmage the other day and we had four guys between 9 and 11 points, that is how we want to be.”

PHS has some other good guys in the post with junior Peter Mahotiere, senior Christian Giles, junior Andrew Braverman, and junior Robbie von der Schmidt.

“Right now Peter has stepped up as the other starter in the post,” said Shelley.

“He is strong and he uses his body well. He can also step out and hit a three. Giles does a real good job; he is a real athlete. Bravermen is just getting back from soccer so he is a little rusty right now but he will help us. Von der Schmidt was on the JV last year and was injured for most of the year with a concussion. He is raw but is getting a lot better.”

The Little Tigers are a lot better when senior guard Scott Bechler is triggering the offense.

“Bechler is so coachable; he is by far our best ball handler,” asserted Shelley.

“We are so much more settled offensively when the ball is in his hands. He is a leader. All the seniors are good leaders, they are self-motivated.”

A lot of players should be seeing the ball in the backcourt as PHS boasts good depth at guard with senior Ellis Bloom, junior Cal O’Meara, senior Elliott Golden, junior Paul Murray, and junior Matt Vasseur.

“Bloom is real solid, he hit some big 3s for us in our last scrimmage,” said Shelley.

“Cal is a good athlete. He can play inside and then he can step out and hit the 3. I like his chemistry with the other guys; he plays different positions. We may have him at the 4 sometimes. Golden, Murray, and Vasseur are interchangeable parts, they each have their own strengths that can help us.”

Noting that he has a deep rotation, Shelley is looking to deploy that depth through spreading the wealth on offense and hustling on defense.

“We have to share the basketball, both in terms of assists and scoring,” said Shelley.

“We have to take care of the basketball. We are not a team that make three or four turnovers and have an 8-0 run against us and then come back quickly. We have got to play solid defense. We want to force off-balance outside jumpers with a hand in the shooter’s face. I like our odds in that situation. We need to stop perimeter drives and force outside shots.”

JACKHAMMER: Princeton High boys’ hockey sophomore forward Jack Andres heads up the ice in recent action. Last Wednesday, Andres scored three goals as PHS toped Hamilton 7-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-1, play Robbinsville on December 13 at Mercer County Park, host Scotch Plains on December 14 at Baker Rink, and then face WW/P-N on December 17 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tim Campbell certainly liked seeing his Princeton High boys’ hockey team open the 2012-13 season with victories over Hightstown and Hamilton.

“Starting with two wins is always key,” said PHS head coach Campbell, whose team topped the Rams 9-5 on November 30 before beating the Hornets 7-1 last Wednesday.

“Everyone is apprehensive because they don’t know what to expect. We all have scrimmages but when it counts, you can get the butterflies out.”

But it was PHS’s resolve in a 6-0 loss to Notre Dame last Thursday that really impressed Campbell.

With the Little Tigers missing senior Matt DiTosto, who is sidelined and likely out for 5-6 weeks with a hand injury, PHS was undermanned in the battle between rivals who met last winter in the Mercer County Tournament title game.

“We talked in the locker room before the game about facing adversity and that when you have gaps in your lineup, you have to make that up with discipline and smart hockey,” said Campbell.

“I thought pound for pound, we skated with them. We peppered their goalie in the first period and he came up huge. We skated seven guys for 45 minutes; there is no way to expect them to keep up the whole way with a team like Notre Dame that is using 20 guys. I was happier with the way we played in the loss than I was in the win over Hamilton. We played hard and showed tenacity.”

Campbell is looking to see his team continue that tenacious play as it wraps up the 2012 portion of its schedule.

“We have a few big games before the break, our mindset is to be as successful as we can,” said Campbell, whose team plays Robbinsville on December 13 at Mercer County Park, hosts Scotch Plains on December 14 at Baker Rink, and then faces WW/P-N on December 17 at Mercer County Park. “The things we set as goals have little to do with wins or losses.”

Junior goalie Robert Quinn has shown the right mindset as he follows four-year starter Josh Berger.

“Robert is playing well; he is a second-year hockey player between the pipes going against some good varsity players,” said Campbell. “He has played well; he has kept us in games.”

The trio of sophomore Jack Andres, junior Pat McCormick, and junior Harrison Naylor have also been playing well for PHS.

“Jack Andres has come up big; you look at him and you forget that he is a sophomore,” said Campbell of Andres, who had a hat trick in the win over Hamilton.

“He is 6’3, and 200-pounds. He is smart and he loves the game. He will do anything I tell him; he is coachable. Pat McCormick is playing 42-45 minutes a game. He is so good and so smart with the puck. Harrison Naylor has also been very good.”

Campbell sees some good things on the horizon for the Little Tigers. “We have had a number of players step into high pressure situations,” said Campbell.

“The guys know what it’s like to go deep into the playoffs and they want to be part of that. We are getting good junior leadership. They won the MCT as freshmen and they think that is what high school hockey is about.”

GETTING HER SHOT: Princeton High girls’ hockey player Lucy Herring fires a shot in action last season. The Little Tigers are depending on sophomore forward Herring to be a key offensive weapon this winter. The Little Tigers were slated to open the 2012-13 season by playing at Pingry on December 11 before hitting the road to play Holton Arms (Md.) on December 15 and Shady Side Academy (Pa.) on December 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the loss of stars Keely Herring and Abby Hunter to graduation will leave a void for the Princeton High girls’ hockey team, the squad has some young players ready for their turn to shine.

“We have a younger, focused team,” said PHS head coach Christian Herzog, whose team went 1-11 in 2011-12.

“I want each player to think how she can contribute individually to the group.”

Herzog is confident that Herring’s younger sister, sophomore forward Lucy Herring, can make a big contribution this winter for the Little Tigers.

“Lucy knows who our opponents are and what we need to do,” said Herzog of Herring, who scored 13 points last winter in her freshman campaign.

“She is going to be leaned on. I am looking for her to step up and do some big things.”

PHS is also looking for sophomore forward Merritt Peck to step up this winter.

“Merritt Peck understands what I expect,” said Herzog, whose team was slated to open the 2012-13 season by playing at Pingry on December 11 before hitting the road to play Holton Arms (Md.) on December 15 and Shady Side Academy (Pa.) on December 16. “I am happy with her progress, she looks improved and more confident.”

The pair of Herring and Peck together with junior Molly O’Brien will be expected to trigger the PHS offense.

“I think Lucy, Merritt, and Molly O’Brien are going to be our first line,” said Herzog. “I have been clear with my expectations for them.

Freshman defenseman Allie Callaway has already emerged as a clear standout for PHS.

“Allie Callaway will be like Keely, she’ll be on defense but will have the green light to shoot,” asserted Herzog.

“She is a finisher. She takes direction and is a hard worker. She will do the extra work outside of practice.”

The rest of the Little Tiger defense should include junior Kate Sohn, sophomore Julie Bond, sophomore Brittney Coniglione, and sophomore Julia DiTosto, who is currently sidelined with a leg injury.

With the graduation of  three-year starting goalie Tobi Afran, there are two neophytes vying for time between the pipes in freshman Callie Urisko and junior Breanna Hegarty.

“We have Callie Urisko and Breanna Hegarty, both are really new to the sport,” said Herzog.

“Urisko is picking it up quickly, she is already learning the angles. Breanna is making a lot of good stops.”

Herzog is looking for some good things from his squad this winter, “I am excited for the season; I am looking for us to win more games,” said Herzog.

“The positioning will be important, we were out of position at times last year. I am looking for us to play a full 45-minute game. We need to play all the way. Traditionally, our weakest period is the second. We have a tendency to give up a silly goal and then the floodgates open and then we come back and play a strong third period.”

JOHNNY BE GOOD: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey player John Egner skates up the ice last Friday at the Harry Rulon-Mller ’51 Invitational at PDS. Egner scored a goal to help the Panthers top Rye Country Day (N.Y.) 3-1 in the opening round of the tournament. A day later, junior forward Egner added another tally as PDS topped Shady Side Academy (Pa.) 6-2 to win the tourney. The Panthers, now 5-0, host Bishop Eustace on December 13 before heading to Massachusetts this weekend for the Barber Tournament at the Middlesex School.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

John Egner understands that he is not one of the headliners on a talented Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team.

“I am not the biggest guy out there so my role is to use my speed to my advantage and really work the corners with tight turns and really be quick,” said junior forward Egner. “That is something I try to work on; I just try to play my game.”

Last Friday as the Panthers found themselves locked in a 1-1 tie with Rye Country Day (N.Y.)  in the opening round of the Harry Rulon-Mller ’51 Invitational at PDS, Egner’s hustle paid dividends as he notched the tie-breaking goal early in the second period.

“Cody [Triolo] made a great play in the neutral zone; he made a nice move on the defender which caused a 4-on 1 with team trailing in,” said Egner, recalling his goal which helped spark PDS to a 3-1 victory

“Cody crashed the net and took out the defender. Lewie [Blackburn] came in and crashed the net and the puck popped right out to me. It was an easy one. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had the rest of the line out there with me.”

A day later, Egner found the back of the net again as PDS topped Shady Side Academy (Pa.) 6-2 to win its 12th title at the invitational which was renamed this year in honor of Rulon-Miller, the tournament director and a former player and coach at the school and its longtime Ice Hockey Coordinator.

“It is really important,” asserted Egner, reflecting on the meaning of the tournament to the PDS players. “It is at our home rink and we want to win this one for Harry; he has been here through the years.”

Egner likes the way linemates Triolo and Blackburn have been there for him this season as the Panthers have gotten off to a 5-0 start.

“We have definitely been coming together in practices and the games we have had so far,” said Egner.

“We are working well in the corners and cycling well, which is good. We aren’t the big goal scorers on the team but we definitely work in the corners and when you do that you make chances. It is nice when that happens.”

For PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, it was nice to see the trio of Egner, Triolo, and Blackburn generate the key goal.

“That line has been our best line to date for what I am asking them to do; they go out and cycle and they create offense,” said Bertoli.

“Those guys aren’t goal scorers. Blackburn can find the back of the net if he finds opportunities. Cody and Johnny are relentless on the puck. They are fast, they protect the puck. They are very effective. They go out on a power play, they control, they create offense. So to see that line get rewarded it is very fitting.”

Bertoli was happy to see Conrad Denise get rewarded with two goals in the win over Rye.

“Conrad played a good game; I would argue that he is another kid who is not a natural goal scorer,” said Bertoli.

“He is not like the Coltons [Ross and Rob]; he is not like [Sean] Timmons. He doesn’t get pucks on his stick and find the back of the net. There is definitely some indecision going on when he shoots pucks. He doesn’t have the confidence that those guys do. So for him to get two goals tonight is great.”

The Panthers kept up their great play in the championship game against Shady Side as they jumped out to a 5-1 lead and cruised to victory.

“When our team is skating and competing, we just sustain so much pressure in the offensive zone that we really give them no time to breathe and decompress,” said Bertoli, who got two goals from Ross Colton in that win with Rob Colton, Kyle Weller, and Connor Bitterman also finding the back of the net in addition to Egner. “We just kept coming and coming.”

PDS came into the weekend with some extra motivation, looking to come through for Rulon-Miller as it sought to win its second straight title at the annual invitational which is in its 43rd year.

“It is a proud program; we have done well the last few years,” said Bertoli, whose team will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Bishop Eustace on December 13 before heading to Massachusetts this weekend for the Barber Tournament at the Middlesex School.

“I think it is important to the guys in this locker room. It is important to me and my coaching staff that we represent the school and represent Harry now that the tournament is named after him the right way. I never saw Harry play but I know the type of gentleman he is and I know what PDS hockey means to him. It is important to me that these kids come out and played and battled, not only for themselves but for their teammates and for the coaching staff, the school, and Harry. That means a lot to us, it means a lot to Harry.”

In Egner’s view, PDS has what it takes to win some more crowns this winter. “I definitely think this team can do special things,” said Egner.

“We have got a great group of guys; we are all best friends. Everyone  works hard together at practices. We stay focused. We always have a good time. I think if we continue to do what coach is telling us to do and we continue to work hard every game, we can really go places with this team.”

COLE FIRED: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Zeeza Cole heads up the ice last Saturday as PDS faced Summit in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational. Senior forward Cole scored two goals as PDS topped Summit 4-0. A day later, the Panthers couldn’t get their offense going as they fell 5-1 to Rye Country Day School (N.Y.) in the tournament’s championship game. PDS, now 2-1, heads to Maryland this weekend for two games against Holton Arms (Md.) and one against Shady Side Academy (Pa.) (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After a season-opening win over Pingry earlier in the week and then blanking Summit 4-0 on Saturday in the opening round of its Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team was primed for its clash against Rye Country Day in the tourney’s title game.

The Panthers jumped off to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by junior star defenseman Robin Linzmayer on Sunday morning at McGraw Rink.

But then the Panthers suffered their first lapse of the season, yielding two straight goals over the rest of the first period and three more unanswered tallies in the second to fall behind 5-1.

While PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook was happy to see her team get on the board first, she acknowledged that the Panthers didn’t build on the early salvo.

“That was definitely a positive, jumping out and getting the early lead,” said Cook.

“It is just we ended up giving up a goal very soon after that and that is deflating. That is why you always tell them, try not to ride your emotions too much. You want to stay pretty even keeled. I think Rye just did a better job of moving the puck around and cycling it in the corners and getting people in front. We just weren’t picking up.

Although PDS ended up losing by that 5-1 margin, Cook saw some positives in the third period.

“I was definitely happy with the third; we just talked to them about being more responsible defensively and making sure that we are picking up in front of the net,” said Cook.

“We had more shots in the third, we pretty much doubled our shot total for the game in the third period.”

Cook likes the way senior tri-captain and star forward Zeeza Cole has been shooting in the early going.

“Zeeza is stepping up; she is shooting to score a lot,” said Cook of Cole, who scored two goals in each of PDS’s first two games.

“She is sparking the offense. She is doing a really good job playing with Emma Stillwaggon and getting her involved. You are going to see continued improvement from that line with Lexie [Fairman] as Zeeza gets them more involved in the production too.”

PDS needs defenseman Linzmayer to keep up her production at both ends of the ice. “Robin has been solid for us on defense,” said Cook.

“The biggest thing is going to keep her producing for us because we need her offense as well. We have forwards who know how she is and are ready to stay back when they need to and cover for her. They need to be able to recognize when is a good time to go and be more of a threat.”

In Cook’s view, the team needs to improve on recognizing key situations as they develop.

“I think they work hard but they just need to have more confidence in where they need to be and be able to make plays,” asserted Cook.

“Everybody on the team has to be able to step up and win battles, be aggressive, pass with purpose, all these little things. They just need to be smarter.  We have a lot of work to do as far as teaching more responsibility when they are out there.”

With PDS heading to Maryland this weekend for two games against Holton Arms (Md.) and one against Shady Side Academy (Pa.), Cook believes the Panthers will have ample opportunity to sharpen up.

“We are getting there and I am looking forward to this week,” said Cook. “I am very happy to have that trip in the beginning of the season this year, especially with a lot of new players getting them more comfortable with each other on and off the ice.  It will be good.”

ON POINT: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball star ­Lauren Johnson heads to the hoop in a game last season. Last Wednesday, senior point guard Johnson displayed her versatility, scoring 11 points with five assists and eight steals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day School 40-12 in its season opener. Two days later, Johnson scored 15 points to help the Panthers top the George School (Pa.) 36-25. In upcoming action, PDS hosts the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, plays at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then hosts Rutgers Prep on December 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Lauren Johnson is looking to show her versatility as she takes over as the point guard for the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.

“I don’t want to be that point guard who just scores; I want to be able to do a little bit of everything,” said senior guard Johnson, who has been mainly a shooting guard for PDS over the last three seasons.

“Last year, I had one or two games that were good games like that. This season I want to have a good game every night so I am really going to try to work on my weaknesses.”

Last Wednesday as PDS hosted Stuart Country Day in its season opener, Johnson displayed her all-around game, scoring 11 points and chipping in five assists and eight steals as the Panthers rolled to a 40-12 victory.

In reflecting on the win, Johnson liked the way the Panthers got into an offensive rhythm.

“I was happy with the way we played,” said Johnson. “At times, we let an opponent dictate how fast we go and I think we were able to figure out our own pace and what worked for us.”

PDS showed some good inside-out work as Johnson got freshman forwards Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew involved in the offense.

“It is great knowing that I have more than one person who is 5’10,” said Johnson. “It is reassuring that we don’t have to rely on the outside shot as much.”

The team’s height also helped defensively. “I was very impressed with the way we played defense,” said Johnson.

“The post players knew where to go. In practice, we try to make sure that everyone knows how to play certain positions and I think this game showed that all the new players and the returning players are really good at picking up new things.”

PDS head coach Mika Ryan liked the way her team defended in the opener.

“What I was really happy about is that you saw the fruits of our preseason labor because we were resolute in not glossing over defensive fundamentals,” said Ryan.

“We messed up a few times but for the most part I thought we were really solid. The best part is that we stayed out of foul trouble. I thought our positioning was good. I thought we could have fouled at times but we took that extra half step.”

Ryan liked the extra effort she got from Johnson. “Defensively and rebounding, she is tops,” asserted Ryan. “I would not play against her, she is just really a bother.”

Senior guard Levy also showed some top form. “Hannah had a very nice game; we are trying to get her to become more of an offensive threat,” added Ryan of Levy, who chipped in eight points in the victory over Stuart.

“I was happy to see her step up and shoot a little more. She has never been asked to do that much scoring for us but she needs to this year. She is just such a great kid to coach; she will do anything. I had her play in the post for a little bit in the second half, I said can you do that, I want to look at something and she said of course.”

Ryan got some good work in the post from the freshmen tandem of Van Liew and Okorodudu.

“We do have some size this year and our two freshmen, Van Liew and Okorodudu played well,” said Ryan.

“It is just nice to be able to go back to an inside-out kind of game. Last year, we were an outside all the time kind of team. We basically just had guards. I have always believed that the game is won in the post and the play in the pivot and we have players now who can help us inside.”

For Ryan, the performance against Stuart was encouraging on several levels.

“It was a good start; I am pleasantly pleased,” said Ryan, whose team built on its good opener by beating the George School (Pa.) 36-25 on Friday with Johnson scoring a game-high 15 points.

“I had no idea what to expect, they competed, they played hard. We didn’t stop playing hard, I told them not to look at the scoreboard. I don’t care what the score is, win or lose, we are trying to get better and I thought they competed the whole four quarters.”

Johnson, for her part, knows that the Panthers can play much better. “I think it was a good first game, we can definitely improve,” said Johnson, who will look to keep the Panthers on the winning track as they host the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, play at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then host Rutgers Prep on December 17.

“I’d say rebounding and boxing out is our big thing. As a team, we have to work on our pace. We do get worked up. We play the boys and we are getting better at calming ourselves down but we still get worked up at times.”

December 5, 2012

KNIGHT MOVE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Lauren Polansky wards off a Rutgers defender last Thursday. Senior point guard Polansky contributed game-highs in rebounds (9), assists (7), and steals (3) to help Princeton win 71-55 and snap a 14-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights. The Tigers, now 5-2, host Hofstra on December 5 before playing at Delaware on December 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Polansky knew what she was getting into as the Princeton University women’s basketball team prepared to play Rutgers while Kristen Helmstetter had no idea that she was destined to emerge as a star of the contest.

For senior point guard Polansky, facing Rutgers meant dealing with its trademark stifling, in-your-face defense.

“Rutgers has a great press; that is how they get going in their offense; getting things going fast with tons of turnovers,” said Polansky.

“That’s what ignites them; we knew that going in. We have been working on playing five versus six in practice so I think that really helped us. Personally, I knew that I would have the ball in my hands and as a point guard, I would be taking the brunt of that pressure.”

Helmstetter, a junior forward who had zero career starts coming into the clash last Thursday night, was thrust into the limelight in the wake of an injury to classmate Nicole Hung.

“I found out late last night that I was getting the start,” said Helmstetter. “It was unfortunate that Nicole got hurt but we got together as a team and really wanted to get this win for her and the whole team in general.”

Princeton made it clear from the opening tip-off at Jadwin Gym that it was intent on winning and breaking its 14-game losing streak in the battle of local rivals. The Tigers raced out to a 30-11 lead, putting the proud Scarlet Knights on their heels.

The 6’0 Helmstetter played a key role in the early surge, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds in the first half.

“Today was my day,” said Helmstetter, reflecting on an evening which saw the Tigers unveil the banner for winning the Ivy League crown last year, the third straight for the program.

“Everyone has their on days and their off days and we just have to work as a team and capitalize on who is on that day.”

In the second half, the Scarlet Knights turned up the pressure, cutting a 25-point lead to 12 but it wasn’t enough as Princeton posted a 71-55 triumph before a crowd of 1,036.

Polansky acknowledged that the Tigers had to weather a storm in the second half.

“Good teams are going to go on runs, they are not going to lay down and die,” said Polansky, who scored only one point but ended the evening with game-highs in rebounds (9), assists (7), and steals (3).

“After the first half, we knew they were going to make adjustments and we had to adjust to that. When they went on their run, luckily we were able to stop them and go on a run of our own.”

It was sweet for the Tigers to break their losing streak in the series. “It is a long-standing rivalry for us,” said the 5’8 Polansky, a native of Mill Valley, Calif. who is the two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.

“Having them in our home gym with a good crowd with our seniors from last year coming back for the banner unveiling. It was really special for us. I think just all around, it was a great environment for us to play in.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart applauded the great effort she got from her players.

“I thought all night we had more energy than them,” asserted Banghart, who got 17 points from precocious freshman Alex Wheatley in the win with senior star Niveen Rasheed chipping in 15 points and seven rebounds.

“I thought we attacked their pressure versus breaking it before we had the clock on our side and that was huge.”

It was huge for Banghart and Princeton to have Polansky on their side. “LP came out and took care of the ball and set the tone with our offense,” said Banghart.

“She is just as tough as they come. She rebounded for her position. She stuck to the game plan, she held her teammates accountable. If there was a game ball, I would give it to LP.”

Banghart wasn’t surprised that Helmstetter proved that she has game. “Kristen can take care of the ball,” said Banghart.

“She has to play angles well and read the game well and she did both of the things masterfully tonight.”

Although Princeton hasn’t beaten Rutgers since 1976, the Tiger players didn’t get overly emotional in their post-game celebration.

“This is a business as usual group,” said Banghart, who earned the 100th win of her six-season Princeton tenure last Sunday as the Tigers routed UMBC 93-46 to improve to 5-2.

“They know that until January we have to figure out who we are. I hope they enjoy this one. The have a day off tomorrow so maybe they are more excited about that.”

Helmstetter, a former star at Bridgewater-Raritan High, certainly enjoyed playing a key role in beating Rutgers.

“It feels good; I am 10 minutes away from Rutgers so they are a team I have grown up watching,” said Helmstetter.

“It is just great to get that win against them. I know a lot of people on their team as does Kate Miller and Amanda Berntsen (both New Jersey natives). We have grown up with those players and then played against them in high school. It is good to see them and play against them.”

Polansky believes the win is a sign of good things to come for the Tigers, who came into the evening still smarting from a 65-52 loss at No. 19 UCLA on November 25.

“This is a really great win for us, especially after last week,” said Polansky, who will look to keep the Tigers on the winning track as they host Hofstra on December 5 before playing at Delaware on December 9.

“We have a tough preseason schedule which I think is wonderful. It gets us ready for our league and post-season play, if we are lucky. I think that is just a great step forward, proving that we are getting better everyday. It shows that all of our hard work in practice is paying off.”

MUCH BETTER: Princeton University women’s hockey player Olivia Mucha glides up the ice in recent action. On the mend from shoulder surgery that sidelined her much of last season, Mucha broke out last Friday with two goals in a 3-0 win over Union. The Tigers, now 5-7-2 overall and 2-6-2 ECACH, have a two-game set with Quinnipiac (!0-7-2 overall, 6-3-1 ECACH) this weekend, hosting the Bobcats on December 7 before playing them at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. on December 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After leading the Princeton University women’s hockey team in scoring as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, Olivia Mucha’s second college season didn’t go as well.

The 5’5 forward played only 12 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery.

Mucha didn’t get back on the ice until this August as she skated at the Ice Line rink in her hometown of West Chester, Pa.

“I got to train with a lot of college age and junior boys at home so the physicality wasn’t much of a problem and being comfortable with my shoulder from my surgery,” said Mucha.

But Mucha suffered a setback once she arrived at Princeton for her junior year.

“I had a strep throat starting from the first day I got back and I had to get my tonsil and adenoids taken out,” said Mucha.

Coming into last Friday night’s game against visiting Union, Mucha was struggling to find her form, having scored two goals as she played in seven of Princeton’s first 12 games.

Over a 15-minute span in the second and third periods, Mucha started clicking, scoring two goals as Princeton skated to a 3-0 win.

With the Tigers knotted in a scoreless tie entering the second period, Mucha could feel the team pick things up.

“I think we honestly fed off each other’s energy, whether it is the line or the other teammates,” said Mucha, recalling a period which saw the Tigers score two goals to seize control of the contest.

“The defensemen were stepping up and getting the puck up. That is exciting for the forwards because we get to do our job, opening up things and it all started from there.”

It was exciting for Mucha to notch her first goal, a power play tally which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead with 5:38 left in the period.

“I just remember that we were able to establish our power play,” said Mucha.

“We saw if we shot the puck and moved it quick, they were off angle. Gaby [Figueroa] was looking to the left and seeing it closed and then shooting it to get an opportunity, I just tried to screen the goalie.”

On her second goal, which came 8:49 into the final period, Mucha used her trademark grit.

“It was just Gaby getting a strong, hard shot on net,” said Mucha. “I don’t remember too much, I just remember it hitting my stick. Mostly, it was a scramble.”

For Mucha, her performance and the team’s solid win were heartening. “It was definitely a good step,” asserted Mucha.

“I think it has been tough for our team to establish what type of team we are from our graduation loss and mixing around players with some injuries. It has been an amazing feeling that our team, even so small, can be so dynamic.”

Having missed so much time due to injury, Mucha has dedicated herself to do whatever she can for the team whenever she is on the ice.

“No matter how great shape you are in, you are going to get tired, you are going to get frustrated,” said Mucha.

“I think everyone on the team hits that stage. Having these injuries, I know how much I get jealous when I watch. Even if I can’t get a goal, I am going to go out there and try to get the puck deep, do something smart.”

As Mucha gets up to full speed, she knows the Tigers have her back. “I am close to 100 percent; it’s all relative because it has been a struggle since I have been here,” said Mucha.

“I feel confident. I need to remember that if I am not 100 percent I have a team that will play with me. It doesn’t matter how one individual is.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal acknowledged that his team struggled in the early going on Friday.

“We were definitely sluggish, we still battled but we weren’t really executing well,” said Kampersal.

“We were just a little bit sloppy in catching passes. Then in between the periods, those are the things that we talked about. This is almost like a de facto playoff weekend and we need all the points we can get now because we have more games than a lot of people so we need to accumulate them because people will catch up with us when we are in exams in January.”

Kampersal was glad to see Mucha accumulate some points in the win over Union.

“Mucha is still banged up,” said Kampersal. “She is just a heart and soul kid. Her freshman year, she was one of our top scorers and her sophomore year she was our top scorer for most of our season after only playing 12 games. She can provide the offense for us.”

The team’s three seniors, Kelly Cooke, Corey Stearns, and Alex Kinney, have been providing a spark for the Tigers.

“They stepped up, the seniors have been doing a good job all year, no question,” said Kampersal, who got three goals from Cooke and three assists from Stearns on Saturday in a losing cause as Princeton fell 4-3 to Rensselaer to move to 5-7-2 overall and 2-6-2 in ECAC Hockey play. “Cookie gets the first goal tonight; she has had a phenomenal year.”

Princeton got one of its best defensive efforts of the year in the win over Union as freshman goalie Kimberly Newell earned her first college shutout with 19 saves and defenseman Figueroa and Alleva each got two assists in addition to their strong play along the blue line.

“It was awesome; I thought Bri Mahoney was unreal, just in control,” said Kampersal.

“All of them were really good. Once again, if those four or five kids control it, we are in good shape.”

Although Princeton stubbed its toe against Renssalear, Kampersal believes his team is in a good place.

“I thought starting with the Clarkson game, it feels right on the bench, it feels right on the shift changes and it’s a good brand of hockey,” said Kampersal, whose team has a two-game set with Quinnipiac this weekend, hosting the Bobcats on December 7 before playing them at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. on December 8.

“Now we are just trying to be a little more disciplined in terms of getting the puck and doing what we have to, controlling the blue lines and controlling the neutral zones.”

Mucha, for her part, realizes that the Tigers need a little more discipline. “We are able to communicate amongst each other and between the coaches and the players about what our weaknesses are,” said Mucha.

“It seems that we recognize that not all of us are going to be perfect but we have to realize that we have our weaknesses and work on those and just listen to what the coaches are saying instead of being stubborn.”

PASSING THIS WAY AGAIN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Aidan Passannante greets student fans last Saturday after PHS tied Ramapo 1-1 in the Group III state championship game at The College of New Jersey to earn a share of the title. Senior midfielder Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience as they bookended their careers with state titles, having been part of the Little Tigers’ 2009 championship team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Aidan Passannante and his teammates were crushed when they walked off the field at Toms River North High last fall after losing to Timber Creek in the state Group III semifinals.

When PHS returned to the same pitch last Wednesday night to face Moorestown in this year’s Group III semis, the Little Tigers were determined to leave Toms River with a win.

PHS didn’t waste any time showing their intentions as Kevin Halliday scored 3:27 into the contest and senior midfielder Passannante followed suit 21 seconds later with a goal of his own.

“It was huge; we started off that way in the Allentown game and it helped us get the result in that game,” said Passannante.

“I think we got the goals early and we were keeping possession really well, moving off the ball.”

Passannante acknowledged that classmate Colin Lamb played a huge role in his goal.

“It was a great play by Colin, a great find by him,” recalled Passannante. “I was inside the six so I just poked it in.”

PHS ended up topping Moorestown by that 2-0 margin, warming up the chilly night as they enjoyed a raucous post-game celebration.

Passannante acknowledged that PHS’s quick start made the difference. “It was back and forth after we got the two quick goals,” said Passannante. “They had their fair share of possession throughout the game so I think it was huge.”

The stingy Little Tiger defense, which kept its shape as Moorestown desperately tried to get on the board, was also a huge factor in the win.

“The organization in the back was great,” asserted Passannante. “Pablo [Arroyo] was doing a great job of organizing back there.”

As a result, the PHS had a great feeling as they left Toms River and headed to the state final, the second trip to the final for Passannante, who helped PHS win the 2009 state title as a freshman.

“It feels really good because it was pretty disappointing last year walking off this field,” said Passannante. “I know how they feel so it feels great to be back.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe credited Passannante with producing a great effort.

“I thought Aidan had one of his best games ever tonight,” said Sutcliffe. “Aidan had a great game and if we are going to be successful in these games at this level, he has to have a game like he had tonight.”

On Saturday, Passannante played well as PHS tied defending champion Ramapo 1-1 to end the season as Group III co-champions.

For Passannante, applying what he learned from his first title run helped PHS coming into last Saturday

“We are doing it the same way we prepared in 2009,” said Passannante. “We are just bringing experience, knowing what it is like, warming up each time before a game, being in the locker room before the game, walking out onto the field, being in a pretty big crowd situation so I think that is what we bring.”

Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience on Saturday as they bookended their careers with state titles.

“We have been playing together probably since third of fourth grade,” said Passannante.

“We have been playing together for a long time, great friends on and off the field. It is great that we are doing this together.”

STATE OF GRACE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Kate Kerr goes after the ball in state tournament action. Senior midfielder Kerr helped PHS advance to the state Group III semifinals last Wednesday where the Little Tigers fell 2-0 to Moorestown. The defeat left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1 as it earned the first sectional title in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr acknowledged that the Princeton High girls’ soccer team may have experienced a little stage fright last Wednesday as it faced Moorestown in the state Group III semis.

“I think we were all just a bit nervous, never having been here before” said PHS senior midfielder Kerr.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We never played or heard about Moorestown. I guess we were kind of on our heels in the first half but we did everything we could.”

With Moorestown coming  out of the gate at full speed, PHS found itself trailing 2-0 heading into halftime.

The Little Tigers used the break for some soul-searching. “We just knew that we had to pick it up in the second half because we weren’t playing our game in the first half,” said Kerr.

PHS did pick up the tempo in the second half, producing some spirited play at its offensive end of the field. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, Kerr, Ally Rogers, and Shannon Pawlak each generated scoring chances. But the Little Tigers were unable to find the back of the net and ended up losing by the 2-0 margin.

In reflecting on the loss which left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1, Kerr felt that the Little Tigers just ran out of time. “If we had 10 more minutes, maybe we could have been able to finish because we were making some really great runs,” said Kerr.

Still, it was a great run for Kerr and her classmates, Meghan Brennan, Vanessa Guzman, Madison Luther, and Lauren Ullmann.

“I think the seniors on the team took it all very seriously and we all took it to heart,” asserted Kerr.

“We all realized how important and how much it affected us and we were all in this together. We were all supporting each other because we knew that we are all on the same page on this.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was on the same page as Kerr in assessing his team’s valiant effort in defeat.

“We played an excellent team tonight; I think we had to work our way into that game and it took us at least 40 minutes to get there,” lamented Hand.

“By the time we came out in the second half and having agreed pretty much that the ingredient that was missing is exactly that ingredient we brought in the second half which is a commitment to win the play. We played them even, we had as good as they did throughout the second half.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s progress throughout the contest served as a microcosm of a season that saw PHS get off to a pedestrian 2-2 start before gathering steam and winning the first sectional title in program history.

“There has been an enormous learning curve, we have gotten better and better” said Hand, who is in his 22nd season at the helm of the program.

“Tonight’s second half is the best we have played all year, no doubt. The Notre Dame game [a 5-1 win on October 16] was perhaps our best one in the regular season. The Pennington game [0-0 stalemate in the Mercer County Tournament semis won by the Red Raiders on penalty kicks] was terrific. To get here, we had to get through a challenging tournament schedule. Our second half tonight was the best soccer we have played. And the fact that this team was very new, essentially reconstituted from last year’s team, and could learn so much about how to play the game on all levels, from individual through the whole team is a real exciting thing and a great accomplishment.”

The team’s corps of seniors played a major role in that process. “It is just a terrific group,” asserted Hand.

“Count everybody from the two seniors who stuck with us after being sidelined by ACLs [Ciara Celestin and Ellee de Baun] all the way through the kids like Madison Luther in the back who played 80 minutes in virtually all of our tournament games this year who last year was hardly getting any minutes at all and to those real money players who had terrific senior seasons, Kate, Meghan, and Lauren. It is just terrific leadership and real inspiration from them in terms of their passion for the game and their caring about the team.”

With such younger players as Haley Bodden, Kaitlyn Carduner, Gabby Deitch, Taylor Lis, Emily Pawlak, Shannon Pawlak, Jordan Provorny, Eva Reyes, and Ally Rogers slated to return, the future looks bright for the Little Tigers.

“One of the messages tonight was you can’t talk about how we are going to be next year unless you earn the right to talk about it,” said Hand.

“If you look at tonight’s game as a whole with two halves, one where we had problems that we weren’t solving really well to the second half where we came out and really did something significant, they earned the right to talk about what they might be able to do next year.”

Kerr, for her part, enjoyed being the talk of the school over the last few weeks.

“We are very proud of ourselves; everyone has been so supportive at school,” said Kerr, who plans to continue her soccer career at Franklin and Marshall.

“Everyone in the hallways is telling us congratulations. We are all proud of ourselves, no one expected us to get this far.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed races up the court in action last winter. The star senior guard, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career, is primed for a big final campaign. The Panthers were slated to start their season at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team was disappointed when it fell to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B title game this past February, that defeat could be a blessing in disguise as the squad heads into this winter.

“The Prep B is wide open and we are better from having been to the final last year,” said PDS co-head coach Paris McLean, who is in his sixth year guiding the program. “We learned a lot from that.”

As PDS started its season with a game at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11, the postseason is not on the team’s radar.

“I think it is going to be business as usual,” said McLean, who coached the Panthers to a 16-11 record in 2011-12.

“We are going to focus on one practice at a time and one game at a time. We can’t be looking at the big picture. If we do the right things and take it step by step, we could make it back to the Prep B title game.”

Senior guard Davon Reed has been doing the right things over his four-year career, gaining national attention on the way to committing to the University of Miami men’s hoops program.

“Every year has been a breakout year for him; he has improved from year to year and I expect no different this year,” said McLean of Reed, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.

“He has some milestones on the horizon but he is still the same team player. He is much heavier, he is 6’6, 205. His defense is absolutely fantastic now, he has become a lock-down defender. He will be required to play in the post some of the time and he is finishing closer to the basket.”

Reed’s increased inside presence exemplifies the metamorphosis of his game.

“You have seen him go from skinny slasher as a freshman to shooter to scorer and now he is the complete package,” said McLean.

“He can play all five positions. He is a guard. The way basketball is now so up and down, you can have 6’10 guys on the wing.”

The Panthers feature two other top guards in juniors Deante Cole and Langston Glaude.

“Deante and Langston complement each other; they are familiar with each other and they are older, more seasoned players now,” said McLean, noting that 6’5 junior newcomer Chris Okorodudu should add perimeter scoring and that Tom Martino, Dan Jugo, Zack Banks and Josiah Meekins will provide further backcourt depth. “They were young pups before. They are taking leadership roles on the court and with the program.”

PDS will be depending on seniors B.J. Dudeck and Tavante Brittingham to take a lead role in the post.

“I am leaning on B.J. and Tavante to hold down the fort inside, they are both selfless players which is great,” said McLean, who should also get some good work in the paint from junior transfer Dan Lee.

McLean is not hesitating to lean on his coaching staff which includes longtime assistant and former Princeton High standout Darius Young and PDS Director of Athletics Tim Williams, who has taken on a role as the co-head coach.

“Darius did a fantastic job working with the boys on their conditioning in the summer and the fall, physically this team looks different,” said McLean.

“We look the part and we play the part. Coach Williams knows the game and it is good to have another coach on the bench to bounce things off. We run a similar offense and have similar defensive principles. We have wedded ideas, we get along well, and the kids see that.”

PDS will need to execute those principles and ideas as it faces a gauntlet this winter with games against such formidable foes as Hun, Life Center, Robert Faux (Pa.), and Rutgers Prep, in addition to competing in the Hill School Tournament and the Big Apple Classic.

“I think this team can be as good as it wants to be,” maintained McLean. “If they are willing to put in the time and effort and focus on detail, the sky is the limit. We play 26 games. It is a challenging schedule but the boys are up for it.”

In McLean’s view, his boys possess a special chemistry that will help them deal with the challenges ahead.

“The kids really enjoy being with each other,” added McLean. “It is a nice culture. We like to say that PDS basketball is a lifestyle. It is about being good people on and off the court and having some fun. If some wins come along the way, that is great.”

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton Day School star goalie Daisy Mase guards the crease in action last winter. PDS is looking for senior star and three-year starter Mase to build on her excellent season last winter which saw her record a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916. The Panthers were slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting their annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational ’51 at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last four seasons, Megan Ofner served as the go-to player for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

The skilled forward scored 124 points over her stellar career, including 32 points last season on 19 goals and 13 assists as she helped PDS go 10-7 and win the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) ‘B’ title.

With Ofner now at Sacred Heart and playing for its Division I women’s hockey program, the Panthers are left figuring out how to pick up the slack offensively without their star.

In the view of second-year PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook, it will take more than one player to replace Ofner’s output and she is relying on production from senior tri-captain Zeeza Cole (17 points on 11 goals and six assists last season) and juniors Mimi Matthews (13 points on five goals and eight assists) and Mary Travers, who was sidelined due to injury last year.

“I am looking for a collective effort,” said Cook, whose team was slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting its annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.

“I have been happy with Zeeza, Mary, and Mimi. They are picking up where they left off last year. They are getting shots on the net with intention and they are hitting corners in practice. They just need to work on delivering in games.”

The Panthers boast some depth at forward with junior Lexie Fairman, sophomores Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen, and freshman Emma  Stillwaggon.

“Lexie improved a lot last year; she seems comfortable and excited about this year,” said Cook.

“She needs to build up her confidence early. Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen bring energy and enthusiasm. They enjoy being part of the team and work as hard as they can. We need to give them specific roles and have them deliver. Emma as a freshman goes as hard as she can, I am trying to work with her on conserving energy but I love the enthusiasm.”

Cook loves watching junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer (16 points in 2012-13) in action around the blue line.

“Robin stands out every time she is on the ice; she takes control of the game,” asserted Cook of Linzmayer, an All-WIHLMA honorable mention choice last winter.

“She needs to be confident in her decision-making and provide offense when it makes sense. She has to help us with our production.”

PDS will need production for its two other veteran defensemen, junior Colby Triolo and senior tri-captain Louise Hutter.

“Colby works harder than anybody, on and off the ice,” said Cook. “She is fun to coach and I was really happy with the way she improved last year. Louise is getting more confident with the puck. She will take her chances but she is smart. I have been really happy with her leadership. She is more vocal and has been eager to take charge.”

Senior star goalie and tri-captain Daisy Mase has taken charge since she arrived at PDS as a sophomore, starting from day one.

“Daisy gives us the confidence we need going into every game,” said Cook of the star netminder who had a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916 in earning All-WIHLMA second-team honors.

“She is going to steal some games for us and there will be other games hopefully that we won’t need to steal. There will be close games and she will keep us close. She is one of the top goalies in the state. She is really competitive which is a great quality for a goalie because it means she never gives up.”

Sophomore back-up goalie Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] is giving the team value.

“A lot of the girls have commented on how much better Katie has gotten since last year,” said Cook.

“She is very knowledgeable about what she has to do. She has grown three inches and being bigger and taller has helped her.”

Cook is confident that the Panthers can make big strides this winter. “I am really excited about how much they are going to improve,” said Cook.

“In terms of fundamentals, I have seen a big improvement already from where we were on the first day of practice. I think the fact that we have more skaters is good. We have more depth and the girls have to work hard to get playing time.

A major key to success for PDS this winter will center on generating offense.

“We need to be patient with the puck to see what is open on the ice and we need to work on getting the puck deep,” said Cook.

“We need to work away from the puck. It starts with effort and the right kind of effort.”

In Cook’s view, her players are ready to make that kind of effort. “The girls are smart and driven,” said Cook, noting that new assistant coach Brie Zdunkiewicz has added passion and defensive expertise to the program. “They are a very coachable group. It is a matter of building confidence.”

MOORE TO COME: Hun School boys’ basketball senior guard Hashim Moore drives up the court last Sunday in Hun’s 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.). The Princeton-bound Moore scored a team-high 13 points in the win which improved the Raiders to 2-0. Hun plays at Blair on December 5 before competing in the Peddie Tournament from December 7-9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jon Stone had a good feeling about his Hun School boys’ basketball team as it went through its preseason paces.

“I am excited about working with these guys, it’s a good group,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone. “I have felt that way all along.”

Stone’s feelings proved justified as the Raiders opened the season in style last weekend as they hosted the MAPL-Friends Challenge.

On Saturday, Hun topped the Shipley School (Pa.) 89-62 and then posted a 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.) on Sunday afternoon.

“I think I learned what I thought which was that our chemistry is good and we are willing to go out there and compete,” said Stone in assessing the two wins.

“I think their ability to work together on the court as well as off the court is what showed this weekend and that is always great.”

In the win over Friends Central, Hun produced a great start, leading 15-8 after the first quarter and 33-19 at halftime.

“I think we got some confidence last night; we are playing together well early on and sharing the ball.

“We have a variety of offensive weapons as well as defensive weapons. I think it helped us get off to a good start today.

The Raiders finished strong as well, holding off a late Friends Central run which saw the visitors narrow the gap to 47-37 entering the fourth period.

“It is always good to be in games like that,” said Stone, who got 13 points in the win from Hashim Moore with Grant MacKay scoring 12 and Fergus Duke chipping in 11.

“Friends Central is a very dangerous team, they can shoot the ball and any time you play a team like that, they are never out of it. They can always come back and get back into it. From that end I was proud. I thought some of our execution was very good in the fourth quarter and I thought some of us needed work. That is part of where we are in the season.”

Stone liked the work he got over the weekend from his star senior guards Duke and Princeton-bound Moore.

“They are both great players and give us so much in so many different ways,” said Stone.

Hun is blessed with depth in the backcourt as Jason Geter and Michael Bourke also played well in the team’s first two outings.

“We have so many other guys who can do different things,” said Stone.

“Geter is steady as they go. Bourke is only going to get a lot better.”

In Stone’s view, his frontcourt figures to get better and better as well. “You didn’t see Josh McGilvray’s best today; he is going to be pretty good,” said Stone.

“Jake Newman didn’t show all he can do today but he certainly did yesterday. Grant MacKay is very steady as well. David Li has been giving us that spark off the bench too. They just do a lot of good things.”

Hun has the ability to do a lot of different things on the court. “We can go big, we can go small,” asserted Stone.

“We can shoot, we have guys that can drive and we have guys that can post. We really have some nice pieces; I am excited about this team.”

Stone is excited about the challenges Hun will face over the next part of the season.

“We are going to have a really tough week; we have Blair at Blair (on December 5) and then we have three straight games in the Peddie event (from December 7-9),” said Stone.

“We are guaranteed to play St. Benedict’s, then Princeton Day Academy (Md.), and then Westtown (Pa.), which are all going to be tough games. We don’t have any breaks in our schedule. I think the key for us is being focused and continuing to get better. It is early so we have a lot of room for improvement.”

NEW LOOK: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nneka Onukwugha looks for a shot in action last winter. With new coach Dana Leary taking the helm, sophomore forward Onukwugha and the Tartans are excited for a fresh start after going 0-15 last winter. Stuart is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing her high school basketball for Immaculata in Somerville and then going on to a superb career at Caldwell College, Dana Leary wasn’t familiar with the Stuart Country Day School.

But it didn’t take long for Leary to feel comfortable with Stuart after interviewing last spring for its vacant head basketball coaching position.

“I had never heard of Stuart when I learned they were looking for a coach,” said Leary, who served as an assistant coach at her alma mater for three years and has been coaching AAU hoops for the last seven years.

“I went in and met with Kim [Stuart athletic director Kim Ciarrocca]. I felt a connection with her and I loved the school. She was very enthusiastic about turning the athletic program around and I felt she was someone I would like to work for as a coach.”

Getting the nod to replace Tony Bowman, Leary faces a turnaround project as she takes the helm of a program that suffered through a 0-15 campaign last winter.

Leary, a 2008 Caldwell grad who scored 1,049 points and was a three-time member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) All-Academic team during her college career, promises to be a breath of fresh air for the Tartans.

“I made it clear to the girls that this is a brand new year,” said Leary, whose team is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5.

“Last year is over, we have to rebuild and create a positive environment and experience for the girls.”

In creating that atmosphere, Leary is focusing on basics. “I want this to be a season of growth for the girls; I want them to really learn the game,” said Leary.

“Each day is a chance to get better and each day is an opportunity to grow as a team. I want them striving for their personal best and work to the best of their abilities because that will help the team.”

In Leary’s view, she has some players with ability in the frontcourt in senior Summer Ramsay-Burrough, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and the Walsh sisters, junior Maggie and freshman Kate.

“Summer has a good sense of the game that comes with playing experience,” said Leary.

“She understands the game. She is a leader and will be a captain. Nneka is only a sophomore and is doing a great job becoming stronger and being more aggressive around the basket. Maggie Walsh and Kate Walsh will also see time in the frontcourt. They are both big, strong post players. Maggie played well around the basket in our first scrimmage. Kate is only a freshman and we are working on her footwork. We want her to be more aggressive offensively.”

The Tartans have some offensive threats around the perimeter in freshman Pam McGowen, senior Simrit Gill, and sophomore Harlyn Bell.

“Right now, we have a freshman, Pam McGowen, running the point; she played in the middle school and is very eager to develop as a point guard,” said Leary.

“She has leadership skills and the confidence to handle the ball. She understands her role. Simrit Gill is looking good, she understands the game. She has a nice outside shot but she is not afraid to go to the basket. Harlyn Bell will be in the other guard position. She has a nice outside shot but will also look to go to the basket.”

As the Tartans gird for their first taste of regular season action, Leary isn’t worried about wins and losses.

“Our main goal right now is to get them to develop the fundamentals and understand the game of basketball,” said Leary, who is being assisted by Danielle Fraider.

“We are focusing on defense. Playing defense doesn’t require a lot of talent, just hard work and desire and that is what we are trying to get out of the girls.”

Leary likes the work ethic she has already seen from her team. “This group works so hard,” asserted Leary.

“They are so coachable and eager to learn. They ask the right questions. As a coach, it is so rewarding to see that.”

It didn’t look like Chase Ealy was going to be able to help the Princeton High boys’ soccer team last week as it pursued the Group III state title.

The sophomore midfielder’s temperature spiked to 104 as he was hit with a viral illness and woke up in the hospital on Wednesday, the day PHS was facing Moorestown in the Group III state semis.

Ealy did get released and was a spectator that evening as PHS topped Moorestown 2-0 to earn its first trip to the state championship game since winning the title in 2009.

On Saturday afternoon, Ealy was in uniform as PHS took on defending state champion and undefeated Ramapo in the championship game at The College of New Jersey.

Looking pale and wan as he warmed up, Ealy was hoping to come off the bench. “I came into the game with the expectation of playing as much as coach would play me,” said Ealy.

“I couldn’t handle as much as I normally could but I was going to give it my all. I just did what I could. I couldn’t run as much as I usually do.”

With PHS trailing Ramapo 1-0 early in the second half, Ealy was subbed into the game and made an immediate impact. Using his speed and guile, Ealy corralled several balls in the offensive end for PHS.

Then with just under 18 minutes left in the half, Ealy danced the ball around a Ramapo defender and launched a cross that Scott Bechler headed home to knot the game at 1-1.

“I knew that I had boys in the box that I can always look for,” recalled Ealy. “As long as I toss up an accurate ball, I know I will have someone on the post and they were there for me.”

At the other end of the cross, senior defender Bechler finally converted on a move he has been trying for a while.

“All year I have been crashing back post hoping that one is going to slip through and finally it did,” said Bechler.

The Little Tigers kept up the heat after the tally, generating several chances, including a rocket by Bechler that was just fisted over the crossbar by Ramapo goalie Will Shiel, as the game escalated into a pulsating hand-to-hand battle with the Raiders hanging on for dear life as PHS threw everything it could at them.

The combatants ended up knotted at 1-1 after regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime with the teams being crowned as co-champions under NJSIAA rules.

While Bechler and his teammates desperately wanted the title for themselves, they were proud of their achievement as they ended the season at 18-3-1.

“No one likes to share;” Zach [Halliday] said before overtime, “I never liked sharing since I was a kid and I am not about to start sharing now,” said Bechler with a laugh.

“Looking back on it, we are kind of sorry right now because we thought we could have won it. I guess they could have won it too so sharing is alright.”

Early on it looked like Ramapo was going to make it two straight titles as it took a 1-0 lead with 23:09 left in the first half, displaying some imperious form in the process.

Even though PHS trailed 1-0 at intermission, the team was confident it could pull out the title.

“I think we were really confident coming off halftime,” said Ealy. “We have come back from being down before. We know if we get our heads in it, we can win every game. After working all season, we really weren’t going to let this game go.”

Ealy provided some sparkling work once he was inserted into the contest. “I just knew I could really help the guys,” said Ealy.

“I love to push the ball forward and that’s what we strive to do on attack. I came in and I just tried to morally pick everybody up as much as I could. They were already there, physically and mentally.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe thought his team gave its all, mentally and physically.

“It was two good teams, I thought we really had the better in terms of possession, a higher percentage of possession, and certainly a lot more quality chances during the run of play,” said Sutcliffe, whose team outshot Ramapo 17-4 on the day.

“Ramapo had one goal off of a restart, I think most of their top chances came from restarts. I just thought that our urgency and our experience and our quality just came through in the second half.”

Sutcliffe lauded the special urgency that Ealy displayed as he made the most of his limited minutes.

“He was in the hospital for three days and he found a way to recover,” said Sut-cliffe.

“He was with us at the state semifinal on Wednesday evening with none of us ever thinking he would be back on this season. He turned up at practice the other day and he felt pretty good. We inserted him into training yesterday, kept a close eye on him, and he was fantastic. So we felt if we can get him on for 10-to-15 minutes, he could make a difference and he did. What a contribution with his commitment and his quality.”

Senior defender Bechler displayed his special qualities all day long. “Throughout the 100 minutes, Scott didn’t make a mistake,” maintained Sutcliffe.

“Certainly to tie the game with a header is fantastic. Just having the  wherewithal to be on the other end of that delivery from Chase and he hit it with such authority. And then he could have won the game with that volley, credit to Ramapo’s keeper for just pulling one out of his pocket.”

Although PHS didn’t win the game, Sutcliffe is happy to have a piece of the title in his pocket.

“My brother’s team Moorestown High had a share in 2000 and in 1997 they won it; it was just a little different but it is still a state championship,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped brother Mike Sutcliffe and his Moorestown side 2-0 in the Group III semis on Wednesday evening to punch its ticket to the title game.

“It is still a state championship and I am so proud of our guys. It has been a really demanding season with the hurricane and the injuries and the postseason. The postseason tournament was very demanding on all of us. I am so proud of them. There are 12 seniors and they gave us everything we had.”

Sutcliffe is not surprised that his players were able to meet those demands.

“First of all, the whole team is basically full-time soccer players,” said Sutcliffe, who has been guiding the PHS program for 17 years.

“It is in their blood, they love it. They are fortunate enough to grow up in a great soccer environment. They are so passionate about the Princeton shirt. These seniors when they were freshmen, they were here and we won it too. With that said, they tried to just make their mark. Beyond that, off the field, they are all very close. I think that goes a long way for them.”

Bechler, who didn’t have a shirt for the title game in 2009 as a freshman,     enjoyed making his way back to the championship summit.

“I am playing with all of my best friends; I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” said Bechler.

“I was on the team as a freshman. I was rostered but I didn’t have a jersey so I was over in the corner playing some juggling with the other kids who weren’t playing. I was wearing Princeton warm-ups. Ever since that year, I was thinking if I was a little bit better I could have had that ring. It has always been about getting one of my own and now I finally have the chance.”

For Ealy, who moved to the area from South Carolina this summer, getting the chance to be part of the PHS team has been special.

“I would tell you that it is the legacy; it is the history in the school and the soccer,” said Ealy, reflecting on the qualities that set the program apart. “You want to represent it and make every last wearer of the shirt proud.”

And by overcoming illness to help PHS earn a title, Ealy certainly did his shirt proud.