November 13, 2013
HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After more than a month of preseason practices, the wait was over for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Florida A&M last Sunday to tip off the regular season.

Two of the Tigers, though, had to exercise some extra patience in connection with the opener.

Senior guard Jimmy Sherburne was returning to action after being sidelined for a year due to a shoulder injury while junior star Denton Koon was utilized in a sixth man role off the bench.

Looking like he hadn’t missed a beat, Sherburne scored a career-high 13 points with Koon producing a double-double on a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds as Princeton cruised to a 67-50 win over the Rattlers.

Sherburne, for his part, enjoyed his return to action. “It feels good to be back, it has been a while,” said Sherburne, a 6’3, 197-pound native of Whitefish Bay, Wisc. who also contributed five assists and four rebounds.

“I was just telling the guys before the game, we have waited a long time for this, some of us longer than others. I fall into that category. It was everything I thought it would be. I took that year off for a reason and this was it. It definitely feels good.”

While the sixth-man role was an adjustment for Koon, who made 24 starts last winter, he made the most of the assignment.

“It was a little different,” said Koon, a 6’8, 210-pound native of Liberty, Mo. who averaged 10.5 points a game last winter.

“I just think it is about, especially early in the season, just getting things moving. We got a lot of new pieces this year, a couple of new freshmen in the lineup with Pete [Miller] and Spencer [Weisz] so I think it is just important to play the right way and get a new flow. We have a new look, a new lineup, and a new way that we are playing things.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson liked the way the Tigers handled their business on Sunday.

“It is a nice opener for us and I just told the guys that I think there are a lot of positives and some things to work on,” said Henderson, whose team jumped out to a 38-23 halftime lead and cruised to victory over the 0-2 Rattlers.

“I really liked some of the things that were happening on offense. We had a little bit of a slide there on defense but they do that to you. They spread you out, they are very fast. Overall, I am fairly pleased and I think there are a lot of positives for us to work on.”

Henderson pointed to the play of Sherburne and Koon as two of the major positives on Sunday.

“I am really happy, Jimmy made his first three, that was good,” said Henderson, whose team went 12-of-31 from the three-point range in the victory.

“I will say that it is really important that our program is defined by the way Denton did things today. I am pleased and proud of the way he played because he made other guys better. He got two assists, a big one in the corner to Jimmy. I am putting a little less stock in who is starting right now and more about the way we are doing things.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz started his Princeton career in style, scoring five points with six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of action.

“Spencer is really advanced for a freshman in terms of the game,” said Henderson, who also got 12 points from senior Will Barrett in the victory.

“He had consistently been one of our top rebounders in scrimmages and practices and he gets six tonight which I think is important for us. He sort of plays the game like a 40-year old man, unfortunately he also moves like a 40-year-old man sometimes. He really knows how to play.”

With Princeton heading to Indiana on November 16 for a game at Butler University, an NCAA finalist in 2010 and 2011, Henderson is looking for his team to build on its promising start.

“We are going to a really tough place to play in a week,” said Henderson, of the contest which will be a homecoming for him as he was a three-sport star at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. during his high school days.

“We appreciate things like that. We feel that Jadwin is a special place to play so we are really excited getting out there. It is just about the day to day and getting better. It is process coaching. We have an opportunity to be very balanced and I think that is the emphasis.”

Koon, for his part, appreciates the chance to get on the court, no matter what role he assumes.

“It’s more just game by game and being where the team needs me,” said Koon.

“I am just looking to contribute in any way I can, help the other guys get better,  and help us win.”

Hosting defending national champion Yale last Friday, the Princeton University men’s hockey team dug an early hole.

The Tigers yielded two unanswered goals in the first period and trailed 5-1 after two.

Princeton senior captain Jack Berger acknowledged that the Tigers put themselves behind the eight ball with their early lapses.

“We weren’t real happy with our start unfortunately,” said Berger. “We have been working on our first periods, we still have some work to do.”

Berger did put in some good work in the second period as he assisted on a goal by Alec Rush.

“[Ben] Foster and Ambro [Mike Ambrosia] were working hard and won some battles in the corner and I ended up with it behind the net,” recalled Berger.

“I got it to Rushie and he just let a bomb go and beat the goalie. It was a great shot.”

While Princeton ended up falling 5-2, Berger liked the fight the Tigers displayed in the third period.

“We just really wanted to come out and show them what kind of team we were,” said Berger.

“We didn’t think we had done that. We picked up the physical play. We wanted to take it to them and win that period. I think we did a great job responding.”

The Tigers got off to a better start a day later against Brown as they knotted the game at 1-1 early in the first period. Unfortunately, Princeton gave up four unanswered goals after that on the way to a 6-3 defeat as it dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-4 ECAC Hockey.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier noted that making turnovers has been an ongoing problem for his squad, which has lost five games in a row since a 3-2 win over Dartmouth on opening night.

“It is troubling,” acknowledged Prier in the wake of the Yale loss. “There were far too many unforced turnovers. They are a team that isn’t overly physical; they don’t cause you to throw pucks away. I think that we just tried to pass it into traffic instead of skate it a few times and that was probably the biggest difference in the game. We had far too many unforced turnovers where we just gave them the puck.”

Like Berger, Prier took heart from how the Tigers played in the third period against Yale.

“We didn’t hunt them down hard enough until the third when we decided to play a lot harder,” said Prier, whose team outshot Yale 11-8 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.

“I thought we hunted them down and were taking the time away. After the game, I said we didn’t have any lulls; we didn’t have any momentum swings in the third period at all. It is the sign of a team that is going hard all of the time.”

Prier saw some good signs in defeat. “I think there are a lot of bright spots there,” said Prier, whose team will look to get on the winning track in ECACH play this weekend as it hosts Dartmouth on November 15 and Harvard a day later.

“I was really impressed with the way a lot of guys played. I thought Ben Foster was playing really well. Tucker Brockett worked really hard. I thought Mike Ambrosia had a good game, he had a lot of chances. Tommy Davis played well, he plays with heart. He has tons of passion. Ryan Siro is as consistent as they come. We have to build off it and inspire each other. You see what works and you have to play that way.”

Berger, for his part, believes Princeton still has a chance to enjoy a big season.

“I am really lucky to have such a big senior class,” said Berger. “I think everyone as a group has done a great job. We are just trying to stay positive; there is lot of season left and we are confident with the group that we have. We just need to turn it around here and get it moving forward.”

TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Over the last two seasons, Chase Ealy has been a threat from left back for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

But with senior midfielder John Blair getting sidelined for the season due to a knee injury and the team struggling to score goals, the PHS coaches decided to move Ealy up the field.

Putting junior star Ealy at striker paid immediate dividends as he scored a goal in a 1-1 tie with Pennington in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game and then chipped in two tallies as the fourth-seeded Little Tigers topped No. 13 Neptune 4-0  in the opening round of the Group III Central Jersey sectional.

Last Friday in a sectional quarterfinal contest against fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley, Ealy gave further evidence of his finishing prowess, scoring two more goals as the Little Tigers topped the Bulldogs 3-0.

The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.

Ealy is relishing the chance to have a bigger role in the PHS attack. “I have had a lot of good looks in the state tournament,” said Ealy.

“Coach put me up at striker and obviously that puts me in front of the net a lot more and I have been hitting the shots.”

The loss of Blair left a void that Ealy is trying to fill. “John was definitely a big part of our offense and now that I am up at striker I do feel as if I can really help Kevin [Halliday] and Zeno [Mazzucato],” said Ealy.

“The other two have been at the forward positions all year to get the goals. I have been working here a long time; I know the team.”

In the win over HoVal, Ealy benefited from being a bit of an unknown quantity. He scored on a penalty kick midway through the first half and then tallied on a point blank blast as he converted a feed from Kevin Halliday with 24:01 remaining in regulation to put PHS up 2-0.

“They knew to mark Kevin, I don’t think they had much of a report on me and I took advantage of that,” said Ealy.

“I hit my corner every time on the PK, I don’t change it. That was a great play by Kevin on the second goal. No one stepped up to him, he had all the time in the world to find his pass. I just knew if I posted up, he would hit me and off the six I can hit my shots. It was a nice tap-in.”

The PHS defense also put in a great effort against HoVal, stifling the talented Bulldogs throughout the contest.

“I was so impressed with our defense today,” asserted Ealy. “They held down that line. They did what they needed to do. Whenever they did get back there, Laurenz [Reimitz] was a wall. It all went well.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that Ealy’s skills could be put to good use up the field.

“We weren’t really in a position to really use him as a striker in the first half of the season,” said Sutcliffe, who also got a goal from freshman Andrew Goldsmith in the win over HoVal.

“We worked to slot him in there. John is out for the season, Chase characteristically can play anywhere. He is a flank left player but he is pretty threatening so what a day for him. These moments are scripted for guys like that.”

With PHS having lost 2-1 to HoVal in the rivals’ regular season encounter, Sutcliffe knew that his team had to flip the script through better ball possession.

“In the middle third and the front third, we wanted to hold it and let the ball move in different ways because Hopewell has such a big, fast, athletic team,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 10-5-2.

“Our goal is to make them chase and to try to keep it, build from there, switch the point, and get it in to Kevin and Chase who can put pressure on them there and hold the ball up.”

With a playoff pedigree that features a 16-2-1 record in state tournament play over the last four years, including three sectional titles, a state title in 2009, and state co-championship last year, the Little Tigers have proven they can thrive under postseason pressure. As a result, PHS was not fazed when it struggled down the stretch, going 1-4-2 in its last seven games before the state tournament.

“We lost 12 guys from last year so we knew we had to rebuild,” said Sutcliffe.

“So during the season we are going to have some ups and downs. We are either going to bow out in a bad way or we are going to be where we are now and credit to the guys for doing it. I think there is a lot of resilience in the group, there is a lot of quality with eight sophomores and three freshmen. But then we have guys on this team who have been around for three or four years, and in the last two years, we have won 10 state tournament games.”

Ealy, for his part, believes that the program’s tradition of tournament success drives the Little Tigers.

“We just have a legacy here where we are a championship team,” said Ealy.

“We know that no matter what we did in the regular season we are always expected to contend for every championship. No one wants this to be that year that we didn’t win anything. No matter how we did in the regular season, we want states and we want the MCT. We can do it, we always have the skill for it.”

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dana Smith expected her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team to extend beyond last Thursday when the third-seeded Little Tigers hosted No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals.

But PHS fell behind the Rams 2-0 by halftime and, despite some valiant play, couldn’t overcome an inspired Hightstown squad, falling 4-1 to end the fall with a final record of 14-4.

While star midfielder and team co-captain Smith desperately wanted the Tigers to keep going in the states, she has no regrets when looking back at her four years with the program.

“I am so happy with what I have done and what I have gotten to be part of at Princeton High School,” said Smith, a key performer last fall in PHS’s run to its first-ever sectional title.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better second half to finish with. Every single girl on the team was giving her all. Our fans were here. It just wasn’t our day. We gave it our all and did the best we could.”

The day got off to a rough start for PHS as Hightstown scored with 25:21 left in the first half to take the lead and then added a critical tally just 4:22 before halftime.

The Little Tigers came out firing in the second half, generating several corner kicks but just couldn’t cash them in. The Rams tallied with 24:56 left in regulation to go up 3-0 and then PHS senior Ally Rogers found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 3-1. The Little Tigers kept pressing forward but got burned on a counter attack in the waning seconds as they lost 4-1.

“We never really put our heads down,” said Smith. “We were really focusing on coming back and trying for that goal. Even when they scored that third goal, we were still fighting. We thought we still had time; there was about 20 minutes left at that point. We never gave up; we played to the last second all the way to the last kickoff with seven seconds left. We were still going to goal.”

Although PHS fell short of its goal to win a second straight sectional crown, Smith believes that the pluses outweighed the minus of the finale.

“This whole season has been really great,” said Smith. “We have had so many great wins, beating Hopewell at night was a really good one. Starting the season with two close wins set the tone for the whole season. We knew we were going to fight until the end in every single game. We were never going to give up. I don’t think we did, not for a minute.”

In Smith’s view, the tone set this season will benefit the PHS program going forward.

“We have six sophomores and a freshman so they are going to come back so strong next year,” said Smith. “We have built off of last year’s success. We are going to build off of this year’s successes.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand viewed the season as a success despite the sour ending.

“I was so impressed with the quality of the soccer we played this season,” said Hand. “Sometimes it was a little sporadic and we hoped that we would be more consistent over the course of a whole game. It was some of the best soccer that PHS has played over the years. We became a better defensive team as well as the year went along.”

The Little Tigers displayed that quality game in the second half as they tried to overcome the deficit.

“It was tough falling behind,” acknowledged Hand. “We worked so hard in the second half to try to get it back. We played some terrific soccer and we found a way to get one. It was too much to get back.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s group of seniors, which includes Kaity Carduner, Emily Costa, Krysta Holman, Jordan Provorny, and Eve Reyes in addition to Smith and Rogers, has shown the way for the younger players.

“What a terrific group, they are really great role models for what you need to do to be successful,” said Hand.

“Regardless of the record, I think this was a very successful team. Certainly by external measures, they were successful as well.”

While Smith also stars in lacrosse for PHS and has committed to play for the Lafayette College women’s lax program, soccer isn’t truly over for her.

“I am going to focus on lacrosse but it is going to be sad to end my soccer career,” said Smith. “It will always be a part of my life. This is definitely not going to be the last soccer game. I will definitely find a way to get a ball and kick it around. It has been such a huge part of my life and this team has been such a huge part of my year so far. We are going to wake up tomorrow and still be a team. We’ll be hanging out in the halls together.”

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley liked what he saw from his Princeton High boys’ cross country team as it got ready to compete in the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet last Saturday.

“I felt like we had trained and tapered appropriately,” said first-year head coach Shelley.

“When you are working with your top 10-12 runners, you can really get in some great workouts.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to put in some good work in the meet held at Thompson Park in Monroe, placing second of 18 teams, trailing only champion Middletown North.

“We knew how good Middletown North was and that we were going to be in a dogfight for second place,” said Shelley, whose team trailed Middletown North 40-88 with Northern Burlington taking third at 95 and Middletown South coming in fourth with 109. “It was good to see us come through.”

Senior star Conor Donahue came through in a big way for PHS, placing eighth in the individual standings, clocking a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course.

“Conor was actually a little sluggish in the first mile,” said Shelley. “He had a super last mile. He had a great kick, he passed some guys who have finished ahead of him before.”

The next Little Tiger finisher, junior Jacob Rist, showed some great character as he battled through injury to finish 12th in a time of 16:48.

“Jacob looked great in the first two miles but he had an issue with his foot over the last mile,” said Shelley.

“His kick wasn’t there. He gutted it out and that’s what you want from your top runners. You don’t drop out, you keep running and do as well as you can.

Freshman Alex Roth is emerging as a top runner for PHS, taking 16th at the sectional with a time of 17:11.

“Alex is so unflappable,” asserted Shelley. “He works hard and doesn’t seem to get too excited. We have been careful with his mileage and training. We have been working on getting him to race more aggressively. He tends to start a little slowly, relatively speaking. We want him to be quicker at the starts. We have been doing some interval pacing with him, trying to cut 10-15 seconds from his time.”

Two PHS juniors, Alex Harvey and Karl Bjorkland, had a good time at the sectional meet. Harvey placed 24th in 17:30 with Bjorkland taking 28th in 17:32.

“They were both fighting a cold,” said Shelley. “Harvey ran an exceptional race. I give the runners goals in each race based on the course and how they are running and he hit his goal exactly. Karl had a good race, but not his best. He is usually closer to Alex Roth. Karl has been a good surprise, he is a transfer from Pittsburgh.”

With PHS competing at the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel, Shelley knows his team faces a challenge as it shoots to stay around the front of the pack and earn a spot in the season-ending Meet of Champions.

“I like where we are at,” said Shelley. “It depends on being injury free and running our very best. We have some injuries to work through but that’s why you run the race. We are going to continue our tapering. We try to do more speed work at this time of the season to keep them sharp as we are cutting the mileage.”

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped  Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Braender-Carr’s senior season with the Hun School girls’ soccer team got off to a rocky start.

Hampered by injuries and with young players taking their lumps as they were thrust into key roles, Hun lost its first seven games this fall.

As the lone senior captain on the squad, Braender-Carr did her best to pump up the team’s younger players during the early losing streak.

“I just tried to keep them positive after those first couple of losses,” said Braender-Carr, a defender who helped trigger Hun’s offense with her deft corner kicks and penetrating runs up the field.

“I was trying to keep them working, trying to figure out what I could do to motivate them.”

Braender-Carr’s influence paid dividends as Hun caught fire in mid-October, propelled by a pair of wins over Lawrenceville in a week.

“The wins over Lawrenceville really got us going,” said Braender-Carr. “I think it just kept building and building. We really started to want to win, the drive got bigger. We got some players back that were injured, Ashley Maziarz and Jess Sacco.”

That drive to win spurred Hun on a stirring run in the state Prep A tournament as the sixth-seeded Raiders topped No. 3 Lawrenceville and No. 2 Peddie on the way to the title game last Wednesday against top-seeded Pennington School.

While Hun fell 2-0 to 11-time champion Pennington in the championship game, Braender-Carr had no qualms with the effort produced by the Raiders.

“I think we played really tough; we hung in there,” said Braender-Carr in assessing the contest that was knotted 0-0 at halftime.

“I think we had more shots in the first half on goal, some good chances. We had a few breakdowns in the back obviously. We didn’t stay on our marks enough on the 18 when they scored their first goal and on the other one they showed a great counterattack off the corner kick.”

Despite trailing 2-0 in the waning moments of the contest, Hun kept attacking to the final whistle. “Ashley had a chance off my corner; I had a shot at the end,” said Braender-Carr.

“We really worked well as a team defensively, stopping them at the box. I just thought we played our hearts out.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac thought that her team showed plenty of heart in defeat.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough matchup,” said Hallac. “We hung with them. I thought the first half was a really good battle. They had more looks but I didn’t think they had great looks, it was nothing too dangerous so I felt good heading into the second half.”

Pennington, though, took charge in the second half, going up 1-0 with 32:30 remaining in regulation and then tacking another tally with 5:25 left.

“Giving up that goal changed the momentum,” said Hallac. “We were down for a few minutes there and we were able to claw back a little but the second one kind of sealed it. The girls should really be proud of the way they played.”

Hallac is proud of how her squad rebounded from its 0-7 start. “It makes you wonder what could have happened if everyone was healthy all year,” said Hallac, whose team topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 last Saturday in its regular season finale to end the fall at 7-12-1.

“But you know what, you have all of these freshmen who wouldn’t get the experience that they did and that not only helped us at the end of this season, but it is going to be a huge help going forward.”

Hun’s late surge has Hallac looking forward to 2014. “I think the way that we finished the season, they should see what is there for us in the future and keep looking towards that,” said Hallac.

“We need to keep building towards that because we basically bring almost everyone back. There is no reason that we can’t be back here next year.”

It will be difficult not having Brander-Carr back on the team. “It is hard to even put it in words; Olivia has done such a great job as a leader on the field, off the field in so many ways,” said Hallac, whose other senior on the team this year was Tanya Clark.

“She does a lot of those intangible things that coaches just love to have in their players, but especially in their captains. We are going to feel her loss tremendously. She has really done so much for this program; we are going to miss her.”

Braender-Carr, for her part, loved the way things came together in her final days with the program.

“The last three or four weeks have really been good; that’s how I wanted my whole senior season to go,” said Braender-Carr, who will be playing for the NYU women’s soccer team next fall.

“I am glad I got to spend time with this group of girls; this is the closest bond we have had in all the grades in the four years I have been here.”

November 6, 2013
MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly puts up a pass in action earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Epperly produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history as the junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of a contest won 53-20 by Princeton. Epperly’s completion streak to start the game broke the previous NCAA Division 1 record of Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004. The Tigers, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy to take sole possession of first place in the league standings, play at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on November 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MIGHTY QUINN: Princeton University quarterback Quinn ­Epperly puts up a pass in action earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Epperly produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history as the junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of a contest won 53-20 by Princeton. Epperly’s completion streak to start the game broke the previous NCAA Division 1 record of Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004. The Tigers, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy to take sole possession of first place in the league standings, play at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy) on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The press box at Princeton Stadium was unusually crowded last Saturday, teeming with NFL scouts in town to get a closer look at Cornell’s record-setting senior quarterback Jeff Mathews.

But by the end of the afternoon, the focus was squarely on Princeton University junior quarterback Quinn Epperly, who turned heads as he produced one of the most remarkable performances in Tiger and Ivy League history.

The junior lefty completed his first 29 passes of the contest to break the NCAA Division I record set by Richie Williams of Appalachian State, who completed his first 28 passes against Furman on October 9, 2004.

Ending the game completing 32-of-35 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, Epperly triggered a 53-20 rout of the Big Red before a crowd of 7,206 as Princeton improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 Ivy, taking sole possession of first place in the league standings.

Early in the afternoon, Epperly had the sense that he was in a groove. “At halftime one of the other quarterbacks came up and asked if we had an incompletion and I said I couldn’t really remember one,” recalled Epperly.

“I kind of knew that we were in a zone throwing the ball. The receivers made some excellent catches and the lineman played well, I don’t think I had pressure on me hardly all day.”

In the third quarter Epperly realized that he was closing in on a record but he tried to block it out.

“They said it over the loudspeaker in the middle of a drive and I was like I can’t think about that,” said a smiling Epperly. “We have to move on and get a score here. I wasn’t too concerned about it.”

Afterward, Epperly, whose playing style is reminiscent of Tim Tebow, sounded sentiments similar to the former Florida star and Heisman Trophy winner.

“It is an honor,” said Epperly who rushed for a team-high 69 yards and three touchdowns.

“I have been truly blessed, especially today. I think on a couple of those I got a little bit of help from receivers. It is just an awesome thing to be a part of and I’m happy that we got the win.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was thrilled to see the history unfold before his eyes.

“You could tell he was on fire,” said Surace of Epperly, who was named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for a record third straight week and was featured prominently on ESPN’s SportsCenter throughout Saturday night.

“I looked at the stats, our long run for the day was a 21-yard run by Bostic in the fourth quarter; our long throw was a 20-yarder to Roman Wilson. It was just unbelievable execution. They weren’t going to give up big plays and he just kept hitting perfect drive routes, dig routes, and slant routes. It looked like pass on air where the ball doesn’t hit the ground. And that is really something to behold, especially because the guy on the other side is as good a quarterback and thrower as has ever played in the Ivy League.”

The Tigers drew inspiration from another historic Ivy League figure as the program celebrated the recently deceased Dick Kazmaier ’52, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner over the weekend.

“Our whole team went to the celebration yesterday and that was just unbelievable and you still have chills,” said Surace.

“When you walk out at halftime, I was in tears to see all those guys out on the field.”

Princeton needed to stop Cornell’s history-making quarterback Mathews, who came into the game with an Ivy career record of 10,417 passing yards, in order to earn the victory and drop the Big Red to 1-6 overall, 0-4 Ivy.

“You are always holding your breath with him because he is so good,” said Surace of Mathews.

“I thought our pressure was good. I thought our coverage was really good. We were really tight and we forced him into a lot of really short passes. To hold him to 230 yards and sack him seven times; that was really good.”

Princeton senior defensive lineman Matt Landry, who ended the day with four tackles and 1.5 sacks, said the Tigers turned up the heat on Mathews in order to contain him.

“Obviously Jeff Mathews is an outstanding quarterback, not only in the Ivy League, I am sure he will have a great career in the NFL,” said Landry.

“Up front as defensive linemen, our goals are always to contain the quarterback but to also put as much pressure on him as possible to make him feel uncomfortable at all times. The defensive backfield and linebackers had great coverage and we were able to get after him quite a bit today.”

In Landry’s view, the team’s defensive unit is reaching a new comfort level. “I think this defense is clicking on all -cylinders,” asserted Landry.

“Each and every week, we just strive to do our best and improve on our mistakes from the previous week. We always focus on doing our best on every single play. I think we are just excellent, all the way from the defensive front back to the secondary.”

The Princeton offense was clicking from the start on Saturday, converting an interception by Caraun Reid into an early touchdown. The Tigers marched 31 yards on six plays and took a 7-0 lead after a 7-yard touchdown pass from Epperly to Roman Wilson.

After a Cornell field goal, Epperly excelled with his feet and arm, rushing for 27 yards and hitting three passes in a drive culminated by his one-yard plunge as the Tigers went up 15-3.

The Big Red responded with a field goal and then scored a touchdown as Connor Michelsen fumbled after a sack and the loose ball was taken into the end zone by Cornell’s Justin Harris.

With its lead narrowed to 15-13, Princeton broke the game open as Epperly scored his second TD of the game to culminate an 80-yard scoring march and then ran for a third with 1:01 left in the half as Princeton built a 29-13 lead heading into intermission.

The rout was on in the third quarter as Epperly hit Seth DeValve for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put Princeton up 36-13. On the next Tiger possession, Epperly found Wilson in the end zone for a 17-yard scoring strike as the lead increased to 43-13.

In the fourth quarter, Princeton hit the 50-point mark for the fourth time this season, tacking on 10 points with a Nolan Bieck field goal and a 12-yard touchdown run by Joe Rhattigan.

In Landry’s view, it was important for the Tigers to follow up their 51-48 triple overtime win at Harvard last week with another triumph, noting that the Tigers dropped three out of four games in 2012 after a stirring 39-34 win over the Crimson.

“Obviously it was frustrating to do that,” said Landry, referring to last year’s shaky finish,

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth coming off that season. But as a team we are focused on our game plan and being the best we can be every single week.”

With the Tigers headed to Philadelphia for a critical clash at Penn (4-3 overall, 3-1 Ivy), Epperly is not going to let the accolades from his record-breaking effort distract him from the task at hand.

“We focus in on what we can control, coming to practice every week, working hard, and trying to win the remaining games,” said Epperly, who has passed for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 14 more this fall to help the Tigers win six straight since an opening day loss to Lehigh.

“I think a lot of it is just a credit to our hard work and effort, that is the main thing we pride ourselves each week at practice and that carries over to games. I think even sometimes when we don’t execute perfectly, we try to play very fast and that helps a lot to fix some errors. I think a lot of guys have bought into that and it has turned into a 6-game winning streak.”

MEN AT WORK: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson, right, makes a point at a recent practice as junior guard Ben Hazel looks on. Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MEN AT WORK: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson, right, makes a point at a recent practice as junior guard Ben Hazel looks on. Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last season ended with a thud for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it fell to Yale and Brown on the final regular season weekend to fall out of first place in the Ivy League and lose its shot at the league crown.

The bitter taste from those defeats, though, could sow the seeds for something special this winter as Princeton tips off its 2013-14 campaign by hosting Florida A&M on November 10.

For senior guard and team captain T.J. Bray, the memory of that meltdown spurred him to greater heights in preparing for his final college campaign.

“Last year stung really bad, I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it  during every workout I did this summer,” said Bray, reflecting on a season that saw Princeton go 17-11 overall and 10-4 Ivy as Harvard went on to take the title.

“It is that extra motivation to do that last rep, that last drill, and push yourself even farther. That is not necessarily the legacy I want to leave here; luckily I have got one more year to change the way people think about me. I don’t want that last weekend to define my career.”

Bray’s classmate, senior forward Will Barrett, was likewise driven by the  experience.

“The way the season ended, it motivated me every single day,” said Barrett. “I thought about it before I went to bed every night and when I woke up in the morning I still had that feeling in my stomach where it just didn’t feel right.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, for his part, views the finish as an important learning tool going forward.

“For two weeks after the season, you don’t sleep, that is how I reacted to it,” said Henderson, who is entering his third season at the helm of the Tigers and has posted an overall mark of 37-23 in his first two seasons.

“Then you watch the film a few times and you move on and you start looking forward to planning for what we have coming back. I have always been excited about what we have coming back. I don’t want to be reactionary. We are focused on the process of getting better. We might have looked forward a little bit too much in that last weekend.”

While the graduation of star Ian Hummer could give Henderson some sleepless nights, he is confident that the team has the depth to make up for the loss of Hummer, the 2013 Ivy Player of the Year who led the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and assists.

“Ian did so many things for us but we are so different immediately,” said Henderson.

“We have six new guys and three guys who took the year off. Ben Hazel and Jimmy Sherburne factor in very heavily for us in terms of minutes. I am going to  play some freshmen so it is really a different team. I am not saying that we are not going to miss Ian because we are going to. We are going to be spreading the ball around where we are less focused on one guy. We are obviously going to go with what makes us good. I think it is committee; it is what’s open.”

Henderson expects Bray (9.9 points and 3.8 resounds per game in 2012-13) to do some very good things for the Tigers this winter.

“T.J. is the heart and soul of our program and he has been for three years,” said Henderson of the 6’5 native of New Berlin, Wis. who was a second-team All-Ivy choice last season.

“He gets steals. He is an excellent Ivy League guard. He has become a driller, he is a great shooter. These guys don’t talk to each other when they come off the floor. I think it is the nature of college basketball these days but T.J. is a talker and that’s what you need. You need someone who is really going to be active and a good voice. We switch him around; we put him in different spots so that he can be vocal with different parts of the team.

The 6’10 Barrett (9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds) should be heard from a lot this winter.

“Will Barrett is our tallest player and he happens to be the second best shooter in the country,” said Henderson of Barrett, who hit on 48-for-93 three-pointers last winter for a .516 shooting percentage beyond the arc. “That is a huge advantage for us. He has a beautiful shot; he gets it off very easily.”

Henderson is looking for some inside punch from 6’8 sophomore Hans Brase (5.4 points, 4.2 rebounds) and 6’8 junior Denton Koon (10.5 points and 3.0 rebounds).

“We  weren’t particularly a great rebounding team last year,” said Henderson. “I think Hans Brase is going to make a huge step. I see Denton Koon filling the void there.”

The Tigers are welcoming a class of six freshman who should fill some other holes for the team.

“I like the freshman group, they have all impressed me,” asserted Henderson.

“I am not being political when I say that. I like the group quite a bit. They have embraced the culture and what we emphasize here which is getting better and working hard. That said, I think you will see Pete Miller quite a bit. Spencer Weisz, is a good player from Seton Hall Prep who had a really nice career there. I think following in the long line of Princeton players, he really has an understanding of the game.”

Barrett, for his part, believes that the freshmen will make a nice contribution this winter.

“Coach was talking about the freshmen coming in, they have a point guard through center and every one of them is in the gym shooting every single day,” said Barrett.

“It just motivates me even more seeing younger guys like that who have the hunger and the passion. I am always in the gym with them and we are feeding off each other. That has been very helpful for me.”

In Bray’s view, the team’s veterans can help lead the way for the newcomers.

“I like what we have coming back, obviously Ian is a big loss but we have got  four other starters back and a lot of guys who have played a lot of basketball for Princeton,” said Bray.

“I think we are going to be very balanced this year and I think we can beat teams in a lot of different ways.”

For Henderson, new rule changes which will lead to more fouling and increased scoring should give the Tigers additional ways to beat foes.

“I think it is going to improve scoring and I think it is going to reward  teams that value skill and playing together, which we have done here for years,” said Henderson.

“I like it, I think it is great. Our guys love it too. It opens the floor but it is still going to be a physical game.”

The Tigers will have to be on their game in order to win their first league crown since the 2010-11 campaign.

“I know our guys think the league is good,” said Henderson, whose team was picked to finish fourth in the Ivy preseason media poll.

“We expect to play well and compete against everybody we play, whether it is  Florida A & M, Butler on the road, or a team in our league.”

TAKING THE HELM: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter heads to the hoop in action last season. Senior forward Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy League performer in 2012-13, will be a key figure this winter as the Tigers go after a fifth straight league title. Princeton opens its 2013-14 campaign by playing Rutgers on November 10.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAKING THE HELM: Princeton University women’s basketball player Kristen Helmstetter heads to the hoop in action last season. Senior forward Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy League performer in 2012-13, will be a key figure this winter as the Tigers go after a fifth straight league title. Princeton opens its 2013-14 campaign by playing Rutgers on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a quartet that took the Princeton University women’s basketball program to new heights.

The squad’s Class of 2013 — two-time Ivy League Player of the year Niveen Rasheed, three-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen — led the Tigers to four straight league titles, a 54-2 Ivy record, and an overall mark of 96-20.

But as head coach Courtney Banghart looks forward to her seventh season guiding the Tigers, she isn’t crying the blues about the graduation losses from a team that went 22-7 overall and 13-1 Ivy last winter.

“This is an exciting group,” said Banghart, speaking last Thursday at the program’s annual media day.

“I think there are a lot of people who won’t recognize some of the people that are going to be really important to us as we go through. We have the same resolve and the same goal. It’s been fun to coach a team that can score and that’s what we can do. We have spent some time over the last three years, creating offense with players that struggle to score. Now we can definitely score.”

In Banghart’s view, her trio of freshmen, Jackie Reyneke, Vanessa Smith, and Taylor Brown could be be very important additions for the Tigers.

“We just do what we do here, we reload and so we have got three players who are exactly what you would want,” said Banghart, whose team opens the season by playing at Rutgers on November 10.

“We have got size in Jackie Reyneke from Saddle River. She is our longest. She is 6’4 with a really high release. She will see time. Then we have got a wing from Cleveland Ohio, Vanessa Smith, she actually started in our scrimmage the other day. She is a really long wing who is really aggressive off the dribble. Then we have got a little lead guard, Taylor Brown, who is about 5’8. As soon as they adjust to Princeton and adjust to the pace of play, they will help us consistently.”

Banghart is expecting more consistent play from her sophomores, Amanda Berntsen (1.7 points per game in 2012-13), Annie Tarakchian (2.9 points), Alex Wheatley (5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds), Taylor Williams (1.4 points), and Michelle Miller (6.7 points and 3.0 rebounds).

“I think the sophomore class, the group of five that played together some last year, all came back better,” asserted Banghart.

“They are stronger. They understand the rigors of our season. They are more skilled. They are noticeably better. I think that part of that came from what happened all year when they had to guard really good players and part of it came with knowing that we were graduating a lot.”

Banghart is getting a lot of intangibles from her senior co-captains Nicole Hung (5.8 points) and Kristen Helmstetter (8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds) along with battle-tested point guard Blake Dietrick (8.0 points and 3.4 rebounds).

“I embrace the journey with this group because of the leadership,” said Banghart.

“I spend a lot of time dealing with these three people and they spend a lot of time dealing with everybody else. I can’t say enough about the leadership of this group.”

The trio figures to lead the way on the court as well. “Hung is coming back from an injury and she isn’t as healthy yet as she needs to be,” said Banghart of the 5’11 guard who was limited to five games last season

“Her commitment to her training and to the team through injury has been admirable. Kristen, our other captain, just does everything for us. She’ll play at either the wing or the post or both depending on whoever else is ready. She has really been the floor leader on both sides of the ball and definitely will be very, very key to our success. Blake has emerged as our starting lead guard. She scored a lot last year and played really well. The team starts and stops with this group.”

Dietrick, for her part, is looking forward to getting the season underway. I am really excited,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, who led the Tigers with 52 three-pointers last winter.

“Our young kids are awesome. They have so much energy and passion for the game. They want to fight everyday just like we do. They are not afraid when we are down their throats about something. They accept it, they listen to it, they want to get better, and I really appreciate and respect that. I think we are going to do pretty well.”

The 6’0 Helmstetter, a second-team All-Ivy performer last season, is ready to stand tall for the Tigers.

“I think my role is a leader on the court,” said Helmstetter, a native of nearby Bridgewater, N.J. “Last year, it was a little bit more of a comfort role, I had four seniors on the court to play with and I just took that back seat and rolled with them. This year both Hung and I have really grown and stepped up into this role. I am just excited. I have four new people to start with. I started with Blake a few times last year so I know we have good chemistry and I can’t wait to gain that chemistry with the other players on our team.”

In Banghart’s view, the team needs to develop some grit to go with its chemistry in order to stay atop the Ivies.

“We just have got to build the right base and build the right blocks defensively, on the glass and the toughness points,” said Banghart, whose club was picked to finish first in the Ivy preseason media poll.

“I think if this team gains toughness on a daily basis, I really like where we will be at the end of the year.”

The Tigers face a tough opening assignment with the road contest at Rutgers.

“I don’t even know who is going to start against Rutgers,” said Banghart. “It is not a race for who is ready first, it is race for who is good enough when it is time. We scrimmaged Temple and I thought we did some really nice things. We scrimmage again this weekend. Everyday we get a little bit different and a little bit better. I think Rutgers is a really good test. It is on the road, which is also difficult, given that we have so much inexperience.”

Banghart is confident that the Tigers can be really good again this winter. “I wouldn’t sugar coat this,” said Banghart.

“As a coach I would rather tell you that I wasn’t happy. It is a good  group. We have a long way to go but I think we have the potential to be pretty darn good which is awesome. To be honest, I think we are reloaded. I don’t think there is any trouble in Tigertown.”

And that could spell trouble for Princeton’s Ivy foes.

PRICKLY ROSE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Rose Alleva goes after the puck in recent action. Senior defenseman Alleva totaled three goals and an assist last weekend as Princeton lost 5-4 to No. 3 Cornell on Friday and then rebounded with a 6-2 win over Colgate a day later. The Tigers, now 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRICKLY ROSE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Rose Alleva goes after the puck in recent action. Senior defenseman Alleva totaled three goals and an assist last weekend as Princeton lost 5-4 to No. 3 Cornell on Friday and then rebounded with a 6-2 win over Colgate a day later. The Tigers, now 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University women’s hockey team fell behind visiting No. 3 Cornell 5-0 in the first period last Friday at Baker Rink, it looked like the Tigers were in for a long weekend.

But encouraged by Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, Tiger senior star Rose Alleva and her teammates believed they could get back into the game.

“Coach just said that we can skate with them,” said defenseman Alleva. “He was positive, he always is. He always has our backs. We just needed to backcheck and protect our house.”

Showing a positive mindset, Princeton exploded for three goals in first three minutes of the second period and added a fourth midway through to make a 5-4 game heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.

Alleva, who scored the third goal of the second period flurry, acknowledged that she was taken aback by the team’s outburst.

“I think our team just believed in ourselves,” said Alleva, a 5’3 native of Red Wing, Minn.

“We knew we could do it. Once we got one in, we just  kept on going on our momentum. We were surprised, I have to say.”

While Princeton didn’t pull off a surprise win against the Big Red as it fell by that 5-4 margin, Alleva was proud of the way the Tigers tightened up after their shaky start.

“I think we were just playing with our hearts,” said Alleva. “We were stronger in front of the net, we got our heads up. We looked where the people were coming from. They were trying to fly a person from the weak side and also the defense crashed in like forwards. We were just more alert.”

Alleva showed some alertness on her goal. “I saw the forwards are rushing in and during practice we are always like the defense to sneak in,” said Alleva, who also had an assist on the evening.

“Every time I wouldn’t get the goal because the puck wouldn’t come to me. It came right there and I was like, it can’t be this easy.”

A day later, Alleva tallied two more goals as the Tigers rallied from a 1-0 deficit against Colgate, erupting for six goals in the third period on the way to a 6-2 triumph.

As a battle-tested senior, Alleva has made it her goal to help the team’s seven freshmen get the most out of their potential.

“We have so many freshmen,” said Alleva, who now has 27 points in her Tiger career on six goals and 21 assists.

“We just try to give them what they need, guide them through classes, guide them through what they need to do in the ice, what the coaches like, and what our team atmosphere is like here. We want to just get them integrated into the Princeton culture. We really rely on them as freshmen. The depth really helps us; we have fresher legs.”

Alleva’s partnership with classmate and fellow defenseman Gabie Figueroa has also helped the Tigers.

“We first met during national camp in high school,” recalled Alleva.

“She was already committed and I didn’t know where I wanted to go. She said come to Princeton and I said I will look, I’ll give it a shot. I came on my official and I decided to come here. We have always loved playing with each other on the ice. We just work really well together.”

Princeton head coach Kampersal liked how his team worked its way back into the game against Cornell.

“It was definitely a rocky start,” said Kampersal. “After that we just decided to focus on five minutes at a time and try to win four-five minute periods in the second. We did a good job of doing that. We just couldn’t get it in the third. We were in good shape, we kept bringing it. We played with a lot of heart and soul; We could have easily folded the tent at 5-0 no question so it was a good battle back.”

Kampersal credited Alleva with bringing it all night against Cornell. “Rosie is one of those kids who can skate all day,” said Kampersal, who also got goals from Jaimie McDonell, Olivia Mucha, and Ali Pankowski in the battle with the Big Red.

“She is in great shape. She worked really hard this summer. She has good skills so she can get herself out of trouble and then she has good speed so if she were to get beat someone has to beat her twice and that usually doesn’t happen. She is definitely a leader back there.”

Junior Ashley Holt definitely gave Princeton a lift as she came on for starter Kim Newell in the second period of the Cornell game.

“Ashley played great,” said Kampersal of Holt, who went on to make 20 saves in the win over Colgate as the Tigers improved to 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey play.

“Kim is a great goaltender but it wasn’t her night. I was thinking of putting Ashley in after the fourth goal and I should have but there was 40 seconds left in the period  and I thought we could get out of it and that ended up being the winning goal which is a bummer. The defenseman played really well in front of her and she made that penalty shot save.”

Princeton got good play all weekend from sophomore McDonell and freshman Cassidy Tucker.

“We missed Jamie McDonell last year,” said Kampersal, who got a goal and an assist from McDonnell in the win over Colgate with Tucker chipping in a goal.

“It is a bummer that she got injured but she is just a gritty, tough kid, she plays hard. Tucker is a young kid but she is so savvy and so smart. The defensemen played solid in general.

With increased depth this winter due to the influx of the freshmen, Princeton should be tougher to beat.

“We are usually the team that is shorthanded and fighting it through the third period and we were able to keep throwing people out there,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9.

Alleva, for her part, believes the Tigers have a fighting chance against any team in the country.

“We obviously showed a lot of heart in the second period and also the third,” said Alleva.

“I don’t knew where we were in the first. We just proved to ourselves that we can be with the top girls. We are gong to prove that when we go up to Minnesota over Thanksgiving.”

While the Princeton University men’s soccer team may have won ugly in posting a 2-1 victory over Cornell last Saturday, the triumph left the Tigers in pretty good shape in the Ivy League title race.

The Tigers are now 6-7-1 overall and 3-1-1 Ivy, tied with Penn (6-8-1 overall, 3-1-1 Ivy) for second place and trailing frontrunner Harvard (5-7-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy).

In reflecting on the win, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that his team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“It is funny we didn’t think we were playing that well but we got two goals,” said Barlow.

“We thought we got off to better starts against Dartmouth and Columbia but they got the first goal. That was not one of the best games soccer-wise from beginning to end but we got those two first half goals.”

The Princeton tallies came on good individual efforts by junior star Cameron Peter and senior standout Patrick O’Neil.

“Cameron did a good job on that play,” said Barlow. “Thomas Sanner made a play in the midfield and then Brendan McSherry got it to Myles McGinley and he sent it up the field. Cameron was in a wrestling match with the two center backs and was able to score. O’Neil came in at left back due to an injury to Joe Saitta. We like our backs to come up wide and he scored that goal from left back.”

Barlow didn’t like what he saw in the second half as Cornell put Princeton on its heels.

“We had a good opportunity to get a third but Thomas Sanner hit the post,” lamented Barlow.

“They had a player seriously injured, he got tangled with Chris Benedict and his head hit Benedict’s knee. They thought there might be a neck injury; he was immobilized and taken off by an ambulance. The game was delayed for 25-30 minutes. When it restarted, they threw the kitchen sink at us. They scored on a corner and we had to hold them off.”

In Barlow’s view, the Tigers have a good opportunity to come out on top in the Ivy dogfight.

“I have been saying all along that we have a good team,” said Barlow. “It was good to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Harvard; we had our backs to the wall. We are focused on the league right now. We hope Columbia can beat Harvard so our game with Penn will be for first place. It is wide open with two weeks to go, we think if we play our best we can win the title.”

The Tigers will have to be at their best to pull out a win over the Quakers. “They have one of the best attacks in the league,” asserted Barlow.

“They have four special players in Duke Lacroix, Alec Neumann, Sam Hayward, and Stephen Baker. They are also not conceding many goals. We will have to keep track of those four going up the field. We need to win the midfield, that sets the tempo. It is going to be a really good game.”

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At around 6:30 on Saturday evening, the players on the Princeton Day School soccer team were crying tears of joy after their dramatic 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game at Rider’s Ben Cohen Field.

“That was huge; I don’t know if there was one dry eye on the team after that,” said PDS senior star Lilly Razzaghi, reflecting on the emotions triggered by the program’s first-ever county crown. “We were all so happy.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happiest about the character his team displayed in its rise from a 4-9-4 campaign in 2012 to the MCT title.

“You know what it is; it is a team that is resilient,” said Trombetta. “The whole thing started last season when we finished with only four wins. It was a bad taste in our mouths and those girls remember that. I said it is unacceptable. I said you have got to come back and bounce back and that is exactly what they did this year.”

The first-seeded Panthers had to bounce back in the second half as No. 2 HoVal had them on their heels in the early going.

“I said you didn’t play well and it is 0-0 right now, you start making things happen and we are going to win this game,” said Trombetta, recalling his halftime message.

“Hopewell had the better of the play  But if you look at our back four, I will put them up against any back four in the county, with Stef Soltesz, Brit Murray, Erin Hogan, and Lily Razzaghi, That it is a strong four. I thought Rory Finnegan played excellent in goal today.”

In the the second half, PDS got goals through its strong play on set pieces as Eloise Stanton scored on a corner kick from Alexa Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from Brit Murray.

“We have been working on that in practice over and over and I told the girls this is how games are won or lost right here on this stuff,” said Trombetta. “I said  you guys need to be the aggressive team inside the box and they did it.”

In Trombetta’s view, pushing his players to come together as a team was a key factor in PDS’s title win.

“The chemistry is great,” said Trombetta. “If you look at the makeup of the team with underclassmen and upperclassmen, it is about 50/50. What I had the upperclassmen do is for each to take an underclassmen under their wing and just mentor them all season so that tightens the bond and it just grew and grew. It is a real close-knit group and, you know what, it means a lot in games when the players are playing for each other. It has been an amazing journey.

Utilizing that camaraderie, PDS struck a blow for the underdogs. “This is for all the teams out there, the small schools that nobody looks at,” said Trombetta, with his voice rising.

“The girls that might not be academy-type players but if you have a bunch of girls who have great team chemistry, it goes a long way. They have got so much heart and determination.”

At around 2:30 the next afternoon, however, the PDS players cried tears of frustration as their hearts were broken in a 2-0 loss to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game played on their Jan Baker Field.

The top-seeded Panthers got off on the wrong foot against No. 6 Mo-Beard as they surrendered two goals in the first 13 minutes of the contest and then had a player sent off with a red card minutes later.

“It is bad enough playing less than 24 hours after the county game and then you get dealt a red card,” lamented Trombetta.

“That was an unfortunate situation, playing a man down for three-quarters of the game. The girls competed right to the end, they never gave up.”

Trombetta acknowledged that team’s grueling schedule, which saw it play six tournament games in nine days, may have caught up with the players on Sunday.

“We were flat off the bat,” said Trombetta. “It is tough. I have been coaching this game a long time and trying to play six games in nine days is tough. Fatigue was a factor, we were running on fumes to be honest with you. To have a game like last night with that kind of emotional game and that hard-fought battle and then to come back the next day and play in another championship game is a tall task.”

Razzaghi, for her part, liked the way the Panthers kept on task despite tired legs.

“We definitely have had a lot of games and it catches up to us sometimes,” said Razzaghi.

“But I don’t think we ever gave up. We kept playing. They may have scored on us but we came back and fought hard. Even when we switched up our formation, we played really hard. I am really proud of the girls.”

The loss to Mo-Beard didn’t diminish the pride that Razzaghi feels over what the Panthers accomplished this fall.

“In the four years I have been here, I have never seen a team of girls work so well together towards such a common goal,” said Razzaghi.

“We played so well. We have these (holding up county champion t-shirts) which is the first time we have these and I am pretty proud of the girls for having done that.”

Trombetta, for his part, won’t soon forget what his team did in 2013. “We couldn’t be more proud of the performance of these girls and the team as a whole and the way they stuck together,” said Trombetta, whose squad posted a final record of 17-2-1.

“I told the seniors, regardless of how this stings, what you did this year, no other PDS team did. I am very happy for the seniors to go out this way. Obviously they are upset and I told the other girls, take a look at the seniors right now.”

Things are looking up for PDS in the wake of its historic run. “We had a very good eighth grade team that didn’t lose a game,” said Trombetta.

“The junior class has been the warriors in this group. I think next year we are going to hopefully be up there again.”

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Eloise Stanton waited to get back on the field midway through the second half of the Mercer County Tournament girls’ soccer title game last Saturday, the Princeton Day School senior midfielder was confident she could make an impact.

With top-seeded PDS locked in a scoreless tie with No. 2 Hopewell Valley, Stanton trotted onto the field at Rider University and got into the fray.

“I came off from outside mid and I was pretty tired and just got a quick drink,” said Stanton. “Everyone on the bench cheered me on and I went in and when I was on the field everybody was really helpful.”

With 11:21 left in the half, Stanton got her teammates cheering as she headed in a soaring cross from Alexa Soltesz to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was perfectly placed and I just looked up and hit it,” said Stanton, recalling the goal that proved to be the game-winner in a 2-0 victory for the Panthers as they won the program’s first county crown.

“It was easy for me, she did all the work. As an outside mid, I am told to go on the keeper and I tried to do that. Alexa has amazing crosses. She has a great foot and her corners are always beautiful.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happy to see Stanton’s work pay off with the decisive tally.

“Eloise started the season off great,” said Trombetta. “I had a conversation with her the other day and I said ‘Eloise you have had a little bit of a lull here in scoring. This is your last week as a PDS Panther, go out and make something happen.’ That was a beautiful header.”

Just over a minute later, Stanton and her teammates experienced another beautiful moment as junior Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from senior star Brit Murray to give the Panthers some insurance.

“It felt really good; getting the first goal is good but you know it can easily be tied up,” said Stanton, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s tally.

“Getting the second goal is really nice, especially since there were only about 10 minutes left in the half. I think that is when we knew we had it in our grasp.”

With the game tied at 0-0 at halftime, things weren’t coming easy for PDS as it battled a tough HoVal squad that had knocked off powerful Pennington on the way to the title game.

“We were concerned,” said Stanton. “We knew how to play it, especially from the PHS game when we were down 1-0 at the half. We have a lot of heart.

“We knew we could do it. We all have faith in each other. I think that is the main thing, we have confidence in our teammates and that is what makes us good.”

Coming together as a team paved the way to PDS’s championship breakthrough with the squad bouncing back from a frustrating 4-9-4 campaign in 2012.

“I think a lot of it is that we have been working on team chemistry,” said Stanton.

“Last year, we had all the talent but the seniors have been working on bringing that together because we kind of played individually. We did have the talent but we didn’t really work together as well. So this year the seniors tried to get the team to have one goal and one big picture in mind for what we wanted in the end.”

In Stanton’s view, winning the county title was not only a great way to end her career, it should serve as big inspiration for the program going forward.

“It means so much especially for the seniors and this being our last season,” said Stanton.

“It is a great way to end. I think for the incoming freshmen it is a great way to start because it shows them how much everything means to us and that getting this far, it gives them something to shoot for in the future.”

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a disappointing 2-1 loss to Princeton Day School last week in the semis of the Mercer County Tournament, Ally Rogers and her teammates on Princeton High girls’ soccer team were excited to get things started in the state tourney,

With third-seeded PHS hosting No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional last Monday, the Little Tigers were looking to make a statement.

“This is a new tournament, this is a new start,” said senior forward Rogers. “We want to just show everyone what we have because we didn’t do that in the county tournament so we are going to do that in this tournament. We are going to come out strong.”

PHS certainly came out strong against Jackson Liberty, scoring five unanswered goals in the first half on the way to a 6-0 victory.

Rogers, who scored two of the first half goals, said that the Little Tigers showed progress from the PDS setback.

“We learned from it; we know we didn’t play our best in that game,” said Rogers.

“We could have won, I think. We just lost the momentum a little bit and stopped winning the 50/50 balls, which was a big problem. We just focused on that in our practices and we focused on that in this game and I think we did fairly well.

“Placing the ball and just calming down when you are in front of the goal are two of our other biggest things.”

In blasting in her tallies, Rogers showed clinical precision. “On my goals personally, I just made sure I took a breath before I shot,” said Rogers, who now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season. “I just saw the goalie and saw where she was and just placed it in the space.”

The productive partnership between Rogers and junior Shannon Pawlak was on display as Pawlak contributed two goals and an assist in the first half onslaught.

“Shannon uses her foot skills in the middle and I use my speed to get up the side and cross it to her,” explained Rogers.

“We just work very well with each other and we have learned to play off of each other and we talk to each other and make sure that we are on the same page.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his players were on the same page Monday as they bounced back from the PDS loss and started the defense of their sectional crown.

“We were disappointed there, we were not dejected,” said Hand, referring to the team’s mood after the PDS setback. “We had been focusing on training well and wanted to come out and be sharp on attack and on defense. Today was a good start.”

In Hand’s view, Rogers and Pawlak were particularly sharp in the win over Jackson Liberty.

“Ally is so dynamic; she does some surprising things in every game,” asserted Hand, whose team will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on November 7.

“She is always working hard. She has developed a great ability to hold the ball under pressure and to get behind people and get in serves from really difficult angles. Shannon always works so hard for us. She did a great job of finishing off that early goal in the game.”

Rogers and her classmates, for their part, are determined to produce a big finish to their PHS careers.

“All of the seniors are so stoked that this is the team that is going to be our last team for the high school,” said Rogers.

“We just know that we are so strong that we can go all the way if we connect and play our game the whole time.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High field hockey team battled Warren Hills last Saturday in the first half of the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals, it was clicking on all cylinders.

Looking strong at both ends of the field, fifth-seeded PHS took a 2-0 lead over the No. 4 Blue Streaks into halftime.

“We played the way we play best with a quick passing, possession game,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, reflecting on her team’s first-half performance.

“We have been working on pushing harder to the goal and playing tighter defense and we did both of those in the first half.”

But midway through the second half, a hard six-minute stretch doomed the Little Tigers to a 3-2 defeat.

“About 15 minutes in, we were still ahead 2-0 but then they scored three goals in six minutes, it was a wave of intensity,” said Serverson, who got goals from Julia DiTosto and Trish Reilly in the loss. “We had trouble responding and we had a couple of injuries in that stretch.”

In addressing her players in the wake of the defeat that left PHS with a final record of 13-4-2, Serverson saw parallels to the team’s heartbreaking loss on strokes to Hopewell Valley a week earlier in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“It was sort of the same as after the Hopewell loss in the Mercer County Tournament,” said Serverson.

“I told them they have to be able to respond and adjust to the other team. It is the little things that make a difference at this level.”

In Serverson’s view, while her team played high-level hockey all fall long, it could have reached even greater heights.

“It was an excellent season,” said Serverson. “We had a great record even with the two late losses. I feel that they didn’t reach their potential, they were capable of more.”

The team’s core of seniors did their best to help the team maximize its potential.

“Our captains [Emilia Lopez-Ona, Merritt Peck, and Gennie Quinn] helped provide stability and calm in the postseason games,” said Serverson. “Breanna [Hegarty-Thorne] did a great job in the cage.”

Welcoming back such talented players as DiTosto, Reilly, Lucy Herring, Elisa Kostenbader, Campell McDonald, Jordyn Cane, and Georgia McLean, Serverson believes PHS can do some great things next fall.

“I think the experience they got in this postseason will be drawn upon next year,” said Serverson. “We are returning more than half the starters.”

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The mood was solemn as the Hun School girls’ soccer team headed to Peddie last Thursday for a state Prep A semifinal clash.

”We had to prepare ourselves for this game,” said Hun junior star Ashley Maziarz.

“We were really focused on the way here. We were very quiet and focused on the game when we got here. We paid attention to what we were doing in the warm up. We really worked hard.”

Once the game started, a business-like sixth-seeded Hun team controlled possession, generating a number of corner kicks and putting the second-seeded Peddie defense under pressure.

On one of those corners, defender Maziarz got on the end of an Olivia Braender-Carr volley and headed the ball in for a goal.

That combination has been the blueprint for several Hun goals this fall. “Usually that is how we set up the corners; we like to get me to the far post,” said Maziarz.

“Olivia likes to take the kick, she has a really good strike. She always know swhere to hit it and knows where I am. A lot of time it falls into place. It was a really lucky goal. The goalie came out and I think she might have gotten a tip on it and the ball fell right on my head.”

Maziarz’s goal proved to be the lone tally of the contest as Hun prevailed 1-0 and booked its spot in the Prep A championship game at top-seeded Pennington on November 6.

After the final whistle below, the mood around the Hun squad was joyous as the players hugged after the game and then jogged to the cheers of their fans on the post-game warm down.

A smiling Maziarz acknowledged that there were some anxious moments as Peddie battled hard after intermission.

“It was definitely a different feel in the second half, they were pressing hard,” said Maziarz. “They came out strong. We had some rough moments but we pulled together.”

The victory was another step forward in a surprisingly strong late surge which has seen Hun rebound from a 0-7 start to make its first appearance in the state Prep A title game since 2009.

“We started off weak,” said Maziarz, noting that she was sidelined in the early going due to a partial tear in her patella.

“Now is the time that really matters; we seem to be pulling together and peaking at the right time. We are working as a team and we are working hard, especially in practice, getting what we need to do.”

As a team captain, Maziarz has felt the need to be extra supportive of Hun’s large contingent of freshmen and sophomores.

“I like to keep them focused and positive,” said Maziarz. “In the beginning of the season when it wasn’t going  the way we wanted it to, I tried to build them up.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac points to the return of Maziarz as a key factor in her squad’s strong finish.

“Getting Ashley back from injury as well as Jess Sacco has really changed the dynamic on the team,” asserted Hallac.

“The two of them not only possess the ball well, but they calm things down, they control things out there. Now that these freshmen have had all of this experience and you are getting veteran players back, it is really a good time to start jelling and we are.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun got off to a really good start in the Peddie clash. “I told the girls at halftime this was the best 40 minutes of soccer I had seen them play all year,” said Hallac.

“They were doing everything right other than one little missed communication in the back. We really possessed the ball, we were moving it around. We were getting good looks at it and all it takes is that one opportunity that you capitalize on.”

Hun had to hold the fort in the second half as Peddie looked to equalize. “I thought we handled it well,” said Hallac.

“There are always going to be those scary moments, a couple where we got lucky. I told the girls that you make your own luck. We took care of our chance and then we did what we needed to do to solidify the win. We were able to hold on and I was proud of them.”

Hallac is proud of the resilience her players have shown in battling back from their rocky start this fall. “These girls have been working hard and getting better every time they step on the field,” asserted Hallac.

“Even when we were 0-7, they were showing such improvement every game. It was just a matter of keeping them positive and keeping them hungry. They kept showing up every day and working hard and doing every thing I asked and I told them it is going to come together you have just got to believe me. They saw it and kept working.”

Beating Lawrenceville in the opening round of the Prep A tournament and in a regular season contest in the same week helped propel Hun, now 6-11-1, into the title clash with perennial power Pennington.

“They gained a new kind of confidence that is allowing them to really reach their potential and playing the kind of soccer I know they have been capable of the whole time,” said Hallac, whose team battled hard in losing to Pennington 4-2 in a regular season contest and 2-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. “I  think they feel they can beat Pennington if they play their best soccer.”

Maziarz, for her part, believes Hun will give Pennington all it can handle. “I think right now we are focused a lot more and that is really helping,” said Maziarz. “Once we won those games against Lawrenceville, it definitely gave us confidence. We want to keep playing and play hard.”

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Bailey Hammer joined the Hun School boys’ soccer team as a freshman in 2010, he soaked up some important lessons from the squad’s veterans.

“Three of us were on the varsity team our freshmen year, Andres Gonzalez, Chris Meinert, and me,” recalled Hammer.

“We had a phenomenal group of seniors, a lot of them went D-1. Guys like Julian Plummer who played at Lafayette. There were a lot of great kids and we were learning from them. Thank God for them because they taught us so much at a young age.”

Over the last few weeks, senior midfielder Hammer together with classmates Gonzalez, Meinert and Felix Dalstein applied those lessons as they led 11th-seeded Hun on an improbable run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

The Raiders came together as they stunned sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing 2-0 to Hightstown last Wednesday night in the semis.

“It would be our leadership, the four senior captains,” said Hammer, when assessing what made the difference for the Raiders in its MCT run.

“A lot of guys listened to us, they looked up to us which helped us out a lot and definitely our coaches. They were there for us no matter what, academically, anything so it was nice to have that friendship and bond where you could bond off the field. You could go out for pizza but at the same time, battle on the field together like brothers. It was really nice.”

The Raiders brought a battling spirit into the postseason. “Our whole motto is if you don’t believe us, we’ll show you how we do it,” said Hammer.

In the loss to Hightstown, Hun showed plenty of skill and fight, generating some good chances as the teams were knotted 0-0 at halftime. In the second half, Hun kept pressing forward, just missing goals on a header attempt by Hammer and a point blank volley by Alex Semler off a corner kick. Hightstown broke through with a goal on a penalty kick with 19:09 left in regulation and then added a second score on a free kick some seven minutes later.

“Coming off of two overtime wins, we were hyped, we were ready to go,” said Hammer.

“We had a light practice yesterday and we knew what we had to do coming into the game. I just wish we could have come out with a win but I thought we battled to the end, everyone hustled. It was a really good game.”

Hammer’s fiery presence helped spark Hun to give its all against Hightstown. “I like being loud, I am competitive and everything,” said Hammer, who also stars for the Hun baseball team.

“It was definitely a blast being out there and getting the team fired up. I think we battled and it was just really nice to see everyone leave it out on the field.”

Hun head coach Pat Quirk was likewise proud of Hun’s effort. “We created a lot of good opportunities for ourselves,” said Quirk.

“We couldn’t finish but we never gave up and that’s been the story of this team all season. There were times where they could have packed it in but they never do. They are always trying to keep scoring.”

Even though the Raiders brought a losing record into the MCT, Quirk sensed that his team could pull off some surprises.

“I had a good feeling coming into the tournament,” said Quirk. “We started playing well together. We started making some combinations and we had that whole never give up thing. The first two games in the tournament we won in overtime. No one really expected us to do anything and we were able to prove some people wrong.

Quirk credits his quartet of seniors with holding things together for the Raiders.

“Bailey, Felix, Andres, and Chris have all shown some great leadership,” said Quirk, whose team topped Peddie 3-2 last Saturday to move to 7-11 and will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. “They are lead by example players.”

Based on the team’s late surge, Quirk is confident that his younger players will follow the good example set by the seniors going forward.

“We have guys coming back that are part of this,” said Quirk. “Two freshmen are on the field the majority of the time in the game for us. We have a bunch of sophomores and some juniors. I think it looks good.”

Hammer, for his part, believes his class is leaving a good legacy for the program.

“We are going to be ready for next year,” said Hammer. “We got a lot of young kids so hopefully this is a good learning experience for them.”

October 30, 2013
OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christopher Eisgruber is a busy guy these days as he settles into his new role as the president of Princeton University.

But last Saturday afternoon, he took the time to send a message to mark a bit of school history.

Eisgruber was one of the many well-wishers who contacted Princeton University football coach Bob Surace in the wake of the Tigers’ epic 51-48 triple overtime win at previously undefeated Harvard.

“I am lucky it was a road game,” said Surace, a former Tiger football star reflecting on the marathon which was the first triple overtime game in program history.

“I had 70 e-mails and texts waiting for me when I got on the bus, from the president of the school, to alums, to my college roommates. That’s what happens when you coach at your alma mater.”

The congratulations were certainly justified as Princeton achieved a second straight win for the ages over the arch rival Crimson, matching the drama of last year’s triumph which saw Princeton rally from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to stun a then-undefeated Harvard squad 39-34.

For Surace, it was special to simply be on the sideline of a second straight classic. “We are just calling the plays, it is the players who are out there executing and playing their hearts out,” said Surace, whose team piled up 520 yards of total offense and exceeded 50 points for the third time this season in improving to 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League while the Crimson dropped to 5-1 overall, 2-1 Ivy.

“It was a beautiful thing to be part of a special game between two such historic schools. It gives you chills.”

Like Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier to push him to his limit, Princeton and Harvard bring out the best in each other.

“I think it was two really good teams playing against each other,” said Surace.

“It was like a pay-per-view boxing match; sometimes you get a dud and sometimes you get a classic where you keep the ticket. It was two teams where there was going to be a wave of points each way.”

Like last year, the decisive blows were landed by the passing combination of Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson. In 2012, Epperly hit Wilson for a 34-yard touchdown that provided the margin of victory. On Saturday, lefty junior Epperly floated a six-yard pass to senior Wilson in the third overtime to clinch the win.

Epperly ended the day with personal records of 37 completions (37-for-50 for 321 yards) and six touchdown passes. He was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and has now accounted for 15 touchdowns in the air while rushing for 11 more. Wilson, for his part, made nine catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score.

“They both continue to work hard and lead the team,” said Surace, reflecting on what Epperly and Wilson have meant to the Tigers this year.

“They are cool, they don’t flinch. Quinn made a fumble earlier in the game and came right back on the next drive.”

Epperly helped Princeton jump out to a 13-0 first quarter lead as he hit Connor Kelley with a five-yard touchdown pass on Princeton’s initial possession and then found Des Smith on a six-yard scoring strike later in the quarter.

Harvard battled back in the second quarter as quarterback Connor Hempel hit Ricky Zorn for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson then forged ahead 14-13 after a 60-yard scoring gallop by Paul Stanton.

Epperly found Kelley on another 5-yard touchdown pass as the Tigers regained the lead at 21-14.

Running back Stanton scored again, this time on a two-yard plunge as Harvard knotted the game at 21-21 in the waning seconds of the first half.

As his players assembled in the locker room for halftime, Surace kept it short and sweet. “I told the guys to leave it all on the field and they did it in bucketfuls,” recalled Surace.

“Our locker room was in a trailer under the stands and when we came out there were parents, friends, and students cheering us, it was a wall of sound. It gave me goose bumps.”

Riding that emotion, Princeton scored on its first possession of the second half as Epperly hit Matt Costello for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 28-21. Harvard responded with a 23-yard scoring strike from Hempel to Tyler Ott and the teams headed into the fourth quarter knotted at 28-28.

The Tigers regained the lead as Epperly hit Seth DeValve with a touchdown pass to make it 35-28. Capitalizing on a Princeton fumble which gave it the ball at the Tiger 19, Harvard tied the game at 35-35 with 2:50 left in regulation on another Hempel scoring strike to Ott.

The contest headed into overtime and Harvard executed well on the first possession as Hempel found Ott in the end zone to go ahead 42-35. With Wilson scoring on a nine-yard reverse aided by a big block from Epperly, the Tigers evened the contest at 42-42

The teams traded field goals on their next two possessions to make a 45-45 game. Making a fine defensive stand, Princeton held Harvard to another field goal and took over trailing 48-45.  Epperly hit Costello with an 18-yard pass to get the ball to the Harvard 6. Two plays later, he lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone which Wilson snared to clinch the win and end the 3 hour, 59 minute saga.

With Princeton hosting Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) and its record-setting quarterback Jeff Mathews on November 2, Surace is hoping that his team can build on the dramatic win over Harvard unlike last year when the Tigers fell 37-35 to the Big Red.

“We didn’t let down last year, they just beat us,” maintained Surace, reflecting on the game which saw Mathews pass for 525 yards.

“We have to execute against a quarterback of that caliber. They have 25 guys returning with starting experience. They nearly beat Harvard (a 34-24 loss on October 12). There is such parity in the league. You take 200 plays in a game and flip three and things would be different. We have to be more exact.”

In Surace’s view, the character his team has developed in going through the ups and downs over the last three seasons could make the difference.

“I told them I am proud; they are such a tough group,” said Surace, whose team is tied for first in the Ivy standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy).

“I have been using a saying I got from Jason Garrett’s [former Tiger quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys head coach] camp this summer and that is ‘hold the rope.’ If a call doesn’t go your way or there is a fumble, you don’t give up; you just keep playing.”

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey deadlocked 2-2 with Dartmouth in overtime last Friday in the season opener, Tiger forward Tucker Brockett found the puck on his stick in the crease.

Taking advantage his scoring chance, junior Brockett rifled the puck into the net to give Princeton a 3-2 victory and tally his first career goal.

“It was Tucker’s first goal but if you saw the goal you would never know it,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“He did a good job of getting his hands free and showed tremendous poise putting it on the top shelf. It was a goal scorer’s goal.”

The Tigers showed poise throughout the weekend as they hosted the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, following the win over Dartmouth with a tough 3-2 loss to defending national champion Yale.

“We were playing good systematic hockey for the first weekend,” said Prier. “The resilience is good. We are playing shift to shift, that is the sign of a veteran team. It is a game of momentum and the key is how you react when you don’t have the momentum. We are showing more poise when the other team is on the power play or gets a goal.”

In the win over Dartmouth, Princeton seized the momentum, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by senior captain Jack Berger and freshman Ben Foster.

“Berger’s goal was huge for us; it was a power play goal,” said Prier. “The special teams were good all weekend, we were 5-for-5 on the kill and the PP was 38 percent and we can clean up things even more.”

More importantly, Prier liked how his team responded when Dartmouth scored two third period goals to force overtime.

“I think the advantage of being a veteran team and having gone through the ups and downs is just that,” asserted Prier, whose roster includes nine seniors.

“They had an unflappable mindset, it is what it is. It is bonus hockey and it is still our game. We scored early in OT.”

While Princeton fell 3-2 to Yale on Saturday, Prier liked the mentality exhibited by his players.

“We are breaking down the film and we played really well,” said Prier, who got goals from Tyler Maugeri and Andrew Ammon in the setback. “Yale had only three odd-man rushes and scored on two of them. They have a bit of a swagger. We played desperate in the third period when we needed to. We are resilient.”

Senior goalie Sean Bonar displayed some resilience over the weekend, making 38 saves in the win over Dartmouth and recording 27 saves in the loss to Yale.

“I was really happy with Bonar; he was unflappable,” said Prier of Bonar, who has a save percentage of .929 on the season.

”When your goalie is playing loose and controlling his rebounds, that goes a long way in making the whole team feel loose. Sean has matured tremendously.”

“There were flashes from everyone, everyone was trying to make plays,” said Prier.

“We didn’t play nervous. We didn’t dump the puck and when we had time, we handled it well. We need to play quicker out of our zone when we have possession of the puck.”

Princeton will be looking to make some big plays this weekend as it heads north for games at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later.

“Every weekend is tough,” said Prier. “You look at the results from last weekend and hands down, we have the best league in the country. Cornell is really strong, they swept Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and they will be flying. We need to put pressure on them and really go after them.”

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the opening weekend of the season, Jeff Kampersal believed that the arrival of seven freshmen to the program would make a difference for his Princeton University women’s ice hockey team.

The new faces didn’t waste any time making an impact as the Tigers played at Dartmouth last Friday in the first game of the 2013-14 campaign.

Freshman Cassidy Tucker notched Princeton’s first goal of the season late in the first period and then classmate Hilary Lloyd tallied the game-winner early in the third period as Princeton skated to a 3-2 victory.

“Cassidy’s goal got us going,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal, who also got a goal from senior captain Denna Laing in the win.

“She stripped a Dartmouth player of the puck when we were shorthanded and then got a 1-on-0 and roofed it. Jaimie MacDonell made a nice play on the wall and got the puck to Gabie Figueroa who found Lloyd on a back door.”

Kampersal liked the way his team battled collectively as it fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

“We were a little nervous in the first five minutes against Dartmouth but we pulled it together and played,” said Kampersal. “We were down a goal twice and we came back.”

A day later, the Tigers came out firing at Harvard, outshooting the 7th-ranked Crimson 44-30. But Harvard’s excellences on special teams, going 3-for-4 on the power play, combined with some stellar goaltending by Emerance Maschmeyer resulted in a 4-0 triumph for the Crimson.

“The girls were pumped up by the win over Dartmouth and played really well against Harvard in the 5-on-5,” said Kampersal. “They got some power play goals, a couple that were a little flukey. We had a lot of quality chances, we just couldn’t put any away.”

In Kampersal’s view, his squad produced a quality effort in its first weekend of action. “We had a lot of positives from the way we played,” said Kampersal.

“We learned where we are; it was good to play two Ivy League teams who were in the same position. I think just the fact we could roll lines and show our depth and conditioning made me happy.”

The Tigers will need to utilize that depth when they host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.

“Cornell lost two big defensemen to graduation and another player to the Olympics but their cupboard is still loaded,” said Kampersal.

“They are one of the best teams in the country, for sure. We have played them tough the last few times we have seen them so maybe this is the year we can break through. Colgate will be neck and neck with us all season so that is a very important game.”

Noting that his players will be getting some extra ice time this week since Princeton is on fall break, Kampersal is looking to fine-tune things.

“We need to work on special teams and conditioning,” said Kampersal. “We did have some power play chances and we didn’t put any away. It wasn’t from lack of effort, we had some shots.”

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Whitney Hayes focused on soccer as a grade schooler but he found a new sporting love by middle school.

“I played soccer a lot as a kid,” said Hayes. “In seventh grade I stopped playing travel soccer and switched to the lacrosse side, playing on select teams.”

Entering Princeton High in 1998, Hayes decided not to put all of his eggs in one basket, playing soccer as well as lacrosse. That move paved the way for one of the most decorated two-sports careers in PHS history.

As a soccer player, Hayes scored 26 goals and had 16 assists over his career, getting honored as a two-time All-State and three-time All-CVC performer.

On the lacrosse field, Hayes set a new standard, scoring a school-record 397 career points on 169 goals and 228 assists. He was a two-time All-American, a three-time All-State performer, and the N.J. Attackman of the Year.

This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the Princeton High Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.

Joining Hayes in the class will be John Friel ’36,  August Friel ’37, Joseph Friel ’38, Tom Friel ’50, Rich Volz ’67, Craig Rendall ’76, Patricia Dinella McMillan ’82, Lamont Fletcher Jr. ’82, Alec Hoke ’83, coach Frank Francisco, and the 1966 boys’ track and field team.

Hayes, for his part, was surprised to get the call to the PHS Hall of Fame. “I thought it was for a crowning achievement for a person, I thought I was too young to be a part of it,” said Hayes, 30. “It is great to be asked.”

In assessing his PHS career, Hayes acknowledged that he was not a great soccer player.

“I didn’t play varsity until I was a sophomore,” recalled Hayes. “In freshman year, I dressed for a few games at the end and got exposed to it. For me, the challenge was a skill level. I was a much better athlete than a soccer player. I could run with everybody but couldn’t always finish. I had to work harder to make more chances.”

Hayes enjoyed working with PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe. “Wayne was a tremendous coach,” said Hayes, who also relished the chance to play with older brother Dixon in both soccer and lacrosse.

“He was very much a players’ coach. He developed them as people as much as players. He listened to the leadership on the team. It was not just about being a successful team; he made it fun. He adapted strategy to the team that he had.”

In lacrosse, Hayes enjoyed success from the beginning, working his way into the starting lineup as a freshman.

“It was a step up in competition but I have always enjoyed that,” said Hayes. “I wanted to play against the better players. I had played with guys on the weekends and in their yards so I knew them.”

PHS did well against some of the better teams in the state during Hayes’ career. “My sophomore year, we ran the table in the regular season and lost to the eventual champion Delbarton in the playoffs,” said Hayes.

“My next year we beat the No. 1 seed AL Johnson in the tournament and coach [Peter] Stanton broke his hand celebrating.”

Like Sutcliffe, Stanton had a big influence on Hayes. “Coach Stanton was fantastic, he has a strong personality that you can’t help but like,” added Hayes.

“Like Wayne, he was interested in your development as a person. If you scored 10 goals but were a jerk to your teammates, the latter was something that he would focus on as being more important. He was a great mentor.”

Stanton, for his part, lauds Hayes’ special on-field focus. “Whit has remarkable awareness,” said Stanton. “Lacrosse is a one-on-one game but on the offensive side it is six guys against seven guys and he had a sense of playing the game within the game.”

Hayes’ game sense resulted in an understated style. “He made the game look so easy; he would get five goals and it would look so smooth and easy,” said Stanton of the 5’10, 175-pound Hayes.

“He had the gifts of perception, timing, and awareness. Those are skills that are virtually impossible to teach. They are innate gifts. He made his teammates better.”

In developing his gifts, Hayes utilized a fierce competitiveness. “He was exceptionally tough and I know how hard he worked at it,” said Stanton. “I saw him do the most amazing things on our Saturday practices when he was going full speed and he didn’t have to do that as our best player.”

That work paid off as Hayes went on to star for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, helping the Tigers reach the NCAA Final 4 in 2004 and tallying 69 points on 32 goals and 37 assists in his Tiger career.

“It was great to be home for college, that enabled people I knew to see me,” said Hayes, who graduated from Princeton in 2007 with a degree in politics and a finance certificate.

“My parents came to every game. I got to play with both of my brothers [Dixon and younger brother Sam]. I was sure I would have at least three fans at the home games with my parents and Peter. I grew up watching games on the soccer and lacrosse fields at Princeton and I thought that was a higher level so it was great to play on those fields in college.”

Stanton certainly enjoyed watching his former star excel at the college level. “It’s funny, Bill Tierney [former Princeton University coach] said Whitney was one of the biggest surprises he had in his career,” said Stanton.

“He was unheralded as a recruit. I was really happy to see him get the chance to play at Princeton. I know it was a dream come true for him.”

It is no surprise to Stanton that Hayes is achieving another dream this Saturday with the Hall of Fame honor.

“The Hall of Fame is for a select few; from the years I coached, he is the first person I would put in,” said Stanton.

“He was outstanding for four years. He did some awesome things. He still holds the school career record for points. When he graduated, he held New Jersey records for career assists and assists in a season.”

For Hayes, it is an awesome feeling to be singled out as a Hall of Famer. “There have been a lot of tremendous people who have gone through Princeton High and to be considered along with them is an honor,” said Hayes.

As Hayes reflects on going through PHS, he considers the bonds he made with his peers to be one of the lasting benefits of his high school experience. “I got to know a lot of great people; I developed friendships that I have to this day,” said Hayes, who currently works as an investment baker in New York City for UBS.

“Some of my best friends in the world are the guys I went with to Princeton High. I have been in their weddings and I still see them. It is something that lasts a lifetime.”

And having produced a once in a lifetime PHS career, it is fitting that Hayes is being recognized this Saturday as one of the best athletes in school history.

FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High field hockey team didn’t produce its best effort when it played Hopewell Valley in mid-September.

Coming out flat offensively, PHS dug a 2-0 hole on the way to a 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs.

When the teams met in a rematch last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, the Little Tigers gave extra effort from the opening whistle, battling HoVal tooth-and-nail all over the field.

After teams fought to a scoreless draw in the first half at Mercer County Community College, PHS turned up the heat after intermission on the chilly evening, controlling possession and generating several good scoring chances.

Neither team, however, was able to break through and the game headed into overtime.

PHS head coach Heather Serverson had a good feeling as her team got ready for the extra session.

“I think it really got the girls’ intensity and energy up,” said Serverson. “I think they had a great talk about specific things to do like quick passing and less dribbling and getting the ball in behind their defense.”

During the 20 minutes of overtime, PHS made several forays into the HoVal defensive end but couldn’t hit the back of the cage and the game was decided on strokes. The Bulldogs managed to convert three strokes to PHS’s one in order to survive and advance to the MCT title game.

With her players walking away teary-eyed from the MCCC field, Serverson lauded their effort.

“I think they played a great game, they played as well as they could,” said Serverson, whose team moved to 12-4-1 with the setback. “They left it all out on the field, I don’t think there is one more thing that they could have done.”

Serverson tipped her hat to HoVal and its play. “It is just tough to get through their defense, they were double and triple teaming us,” lamented Serverson. “It was just little things they took advantage of to win the game. You have to be prepared for everything at this level and they were better prepared.”

PHS got high-level play all evening long from junior Lucy Herring and senior Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“I think Emilia and Lucy really stood out,” asserted Serverson. “Lucy has been playing some great offense and defense all at the same time. Emilia is Emilia, she is a competitor.”

In Serverson’s view, her team’s effort in the MCT should serve it well as it competes in the upcoming state tournament.

“I said to the girls if you don’t learn from a loss it wasn’t worth it,” said Serverson, whose team was seeded fifth in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. “Hopefully we learn from it and we are able to move on.”

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conor Donahue wasn’t just racing against his foes when he competed last Friday in the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park.

“I didn’t run too well when we came here for the dual meet,” said Princeton High senior Donahue.

“After the dual meet, I talked to coach [Mark] Shelley and asked him when is the next time we are doing the Washington Crossing because I really want to work on this, this, and this. We did a really good run here with 800 meter repeats on the hill. I think I found out more about the course. Before I had this mentally if I was in a race here, oh it is this course again.”

Donahue’s hard work paid dividends on Friday as he placed ninth overall in a time of 16:21 over the 3.1 mile course.

“I am extremely happy,” said Donahue. “I finally beat the course. With the workouts we did here, I was able to put that aside and work through everything.”

Sparked by Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S,  runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.

For Donahue, running with junior teammate Jacob Rist, the 16th-place finisher on Friday, kept him in contact with the front pack.

“It helps so much,” said Donahue. “Jacob did well today. I think he wanted to do better but he is having some problems with his Achilles heel right now. He is great. Every single dual meet, we have had, when were together, we have been able to pull off countless strategies. We work together very well.”

Over the last quarter-mile, Donahue produced a blistering sprint to pull away from Rist and get himself up into the Top 10.

“I love kicking; I picked off a couple of guys,” said Donahue, who won the 1,600-meter run last spring in the Mercer County Track Championships.

“I was working on that last stretch before the final straightaway because I think that is where I failed in my past races so I passed a couple of guys there and I passed a guy near the end. I am happy with that.”

Donahue is happy to assume a leadership role in his final campaign with the Little Tigers.

“First there is organizing the guys which is fun,” said Donahue. “I would like to think that when I am working hard and the younger guys see that, they get influenced by that hard work. I know that happened to me when I was going through my sophomore year, I looked up to the older guys, I saw how hard I am working.”

In excelling so far in his final cross country campaign, Donahue has combined racing savvy with work ethic.

“I always have worked hard, it is experience,” said Donahue. “I am just seeing the results. One of my favorite things about running is when you work hard and you see the results of hard work directly in the race.”

In Donahue’s view, the Little Tigers have the potential to get a good result at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe.

“I think we are a contender for the Group III state championship,” said Donahue.

“If we get everybody together. I am starting to see some clear lines. I think we have a really good chance.”

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place  with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Even though she is just a sophomore, Lou Mialhe has emerged as the frontrunner this fall for the Princeton High girls’ cross country team

“It is lovely; it feels great,” said Mialhe, reflecting being at the front of the PHS pack. “I feel kind of like a role model. It is the first time I have ever felt that.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, Mialhe
handled her leading role well, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually.

Paced by Mialhe, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Mialhe for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th, and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.

On one hand, Mialhe was pleased with her effort. “Timewise I am happy,” said Mialhe. “I wanted to break 20 and I did.”

But befitting her status as a team leader for PHS, Mialhe wasn’t satisfied with her place.

“I was shooting to beat at least two South (WW/P-S) girls, I didn’t quite accomplish that,” lamented Mialhe.

“I let them go at the very beginning and I wasn’t able to catch up. I ran with the fourth South girl for half of the second lap. She got me up on that hill so I was behind all four South girls.”

Mialhe acknowledged that she is still working on developing her mental toughness.

“I am not confident enough in myself which is what coach [Jim] Smirk says as well,” said Mialhe.

“He thinks that since I am younger, I am not confident enough in myself to push harder and go to the top of my ability. He says I should be more confident. I need to improve my mental approach.”

With the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe, Mialhe is confident that PHS can produce a top performance there.

“I think we really need to run as a pack; our top three or four runners really need to stick together,” said Mialhe.

“We need to really learn to push each other together. I thought it would come faster but obviously it takes a lot more work; it should be coming soon. I am waiting for us to get that mental strength.”

As Princeton Day School runner Ian Moini competed in the freshman race at the Mercer County Championships last Friday, he enlisted an unlikely partner in crime.

Moini found himself in lockstep with the Hun School’s Alex Ill at the front of the pack at the Washington Crossing State Park course.

“I knew the guy from Hun,” said Moini, referring to Ill. “We were pacing together. We were looking to run the race smart. We were running as a team. In the backwoods, we said we are going to take over now.”

Coming down the stretch, the pair staged a mano a mano battle for the title as they sprinted to the line. Ill edged Moini out by an eyelash, clocking a 17:30.16 over the 3.1-mile course with Moini coming in at 17:30.41.

Knowing that he gave everything he had, Moini was able to live with the narrow defeat.

“With that sprint, it is just whoever got there,” said Moini. “We were within 0.5 seconds of each other so it is not really a big deal getting second place. I am not disappointed with that.”

Moini was joined at the top in the freshman race by classmate Sam Noden, who took fifth. A depleted boys’ varsity team took 18th in that race while the PDS girls’ varsity team placed ninth in their competition. Freshman Morgan Mills set the pace for the Panther girls’ team, taking 35th individually in 20:59 with senior Abby Sharer placing 45th and senior Liz Gudgel finishing 49th.

Moini acknowledged that he might have taken first if he had started his kick earlier.

“Alex was a little bit winded by the hill; I have been training hills all summer so I was ready for the hill,” said Moini.

“If I had started the kick as I got out of the hill and got 10 yards on him, I probably could have been able to win. Being in the top two and both of us being from private schools, that is really good.”

For Moini, his running career took off at another local private school, the Chapin School.

“I started in seventh grade at the Chapin School,” said Moini. “I didn’t like it right away, I didn’t start liking it until eighth grade. I had always run around 6:30 a mile and in this first race there was a kid who had won Junior Olympics the year before. I went out and beat him. I ran a 5:55 and it was the fastest I had ever done. I went on that year to run a 5:34 which was my fastest. Last year I got second for my age group at the New Jersey Junior Olympics. I have all the records at the Chapin School for running.”

Adjusting to high school competition, Moini has proved to be a fast study. “I am very happy,” said Moini.

“Sam Noden and I have been training together all year. I had two injuries and I am wearing an ankle brace. I missed some races because of that. My first race back was the Newark race and I ran my second fastest time all year.”

Buoyed by his good showing last Friday, Moini is hoping to end the season with a bang as PDS competes in the state Prep B championship meet on October 30 at the Blair Academy.

“We are looking forward to the preps; it is a tough course,” said Moini. “This is more than looking for a time as a freshman. I think that this is more about getting a top 10.”