November 7, 2012

TRIPPED UP: Princeton University sophomore running back Will Powers gets tripped up in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday against visiting Penn, Powers made a 30-yard touchdown catch and rushed for a team-high 39 yards but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 28-21. Princeton, now 4-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy League, will look to get back on the winning track when it plays at Yale (2-6 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

On paper, the Princeton University football team held a marked statistical edge as it hosted Penn last Saturday.

The Tigers were ranked second in the Ivy League in both scoring offense and scoring defense while the Quakers were sixth in the two key categories.

But Penn has shown a quality not measured in numbers, an ability to pull out close games. Penn had won nailbiters this fall against Dartmouth (28-21), Columbia (24-20), and Brown (20-17) to go 3-1 in Ivy League play, tied atop the league standings with Princeton and Harvard.

A revitalized Princeton team tried to give Penn a taste of its own medicine as it took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter last Saturday before a hardy crowd of 7,494 in Princeton Stadium, braving chilly winds days after Hurricane Sandy had howled through the area.

The Quakers, though, followed their blueprint for success, producing late game heroics as they scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and then held off a late Princeton drive to escape with a 28-21 triumph and their sixth straight win in the rivalry.

A glum Princeton head coach Bob Surace didn’t hide his disappointment as he reflected on a game that got away from the Tigers, who committed four turnovers and made some critical mistakes on special teams.

“It is just frustrating; it is two weeks in a row where we had opportunities to close a game out and we didn’t do it,” said Surace, whose team had lost 37-35 to Cornell on October 27.

“That is the bottom line; there is no excuse for it. We have to learn to be a more disciplined team and to take better care of the ball.”

The team’s lack of discipline left Princeton’s league title hopes on life support as Harvard rolled past Columbia to join Penn at 4-1 in Ivy play with Princeton at 3-2 and only two games remaining in the season.

“I let them know that there is a likelihood that we are not going to reach our goals,” said Surace, recalling his postgame message to his squad after it fell to 4-4 overall despite outgaining Penn 444 yards to 307. “We lost the chance to control our own destiny with those things.”

Princeton junior defensive back Philip Bhaya, who made a key second quarter interception to set up a touchdown for the Tigers, echoed Surace’s sentiments.

“It is a real tough one to swallow; we haven’t had too much success the past couple of years,” said Bhaya.

“I think this one is especially tough because this team is definitely a special team. We have been really playing hard and together and with everything on the table for us after winning those games, it is really disappointing for us to come up short here.”

Penn head coach Al Bagnoli said his team had a “been there, done that” feeling when it headed into the fourth quarter locked in a tight contest.

“We don’t get rattled, we have been in so many close games,” said Bagnoli. “We have gotten an awful lot of practice in it and we have gotten a lot of confidence in our ability late to make some plays under duress. We have probably had six, seven, or eight games in the last two seasons that have come down to two-minute drives or come down to last plays.”

The Tigers showed their renewed confidence as they fought back all afternoon. After Penn jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Princeton cashed in Bhaya’s interception, marching 24 yards in a drive that culminated with Quinn Epperly’s three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Hayes to make it a 7-7 game midway through the second quarter.

On their next possession, the Tigers took the lead. Going 66 yards in eight plays, Princeton found paydirt as Connor Michelson hit Will Powers with a 30-yard scoring strike. The Tigers, though, botched the extra point and their lead stayed at 13-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Princeton made another special teams lapse as Eric Fiore raced 53 yards on the return. Taking advantage of the good field position, Penn marched 45 yards in a drive that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Billy Ragone to Ryan O’Malley. The Quakers converted the point after and took a 14-13 lead into halftime.

The Tigers regained momentum midway through the second quarter, producing a 73-yard scoring march. Michelson hit Roman Wilson with a 21-yard touchdown pass and then found Wilson in the end zone for a two-point conversion as the Tigers grabbed a 21-14 advantage.

Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like Princeton was on the verge of putting the game away as it marched to the Penn 23-yard line. But a Michelson pass was picked off in the end zone by former WW/P-S star Dave Twamley.

Minutes later, Michelson was picked off again with C.J. Mooney snagging a batted pass out of the air and racing 15 yards for a touchdown as Penn tied the game at 21-21.

After Princeton went three-and-out on its next possession, Penn took the lead 28-21 as Ragone ran three yards for a TD to culminate a 10-play, 53-yard drive.

The Tigers, though, didn’t fold as Michelson hit several big passes to get Princeton to the Penn six in the waning moments of the contest. But committing the final turnover of the day, Michelson lost the ball after getting sacked and Penn ran out the clock.

With Princeton playing at Yale (2-6 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on Saturday in the latest chapter of the storied rivalry between the schools, Surace believes his team will put the disappointment of the Penn game in the rear view mirror and summon up a big effort.

“I felt our guys played hard today; we made some unfortunate errors and it has got to get corrected,” said Surace.

“I think that we will get them ready; Yale is obviously another big game. Our coaches will come in competing and battling and our seniors will set an example that way and follow the coaches’ lead.”

GOOD RUN: Princeton University field hockey player Molly Goodman, left, holds her ground in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday against visiting Penn, senior Goodman and classmates Katie Reinprecht, Kat Sharkey, Amy Donovan, and Charlotte Krause went out with a bang in their final home appearance as the Tigers prevailed 7-0. The win lifted No. 2 Princeton to 16-1 overall and 7-0 Ivy League, giving the program its eighth straight league title. The Tigers will start their drive for another crown as they compete in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play at No. 12 Lafayette on November 6 in a play-in game with the first and second round games to take place this weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the the second-ranked Princeton University field hockey team, its 7-0 win over visiting Penn last Saturday marked the final step in its cakewalk to the Ivy League title.

In producing a 7-0 league mark and winning the program’s eighth straight crown, the Tigers outscored their Ivy foes by a total of 45-1 this fall.

While the lopsided nature of the wins gave the title an anticlimactic feel, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn admired how her players handled their Ivy business.

“It means everything to win the league outright; our path to the NCAA tournament is through the league,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team improved to 16-1 overall with the victory.

“We know that we can’t mess up in the league and the players recognize that. We don’t take any moment for granted; we look at each game as an opportunity to get better. We didn’t want to concede a goal; we want to play as clean as we can on both sides of the ball.”

In the game on Saturday, the program got to honor its decorated group of seniors which includes Katie Reinprecht, Kat Sharkey, Amy Donovan, Molly Goodman, and Charlotte Krause.

“They really, really have been such an outstanding group of young women,” asserted Holmes-Winn.

“They have been great leaders on and off the field; I can’t do justice to them in a few words. They have been so special and selfless; they have had to redefine their role. They have done that in a graceful way and have helped propel the team.”

Sharkey rose to the occasion in her final appearance at Bedford Field, scoring four goals to increase her season total to 29.

“Sharkey did what she does best but she will tell you that she has one of the best, if not the best, midfield in the country behind her, helping to feed her the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, who also got three goals from sophomore star Allison Evans in the victory over the Quakers.

“All the strikers have benefitted; the midfield is really combining with the front of the field.”

Now the Tigers will get the chance to prove they are the best team in the country as they compete in the NCAA tournament. Princeton is slated to play at No. 12 Lafayette on November 6 in a play-in game with the first and second round games to take place this weekend.

“I think we are in a great spot on both sides of the ball; we have been achieving fluidity,” said Holmes-Winn, reflecting on her team’s NCAA prospects.

“We are getting players opportunities for space and time; creating spaces in the front that have troubled the top teams. We need to trust what we do and be ready to bring it.”

Princeton will be bringing it in the game against Patriot League champion Lafayette (16-1 overall, 6-0 Patriot) even though its spot in the tourney’s main draw is assured by its ranking and wins over such national powers Maryland, Duke, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Penn State, and Virginia.

“I think they have the lowest goals against average in the country; they are accustomed to winning,” said Holmes-Winn of the Leopards.

“They are No. 10 in the RPI; they are really good. Our team feels fortunate to play a team of that caliber in the play-in game. They are really pumped to play and looking at it as a win-win situation. It is an opportunity to go out against a quality opponent and get sharp for Saturday. We will throw everything at them like it is a first-round game.”

FOUR-SIGHT: Princeton University women’s basketball star Niveen Rasheed heads up the court in action last season. Senior forward Rasheed, the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011-12, will be looking to end her stellar career by leading Princeton to a fourth straight league title. The Tigers tip off the upcoming season when they play at St. Joseph’s on November 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood were two of the key building blocks for a Princeton University women’s basketball program that has dominated the Ivy League over the last three winters.

The 6’3 Allgood controlled the paint, scoring 1,177 points and grabbing 802 rebounds in her career while the rangy 6’0 Edwards tallied 1,319 points and 152 three-pointers as the Tigers won three straight league titles, going 41-1 in Ivy play over that span.

The exit of the two stars to graduation this past June would seem to signal a rebuilding season for the Tigers, whose 2011-12 campaign ended with a tough 67-64 loss to Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

But with the return of senior forward Niveen Rasheed, last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year who has 1,134 career points, and classmate Lauren Polansky, the two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Princeton is in good shape to make a run for a fourth straight league crown.

Coming off a season that saw the Tigers go 24-5 overall and 14-0 Ivy, becoming the first league team to be ranked in the Top 25 nationally at No. 24, Princeton was recently picked first in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll.

While Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is proud to have transformed her program into a force, she isn’t focusing on preseason accolades as she looks ahead to opening the 2012-13 season with a game at St. Joseph’s on November 11.

“As is always the case, it doesn’t matter where you start in the poll, it matters where you end up,” said Banghart, who is bringing a 95-50 overall record into her sixth year at the helm, having gone 74-13 the last three seasons.

“That said, I’m really proud of this Tiger program as we’ve worked tirelessly in the offseason and as a unit to continually earn the target on our back. This group has both pride and humility. We appreciate the respect, but we are driven by how far we still have to go to reach our lofty goals. It’s one day at a time for this team.”

Senior co-captain Rasheed, a 6’0 native of Danville, Calif., has proven to be one of the most driven players in Ivy history, starting from the moment she took the court for Princeton in 2009. Even though she was coming off a sophomore season  that ended early due to an ACL injury, Rasheed was at full speed from the opening tip last winter, averaging 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

Her classmate and co-captain Polansky has proven to be one of the most valuable point guards in recent Ivy history. The 5’8 Polansky, a resident of Mill Valley, Calif., has piled up 227 assists, 299 rebounds, and 161 steals in her Tiger career.

The Tigers also welcome back 6‘0 senior starter Kate Miller (5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds a game in 2011-12) and key reserves, 5’11 junior Nicole Hung (7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) and 6‘3 senior Megan Bowen (6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds).

The freshman class should give the Tigers depth and height with the quintet of Taylor Williams (6’3), Alex Wheatley (6’2), Annie Tarakchian (6’0), Michelle Miller (5’10), and Amanda Bernsten (5’8).

Banghart won’t have to wait long to see if the team has what it takes to compete for its lofty goals as it faces NCAA tournament teams Marist, Rutgers, and UCLA in November action.

TITLE DRIVE: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer drives to the hoop in a game last winter. Senior standout Hummer, who passed the 1,000-point mark last season, will be looking to end his stellar career on a high note as the Tigers have their sights set on retaining the Ivy League crown. Princeton tips off its 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mitch Henderson isn’t coy in setting forth what he hopes to see from his Princeton University men’s basketball team this winter.

“The expectation is that we are supposed to win the league,” said Princeton head coach Henderson, who guided the Tigers to a 20-12 overall record and 10-4 in Ivy League play last winter in his debut season as the team finished third in the league and went on to make the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

“Every single year, we want to make sure that we are contending for the title. I think that the group that you are seeing right now really wants that shot. They know that it is about hard work on the floor and getting better so we define ourselves by those things everyday. Are we getting better, are we improving, are we making each other better, are we unselfish. Those guys are really taking those qualities to heart.”

With Princeton slated to tip off the 2012-13 season by playing at Buffalo on November 10, the Tigers are depending on getting some quality work from their trio of seniors, Ian Hummer (16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 2011-12), Brendan Connolly (5.7 points, 3.6 rebounds), and Mack Darrow (7.0 points, 3.6 rebounds).

“I know that Ian gets a lot of attention but he has made strides,” said Henderson of the 6’7, 225-pound Hummer, a two-time All-Ivy performer who comes into the season with 1,170 career points.

“He has really taken a role as a leader and he put in time in the weight room. He looks like he is ready to go; the same thing with Brendan Connolly. The seniors are doing what they are supposed to do, which is leading by example.”

The Tigers, who were chosen No. 1 in the 2012-13 Ivy Preseason Media Poll and got in some extra work this summer during a 10-day journey to Spain where they played four games against professional teams, are expecting junior forward Will Barrett to assume a larger role.

“Will wasn’t with us last year,” said Henderson of the 6’8, 197-pound Barrett. “He spent a year off working on and off the floor. He really made a lot of improvements. In Spain, he was a huge addition for us; he led us in rebounding. I think Will has made huge strides personally, both on and off the floor.”

Junior guard T.J. Bray, who made big strides last year when he averaged 7.2 points a game and had a team-high 119 assists, is currently bouncing back from injury.

“T.J. is going to be ready to go, we have been working him back into the live stuff,” said Henderson.

“He will be fine; like any really competitive guy, he is just chomping at the bit here to get going but we have got some time. I think you will see him early and we are building towards him being full speed by mid-November.”

As Bray gets up to speed, Henderson is trying some different options at guard as the Tigers look to fill the void left by the graduated Douglas Davis, the former Hun School star who ended his Princeton career with 1,550 points, the second most in program history.

“I like what we are seeing out of Chris Clement (0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds last year) and Denton Koon (5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds),” asserted Henderson.

“We are really asking those two guys to do something that is a little unique; they are both playing in the backcourt for the first time.”

In Henderson’s view, his trio of freshmen, 6‘3 guard Mike Washington, Jr., 6’ 8 forward Hans Brase, and 7’1 center Edo Lawrence, could do some good things this winter.

“Mike is a shooter; he is athletic and he is a bigger guard,” said Henderson. “He has a long way to go in understanding how hard you have you play in college. I really like where Mike is at the moment. I feel comfortable with the guys that are in front of him too so I think Mike is going to have his work cut out for him but he is ready for that challenge. Hans Brase is really playing well. I think Hans is going to help us immediately, especially on the boards. Edo Lawrence is playing behind two senior centers and a sophomore center but again he is another guy who has really worked hard on just improving his habits here. I really like the look of the class as it adds to the rest of the group.”

The Tigers will get exposed to some different looks in a non-conference slate that includes such formidable foes as Rutgers, Syracuse, Kent State, Drexel, Rider, and Bucknell.

“I think it is a very challenging schedule for us; each of those teams are a little bit different,” said Henderson.

“We have teams that are perimeter-oriented and then teams who have a really good big guy like Bucknell. It is a challenge and that’s what we want. We want to be playing our best basketball in January.”

While losing twice in the season-opening Ivy Shootout didn’t hurt the Princeton University men’s hockey team as the games didn’t count in the ECAC Hockey standings, it gave the Tigers a taste of what they will be facing this winter.

“It is an indicator of how the league is going to be this year,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“Game in, game out, it is going to be a dogfight. There is a lot of parity and little margin for error.”

In falling 2-1 to host Brown on October 26 and 3-2 to Yale a day later in the event, Princeton made some key errors.

“Both games were pretty similar,” recalled Prier. “We made some poor decisions on penalties. We had some lapses and our foes cashed in on some opportunities.”

The Tigers did see Tyler Maugeri cash in as the sophomore forward notched a goal in each game.

“Tyler had a couple of goals; it is nice to see that,” said Prier, who also got a goal from Andrew Calof in the defeat to Yale. “We know guys like Calof and [Jack] Berger are going to score; it is good to see
others contributing. We know we have the weapons up front; we have a nucleus of guys who can put it in.”

Prier liked the work he got from his guys along the blue line and from senior goalie Mike Condon.

“We limited opportunities defensively better than we did last year so that was encouraging,” added Prier.

“Mike did what he had to. He had a .926 save percentage in the first game; you are going to come out with a win most of the time with that save percentage. I was pleased with how he played.”

The Tigers were hoping to have the opportunity to get some extra work in this week during fall break but Hurricane Sandy changed those plans.

“Originally we had planned for this to be a big week for work,” said Prier, whose team didn’t have any games scheduled last weekend.

“We had a lot of bumps and bruises so we let the guys get away and go home and heal up. We will come in on Saturday and Sunday ready to go and work hard.”

With Princeton opening ECACH play this weekend by hosting fourth-ranked Cornell (3-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 ECACH) on November 9 and Colgate (4-4-1 overall, 0-1-1 ECACH) the next day, Prier knows his team faces some hard challenges.

“The season is short so this is important; we definitely need to start well in the league,” said Prier.

“We are looking at two tough league opponents just like last weekend. We have learned from penalties and lapses in mental focus. We have some positives to build on; we had the puck a lot.”

In Prier’s view, doing more with that puck possession is critical as the Tigers look to produce a positive start in league play.

“We have to do better in front of the goal,” noted Prier. “We are going to work on the power play quite a bit; we have to make that a threat. With the parity in the league, special teams can make the difference. You look at the box scores and you see where the team that went 2-of-5 on the power play was the team that came out on top. We have the clientele to have a strong power play and hopefully we can do that.”

The wide swath that Hurricane Sandy cut through the Garden State hit the sporting world as the superstorm wreaked havoc on the local high school athletics schedule just as the fall season was headed into playoff time.

The storm wiped out all games scheduled last week involving Mercer County high school teams.

As a result, schools will be scrambling to wrap up fall play over the next few weeks in order to clear the decks for the upcoming winter season.

At Princeton High, the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were slated to start state play with a doubleheader on November 6. The third-seeded boys’ team was facing No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III tourney with the second-seeded girls’ squad hosting No. 15 Lawrence in a first-round contest. The dates for the sectional quarterfinals have yet to be determined.

After topping Middletown South 2-0 in the opening round of the sectional, the sixth-seeded PHS field hockey team will be facing No. 3 Freehold in the next round. That game could take place on November 8 although that hasn’t been finally confirmed.

On the gridiron, PHS was slated to wrap up regular season play at Pemberton on November 3. That game has been postponed to November 10 with the Little Tigers now set to play their NJSIAA consolation game on November 17 against an opponent to be named.

The PHS cross country teams will now compete in the sectional meet on November 10.

The Princeton Day School field hockey team is still alive in the state Prep B tournament and the top-seeded Panthers are slated to host Newark Academy on November 8 in the semifinals. The title game will place over the weekend.

While the Hun School field hockey team is also alive in the state Prep A tourney, that competition may end up being cancelled due to schedule conflicts.

In addition, Raider teams were scheduled to host Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4 in football, field hockey, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, and girls’ tennis. Those games may also not take place.

FINAL SALVO: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Samantha Asch slams a backhand in action earlier this fall. Senior star and Wake Forest-bound Asch ended her PDS career on a high note, taking the title at first singles to help the Panthers win the state Prep B team championship. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team won the team title at the Mercer County Tournament but faltered at the state Prep B tourney.

After falling short of a title repeat by taking fifth in the county tournament in early October, PDS set its sights on ending the season on a high note at this year’s Prep B competition.

“We talked about the idea that we won the counties last year but then lost in the Prep B and wouldn’t it be nice if we flip-flopped it,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.

The Panthers certainly got off to a nice start at the Prep B tournament on October 21 as they advanced to the finals in all five flights of the competition.

While Tseng was happy with his team’s opening day performance, he knew it didn’t clinch anything.

“The important thing in the counties and prep is getting everyone through the first day,” said Tseng, whose team was locked in a two-horse race for the title with Morristown-Beard. “Nothing is a guarantee and we were not overconfident.”

But playing confident tennis, PDS outdueled Mo-Beard in the championship round on October 25, prevailing at first and second singles together with first doubles to pull out the title.

The pivotal win came at first doubles where the pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Mary Atkeson fine-tuned their partnership to win their flight.

“It is interesting, they are two singles players at doubles,” said Tseng.

“Charlotte is good on the baseline; Mary’s strength is at net. We wanted Mary going to the net as much as possible; we wanted them to dictate and be aggressive.”

Freshman Renee Karchere-Sun showed her aggressiveness as she posted a straight-set win in taking the title at second singles.

“I was very pleased with her,” said Tseng. “At the counties she had a good start but a rough match in the semis when we went indoors. She had a challenge in the finals in Prep B and stayed focused.”

Senior star Samantha Asch displayed her usual laser-like focus, ending her remarkable high school career with a straight-set win in the first singles title match.

“She had a love match but the score doesn’t indicate how close it was,” said Tseng. “She has the experience and wins the big points.”

The Wake Forest-bound Asch has given the Panthers a lot more than big wins in her PDS career.

“The thing I will remember is the leadership she brings to the younger players,” said Tseng of Asch, who won four individual county titles,
taking the crown at second
singles as a freshman and then winning at first singles the next three years.

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

For Tseng, making it two titles in two years at the helm of the PDS program left him with a great feeling.

“Whether it is the county or prep tournament, there are a lot of good teams and it is an honor to win a title,” said Tseng.

“It is exciting for me as a coach to help the players but it was even better to see their excitement at winning. As soon as they won, they were calling their parents who weren’t there. It was priceless, they will always have that experience.”

November 6, 2012

SEEING RED: Princeton University sophomore quarterback Connor Michelson makes a handoff in recent action. Last Saturday, Michelson had a career day at Cornell, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown. Michelson’s heroics weren’t enough, though, as Princeton fell 37-35 to the Big Red. The defeat left the Tigers at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping them into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy). Princeton hosts Penn this Saturday.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In the wake of the Princeton University football team’s miraculous fourth quarter comeback in its recent win over Harvard, Bob Surace sounded a note of caution.

As he reflected on the rally which saw the Tigers overcome a 34-10 deficit to pull out a 39-34 win in the October 20 contest, Princeton head coach Surace said that his squad needed to play error-free football and be extra sharp on the fundamentals in order to stay atop the Ivy League race.

Last Saturday at Cornell, the Tigers failed to follow that blueprint by making four turnovers and ended up paying the price as they fell 37-35 to the Big Red before a crowd of 4,420 at Schoellkopf Field.

The defeat left Princeton at 4-3 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play, dropping it into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Harvard (5-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy) and Penn (3-4 overall, 3-1 Ivy).

While Surace was pleased with the intensity his players showed, he acknowledged that it wasn’t their sharpest performance.

“Our effort was very good throughout the game,” said Surace. “The league is pretty balanced and you see these type of games every week. It comes down to small details and they were a little better on the small details and that haunted us. We have to be a touch cleaner. We executed extremely well on 75 of 84 plays.”

The Cornell passing attack, on the other hand, executed well all day long as quarterback Jeff Mathews hit on 35-of-51 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns with Grant Gellatly making 12 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown and Luke Tasker contributing 10 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

“For the second week in a row, we faced a terrific QB combined with some great receivers,” said Surace, whose team battled Harvard quarterback Colton Chapple and tight end Kyle Juszczyk a week earlier.

“We knew they had that ability. The QB is in the top 5 in passing in the nation and their back-up threw for 500 yards in a game when he had to start. We blitzed, we played different formations, we tried to give Mathews different looks but he has started 26 games and he has seen everything. He is like an early version of Peyton Manning and it is hard to beat him on different looks.”

Early on, it didn’t look like the game was going to become a wild shootout, with neither team scoring in the first quarter.

The fireworks started in the second quarter when Roman Wilson scored on a three-yard run as Princeton took a 7-0 lead with 11:19 left in the first half to culminate an 11-play, 92-yard scoring march.

Mathews, though, started to find the range at that point. The junior hit Tasker for a 54-yard touchdown pass to make it a 7-7- game. Minutes later, he found Gellatly for a 76-yard scoring strike as the Big Red forged ahead 14-7.

The Tigers answered back with a 75-yard drive that ended with quarterback Quinn Epperley running two yards for a touchdown as Princeton knotted the game at 14-14 heading into halftime.

Things really heated up in the third quarter as the teams combined for 34 points in the period. The outburst started when Mathews hit Tasker for an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Cornell a 21-14 lead.

Princeton tied the contest at 21-21 after Epperly ran six yards for his second touchdown of the afternoon.

Mathews then hit Luke Hagy for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it a 28-21 game with 8:26 left in the quarter. Less than a minute later, the Tigers drew even at 28-28 as Connor Michelson hit Wilson on a 72-yard touchdown pass.

The Big Red got the last points of the quarter as Silas Nacita ran two yards for a touchdown. The kick failed and Cornell led 34-28 as the teams headed into the final 15 minutes of regulation.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Princeton finally regained the lead as Epperly found tight end Mark Hayes for a six-yard TD pass. Nolan Bieck’s kick was good and the Tigers went ahead 35-34.

Princeton stopped Cornell on downs on the next possession and took over on its own 23. The Tigers picked up three first downs as they looked to get an insurance score. But the Big Red made a clutch play on defense, forcing a Dre Nelson fumble and taking possession with 2:57 left in the quarter. The sizzling Mathews hit big passes to Tasker and Gallatly to get Cornell to the Princeton 11. With 50 seconds left, John Wells hit a 23-yard field goal to put Cornell ahead 37-35.

The Tigers made one last gasp but a Michelson pass was intercepted to seal the Cornell win.

In Surace’s view, the combination of big plays from Cornell and the miscues by Princeton led to the Tigers‘ first loss in league play this fall.

“They made some extraordinary plays, the turnovers hurt us,” said Surace. “We started the second half, saying that we needed to be plus two in turnovers and we ended up minus four.”

Princeton quarterback Connor Michelson made his share of extraordinary plays in a losing cause as he had a career game, hitting on 29-of-35 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown.

“Connor threw the ball extremely well; we had three drops but he still29-for-35,” said Surace,

“His accuracy was terrific; his decision-making was great. It was probably the best we have blocked on the line since I have been here; we protected him well and kept him clean.”

As Princeton girds for a pivotal clash with visiting Penn this Saturday, Surace knows his team must block out any bad feelings from the loss on Saturday.

“Everybody gets a little better this time of year,” said Surace. “We can’t mope or let disappointment linger. We need to have the exactness from play to play.”

Princeton will have to play a little better in order to overcome a tough Quaker team that features battle-tested senior quarterback Billy Ragone and a rugged defense.

“It is always a large game, you have to match up physically,” said Surace, reflecting on the series which has seen Penn win the last five meetings.

“They make plays and they are well coached. We have a lot of respect for them. When I came into the league, I looked at programs, there is no honor code, you see things you want to copy. I admire how they operate and how they are fundamentally sound and play the game the right way.”

UP IN THE AIR: Princeton University men’s soccer player ­Cameron Porter (in white) goes to the air to battle a trio of foes for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, the Tigers couldn’t find the back of the net as they fell 1-0 at Cornell. The loss left Princeton at 6-6-2 overall and 2-1-2 Ivy League, trailing Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy), and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining. The Tigers are slated to host Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University men’s soccer team prepared for a pivotal Ivy League contest at Cornell, the Tigers faced a series of challenges.

In addition to dealing with the stress of midterm week, Princeton was ailing as it brought a 2-0-2 Ivy record into its clash with a Big Red team that was 3-1 in league action.

“It wasn’t easy, not only with midterms but the guys’ bodies seemed to be hitting a wall,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow.

“It sounded like an infirmary on the trip up and back from Cornell with the guys coughing. Matt Sanner was not able to train after Tuesday because of a toe injury. Joe Saitta was sick and in and out of training. Chris Benedict tweaked his back.”

Shaking off fatigue, illness, and injury, the Tigers battled Cornell tooth and nail. The team were deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime and Princeton outshot the Big Red 8-4 in the second half. But Daniel Haber found the back of the net for Cornell early in the second half for the only score of the contest as the Tigers fell 1-0.

“We played well, the first half was even and we had more shots than they did in the second half,” said Barlow.

“They have a really dangerous forward and he got two or three chances and was able to score one. He made the most of his opportunities.”

Princeton, on the other hand, didn’t cash in on its opportunities. “We had a lot of the play in the second half,” said Barlow, whose team is 6-6-2 overall and now trails Brown (12-1-2 overall, 4-0-1 Ivy), Cornell (13-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (8-6 overall, 4-1 Ivy) in the Ivy title race with two league games remaining.

“We had enough chances to score. We just haven’t been sharp in the final third; going back to Adelphi (a 1-0 loss on October 17) and even Harvard (a 2-1 overtime win on October 20) where we pulled the game out on a goal off a long throw.”

The team’s lack of offensive punch has been particularly disappointing given how well Princeton has played defensively.

“The guys on the back line have been terrific,” said Barlow, whose team has a goals against average of 1.15 and had yielded just four goals in its five league contests.

“Mark Linnville is the leader. Billy McGuinness has been so good all year. Seth MacMillan has been solid in goal; Saitta and Benedict are also solid. Last year,  we scored a lot of goals but gave up too many. We wanted to get the back line really secure and we have done that but we are not making that last play in front of the goal.”

With Princeton’s Ivy title hopes hanging by a thread, Barlow is looking for his team to make some big plays as it hosts Penn (2-12 overall, 0-5 Ivy) on November 3 before playing at Yale (4-7-4 overall, 1-2-2 Ivy) on November 10 in the regular season finale.

“We just have to focus on winning our own games,” said Barlow, noting that the Tigers needs to win both of their remaining games and get help in several other league matchups to win the title.

“We are frustrated. We knew that Saturday could be the game that decided the title and we didn’t get it done.”

Jeff Kampersal knew that his Princeton University women’s hockey team was in for some trouble when it took five penalties in the first period last Friday as it hosted Dartmouth.

“We want to pride ourselves on being a disciplined team and we didn’t do a good job of that today,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal.

“Dartmouth’s power play is potent, to say the least, they are a very good group. They are well coached and to give them five power plays in the first period is ridiculous.”

The Tigers weathered the storm, though, surrendering only one goal in the first period. After giving up an even strength goal to fall behind 2-0 midway through the second period, Princeton got a goal from senior Alex Kinney to halve Dartmouth’s lead. But the Big Green cashed in on a power play late in the period to regain their two-goal lead on the way to a 3-1 victory.

Kampersal did see some positive signs when his squad wasn’t killing penalties.

“I thought 5-on-5, we did a good job,” said Kampersal. “We played a sound, solid game.”

Princeton got a solid game in the loss from gritty senior forward and assistant captain Kelly Cooke.

“I thought Cookie worked real hard; she was all over today,” said Kampersal of Cooke, who scored Princeton’s lone goal on Saturday as the Tigers suffered a dispiriting 9-1 loss to Harvard.

“She had a lot of energy; she was good on the penalty kill. She had a nice 2-on-1 on the kill. I thought she was good at both ends of the rink.”

With Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 0-2 in ECAC Hockey action, the Tigers will have to be a lot better at both ends of the rink next weekend as they play at second-ranked Cornell (4-1 overall, 2-0 ECACH) on November 2 and at Colgate (2-6 overall, 0-2 ECACH) on November 3.

“It doesn’t take a perfect game, it takes a smart, disciplined effort,” said Kampersal.

“Our goal is to stay under four penalties each game. When we stay under four penalties, get a certain percentage on the power play, and play good, tough defense, we have a good chance of winning.”

SPECIAL BOND: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Julie Bond heads to the finish line in a meet earlier this fall. Last Friday, sophomore Bond placed 11th at the Mercer County Championships at Washington Crossing State Park. Bond’s superb effort helped PHS take third in the team standings.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julie Bond was content to assume a supporting role last fall as a freshman on the Princeton High girls’ cross country team.

“We could really let the seniors take the wheel because Elyssa [Gensib] and Jenna [Cody] were so good,” said sophomore Bond.

Coming into 2102, Bond sensed that she would be in the driver’s seat. “This year there is more responsibility so I am trying to concentrate more which is what I saw Elyssa do,” said Bond.

“I am working harder in practice this year and I am more focused on my academics.

Last Friday at the Mercer County Championships, Bond’s hard work paid dividends as she set the pace for PHS, taking 11th individually, covering the 5k course at Washington Crossing Park in 20:08.

Bond’s big day helped the Little Tigers place third in the team standings at the meet behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up Robbinsville. Senior Amelia Whaley was PHS’ next finisher, placing 18th in 20:29, followed by freshman Lou Mialhe in 20th in 20:37 and sophomore Mary Sutton, the 34th-place finisher in 21:07.

For Bond, the race was an important step forward. “I was trying for my personal record and I think I might have gotten it by a little,” said Bond, who ran a 20:18 earlier this season in taking 10th at the Passaic Coaches Invitational.

Entering the county meet, Bond figured she would be joined at front of the PHS pack by senior star Whaley.

“We were looking to Amelia as our top runner today but she got injured,” said Bond of Whaley, who was in the top 10 for much of the race but struggled down the stretch and stumbled across the line.

“She has been racing so great in practice; she has amazing workouts. She is the most motivational person I know. Her freshman team lost states by two points and she wrote two points on her locker so she could look at it everyday.”

With PHS starting state competition with the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional this Saturday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Bond is feeling some special motivation.

“I am looking forward to the sectional,” said Bond. “We lost to Middletown South before and I think they are going to be our biggest competition. We want to make the group meet and that gives us motivation.”

Luke Bozich has hit some bumps in the road this fall in his senior campaign with the Princeton High boys’ cross country team.

In a race in late September at Mercer County Park, Bozich slipped in a rut and sprained his ankle. After returning to action weeks later, Bozich got hurt again when he tripped over a log on the course at Holmdel.

While such bad luck could be discouraging, Bozich has been unfazed. “I have been injured a lot through cross country in high school; I have been able to deal with it,” said Bozich. “Plus, I used to get injured all the time running when I was a kid.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Championships at Washington Crossing Park, a healthy Bozich had a great time, placing seventh in the race to help PHS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.

Following Bozich for the Little Tigers was junior Kevin Vahdat in eighth, sophomore Jacob Rist in 11th, senior Matt Wong in 34th, and junior Conor Donahue in 35th.

For Bozich, who covered the 5k course in 16:22, the top 10 finish was something to savor.

“This is the first time I have ever run varsity here; it feels great,” said Bozich, noting that his best time in the course was 19:07.

“I ran varsity at sectional my sophomore year but I fell apart last year. I came back for my senior year and I was ready to go.”

Running with teammate Vahdat at the front of the PHS pack helped Bozich come through in the county meet.

“Kevin took the lead towards the second loop of the woods and up the last hill so I tried my best to keep up with him,” recalled Bozich of Vahdat who clocked a 16:24 time.

Displaying a strong finishing kick, Bozich passed Vahdat in the last few yards of the race.

“I was mad so I went for it,” said Bozich. “I have asthma so during the race if I can’t breathe as much it gets me irritated. I am hoping to do my best and it hinders me.”

While Bozich was proud of his seventh place finish, the main goal is to give his all for the squad. “I never really shoot for a time,” explained Bozich. “I just try and go out there and do the best race I can for the team and wherever that puts me; that is fine.”

Bozich draws strength from the group dynamic surrounding the PHS squad. “I feel like as a team, we are more unified,” said Bozich.

“There is something about us when everybody is in the huddle before the race. Everyone gets going and everyone is really happy and I feel like that helps a lot.”

With the Group 3 Central Jersey sectional meet slated for this Saturday at  Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Bozich and his teammates are primed for another big effort.

“We are just going to go out and do our best,” said Bozich. “We are going to save all that power for the states and whatever may come after that.”

Even though his Princeton High football team was mired in a slump, Joe Gargione brought high hopes into its game at Trenton Central last Saturday.

“I told the kids that this was a good opportunity to snap a 6-game losing streak and start a 3-game winning streak,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

Giving Gargione additional optimism was the fact that the Little Tigers had scored 18 unanswered points in the second half of their 35-18 loss a week earlier to Burlington Township.

But PHS got out of the gate slowly against the Tornadoes, falling behind 20-0 by halftime.

“We had pretty good practices last week but we started out slow,” lamented Gargione. “It wasn’t that we were sluggish, we just weren’t getting it done and they put up 20 points quickly.”

The Little Tigers valiantly tried to get it done after intermission. “We started the second half with a pooch kick and Javon [Pannell] pounced on it,” said Gargione. “That gave us momentum. We got down there and had two chances to score but we didn’t convert.”

The Little Tigers did convert later in the quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Christian Giles on an 8-yard scoring pass. But that was the end of the scoring as Trenton won 20-7 and PHS dropped to 1-7.

“We scored in the second half and they didn’t,” said Gargione, noting that Giles’ TD was his first ever in varsity competition for the senior receiver.

“I told the kids afterward that there are four quarters in football; maybe you can’t win them all but we can’t dig that kind of hole, You can’t put yourself in that position and expect to win.”

With his team playing at winless Pemberton on November 3 in the regular season finale, Gargione hasn’t lost hope.

“We can have a two-game winning streak and match our win total from last year,” said Gargione.

“They may be 0-8 but then have some big kids, a running back who is pretty good and some good receivers. It is going to be tough; we have to get to the QB to stop their receivers.”

MID POINT: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Kate Kerr dribbles the ball upfield in action earlier this fall. Last week, senior midfielder Kerr contributed an assist as second-seeded PHS edged 10th-seeded Ewing 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. PHS went on to lose to eventual champion Pennington in the semifinals on penalty kicks. The Little Tigers, now 12-3 are seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional and are slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the first round of the tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr was primed to assume a lot of responsibility this fall for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“I wanted to be in the center because I thought that is where I could be the most help for my teammates,” said senior midfielder Kerr.

“I think the middle is the engine of the team; I need to make sure I am looking for both sides. I need to make sure I am helping the team making runs, keeping the momentum and going forward. I also need to instruct our defense and make sure that everyone sees what’s going on and where they should be marking.”

Last week, as second-seeded PHS hosted 10th-seeded Ewing in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament, Kerr displayed her full repertoire of skills.

The enterprising Kerr helped key a strong defensive effort as the Little Tigers stifled Ewing and then assisted on the game’s lone goal as PHS posted a 1-0 victory on October 23.

In reflecting on setting up Ally Rogers’ decisive strike, Kerr said it as a matter of applying a training routine.

“We do this a lot in practice, we try to go to the endline and then cut the ball back,” said Kerr.

“We make sure that our runs are coming from the center so that is what I was trying to do. I turned on my player and cut it back so someone could easily run onto it.”

In producing its superb run this fall, PHS has developed a special unity. “I think we all just have really great teamwork; we all enjoy playing with each other,” said Kerr, who provided more good work as PHS fell to eventual champion Pennington on penalty kicks in the MCT semis.

“In our practices, we have all been focused on playing as a team and supporting each other well. We all know our positions well and we make sure that we are always there for each other.”

Even Kerr is surprised at how well PHS has done this fall as it has gone 12-3 and is seeded No. 2 in the upcoming Group 3 Central Jersey sectional.

“At the beginning of the season, we didn’t expect to do this well,” said Kerr. “Not having expectations, we all worked hard, had fun and we ended up coming up with a better record than we expected.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand, for his part, views the team’s success as the product of daily effort.

“It has been a steady progression; this team works hard and really wants to learn,” said Hand.

“We have developed a vocabulary, a way to talk about what we are trying to do. I’d say we are certainly playing our best soccer right now. The Notre Dame game (a 5-2 win on October 16) was by far the best of the season; we have had substantial chunks of other games that were just what we were looking for.”

Kerr has given Hand what he is looking for in the center of the field. “She never stops,” said Hand of Kerr.

“If you are working as hard defensively as she is, it is a huge challenge to shift gears and instantly compose yourself and get your eyes up and find the next target. She has just gotten better and better at that throughout the year.”

Hand believes his team can end the year with a good postseason run. “I have a lot of confidence in the intensity that we show and with the presence of mind that we have when we win the ball,” said Hand, whose team is slated to play No. 15 Lawrence in the opening round of the state tourney. “I like our basic desire to do what is necessary to win.”

Kerr, for her part, is having a ball as she comes down the homestretch of her PHS career.

“Right now I am just trying to enjoy it,” said Kerr. “Being a senior, I am really, really happy that we are doing so well. I want to end on a really strong note.”

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton High field hockey star Sydney Watts clears the ball in 2011 action. Last Wednesday, senior star Watts helped sixth-seeded PHS top No. 11 Middletown South 2-0 in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional. It was PHS’s first win in the state tournament since the 1990s. The Little Tigers, now 14-4-1, are slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sydney Watts has played a big role in helping to transform the Princeton High field hockey team into one of the top teams in the area.

In Watt’s sophomore year in 2010, PHS dipped to 6-10-1 after a 9-8 campaign the season before. Last fall, with Watts emerging as a top player with her defensive prowess and stick skills, the Little Tigers improved to 10-6.

This season, PHS started 11-2 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Mercer County Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals where they dropped a 1-0 nailbiter in overtime to defending champion Lawrenceville.

Despite this improvement, the Little Tigers have not been able to get over the hump in the state tournament, losing three straight years in the first round after not having been in the tourney for the previous decade.

Last Wednesday, as the sixth-seeded Little Tigers prepared to face No. 11 Middletown South in the opening round of the Group 3 North 2 sectional, Watts wasn’t ready to see her career come to an end.

“I was just hoping this wasn’t going to be my last game,” said Watts. “I was trying as hard as I could to get this win and play for these girls because they have put in so much effort this year.”

Keying the defense and making some sharp passes to get the PHS attack going, Watts helped PHS break through with a sweet 2-0 victory.

“I am really excited that we won this game,” said Watts. “We have been working on this as long as I can remember. We have only made it to the first round ever in my high school career so this was a big win for us.”

In Watts’ view, the lessons learned by PHS from past state appearances combined with its skill made the difference in the win over Middletown South.

“I think it was definitely the experience but I also think this is the most talented team that Princeton High has seen in a long time and I am really proud of these girls,” said Watts.

With the teams deadlocked in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS displayed its offensive talent in the second half, controlling possession and taking advantage of its chances in the circle.

“We really picked it up in the second half,” said Watts. “I think our passing game really improved; we connected on more balls. We realized what we needed to fix from the beginning and we really picked it up.”

The Little Tigers’ work on the backline helped trigger the offense. “Our defense is a big part of our team; we try and support as much from the back and work forward,” said Watts.

“We really start the game in the back of the field and everyone really plays defense, even the forwards. I think an issue in the beginning of the season was connecting from the defense to the offense with our passes. Now we are able to connect and we are able to get the ball up the field really fast.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson was more relieved than anything else in the wake of the win which lifted her team to a 14-4-1 record.

“I feel like I can finally breathe; I feel like I really haven’t been able to breathe in the state tournament over the last four years,” said a grinning Serverson.

“We are finally at that point where we made it past that first step. I think it is huge in terms of building our confidence and in general, for the program, it is a statement.”

In order to advance, PHS had to step up in the second half. “We needed to tighten things up, we just weren’t moving the ball well,” said Serverson, who got goals from Emilia Lopez-Ona and Kelly Dredger in the victory with Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald picking up assists.

“We weren’t passing soon enough. I think that once people realized that we had a chance to win this game, they realized that they had to buckle down and do the fundamentals well.”

Serverson knows she will get fundamentally sound play from her defensive unit, led by Watts and sophomore star Julia DiTosto.

“They are always pretty tight down there; they do a great job of holding the fort,” asserted Serverson.

“I never have any complaints about them. They are steady and consistent; thank goodness we have them to rely on.”

With PHS slated to play at No. 3 Freehold in the sectional quarterfinals, Serverson knows her team needs to put an even greater emphasis on ball movement in order to prevail.

“I think we need to work on an even quicker, faster passing game,” said Serverson. “We need to tighten everything up. This team hasn’t played at that level yet. Hopefully, they will respond well.”

Watts, for her part, is confident that PHS will raise the level of its play in the clash against Freehold.

“I think we were very dangerous in the MCT; we just couldn’t come up with a win against Lawrenceville,” said Watts.

“In the state bracket as a No. 6 seed, we have a pretty big role. We still have to make a name for ourselves.”

IN HIS GRASP: Hun School football player Abdul-Malik Majeed corrals a ball carrier in recent action. Last Saturday at Peddie, senior star Majeed scored on a 43-yard pass play in the waning seconds to give Hun a 21-14 lead. The Falcons, though, responded by scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion in the waning seconds to pull out a 22-21 win. The Raiders, now 3-3, wrap up their season by hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Two weekends ago, the Hun School football team trailed Lawrenceville 21-0 at halftime only to rally for a 35-21 victory.

Last Saturday, Hun trailed Peddie 14-7 at halftime but was undaunted as it displayed resilience for a second week in a row.

The Raiders tied the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter as Hun senior Chris Cardinali bulled towards the end zone and classmate Quashae Hendryx alertly fell on his fumble.

Peddie took the ensuing kickoff and marched all the way to the Hun 10-yard-line. The Raiders, though, held the fort as they blocked a field goal attempt and took over on their own 16.

With Hun quarterback Blake Searfoss coming up with some clutch pass completions, Hun marched to the Peddie 43. Searfoss then hit Abdul-Malik Majeed across the middle in a slant pattern and the senior running back raced all the way to the end zone as Hun took a 21-14 lead with 28 seconds left in regulation.

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck was impressed with the resolve he saw from his squad.

“I thought that our kids were really courageous,” said Dudeck. “We were down again and things looked bad. We had enough courage to come back and stick one in with 28 seconds to go and make the PAT and keep on fighting.”

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Peddie didn’t stop battling as quarterback Dominic Borelli ran 14 yards and then hit a 42-yard pass play to Ben Pagan to get the Falcons to the Hun one-yard line with five seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Borelli raced into the end zone to make it a 21-20 game. He then put the final nail into the coffin as he bolted into the end zone for a two-point conversion to give Peddie a 22-21 win.

“My hat is off to Peddie,” said a subdued Dudeck. “They didn’t give up; they kept on pushing and they kept on playing to the end. Even when we went ahead with 28 seconds left, they drive the length of the field and score a touchdown and not only score a TD but get the extra two.”

Over the course of the afternoon, Hun opened the door to Peddie with some sloppy play.

“If I was to point to one thing today that I felt really hurt us; it was the number of penalties we had,” lamented Dudeck, whose team dropped to 3-3 with the defeat.

“All day long, from the beginning of the game to the end, we kept on giving Peddie chances and they took advantage of them. We kept on shooting ourselves in the foot.”

With his team lacking the depth of past years, Dudeck knows that there is little margin for error this fall.

“The other important thing is all year we talked about the type of team we are, that we don’t have enough talent to just show up,” said Dudeck.

“We have to play hard and finish. I think that today was an example where we didn’t finish.”

The Raiders will be looking to finish the fall on a high note as they host Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 4 in the season finale.

“Our kids always play with confidence; they never got down,” said Dudeck. “They hung in there for the whole time. They felt that they were going to win the game. We went up; we just didn’t close the deal.”

October 24, 2012

ROMAN GLADIATOR: Princeton University junior receiver Roman Wilson heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Harvard, Wilson caught the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left as Princeton overcame a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 win. In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy. Princeton looks to keep on the winning track as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) this Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team played at Harvard last fall, it put 39 points on the board but it wasn’t enough as the Crimson piled up 56.

Last Saturday, when the foes renewed their rivalry at Princeton Stadium before a sun-splashed crowd of 10,823, the Tigers again totaled 39 points.

But this time, that was enough to culminate one of the most remarkable, dizzying rallies in Ivy League football lore as Princeton fought back from a 24-point fourth quarter deficit to pull out a stunning 39-34 triumph over the nationally ranked and previously undefeated Crimson.

In so doing, the Tigers not only snapped No. 22 Harvard’s 14-game winning streak, they put themselves alone in first place in the Ivy League standings at 4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy.

In reflecting on his team’s rally for the ages, Princeton head coach Bob Surace pointed to belief.

“It is not only me believing in them but they have to believe in themselves and they do,” said Surace whose team was outgained 634 yards to 419.

“They never, ever thought there was anything but a chance and that we were going to make play after play. The Harvard team is terrific. I am looking at those stats, their quarterback [Colton Chapple] is outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about their players and how hard fought that game was.”

The Tigers got some good fortune to help bolster their self-belief. “We kept fighting; we got a few breaks,” said Surace.

“In other games we have lost because that fourth and one ended up being a first down at the end of the game. In this game, we were able to keep them one yard shy and they had to punt. We made a few plays to get down the field. I am glad we don’t play a seven-game series with them.”

Junior receiver Roman Wilson made the final big play, leaping to catch a Quinn Epperly pass for a game-winning 36-yard touchdown with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.

In recalling the play, Wilson wasn’t surprised that it worked. “We lined up quick and Quinn threw a good ball and I had the leverage on the safety and I just had to go up there and make a play,” said Wilson.

“It is something we do every week in practice and all the guys believed that it is going to work.”

Wilson’s grab triggered a wild celebration that saw his teammates mob him in the end zone and then moments later, the Princeton fans stormed the field after the final gun.

With his voice cracking, Wilson said the scene was something he’ll never forget.

“It is just an incredible feeling, looking up and seeing all the fans, and seeing all the alumni, and seeing all my teammates come in,” said Wilson, who ended the day with five catches for 111 yards.

“It means so much because we work so hard everyday. We believed in each other; we believe in every single day of practice. We believe that we are going to come out and give our best and win.”

Sophomore quarterback Epperly, who came on in the last drive in relief of the shaken up Connor Michelson, believed he could get the job done.

“I just had confidence that I could step in and pull it off too,” said Epperly. “This is a big time but just stay calm and try to win it for us.”

For most of the day, the idea of Princeton winning the game seemed farfetched, at best.

Harvard got out of the gate on fire; scoring two early touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Crimson added a touchdown early in the second quarter but their extra point attempt was blocked to make it 20-0.

As the teams headed into the locker room at halftime, Harvard maintained its 20-0 lead, having essentially run the Tigers out of their own building, outgaining Princeton 415 yards to 51.

In the locker room, Surace reminded his players that they had already shown this season that they could fight back from a big halftime deficit.

“I went in there and I told them, we were in this same spot against Lehigh,” recalled Surace.

“It was 17-0 and we fell a few plays short [in a 17-14 loss on September 15]. I said we are going to find out about the character of this group and see if we can show that we have grown as a team.”

The Tigers didn’t waste any time showing their character in the second half as Epperly made a one-yard touchdown run with 10:17 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 20-7. A Nolan Bieck 22-yard field goal made it 20-10 midway through the quarter.

But showing its championship mentality, Harvard responded with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Chapple to Kyle Juszczyk to end the quarter with a 27-10 lead.

Just 1:58 into the fourth quarter, the Crimson increased their advantage to 34-10 as Chapple found Cameron Brate for a 14-yard scoring strike.

With less than 12 minutes left in regulation, many fans headed to the exits. The Tigers, though, started heading to the end zone, beginning with a seven-yard TD pass from Michelson to Dre Nelson. Michelson proceeded to hit Tom Moak for a two-point conversion as Princeton cut the lead to 34-18.

Minutes later, Michelson hooked up with Matt Costello for a 29-yard touchdowns pass. Epperly came on and hit Shane Wilkerson for another two-point conversion as the Tigers made it a 34-26 game.

With the remaining crowd on its feet, Michelson struck again, hitting Seth DeValve for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make the score 34-32 with 2:27 remaining. Princeton’s two-point conversion attempt failed and Harvard took possession needing a first down to run out the clock. The Tigers held on third and seven, forcing Harvard to punt.

The Tigers got the ball on their own 10-yard-line with 1:57 left. Michelson, who ended the day with 237 yards passing and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week, started the drive and hit two passes and made a run to get the ball to the 33. After getting sacked and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct on Harvard, Michelson left the game with an apparent hand injury.

Epperly then came in and after two runs had Princeton at the Harvard 36. With the crowd in an uproar, Epperly launched the ball to a far corner of the end zone where Wilson snatched it and the victory.

In reflecting on Princeton’s rally, senior defensive lineman and team captain Mike Catapano said the team’s ability to stay in the moment made the difference.

“You have to stay focused; you can’t let the big picture get to you and you focus on technique and making plays and that’s what this team did great today,” said Catapano,

“We just did not quit; we did not let the big picture overwhelm us. That is what we have done all season and that’s what we are going to continue to do, not relent, not give up, and believe.

Surace, for his part, knows that his team needs to maintain that focus as it plays at Cornell (3-3 overall, 1-2 Ivy) on Saturday with three games after that in November.

“It is week six; we have to keep playing,” said Surace. “There is a lot of wow right now. There have been Super Bowls where the ball hits off the helmet and you win the game and celebrate and everything else. The problem was that this wasn’t the Super Bowl; you have to play next week.”

While there is plenty of football to play, Princeton’s super comeback last Saturday will go down as one of the most celebrated games in Ivy history.

FACING OFF: Princeton University men’s ice hockey star Andrew Calof races up the ice in action last year. The Tigers are depending on junior forward Calof, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12 with 31 points on 17 goals and 14 assists, to provide even more production as they look to improve on last year’s 9-16-7 record. Princeton starts regular season action by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University men’s hockey team, rebounding from a frustrating 2011-12 campaign that saw it go 9-16-7 comes down to developing greater trust across the board.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier, for his part, needs to trust that he will work smarter after his first season at the helm of a college program.

“I am more patient overall,
taking more time to digest things,” said Prier. “I am thinking things through more clearly. We are being more efficient with advancements in technology.”

In Prier’s view, his players have gained a greater trust in themselves as they head into the season.

“They feel more organized; we have an agenda that we are sticking to now,” said Prier, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by facing Brown on October 26 in the Ivy League Shootout in Providence, R.I. and then playing either Dartmouth or Yale the next day.

“This group believes in each other. They want to do what they need to in order to be champions and be successful.”

Princeton’s success could depend on how much production it gets from its trio of star forwards, junior Andrew Calof (a team-high 31 points in 2011-12 on 17 goals and 14 assists), junior captain Jack Berger (22 points in 10 goals and 12 assists) and senior assistant captain Rob Kleebaum (21 points on 13 goals and eight assists).

“I expect a lot from those three,” said Prier. “The big thing for them is to get off to a good start. Given the depth of the team, it is not going to all be on their shoulders. We should have scoring by committee and they should be able to play looser and have some fun.”

Junior Berger provides leadership to go with his scoring prowess. “Berger has been a great leader, he is extremely thorough, extremely organized, and he conveys the proper things,” said Prier.

“We have an incredible group of captains with the three other guys (assistant captains Kleebaum, junior Kevin Ross, and senior Michael Sdao). It is a good mesh of personalities.

Prier believes that the skilled Calof can be one of the leading scorers in ECAC Hockey this winter.

“Andrew’s goal is and should be to be the biggest scoring threat in the league as a junior,” asserted Prier.

“It is something he can do with hard work. He is extremely instinctive and could end up being the leading scorer in the league.”

The Tigers should get some scoring at forward from junior Andrew Ammon (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), sophomore Aaron Kesselman (7 points on 4 goals and 3 assists), and senior Will MacDonald (11 points on 2 goals and 9 assists).

“It is exciting to see Ammon have a healthy year; Kesselman is hitting his stride after getting injured,” said Prier, noting that his quartet of freshman forwards, Mike Ambrosia, Kyle Rankin, Jonathan Liau, and Michael Zajac, looks promising.

“Willie MacDonald brings it everyday. He has as good a work ethic as anyone we have. All are veterans with another year under their belts.”

Princeton boasts an exciting talent at defenseman in senior Sdao, a 6’4, 230-pound bruiser who earned first-team All-Ivy league and second-team All-ECACH honors last winter as he scored 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists.

“Sdao has picked up a step; he is quicker,” said Prier. “He has always had the bomb but he is even better offensively. It is his senior year; this is his last crack at it and he is going to bring it. He could be a top defender in the league.”

The Tigers are looking for Ross (10 points on 3 goals and 7 assists) and senior Eric Meland (15 points on 2 goals and 13 assists) to bring up their games.

“Kevin Ross is coming off an injury but will be back soon; he brings poise, great stick skills, and is a great decision-maker,” added Prier.

“It is Meland’s first full year on defense. He really worked on his acceleration and backpedaling. He has offensive instincts. He is dangerous with the puck; I think he could get a lot of points.”

Juniors Alec Rush (4 assists) and Jeremy Goodwin (8 assists) should see a lot of time along the blue line.

“They were sophomores last year but it was almost like their first full season because they didn’t have a lot of playing time as freshmen,” said Prier.

“They learned a lot; they have adjusted to the speed of the game. They come with a lot more confidence.”

Prier is confident that his two top goaltenders, senior Mike Condon (2.88 goals against average in 2011-12) and junior Sean Bonar (3.17 goals against average), together with sophomore Ryan Benitez, can hold the fort between the pipes.

“They are both looking pretty good and Benitez is pushing them,” said Prier.

“The top two can be elite goalies and Benitez has worked hard. It is a nice competition between the three. It is up to them as to who will play. We play to win and we will go with whoever seems to be playing well. Sean worked hard  and has a great mindset and focus. Mike had a good summer of conditioning and Ryan has shown drastic improvement.”

In Prier’s view, the Ivy Shootout weekend will provide a good opportunity for his team to show its improvement.

“The big thing is the first game, working out the kinks and going against another team that is working out its kinks too,” said Prier.

In order to work through those kinks, the Tigers will rely on the trust it has forged since last winter.

“The culture is in a good spot; the mindset is good,” said Prier. “We are getting more trust within the team. We need to get the puck moving to spots and trust that a teammate will be there. Trust leads to consistency; we are much closer to that than we were last year at this point or even at midseason.”

RAY OF HOPE: Princeton University women’s soccer star ­Rachel Sheehy boots the ball in action last season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Sheehy got two assists to help Princeton top Harvard 3-1. Sheehy was later named the Ivy Player of the Week for her performance. On Monday, the Tigers topped LaSalle 2-1 in overtime to win their ninth straight game and improve to 11-3-1 overall. Princeton is 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play. The Tigers play at Cornell (1-12-1 overall, 0-4-1 Ivy) on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton University women’s soccer team was knotted in a scoreless draw with visiting Harvard last Saturday evening as the second half started, Tiger senior star Rachel Sheehy could sense the tide turning.

“We were going forward; we were finding our targets,” said midfielder Sheehy. “Caitlin Blosser and Jen Hoy were awesome holding the ball. We got in a rhythm.

Taking a corner kick 15 minutes into the half, Sheehy found Blosser in the box and she converted the feed to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. After Harvard tied the game at 1-1, Sheehy struck again, slotting a free kick into the crease which Blosser slammed home. Princeton added an insurance goal by Hoy minutes later to put the finishing touches on a 3-1

The win was the eighth straight for the Tigers and improved them to 5-0 in Ivy League play and in sole possession of first place with both Penn and Dartmouth at 4-1 in league play.

Sheehy pointed to the team’s response to the Harvard goal as emblematic of the team’s will to win.

“I think that is a testament to the leadership we have with upperclassmen on the field,” said Sheehy, a native of Exton, Pa. “In the past, we have kind of panicked. We really settled down and we just fought back.”

In getting her two assists, Sheehy coolly took care of business. “We have great targets like Blosser and Gabriella Guzman,” said Sheehy, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week as she posted her first career multi-assist game, and now has a career-best five assists on the year.

“They were open back post, I find them and they do the hard work. On the second one, I wanted to take that one and I took it back post and Guzman got her foot on it.”

In Sheehy’s view, the team’s great run has been sparked by the desire of the team’s seniors to go out on a high note.

“We are definitely on a mission; the senior class hasn’t won the Ivy League yet and we are just hungry for it,” asserted Sheehy, who is one of eight seniors on the squad which stretched its winning streak to nine as it edged LaSalle 2-1 in overtime on Monday in improving to 11-3-1 overall.

“Really nothing at this point is going to stop us as long as we keep playing well. We have two more games. We are going to get through Cornell and get the final one at Penn.”

In playing the best soccer of her career, Sheehy is feeding off that sense of urgency.

“I think the fact that this is it,” said Sheehy in reflecting on her late surge. “I have such a finite number of games left. My whole life has come down to this.”

CORE STRENGTH: Princeton University women’s hockey player Corey Stearns heads up the ice in action last winter. Last Saturday, senior forward Stearns scored a goal and added three assists as Princeton topped Robert Morris 6-3 to go 2-0 in its opening weekend of action. The Tigers, who topped Rochester Institute of Technology 2-1 on Friday in their season opener, start ECAC Hockey play by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton University women’s ice hockey team didn’t have to wait long to be bailed out by freshman goalie Kimberly Newell.

Playing at Rochester Institute of Technology last Friday evening in its season opener, the Tigers labored to pull out a 2-1 victory as Newell made the difference.

“We played lousy against RIT; it was a combination of things,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, who got 33 saves from the Vancouver, B.C. native in her debut with Gabie Figueroa scoring in the first period and Sally Butler tallying the winning goal in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

“They had a crowd of 1,350 for their Brick City Homecoming weekend. We may have taken them lightly and they forced us into some bad plays. The goalie pulled it off for us, we knew before that Kim was good but we learned that she is really good. I give the kids credit, they came back when they had to.”

A day later at Robert Morris, the Tigers came back with a superb effort as they trailed 2-1 early the second period before pulling away to a 6-3 victory. The Tigers got two goals and two assists from senior Kelly Cooke in the victory over Colonials with classmate Corey Stearns chipping in a goal and three assists and Butler, Rose Alleva and Brianna Leahy scoring a goal apiece.

“We played much better; we didn’t deserve to be down,” said Kampersal, noting that netminder Newell came up big again as she recorded 33 saves in the victory.

“Cooke had a big shorthanded goal; she was hustling all over the ice. Corey made some big plays around the net. We need those two as well as [Alex] Kinney to be dangerous; we are playing them together. It was good overall to get two wins.”

As Princeton opens ECAC Hockey action by hosting Dartmouth October 26 and Harvard on October 27, Kampersal knows his team will need to make more big plays to get two wins this weekend.

“We need to improve in some areas; we have to worry about ourselves and our game,” said Kampersal.

“We respect both opponents. Hopefully they will both be close competitive games. Dartmouth always has good forwards; they lost some to graduation but have replenished them from recruiting. They are strong, top to bottom. Harvard has got a goalie (Emerance Maschmeyer) who is like Kim Newell and they are always strong up front.”

NET GAIN: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Allison Hubert returns the ball in action earlier this fall. Last Wednesday, the second doubles team of Hubert and Lindsay Eberhart pulled out a tiebreaker to help PHS defeat Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis. The Little Tigers went on to fall 4-1 to Mendham in the state championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The sun was setting behind the trees ringing the tennis courts at Mercer County Park last Wednesday but the Princeton High girls’ tennis team battled on as it faced Mendham in the Group 3 state championship match.

Trailing 2-1, PHS needed to win both doubles matches to pull out the title. Showing resolve, the Little Tigers forced a third set in each match.

PHS’s hopes for a title, though, faded into the evening twilight as the first doubles team of Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and Rory Lewis fell 6-2 in the third set to Veronica Fojtu and Lauren Hernandez.

While PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was disappointed by the final result, she savored what her team had accomplished this fall.

“This whole year has been icing on the cake because we weren’t expecting much after graduating six seniors,” said Hibbert, whose team moved to 17-1 with the loss to Mendham.

“To not only win back-to-back sectional titles but to win the state semifinals and make the group final for the first time since 1999 was an amazing thing with this many new players.”

PHS certainly did something great earlier in the day in the state semis as it edged Moorestown 3-2 in a nailbiter that saw three matches decided by tiebreakers.

“It was an amazing match this morning,” said Hibbert, who got a win from freshman Christina Rosca at first singles in the victory over Moorestown with Cahill-Sanidas and Lewis prevailing at first doubles and the second doubles team of Lindsay Eberhart and Allison Hubert clinching the match by winning their tiebreaker.

“We didn’t start off well in a few flights but we were able to fight back and keep cool under pressure. We did a really good job of staying tight under pressure; playing aggressively and playing clutch tennis.”

The doubles team of Cahill-Sanidas and Lewis played aggressively against Mendham, winning the first set 7-6. The PHS pair, though, lost the second set 6-2 and then ran out of gas as Mendham went on to win the third set.

“Their first doubles team was the runner-up in the whole state tournament and we fought hard against them,” said Hibbert. “We lost a really, really close match that absolutely could have gone either way.”

The Little Tigers have been fighting hard for weeks as they lost freshman second singles star Chenchen Wang to a season-ending knee injury days before the start of the Mercer County Tournament.

“Losing our No. 2 player right before counties and states was tough,” said Hibbert.

“We all had to reshuffle and shift our lineup a little bit. The girls all came together and worked really hard. They rose to the occasion and they raised the level of their game. They were not just playing for themselves; they were playing for Chenchen.

The team’s seniors, Cahill-Sanidas and Eberhart, played a key role in holding the team together through adversity.

“They have been great this year,” asserted Hibbert. “They have really kept the girls focused. They helped everyone feel a part of the team; they have done a lot of team bonding exercises and activities. It is nice that they have all meshed so well. They have really had a great season.”

With five of its top seven players slated to return, there should be some great things ahead for PHS.

“Hopefully, it bodes well for the future,” said Hibbert. “If we have everyone healthy, we can do some great things. We were so close today, it didn’t happen but I am really proud of the way they fought.”

SMASHING DEBUT: Princeton High girls’ tennis freshman star Christina Rosca smacks a forehand last week on the way to beating Hopewell Valley’s Natalie Kawalec 6-2, 6-2 last week in first singles in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals. The Little Tigers posted a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs and went on to edge Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before succumbing to Mendham 4-1 in the state championship match on Wednesday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christina Rosca may be just a freshman but she holds herself to a high standard.

After beating Hopewell Valley’s Natalie Kawalec 6-2, 6-2 last week in first singles in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals to help the Princeton High girls’ tennis team to a 4-1 win over the Bulldogs, Little Tiger star Rosca saw room for improvement.

“I can’t say I was playing well but I think I played OK,” said Rosca. “Natalie played well; I think I could have played better. I think my serve was pretty good today.”

Rosca has been better than good in her freshman year, making the finals at the Mercer County Tournament in early October and then advancing to the semis in the state singles tournament later in the month.

Last Wednesday at Mercer County Park, Rosca posted two victories as PHS edged Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before succumbing to Mendham 4-1 in the state championship match.

For Rosca, excelling at the high school level has involved some juggling. “It is difficult because even though I play high school tennis, I do my own training program,” said Rosca.

“Time management is something I have to cope with. For example, I had a team match last Monday and then practice from 6 to 9 p.m.”

In making the state semis in the singles tourney, Rosca had to cope with illness.

“I was actually sick right before the second weekend of play,” said Rosca, who was eliminated by eventual champion Lexi Borr of Westfield in the semis.

“I think I could have played better in the semis. I played well overall, getting to the semis is pretty good, especially for a freshman.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert believes Rosca will keep getting better and better.

“I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Hibbert. “She plays a lot. She works really hard; you can always count on her to give 100 percent in her matches. She raises the level of play to whom she faces. She is very mature for a freshman and will be a great player for us in the future.”

Rosca, for her part, feels that she has raised the level of her game this season. “I think playing more matches really helps,” said Rosca.

“I especially like playing in the state tournament and the county tournament because I play very good people, especially in the later rounds. It has been a good experience. It has definitely been fun to be on this team.”

STRONG FINISH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas powers through on a shot last week in the Group 3 state tournament. Senior first doubles star Cahill-Sanidas helped PHS defeat Hopewell Valley 4-1 on October 16 to win its second straight Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. A day later, the Little Tigers nipped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 semis before falling 4-1 to Mendham in the state championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Maddie Cahill-Sanidas feared that her senior campaign with the Princeton High girls’ tennis team was going to be a rough ride.

“Honestly, coming into the season, I wasn’t thinking we were going to have a good team,” said first doubles star and team captain Cahill-Sanidas, the only returning starter on the squad.

Instead, the Little Tigers developed into a very good team with the addition of some precocious newcomers and the improvement of some key veterans.

PHS defeated Hopewell Valley 4-1 on October 16 to win its second straight Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and then nipped Moorestown 3-2 in the Group 3 state semis a day later before falling  4-1 to Mendham in the state title match.

“It is the best feeling ever, I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Cahill-Sanidas last week after PHS won the sectional final. “We have some crazy, amazing players. I love everyone on this team.”

Cahill-Sanidas certainly loved being teamed with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles this fall. In early October, the pair won their flight at the Mercer County Tournament and later advanced to the third round in the state doubles tourney.

“Winning the county was probably one of the best moments of my high school career in sports,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who also stars for the PHS girls’ basketball and softball programs. “That was the cherry on top of my senior year, it was wonderful.”

The Little Tigers have benefitted this fall from some wonderful team chemistry which can be traced to efforts by Cahill-Sanidas and fellow senior Lindsay Eberhart.

“Lindsay and I have really stressed team bonding,” said Cahill-Sanidas, noting that the team got even closer after losing second singles star Chenchen Wang to a season-ending knee injury days before the county tournament. “I know that tennis can be such an individual sport but the JV and varsity have become so close. We do so many bonding things. It comes from my other sports; getting everyone psyched up for this is the best feeling.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert recognizes that Cahill-Sanidas’s graduation will leave a void for the program.

“Maddie has been an amazing leader, getting all the new people excited and comfortable for the season,” said Hibbert.

“We will obviously really miss her next year; she has been a staple of our lineup.”

Punctuating her strokes with shouts of encouragement, Cahill-Sanidas shows her excitement when she is on the court.

“I really get intense in my matches; that is how I play better,” said Cahill-Sanidas, who was exhorting herself to the end last Wednesday as she and Lewis fell in three sets to the Mendham pair of Veronica Fojtu and Lauren Hernandez.

“I think my love for the sport has helped everyone get focused and ready for the matches.”

While that focus didn’t result in a state title, PHS’s fight to the end symbolized its memorable ride.

“The whole season has been a challenge with Chenchen getting injured,” said Cahill-Sanidas.

“We have faced matches that are hard; we know how to accomplish a win in sectionals. We know how to do this.”

GOLD STAR: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Jeremy Goldsmith dribbles the ball up the field in recent action. Last Friday, ­Goldsmith scored two goals as fourth-seeded PHS rolled to a 6-1 win over No. 13 Trenton Central in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, who improved to 13-2 with the victory, were slated to host No. 5 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 23 with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, Jeremy Goldsmith rode the bench as the Princeton High boys’ soccer team won the Mercer County Tournament.

Last Friday, senior midfielder Goldsmith starred as fourth-seeded PHS rolled to a 6-1 win over No. 13 Trenton Central in the opening round of this year’s MCT. Goldsmith scored the first goal of the contest and then banged home the final tally of the day as PHS won its 12th straight game to improve to 13-2.

On his first score, Goldsmith used hustle to find the back of the net. “I saw Kevin Halliday taking the ball down the line and I knew I had to be on the back post,” recalled Goldsmith.

“He took a shot and the goalie got a touch on it but luckily I was right there to put it away.”

Goldsmith’s second tally of the day demonstrated his growth into a dependable finisher.

“When John Blair was making the run in the middle I knew that I was open so I was screaming for the ball,” said Goldsmith. “I got it and the defender caught up but I was pretty confident I could get around him and then I took the shot. It was a lot of fun.”

It took Goldsmith a while to develop a comfort level with his move from benchwarmer to starter this fall. “I was nervous in my first game starting,” said Goldsmith. “Once we got our lineup pretty much set after the injuries at the beginning of the year, I found my role at outside mid.”

Classmates Zach Halliday and Aidan Passannante have played a key role in helping with Goldsmith’s transition.

“Zach and Aidan have told me that I can come out and play with these guys and that I am good enough to stick around and not be a player on the side,” said Goldsmith.

“It feels good to know that it is true; I have been playing well and proving it.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe liked the way his team started well against Trenton, jumping off to a 3-0 lead by halftime. “It was a good start in that regard, any time you get three in the first half and build on that, it is great,” said Sutcliffe, who got two goals from sophomore transfer Chase Ealy in the win over Trenton with Kevin Halliday and Colin Lamb also finding the back of the net.

Sutcliffe is excited with the great progress Goldsmith has made in his final year with the program. “It’s his first start in the county tournament and he’s all over,” said Sutcliffe.

“He had a great game; he has come a long way through his hard work and his determination. It is great to see.”

Tenacious midfielder Ealy has proven to be a great addition for the Little Tigers.

“Chase is having a nice season; he is finding his way in the lineup,” said Sutcliffe.

“He has made a good impact as a young player; he’s learning from the older guys. Chase is a tough kid; he has the mentality that you hope to see in all 11 players you put out there.”

Junior star Kevin Halliday has shown toughness around the net, having tallied a team-high 18 goals.

“Kevin has had a great run; he is all over the place,” said Sutcliffe. “His mobility and his finishing in the penalty area have been fantastic. It is a credit to Kevin.”

Sutcliffe believes his squad is poised for a big finish. “We have won some big games late in the season by big margins and we are really starting to play our best soccer of the season,” said Sutcliffe, whose team was slated to host No. 5 Pennington in the MCT quarterfinals on October 23 with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. “But our best soccer is in front of us, there is no doubt about it.”

Goldsmith, for his part, believes PHS is headed in the right direction. “I think we are peaking at the right time,” said Goldsmith.

“We always take it one game at a time so you don’t want to look too far ahead. We knew that Trenton would be a tough one; we wanted to make sure that we got the win and played well.”

SWEET LOU: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Lou Mialhe strides to the finish line in recent action. Freshman Mialhe has produced a superb debut season for PHS, placing 26th in helping the Little Tigers take third at the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic on October 13 at Thompson Park. PHS is next in action when it competes in the Mercer County Championships on October 26 at Washington Crossing State Park.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into this fall, Jim Smirk knew that he needed some young runners to come through in order for his Princeton High girls’ cross country team to maintain its winning tradition.

“We graduated the majority of our leaders and the two top runners in Elyssa [Gensib] and Jenna [Cody],” said PHS head coach Smirk.

“We have been figuring out how this team is going to be successful; everyone had to find a way to do it.”

With such young runners as sophomore Julie Bond and Mary Sutton together with freshman Lou Miahle stepping up, PHS has been enjoying plenty of success this season.

The Little Tigers took third in the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic on October 13 at Thompson Park, building on fourth place finish at the Shore Coaches Invitational, and taking third in the Passaic Coaches Invitational.

Sophomore Bond has emerged as a frontrunner for the Little Tigers taking 14th at the Fall Classic and 10th at the Passaic meet.

“Julie has been great,” said Smirk, noting that his JV team produced a great performance at the Fall Classic in winning its division with seven runners in the top 14.

“She is still figuring out the consistency piece but when the moment has been there, she has seized it. She is not just running better times; she is better in all facets. She is approaching each practice with focus, she is taking care of academic stuff, she is getting her rest. Last year, she fell in behind the top two but now she finds herself in the limelight.”

Bond’s classmate, Sutton, is also showing a special focus. “Day in, day out, Mary grinds it out,” said Smirk of Sutton who took 29th at the Fall Classic. “She is going to be good at it and she is going to keep at it. She is the consummate worker.”

The Little Tigers have been getting some superb work from precocious freshman Lou Mialhe.

“Lou is a fantastic athlete, she could have hopped into any sport and been a starter,” said Smirk of Mialhe, who came in 26th at the Fall Classic.

“It is a testament to the quality of our program and the culture we have built over the years, that she joined us. She has seen that the girls have done some good things over the years. She started out raw. She is a neophyte but she is making moves in races and the veterans are saying, hey that was a good idea. She is getting them to take more risks.”

While the young runners have made key contributions, Smirk knows that his team wouldn’t be on a winning track without several star veterans, starting with senior Amelia Whaley.

“We call her the voice of truth; she doesn’t say much but when she does, everyone listens,” said Smirk of Whaley, the team’s top finisher at the Fall Classic as she placed 13th.

“She is an honest racer; she gives you what she has got. She gets stronger, the deeper she goes into the season. She learns lessons as she goes along.”

Junior Belinda Liu has learned some valuable lessons in leadership as she has learned to contribute even though injury has kept her from being at the front of the pack.

“Belinda is one of our captains along with Amelia and Helen Eisenach,” said Smirk.

“She has been dealing with a lower leg injury and to her credit, she said to me if I am not at 1-2-3, how can I help 5-6-7-8. She has really stepped up; she has been very vocal. She is helping us know what it takes to be great. She is good at motivating the people around her.”

Eisenach has displayed great discipline as she has fought through injury.

“Helen transformed herself,” added Smirk. “She has hip flexor problems from squatting so much from playing catcher in softball. She went to the weight room everyday before softball and did hip flexor exercises. That shows a lot of commitment with the season six months out. She took care of fundamentals.”

With the Mercer County Championships coming up this Friday at Washington Crossing State Park, Smirk is hoping that the team’s collective commitment will lead to a good performance.

“If we do what we have done at dual meets, it should be good,” said Smirk.

“It will be interesting to see what we can do. I am still figuring out who our top seven are going to be. It is an exciting opportunity.”

Smirk is excited by how his runners have worked together even as they have competed for spots in the lineup.

“The kids have not been worrying about themselves,” asserted Smirk. “It has been how do we get this group to do things to the best of its ability. Sometimes that means you step to the sideline to help the team. It is exciting to see a group of high school kids take that approach.”