September 25, 2013
300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

300 HITTER: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao, center, makes a point during a game last season. Last Saturday, Nicolao earned his 300th win guiding the Tiger men’s program as Princeton topped Johns Hopkins 15-10. Nicolao, who has been overseeing both Princeton water polo teams for 16 seasons, also has 348 wins at the helm of the Tiger women’s program. In upcoming action, the 13th-ranked Princeton men’s squad, now 6-0, heads west for its annual California swing where it will play seven games between September 27-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Luis Nicolao to realize that his Princeton University men’s water polo team might be something special this year.

Hosting its annual Invitational at DeNunzio Pool from September 13-15, Princeton opened the season by edging No. 16 Santa Clara 9-7 and went on to beat Harvard 14-7 and Iona 11-6 to make it a perfect weekend.

“It was a good confidence builder, we had some new faces in the water and you never know what you are going to have before the season starts,” said longtime head coach Nicolao.

“We felt like we had a nice squad and some nice additions and once we got into the games, it was good to see that.”

Nicolao saw some good things last weekend as 13th-ranked Princeton went on the road to start Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Southern Southern Division play and came away with three more victories to improve to 6-0. The Tigers topped Johns Hopkins 15-10 and Navy 12-7 on Saturday and then defeated George Washington 9-5 on Sunday.

“We call it the tour of death,” said Nicolao, referring to the annual swing to the DC-Baltimore area.

“Hopkins and GW have different dimensions with a shallow end. We are just looking to get out of there with wins any way we can.”

The win over Hopkins was special as it marked the 300th win for Nicolao at the helm of the Tiger men’s program.

“It means I have been here a long time and I am getting up in age,” joked Nicolao, who also coaches the Tiger women’s team and has guided that program to a 348-128 mark as he enters his 16th year at Princeton.

“It’s nice. It is a combination of being here a while and having a lot of good players.”

Nicolao was proud of the way his team took care of business as it started league play.

“I thought we controlled the tempo in all three games,” said Nicolao. “We wanted to shorten the game and milk the shot clock. Regardless of which pool we are in, we want to play good defense. I think we did that except for a couple of quarters.”

The team’s offense showed plenty of balance, triggered by junior star and co-captain Drew Hoffenberg, who has 17 goals and 11 assists so far this season.

“We have multiple guys who can score,” said Nicolao, who is getting good production out of sophomore Thomas Nelson, junior Kayj Shannon, freshman Jovan Jeremic, sophomore Jamie Kuprenas, and senior Kurt Buchbinder.

“If one guy is off, another steps up. Drew is so smart and is such an all-around player. He is enjoying our depth, it takes pressure off of him.”

The defense is sparked by the goalie tandem of senior Ben Dearborn and sophomore Alex Gow.

“Ben is back and healthy,” said Nicolao. “We believe we have two ‘A’ goalies. I have complete confidence in both of them and we will go with the guy who has the hot hand. If we are going to go far, it is with defense. I have been really impressed by our defense, we have played really good defense this season.”

The team’s cohesiveness in and out of the water has also impressed Nicolao.

“I think right now, I am happiest about the chemistry,” said Nicolao. “We have a great group of guys and we are excited about what could happen this season.”

Princeton has an exciting week ahead as it heads west on its annual California swing. On September 27, Princeton plays at Chapman and Long Beach State. A day later, the Tigers are at La Verne, Southern Cal, and UCLA. Princeton wraps up the trip on September 29 when they play at Claremont, McKenna, and Whittier.

“We always look forward to that trip,” said Nicolao. “We are playing high-level teams, we are facing the No. 1 (Southern Cal) and 2 (UCLA) teams next weekend so I don’t think we will be undefeated on Monday. We will just concentrate on our own game, playing our 5-man and 6-man offense. We try to get in as many games as we can.”

KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player John Blair boots the ball in last year’s Group III state championship game which saw PHS tie Ramapo 1-1 for the title. This fall, senior midfielder and co-captain Blair has emerged as a top offensive threat for the Little Tigers, tallying three goals and a team-high five assists as PHS has produced a 3-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Hamilton on September 26, play at Harrison on September 28, and then host Steinert on October 1.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player John Blair boots the ball in last year’s Group III state championship game which saw PHS tie Ramapo 1-1 for the title. This fall, senior midfielder and co-captain Blair has emerged as a top offensive threat for the Little Tigers, tallying three goals and a team-high five assists as PHS has produced a 3-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Hamilton on September 26, play at Harrison on September 28, and then host Steinert on October 1. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

John Blair quickly assumed the role of set-up man for Princeton High boys’ soccer team this fall, picking up three assists in the first two games of the season.

But with PHS clinging to a 1-0 lead against visiting Trenton High early in the second half last week, the senior midfielder displayed his finishing skills, getting free on a breakaway and calmly slotting the ball past the Tornado goalie.

“I saw the defender take a big touch; I went out and pressured him,” said Blair, reflecting on his tally in the September 17 contest. “I took a touch by him and just passed it around the goalkeeper.”

Blair’s goal opened the floodgates as the Little Tigers added three unanswered goals in a 12-minute span on the way to a 6-0 win.

“It gave us some motivation,” said Blair in assessing the impact of his tally. “We shut their offense down which really put the pressure on their defense. They lost their mental focus and we took advantage of that.”

For the Little Tigers, the lopsided win represented a major step forward at both ends of the field.

“It was the first clean sheet of the season which is a good thing; it is always our main goal,” said Blair.

“The phrase goes ‘offense wins games, defense wins championships’ so that is a good step in the right direction. For us to score six goals is also great. It is the most goals we have scored in a game so far this year and for there to be six different scorers, that is a good spread.”

While Blair enjoyed finding the back of the net in the victory over Trenton, he focuses on being a playmaker for PHS.

“My main goal is to get it to Kevin Halliday,” said Blair, referring to PHS star striker Halliday, who had 23 goals last year.

“All three of my assists were to Kevin so we are connecting pretty well. If we can continue to do that all season, we will be good.”

Having worked his way up in the PHS pecking order from reserve to key starter, Blair is savoring his final campaign with the program.

“I love being on the field, there is nothing like it, just the rush that I get and being able to play with my teammates is really cool,” said Blair, who certainly enjoyed himself last Thursday, tallying two goals and two assists as PHS routed Robbinsville 7-0 to improve to 3-1.

As a team co-captain along with Halliday, Blair prides himself on maintaining a cool head on the field.

“I try to keep the underclassmen’s heads up; they don’t have the experience that Kevin and I have because there are only three returning starters on the field along with Laurenz [Reimitz] in goal,” said Blair.

“We are really inexperienced so when they make a mistake, a lot of them will put their heads down so my goal is to keep their heads up so that instead of making another mistake they can fix it the next time.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe believes that the win over Trenton shows that his squad is heading in the right direction.

“We are finding our form,” said Sutcliffe. “We are still a long way off but I think we are going to be fine. I am very happy with the game today, getting the first clean sheet in the home opener, it was great.”

Sutcliffe is very happy with the play he is getting from Blair. “John is a playmaker; he is our creative midfielder,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“Credit to him for coming out and really getting a quality goal early in the second half. I think we got some confidence after that second goal.”

Having a skilled finisher like Halliday at striker gives PHS a lot of confidence.

“Kevin is a guy who brings three years of being on the field” said Sutcliffe of Halliday, who scored a goal in the win over Trenton and added two more in the victory over Robbinsville to give him six on the season.

“He is getting in; he is finding his moments. We have just tried to get him up in and around and as close to the goal as we can.”

Junior star Chase Ealy produced a big moment late in the first half of the Trenton game, streaking down the side and blasting in the first goal of the contest.

“Chase on the flank is our priority; we always try to get to spring him from the left flank and get him in where he is most dangerous,” said Sutcliffe. “This all started last year. His first goal was great, he had a great game.”

PHS got a great game from his defense, which features new starters in senior Dalton Sekelsky together with sophomores Dwight Donis and Edgar Morales.

“The emphasis was to stay a little better organized; we found ourselves just chasing too much and being a little disorganized,” said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Hamilton on September 26, plays at Harrison on September 28, and then hosts Steinert on October 1.

“Dalton is a first-year starter but his first three games have been fantastic.

I think with Dwight and Edgar in the center of the park, all credit to them, they played well. It was Laurenz’s first shutout of the year so credit to him too.”

Blair, for his part, believes that defending Group III state  co-champion PHS can be a title contender once again, even with heavy roster turnover.

“We have seven new starting faces, it is a big number,” said Blair. “We definitely have the individual talent, so if we are able to begin to work together as a team as we showed today, we could make it as far as we did last year.”

BREAKING LOOSE: Princeton High field hockey player Lucy ­Herring races up the field in action last season. On Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored the lone goal for PHS as it lost 2-1 to Hopewell Valley. The Little Tigers, who tied Peddie 3-3 on Saturday to move to 2-2-1, play at WW/P-S on September 25 and at Ewing on September 27 before hosting Notre Dame on September 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING LOOSE: Princeton High field hockey player Lucy ­Herring races up the field in action last season. On Wednesday, junior forward Herring scored the lone goal for PHS as it lost 2-1 to Hopewell Valley. The Little Tigers, who tied Peddie 3-3 on Saturday to move to 2-2-1, play at WW/P-S on September 25 and at Ewing on September 27 before hosting Notre Dame on September 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With two years of varsity experience under her belt for the Princeton High field hockey team, Lucy Herring is calmer in the heat of battle.

“I think as a freshman and at the beginning of sophomore year, I was always very frantic with the ball and kind of jumpy whenever I got the ball,” said junior forward Herring.

“This year, I am definitely focusing on knowing my options before I get the ball and really slowing my tempo down in order to make better plays. It is just in the back of my mind now so I am always thinking about it.”

With PHS trailing Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Wednesday, Herring’s new coolness paid dividends for the Little Tigers as she scored with 4:55 left in regulation, firing in a feed from sophomore Trish Reilly.

“There was a lot of space on that and Trish was looking up,” recalled Herring.

“As she got the ball, she saw me at the top of the circle and it was a nice sweep. It was a good arrangement of passes and plays.”

While PHS continued to put the pressure on until the final whistle, it failed to add any goals and fell by that 2-1 margin.

Herring acknowledged that the Little Tigers waited too long to show a sense of urgency in the loss to the Bulldogs.

“We definitely didn’t expect the intensity that we should have from the start,” said Herring.

“At halftime, we realized that we really needed to pick it up. After that we really picked up our intensity and started pushing the ball forward. The communication improved tremendously in the second half. Through that, we were able to hear each other more and know where each other was.”

In addition to being battle-tested, Herring has put in extra work on her game to spur her improvement.

“Being a junior and it being my third year on the team has made me better,” said Herring.

“Also, playing with the Princeton field hockey club has helped me improve tremendously. We have sessions on Sundays during the fall and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the winter. The Princeton University coach Kristen Holmes Winn is remarkable; I can’t speak highly enough of her.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson, for her part, wished that her players had shown a higher level of energy against HoVal.

“One of our goals was to make sure that we had at least 75 percent of all the loose balls and we didn’t do that,” said Serverson.

“Hopewell really stepped up to the ball well. We didn’t make that adjustment; we were waiting for it behind them. We were trying to hit it through them rather than around them, which wasn’t doesn’t work with a Hopewell team. They are very good at stopping the ball.”

While Serverson did see some good play from her team over the latter stages of the contest, it was too little, too late.

“We were focusing on quick passing instead of dribbling and telling the girls to know what’s open before you have the ball,” said Serverson.

“We cleaned it up a little bit with the passing but we couldn’t seem to intercept. We had the intensity that we needed in the beginning of the game too late. I think that’s what happened.”

In Severson’s view, Herring did give PHS what it needed. “I think Lucy played very well today,” asserted Serverson.

“She was one of the only forwards who cut back to the ball; she was one of the few that made the adjustment.”

In reflecting on the setback, Serverson believes that her squad needs to adjust its mentality.

“We need to learn a little bit more resilience,” said Serverson, whose team tied Peddie 3-3 last Saturday to move to 2-2-1.

“We need to adjust the intensity of our practices. The changes need to happen there and then I think it will come more easily on the field.”

Herring, for her part, believes the loss to HoVal could be a blessing in disguise if the Little Tigers build on how they played in the second half.

“Now we know how much better we can play once we put our minds together and get that communication set,” said Herring.

“We need to know our options before we get the ball, we can kind of work off of that and make sure before the next game that we think about that and remember how much better we played.”

GREAT BRIT: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Brit Murray controls the ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Murray has sparked the Panthers at both ends of the field as the team has produced a 6-0 start. In upcoming action, PDS hosts Shipley School (Pa.) on September 26 before playing at Blair on September 28.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GREAT BRIT: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Brit Murray controls the ball in recent action. Senior defender and co-captain Murray has sparked the Panthers at both ends of the field as the team has produced a 6-0 start. In upcoming action, PDS hosts Shipley School (Pa.) on September 26 before playing at Blair on September 28. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Brit Murray was ready to shoulder more responsibility this fall in her senior campaign with the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.

Having established herself as a pillar of the PDS defense over the last three years, Murray was asked to contribute to the Panther offense.

“Our coach [Pat Trombetta] asked me to be more of an attacking player and get more in the offense and get involved,” said Murray.

“With the outside backs getting up, it is really helping the center mids and the forwards and everyone is working hard off of each other. With me getting up, it is just opening up so much more space for everything.”

Against visiting Hun last Thursday, Murray’s new emphasis on scoring paid dividends as she booted in a Kirsten Kuzmicz pass some nine minutes into the contest to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was a nice pass from Kirsten Kuzmicz, one of our great center mids; we have been working on that pass for a while,” said Murray.

“Kirsten has it in the middle and plays it out wide to whoever is running on it so we just try to take that shot. We have been doing a set play sometimes. It is coming together nicely. I was thinking I want to get it somewhere close to the net. I just tried to shift my foot in the direction of the net.”

Things kept going in the right direction for the Panthers as they pulled away to a 4-0 victory over Hun and improved to 5-0.

“I think this was our first game where we actually moved the ball around the field,” asserted Murray.

“We worked hard together; we were working for each other and not individually. I think our communication was just great. Our passing was great. Everything was just coming together like we have been practicing. That’s what we have been hoping for as a team.”

PDS is coming together much better as a team this fall, showing a new unity as the squad already surpassed its 2012 win total when it went 4-9-4.

“I think last year, our chemistry was not there,” said Murray, who helped the Panthers improve to 6-0 as they blanked the Hill School 3-0 last Monday.

“I think our chemistry is what is really helping us this year. We have tried to do a lot of team bonding; we are all just on the same page I think. On the field we always want to work for each other and not individually.”

Murray is assuming extra responsibility for that chemistry, serving as a team co-captain with classmate Lily Razzaghi.

“Lily and I have made it a point this year to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that the chemistry was perfect,” said Murray, who recently committed to the Iona College women’s soccer program. “No one is fighting or arguing; we just want to be like one team.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta credits Murray and the team’s other veterans with setting the right tone this fall.

“The team chemistry is excellent this year; that is due a lot to our leadership with the captains and the upperclassmen,” said Trombetta.

“Overall we have a strong upperclassmen group and they know with nine freshmen on the squad, they are taking them under their wings and being very good mentors and so forth. I like the way the girls are working together. It is a very close-knit group.”

Trombetta liked the way his team clicked in the win over Hun. “I was very happy with the effort today, especially in the first half,” said Trombetta whose team led 3-0 at intermission as junior Alexa Soltesz and freshman Allison Klei found the back of the net along with Murray in the first 40 minutes of the contest.

“I think the first half was probably our most complete half of the season. Everything was clicking on all cylinders. We were looking for each other. We were distributing the ball nicely.”

In Trombetta’s view, Murray’s two-way play has served to make PDS a more complete team.

“The difference with Brit Murray this year is that she is looking to attack from the outside,” said Trombetta.

“That is a big difference for us; we haven’t had that in the past. She is doing very well with it. I am giving her more free rein than I have in the past. They are coordinating pretty well out there. She is another weapon we can use coming out of the back.”

Junior forward Alexa Soltesz is another key weapon for the Panthers. “Alexa is a player who is going to get tightly marked up there,” said Trombetta.

“She still finds a gap and she has a quick explosive first step that opens up things for her.”

Senior midfielder Eloise Stanton is emerging as a key player for PDS.

“Eloise has been a bright surprise for us; she has four goals on the season and is probably our high scorer right now,” said Trombetta of Stanton, who scored a goal in the second half in the win over Hun.

“One of the things I said in the beginning of the season is that we needed contributions from our outside midfield and Eloise has stepped up and has accepted that challenge and she is doing great.”

PDS appears ready to challenge for titles. “I think we are definitely going to make a lot of noise in the preps,” said Trombetta, whose team hosts Shipley School (Pa.) on September 26 before playing at Blair on September 28.

“In the counties, we have got to do a better job of finishing. We have had a lot of opportunities, even today, in front of the net that we didn’t finish. If we can start finishing our chances, I think we could surprise a couple of teams.

Murray, for her part, believes the Panthers will finish strong. “I definitely feel it. I think we can make it to Prep championships. I think we are going to get a good seed in the MCT. I feel we are going to go far.”

DONNY FOOTBALL: Hun School junior quarterback Donavon Harris heads to daylight last Saturday as Hun fell 31-27 to visiting Seton Hall Prep in its season opener. Harris excelled in his first start at quarterback, going 17-of-30 passing for 156 yards and scoring on touchdown runs of 12 and 55 yards.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DONNY FOOTBALL: Hun School junior quarterback Donavon Harris heads to daylight last Saturday as Hun fell 31-27 to visiting Seton Hall Prep in its season opener. Harris excelled in his first start at quarterback, going 17-of-30 passing for 156 yards and scoring on touchdown runs of 12 and 55 yards. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While John Law couldn’t be sure what was going to happen last Saturday in his debut as the head coach of the Hun School football team, he already knew that his players possessed character.

When longtime Hun assistant coach Law suddenly took the helm of the program earlier this month as previous head coach Dave Dudeck was placed on administrative leave by the school due to ongoing litigation in connection with his tenure as Princeton police chief, the players didn’t miss a beat in preparing to face Seton Hall Prep in their opener.

“The kids are resilient,” said Law, who has been coaching at Hun for 23 years. “They are so task-oriented, they know what their goals are. The seniors have really taken that on. They were only concerned about Seton Hall Prep.”

In the early going of the contest last Saturday, Law was concerned as Hun made three turnovers and fell behind 3-0.

“You have new faces and new kids seeing varsity action for the first time,” said Law.

“We wanted them to play smart football sooner than later. It was evident in the game that we are not there yet.”

The team’s heart, though, was evident as Hun rallied to take a 13-10 lead at halftime. In the second half, the game turned into a topsy-turvy contest with the lead changing hands five times. In the end, Hun fell just short as it lost 31-27.

While Law was disappointed with the result, he had no qualms with the effort he got from his players.

“That was a heckuva high school football game,” asserted Law. “Seton Hall is a very good team and we think we are a very good team too. The heartbreak of it is that we ask the players to give everything they have got and they left it all on the field but we couldn’t overcome our mistakes.”

The Raiders appear to have a good one-two punch in the backfield with junior quarterback Donavon Harris and junior running back Christopher Sharp. Harris went 17-of-30 passing for 156 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 12 and 55 yards while Sharp had touchdown jaunts of 27 and 12 yards.

“Donavon is what we were hoping for; he had never taken a snap before,” said Law.

“We definitely think he is a dual threat. It was amazing to see some of the things that he did and how he managed the game. He has a bright future. Chris is another young kid who is learning. He is an exceptional talent. He is learning tailback, he played receiver last year. The more experience he gets, the better he is going to be.”

Hun got some good play in the trenches from seniors Colton Jumper and Andrew Foster.

“I was really happy with Colton Jumper, he is a middle linebacker out of Tennessee,” added Law.

“He was a rock in the middle and he really helped with the leadership. Andrew Foster did a good job on the line.”

Overall, Law is enthusiastic about his team’s prospects going forward. “When you go into the first game, you don’t know what it is going to look like,” said Law.

“We thought that we had hungry, talented kids who like to play and are physical and we saw that.”

Law acknowledges that Hun needs to fine-tune its execution. “I knew we were going to make some mistakes but I was disappointed by how many we made,” said Law.

“It starts in practice by being regimented and disciplined. We had some first game jitters.”

As he reflected on his first game at the helm of the program, Law acknowledged that he experienced some jitters.

“It is a little different,” said Law. “My coaching staff was instrumental in helping me. Coach [Pat] Jones took over the offense which allowed me to stay with the defense. There was a lot of emotion. I told the coaches to stay calm and focus on what is going on and I tried to do that.”

PUSHING BACK: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess ­Johnson, right, battles for the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Johnson and the Raiders fell 1-0 to Mount St. Mary Academy last Saturday to drop to 0-4. In upcoming action, Hun hosts the George School (Pa.) on September 27 and Pennington on October 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PUSHING BACK: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess ­Johnson, right, battles for the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Johnson and the Raiders fell 1-0 to Mount St. Mary Academy last Saturday to drop to 0-4. In upcoming action, Hun hosts the George School (Pa.) on September 27 and Pennington on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last decade, the annual showdown between the Hun School and Princeton Day School girls’ soccer teams has featured a number of tight games.

As Hun took the field last Thursday at PDS, it looked like the cross-town rivals could be headed for another nailbiter with the teams knotted in a scoreless tie eight minutes into the contest.

But the Panthers broke the ice on a goal by Brit Murray with 31:15 remaining in the half and then broke the game open with two more tallies as they took a 3-0 lead at halftime.

Hun’s first-year head coach Joanna Hallac acknowledged that her squad found itself on its heels early in the contest.

“The first few minutes I thought we looked OK but then they settled down and really took control and didn’t look back.”

PDS ended up pulling away to a 4-0 victory, a rare lopsided game in the series.

In assessing her team’s effort, Hallac acknowledged that it turned into a long day for the Raiders.

“We were under pressure the whole 80 minutes and we didn’t respond well to it,” said Hallac.

“There were maybe one or two sequences where we possessed the ball for more than two passes. You are not going to generate a lot of offense that way. We just didn’t put our defenders and especially our goaltender in a very good position today so it was tough.”

In order to get into a winning position, Hallac believes that her players need to work harder on the practice field.

“It is going to be tough competition every game,” said Hallac, whose team fell 1-0 to Mount St. Mary Academy last Saturday and has now been outscored 10-0 on the season.

“There are not going to be any easy games and we have to train harder. The training needs to be better because the competition we are facing is intense and they are physical.”

Things were made harder for Hun in the PDS game as all three of its co-captains, Olivia Braender-Carr, Ashley Maziarz, and Jess Sacco, were sidelined by injury. Although that was a disadvantage against PDS, Hallac believes it will help the squad in the long run.

“The oldest players we had out there were three sophomores,” said Hallac. “It was tough not having any veteran players that can help calm things down and control the game. The freshmen are nervous. They have been working hard and this is going to give them great experience going forward. It is hard right now.”

Hun needs to be tougher at both ends of the field going forward. “I want to see possession; we can’t seem to possess the ball very well,” said Hallac, whose team hosts the George School (Pa.) on September 27 and Pennington on October 1.

“We need possession with intent to go forward and be offensive. We need better defending as a team. We get pulled out of shape really quickly and easily. They are just not showing the potential I have seen and that they showed in preseason. I think that has to do a little bit with injuries. It is a work in progress.”

September 18, 2013
FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Philip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FILLING THE BILL: Princeton University football senior co-captains Phillip Bhaya, left, and Caraun Reid are all smiles at the program’s recent media day. The defensive stars will have their game faces on this Saturday when Princeton hosts Lehigh (2-0) in its season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Phillip Bhaya, playing for the Princeton University football team is something he envisioned doing as a grade schooler growing up in nearby Haddonfield.

“I can actually remember coming here with my family in the summer time and just coming onto this field when I was probably 10 years old and thinking it would be great to play here and here I am 11 years later,” said Princeton senior safety Bhaya standing on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium at the program’s annual media day.

Bhaya has not only emerged as a star in the secondary, he is a respected team leader, having been chosen to serve as a co-captain of the 2013 Tigers along with defensive lineman and classmate Caraun Reid.

Despite his current stature with the team and being an All-South Jersey defensive back, Bhaya was not a prized recruit for Princeton.

“When I was recruited, it was the year with the coaching change so it was a little shaky with the old staff going out and the new staff coming in,” said Bhaya.

“I actually didn’t get an offer until after signing day. When they offered, I jumped on it.”

Bhaya quickly jumped up the Princeton depth chart, seeing plenty of action as a freshman in 2010, making 20 tackles and earning the program’s Harland “Pink” Baker ’22 Award as the team’s top defensive freshman.

While Bhaya enjoyed success in his debut season, he acknowledged that it took a while for him to feel a comfort level.

“Probably at first, it was the speed of the game,” said the 5’11, 190-pound Bhaya.

“You have got great athletes at all positions. When you combine that with the mental speed of it, all the new plays, formations, checks that you have to be so locked in on every play, that is probably the biggest jump that you have to make from high school to the Ivy League level.

After a frustrating sophomore year where he was hampered by a quad problem and made only six tackles, Bhaya was back at full speed last fall as a junior and raring to go.

“I was excited; I moved back to safety, which I feel more comfortable with,” said Bhaya. “I had offseason motivation from that injury and it was great being able to come back and really help the team.”

Princeton produced an exciting season in the 2012 as the Tigers improved to 5-5 after two straight 1-9 campaigns.

“I think from top to bottom, just buying into the program, was something that we saw last year,” said Bhaya, who made 52 tackles and had three interceptions in 2012.

“No knock on the other years or some of the other guys but more than any year, last year we had guys stepping up and playing together for the first time. Once we got things rolling against Columbia and Lafayette, I think that really changed our mindset of going out and winning games.”

Winning the Harvard game last October in a rally for the ages which saw Princeton overcome a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to earn a 39-34 victory over the previously undefeated Crimson is still on Bhaya’s mind.

“Obviously, that was a big game,” said Bhaya. “It is probably the best sports memory I have had; that comeback was something else.”

Being named as a team co-captain this spring stands as another great memory for Bhaya.

“It was a humbling honor; there is a lot of senior leadership on this team which now makes my job easy,” said Bhaya.

“We have leaders at every position. To be picked among the guys I have been working hard with for four years is something that was really humbling. I like to lead by example but I am not afraid to speak up. I can be a rah rah guy in the locker room if it needs to be. First, it is leading by example, working hard and doing the right thing.”

During preseason camp, the Tigers have been doing the right things to build on last year’s progress.

“I think we are excited to get going here but also more focused than ever,” said Bhaya.

“There are obviously new offenses and new defenses and different plays that everyone is trying to learn but we have a lot of depth and a lot of experience so guys know how to approach the camp atmosphere and know how to prepare.”

Bhaya is hoping that experience will come in handy when the Tigers host Lehigh this Saturday to open their 2013 campaign.

“It is a great program over there,” said Bhaya of the Mountain Hawks, who are 2-0 and currently ranked No. 19/22 in the country and have a three-game winning streak in the series, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“The last three years have all been pretty close games going down to the fourth quarter and obviously we didn’t come out on the right side the last three times so that is something that we would like to get done here. They are not in the Ivy League but we play them every year so we have developed a rivalry.”

The Tigers are determined to get it done in the Ivies as they look to move up from last year’s 4-3 league mark and third-place finish.

“We definitely have the pieces to take that next step from that 5-5 season last year where we were so close,” asserted Bhaya.

“I think what is going to help us get there is the experience we have had. We have so much coming back on offense, we have so many weapons. Defensively, we lost a couple of guys, Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks, but a lot of the guys played and had that experience from last year. We have been there before and we are going to know how to win and close out games at the end because every game in the Ivy League is close. There is so much parity in the league.”

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE TALK: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace chats during the program’s recent media day. After guiding the Tigers to back-to-back 1-9 seasons in his first two years at the helm of his alma mater, Surace ’90 led the Tigers to a 5-5 record in 2012. The four-win improvement marked the biggest single-season turnaround for the program in more than two decades. Princeton, which went 4-3 in Ivy League play last fall to tie for third place, was in the league title race until the final day of the season. The Tigers look to build on that progress as they kick off their 2013 campaign by hosting Lehigh (2-0) on September 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After spending the last three years tirelessly laying the groundwork for restructuring the Princeton University football program, Bob Surace is ready to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

“In that first year, you are just trying to get everything organized and get  everything right,” said Princeton head coach Surace ’90 at the program’s recent media day as he reflected on entering his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater.

“You are so intense on making sure everything is done. Now that we have practice schedules and scripts and a lot of our staff members have been here for multiple years, you are not coaching the coaches as much. You are not coaching the players as much because they know what the expectation is. Now you are just playing football and, for me, that is the fun part. Now you can go out and you just wake up so excited to enjoy the practice. I think we have got the process in a good place right now.”

Last fall, Princeton had some fun as it posted a 5-5 record after two straight 1-9 campaigns. In order to take the next step and move to the top of the Ivy League heap after going 4-3 in league play in tying for third place in 2012, the Tigers are fine-tuning their practice approach.

“We really have been hitting situations,” said Surace, noting that he replicates game scenarios in practice, complete with score, time remaining, and down and distance, to help sharpen his team.

“I got this off some things that have been done by a couple of NFL teams. Our coaches have really thought these things through. We are not going to hit all of them, we don’t have enough time in 28 practices for all of them but we can hit a lot of them. There are things you can coach up off the film, not only your technique but they have to know down and distance, they have got to know the score, they have got to know the opponent. They have got to know the tendencies.”

The Tigers face an interesting situation as they may use a quarterback rotation with juniors Connor Michelsen (146-for-238 passing for 1634 yards and six touchdowns in 2012) and Quinn Epperly (480 yards passing and 314 yards rushing in 2012) like they did last year.

“We’ll see how that plays out; they are competing,” said Surace. “We did play multiple guys last year and if that happens, it happens; but be creative and let’s push the envelope. If we have different guys who bring different skill sets, let’s utilize that.”

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach James Perry has no problem with that arrangement and sees it as making things harder for Princeton’s foes.

“Last year, it was somewhat of an organic process,” said Perry. “It evolved into some things that actually made us more dynamic and it evolved in a way that four years ago when I got here, I would not have foreseen. Not to say that it is old hat, it has only been one year but we are past the adjustment and growing pains along those lines which is nice. It is not particularly common to have quarterbacks in those positions, we have that luxury and using it is something we have grown accustomed to.”

Surace believes the Tigers are also blessed with the luxury of depth at running back with the return of junior Will Powers ( a team-high 455 yards rushing in 2012), senior Brian Mills, sophomore DiAndre Atwater (181 yards rushing), and sophomore Dre Nelson (63 yards rushing).

“Our running backs yesterday had the best practice since I have been here,” asserted Surace.

“Brian Mills, who came off a really good spring, he got yo-yoed back and forth. He had a couple of plays where he just dragged guys. There was a lot of short yardage plays; it was four-minute drill and goal-line. Will Powers has been playing better than he has. He has looked really sharp. DiAndre Atwater looked real. He made some guys miss in space, something that we saw last year when he was healthy. For Dre Nelson, those situations aren’t his cup of tea; he is better at them than he was but there have been times at practice where he has really been exciting in the open field.”

In Perry’s view, Princeton has some exciting options at receiver in senior All-Ivy performer Roman Wilson (a team-high 37 catches for 649 yards in 2012), senior Matt Costello (31 catches for 316 yards), junior Connor Kelley (23 catches for 242 yards) and junior Seth DeValve (20 catches for 219 yards).

“It helps to have some depth on the outside at the wide receiver position,” said Perry.

“From an offensive pass game standpoint, we are certainly past the first couple of years where we tried to install a mindset and how we want the pass game to go and it is reflective of how we are playing right now. We have four returners at the wide receiver position who all played a huge number of reps last year. Obviously we have two quarterbacks who played a huge amount of reps last year. From a pass game perspective, we are further along than we have ever been and the kids will try to push that further.”

A battle-tested offensive line that features senior Joe Goss, who has 28 starts, along with junior All-Ivy performer Spenser Huston, senior Max Coale, junior Jack Woodall, and junior Mike Ramos should provide a good push in the trenches.

“To have all the guys returning all across the board is a good place to be,” said Perry.

“Probably equally important, with the tempo that we play, we don’t play five linemen. We are going to play seven or eight linemen by design so we need that many guys ready to go.”

One of the biggest challenges for the 2013 Tigers is to make up for the production on the defensive line with the graduation of Mike Catapano, the 2012 Ivy Defensive Player of the Year who is now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Defensive co-coordinator and associate head coach Steve Verbit acknowledges that it will take a group effort to replace the 12 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss produced by Catapano last fall.

“You do it as a team,” said Verbit. “It is tough to replace an NFL football player but we think we have got some pretty good kids who work extremely hard. Our hope is that a number of those kids will pick up one or two sacks which will enable us to make up for those 12 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.”

Senior All-Ivy performer and team co-captain Caraun Reid, a pro prospect himself, should be able to pick up much of the slack.

“He is 6’2, 303 pounds and runs somewhere around a 4.8 40-yard dash,” said Verbit of Reid, who had 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2012.

“He is extremely explosive, those are a couple of qualities that make him special. He is experienced, he has started since his freshman year so he has a lot of games under his belt. He’s got great physical traits and he is an extremely hard worker in terms of not only understanding of what he has to do on the field, he studies the game off the field.”

Defensive co-coordinator Jim Salgado likes the work he is getting from his group of linebackers, which includes senior Jason Ray, senior Alex Polofsky, junior Garrit Leicht, and junior Mike Zeuli.

“The linebackers are looking good,” said Salgado. “We have a good group of guys there. They are out there working hard, getting better each day. We have good depth. We are happy about the freshman class that came in. That’s what it’s all about — competition.”

The Tiger secondary is certainly competitive, led by senior co-captain Philip Bhaya and sophomore All-Ivy performer Anthony Gaffney  together with sophomore Matt Arends and sophomore Jakobi Johnson.

“We had guys moving around at different positions,” said Salgado. “We had two true freshmen playing at corner for us last year every game so they are back and more experienced. We got some good young guys that came in here that are going to be able to help us.”

Salgado is looking for safety Bhaya and cornerback Gaffney to spearhead that unit.

“Phil has played a lot of football for us,” said Salgado. “We had him out at corner and eventually got him to where he needed to be at safety. He had a great year for us last year and we expect another big one coming up. Anthony has improved; he is having a good camp.”

Princeton is expecting its defense to create more turnovers this fall. “We hear people talk about turnovers all the time,” said Verbit.

“It is about energy, it is about hustle, and it is about effort. The more guys you have around the ball, the more opportunities you have to get turnovers. The first guy in tries to secure the tackle and the next guys in try to get to the ball. If the ball pops out and you have 11 guys running to the ball, chances are that you are going to have an opportunity to get it once it is on the ground. We work at it each and every day and we stress it.”

Surace, for his part, believes the defensive emphasis on taking the ball away has served to make the Princeton offense better with the ball.

“They are thinking about creating more turnovers and that’s forcing our offense to take care of the ball better,” noted Surace.

“I love our approach that way. I think we were minus 10 turnovers in our last four losses; I think we gave up 11 and only got one. That’s not a recipe for success.”

In Surace’s view, honing the team’s up tempo offense is the best recipe for success.

“We ran a no huddle when I was with the Bengals for the best year we had on offense,” said Surace.

“You are still running the same plays but maybe you are getting a more vanilla defense or you are not getting substitutions on defense. I think for the players, if you asked them, they would rather run 85 plays than 60. I think it is exciting. I think recruits really buy into this.”

Princeton faces an exciting challenge in its season opener on Saturday evening as it hosts 2-0 Lehigh, who is ranked No. 19/22 nationally and owns a three-game winning streak in the series between the schools, including a 17-14 victory over the Tigers in 2012.

“Everybody in the world knows that Lehigh has two more games than us and they started camp three weeks before us and all these things we could use as excuses but instead let’s use it as a weapon,” said Surace.

“Let’s have more urgency at practice, let’s practice better because we can control how good we are. We can’t control the Ivy League schedule or anything else but we can control us. That’s a tough first game. They have been a nationally ranked team three years running, they have a lot of guys back, and they have a very respected program so that forces urgency. I think our guys are getting that. There is a time when you cross the line, school is out and everything else. You need to give us two great hours and they are doing that.”

If the Tiger players can maintain that focus, they could enjoy some great moments this fall.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

HALL PASS: Princeton University men’s soccer player Nico ­Hurtado controls the ball last Sunday against Seton Hall. Sophomore forward Hurtado came up big in the game as he assisted Bryan Windsor on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory by the Tigers. Princeton, now 1-2, plays at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22.

As Bryan Windsor went through practice last week for the Princeton University men’s soccer team, the Boulder, Colo. native’s thoughts were on his hometown and the deadly flooding there.

“There is two feet of water in my house which is tough but as long as my family is safe then I am OK,” said freshman midfielder Windsor.

Last Sunday against visiting Seton Hall, Windsor felt a lot better than OK as he knocked in his first career goal and the lone score as Princeton edged the Pirates 1-0 to earn its first victory of the season.

“It was a good team goal; it was a good buildup,” said Windsor, reflecting on his tally which came with 27:09 left in regulation as he volleyed in a rebound of shot by Nico Hurtado.

“We had a good cross and then Nico had a good shot and I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. It feels great to help contribute to the team and it feels great to get the first win. I am happy just to help out the team however I can.”

Windsor was happy to see the Tigers get on the right track after losing 3-2 at Rutgers on Friday and 3-0 at Fairleigh Dickinson a week earlier.

“We had a game on Friday so our legs were a little bit tired so we just had to get a couple of minutes under our belt,” said Windsor,

“So when we started livening up, we started calming down and playing better soccer. In our past two games, we have gotten scored on three times. At halftime, we talked about really pushing up the level of play.”

The wiry 5’8, 135-pound Windsor is trying to keep from getting pushed around as he makes the jump to college soccer.

“It has been the pace and size,” said Windsor, reflecting on his adjustment to the next level.

“There are some big kids and they are fast too. Physically, it has been tough. But if I play a quicker game with the ball, then I have been able to settle in. Whatever time I get, I love. Whatever position I am, I just love to be on the field.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow loved seeing Windsor come through with the game winner against Seton Hall.

“The thing with Windsor is that he is a great soccer player,” asserted Barlow. “He sees things, he makes connections. He has struggled in the first couple of games when the game is going 100 miles per hour to find the ball. We felt today that the pace of the game was a little slower and that he could make a difference in the game and he did.”

In Barlow’s opinion, better defensive play by Princeton made a big difference in the contest.

“Defensively we were so frustrated Friday at the kind of goals we were giving away,” said Barlow.

“We would just shoot ourselves in the foot because we play a good stretch and get a lead and the kind of goals we gave away against Rutgers, we thought were preventable. One was a PK, one was off a punt. Give Rutgers a lot of credit, they took it to us for a good stretch of the game. We needed to really be tighter around the goal and it was nice to see us do that today although the last couple of minutes were a little hairy.”

Things have been hairy for Princeton as the squad has been hit by a rash of injuries in the early going.

“Hopefully this week we will get some more guys back from injury,” said Barlow.

“It has been so many guys. Myles McGinley didn’t play against Rutgers, Pat O’Neil didn’t play against Rutgers. Jack Hilger didn’t play in either game. Brendan McSherry played great against Rutgers but hurt his knee and didn’t play today. Julian Griggs is still a little bit off. Dylan Bowman tore his ACL. It has been a tough week injury-wise for us.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan showed toughness in the Seton Hall win, making four saves as he earned his first shutout of the year.

“I thought Seth did a better job today of being ready for plays and being off his line for through balls more and on balls over the top,” said Barlow.

“He cleaned up a lot of those plays. That was a concern of ours in the first two games and he took a step forward today too.”

With Princeton playing at Loyola (4-0-1) on September 18 and Georgetown (4-2) on September 22, the Tigers will need to take more steps forward to hold their own against such competition.

“You got to keep trying to put the pieces together this early in the season,” said Barlow.

“You can’t drop too many games while you are trying to figure it out and we have the added challenge of trying to figure it out with five or six guys injured. We really needed a good result. It is a good thing that we are playing so many good teams early but you don’t want to fall too far behind by dropping so many early games. We have a huge week now with Loyola, who is undefeated, and Georgetown, who was a national finalist last year. Hopefully we will get a little healthier and keep it going.”

Windsor, for his part, believes that the win over Seton Hall will get the Tigers going in the right direction.

“We just needed this one,” said Windsor. “It really lifts our spirits after two losses. I think we can build off this momentum.”

HALEY’S COMET: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Haley Bodden boots the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Bodden has been a catalyst this fall for PHS, tallying a goal and four assists in PHS’s first two games as the Little Tigers have produced a 2-0 start. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Robbinsville on September 19 in its first appearance on the school’s new turf field and then plays at Lawrence High on September 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HALEY’S COMET: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Haley Bodden boots the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Bodden has been a catalyst this fall for PHS, tallying a goal and four assists in PHS’s first two games as the Little Tigers have produced a 2-0 start. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Robbinsville on September 19 in its first appearance on the school’s new turf field and then plays at Lawrence High on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Haley Bodden starred on defense last year in her freshman season for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team as the squad won a sectional title, she was ready for a switch this fall.

Moving up to midfield for the 2013 campaign, Bodden has made an immediate impact from her new spot, tallying a goal and four assists in PHS’ first two games, helping the Little Tigers to a 2-0 start.

For Bodden, the switch has allowed her to assume her natural spot on the field.

“I usually play that position but last year I played sweeper to help them out, they needed me there,” said Bodden, after picking three assists in a 5-4 win over Hightstown last week.

“I think being a playmaker is a lot better for me because I can give them balls like today and get assists like today. I think it worked out pretty well.”

Bodden has been working well with junior forward Shannon Pawlak, who has five goals in the team’s first two games, including a hat trick in the victory over Hightstown.

“Shannon is really good with her feet so if I give her a ball, I know she will be able to turn around and just finish it for us,” said Bodden. “I can rely on her a lot.”

PHS needed the one-two punch of Bodden and Pawlak in the topsy-turvy Hightstown game which saw the Rams battle back from being down 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 only to tie the game at 4-4 with 14:00 left in regulation.

“After we scored a few goals I felt we got the momentum,” said Bodden. “Then they scored and we kind of lost it on defense. But I think we brought ourselves back together. We finished it on a good note.”

With one high school season under her belt, Bodden believes she can do some good things this fall.

“This year I know that it is OK to make mistakes,” said Bodden. “I know that everyone makes mistakes but we all help each other in the long run. I feel more powerful on the field this year. Last year I was kind of timid.”

In Bodden’s view, PHS can build on last year’s experience to be a power again.

“It gave us a lot of confidence,” said Bodden, referring to the team’s run to the Group III state semis in 2012.

“I didn’t know this year if we were going to be as good as last year. We look pretty good, I don’t know what is going to happen but hopefully it will be just like last year.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his offense looked pretty good in the victory over Hightstown.

“We created four very good high quality goals and then the fifth one was a nice hustle goal,” said Hand.

“It wasn’t the finishes, it was the fact that there were four or five very intentional passes that showed some real understanding of how to create a chance so that was terrific.

Hand credits Bodden with creating some great chances for the Little Tigers from the midfield.

“Haley is doing a terrific job on attack and there are two sides to it,” asserted Hand.

“One, when she has the opportunity to do something by herself, she’ll take the initiative. But she is reading when she needs to be there to support someone else and just help them really pressure. She is a real cog in that.”

Another key cog for PHS is senior star Dana Smith. “Likewise Dana, who worked end to end today, has done a terrific job of being involved in the development of most every scoring chance that we get,” said Hand.

“That’s what we need, we want her to touch the ball somewhere in that progression because she finds people so quickly.”

Junior star Shannon Pawlak has been displaying an uncanny finishing touch for the Little Tigers.

“It is wonderful; a forward is never going to score 100 percent of her chances but she does some wonderful things to give herself a view of the goal,” said Hand of Pawlak.

“The finishes that she has converted and a few that she has just missed have been really, really excellent.”

Hand acknowledges that his squad wasn’t excellent at the defensive end against Hightstown.

“As hard as we were working and we were working really hard, we made a lot of mistakes that were matters of concentration and focus,” said Hand, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 19 in its first appearance on the school’s new turf field and then plays at Lawrence High on September 24.

“I am just concerned that when we are playing in a hard fought, fast-moving game that we tend to make mistakes that we are well aware we shouldn’t be making. It is frustrating but I think that is the kind of thing you can fix if the players make it an item among themselves as to how they are going to handle tight game situations.”

Bodden, for her part, believes that the team has the chemistry to address that situation.

“Our communication is a lot better since we know each other, we know how we play with each other and how each person plays by themselves,” said Bodden.

“We know how to support in the right way and send balls and we know that our teammates will get on them.”

CHARLIE COMPANY: Princeton High football head coach Charlie Gallagher prowls the sideline during a recent practice. Last Friday, PHS fell 35-0 at Northern Burlington in the season opener and Gallagher’s debut at the helm of the program. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they host Hightstown on September 21 in their first game on the school’s new turf field.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHARLIE COMPANY: Princeton High football head coach Charlie Gallagher prowls the sideline during a recent practice. Last Friday, PHS fell 35-0 at Northern Burlington in the season opener and Gallagher’s debut at the helm of the program. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they play at Hightstown on September 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Opening its season at Northern Burlington last Thursday, the Princeton High football team got off to a rough start, falling behind 7-0 on first play from scrimmage.

But thunderstorms hit the area and the game was suspended until Friday afternoon when it was picked up in progress in the first quarter.

Unfortunately, PHS was struck by lightning on Friday, this time in the form of Northern Burlington running back Kenyatta Green, who rushed for 163 yards on 10 carries and scored four touchdowns as the Greyhounds jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead.

“He is obviously a quality running back,” said Gallagher of Green. “We didn’t play him last year but we had heard things about him. You need all 11 hats on him. He is a violent runner, he was slinging people all over.”

Facing such a large deficit, Gallagher decided to mix things up a little bit in the second half.

“At half, we decided to try some different people,” said Gallagher.

“We wanted to get a couple of scores but it was an opportunity to find more ball players. We wanted them to keep their heads up and stay positive.”

While the score ended up 35-0, Gallagher saw some positives over the last 24 minutes of the contest as he made his debut at the helm of the program.

“On defense, we had some guys who played really well,” said Gallagher, a former assistant coach for PHS who was elevated to take over for Joe Gargione.

“Colin Buckley did well at end. We moved Liam Helstrom to middle linebacker and he did well. We moved Chris Harisiades from linebacker to defense end and he made some plays there. Sam Smallzman took some big hits at quarterback but he delivered some big hits at linebacker.”

Gallagher acknowledged that his offense needs to deliver some more production.

“Both quarterbacks (Smallzman and Dave Beamer) went 3-for-11 passing; we need to have a better completion rate,” said Gallagher.

“We need to run the ball more. I think we only had 11 attempts. We couldn’t get anything going. We had a lot of three and outs. We had the ball on their 50 a couple of times but we didn’t get any deeper than the 15-yard line.”

PHS is determined to have a better day when it plays at Hightstown on September 20.

“We didn’t look pretty against Northern Burlington and it wasn’t pretty for Hightstown against Nottingham (a 48-7 loss), the defending Central Jersey Group III champions,” said Gallagher. “We are looking at film of Hightstown and we will try to figure them out. We need to get on the board a few times and try to hold them and make it a low scoring game.”

Coming into the fall, the Hun School girls’ tennis team faced a major obstacle before it even played a match.

The school’s tennis courts are being ripped up to make way for a new school building and a reconfiguration of the tennis facility on campus. As a result, the team is practicing and playing across town at the Community Park tennis courts.

Hun head coach Joan Nuse acknowledged that the arrangement has required some flexibility.

“It is a challenge to go off campus everyday,” said Nuse, whose team opens regular season play with a match at Stuart Country Day on September 21.

“We take a bus over to the Community Park. At least it is close and the courts are fine.”

As Nuse assesses her squad, she believes she has some fine singles players in junior Steph Taylor, sophomore Caroline Wilkinson, and freshman Paige Braithwaite.

While Nuse hasn’t sorted out who will be in each of the three singles slots in the lineup, she is confident each player can excel.

“We are working on it; they are really close in tennis ability,” said Nuse.

“They are all strong players. Caroline is a real surprise; I didn’t know she was going to play. Paige was on the middle school team so I knew her from that. Steph keeps improving. She got contact lenses and is actually seeing the ball. She is an all-around player.”

The doubles lineup features a veteran in junior Olivia Hartman together with three newcomers, sophomore Olivia Kotler, sophomore Rachel Heller, and freshman Tali Prozementer.

“We are young, it is nice to have a team like that,” said Nuse. “We have some solid talent. They have nice singles games and we are trying to incorporate their singles skills into doubles.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting on September 23 at Mercer County Park, Hun is looking for a solid effort at the competition.

“We are just going to go in and see how people do,” said Nuse. “We hope we can win some matches and get some experience.”

Nuse is confident that her young squad can get some wins to go with the experience as the fall unfolds. “I think we can continue to grow and improve as we get to the end of the season on November 9,” said Nuse.

In Nuse’s view, the players have shown a desire to get better as a group.

“They have a good attitude; it is nice that they all get along,” said Nuse.

“Steph is a leader and is going to be a captain. She gives good leadership and helps keep them on the right path. They have actually asked to do more conditioning. They want to be in better condition so they can perform at their best.”

HERE COMES THE SUN: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Renee Karchere-Sun hits a backhand in a match last season. Sophomore Karchere-Sun has moved up to first singles for PDS this fall and has helped the Panthers get off to a 2-1 start. PDS has matches at the George School (Pa.) on September 18 and at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 20 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on September 23 at Mercer County Park.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HERE COMES THE SUN: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Renee Karchere-Sun hits a backhand in a match last season. Sophomore Karchere-Sun has moved up to first singles for PDS this fall and has helped the Panthers get off to a 2-1 start. PDS has matches at the George School (Pa.) on September 18 and at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 20 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on September 23 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Experiencing mixed results in its first full week of regular season play, the Princeton Day School girls’ team fell 5-0 to public school power Haddonfield before topping Prep B rival Rutgers Prep 5-0.

For PDS head coach Ed Tseng, his team’s performance in defeat was more heartening than in the easy win.

“I like having them in the beginning, playing a tough match in the beginning makes other matches seem easier,” said Tseng, reflecting on the matchup against Haddonfield.

“Also, getting beat is a wake-up call. Even though we lost, I look at the effort, they didn’t give up, that is a plus. Rutgers Prep was about a 180-degree difference in skills; it was a hot day and we stayed focused.”

Sophomore Renee Karchere-Sun has shown increased focus as she has taken over the first singles spot for graduated star Samantha Asch, a four-time Mercer County Tournament singles champion who is now playing at Wake Forest.

“Renee is still a sophomore and she is definitely getting used to the No. 1 spot,” said Tseng.

“She will face a lot of tough matches; the key is how she responds. She is being more of a leader, maybe because it is because she is No. 1 and more comfortable with the team.”

The PDS team was happy to welcome Lawrenceville junior transfer Maria Martinovic, who has slotted in at second singles.

“Maria is a nice addition,” said Tseng. “She is a great girl and a great player. She is a steady player and she is fit, those are her main strengths.”

At third singles, the Panthers feature junior Emily Dyckman, one of the program’s steadiest players over the years.

“Emily played quite a bit this summer which is always good,” said Tseng. “She is a great team player and has a great attitude. She is one of the veterans.”

The pair of junior Charlotte Zaininger and sophomore Devika Kumar at first doubles form a good mix of playing styles.

“Charlotte is like a wall, she is so consistent,” said Tseng. “Charlotte likes to play doubles and is a nice doubles player. Devika is an athlete; she also plays basketball. She is great at the net.”

The second doubles team of junior Hope Boozan and freshman Touria Salvati is showing some great potential.

“Hope has been playing on the team the last few years,” said Tseng. “Touria has good playing experience and got injured and is just coming back. They were more similar to each other than the first doubles team. They play well together.”

Tseng is confident that his team will play well at the upcoming Mercer County Tournament (MCT), which is slated to take place on September 23 and 25 at Mercer County Park.

“Two years ago we won the MCT and last year we won the Prep B,” said Tseng, whose team will tune up for the MCT with matches at the George School (Pa.) on September 18 and at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 20.

“Every year, I think we have a chance. It is sports so there are no guarantees. South [WW/P-S] looks like the team to beat but if we can get through the first round and the other teams beat each other up, who knows? It depends on matchups. I think we are deeper than we were last year.”

No matter what happens at the MCT, Tseng believes his team is going to have a positive fall.

“I am very happy with the way they are working,” said Tseng. “They are enjoying themselves and are having fun.”

In the view of Stuart Country Day School tennis coach Katherine Stoltenberg, her team’s win over Pennington last week marked the harbinger of things to come.

“We played well, it was great to win,” said second-year head coach Stoltenberg reflecting on the Tartans’ 4-1 victory last Wednesday. “It was the first win for the girls; it was a good starting point.”

Building on that triumph, Stuart topped George School (Pa.) 3-2 last Thursday and then edged Country Day School of the Sacred Heart 3-2 on Saturday. “We are on a pretty good roll,” said Stoltenberg, whose team ended the week with a 3-1 record.

Junior co-captain Maya Kuang has been on a roll this year as she has taken over the first singles spot.

“Maya played first doubles last year so she has made a big jump this year,” said Stoltenberg. “She has learned more about singles strategy. It is a lot different than doubles; you don’t have a partner to bounce ideas off or rely on. She doesn’t come to the net as much. Her groundstrokes are better and she has a nice slice. Her serve has improved a lot.”

At second singles, Julia Rourke has proven to be one of Stuart’s most reliable performers.

“Julia is our other junior and co-captain,” said Stoltenberg. “This is her third year at second singles so she has great experience at that spot.”

Freshman Caitlyn Delaney is showing great potential at third singles. “Caitlyn did real well in the preseason to get that spot,” said Stoltenberg.

“She has three wins in a row. She is a fighter; she will play long games to win a set.”

It is a family affair at doubles for the Tartans as the four McGowen sisters, sophomore triplets Pam, Natalie, and Juliet, together with freshman Ally comprise the two pairs.

“They are a great group of girls; they help the whole team’s morale because they get along so well,” said Stoltenberg.

“Of course, they know each other really well and they are getting to know each other on the court better.”

In sorting out the doubles teams, the sisters had to work through some sibling rivalry.

“It was the first time they had to challenge each other,” noted Stoltenberg, who has Pam and Natalie at first doubles with Juliet and Ally at second doubles.

“They have taken the opportunity well; the pairs are working out well. It was the way the ladder worked out; it came down to how they did in the challenge matches. The first pair, Pam and Natalie, have a good strong game. They are both good baseline players but they know when to come to the net. Juliet and Ally like to come to the net a lot, that is good to see in doubles.”

Stoltenberg is confident she will see some good things from her players next week when they compete in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) at Mercer County Park starting on September 23.

“We will play some big public schools that we don’t usually get to see,” said Stoltenberg, whose team will play at the Ranney School on September 20 and host Hun on September 21 before starting action in the MCT.

“My girls are always ready to fight. They also have a good time and support each other. They have fun.”

Based on the team’s promising start, it looks like the Tartans are going to  have a lot of fun this fall.

“We don’t have any seniors and we have only two juniors and only one of them went back to her old spot,” said Stoltenberg.

“We have a lot of players at new positions. We will get experience and exposure this season. All of them are returning, it looks good for us further down the road. It is a good mix of girls. They really support each other. They stay and cheer for each other.”

GOOD SERVIS: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Sam Servis heads upfield in action last fall. Last Thursday, sophomore Servis scored the game-winning goal in overtime as Stuart edged the George School (Pa.) 2-1. The Tartans, now 2-2, play at South Hunterdon on September 20 and at Pennington on September 24.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD SERVIS: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Sam Servis heads upfield in action last fall. Last Thursday, sophomore Servis scored the game-winning goal in overtime as Stuart edged the George School (Pa.) 2-1. The Tartans, now 2-2, play at South Hunterdon on September 20 and at Pennington on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of a one-sided loss to Princeton Day School last week, Sam Servis and her teammates on the Stuart Country Day School field hockey squad did some soul-searching.

“We had a talk after the PDS game and it was about getting our heads in the game,” said sophomore forward Servis.

Hosting the George School (Pa.) last Thursday, Stuart was on its game from the start, dominating possession and outshooting the Cougars 6-0 in the first half.

“We connected really well,” said Servis. “At the PDS game, we didn’t come out with intensity but this game we did.”

Despite keeping the ball in its offensive end for most of that half, Stuart found itself locked in a 0-0 tie at halftime. Some six minutes into the second half, George scored to take a 1-0 lead.

The Stuart players, though, didn’t lose their heads, tying the game at 1-1 two minutes later on a goal by Tori Hannah and then winning the game 2-1 in overtime on a breakaway goal by Servis.

“It was super frustrating but we kept going,” said Servis. “We knew we would get there eventually. We came together and we said we are a good team and we can do this and we can beat them and we did.”

As the teams headed into overtime, Servis felt some nerves. “I was concerned because we had played the full 60 minutes and we were really tired but they were tired too,” said Servis.

“We talked again and we just said, give it our all because this is the last 10 minutes of the game. We are good to go and we can rest our legs.”

As Servis raced into the circle with just over a minute left in overtime, she was determined to end the contest.

“I really needed to make this,” recalled Servis with a grin. “I did look up and I saw that the goalie was to the left a little more than she was to the right so I tried really hard to get it to the right so that is where I aimed for. I was lucky I had a teammate there to help. It was good.”

Since last season, Servis has tried hard to become a better player for the Tartans.

“I joined a club team and I worked all winter and spring,” said Servis, who plays for the Spirit Eagles club program. “I have definitely improved my skills a lot. I think that this year I am a lot better and I can help my team more.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw a big improvement in her team from the PDS defeat.

“It is hard, early in the season; it is not just a physical game, it is also very mental,” said Bruvik, whose team fell 4-1 to WW/P-S last Monday to move to 2-2.

“You have to be mentally prepared so we worked on that yesterday. I think even more important in terms of being down there today was how we worked the ball up the field and how we worked it on our attack.”

Due to Stuart’s good work on attack, Bruvik wasn’t fazed when her team fell behind early in the second half.

“I felt that we still had enough control of that game that if we keep playing hard, we will finish,” said Bruvik.

“I didn’t think another 30 minutes was going to go by and we weren’t going to be able to out it in just because of our play in the circle.”

Bruvik was impressed by Servis’ finish on the game-winning tally. “Sam was knocking on the door and she is one of the most unselfish forwards,” said Bruvik. “I think there are multiple times she has the opportunity to take the shot and she looks to pass. I think when she knew she was the only one, she had to take it. She’s also out it in a space where a teammate was because that is the way she thinks.”

The Tartans also got some inspired play in the win over George from sophomores Hannah and Kate Walsh.

“Tori had much better control today, she was keeping the ball down, finding her teammates,” said Bruvik, who also cited the play of senior star Amy Hallowell. “Kate Walsh played center back for the first time and she stepped up beautifully. She stayed composed and made some good stops today.”

Bruvik is hoping her team will get more and more control of the game as the season goes on.

“We talked about Tuesday’s big defeat and what do we take from that,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at South Hunterdon on September 20 and at Pennington on September 24.

“I think we are still in a little bit of a rebuilding process and we have to take it one game at a time. We have to break it down and be patient with ourselves and patient with each other. Nobody should be frustrated.”

Servis, for her part, believes the team, led by its core of sophomores is working well with each other.

“I love the sophomores; I love the entire team,” said Servis. “We do hang out as a grade. We just have a connection that really helps us get the ball around. We know where we are; we know each other’s voices. It is great to know each other so well like we do.”

September 11, 2013
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University women’s soccer player Tyler Lussi controls the ball last weekend as she made her college debut. The freshman forward scored a goal in Princeton’s 2-0 win over Richmond last Friday in the season opener and then added two more tallies in a 3-0 victory over Army on Sunday. Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982, was later named the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big opening weekend. Princeton will look to keep rolling as it plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for freshman forward Tyler Lussi to make an impact for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Playing in the season opener last Friday night against visiting Richmond, Lussi came off the bench and scored the first goal in the contest early in the second half, sparking the Tigers as they went on to a 2-0 victory.

“To get the first goal in the beginning of the second half was really nice,” said Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md.

“It set the pace for the rest of the game and then Lauren Lazo got the goal right after me. It just settled us down.”

The Lazo-Lussi combination paid dividends two days later as Princeton topped Army 3-0 with junior Lazo scoring the first Tiger goal and Lussi chipping in the other two.

“We are definitely playing off of each other and we know where each other are on the field and we are making good runs,” said Lussi. “We are getting it done.”

Reflecting on her debut, Lussi didn’t see herself emerging as the team’s top finishing threat.

“I think I came out wanting to win the game and came out playing strong and hard and wanting to take shots, getting into the goal area,” said Lussi, who is believed to be the first Tiger freshman to score three goals in the first two games of the season since Linda DeBoer in 1982.

“It was really good. I thought my teammates did a really good job, they got me the ball and we just put it away.”

Lussi was happy with the way she put away her goals in the win over Army as she scored on a blast to the low corner in the first half and then deftly volleyed the ball over the Army goalie early in the second period for her other tally.

“Lauren and I were both right there but I hit it nice and hard on the ground into the corner,” said Lussi, who won the Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Week honors for her big debut weekend.

“I wasn’t trying to go for power. I was going for pace and I put it away. On the second one, I was trying to lift it over nice and easy.”

For Lussi, sharp finishing is a staple of her game. “I have always had good accuracy on the ball,” said Lussi, who played for the Bethesda Soccer Club in Maryland in the Elite Clubs National League and entered Princeton ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 player in the Mid-Atlantic region. “When you are around the goal, just relaxing is always what I focus on.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford liked the way Lussi and Lazo worked together around the goal.

“They are both just dynamic,” said Shackford. “They are willing to take people on, they are also good at finishing. They  are very similar. They are both workers. They both know how to find space for themselves. They know how to take people on when they are dribbling. They are really confident and they are both gamers. To me, both of Taylor’s goals were upper class goals, they were great finishes.”

The Tigers displayed class all over the field in the win over Army. “We played really good soccer today,” asserted Shackford.

“We let the ball do the work and the speed of play was really good. I think you always worry about that second game, especially with Army having been in camp for so long. I think that we hung in there for two-thirds of the game with our fitness level and I think we got fresh legs in, you saw maybe a little drop in experience but I think they all hung in.”

Princeton’s experienced defense, spearheaded by senior co-captains Diane Metcalf-Leggette and Gabriella Guzman together with junior Gabrielle Ragazzo, played well all weekend.

“They did great; Diane is a good organizer back there,” said Shackford.

“I actually thought Gabby Ragazzo was the star of the game, she kept getting herself into the attack and we were able to switch the point of attack and get her out on the left side. The decision-making was great. You can’t put a price tag on what Guzman does for us. She is literally a rock.”

Junior goalie Darcy Hargadon was a rock for Princeton as she posted consecutive shutouts and stamped herself as first among equals in the four-way competition for the starting job.

“She did well,” said Shackford of Hargadon. “I give her a lot of credit; she organized well. She made saves when she had to. I know there weren’t a lot. I think for the most part she did really well.”

Heartened by her team’s play on opening weekend, Shackford believes that even better things are on the horizon.

“You never know what is going to happen; I am really pleased with our start,” said Shackford, whose team plays at Seton Hall on September 12 and at Rutgers on September 15.

“Going forward, we need more focus on the speed of play. I think our soccer can be really exciting this year, once we get fitter. We can move the ball quicker and create a little more around the box. Their soccer was good today, I was impressed.”

Lussi, for her part, is excited to build on her superb opening weekend.

“I am trying to figure out each player’s position and what their strengths are,” said Lussi.

“I think that is coming together a little more but it is definitely good. Two wins is big. Going into Thursday’s game, I think we are really confident and ready to get another win.”

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL GOOD: Princeton University field hockey star Allison Evans looks for the ball last Friday against Duke. Junior striker Evans chipped in an assist as third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton topped No. 10 Duke 3-1 in its season opener. A day later, she contributed a goal as the Tigers edged Fairfield 4-3. In upcoming action. Princeton hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Allison Evans and her teammates on the Princeton University field hockey team were frustrated heading into halftime last Saturday in their game against visiting Fairfield.

Even though third-ranked and defending national champion Princeton had outshot the Stags 12-0 over the first 35 minutes, the teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at intermission.

“I think it is just about mentality at that point,” said junior forward Evans. “We had a few balls that were just kind of sitting on the goal line and we couldn’t find a way to get them in. That’s more of a mental toughness and will to score than anything else because we definitely have the skill to. It was first weekend and less than a 24-hour turnaround from our first game (a 3-1 win over No. 10 Duke on Friday evening) so we definitely had to get the intensity up again.”

Falling behind 1-0 with 30:11 remaining in regulation, the Tigers picked up the intensity as they responded with three straight goals.

“Obviously going down first is always tough, you have to battle back and not only tie it but to go ahead,” said Evans, reflecting on the Princeton rally. “We got a corner and Teresa [Benvenuti] just nailed it at the top of the circle. I think pressure and being more aggressive is what opened up the goals for us.”

Evans showed her aggressiveness, scoring the third goal of that run as Princeton held on for a 4-3 victory over the scrappy Stags.

“My teammate Hailey [Reeves] had the ball on the left side on the baseline and she crossed and I laid my stick out and tipped it into the goalie and it bounced off and I lifted it over,” said Evans, reflecting on her goal. “You have got to get that rebound in.”

With all-time leading scorer Kat Sharkey having graduated after scoring 107 goals in her Tiger career, Evans is looking to pick up the scoring slack.

“I think all the strikers feel this way; it is our job to be effective in the circle,” said Evans, a native of Macungie, Pa. who scored a total of 23 goals in her first two seasons at Princeton.

“It is our job to score; it is our job to get corners. It is spread out among everyone; it is not just me.”

Evans liked the way the Tigers got the job done over opening weekend. “At the end of it, we are 2-0 and I think we are going to learn a lot after the coaches debrief us and look over the film,” said Evans, who picked up an assist in the win over Duke.

“Final results are great but we have a lot to learn and we can only get better from here. We definitely can’t complain about the two wins.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn was definitely proud of the way her team fought back after falling behind.

“I think we started attacking; when that happens, things start to open up,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on the second half rally.

“We have to be smart and be able to know when that penetrative moment is and make sure that we take it. I think that the team was really good at that. Teresa in the back was really good at playing those moments. I certainly give Fairfield a lot of credit for grinding the game out; it takes a lot of discipline to do that and I applaud them for being able to bring that for a majority of the game.”

Holmes-Winn acknowledged that her team struggled to close the game out as it surrendered two goals over the last 17 minutes of the contest.

“It is just about game management and that is something just being so early in the season we haven’t been able to focus on that as much,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals on the day from Benvenuti with Sydney Kirby and Evans adding the other tallies.

“I think the disorganization at the end is the product of just not being able to get everything in during preseason. We’ll be really slick as we move forward with closing out games and everyone understanding their role. We are not quite there yet. We are definitely shifting players around and we are trying to find ideal spots for lots of different players so it is a work in progress.”

A number of players stepped up in the win over Fairfield. “I thought our back three who kind of rotated in there were really steady; Kelsey Byrne, Cassidy Arner, Kate Ferrara, and Teresa were just really, really steady,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“Allison has been really good. Sydney Kirby’s work rate and Julia Reinprecht’s work rate were just phenomenal. They did so much just clearing space and being available, making space important. They really did a good job with that. Sydney has really been great this season.”

Surviving two tough challenges in the opening weekend was also a great step for Tigers, who have a bull’s eye on their backs after the NCAA championship campaign last fall.

“We felt in control of the Duke game which is a great feeling so early in the season against a quality opponent,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Michigan State on September 13 and Penn State on September 15.

“I think in this game, for the most part, we felt in control. We just have to get returns. There are going to be games where you just have to persist. It is good to have these games. You have to perform every time you step on the field. I told the girls just now that is one of the great benefits of finishing the previous season as No. 1, you get everyone’s best. That is better than we could ever hope for because it will make us that much better so if we get that kind of effort from every opponent by the time we get to the end of the season we will be battle-tested.”

Evans, for her part, saw the victory over Duke as a harbinger of good things to come this season.

“I think the Duke game was great yesterday for our first game,” said Evans.

“We finally came together as a team, we improved our structure and spacing. We were working together. I think we are connecting pretty well, that will only get better.”

Jim Barlow knew that his Princeton University men’s soccer team faced a stern test when it opened its season at Fairleigh Dickinson last Friday night.

FDU brought a 2-0 record into the clash along with the confidence of having advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

Showing some opening night jitters, Princeton fell behind 2-0 some 40 minutes into the contest.

Tiger head coach Barlow acknowledged that digging an early hole was not the formula for success against the Knights.

“You need to get the first goal against a team like that,” said Barlow, reflecting on the early deficit. “We couldn’t find an answer for their center halfbacks, they were both 6’4 or 6’5, good in the air and athletic.”

While Princeton fought gamely the rest of the way, it ended up falling 3-0.

“We didn’t play poorly,” said Barlow. “We were able to get the ball moving and keep them in their end. When we fell behind, we picked up the tempo and got the ball in their end more, creating some half-chances.”

Barlow noted that sophomores Nico Hurtado and Jack Hilger did create some positive energy for the Tigers.

“Nico and Jack came off the bench and helped us be more dynamic,” said Barlow, noting that Princeton lost stars Cameron Porter and Myles McGinley to leg injuries during the game. “Hilger was good at pressing up on the ball, he took a step forward.”

The Tigers did take a step back in one critical area of the game. “I think the big thing is we conceded two goals on the re-starts,” said Barlow.

“The first goal was on a corner, the ball was kicked high in the air and we didn’t have good communication. On the second goal, one of their center halves headed it in right off the corner.”

With the Tigers playing four games in a nine-day stretch starting with a game at Rutgers on September 13, Barlow hopes to get his squad headed in the right direction.

“We need to keep figuring things out,” added Barlow, whose team will host Seton Hall on September 15 in its home opener.

“We have a bunch of games in a row against some very good teams. We will get better and we would like to get some wins while we are improving. We need to be less naive on restarts and be better around the goal. We will have Thomas Sanner back so that should solidify us up front.”

The Tigers will need to get better quickly in order to hold their own in the clash with the Scarlet Knights, who are 1-2-1 and are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 5 Akron.

“Last year’s game with Rutgers is on our minds; I thought we played poorly,” said Barlow, reflecting on the 2-0 loss in the 2012 meeting between the local rivals.

“They came in here and really beat us up. This is a good opportunity to play against a good team and take a step forward.”

RAISED HOPES: Members of the Princeton High football team gather together during a recent practice session. Coming off a 2-8 season, PHS is primed to get back on the winning track under new head coach Charlie Gallagher. The Little Tigers kick off their 2013 season by playing at Northern Burlington on September 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RAISED HOPES: Members of the Princeton High football team gather together during a recent practice session. Coming off a 2-8 season, PHS is primed to get back on the winning track under new head coach Charlie Gallagher. The Little Tigers kick off their 2013 season by playing at Northern Burlington on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Things have been hectic for Charlie Gallagher as he has taken the helm of the Princeton High football program.

“I tried to prepare as much as I could over the summer to be ready for the practices and to have the playbook completed,” said Gallagher, an assistant with the program for five years before moving up to replace previous head coach Joe Gargione.

“We only had three coaches coming back from last year’s staff, including me. We have five new coaches, we are putting in a new offense and a new defensive scheme and we are trying to get on the same page.”

Based on the team’s play in the preseason, it appears that coaches and players have been getting on the same page.

“I think we have done a nice job of preparing the kids; I think we have gotten better in each scrimmage,” asserted Gallagher, who is taking over a squad that posted a 2-8 record in 2012.

“The South Hunterdon scrimmage was average but it was good to hit someone else. North (WW/P-N) was a great scrimmage; we didn’t put as many points on the board as we wanted but the defense played well. Against Robbinsville, we were on top after three quarters. The offense did a nice job, putting 19 points on the board. I think the kids have responded well.”

Junior Sam Smallzman has responded well as he has taken over as starting quarterback spot for graduated star Zack DiGregorio.

“We have a really fantastic quarterback in Sam Smallzman; he is a great leader,” said Gallagher, whose team opens the 2013 campaign with a game at Northern Burlington on September 12.

“He is a phenomenal football player. There are not many guys that play quarterback and middle linebacker. He worked real hard in the offseason. He wanted to lift with the team this spring and he also went out for the track team to learn how to sprint. He has worked on his passing game; that is much improved. First and foremost, he is a great leader for the kids.

PHS will feature a leading offensive threat at receiver in senior star Liam Helstrom.

“When everyone sees Liam, they are going to double team him,” said Gallagher.

“He is 6’2, 195 and he bench presses 285 pounds. He had a great year at tight end for us last year and he is going to be one of the strongest wide receivers around. We need to make sure to get others the ball; the rest of the offense has to be involved.”

Gallagher will be looking to get the ball to junior Colin Buckley, senior Will Harrison, and sophomore Rory Helstrom in the running game.

“Buckley has moved from guard to fullback,” said Gallagher. “He is a good lacrosse player; he has endurance and speed. Will is a scatback; he is a tough kid. Rory will also be at running back.”

PHS has some tough young kids at offensive line in sophomore Noah Ziegler, junior Omar Moustafa, sophomore Matt Poplin, junior Brian Lemus-Camey, junior Tom Moore, and senior Jo-Jo Kuranche.

“On the line, we are young, we have two sophomores, two or three juniors, and a senior,” said Gallagher.

“Ziegler is at left tackle, Moustafa is at left guard, Poplin is at center, Lemus-Carney is at right guard, and Moore is at right tackle. Jo-Jo can play anywhere.”

Gallagher is confident that his defense will play well. “We are running a 50 front,” said Gallagher.

“Our No. 1 goal is to stop the run. We need to make teams pass because when teams pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad. The odds are in our favor if we can stop the run.”

In preseason play, the Little Tigers have done a good job of stopping foes.

“I think the defense usually clicks sooner than the offense,” asserted Gallagher.

“Buckley and Jo-Jo are at tackle, Harrison is at strong safety, Mike Chonka is at free safety, and Rory will also be at defensive back. Sam is a player. Liam and Buckley can really get after the quarterback, we have seen that in scrimmages.”

In Gallagher’s view, the Little Tigers are ready to get after it collectively.

“I think we can be OK; we want to win football games this year,” said Gallagher.

“We want the games to be competitive and go down to the wire. We want it to matter at the end.”

In order to be more competitive, PHS will need some luck and execution. “The No. 1 thing is to stay healthy; we only have 48 or 49 kids and 15 of them are freshmen,” said Gallagher.

“Will Harrison is a really big component for us. He has the ability to be a great football player; we need to get him holes. We need 75-80 yards from him a game. We also need to win the turnover battle. We have done a good job of that in the scrimmages.”

PHS is facing a battle in its opener against Northern Burlington. “We are excited for that game,” said Gallagher.

“We have beaten them two years in a row and they have been in the state semis. We know they are a good ball team and they are going to pull out all their stops to beat us.”

SURE SHOT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a forehand in action last fall. Sophomore Rosca is back at first singles for PHS as the Little Tigers look to pick up where they left off in 2012 when they went 20-1 and advanced to the Group III state championship match. The Little Tigers are 2-0 so far this fall and hope to keep on the winning track as they host Robbinsville on September 12 before playing at Hamilton on September 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURE SHOT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a forehand in action last fall. Sophomore Rosca is back at first singles for PHS as the Little Tigers look to pick up where they left off in 2012 when they went 20-1 and advanced to the Group III state championship match. The Little Tigers are 2-0 so far this fall and hope to keep on the winning track as they host Robbinsville on September 12 before playing at Hamilton on September 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Surpassing expectations last fall, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team produced a season to remember as it went 20-1 and advanced to the Group III state championship match.

Picking up where it left off, PHS opened its 2013 campaign by breezing past Allentown 5-0 last Friday, winning all five matches in straight sets and losing only four games in the process.

“Any time you get the first win of the season it is good,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, whose team improved to 2-0 with a 5-0 win over Hightstown last Monday. “The girls want to duplicate or exceed last year’s success.”

A major factor in PHS’s success is the play of sophomore Christina Rosca at first singles.

“Chris is looking strong,” said Hibbert. “She does everything well. I think she has a year of experience of high school under her belt and another year of tournaments. She has played a lot of tough matches. She enjoys being part of the team, tennis is such an individual sport. Our goal this year is to put together a strong lineup to supplement her.

In Hibbert’s view, junior Rory Lewis gives the team a strong performer at second singles.

“Rory has worked hard every year,” said Hibbert. “As a freshman, she was close to being in the lineup but we had six seniors that year so it was tough. Last year, she was a little nervous in her challenge matches. As soon as the year got started, she clicked with Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] at first doubles. Playing with Maddie helped her game and gave her confidence. If you would go by the courts in the offseason, there was a good chance that she was out there playing. She has worked really hard on her game and she is ready to play.”

Junior Katelyn Hojelbane is ready for a another season at third singles. “Katelyn played there last year,” noted Hibbert. “She gives a lot of strength to our singles lineup. She has a year of experience in that spot and hopefully that will help.”

As the season gets underway, Hibbert is still searching to find her strongest options at doubles.

“Our doubles is a work in progress; we have four players I am going to start with and I have others nipping at their heels who have strengths and weaknesses,” said Hibbert, noting that senior Allison Hubert, sophomore Chenchen Wang, junior Zhenia Dementyev, sophomore Nikhita Salgame, freshman Elise Gerdes, freshman Brina Suppiah, and sophomore Gillian Samios are all in the mix.

“I have an idea of how we are going to start the season. There is always a possibility of changing the lineup. We are hoping to get the doubles pairings that will complement singles. Our strength has typically been our depth. We have a lot of good players.”

In Hibbert’s view, getting the doubles pairings right will go a long way in determining whether PHS can make another deep run in the state tourney.

“The doubles is the key to our success,” said Hibbert, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 12 before playing at Hamilton on September 16.

“It is easy to come up against a team with one or two strong players. We have that point at the top of the lineup. The doubles coming together is a key; it is important to be consistent. I feel our second and third singles can do well but it is important to have depth at doubles.”

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School field hockey player Morgan Foster heads upfield in PDS’s 5-1 loss to Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Friday in its season opener. Junior defender Foster notched her first career goal in the setback as she accounted for the Panthers’ only tally. In upcoming action, PDS is scheduled to host Northern Burlington on September 12 before playing at Peddie on September 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MORE TO COME: Princeton Day School field hockey player Morgan Foster heads upfield in PDS’s 5-1 loss to Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Friday in its season opener. Junior defender Foster notched her first career goal in the setback as she accounted for the Panthers’ only tally. In upcoming action, PDS is scheduled to host Northern Burlington on September 12 before playing at Peddie on September 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tracey Arndt possesses extensive experience with Pennsylvania field hockey, having starred at Pennsbury High and then going on to Penn State where she earned All-American honors.

Last week, Arndt’s Princeton Day School field hockey team got a double dose of the Keystone State, topping Penn Charter 5-2 in a scrimmage on September 10 before falling to Germantown Academy 5-1 last Friday in the regular season opener.

“Any of the private schools or public schools in that Pennsylvania area are very good and I am actually glad that we got to play them,” said Arndt, who is in her second season as the PDS head coach.

“We played a great game against Penn Charter, which is another private school over there the other day. They are great competition for us. I think we are going to see teams just as strong. It really got us going. To me, you have to play some of the best teams to know where you are standing.”

Against Germantown, the Panthers were trailing 2-1 at half but couldn’t find a rhythm in the second half.

“I think we did really well the other day, so build on the strengths that we had in the other game and come out firing,” said Arndt.

“I think we had so many opportunities; our finishing wasn’t there. The first shot was going but the second and third shots weren’t going. They were pretty tenacious defensively and their goalie certainly stepped up to make some saves.”

With PDS trailing 4-1 with 15:28 remaining, Arndt took a timeout to urge her team to battle to the final whistle.

“I told them at the timeout that it was a gut check; it doesn’t matter if the score is 1-0 or 7-0, you have to pretend it’s a tie game or you are down one and keep fighting and don’t get down on yourself,” said Arndt, who got a goal from junior Morgan Foster in the game as she notched the first goal of her PDS field hockey career.

“I thought this was a great lead-up for the rest of the season. The result is not what we wanted but we have tough games the whole season and with such a low number of players, we have to rely on every single person. We have two sophomores and they need to step up just as much as the seniors are stepping up. It is a hard lesson to learn but hopefully they are competitors and will step up and be motivated by this.”

Arndt believes that her players will benefit from the lessons learned against Germantown.

“As we got tired, we got too individual,” said Arndt. “The more tired we are, the more we have to rely on each other instead of just relying on one person. We have to put the same effort into the game, no matter what the score is. They came out after halftime with a really great fire under them. They knew that was their time to shine but they needed to do that the whole time. In college, I always played tough teams in the beginning and I think it is a great lesson, helping us know what we need to build on, what we need to do tactically, and as a team.”

With PDS slated to host Northern Burlington on September 12 before playing at Peddie on September 16, Arndt wants her team to focus on sticking together at both ends of the field.

“I think we need to work on our communication, our finishing skills as a team, and our recovery defense as a team,” asserted Arndt.

“To me, it is all a team thing. We have some great individual players but that means nothing if you don’t play as a team.”

KICK START: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco kicks the ball in a 2012 game. Junior tri-captain Sacco should provide plenty of punch in the midfield this fall for the Raiders, who are welcoming new head coach ­Joanna Hallec. Hun opens regular season play by hosting East Brunswick High on September 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

KICK START: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco kicks the ball in a 2012 game. Junior tri-captain Sacco should provide plenty of punch in the midfield this fall for the Raiders, who are welcoming new head coach ­Joanna Hallac. Hun opens regular season play by hosting East Brunswick High on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

 

During her four-year tenure coaching the Weston High (Conn.) girls’ soccer team, Joanna Hallac had to be creative.

“We were a smaller school in a good league but we were able to do well,” said Hallac. “We had to do more with less.”

As Hallac replaces Ken Stevenson as the head coach of the Hun School girls’ soccer program, she is bringing that open-minded mentality.

“In terms of a system, I like to see the personnel and what works best,” said Hallac, who will also be teaching upper school history at Hun as she returns to education after a three-year hiatus that saw her earn a masters degrees in legislative affairs from George Washington.

“I am flexible in my approach. I thing we are going to start with 3-5-2 but we could change.”

Hallac’s approach also includes a heavy emphasis on character. “I am really big on sportsmanship,” said Hallac, who played college soccer at Lafayette.

“I also see this as a chance for the players to learn life lessons as well as soccer lessons. They learn the benefits of working hard and working together and that can help them through their life.”

The Hun players have been working hard for Hallac in preseason training. “I think they have been great; I am teaching them new things and challenging them in soccer and conditioning,” said Hallac, crediting team captains Olivia Breander-Carr, Jess Sacco, and Ashley Maziarz with easing her transition.

“They have really been positive: I couldn’t be happier. The commitment is there. They have all bought in; they have put the work in. We have a good core of talent.”

Hallac believes she has some fine talent she can deploy on the offensive end of the field.

“I have Abby Gray at forward; she has shown promise,” said Hallac.

“She scored the winning goal in our scrimmage with WW/P-S. Palomo Rodney is a sophomore. She has improved by all accounts. She is a defender by trade. She worked hard this summer and I have been trying to get her to play up front. I would also like to play Olivia up front at times. I have a lot of players who can be options.”

The Raiders also boast some good options in the midfield as they look to improve on the 4-5-4 record posted in 2012. “Jess Johnson is unbelievable on defense but has skills and I would like to get her into the midfield. Ashley Maziarz is good on the corner kicks; she is great in the air. Jess Sacco is a threat in the midfield; I have a lot of players who can be options.”

As for the defense, Hallac is going with a mix of experience and youth.

“I have Olivia, Ashley and a freshman, Julia Salerno, on defense,” said Hallac. “Jess Johnson is alternating between defense and midfield.”

Sophomore Courtney Arch will be taking over at goalie. “Courtney is working hard and has been playing well,” said Hallac.

“She has the ability to make big saves. We are working on communication and concentration. We need her to stay focused for the full 80 minutes. We want to get her to be confident so she is 100 percent there. She has been really good and the girls are comfortable with her back there.”

With Hun opening the 2013 season by hosting East Brunswick High on September 12, Hallac is looking for her players to show an intense focus.

“I am making sure that everybody is working together for the full 80 minutes, offensively and defensively,” said Hallac.

“If someone takes a minute off, offensively or defensively, that is when the other team could score. We need to take advantage of the mistakes made by the other teams. We need to capitalize on opportunities. We don’t have a natural goal scorer so we are going to have to work hard to score goals.”

SUPER SAVER: Hun School boys’ soccer goalie Chris Meinert makes a save in action last fall. Senior star Meinert will be a key performer for Hun as it looks to improve on the 5-13 record it posted last season. The Raiders play at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 13 in their 2013 season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SUPER SAVER: Hun School boys’ soccer goalie Chris Meinert makes a save in action last fall. Senior star Meinert will be a key performer for Hun as it looks to improve on the 5-13 record it posted last season. The Raiders play at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 13 in their 2013 season opener.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Hun School boys’ soccer team coming off a disappointing 5-13 season last fall, the squad’s veterans are determined to lead a reversal of fortune.

“I think the seniors are extremely ready to go at it,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk. “They have been working extremely hard.”

Hun is looking for some good work from junior Tucker Stevenson up front.

“Tucker is probably one of our strongest players,” said Quirk of Stevenson, who is back on the pitch after studying abroad last fall. “He can hold defenders off and he is good at shooting on the run.”

In the midfield, the Raiders will be depending on three of its senior stalwarts, Bailey Hammer, Felix Dalstein, and Andres Gonzalez, to lead the way.

“Bailey Hammer has been with us for four years; he has always been a hard worker,” asserted Quirk, whose team plays at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 13 in its season opener.

“He has played on defense in the past and is playing in the middle now. I am expecting Felix and Andres to be extremely dangerous. Patrick Nally is a freshman; he has been looking pretty good.”

The Hun defense will feature a trio of sophomores along with some veteran assistance.

“We are going with M.J. Cobb, Alex Semler, and David Ducharme in the back; they played last year as freshmen,” said Quirk. “We will put Andres back there at times.”

Senior star goalie Chris Meinert figures to pull a lot of weight for the Raiders.

“Chris has been phenomenal; I can’t believe some of the saves that he makes,” said Quirk. “He has been starting since he has been a sophomore. He has gotten better at directing the defense.”

In order for Hun to play better this fall, it will come down to the seniors going out with a bang.

“I am expecting the three guys in the middle to lead by example,” said Quirk. “They are working hard and I know what they are capable of doing. We need to play more together as a team.”

DEFENSIVE ACTION: Hun School field hockey star Alex Kane leads the defense in a game last season. Senior back Kane will be a key player for Hun as it looks to improve on the 6-8 record it posted in 2012. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by playing at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DEFENSIVE ACTION: Hun School field hockey star Alex Kane leads the defense in a game last season. Senior back Kane will be a key player for Hun as it looks to improve on the 6-8 record it posted in 2012. The Raiders open their 2013 campaign by playing at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 12.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kathy Quirk acknowledges that her Hun School field hockey team hasn’t been looking like a powerhouse in preseason play.

But with the program having established a penchant for strong finishes over the years, longtime Hun head coach Quirk isn’t overly concerned.

“We typically start out slow,” said Quirk. “We have to play as a team and build on each other.”

In Quirk’s view, her squad has a good foundation to build at forward with the trio of senior Francesca Bello, junior Vicki Leach, and senior Courtney Faulkner.

“I think Francesca should be moving up and down the field; she should be our go-to scorer,” said Quirk, who guided the Raiders to a 6-8 record last fall. “Vicki plays on the line; she is scrappy in front of the cage. Courtney Faulkner is also up there.”

The pair of senior Bri Barrett and junior Julia Blake will be heading up the Raider midfield.

“Bri Barrett and Julia Blake are our two leaders there,” said Quirk, whose team opens the 2013 campaign by playing at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 12.

“They both have good speed and hunger to score goals; they play a lot at the top of the circle.

On defense, Davidson-bound senior star Alex Kane is one of Hun’s top performers.

“Kane brings a lot, she has a great knowledge of the game,” said Quirk, whose defense will also include senior Hanna Bettner, senior Liz Mydlowski, junior Taylor Nehlig, sophomore Alexis Goeke, and sophomore Charlotte Stout, with freshman Sophis Albanese seeing time either as a middie or a backfielder.

“She runs the show back there. We have changed up our defense. We are trying to pick the defense up the field and she helps the continuity between defense and offense.”

Junior standout goalie Reina Kern figures to be the backbone of the Hun defense.

“Reina plays all summer and comes back in good shape,” said Quirk. “We are looking for big things from her this season. She can control things in the back; she does a great job of directing the defense.”

Quirk believes the Raiders can do some big things this fall collectively if they give extra effort all over the field.

“We have good players in each unit but we need everyone to step up,” said Quirk.

September 4, 2013
EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EYEING A REPEAT: Michelle Cesan focuses on the ball in action for the Princeton University field hockey team last fall as she helped the program to its first-ever NCAA title. The Tigers are looking for a big year from senior star and second-team All-American Cesan as they defend their crown. Third-ranked Princeton begins regular season play this weekend by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6 and Fairfield on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton University field hockey team dealt with the absence of four key players who spent the year away from school training with the U.S. national program.

Despite not having the services of Kat Sharkey, Michelle Cesan, Katie Reinprecht, and Julia Reinprecht, a gritty Princeton team got the most out of what it had and won the Ivy League title that season.

Last fall, the program won its first-ever national championship and as the 2013 season approaches, the Tigers need to fill in some big holes left by graduation.

In assessing this year’s squad, Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn sees a parallel to the situation two falls ago.

“The 2011 season was really an interesting thing to go through, the girls had to dig deep within themselves to find their roles and provide leadership,” said Holmes-Winn, who guided the Tigers to a 21-1 record last fall in its run to the NCAA crown. “We definitely are likening that experience to this year.”

The squad’s experienced players have shown Holmes-Winn that they are not about to rest on their laurels.

“I have been very pleased with the team’s temperament,” asserted Holmes-Winn, whose squad is ranked No. 3 in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll and opens its title defense by hosting No. 10 Duke on September 6.

“What we saw in the spring is that the players worked very hard and that carried over into the summer. Complacency is not part of our culture. These girls go to Princeton; they are overachievers in every way.”

The squad’s corps of seniors, Julia Reinprecht, Amanda Bird, Kelsey Byrnes, Christina Maida, and Allegra Mango, are setting the tone in terms of work ethic.

“The juniors from last year are stepping into the shoes of last year’s seniors,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are leading by example and making sure that the players keep up to the standards that have been set in the program.”

It is going to be tough for the Tigers to match the standard set by the one-two punch of the graduated Katie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey. Reinpreccht, the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Player of the Year, had 19 assists last season while Sharkey ended her career as the most prolific scorer in Princeton history as she totaled 107 goals in her career.

“We are going to miss what Katie was able to do in the midfield,” said Holmes-Winn. “She could draw defenders, escape defenders and put attackers in position to score easy goals. Kat Sharkey could create offense by herself.”

Senior standout Julia Reinprecht, an All-American and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, should create opportunities for the Tigers this fall.

“Julia can go forward and split the defense,” said Holmes-Winn of the younger Reinprecht, who had 10 goals and six assists last fall.

“She has a high hockey IQ. She is a critical piece to both sides of the field. She played deep defense for us and we will move her higher up to midfield.”

The Tigers boast plenty of interchangeable pieces on the offensive end of the field.

“We are looking at Allison Evans (12 goals and five assists in 2012), Allegra Mango (1 assist) and Sydney Kirby (9 goals, 3 assists) to create chances on their own,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We have a system where the midfielders are expected to overlap. I am not sure where we are going to play Michelle Cesan (8 goals, 8 assists), probably at center mid or reset striker spot. We will have Kate Ferrara (1 assist) and Kelsey Byrne (3 assists) on wing. Julia Reinprecht along with freshmen Cat Caro and Annabeth Donovan will be in a holding role.

On the backline, the Tigers feature a trio of battle-tested performers. “The defense will be Cassidy Arner, Amanda Bird, and Teresa Benvenuti,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Teresa played center half for the U.S. this summer in the Junior World Cup and we will have her in the same place for us.”

While Princeton has a senior All-American goalie in place with senior Christina Maida, Holmes-Winn indicated that junior Julia Boyle and sophomore Anya Gersoff are in the mix to see action.

“We are really fortunate that we have three really good goalies; they push each other,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I don’t know who is going to start; it could depend on our opponent. Julia was right there last year and Anya competed to start some weeks. What separates them is not much, both Julia and Anya have a lot to offer. There will be a battle but the good thing is that I know they will support each other.”

The Tigers will be in for a battle when they face Duke (2-0) this Friday in the opener.

“Duke has a very talented collection of players,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will also play Fairfield on September 7 in the opening weekend of the season.

“When they put it together, they can be dangerous. They will be a top team by the end of the season. I am looking forward to see how we do against them.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, believes that Princeton can again emerge as one of the top teams by tournament time.

“It is always hard to say; we are going to work really hard,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I think we will be a really dynamic team on offense once everyone understands their role. That is going to take some time. I think we will be a good defensive team. A cornerstone of last year’s team was ability to stay in play and squeeze space. I think we can use numbers to our advantage.”