December 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 28, 2012

ALEX THE GREAT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Alex Kinney glides up the ice last weekend against Ohio State. On Saturday, senior forward Kinney scored on a long-range slap shot to help spark a Princeton rally as the Tigers pulled out a 2-1 win over the eighth-ranked Buckeyes. Princeton, now 4-6-2 overall, hosts Union on November 30 and Rensselaer on December 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alex Kinney likes to hone her long range shooting on a daily basis, sometimes to the amusement of her teammates on the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

“I do that in practice a lot and everyone makes fun of me,” said Princeton senior forward Kinney. “I take a lot of slappers.”

Last Saturday against visiting Ohio State, Kinney’s teammates were smiling and cheering after she blasted a one-timer into the top of the net from the point to pull Princeton into a 1-1 tie early in the third period.

“I was just trying to get the puck to the net,” said Kinney, reflecting on her moment of brilliance.

“It was definitely good to get it in, right at the beginning of the period. It kind of gave us momentum for the rest of the period. I felt like we kind of hemmed them in after that.”

Building on the momentum from Kinney’s tally, Princeton pulled out a 2-1 win over the eighth-ranked Buckeyes as a late goal from sophomore Brianna Leahy proved to be the margin of victory.

Kinney was not surprised that sophomore Leahy found the back of the net.

“Leahy does a really good job of crashing the net always so that was definitely a good effort on her part,” said Kinney, reflecting on the win that improved Princeton to 4-6-2. “She did that yesterday too.”

Kinney and classmates Kelly Cooke and Corey Stearns are putting in big efforts as they go through their final campaign with the Tigers.

“It is definitely a different perspective being here for four years,” said the 5’9 Kinney, a native of Lake Forest, Ill. who now has 28 points in her Princeton career on 10 goals and 18 assists.

“You realize this is the last of the last of everything. I think as seniors, that sentiment is shared between all three of us so everybody is trying to make that go from the top to the bottom through the team. I think we had a team meeting the other day and we are starting to get it. It is good.”

The Princeton team has worked through some rough patches this season. “I think the beginning of the season is tough, not everyone knows the systems,” said Kinney, who had an assist on Friday as Princeton took a 2-0 lead into the third period against the Buckeyes only to fall 4-2 in the opener of the two-game set.

“You have to get used to the game format and showing up every period and every shift. Every single shift counts, definitely the freshmen are getting used to the pace of college hockey versus high school hockey, which is a lot different. I think everyone is getting on the same page, so hopefully that continues.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal believes his team is getting on the same page.

“It has been a tough season so far but the kids have worked hard,” said Kampersal.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves by any stretch but we have had some tough luck definitely. I thought the Clarkson game [a 2-1 loss in overtime on November 17] was the first game we put together a really solid, smart tough hockey game. Maybe that was the turning point of our season.”

In the loss Friday, Princeton produced two power play goals to take take a 2-0 lead but then got overwhelmed in the third period as Ohio State outshot the Tigers 20-8 on the way to four unanswered goals.

“Last night, we played well but in the second period they took it to us pretty good and Kim [freshman goalie Kim Newell] bailed us out,” said Kampersal.

“You knew the dam was leaking and hopefully it wouldn’t break. Once they got that first goal, they had total momentum and we took some bad penalties.”

In preparing for the final game of the set, the Tigers focused on staying out of the box.

“We talked about that today,” said Kampersal. “We played smart all weekend, they played hard. We weren’t as disciplined last night as they we were today and that was the difference.”

In Kampersal’s view, Kinney’s tally made a big difference for Princeton “That was great, seconds into the period,” said Kampersal. “That was huge, that was an emotional lift. The seniors in general have had a good run so far.”

Kampersal noted that senior assistant captain Cooke has been giving the Tigers a lift all season long.

“Cookie had a great shorthanded goal against Robert Morris and had a penalty shot goal against Clarkson and then another breakaway here,” said Kampersal, whose team is 1-5-2 in ECAC Hockey action, good for seventh place in the league standings.

“Cookie has been playing phenomenal. She played great this week. She was unreal last week against St Lawrence/Clarkson. She has been doing a good job for sure.”

Freshman goalie Newell has been doing a good job for the Tigers, posting a 3.41 goals against average and a save percentage of .906 in starting all 12 games this season.

“She has been a little up and down, having more games and being young,” said Kampersal.

“She was a brick wall for two days this weekend. The goaltending position is an incredibly hard one and all I ever ask from the goalies is to give the team a chance to win and she battled. At big, key times, she made big, key saves.”

Kampersal is hoping that the team’s solid play against Ohio State last weekend can be a big boost going forward.

“Last year we had two ties with Ohio State that felt like wins and that seemed to get us rolling,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Union (3-6-2 overall, 0-2-2 ECACH) on November 30 and Rensselaer (2-10-2, 0-4 ECACH) on December 1. “I am hoping that can happen again.”

Kinney, for her part, believes that Princeton can build on its play this weekend and get on a roll.

“I think we are on the right track, this weekend should be a turnaround,” said Kinney. “We are pumped up, we kind of forgot what it was like to win.”

STANDING TALL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Megan Bowen surveys the court in a game last season. Senior center Bowen has moved into the starting lineup for the Tigers this year and is averaging 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. Princeton, now 3-2, hosts Rutgers on November 29 and UMBC on December 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After falling to Marist on November 17 to suffer their first defeat of the season, Megan Bowen and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s basketball team were determined to bounce back as they hit the Jadwin Gym floor three days later to host Rider.

“I think what we learned from Marist is that we are not where we want to be yet but each day we are getting better,” said senior center Bowen.

“So as coach [Courtney Banghart] said, yesterday we got better in practice from Saturday. Then today, we got better in this game than we were yesterday. Each day is a day to build and work together and become the team we want to be when it comes to the point in the season when we want to be strong with all 15.”

The Tigers were certainly better against the Broncs, jumping out to a 41-23 halftime lead on the way to a 88-42 rout before a crowd of 616 in their home opener.

In pulling away to the win, Princeton displayed its depth as 12 out of the 13 players who got in the game scored and each Tiger got at least one rebound.

“We have depth in all five positions; all five of us are looking to score and all five of us are looking to rebound,” said Bowen.

“I think coach said that in the box score tonight every single person had a rebound. That just shows you that we are a deep team so the more time the girls get in the game, the more it is going to prepare them for when we need all 15. Right now, we have 13 healthy. I think we are getting better each game.”

The 6’3 Bowen, a native of Bath, Pa., has certainly gotten better over her career, going from a little-used reserve as a freshman to the starting five this winter.

“It was definitely exciting; I have been working hard for three years to get to this point,” said Bowen, who is averaging 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds a game this season.

“I wouldn’t say it was too much of an adjustment. You start out those first minutes in the game where Devona [Allgood] used to be. At no point was it anything that I had to be nervous about. Look at the four girls I am surrounded by, if I mess up, I have four very good players who have my back.”

Bowen acknowledges that she has big shoes to fill in following Allgood, who ended her Princeton career with 1,177 points and 802 rebounds.

“There is definitely pressure there but it is not a negative pressure by any means,” said Bowen, who scored 12 points in the win over Rider.

“I just have got to step up, take my time, make my moves, and work hard on defense. At the same time, I know I have Alex Wheatley, most often, coming for me, or even Mariah [Smith] or Kristin [Helmstetter]. I have full trust in all three of them so at no point do I feel like if I am having a terrible night that I don’t have anyone that can come in for me. That’s what I tried to provide for Devona last year. It is nice to have those people behind you.”

In order to help make up for the loss of Allgood’s offensive production, Bowen has spent a lot of time honing her shooting stroke.

“I definitely have worked a lot on my outside shot; I feel comfortable taking the shot within the three-point line although tonight my outside shot was not exactly falling,” said Bowen.

“I am not going to try and hog the post the whole time when we have these other girls. Niveen [Rasheed] is often stronger and taller than the girl she is guarding so she can get in there and post up. It is nice if my girl doubles, then I have an outside shot.”

Princeton head coach Banghart thought Princeton showed some nice progress on the offensive end in the win over Rider.

“We found out a lot of things in that [Marist] game which is why you schedule a game like that,” said Banghart.

“I thought that the steps that we made were important. For example, making the extra pass, 23 assists, tonight, which we did not do against Marist was important. Also, I thought being way more physical on the low block was important and we did those things. The things we asked them to do they did, definitely.”

Banghart likes the play she is getting from Bowen down low. “That kid has embraced her role and that is to now be a starter and a low post threat,” said Banghart.

“She’ll have some ups and downs but she is giving us exactly what I was hoping for. I am really proud of her because she is a great kid.”

While Banghart knows her team is going to go through some ups and downs as it works new players into its rotation, she is relishing the challenges ahead.

“That is the beauty of coaching, every year is different. With this particular team, we are not bringing back one kid who averaged double figures at Princeton in her life except Niveen,” said Banghart.

“We have great depth but it doesn’t matter because you only play 5-on-5 so we need to have the five that are in giving us something different than the next five that are in. So it is a fun team to coach because they all have their own strengths but the problem is they all have their own weaknesses too so we have to figure out how to limit those. It is a totally different team.”

One thing, though, that hasn’t changed is the team’s intensity. “I guess people take for granted how hard we play; I keep hearing in the handshakes before the game that you guys play so hard,” said Banghart.

“It is awesome, year after year, our kids play so hard. I think  we need a little more growth on the offensive end, like tonight with 23 assists. We need a little more growth and understanding how and taking pride in setting up your teammate and moving the ball better. That comes with a brand new offense and a lot of kids. It is just going to take time. We are going to try to play hard enough to stay in games until we can sharpen up the offense again.”

Last weekend, the Tigers headed to Southern California where they topped UC Riverside 72-68 on Friday before falling 65-52 at UCLA on Sunday to move to 3-2. For Banghart, the value of the trip wasn’t dependent on wins or losses.

“I think traveling with such a new group; you learn a lot about each other and I think that is an important part of it too,” added Banghart, whose team hosts Rutgers on November 29 and UMBC on December 2.

“This is the time in the season to get your California kids home and help your recruiting base a little bit. We do a lot of recruiting out there. With this team, it is about more than competing. This team competes. They are going to compete against Riverside and they are going to compete against UCLA; we have to be able to execute.”

Bowen, for her part, looked forward to the California swing as good preparation for a journey that the Tigers hope will land them in the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight season.

“It is trip where we want to have fun, it is a holiday,” said Bowen. “We want to go out there and have a good time, winning definitely does a lot more than losing in that respect. We will prepare for them, there are adjustments you have to make along the way so we are going to have time difference, we are traveling and we are flying six hours but no excuses. You never know where you are going to end up if you make it to the tournament.”

CAREER NIGHT: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice in recent action. Last Friday at Sacred Heart, Ammon had a career night as he scored all four Tiger goals in a 4-3 victory for Princeton. The Tigers fell 3-1 to UMass-Lowell the next day to move to 3-4-1 overall. In upcoming action, Princeton heads to New York to play at Rensselaer on November 30 and at No. 8 Union on December 1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University men’s hockey team has only played eight games this season, the Tigers have proven they can fight back from a deficit.

In a win over No. 4 Cornell on November 9, the Tigers were down 3-2 in the third period but then reeled off three unanswered goals to post a 5-3 win. A week later, Princeton trailed 2-1 at No. 16 St. Lawrence but fought back to earn a 3-3 tie.

Last Friday at Sacred Heart, the Tigers forged another comeback, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a 4-3 victory.

While Princeton head coach Bob Prier admires his team’s pluck, he would prefer to see it start playing from ahead.

“We have done OK with uphill battles but we need to start playing better early in each game,” said Prier.

“We have to get off to better starts. We need to be ready to tear the door down and be ready to play every night.”

In assessing the win over Sacred Heart, Prier acknowledged that his team didn’t play all that well.

“A win is something we needed to get back on track as a team,” said Prier, whose team had lost 7-2 at Clarkson in its last outing before Friday.

“We didn’t play particularly well. They threw everything at us. It was good to see us battle back and get the win.”

It was good for Princeton to see junior forward Andrew Ammon break out with a career night in the victory over the Pioneers as he notched all four goals for the Tigers.

“Andrew was rewarded for a good week of practice,” said Prier of Ammon who came into the game with one goal on the season.

“His play away from the puck was great. He played physically and was the best player on the ice for us.”

The trio of Ammon, Tyler Maugeri, and Andrew Calof has provided the best production so far for the Tigers.

“That line has been great; they are one of the best lines in the league,” said Prier of the line who rank 1-2-3 in scoring on the Tigers with Maugeri leading the way at 11 points, Calof at 10, and Ammon having notched nine.

“It is a good line but we can’t go far with just one good line. Right now it is that line and Eric Meland doing the scoring. Eight games into this, I would have thought that we would be showing more scoring depth.”

Princeton’s lack of scoring balance and some sloppy play doomed it a day later as it fell 3-1 at UMass-Lowell in moving to 3-4-1 overall.

“I thought it was one of our best games of the year as far as playing systems and controlling the puck and the play,” said Prier of the game which was deadlocked at 0-0 until UMass-Lowell scored three goals in the last two minutes of the second period. “We had a bad turnover late in the second period that changed the momentum.”

The Tigers, true to form, didn’t fold after falling behind but could only manage one goal over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

“We recovered and had a great third period; Kesselman got a good goal, Willie MacDonald made a great pass,” said Prier.

“Against a team of that caliber in their building, you have to eliminate things like turnovers and playing with one hand on the stick. These are things that we have harped on and they are costing us.”

Prier knows that his team needs to play sharper if it is going to come up with wins this weekend when it heads to New York to play at Rensselaer (3-5-2 overall, 0-4 ECAC Hockey) on November 30 and at No. 8 Union (8-2-1 overall, 3-1 ECACH) on December 1.

“RPI is coming off two wins this weekend and they are a pretty good team in their building,” said Prier, whose club is 2-1-1 in ECACH action, good for a tie for fifth in the league standings.

“They have lost twice to Union and once to Harvard so their record is not indicative. Union is a great team that plays a solid team game. They rarely make a mistake. They are committed to doing the right things and doing them properly.”

In Prier’s view, his team needs to be committed to bringing it from the opening face-off.

“We need to take the initiative, and not be reactive,” asserted Prier. “It’s going to be a nice challenge. We can’t be making the same mistakes; we have to get off to a good start.”

BY A NECK: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Madison Luther goes after the ball in recent action. Senior defender Luther’s play along the back line helped PHS hold the fort as it edged Colts Neck 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game last week. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ soccer team led Colts Neck 1-0 last week in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game, PHS certainly wasn’t in control of the contest.

Underdog Colts Neck, the eighth-seed in the sectional, put the No. 2 Little Tigers under fire through much of the second half, using its speed to generate a number of scoring opportunities.

PHS senior defender Madison Luther acknowledged that things got a little dicey along the Little Tiger back line.

“It was definitely a storm, that is the right word,” said Luther, reflecting on the second half of the game.

“They kept at it, they are very fast. We have to make sure that we position ourselves all the time to get ready for them. Katie Carduner is our quarterback and we have Dana Smith back there, sliding for us left and right. Sticking with them works, that’s what gets us there.”

The PHS defense held the fort, keeping Colts Neck from breaking through as it earned a 1-0 victory and the first sectional title in the 21-year tenure of head coach Greg Hand.

The win improved PHS to 16-2-1 and earned it a date with South Jersey champion Moorestown in the state Group III semis on November 28 at Toms River North with the winner advancing to the championship game on December 2 at The College of New Jersey.

For Luther and her teammates, surviving the roller-coaster ride to pull out the title left some special memories.

“It is the first time for all of us,” said Luther. “All game, it was back and forth, even with the goal it didn’t feel like we were up. You never know with the Shore Conference; they are unexpected. We were really excited; we were a good kind of nervous.”

Luther’s athletic versatility has helped her become a very good defender for the Little Tigers.

“I play basketball and lacrosse so I know defense well,” said Luther. “Since I am not the fastest, I can shadow and watch them. I am better at that.”

It certainly helps PHS to have star senior goalie Lauren Ullmann as its last line of defense.

“Lauren is a lifesaver,” asserted Luther of the netminder who made eight saves in the win over Colts Neck.

“She is always there, she is always talking, constantly directing everyone. It is very nice to have that. Having her back there is a very safe cushion, you have someone respectable and an extra barrier to protect.”

In Luther’s view, the Little Tigers gained extra motivation from two setbacks, an early season loss to Robbinville and getting eliminated in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament by Pennington on penalty kicks after playing the Red Raiders to a 0-0 draw through 100 minutes.

“After our second loss to Robbinsville, ‘we were like OK, this can’t happen,’” recalled Luther.

“The Pennington game didn’t even feel like losing, they are such a great team. We lost 4-0 to them last year. A lot of the new kids heard that and said let’s not lose. Keeping up with them made it so much better.”

PHS head coach Hand, for his part, is proud of the way his squad has taken care of business after its 2-2 start.

“It just seems that we managed to do enough of the things that we need to do throughout the 80-minutes to hold the opponents down a little and create opportunities,” said Hand.

“There is no magic to it, it is just the fact that we have a really hardworking group who take themselves pretty seriously when they have to and put their all into every single day.”

In the victory over Colts Neck, PHS followed that blueprint. “I thought we possessed really well in the first 20 minutes of the game, the second 20 after we scored, I think we actually came a little bit unglued, not taking care of the ball as well,” recalled Hand.

“We continued to work hard through the whole game and that carried into the second half. At the end, you could see the fight that was in us; we weren’t going to let anything get by.”

Hand acknowledges that he didn’t see such an ending for his team when it first convened for training this summer.

“If you asked me on August 16th, I wouldn’t have suggested that this was going to be where we were,” said Hand.

“But to take guidance from somebody like John Wooden — he says he never went into a game, even if he was a big underdog, thinking he was going to lose. But he never went in, thinking he was going to win.”

In Luther’s view, the team’s success is a product of making the most of everyday and not worrying about the big picture.

“We didn’t set any goals for ourselves,” said Luther. “At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a winning record at all, now we are 16-2-1. No one expected us to do things like this and get this far. I think the fact that we didn’t have these goals, we had nothing to lose and that just pushed us more.”

BIG MAC: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick goes after a puck in action last winter. PHS is counting on junior defenseman McCormick to shoulder much of the load along the blue line this winter. PHS, which went 15-7-2 last winter in advancing to its third straight Mercer County Tournament championship game, opens its 2012-13 campaign by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last three years, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team has become a fixture in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, winning the title in 2011 and coming in second in 2010 and last winter.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell is proud of his team’s consistent excellence in the MCT and what it says about the program.

“I think, without a doubt, we have been the best public high school program in the area over the last few years,” said Campbell, whose team fell to Notre Dame in last year’s county title game on the way to a 15-7-2 record.

“We are ready to do that again. By the time we get to the playoffs in February, I think we will be good again.”

As PHS works its way over the next few months to the postseason, it will need to answer some key question marks, starting at goalie where junior Robert Quinn is replacing four-year starter Josh Berger.

“Robert did camps over the summer and played in a summer league; he has been on the ice a lot,” said Campbell, noting that Joseph Dawes and Mike Dunlap will serve as back-ups.

“Robert is a good athlete; he is a soccer goalie and a baseball catcher so he is defensive-minded. We are lucky to have someone like him who we have confidence in to come in after Josh.”

Quinn will need to be good, as the PHS defense is not blessed with depth. “We are very thin on defense; we are going to have a short bench,” said Campbell.

The Little Tigers do have some good talent along the blue line in juniors Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor.

“Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor will anchor the blue line for us,” said Campbell, whose team starts the season by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.

“They’ll be on the ice most of the time. Patrick is a phenomenal skater. He is one of the most naturally gifted, fundamentally sound skaters that I have seen. He is a smart player and has a good shot. Harrison is one of the most improved players I have seen; he is a tough, smart player.”

At forward, PHS boasts enough depth to make things tough on its foes. “Matt DiTosto has had some key playing time for us since he has joined the team” said Campbell.

“He is definitely a go-to guy for us. Spencer Reynolds and Gabe MacGregor are in the mix. Jack Andres is really tough, Connor McCormick and John Reid are smart hockey players.”

While Campbell believes his offense can be productive, he knows that he needs to shore up the defense if PHS is going to be a title contender.

“We will focus on defense,” said Campbell, whose team also advanced to the second round of the state Public B tournament last winter.

“You build successful teams around defense and  we will do whatever we can to keep the puck out of the net. We will put whomever we need on defense to help us do that.”

The Little Tigers also have to focus on playing clean hockey to experience success this winter.

“We have to play smart hockey with as few penalties as possible,” asserted Campbell.

“We need to play smart, defense-minded hockey. We need to hold shot totals down and play good neutral zone defense.”

SUPER SAVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker thwarts a Lawrenceville player in action last season. Senior netminder Walker will be a pivotal performer for PDS this winter as it faces a daunting schedule that includes several boarding schools and such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup. The Panthers open their 2012-13 campaign when they host Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team prospered as it battled through a daunting schedule that included the likes of Lawrenceville, Moses Brown (R.I.), St. Augustine, and the Pingry School, among others.

After going 18-5-1 against such competition, PDS is pushing the envelope this season as it seeks to further raise its profile in New Jersey hockey circles.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

Bertoli is cautiously optimistic that his team can hold its own against the challenges it will face.

“The guys know that the greater community is excited about the team,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29 in its season opener.

“We are returning our four top scorers, four good defensemen, and we have a starting goalie back. I am excited but a little apprehensive. There are heavy expectations surrounding this team, many of them self-imposed.”

The return of stellar senior goalie Connor Walker gives PDS the foundation to meet its expectations.

“Connor is one of the top kids in the state record-wise,” noted Bertoli. “I think he went 11-1 as a sophomore and was something like 14-3 last year. He is about 25-4 the last two years. He is a senior and he is confident. He is bigger and stronger. He is a competitor and wants to be in there every night. He will start every game unless he tells me otherwise or he gets hurt.”

Walker will have to be sharp as the Panther defense is a work in progress with the loss of Tyler Olsson to graduation and the absence of Bump Lisk, who is playing junior hockey this winter.

“I think the defense was our strongest point last year; the kids got involved in the offense and did a lot of good things for us,” said Bertoli.

“The biggest concern is losing Tyler, he was a big, strong kid and was the first one out for our penalty kill. C.J. [Young] can play well and I think Eddie [Meyercord] can too. We need the guys to have puck possession and play well in the neutral zone.

In Bertoli’s view, the battle-tested trio of Taran Auslander, Grahame Davis, and Meyercord must play well this winter for PDS to hold the fort.

“Taran, Eddie, and Grahame are seniors and they need to be leaders,” asserted Bertoli.

“They need to play on the power play and the kill and to play extra shifts when we are going with four. We are going to be playing some bigger and older teams and they need to withstand whatever
the teams bring against us. I am trying to instill confidence in them so they will play like we did last year.”

Bertoli is confident that his group of forwards will be productive this winter. “I think we are going to be outstanding up front; I think that is going to be our strength,” maintained Bertoli.

“I don’t think there is a group of centers better in the state than Conrad [Denise], Ross [Colton], and Cody [Triolo]. The biggest challenge to is to juggle the wingers with them and figure out who will contribute the most.  We will have three lines who can score independent of each others.”

Luckily, Bertoli has some good pieces to work with in formulating his lines. “Rob Colton was our leading scorer last year,” said Bertoli.

“Sean Timmons had a shoulder injury last year and I am expecting him to have a breakout year. He has a physical edge to his game that we have been waiting to see. Lewis Blackburn, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman are kids that I expect to step in and contribute. They are juniors and seniors and they know what is going on.”

In order to have another big year, the Panthers are going to have to go hard
every game.

“We need to show up with the right attitude and work ethic,” maintained Bertoli.

“As long as we are ready to compete, we will get our share of wins. The effort is the key.”

So far, Bertoli is getting the right effort on a daily basis. “I am seeing it every day; we have some experienced success and the kids want to feed off of that,” said Bertoli.

“They want to recapture that. We have eight or nine seniors and they want to step up. We have 14 or 15 players back with the same system and most kids in the same roles. They want to play against the best and build on what we did last year.”

HARD DRIVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Lauren Johnson drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior star guard Johnson will be a key player for the Panthers this winter as they look to improve on the 9-13 mark posted in 2011-12. PDS tips off the upcoming season by hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mika Ryan, coaching the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team last winter was about getting the most out of limited resources.

With a lineup whittled down to six players for much of the season due to a series of injuries that affectionately became known as the “dirty half-dozen,” Ryan applied the coaching acumen built up over her long career to guide the Panthers to a 9-13 record and an unlikely run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

This season, Ryan has more resources at her disposal and is looking forward to figuring out the best way to deploy the talent on her roster.

“We have nine varsity and seven JV players this year; we are much healthier this year in terms of players,” said Ryan, whose coaching journey has included stints as an assistant at Virginia and Rider together with a 10-year run as the head coach of The College of New Jersey women’s program.

“Freddy Young and I are also going to coach the JV. We have been practicing the two teams together. I want them to learn our system and get used to what we do.”

In fact, the program’s strength in numbers has some of last year’s iron women concerned that they aren’t getting pushed enough.

“The captains came to me and said they think we aren’t working hard enough in practice,” said Ryan, whose team tips off the 2012-13 season by hosting hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5.

“I told them it is because we have more numbers and I want them to feel good in February. They have been great at sharing how we do things.”

Ryan feels good about a backcourt which features three battle-tested veterans in senior tri-captains Lauren Johnson and Hannah Levy together with versatile junior Emily Goldman.

“L.J. plays as hard as she can all the time, she only knows one way to play,” maintained Ryan.

“She has worked on her left hand and is working to make her shot more consistent. I think the most improved player since I got to PDS is Hannah Levy. She is a worker, you never have to motivate her. She thinks well and is mentally quick. She is not hesitant to share what the thinks. She will say this isn’t working, maybe we should try this. Goldman has so much versatility. She joined us late because of field hockey but she has brought a winner’s attitude from the success she had this fall. She is so versatile, I will ask her to play another position and she is always willing. I can play her at guard or forward.”

Exemplifying the team’s depth heading into the season, PDS boasts three reserves in junior Tess Zahn, sophomore Erin Murray, and freshman Devika Kumar, who will also see playing time at guard.

“Tess Zahn hit some big shots for us last year and is shooting well,” added Ryan.

“We are happy to have Erin Murray back after she spent a year at Peddie, she is a good ball handler. Devika has a lot of potential. She could be a good swing player. She is active and athletic and can defend a guard but she also has enough size to play inside.”

The Panthers have two good athletes in the frontcourt with promising freshmen Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew.

“Okorodudu is fundamentally sound and very coachable; her dad played at Bucknell and her brother plays at WW/P-N,” said Ryan.

“Her footwork is excellent and she is a big, strong young lady.  She has the ability to shoot the 10-12 foot jump shot and we are working in some plays to take advantage of that. Van Liew is 6 feet tall and I think she has gotten taller since coming to PDS. She has played only one year of organized basketball. She has enormous potential and is so coachable.  She wants to learn and is a sponge on the things we coach her. She is ambidextrous and can shoot with either hand within three or four feet.  She is mobile.”

Senior tri-captain Daniela Levitan should provide the leadership to help the freshmen come along.

“Levitan is looking good; she came to us late because she was in the school play but she is working herself into shape,” said Ryan.

“She has dedicated herself to the program after not playing much as a freshman or sophomore. I am impressed by the interest she has taken in the program.”

As a result of PDS’s inside strength, Ryan is making some tactical adjustments.

“We will be going back to a style I like, going inside out,” said Ryan, who noted that the team may run a zone press at times to speed up tempo and take advantage of the height at the back end of the defense. “We have three quality post players this year so we can play that style.”

While Ryan is confident in her team’s strategic approach, she knows that rekindling the spirit that drove the team last winter won’t be easy.

“The thing I am concerned about the most is that we maintain the chemistry we had last year,” said Ryan.

“The thing that I most enjoyed was our team’s character through the ups and downs. They stayed the same people and didn’t get down on themselves. I am telling them this is your team, not my team. I am here to help you get better.”

Ryan is confident her team will get better and better as the winter unfolds. “I think we are a team that might take some lumps early because we are relying on some freshmen in key positions,” said Ryan. “I think we could become a good team as the season goes on.”

SPEED SKATER: Hun School boys’ hockey star Alex Vukasin races up the ice in a game last season. Senior forward Vukasin’s speed and finishing skill make him a top offensive weapon for the Raiders, who will get their 2012-13 season underway by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28 at the IceLand Skating Center in Hamilton. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally brought some high expectations when he took the helm of the Hun School boys’ hockey team last winter.

“The reason I wanted to take this team is that I wanted us to be a top program, I didn’t want an average team,” said McNally, a 2007 Princeton University alum who played for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“The school has been supportive, we have new treats in terms of equipment; I think we will respond on the ice.”

The Raiders responded well to McNally in his debut campaign, going 10-9-1 and making it to the finals of the Independent Hockey League (IHL) championship game where it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime.

In McNally’s view, the title game defeat and some infusion of new talent should help Hun raise the level of its play this winter.

“I think losing the title game last year has given the team extra motivation,” said McNally, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28.

“We have 12 new guys so there is a lot of new blood. There are guys who don’t know better so there is a lot more competition for positions and more accountability that way.”

Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has shown accountability from day one of his Hun career.

“We are lucky to have him; he is one of our more valuable players,” said McNally of Cheifetz, a starter since his freshman season.

“He has decent size, good technical skills, and plays the puck well. He is collected on the ice. He is one part of the team that I don’t have to worry about. He helped to organize some of the fall workout stuff, he reaches out to the players through social network stuff. He has the respect of everybody; he has a collected demeanor on the ice.”

Star defensemen Brad Stern, a junior, and senior Eric Szeker have earned the respect of Hun’s foes.

“We have Brad Stern and Eric Szeker back on defense, they were our big two last year,” said McNally.

“Stern is the more offensive guy, the guy on the point. Eric is bigger and reliable down low. Last year, we had to lean heavily on those guys and they probably played too many minutes.”

Hun will be able to lean on some others along the blue line this winter. “We have Dan Seelagy and Andrew Zhou back; we also have J.C. Moritz, a PG from Pennsylvania who is our biggest kid,” said McNally.

“We also have Jonathan Pensler, a freshman and a local kid who should step in. We have a legitimate d-man rotation, that is by far the biggest difference from last year’s team. We just didn’t have the horses on defense last year.”

The Raiders do have some horses at forward in senior Alex Vukasin, junior Alex Karanikolas, junior Alex Bidwell, and senior Peter Nawn.

“Alex Vukasin looks as good as ever; he is very fast, he sprints on the ice,” said McNally, whose group of forwards will also include seniors Jordan Wang, Anton Salienko and Matt Waxman together with juniors Spy Avgoustiniatos and Nick Guns and sophomores Chris Rossi and Ray Demoine.

“He can go as fast with the puck as without it. Karanikolas is a power forward, he is a big bull who works the puck down low and wears you out. Alex Bidwell scored goals for us last year and should have even more this year. Peter Nawn was hurt for about a third of the year but if he is healthy he should get points. We have a rotation of three full lines returning so that is nice.”

McNally believes his team is poised to have a nice season. “We have accountability based on the numbers,” said McNally.

“I expect us to do even better in the league, which means winning it. I want us to do better in non-league play, we have scheduled some better teams. We have added to the number of games as well.”

In order to be one of the better teams in the area, Hun will need to develop some good chemistry.

“With this team, it will be about how the players come together,” asserted McNally.

“It is not strategy or individual skill, it is how close we can get in a short period of time. You are going to work harder and learn your role better if the team matters. If you are playing with your best friends, you try harder than if it is just a group of guys going to the same school.”

CARRY OUT: Hun School girls’ basketball star Carey Million heads to the hoop in action last winter. Hun will be relying on senior forward Million’s tenacity and athleticism as it looks to improve on the 15-12 record it posted last season. The Raiders start 2012-13 regular season action by playing at Pennington on November 30 and then hosting Friends Central on December 4.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup doesn’t have a group of seniors to lead the way as his Hun School girls’ basketball team heads into the 2012-13 season but that doesn’t mean that the squad isn’t battle-tested.

“We only have one senior but the junior group is very experienced, they have been with us for three years,” said head coach Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 15-12 record last winter and a spot in the state Prep A title game.

“This is our first team in a few years with some depth. The past few years we have struggled being in shape and going 32 minutes against the good teams.”

The team’s depth is most evident in the backcourt where the Raiders feature two key returners in junior Anajha Burnett and sophomore Erica Dwyer together with a pair of promising newcomers in sophomore Janelle Mullen, the younger sister of graduated star Jackie Mullen, and junior Erica Brown.

“Anajha is a junior who is in her third year with the program,” said Holup, whose team opens regular season play with a game at Pennington on November 30 and then hosts Friends Central on December 4.

“She has grown as a player and has developed; she has gotten stronger. Erica came on strong last year. She had five 3s against Peddie in the MAPL tournament. She is a more well-rounded player. She is distributing more; instead of being a one-dimensional player. Janelle has big shoes to fill with Jackie. She is a raw talent; she has more basketball potential at this point than Jackie. She is a sophomore and will be with us for three years. Erica Brown can play either guard or forward. She has good court vision and ball handling skills. She has a knack for getting the ball inside and can distribute.”

The team’s lone senior, Carey Million, brings versatility to the frontcourt. “Carey is a three-sport athlete and just signed a letter of intent to play softball at Elon,” said Holup, who posted his 250th career win with Hun’s victory over Lawrenceville in the Prep A semis last February.

“That will allow her to not have pressure; hopefully she can use basketball as a stress release.”

Holup will be counting on junior forward Johnnah Johnson to put pressure on Hun’s foes in the paint.

“Johnnah’s leadership skills are developing; she has taken charge out there, getting the girls started with their stretches,” said Holup.

“She needed to grow up a little. Basketball-wise, she is a pure talent. She still needs to understand the game more to really use her talents. She is a legit D-1 basketball player as long as she keeps her focus on the court and in the classroom. She has big shoulders and we will need her to carry the team as the younger players get used to things.”

If the Raiders can develop team unity, the squad could do some big things this winter.

“As long as the girls play as a team and learn and develop during the season, we should be good,” asserted Holup.

“We have a good mixture of youth and experience. The older girls need to trust the younger girls and the younger girls need to get to know the older girls. The talent is there; it is just a matter of meshing.”

November 21, 2012

TITLE CELEBRATION: Members of the Princeton University field hockey team celebrate after they rallied to beat North Carolina 3-2 in the NCAA Championship game. The Tigers finished the fall at 21-1 as they earned the program’s first-ever national crown.
(Photo by Rick Voight, Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Katie Reinprecht felt awful last Sunday morning just hours before the Princeton University field hockey team was slated to face the University of North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game.

“I woke up around 4 a.m. and at first I thought it was nerves; I was having stomach issues, going back and forth to the bathroom,” said Tiger senior midfielder and tri-captain Reinprecht.

“I met with one of the trainers right before breakfast and they thought it was food poisoning. They gave me medication and I was trying to get liquids. I knew I was going to play but I thought I might be running to a trash can during the game.”

As game time approached, Reinprecht was ready to take the field in Norfolk, Va. “The medication settled my stomach and I had two bottles of Gatorade right before the game,” said Reinprecht. “I had so much adrenaline, I had plenty of energy.”

By Sunday afternoon, Reinprecht was experiencing something she had never felt before as she helped second-seeded Princeton rally to a 3-2 win over the top-seeded Tar Heels and earn the program’s first-ever national championship.

“I was still thinking about hitting the ball but I saw Jules [younger sister and Tiger star defender Julia Reinprecht] collapse behind me so I knew it was over,” said Reinprecht, reflecting on the moment when the clock hit 0:00.

“It was an incredible feeling. It was such a team accomplishment. I knew this end was possible if we gave 100 percent.”

For much of the contest, it didn’t look like Princeton was heading to a happy ending.

The Tar Heels had the better of the play in the early going and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Charlotte Craddock goal at the 11:26 mark.

“In the first 10 minutes, we were being outplayed,” said Reinprecht.  “The goal went in and we looked at each other and there was no sense of fear. We stepped it up from there and showed how badly we wanted it.”

Less than six minutes later, Reinprecht stepped up as she fed classmate and fellow captain Kat Sharkey on a penalty corner and the latter slammed in the tying goal.

The teams went into the locker room knotted at 1-1 at intermission and then 11 minutes into the second half Princeton found itself trailing again as Katie Plyler found the back of the cage for the Tar Heels.

Princeton, though, was unfazed. “No one likes to go down in a game like that but we had been in those situations before,” said Reinprecht. “I thought we had the momentum and I didn’t doubt that we could score.”

Reinprecht’s faith proved justified as Allison Evans notched the tying goal at 56:44 and then Amanda Bird tallied three minutes later on a penalty stroke to give Princeton its first lead of the contest.

The Bird tally set up a stomach-turning finale as Princeton held off a dangerous and desperate North Carolina team.

“It was the longest eight minutes; a timeout helped,” said Reinprecht. “We had a defensive priority, even Kat Sharkey was in the defensive circle. We didn’t want to let this slip away, we said we can’t let them tie this up. We had confidence and trust.”

That trust was critical as Princeton lost freshman star Teresa Benvenuti to a hamstring injury in warmup and then senior stalwart Molly Goodman went down with a knee injury 10 minutes into the contest.

“That was one of the most powerful things about the title game, everyone contributed in that game,” asserted Reinprecht. “People had to step up who weren’t used to that role and they rose to the occasion.”

As Reinprecht returned to Princeton this past August after spending a year away from school training with the U.S. national field hockey program and playing in the London Olympics, she was determined to step into a positive leadership role.

“When I came back from the national team, I knew what it was like to play with a talented team but that winning doesn’t correlate unless you put it all out there,” said Reinprecht, who was joined in her year with the national program by her sister along with teammates Michelle Cesan and Sharkey.

“I didn’t want the four of us to be unapproachable; we needed to fit in with the family. Everyone on the team had to be equal.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn points to team unity as the key factor in Princeton’s title run.

“Of course we have talent but it is much more important to have chemistry; I have been around talented teams that didn’t do as well as they should,” said Holmes-Winn, whose squad went 21-1 this fall, setting a program record for most wins in a season.

“I told them before the Duke game [the season opener on August 31] that you will become a family and you will love each other. It is not how talented you are but how hard you are willing to fight for each other. They looked each other in the eyes before the Maryland game [a 3-2 win in the NCAA semis on Friday] and they were ready to play for each other.”

The Tigers were ready for a stiff challenge as they prepared for the clash with the 23-1 Tar Heels, whose roster included former Stuart Country Day standout Jackie Gaudioso-Radvany.

“They are strong at every position,” said Holmes-Winn, noting that Tar Heel forward Craddock and midfielder Kelsey Kolojejchick caused Princeton particular concern.

“We needed to lock down their game changers. We had to limit Craddock’s touches so we put a center mid to overlap in her zone. We told the midfield to run with Kolojejchick but don’t tackle her. We needed to stay in the play. I am proud that we showed the discipline to do that for all the game.”

That task was made harder by the injuries to Benvenuti and Goodman. “To beat North Carolina full‐strength is a huge challenge, but to do it accessing the depth on the bench the way we did is a product of our team’s hard work and preparation,” said Holmes-Winn.

For Holmes-Winn, seeing her players produce a national title evoked a deep sense of pride.

“To win at a place like Princeton is a colossal achievement; we don’t give scholarships,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They are students first and foremost. To be able to do everything they do in the classroom and also be the best in a sport is special. They are so inspiring to be around. As coaches, we can look in the mirror and feel so good about how we do it. They have a wonderful experience as students and athletes.”

As Princeton headed to the University of Virginia for the opening rounds of the tournament two weekends ago, Holmes-Winn had the sense that something wonderful was going to happen.

“I will remember how we went into turbo tournament mode,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We won the league and that was great. We dominated the play-in game [a 6-0 win at Lafayette] and you could feel the energy going into the tournament. Getting on the bus to Charlottesville, I was so excited. I knew we were going on a special journey and I could feel the belief and talent.”

Reinprecht, for her part, won’t soon forget the road she travelled to the national title.

“I am a very, very lucky girl to end my career like this,” said Reinprecht, who was named the 2012 Longstreth/NFHCA Division I Mid-Atlantic Region Player of the Year and totaled 156 points and 50 assists in her four seasons, good for fourth and second in program history, respectively, in those categories.

“It has been an incredible year and an incredible journey. It is fantastic to share it with this group of girls and coaches, they are such high quality people.”

OUT OF REACH: Princeton University defensive lineman Caraun Reid tries to corral Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams last Saturday. Reid and the Tigers faltered down the stretch, squandering an early 14-0 lead in falling 35-21 to the Big Green. The loss combined with Penn’s 35-28 win over Cornell knocked Princeton out of contention for a share of the Ivy League title. Still, the Tigers finished at 5-5 overall and 4-3 Ivy, a marked improvement for a program that had suffered through successive 1-9 campaigns. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

At about 2 last Saturday afternoon, things were falling into place for the Princeton University football team.

The Tigers had jumped out to a 14-0 lead over visiting Dartmouth and Penn was trailing Cornell 13-7.

A Princeton victory combined with a Penn defeat would secure a share of the Ivy League title for the Tigers and the final chapter in their heartening worst-to-first campaign.

But by 3:30, things had fallen apart as Dartmouth had jumped out to a 35-14 lead and Penn had pulled out a dramatic 35-28 win to clinch outright the Ivy crown.

The afternoon ended with Princeton dropping a 35-21 decision to Dartmouth as a crowd of 8,327 left a Princeton Stadium covered in shadows with night approaching.

While Princeton head coach Bob Surace was disappointed with how things turned out, he was able to see the silver lining in a season that saw Princeton end up 5-5 overall and 4-3 in Ivy play, a marked improvement after two successive 1-9 campaigns.

“I told the guys in the locker room how proud I am of them and what they accomplished and getting us to play a meaningful game at the end of the year,” said Surace.

“We had distractions and  things we had to overcome from what happened in January with Chuck [Dibilio] to Khamal [Brown] to all the different things that go on this week. They just remained focused and practiced hard. We just ran out of gas. You lose your right-handed quarterback [Connor Michelson] in the game before and he is not able to throw. Your lefty [Quinn Epperly] gets hurt the third play of the game and we just couldn’t overcome some of the things.”

With Princeton’s lead down to 14-7 at halftime, Surace sensed trouble on the horizon.

“We needed to have a bigger lead going into halftime,” said Surace. “We have had our foot on the pedal all year and we just couldn’t continue to get anything momentum-wise and give credit to them and their quarterback [Dalyn Williams]. I don’t know how many times that we had him in our grasp and had a shot at him. He found a way out of it and made plays and executed so it was a really good job by him.”

The game got away from Princeton in a four minute stretch of the third quarter which saw Dartmouth reel off 21 unanswered points.

Princeton senior co-captain and star linebacker Andrew Starks believed that the Tigers could weather the storm.

“Obviously when things happen like that, that’s us making mistakes,” said Starks, who had a team-high 16 tackles on the day.

“Not taking anything away from Dartmouth, they played a tremendous game and made a lot of great plays. When you are playing a team that has some athletes like they do, you can’t make mistakes like that. With that being said, I wouldn’t say we were unraveling. We made mistakes but I think at that point we still thought we were going to win the game. The offense would get going and the defense would stiffen up. We would make some plays and eventually turn things around. Unfortunately it just didn’t happen that way today.”

In the view of senior co-captain and defensive line standout Mike Catapano, the way Princeton turned things around this fall was reflected by its fighting spirit to the end on Saturday.

“We made some dramatic improvements and I am really proud of the guys,” said Catapano.

“We had some setbacks and some injuries with Khamal and things of that nature. This team never quit. Everybody thought we were going to be last in the league and this team really rallied together as a family and as a brotherhood. We fought every play of every game and that is what I am most proud of. We are going out that way too.”

In the early going on Saturday, it was Princeton that was making the big plays. After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers got on the board first as they scored on a four-yard touchdown run by Epperly to take a 7-0 lead.

Minutes later, Princeton doubled its lead on a big play by special teams as John Hill scooped up a punt blocked by Seth DeValve and raced 23 yards for a touchdown as the Tigers went up 14-0.

Williams, though, struck for the first of his three touchdown passes of the afternoon, hitting Justin Foley for a seven-yard scoring strike to make it a 14-7 game.

Princeton responded by marching 73 yards to the Dartmouth two-yard-line. The drive stalled and the Tigers attempted a field goal but the snap sailed high and Princeton came up with nothing as its lead remained at 14-7 at halftime.

The third quarter quickly turned into a nightmare for the Tigers. The Big Green took the opening kickoff and tied the game at 14-14 on a 54-yard option pass from receiver Ryan McManus to Bo Patterson.

Princeton’s first possession of the half ended with a lost fumble and Dartmouth quickly capitalized. Williams hit McManus for a 37-yard pass and then found Mitch Aprahamian in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass as Dartmouth forged ahead 21-14.

The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and fumbled the ball away. Once again, the Big Green cashed in as Williams scored on a two-yard touchdown run, extending the Dartmouth lead to 28-14. All told, the Big Green scored 21 points in a span of 4:03 as it broke the contest open.

Dartmouth added some insurance early in the fourth quarter as Williams hit Michael Reilly with a 37-yard scoring pass to go up 35-14. The freshman quarterback ended the day hitting on 20-of-35 passes for 284 yards.

Princeton did score the final points of the afternoon as freshman quarterback Kedric Bostic, seeing action with Michelson and Epperly ailing, scampered for a nine-yard touchdown run to make the final margin 35-21.

While losing the finale was disappointing, Catapano was proud of the excitement the Tigers generated around campus this fall as they made their unlikely bid for a league title.

“That was the goal of the seniors, that was the goal of our whole team — to bring pride back to this university and this football program” asserted Catapano.

“These guys work so hard 365. It is not just a fall sport, we go so hard in the summer time, so hard in the spring. A lot of people don’t see that but I think they got a much greater appreciation for what we did this year and trying to lay a foundation for something even better to come. That is what I am most proud of; that is what the seniors are most proud of.”

As a result, the Tiger seniors were determined to put on a brave face later that evening as they celebrated the bonfire they earned with wins over Harvard and Yale.

“To mope through an event that is so difficult to acquire would just be wrong and wouldn’t be the way to finish out the four years the senior class has had,” said Starks, who gave an impassioned speech at the
bonfire celebration on Cannon Green.

“Obviously this loss hurts right now. You never want to lose, especially when it is your last one. I think you have to have a quick bounce back period and go out there and have a good time with guys one last time.”

Surace, for his part, had a good time working with his Class of 2013.

“When they were building some of the buildings over there, I used to take pictures of the guys with hard hats and lunch pails going to work,” said Surace.

“I thought it was really neat; here you are at Princeton and when we go to work out at 6:30 in the morning, you have got these guys that are going to work with their hard hats and lunch pails. That’s what the group was. Whether we made mistakes, we played hard. Even today, I thought we played extremely hard.”

That tenacity helped spark this fall’s turnaround and should pay dividends as the Princeton program looks to keep progressing.

“We move forward; the reality is when I dismiss the seniors from our 3:15 meeting and it is just underclassmen, we have got to get going again,” said Surace.

“The reason we got to this point is guys like Cat, Andrew, and the other seniors just took the approach the correct way. I am confident we have built something where guys will continue to do that.”

WILL POWER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Will Barrett drives to the basket last Friday against visiting Rutgers. Junior forward Barrett scored a team-high 13 points but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 58-52 to the Scarlet Knights. The Tigers, now 1-2, play at No. 6 Syracuse on November 21 and at Lafayette on November 24. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

For the Princeton University men’s basketball team, its non-conference schedule is designed to be a minefield, providing an array of challenges to sharpen the squad for Ivy League play.

Last week, the Tigers saw things blow up on them twice at Jadwin Gym as they worked out some early-season kinks.

On November 13, Princeton blew an 18-point lead on the way to a 67-66 loss to Northeastern. Three days later against Rutgers, the Tigers jumped out to an early 12-3 advantage only to end up falling 58-52 to their local rivals.

“Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for us,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, invoking the Batman catchphrase in expressing his disappointment after the Rutgers game.

“Once again, I feel like Rutgers deserves a lot of credit and we have to be able to execute a little better on the offensive end. I thought our defense was improved from the last time we went out. We made some mistakes that I think are correctable.”

Trailing Rutgers 33-27 as the second half started, Princeton displayed some better intensity as it went on a 9-4 run to narrow the gap to 37-36. The Tigers got it to 43-40 and 50-46 but could never get over the hump against the Scarlet Knights.

“We just couldn’t buy a hoop; we got it to 50-46 with four minutes left and we missed a couple of easy shots that would have really helped,” said Henderson whose team shot 7-of-22 from the field in the second half as it fell to 1-2.

“Our backcourt is struggling a little bit. T.J. [Bray] was a 40 percent shooter from 3 last year and I have confidence that we’ll turn this thing around.”

Henderson was dismayed by how his team struggled on the boards, getting outrebounded 42-24 by an aggressive Rutgers squad.

“It is concerning, especially since I think that is what we want to hang our hat on this year,” said Henderson.

“They had six offensive in the first half; it was just like patty cake up against the glass. I thought that was a major point and I thought transition hoops in the first half made a difference.”

Tiger senior star Ian Hummer acknowledged that the Tigers were outfought on the glass.

“It was an overall team effort by Rutgers, they really destroyed us, they really pushed us around,” said Hummer, who ended the evening with 10 points and four rebounds.

“I think we have to push back. We can definitely hit the boards as well, if not better, than they can. It just didn’t happen today and we just have to learn from it. We have got to go hard in practice and we’ll board up next time.”

Like Henderson, Hummer was disappointed by Princeton’s failure to execute when it was on the verge of regaining the lead.

“Rutgers is a very good team, but to be perfectly honest we didn’t play very well when we were only two or three points down,” said Hummer, who had played a major role in helping Princeton win the last two games in the series.

“To know that was the case and not being able to cross that threshold was kind of frustrating. Every time we cut it to two or three, they ended up getting a board and putting it back. It definitely takes the wind out of your sails. It just builds character. We are going to be in tough games throughout the season. I think we can really learn from this and we can play a lot better.”

Henderson, for his part, knows the Tigers will have to be tougher as they play at No. 6 Syracuse on November 21 and at Lafayette on November 24.

“We have hit some droughts but I think that we need to have the ability to adjust in those different changing defensive segments,” said Henderson.

“That’s why we like playing these games. They really help us and it shows us what we need to work on.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Kevin Halliday controls the ball last Thursday as third-seeded PHS battled No. 7 Middletown South in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Junior forward Halliday scored the game-winning goal in overtime as PHS prevailed 2-1. Last Monday, Halliday scored two goals as PHS upended top-seeded Allentown 4-3 in the sectional title game. The Little Tigers, now 17-3, earned a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a case of déjà vu for Kevin Halliday and the Princeton High boys’ soccer team as they headed into overtime tied 1-1 with Middletown South last Thursday in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals.

Three days earlier, third-seeded PHS had gone into overtime against No. 6 Wall in the sectional quarterfinals and prevailed on a goal by Chase Ealy.

In the view of junior forward Halliday, PHS was able to draw on that experience as they headed into extra time against seventh-seeded Middletown South.

“I think with us being in the same position as the last game, we knew we had to keep our heads straight,” said Halliday.

“Even when things got chippy, we knew we had to finish our chances when they came.”

Midway through the second overtime, Halliday did just that, banging home the winning goal to trigger a raucous celebration and book a spot in the sectional finals for a second straight year.

“I went up for a header and tried to shoot it and it came back to me,” recalled Halliday. “It ended up on my foot and I just had to finish the chance.”

Having nearly scored in the first overtime, Halliday felt he was due for a goal.

“I thought it was coming; I had that shot and he made the save,” said Halliday.

“We came off for halftime and my friend Andrew Braverman gave me his lucky band. I put it back on and we scored it.”

On Monday, Halliday kept scoring, tallying two goals as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a 4-3 thriller in the sectional final to improve to 17-3 and earn a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final.

In Halliday’s view, who now has a team-high 22 goals, his scoring prowess has been the result of several factors.

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

Halliday enjoys working with his brother, Zach, a star senior midfielder for the Little Tigers.

“I have always loved playing with my brother; I have done it for a while,” said Halliday. “I think we work well together.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe loves seeing how his junior striker has developed into a deadly finisher.

“Kevin has been a special player since his early days when we had him as a freshman,” said Sutcliffe.

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

Having won the state Group III title in 2009 and the sectional crown last fall, PHS has once again separated itself from the competition in the postseason.

“It has been a priority to be at our best when the pressure is the greatest and to have thick skins,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think this is our third overtime game of the season, two in this week. Our mentality has led us to be very strong and very focused in these tight spots. All credit to my guys.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, this year’s squad has displayed a special focus this fall. “It has been a challenging season,” said Sutcliffe.

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

Halliday, for his part, believes that PHS has been stronger in the wake of a 4-0 defeat to Pennington in the county tournament.

“We came back from a hard loss to Pennington in the MCTs so we had a big break, especially with Sandy so we just kept on working on it, working on it, and it paid off for us,” said Halliday.

“Before Pennington, we had been on a run and it kind of knocked us off. The biggest thing that we took from that is that when we go down a goal we have to stay composed. That’s what we did the last two games.”

STILL KICKING: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Meghan ­Brennan kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Brennan scored PHS’s first goal in a 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals. The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High girls’ soccer team had some agonizing near misses against Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals as the team were knotted in a scoreless tie heading into the waning moments of regulation.

With second-seeded PHS dominating possession, Meghan Brennan was confident the Little Tigers could break the ice against the No. 3 Bulldogs, who had posted a 1-0 win in the regular season meeting between the teams.

“Every time we got a free kick, I was hoping it was here,” said senior forward Brennan.

Then with seven minutes left, freshmen defender Haley Bodden lofted a free kick towards the box and Brennan rose above the HoVal defense to head it into the back of the net.

In reflecting on her tally, Brennan credited Bodden’s service. “We all had our different runs and everybody was working really hard and Haley played the perfect ball,” recalled Brennan. “She couldn’t have placed it more perfectly.”

Minutes later, Kate Kerr fired a shot over the HoVal goalie to put the finishing touches on a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs.

The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.

For Brennan, seeing PHS advance to the sectional title game has come as a pleasant surprise.

“At the beginning of the season, it was really hard to know what to expect,” said Brennan.

“We had 11 new players so you never really know how that’s going to go. From day one, we decided that we were going to take it day by day and work as hard as we could in practice and not set any lofty goals. I think we have done a great job sticking together, Staying behind each other and playing as a team and just putting all we have into it.”

In Brennan’s view, PHS gathered steam as the season progressed. “I think it was more of a gradual process; there wasn’t one particular turning point,” said Brennan.

“We had two losses early in the season so I think that kind of helped us get momentum. We got inspiration from those losses to come back and rebound and work hard.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the work he was getting from his team as it knocked on the door against HoVal late in the second half.

“I thought for the last 20-25 minutes we had momentum,” said Hand. “We were creating really well; almost scored on several occasions. It always seems to be the case, the harder you play the more your technique and tactics really show themselves. The kids seemed to be really aware and connected in the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Hand was not surprised that the combination of Bodden and Brennan connected on the game winner. “Haley has been on the money all year long with restarts,” said Hand. “Meghan is just a big player who really stepped up.”

Kerr’s insurance goal was a prime example of how the PHS players have stepped up in big moments this fall.

“It was beautiful; it is the time you want somebody to be taking the initiative on her own and finding a way to finish,” said Hand. “I thought it was an excellent play from the first touch to the finish.”

The team’s excellent play in the second half stood as a microcosm of PHS’s title run.

“It is nice to know what we are capable of which is what we did in the second half,” said Hand. “It came out; the kids certainly worked hard enough to earn that.”

Brennan, for her part, is thrilled to see PHS come on so strong in her senior season.

“It is so amazing; everyone wants their senior year to be successful,” said Brennan.

“I am so glad we have made it this far. It is farther than I have ever made it. I love this team so much. It makes it so much more special to be with all of them during this.”

IN GOOD HANDS: Princeton High girls’ soccer goalie Lauren Ullmann takes a break during action earlier this fall. Senior star Ullmann posted 14 saves in a 3-1 win over Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals last week and then scored a shutout as PHS blanked Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semis last Friday. The second-seeded Little Tigers were slated to host No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor advancing to the state Group III semifinals on November 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior goalie Lauren Ullmann knows what it is like to hold the fort for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“We went 100 minutes against Pennington and nothing went in,” said Ullmann, referring to PHS’s loss to Pennington on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semis after the teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.

“We have done it against other teams in the CVC with strong attacks.” Last week, Ullmann and the second-seeded Little Tigers were under attack as they hosted seventh-seeded Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals. The upstart Pioneers peppered PHS in the early going, building a 7-1 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead.

The cool-headed and battle-tested Ullmann wasn’t fazed. “I just think it was a matter of when we would find our rhythm and figure the game enough to play the way we play the best,” said Ullmann, who made some big saves during that early stretch of the contest.

“The only concern I would have had is that I don’t want my season to end today. I had complete faith in us that we would be able to come back. It wasn’t a problem, just come back and take it to them. I had confidence that as long we could keep getting the job done in the back, we could get the job done as a whole.”

PHS broke through on a goal by freshman Taylor Lis with 10:58 remaining in the first half.

“I think we realized that the game was in our control; we had the power to make it happen,” said Ullmann.

“We don’t want the season to end today. It is us, we can make it happen and keep the season going.”

The Little Tigers went on to win 3-1 with Ullmann making 14 saves in the win.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Ullmann. “There was no reason that we should not have been able to get those goals pretty quickly. I thought we stayed sharp and we were focused the whole game.”

PHS assistant coach Val Rodriguez liked the focus that Ullmann displayed in goal as she helped the Little Tigers survive Somerville’s early barrage.

“She made some great saves,” said Rodriguez. “Lauren is a dependable keeper and a great leader on the field. We can always count on her.”

Three days later, Ullmann had another great performance as she helped PHS blank third-seeded Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semifinals and improve to 15-3.

For Ullmann, PHS’s postseason run is all the more special since the Little Tigers came out of nowhere.

“I think we love each other and we love being together,” said Ullmann, who was looking to keep up her hot play as PHS hosted No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional finals.

“I think this season has been totally unexpected with 10 or 11 newcomers and six of them are freshmen. I just think no one really expected that much from us. I think we have worked hard to prove ourselves, day in and day out. We don’t stop when we push ourselves at practice.

Ullmann is hoping the Little Tigers can keep pushing a little longer. “We want to be there again and again,” added Ullmann.

“This season is extending to who knows when with Hurricane Sandy and everything. We want to be here, we want to play together. That’s what allows us to get it done.”

And with Ullmann consistently getting it done in the net, PHS has produced one of the best seasons in program history.

GROUP EFFORT: The Princeton High boys’ cross country team moves to the front of the pack in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, PHS took fifth in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

John Woodside reveled in the weather conditions that met his Princeton High boys’ cross country runners last Saturday as they competed in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park.

“It was a perfect cross country day,” said Woodside, who knows a lot about the weather from his work as meteorologist at Newark Airport.

“If it is in the 40s, it is chilly and you need to loosen up. When it is in the 60s, some runners think that is too warm. It was not too hot, not too cold.”

Woodside’s runners proceeded to produce a sizzling performance, taking fifth in the team standings. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd.

“Taking the whole performance together, it is probably the best performance of any team I have ever coached,” said Woodside, who is in his 12th year guiding the PHS program.

“It was really fun to watch them compete well and run hard. I was happy that they were able to do so well on a big day. It was a much, much faster and much, much deeper meet than the group meet last year.”

In Woodside’s view, his runners displayed some tactical acumen to go along with their competitive spirit.

“I thought they were a little further back early on than they should be but they really finished strong,” said Woodside.

“Last year the guys ran too hard in the first half-mile and that hurt them later in the race. They didn’t want to do that this year. When I saw them at the 2-mile mark, I was thinking we might not be doing anything today. But between 2 and the 2½ mile mark, they ran very well.”

Senior star Bozich set the pace for the Little Tigers. “Luke ran a gutsy race,” said Woodside. “The top guys didn’t take it out too hard and he was in the front pack for the first half of the race. He set the tone for our guys.”

PHS’s next guys, Vahdat and Healy, flip-flopped during the race. “Kevin Vahdat was our No. 2 guy, he started behind Sage,” said Woodside of Vahdat, who clocked a time of 17:12 with Healy just behind in 17:17.

“He ended up running 10 seconds faster than he did at the Shore Coaches meet. Sage had some injury troubles and ran an 18:48 at Shore Coaches; he was in the JV race at that meet. Once he gets in the rhythm of training he does well. We know he is a talented runner.”

Sophomore Rist is proving himself to be a talented performer for the Little Tigers.

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

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

The PHS squad has developed a chemistry that has helped the runners enjoy the hard work they have put in this fall.

“They compete with each other but without animosity,” said Woodside. “They root for each other and they all run hard. They are all close and they all have fun.”

Woodside certainly had fun watching his runners excel last Saturday. “I told them if they ran the best they could and ran their hearts out, I don’t need to look at the standings,” said Woodside.

“We were almost 8 seconds faster per guy than the fastest team I have ever had, which was the 2009 team at the group meet. I would say that our first four guys, if they weren’t off the chart, they were at the edge of the chart. I couldn’t ask for any more.”

The Little Tigers will get one more chance to show their speed as they will be competing in the Nike Northeast Regional meet on November 24 in Wappingers Fall, N.Y.

“It is a reward for a great season and will give the returning guys some experience,” said Woodside. “It will be great to take the guys on a trip, go out to dinner, and stay overnight.”

Joe Gargione didn’t like the mood in the air as his Princeton High football team travelled to their NJSIAA consolation game at New Brunswick last Friday.

“On the bus ride to the game, the kids seemed giddy,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

“As soon as they got on the bus, they were talkative. It has been a long and tough season so I let it go. They settled down once we got there for the game.”

The Little Tigers settled into a back-and-forth contest with the Zebras as they looked to snap an eight-game losing streak.

“It was a pretty tight game; early on, both teams had turnovers,” recalled Gargione.

“We sacked their quarterback and got a fumble. Then Zack [DiGregorio] and Bobby [Wright] had a bad exchange and they got a fumble. They went ahead 6-0 and then we tied it at 6-6. They went ahead 8-6, getting a safety when they blocked a punt out of the end zone.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to end the season on a high note as they outscored New Brunswick 16-6 in the second half to pull out a 22-14 win.

“We buckled down in the second half and got two touchdowns,” said Gargione.

“Javon Pannell had a great game, he rushed for 174 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns. We were rushing the ball early and they were doing a good job stopping it. We started opening things up in the second half. The offensive line was making some nice holes. The intensity picked up when we saw we could win.”

Getting the win in the finale was special for the PHS senior class which includes such stalwarts as Will Xu, Jamyl Williams, Alden Reyes, Grant Schaefer, Ben Smallzman, Carl Helstrom, Sam Nelson, Matt Vieten, William Harrison, Jack Persico, Christian Giles, and David Klinges in addition to Pannell, DiGregiorio, and Wright.

“It was great; we won the first game and lost the next eight so it is great to end with a win,” said Gargione.

“It is nice for our 15 seniors, it is something they will always remember. They have done a lot for the program. We are losing eight senior starters on defense and most of the offense. We are losing a lot. They all stepped up Friday night and that was great to see.”

Gargione is looking for his returning players to step up in the future. “I want the younger kids to take the fact that we can hang with these teams,” asserted Gargione. “They just need to believe in themselves and execute what we coach. We need to stay competitive in more games.”

In order to be more competitive, PHS will need to work hard on several levels.

“We need to do a better job of finding more kids to play,” said Gargione. “I also want our players to play another sport, whether it be basketball or wrestling in the winter or track or baseball in the spring. It makes you more competitive. We will start formal weightlifting in January. It was great to win that last game and go into the offseason with a taste of victory.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello goes after the ball in action this fall. Junior forward Bello scored some key goals this season in helping the Raiders finish with a 6-8 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost 3-1 to Lawrenceville in regular season play, the Hun School field hockey team was the hungrier squad when the schools met for a rematch in the state Prep A semis.

“I think they were looking past us,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “I think they assumed it was going to be an easy game. Our seniors knew that it could be their last game.”

Hun made things hard on the Big Red from the start of the contest, battling Lawrenceville tooth-and-nail all over the field with the teams tied 1-1 at halftime.

“From the goalie to the forward line, the girls played their hearts out,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Taylor Havard in the contest.

“[Reina] Kern had a nice game in goal; everyone put it together. We monopolized possession, we transitioned all the way to the forward line.”

Although Hun ended up falling 2-1, Quirk saw the defeat as a step forward for the program.

“I told them afterward if we had played like that every game, we would have won some of the games that we lost,” said Quirk, whose team ended the season with a 6-8 record.

“I was very proud of the team. I think it was a moral victory for them to see that they could stay with the best.”

In reflecting on the season, Quirk acknowledged that her team should have produced more victories.

“I think there were some games that were disappointing, where we didn’t show up and we were a better team than we showed,” said Quirk.

“The games against PDS [a 1-0 victory], Peddie [a 2-1 loss], and Lawrenceville showed that we could pull it together and play as a team.”

Quirk credited her senior class with holding things together for the team.

“All six of them were starters and they will be missed,” said Quirk, whose senior group included Carey Million, Taylor Havard, Olivia Albanese, Sam Heyrich, Lauren Apuzzi, and Maddie Schade.

“They have been a strong force, most of them were with the program for four years. They all contributed in their way and had a positive influence.”

Looking ahead to next year, the Raiders should be a force defensively with the return of junior Alex Kane and sophomore goalie Kern.

“Alex Kane directs the defense and Kern is a very good goalie,” said Quirk, noting that Kern recorded 15 saves in the season-ending loss to Lawrenceville.

Hun has a good foundation for the 2013 season elsewhere on the field. “We have some good players returning; girls like Bri Barrett, Julia Kampanjie, and Liz Mydlowski played well,” said Quirk.

“Julia Blake is a strong midfielder and Alex Natale came on. Francesca Bello had some big goals. Courtney Faulkner did well. Vicky Leach came into her own, she had some key goals and was one of our most improved players. Bri Cifelli broke her arm in the Steinert game, but will be back next year on the forward line.”

In Quirk’s view, the program is poised to move forward. “A key for us is that we have to come back in shape next year,” asserted Quirk.

“We need to remember how we played against teams like PDS, Peddie, and Lawrenceville. We can play with the best.”

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Stuart Country Day field hockey coach Missy Bruvik makes a point during a game this fall. Bruvik enjoyed her return to the helm of the program which she led to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season. A young Stuart squad showed improvement this fall as it went 3-14-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Missy Bruvik knew that she faced a challenge as she returned for her second act as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day field hockey team.

“It was a season where we had only four returning varsity players,” said Bruvik, who led the program to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season.

“We wanted to see the growth of the new varsity players and see how they could handle things.”

Although Stuart went just 3-14-1 this fall, Bruvik saw marked progress as the season unfolded.

“We had a tough schedule; despite the record I was proud of how the kids played,” said Bruvik.

“They showed tenacity. Some games it might be there for 30 minutes but it was always there.”

In the team’s season finale, the Tartans showed tenacity from the opening minute to the final whistle as they fell 1-0 at Morristown-Beard in the opening round of the state Prep B playoffs.

“I thought we played great,” asserted Bruvik. “We played a really strong 60-minute game. It was one of our best games of the season. We had an all-out effort.”

Bruvik got some strong leadership from senior stars Olivia Neubert and Nikki Starke.

“I think they really embraced what the season was about; they were great about working with the young kids and doing some coaching,” said Bruvik.

“They let them know what it is all about in terms of rivalries and how important the games were. They had positive quotes everyday. You hope to see intangibles like that from your senior leaders.”

Juniors Amy Hallowell, Megan Shannon, and goalie Margaret LaNasa emerged as key performers. “I was thrilled to have Amy back; we had so few upperclassmen with experience and she played so hard.

“Megan Shannon was also a big help. They were unsung leaders; they did their jobs well. Margaret grew so much over the season; it was a testament to her work ethic and Gia’s [assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione] work with her. She took a lot of shots; we played a lot of quality foes this year. I think she is going to be really good next year.”

Stuart’s corps of freshmen has the potential be a really good group for the program. “They played so tough; they are some good young athletes who are new to the game,” said Bruvik, whose freshmen included Catherine Donahue, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, Kathleen Walsh, Emma Froehlich, and Elena Bernewitz.

“They are learning the game and how to play with each other. It takes time to learn to play together and get used to where people are going to be on the field. It was all about that sense of improvement, seeing where we were in the beginning of the season and how far we have come. They will have that much more knowledge as a team when we get out there next year.”

Bruvik, for her part, had a great year in making her return to head coaching. “I felt it was really rewarding, I enjoyed everything about it,” said Bruvik.

“I was really lucky to get a group like this that was eager to learn and work hard. I am excited about next year.”

November 14, 2012

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly throws the ball in recent action. Last Saturday at Yale, Epperly passed for 66 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 91 yards and a score to help Princeton top the Bulldogs 29-7. The win improved Princeton to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League play, tied for second with Harvard (7-2 overall 4-2 Ivy) in the league standings, one game behind Penn (5-4 overall, 5-1 Ivy). The Tigers end the season by hosting Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 3-3 Ivy) on November 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It is the kind of game-changing play that the Princeton University football team has failed to produce in recent seasons.

With Princeton locked in a 7-7 tie at Yale last Saturday late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs had second and goal at the Tiger five-yard-line and were poised to take the lead going into halftime.

Instead, Tiger defensive back Trocon Davis picked off a halfback option pass and raced 100 yards for a touchdown and it was Princeton that took a 14-7 lead into the dressing room at intermission.

Building on the momentum from Davis’ stunning play, the longest interception return in program history, the Tigers proceeded to roll to a 29-7 win over the Bulldogs before a crowd of 21,824 at the venerable Yale Bowl.

The win improved Princeton to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in Ivy League play, tied for second with Harvard (7-2 overall 4-2 Ivy) in the league standings, one game behind Penn (5-4 overall, 5-1 Ivy).

In addition to keeping the Tigers alive in the Ivy title race, the victory rekindled one of the school’s venerable traditions as a bonfire will be held on campus to celebrate the win over Yale coupled with an earlier triumph over Harvard. The celebration is slated for November 17 at 7 p.m. on Cannon Green.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was fired up by Davis’s play and what it represented in his eyes.

“I hope this really shows where we are going as a group,” said Surace. “We have not been able to make plays like that in the past where we were struggling but still playing hard. We kept battling.”

But Surace knew that Princeton’s first half struggles weren’t negated merely by Davis’ moment of brilliance.

“I went in right away and told the coaches that was the worst 30 minutes of the season,” said Surace. “We need to play the second half as though it is 0-0 and I expect our best 30 minutes of the season.”

The Tigers got the message as they controlled the second half, outscoring the Bulldogs 15-0 and holding Yale to only 104 yards total offense in the last 30 minutes of the contest.

“We took the opening kickoff and went right down and got a two-score lead,” said Surace.

“I thought the last 31 minutes were very good. It was good to bounce back within the game and good to bounce back from two tough losses.”

Princeton’s tough start was due in part to the Yale’s different look in the unexplained absence of sophomore running back Tyler Varga, who came into the game with a league-leading 839 yards rushing.

“We had spent a good part of the week preparing for Varga,” said Surace.

“With him not playing, 80 percent of the preparation went out the window. They were using a new scheme and they had us on our heels. They are the only team in the league to beat Penn so they are as good as anybody. We couldn’t get first downs and we didn’t have time to make adjustments.”

In the early going, things looked good for Yale as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead with Grant Wallace catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from Harry Furman.

Princeton knotted the game at 7-7 midway through the second quarter as junior Roman Wilson scored on a one-yard touchdown run.

The Tigers took a 14-7 lead into halftime on the heels of the Davis interception return as he crossed the goal line with 1:01 remaining in the second quarter.

Building on the momentum from the Davis pick six, Princeton took the opening kickoff of the second half and produced a 9-play, 65-yard scoring march. The drive culminated with a one-yard touchdown plunge by sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly. Kicker Nolan Bieck took a high snap and ran in for a two-point conversion to give Princeton a 22-7 advantage.

Later in the quarter, Yale appeared to have a touchdown as Mordecai Cargill burst into the end zone. But senior Mandela Shaeffer stripped the ball and freshman Anthony Gaffney fell on the ball for the Tigers.

“We stopped their back and he fumbled in the end zone,” said Surace, reflecting on the key turnover. “Anthony Gaffney came from the back side and got the fumble. He hustled past six Yale guys. Those are the things you like to see as a coach.”

Princeton put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, producing its longest drive of the season time-wise, taking 6:57 to march 69 yards in 13 plays.

Epperly hit sophomore receiver Matt Costello with a nine-yard scoring strike as Princeton went up 29-7.

The Tigers stopped Yale on downs in its next possession and then ran out the clock as it sealed its first win in the Yale Bowl since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.

With the Tigers needing to win over Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 3-3 Ivy) in its season finale this Saturday and Penn to lose at Cornell to earn a share of the league title, Surace will be reminding his team of a nightmarish experience he had six years ago during his NFL days.

“In 2006 when I was coaching with the Bengals, we had to beat the Steelers, and three other teams had to lose for us to make the playoffs,” recalled Surace.

“Some of the guys got engaged in sending messages to the other teams and they lost focus. We lost in OT to the Steelers; we made uncharacteristic mistakes. Our kicker missed field goals. We dropped balls and made mistakes. We lost an opportunity to make the playoffs and maybe make a run. We need to take care of our own business. Nothing good happens for us if we don’t beat Dartmouth.”

Princeton must bring the focus it showed in the second half against Yale in order to overcome a solid Big Green squad.

“They have played extremely well, they lost to Penn on the last play and gave up a late score in losing to Brown,” noted Surace in assessing Dartmouth.

“They are a young team like us; it is like looking in the mirror. The running back [Dominick] Pierre is a stud. They are playing a freshman QB [Dalyn Williams] along with a sophomore [Alex Park] and the freshman is one of the passing efficiency leaders in the league. They have two wideouts [Michael Reilly, Ryan McMaunus] who are terrific. The offensive line has improved. Defensively, they have been strong since I got in the league. They are good up front, they are fundamentally sound.”