October 8, 2014

Hosting cross-town rival Princeton Day School last week, the Hun School boys’ soccer team got off to a sluggish start.

Failing to maintain consistent possession of the ball, Hun found itself trailing the Panthers 1-0 at halftime.

At intermission, the Hun players trudged to one corner of the field and sat in a circle as Raider head coach Pat Quirk looked to light a fire under the squad.

Playing with more urgency after the break, Hun drew even in the first minute of the second half as Jacob Keller found the back of the net.

“We said at halftime that we wanted to put them under pressure,” said Quirk. “We did that and that led to our goal.”

But the Raiders found themselves under pressure minutes later and surrendered a goal to PDS, which turned out to be the decisive tally as Hun fell 2-1.

“We got excited after the goal but we couldn’t sustain it,” lamented Quirk. “We were just talking to the guys about giving it their all. I think we have some guys taking some plays off and that is hurting us at times.”

Although taking on some tough teams in the early going has hurt Hun’s record in the short term, Quirk thinks the team will benefit from that experience.

“We had three Inter-AC (Inter-Academic League) schools, Haverford (Pa.), Germantown Academy (Pa.), and Chestnut Hill (Pa.), and Pennington,” said Quirk, whose team went 0-4 in that stretch, getting outscored 23-0.

“I think it helps us as we get into the tournaments. It didn’t help that we played them with a couple of injuries and guys missing each game. We haven’t had a complete team in a few weeks now. We are still trying to fill some holes.”

Although Hun didn’t play a complete game against PDS, Quirk saw progress.

“We did some good things,” said Quirk of his squad which fell 2-1 to the George School (Pa.) last Thursday in dropping to 2-6 and is slated to host Life Center on October 9 and Blair Academy on October 11.

“We had some moments where we possessed the ball well, which is what we practice everyday and now we are trying to get it to translate from practice to a game. We haven’t quite got there yet. We are going to have to outwork teams.”

October 1, 2014
BEAM OF LIGHT: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to throw a pass in a game last fall. This past Saturday, junior Beamer passed for 273 yards and four touchdowns as PHS edged Hightstown 36-29 to improve to 3-0. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Lawrence High (2-0) on October 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEAM OF LIGHT: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to throw a pass in a game last fall. This past Saturday, junior Beamer passed for 273 yards and four touchdowns as PHS edged Hightstown 36-29 to improve to 3-0. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Lawrence High (2-0) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High football team had won its first two games this fall, junior quarterback Dave Beamer hadn’t gotten into a groove yet with his passing game.

“I was talking to the coaching staff and we said we are trying to get him to have that breakout game,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher of Beamer.

As the Little Tigers played at Hightstown last Saturday afternoon, Beamer wasn’t on target in the early stages of the contest. “He didn’t start out great, I think he was 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 on his first few passes,” recalled Gallagher.

But with PHS trailing 8-0, Beamer found Rory Helstrom for a touchdown and some great things ensued from that point as he passed for 273 yards and three more TDs to help the Little Tigers pull out a 36-29 thriller.

“He connected with Rory on our first touchdown; I think that was his first completion,” said Gallagher, reflecting on a performance which saw Beamer go on to hit scoring strikes of 80 yards to Helstrom, 19 yards to Jack Cook, and 8 yards to Nick Fliss, the last of which broke a 29-29 tie in the fourth quarter.

“He was about 50 percent on his completions (10-for-21) which was great. On the 80-yarder to Rory in the second quarter, he took a huge hit. He had to throw it over their defender and he did a really good job getting it to Rory.”

The Little Tigers certainly needed Beamer’s breakout day as the contest turned into a shootout that saw five lead changes.

“We knew they had weapons and we have weapons,” said Gallagher. “It was 21-15 at half and I said to the guys I thought we need to get three more touchdowns to win the way the game was going. It was a slugfest, both Hightstown and PHS were throwing haymakers.”

As has been the case all season, junior star Rory Helstrom proved to be a lethal weapon for the Little Tigers, scoring two touchdowns on pass receptions and rushing for a third TD.

“Rory had five receptions for 170 yards, rushed for around 60 and had some good kick returns,” said Gallagher.

“He went down after his last TD, he was dehydrated and had cramps. With all of the things he can do, you just hope you get one of those guys. He’s that player for us.”

Senior inside linebacker and back-up running back Smallzman is also a special player for the Little Tigers.

“Sam Smallzman came in for Rory at running back on that last drive and we fed him the ball,” said Gallagher. “We gave it to him six times in a row right up the middle and we ran out the clock.”

Coming on the heels of a 0-10 campaign last fall, PHS’s 3-0 run to start the season has been heartening for Gallagher.

“To say I am proud of the guys would be an understatement,” said Gallagher, who is in his second year at the helm of the program.

“You don’t get to do this every year. I think the last time we were 3-0 was in 2009 when we went to the playoffs. To be 3-0 is special where we are coming from.”

While Gallagher is proud of his team’s record, he doesn’t want his players to get ahead of themselves.

“We are going to take it one game at time,” said Gallagher. “I think the kids are really selling out. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on them but Hightstown was a huge game. It was a division game, a group game, and I told the kids that is a game we have to win. We are in the thick of things. The kids are excited and we are in a rhythm.”

With PHS hosting Lawrence on October 2 in a short turnaround from Saturday, the focus is on maintaining the winning rhythm.

“Lawrence is a brand new team from last year with a new coach, they are 2-0 and they had a bye last week,” said Gallagher.

“We have to take a lot of mental reps this week. The guys need to get their rest. We want to keep the kids healthy and fresh. We want them to come out Thursday, ready to jump out again. We want to keep playing and keep winning.”

ON THE SAME PAIGE: Princeton High girls’ country runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a 2013 race. Last week, senior Metzheiser took seventh in a meet at Mercer County Park, helping PHS to wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. On Saturday, Metzheiser placed 24th as PHS finished third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers race against Allentown on October 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE SAME PAIGE: Princeton High girls’ country runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a 2013 race. Last week, senior Metzheiser took seventh in a meet at Mercer County Park, helping PHS to wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. On Saturday, Metzheiser placed 24th as PHS finished third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers race against Allentown on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High girls’ cross country team, the goal this fall is to reach a higher level of competitiveness.

“We are trying to extend ourselves, we have shown that we can run tough,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“We have reacted in races; now we want to create a situation where we are changing races. Every time we lace them up, it is about how are we going to get better as athletes and competitors, not just physically, but mentally.”

PHS got better last week as it dominated a meet at Mercer County Park, placing five in the top nine in posting wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. Junior Emma Eikelberner led the way for PHS, placing second in a time of 18:50 over the 5,000-meter course. Senior Julie Bond was next in third with senior Paige Metzheiser taking seventh, senior Mary Sutton finishing eighth, and junior Lou Mialhe coming in ninth.

In Smirk’s view, Eikelberner has made a lot of progress, physically and mentally.

“Emma ran a 29-minute 5k as a freshman so she has earned every second off of her time,” said Smirk.

“She is learning how to fill the role of being a top runner. In the spring she had a breakthrough and she put in a lot of work over the summer.”

Senior Bond has worked on remaining injury free. “She looks great, we shut her down early in the spring so she would be ready for cross country,” said Smirk

“That is the season she likes the best, we said the day after track was the first day of pre-training for cross country. She ran much better this week than last week, we know she can be a stellar runner for us.”

Metzheiser produced a stellar effort in the meet last week. “She is one of the girls whose skill set we are trying to broaden,” said Smirk.

“She has been sitting in the middle of the pack and grinding it out. We want her to get leadership options and not just be part of the pack. She is going to be challenged. With her 800 pedigree, she can get out of her depth against more experienced runners who have some tricks.”

PHS is relying on the experience of Sutton and Mialhe to make a difference as the fall unfolds.

“They are definitely tested,” said Smirk. “They know what they need to do from here on out.”

The trio of Sarah Klebanov, Sophia Zahn, and Izzy Trenholm are figuring out what they need to do on the varsity level.

“Sarah is kid who had been dancing around the edge of the varsity, spring track didn’t shake out well for her,” said Smirk.

“She worked to rebuild herself this summer; she is exciting to watch. She shook two girls off from HoVal in the meet in the last ¼ mile, she uncorked a great kick. Sophia has been dancing around the varsity too. Izzy is a sophomore; we are looking for her to move up. She is still pretty raw, last year was her first year. She is growing into it and what it means to be a varsity athlete.”

Smirk believes his team has the depth to do well in championship meets.

“One of the things we have prided ourselves on is having the best 5,6,7 when we get to the state meets,” said Smirk, whose team races against Allentown on October 1 as it prepares for the county meet later this month.

“We believe in the importance of every single runner in the line. Even if they don’t beat someone’s No. 5, they are providing the drive from the back.”

The squad is driven to do some special things this fall. “They are going to go after it; we know there are tough teams out there,” said Smirk, whose team took third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., last Saturday, led by Sutton in 11th place and Bond in 20th.

“We have always raced well as a group, now it is more about taking advantage of each other’s strengths and racing together to create a competitive dynamic.”

FRONT ROW: Princeton Day School field hockey player Rowan Schomburg gets in position near the goal in recent action. Last week, junior star Schomburg tallied a goal and two assists as PDS topped Hun 4-0. The Panthers, now 2-6, play at Lawrenceville on October 1 and at Pennington on October 6 before hosting Princeton High on October 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRONT ROW: Princeton Day School field hockey player Rowan Schomburg gets in position near the goal in recent action. Last week, junior star Schomburg tallied a goal and two assists as PDS topped Hun 4-0. The Panthers, now 2-6, play at Lawrenceville on October 1 and at Pennington on October 6 before hosting Princeton High on October 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Rowan Schomburg deferred to the senior stars on the Princeton Day School field hockey team as they carried the offensive load for the Panthers.

But after being a member of the supporting cast of a team led by the graduated Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, Mary Travers, and Emily Goldman, Schomburg has been thrust into a leading role as a junior in 2014.

“The seniors put a lot of pressure on us juniors this year and I put a lot of pressure on myself, said Schomburg.

“I want to be a good role model for the underclassmen. I try to give them the best opportunities that I can. Whether that is working with Elizabeth [Brennan] in the midfield or anyone on offense, I try to make them look good.”

Last week against visiting Hun, Schomburg made the PDS attack look very good, contributing a goal and two assists as the Panthers pulled away to a 4-0 triumph.

With PDS having lost three straight games by a combined score of 11-2 coming into the September 23 contest, the Panthers were determined to right the ship.

“We wanted to play a full 60 minutes really strong so our mindset was transitions and finishing, which we have had trouble with a little bit,” said Schomburg.

“Possession was really key in this game, we really tried to focus on passing to a player rather than to a space. I think we improved on that and we are hoping to improve on that even more in upcoming games.”

Despite controlling possession from the outset, it took PDS nearly 20 minutes to score as Schomburg set up Brennan for the first goal with 10:23 left in the first half.

“I was definitely looking forward to it, I knew it was coming,” said Schomburg. “I knew we would finish it strong but that was definitely a good starting point.”

In the waning seconds of the half, Schomburg got her goal, fighting through a scramble in the circle.

“I just saw the backboard; I didn’t see the goalie at all so I just pushed it into the net,” recalled Schomburg.

Despite leading 2-0 at half, PDS kept pushing to the final whistle. “We wanted to win the second half so even if they got a goal we wanted to come back and get another goal,” said Schomburg, who assisted on PDS’s third goal as Lauren Finley found the back of the cage with Madison Mundenar completing the scoring for the Panthers.

“We always wanted to stay on top and I think we did that. We came out of the gate really strong and I think we kept that intensity and energy all the way through the second half.”

PDS head coach Tracey Arndt liked the way her team played hard all the way to the final whistle against Hun.

“It is just a matter of consistency,” said Arndt. “I think we were just done with hanging our heads at the end of every game, knowing that we would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.”

In Arndt’s view, focusing on fundamentals helped pave the way to the win over the Raiders.

“We did have a few days of practice which was really nice,” said Arndt. “We really just broke it down and worked on some skills. We took some time to make sure that they look up before they pass so they just don’t get rid of it. We started to spread out a little more, both width and depth-wise. I think that helped us and just getting hungry. If you want to score, are you are going to get in and do what’s right.”

Schomburg is showing the right stuff for the Panthers this fall. “Rowan had the other girls around her last year so she played that supportive role,” said Arndt.

“Now that we have looked up to her from the beginning. She still wanted to play the supportive role but we said you are them. She gets it. She gets what it means to work hard, she gets what it means to be tenacious. She gets what it means to be a teammate, I think because of that she will do whatever she can to get her team to score. She is an absolute coach’s dream; she is really stepping up.”

Senior tri-captain Dana Poltorak provided some tenacity to the PDS attack. “We switched her forward in the second half, she really had some flow to her skill and some fluidity,” said Arndt.

“She just continued to fight. If she lost the ball, she got it right back. I think it’s a big thing for our forwards, we say you are the actual first line of defense. We can’t wait until it gets back to our defense. Our girls are really putting pressure on them and getting a lot of jabs in while the defense is heading down. Once you do that, your next line can step up.”

The PDS defense held the line in thwarting Hun. “We moved Katie Shih back there and she did a good job of stepping up,” said Arndt.

“Niki van Manen has been talking more and organizing the defense. Kyra Hall on the other side as a young player wasn’t necessarily as aggressive as she needs to be, although she was in practice. It is just a matter of pulling that out of here, she’s stepped up to a lot of cross balls which was really good. Kiely French plays very simple, we moved her over to one of the rushers on corners and I think it has really helped. Katie [Alden] is back there in goal really supporting the team.”

Arndt is hoping that the Panthers can keep up their aggressive play. “I sure hope so; they are working hard at practice,” said Arndt, whose team fell 3-2 to South Hunterdon last Monday to move to 2-6.

“All I am asking them to do is to stay consistent and work hard and walk off the field proud, whether it is a win or a loss. We’ll be fine with good attitudes and hard work.”

In Schomburg’s view, the win over Hun could be a turning point for the squad. “I think we really needed this,” said Schomburg. “This is a great starting point, it is really going to propel us forward.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Hannah Bunce chases down the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore Bunce scored the game-winning goal as PDS rallied to beat Germantown Academy (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, who topped Blair 3-1 on Saturday to improve to 5-2-1, play at Lawrenceville on October 2 before hosting Montclair Kimberley on October 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Hannah Bunce chases down the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore Bunce scored the game-winning goal as PDS rallied to beat Germantown Academy (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, who topped Blair 3-1 on Saturday to improve to 5-2-1, play at Lawrenceville on October 2 before hosting Montclair Kimberley on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hannah Bunce wasn’t fazed as the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team fell behind twice in the first half against visiting Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Friday.

“We definitely knew that they were going to be a tough challenge,” said sophomore Bunce, reflecting on the contest which saw PDS trailing 1-0 and 2-1.

“We focused. We worked hard, we kept going and we stayed positive and the next thing you know we were banging in one goal after another.”

The Panthers tied the game at 2-2 late in the first half and then Bunce banged in the biggest goal of the afternoon, tallying the game-winner with 3:02 left in regulation as PDS pulled out a 3-2 victory.

“I knew a goal would come,” said Bunce. “We kept working, we just had to be patient. I was a little nervous when the ball came to me. I just took a whack at it. I was thinking don’t miss.”

With a high school season under her belt, Bunce feels less nervous on the field this fall.

“As a freshman, I lacked a lot of confidence playing on varsity,” said Bunce.

“This year, I am a little more confident on the field, I know my place and the older girls help out with that.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta believes the dramatic win over Germantown should be a confidence builder for his squad. “We didn’t play a great first half but what we did is battled,” said Trombetta.

“We came from behind 1-0 and 2-1. At halftime we made a couple of adjustments. For us as a team, this is a special win because we needed a win against a real high caliber team to give them a boost of confidence. This goes a long way.”

Trombetta is seeing more confident play from Bunce. “We talked about crash the net, crash the net, and that’s how we won the game with a girl crashing the net,” said Trombetta, who also got goals from Abby Atkeson and Alexa Soltesz in the victory.

“We saw that keeper coming off her line a lot. She was very aggressive so we were hoping that we were going to beat her on a couple of those. Hannah was in the right place at the right time there, crashing the net. We moved Hannah from outside mid to up top this year; she is creating some opportunities. She has a left foot cannon on her. She takes the corner kick from that one side of the field as well and some of our free kicks. She has come along, she has adjusted to this new position. She is doing a great job.”

Freshman goalie Grace Barbara did a great job for the Panthers against Germantown, making 10 saves, including some leaping stops and a full-out dive late in regulation to deny Germantown. “Grace kept us in the game, she had a fantastic game,” asserted Trombetta.

In addition to scoring the first PDS goal of the afternoon, sophomore Abby Atkeson gave the Panther defense a big lift.

“We knew that No. 1 was a special player for them; she was the playmaker and she was beating us left and right in the first half,” said Trombetta.

“We put Abby on her and she did a great job of shutting her down. She blanketed her for the rest of the game. I think that made a big difference.”

In recent games, the PDS attack has been making a big difference. “All along we have been getting the opportunities but we haven’t been finishing but now we got four goals in the Peddie game and three goals in the Germantown Academy game,” said Trombetta, whose team took another step forward last Saturday, beating Blair 3-1 with a pair of goals by Alexa Soltesz and one by Allison Klei to improve to 5-2-1.

“I think things are starting to come together on the offensive end. Now we are starting to play as a team and finish our chances.”

Bunce, for her part, believes the win over Germantown is proof that things are coming together for the Panthers.

“We are getting our thing going,” said Bunce. “It was definitely a confidence builder; they were a good team.”

While the Princeton Day School cross country program doesn’t boast strength in numbers, it does feature some high quality runners.

As the PDS boys’ squad defeated visiting Pennington 24-35 last week, Panther sophomore Ian Moini set the pace, covering the 5,000-meter course in 16:35, more than a minute better than runner-up Ryan Rizzuto of Pennington (17:40).

PDS head coach Merrell Noden wasn’t surprised that Moini cruised to victory.

“Ian is on his way to becoming the best runner in PDS history; he is a year older, that is part of it,” said Noden, noting that Moini went to cross country camps this summer in Indiana and at Princeton University.

“He is more focused and more intense. He wants to do everything hard and fast. I want him to do a long run of 70 minutes each week and he comes back after a hard 40 minute run. He ran 17:08 twice last year. He did 16:50 at the Newark Academy Invitational earlier this season. I think he can get down to the low 16s this year.”

Sophomore Kevin Sun is coming on fast for the Panthers. “Kevin had never run before this year; he is an incredible workhorse,” said Noden.

“Without knowing what he was doing, he was running 60 miles a week this summer. He has run only four races in his life to this point. We finish practice and he wants to go out and run another 20 minutes; he always adds to whatever we are doing.”

PDS is getting good work from the trio of junior Nick Chen, junior Peter Klein, and freshman Tommy Batterman.

“Nick Chen is a steady guy for us; he was under 20 for us last year,” said Noden.

“Peter Klein is a good looking runner for us, he is showing steady improvement. Tommy Batterman has been fourth, fifth, or sixth for us in every race; we expect him to keep improving.”

As for the girls’ team, Noden is expecting big things from sophomore Morgan Mills.

“Like Ian with the boys, Morgan is on her way to being the best girl runner ever at PDS,” said Noden of Mills who posted a time of 20:29 in placing first as the Panther girls defeated Pennington 23-32.

“She insists on training with the boys. She ran a 20:08 last year against New Hope, that is the best time ever for a PDS girl. I think she can get in the mid 19s.”

Noden believes that junior Emma Sharer can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“Emma is a smooth and efficient runner,” added Noden. “She has started slowly but I expect her to improve and get to where she was last year when she helped the girls’ team to its first medalist performance at the prep meet.”

Freshman Bridget Kane has been a big help so far this fall. “I didn’t know her before she showed up this summer,” said Noden, noting that senior captain Emma Kaplan is currently sidelined by injury but could return later this fall. “She was instantly able to run with our top girls. She has been third for us in every meet.”

ONE TO WATCH: Hun School field hockey player Julie Fassl looks for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Fassl scored a goal to help Hun beat the George School 4-2 and improve to 3-3. The Raiders host Steinert on October 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE TO WATCH: Hun School field hockey player Julie Fassl looks for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Fassl scored a goal to help Hun beat the George School 4-2 and improve to 3-3. The Raiders host Steinert on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last week, the Hun School field hockey team appeared to be on the right track.

The Raiders had won two of their last three games, including an impressive 2-0 victory over WW/P-S on September 20.

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk was happy with the way things were going. “Oh definitely, we were making progress,” said Quirk in assessing her team’s 2-2 start.

But the Raiders took a step backward when they played at the Princeton Day School on September 23, falling 4-0 to the Panthers.

“We didn’t come ready to play today, it was very
obvious,” said Quirk.

“They pounded and pounded away at the goalie and we took one shot and stood and watched. We just couldn’t seem to capitalize today. We had too many long passes go out that normally we run and get. Their goalie [Katie Alden] played a nice game.”

Hun has been getting some nice play from the trio of seniors Vicki Leach and Julia Blake along with sophomore Julie Fassl as all three had produced in Hun’s previous three games with Leach tallying two goals and two assists in that stretch and Blake chipping in two goals and an assist, and Fassl contributing a goal and two assists.

“Leach and Fassl have been bright spots, so has Julia Blake,” said Quirk, who got a 20-save effort from senior goalie Reina Kern in the loss to PDS.

With the Hun program having shown a penchant for late-season surges in recent years, Quirk believes her squad can get back on the winning track.

“We have to change our attitudes a little,” said Quirk, whose team topped the George School (Pa.) 4-2 last Saturday with goals by Maura Kelly, Julia Revock along with Blake and Fassl as it improved to 3-3.

“We just have to get more aggressive. We have to look up before we pass. We need to work on confidence.”

September 24, 2014
PILING ON: Princeton High linebacker Sam Smallzman flies on top of the pile as PHS stymies Ewing last Friday on its way to a 7-0 win over the Blue Devils. Senior star Smallzman contributed a fumble recovery and game-sealing interception along with a slew of tackles as the Little Tigers improved to 2-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Hightstown on September 27.(Photo by John Dowers)

PILING ON: Princeton High linebacker Sam Smallzman flies on top of the pile as PHS stymies Ewing last Friday on its way to a 7-0 win over the Blue Devils. Senior star Smallzman contributed a fumble recovery and game-sealing interception along with a slew of tackles as the Little Tigers improved to 2-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Hightstown on September 27. (Photo by John Dowers)

With Harris Field packed last Friday evening as the Princeton High football team played under lights specially brought in for Homecoming festivities, the school’s studio band got the fans on their feet with a spirited halftime rendition of the Supremes’ classic “Respect.”

The crowd kept cheering all night long as PHS earned a large dose of respect, stifling Ewing en route to a hard-earned 7-0 win.

It was the second straight victory for the Little Tigers, who have emerged as one of the pleasant surprises of the fall, bouncing back from a 0-10 campaign in 2013.

Afterward, a beaming senior linebacker Sam Smallzman said he and his teammates fed off the festive atmosphere of the throng estimated at 2,000.

“It was great, the whole school was here,” said Smallzman. “It was the first game under the lights ever at PHS. It was a great feeling to give our fans that. It was great to have them support us.”

For Smallzman, it was an especially great moment, considering that he was sidelined early last season with an ACL and meniscus injury.

“I worked all off season,” said Smallzman. “My teammates pushed me and believed in me to get back. I am doing what I can for them.”

On Friday, Smallzman did quite a lot for the Little Tigers, making a slew of tackles, recovering a fumble in the third quarter, and coming up with an interception in the last minute of regulation to seal the victory.

While Smallzman stood out, the defensive performance was definitely a group effort.

“Coach Goldy [defensive coordinator Scott Goldsmith] does a great job of making sure that we all have fun,” said Smallzman.

“We are really getting after it, swarming, and communicating. We have a great group of guys; we all trust each other to lock it down. It was just no big plays, everyone swarm, wrap up, and communicate. I think we did a great job.”

Smallzman has a big job as the team’s defensive signal caller. “I call the plays but it is really everybody,” said Smallzman. “There is no one guy who does it all. It was great to get a shutout.”

Smallzman won’t soon forget getting the game-clinching play on the late interception.

“I was missing them earlier in the game, I had one that hit me in the hands,” said Smallzman. “I read the QB, I jumped it, and the rest is history.”

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher liked the way his defensive unit jumped all over the Blue Devils.

“We tried to put together a great defensive scheme,” said Gallagher.

“Coach Goldsmith, our d-coordinator, is doing a great job. We are firing on all cylinders. It was a great total team effort from the front line of the defense to the backers to the defensive backs. They are all making plays.”

The Little Tigers got a special effort from Smallzman. “He is a beast in the middle, we love him,” asserted Gallagher.

“He is the heart and soul but at the same time he is one of several guys this year. Last year, there weren’t as many guys out there. There were one or two guys trying to carry the load. We have other great players out there who are filling everything that needs to be filled to win football games because you just can’t do it with two or three kids.”

The Little Tigers were thrilled to get a second straight win to start the season.

“I think they say the hardest part about being 1-0 is getting to be 2-0,” said Gallagher, whose offense came through when it counted as junior star Rory Helstrom scored the lone touchdown of the night on an 11-yard run in the third quarter after PHS got the ball deep in Ewing territory on a botched fake punt by the Blue Devils.

“It is a big confidence boost. Getting that first win gave us confidence. I felt good this week. I was a little bit nervous about feeling good and confident; I haven’t had that feeling too often. But now we are 2-0. We are just going to take it one a game at a time. We have got a strong Hightstown team next week.”

Gallagher felt his team drew strength last Friday from the standing-room only crowd on hand at Harris Field.

“Without a doubt, to come out here and see the entire stands filled, what a great atmosphere,” said Gallagher.

“Thanks to the PTO and the football booster club because this wasn’t cheap. They did a great job of helping the PHS football program out and putting on a great event.”

Smallzman is hoping for some more great moments in the upcoming weeks. “We are just taking it game by game,” said Smallzman.

“We beat Hamilton West and as soon as that was over, we moved on, and focused on Ewing. The same goes for this week. We will watch a little film and move on and start getting ready for next week.”

 

EMERGING FORCE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jurriaan Dijkgraaf chases down the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 3-2 win over Ewing. Senior Dijkgraaf scored two goals in the game as PHS improved to 6-0. The Little Tigers play at Lawrence on September 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EMERGING FORCE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jurriaan Dijkgraaf chases down the ball last Saturday in PHS’s 3-2 win over Ewing. Senior Dijkgraaf scored two goals in the game as PHS improved to 6-0. The Little Tigers play at Lawrence on September 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jurriaan Dijkgraaf and the Princeton High boys’ soccer team appeared to be on cruise control as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Ewing last Saturday.

“We got off to a good start,” said senior midfielder Dijkgraaf. “We got a quick goal from Nick Halliday, that was a really good goal. Then I got a goal. We felt like the game was in lockdown. We had a good feeling going into halftime.”

The Little Tigers, though, weren’t feeling so great in the second half as Ewing scored to cut their lead to one goal.

“A 2-0 lead is a really dangerous lead in soccer,” said Dijkgraaf. “You feel like you got this and then they score and it is oh god.”

Dijkgraff scored a second goal on the day to give PHS some breathing room. “That was a really good ball from Chase Ealy,” said Dijkgraaf, recalling the goal. “The defender got a touch on it and then I could just slot it in.”

That tally turned out be the game-winner as Ewing scored on a penalty kick to make it a 3-2 game and nearly tied the game up in the waning moments as a header off a set piece went just wide.

“This was a really scary game,” said Dijkgraaf, reflecting on the victory, which improved PHS to 6-0. “I was scared on the last corner.

Dijkgraaf has turned a corner this season, emerging as a star player this fall after being part of the supporting cast in 2013.

“I changed position this year, I am playing on the left,” said Dijkgraaf.

“I used to play all the way up top, next to Chase. It is hard being a striker sometimes and not being able to go back and get that ball. I like being able to do both. I just try to go hard and give it my all.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from Dijkgraaf.

“Jurriaan is finding the net, he’s a tireless worker,” said Sutcliffe. “He works hard, he is either one or two in all of our fitness tests. He gives us some energy that other guys can’t give us. He’s got to keep working and get better but it has been great to see him finding the score sheet.”

Senior co-captain Chase Ealy has been giving PHS energy and offensive production.

“Chase is a tireless worker, he has been a great captain,” said Sutcliffe. “His versatility is great. He has been scoring, he has been finding the final pass to the next guy. His work rate during the game, nobody works harder. The best news is that he is going to keep getting better.”

While Sutcliffe acknowledged that the second half wasn’t one of his team’s better stretches of play this fall, he liked the way his players persevered.

“It is good to have some challenges in games as long as you can come out on top, learning while you are winning,” said Sutcliffe.

“Credit to Ewing, they found a  way to make it hard on us. Fortunately we found a way to respond. These are the little tests that you have to pass. Every game we have been in this season has been like that. We have been challenged at one point or another by every opponent this year. That is the only way you can grow and get better as a team.”

Sutcliffe believes PHS is growing into something special. “I think the spirit and the chemistry of the team is great, that matters most in the tournaments,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“We are seeing some evidence of last year’s experience. I am happy with the work rate of the team, the camaraderie, the competitiveness, and the fact that we are so deep. We couldn’t ask for anything more. We are totally pleased with their effort and their open-mindedness and willingness to learn and get better. We can capture the biggest prizes in New Jersey soccer if we keep getting better and trusting one another.”

Dijkgraaf, for his part, believes the team’s good chemistry could make the difference as the fall unfolds.

“We just want to keep winning,” said Dijkgraaf. “This team is really close. There is no gap between age groups. It is a really good feeling. I think we are just closer than last year. I think that will help us.”

 

HUSTLE PLAY: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior midfielder Reilly contributed an assist to help PHS top Stuart Country Day 4-0. The Little Tigers, now 6-1, play at Lawrenceville on September 24, host Lawrence High on September 26, and play at WW/P-N on September 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HUSTLE PLAY: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly races up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, junior midfielder Reilly contributed an assist to help PHS top Stuart Country Day 4-0. The Little Tigers, now 6-1, play at Lawrenceville on September 24, host Lawrence High on September 26, and play at WW/P-N on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High field hockey team hit the field Saturday to host Stuart Country Day, it was riding a wave of emotion from the weekend’s Homecoming festivities.

“We were fired up with the whole entire homecoming aspect,” said PHS junior midfielder Trish Reilly.

“We started getting fired up last night so we were ready to go. We just wanted to get an early lead. Stuart is a strong team and we know they are aggressive. We definitely wanted to get some goals in the net before they got going.”

Reilly helped PHS get on the board early, setting up a Lucy Herring goal five minutes into the contest.

“Lucy and I do a lot of cross ball drills in practice,” said Reilly. “She is just always in the right pocket and in the right place at the right time. It is nice; I know where she will be without even having to look.”

The Little Tigers looked formidable all afternoon long as they pulled away to a 4-0 win over Stuart.

“We kept our composure which we are trying to work on,” said Reilly. “We had positive energy.”

Reilly brings energy all over the field for PHS. “I am almost like the assistant to both offense and defense,” explained Reilly, who tallied a goal and an assist on Monday as PHS toped Hopewell Valley 4-1 to improve to 6-1.

“I have Georgia [McLean] or Kennedy [Corrado] behind me and I am always trying to help them so they can get a great tackle. Or I am feeding it up the field to Avery [Peterson] and Campbell [McDonald] so they can get a good shot.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson likes the way Reilly contributes all over the field.

“Trish is great on the right side offensively,” said Serverson. “She is able to get the ball up and down the right corner and cross it for us. Plus she is always hustling back on defense. She is the first midfielder to mark; she is everywhere.”

Senior forward Lucy Herring, who scored two goals in the win over Stuart, has been on the mark all season.

“Part of the key for Lucy is that she played a little bit of midfield for us last year and ever since then it’s really enhanced her center forward position,” said Serverson.

“She always comes back to help as a forward and that is a hard thing to get them trained to do. Plus, she is always talking. She is really aware of options once she has the ball in the circle, which is one of the places where most players lose their composure. She is able to maintain that.”

Serverson also liked the way senior Campbell McDonald came through in the circle on Saturday as she scored PHS’s two other goals.

“It was nice, especially because she is coming off that injury,” said Serverson. “She pulled a hamstring so she is finally able to get down the field quickly like she used to be able to. Her stick has been on lately too, she caught quite a few that were going to go out of bounds. She caught them right on the edge there so that was great.”

In Serverson’s view, her team’s quick start against Stuart was another encouraging sign.

“I am just happy that we are able to go out and start a game with intensity,” said Serverson, whose team plays at Lawrenceville on September 24, hosts Lawrence High on September 26, and plays at WW/P-N on September 29.

“In our previous games, we came out flat or areas of the field were flat. But today everyone was on the same page at the same time and that is something we have really been working on. I am so proud of them for that.”

Reilly, for her part, is confident that the Little Tigers will keep bringing the intensity.

“We definitely want to go far this season,” said Reilly. “The focus is capitalizing and just starting out strong. We want to capitalize on our corners a lot more. We are good at getting those but we want to finish them.”

 

LINCHPIN: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Marco ­Pinheiro kicks the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder Pinheiro scored a goal to help PDS top South Hunterdon 4-0. The Panthers, who improved to 3-1-1 with the victory, host the Blair Academy on September 27 before playing at the Hun School on September 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LINCHPIN: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Marco ­Pinheiro kicks the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder Pinheiro scored a goal to help PDS top South Hunterdon 4-0. The Panthers, who improved to 3-1-1 with the victory, host the Blair Academy on September 27 before playing at the Hun School on September 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Marco Pinheiro is determined to get the most out of his senior year on the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team.

“I am trying to attack more and with the players we have around me,” said star midfielder Pinheiro.

“CJ [Uche] in the middle has learned how to sit back and control the ball and get it up the field. We have some good holding players up top with Dave [Cedeno] and Connor [Fletcher]. We have some center backs who know how to get the ball up to David and Connor and they lay it off, so it is a lot easier when everybody is on the same page.”

PDS was on the same page last Thursday as it pulled away to a 4-0 win over South Hunterdon, its third win in its last four games.

“I think we are usually good at keeping the ball but today we were able to keep the ball higher up the field and get more people into attack,” said Pinheiro, reflecting on the victory which improved the Panthers to 3-1-1.

“Kevin Hagen was getting up, Peter Sanderson was getting up the line so that was better. We usually keep the ball in the back but today we got forward.”

While Pinheiro was snakebitten early in the game as one of his shots rattled off the crossbar and another went just wide, he slotted a second half penalty kick into the back of the net to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

“I just try to stay focused; I tend to go to the same side,” said Pinheiro, reflecting on his approach to PKs.

“You miss a free kick or a shot, it could get into your head. I try to just focus on what is coming next.”

As a senior captain, Pinheiro is focused on developing team unity. “I just try to get everybody together,” said Pinheiro.

“We do things outside of school, we do stuff on the field at practice. We are all together. I think it is a good spirit and that’s what we try to do here.”

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy is seeing a good spirit collectively from his squad in the early going.

“I am pretty happy with where they are now,” said Murphy. “The concept is getting through to them that if you keep the ball you can manipulate the game. Without the ball, all you are doing is defending. We had a lot of sessions with possession and they are doing well in the sessions, the question is can we bring that to the field now.”

Murphy is very happy with the play he has been getting from Pinheiro, who has three goals on the season.

“He has been an exceptional player for years; he and his brother (Rui, a 2012 PDS alum now playing at Tufts University) have been great for the school,” said Murphy.

“He reads the game very well; he’s got great technique. As a set piece, free kick taker, he is very good. He is confident, he is very composed. Lots of players with that skill level, can be lethargic. He’s not, he is chasing the game. He wants to go play at college and he should at a very high level.”

In the win over South Hunterdon, the Panthers raised their level of play in the second half after squandering a number of scoring chances in the last 40 minutes of the contest.

“At halftime, the challenge for this group after they have missed so many chances, it is that psychology. Can they still compete in the second half or will the opposition come and close them down,” said Murphy.

“Today the three goals that they got in the second half were pure possession, building it up and then balls played back. They did very well, hopefully that will cushion them a little bit when it comes to the psychology of the game. You don’t win games in the first half, it is a long game. You have to play for the 80 minutes.”

Murphy is hoping his team can build on that second half outburst. “I think they are in a very good place right now,” added Murphy, whose team hosts the Blair Academy on September 27 before playing at the Hun School on September 30.

“We have got some hard games coming up. Possession-wise, over 80 percent of the field, I think we can compete with anybody but can we separate ourselves with the finishing. It is no good having all the game and not putting it away.”

Pinheiro, for his part, believes the Panthers can produce a big finish this fall. “It is pretty much the same team as last year, we have just matured a lot,” said Pinheiro.

“People have found their spots and taken over their roles. Everyone is playing well and working for each other. In the loss against Pennington (2-0 on September 11), we played a great game. We were able to keep the ball. We think that we can go out and play with anybody.”

 

Kara Borden and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ soccer team were out of synch in the early going as they hosted Germantown Academy (Pa.) last week.

“In the first half I felt like we weren’t possessing the ball,” said freshman forward Borden.

“We were kicking it in and just hoping for the best. We weren’t playing as a team. At halftime, coach [Joanna Hallac] said just relax and play our game and play how we know.”

In the second half, with Hun trailing 1-0, the precocious Borden displayed her game, chipping in a goal to knot the game at 1-1, which turned out to be the final score as neither team found the back of the net over the rest of the contest.

“I got the ball and the goalie was out and then she turned to run back and I thought I don’t know whether I should shoot it or not,” said Borden, recalling her tally, the first of her Hun career.

“I took a touch and relaxed and I tried to chip it over her head and it almost hit the crossbar. I got so nervous. I was waiting, like is that going in. It felt so good when it went in.”

Borden is hoping to get a lot more goals in for Hun this fall. “It is a lot as a freshman forward to score goals, especially when we are down one,” said Borden, who tallied another goal along with an assist last Thursday as Hun edged Princeton Day School 2-1.

“It always feels good when you accomplish what you want to do. Finishing is a great accomplishment and hopefully as the season goes on I can score more and more goals and help my team out.”

Borden knows that it is going to be a challenge to finish on the high school level.

“You play a lot of bigger and older girls, they are just as big and fast as you,” said Borden.

“I usually try to outrun the girls. When I play high school, I can’t so I have to play around girls or combine with others.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac lauded Borden for her big goal against Germantown.

“It was exciting,” said Hallac. “I think it hung in the air, it was like slow motion. She was composed under pressure. I thought she did a really nice job reading the situation and finishing.”

Hallac believes Borden can put a lot of pressure on Hun’s foes as the season goes on.

“I expect many more of those from her, I think she can make a big impact,” said Hallac.

“With Marleigh Nociti’s speed and Kara’s tenacity and strength up top, that is a nice combination. Kara causes a lot of headaches for the other team.”

Hun’s strong finish against Germantown was a nice step forward for the squad, which fell 2-1 to South Brunswick in its season opener on September 13. “In the second half they came to life, there was more spark,” said Hallac. “They were playing with a sense of urgency. They were playing the kind of soccer that I know that they can play, just being dangerous and creating dangerous chances and actually finishing one of them finally.”

Junior goalie Courtney Arch helped spark the Raiders as she closed the door on Germantown in the second half.

“She is much more confident and much more composed, taking control and command out there,” said Hallac. “It is nice to see her developing. She made a really nice save there at the end to preserve the tie.”

Hun got some composed play up and down the field. “I thought the back line was solid with Ashley Maziarz and Jess Johnson,” said Hallac. “Natalie Csapo had a nice game. Jess Sacco was making some nice runs out of the middle. Everyone really contributed.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun is just scratching the surface of how good it can be this fall.

“There are a lot of new players so they are still getting used to playing with each other,” said Hallac, whose team topped Nottingham 5-0 last Saturday to improve to 2-1-1 and plays at the George School (Pa.) on September 26 and at Pennington on September 30.

“I think this was much better, they know what needs to be done. We still have plenty of work to do.”

Borden, for her part, believes Hun can do some big things this fall. “I think we can build from this,” said Borden. “I feel like this is a confidence builder and that we are getting better every single game.”

ON THE RUN: Stuart Country Day field hockey player Julia ­Maser heads upfield in 2013 action. Last Saturday, Maser and the Tartans got stymied as they fell 4-0 at Princeton High to drop to 1-4. Stuart will look to get on the winning track as it plays at Blair Academy on September 24 and at Montgomery High on September 29.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE RUN: Stuart Country Day field hockey player Julia ­Maser heads upfield in 2013 action. Last Saturday, Maser and the Tartans got stymied as they fell 4-0 at Princeton High to drop to 1-4. Stuart will look to get on the winning track as it plays at Blair Academy on September 24 and at Montgomery High on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at powerful Princeton High last Saturday, the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team dug an early hole, yielding a goal in the first five minutes of the contest.

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw that her squad was unsettled in the early going.

“I thought it took us 10 minutes to get going,” said Bruvik. “There was a lot going on around with the Princeton homecoming. I told them to focus on the field and not worry about those other elements.”

Although Stuart went on to fall 4-0 to once-beaten PHS (5-1), Bruvik liked the way her players responded after the slow start.

“I thought after we settled down, we did a better job,” said Bruvik, whose team dropped to 1-4 with the setback.

“We did some things well, we looked to transfer the ball. Even though they had two goals in the second half, I thought we did a better job of trying to pressure them and almost getting to some of those balls.”

Senior goalie Harlyn Bell and sophomore defender Izzy Engel held up well under the relentless PHS pressure.

“I thought Harlyn Bell was outstanding in the goal cage, she had a great game,” said Bruvik of Bell, who recorded 23 saves on the afternoon. “Izzy Engel played a good game at center back. She was on the ball.”

The Tartans produced a very good effort earlier in the week when they fell 4-3 in overtime to WW/P-N.

“I thought we played really well against North the other day,” said Bruvik, reflecting on the September 18 contest in which Stuart got goals from Cate Donahue, Ali Hannah, and Tori Hannah.

“We scored the first goal and they scored three. We came back and scored in the last minute to tie it up. That was a good game; we showed resiliency.”

With games at Blair Academy on September 24 and at Montgomery High on September 29, the Tartans will need to show more resiliency.

“I still challenge the kids to communicate more on the field,” said Bruvik. “Also in our defensive circle, we need tight marking. We need to work on conditioning. We had girls who were tired early playing at this pace.”

 

FIRST IN LINE: Hun School lineman Panayiotis Zavaliangos looks for a hit in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, Zavaliangos’ play in the trenches helped Hun top Wyoming Seminary 56-14 in its season opener and first game under new head coach Todd Smith. The Raiders host Poly Prep (N.Y.) on September 27 in their home opener.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST IN LINE: Hun School lineman Panayiotis Zavaliangos looks for a hit in a 2013 game. Last Saturday, Zavaliangos’ play in the trenches helped Hun top Wyoming Seminary 56-14 in its season opener and first game under new head coach Todd Smith. The Raiders host Poly Prep (N.Y.) on September 27 in their home opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Hun School football team approached its season opener at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) last Saturday like a business trip.

“We went out there the night before,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith, who was making his debut at the helm of the program.

“We practiced at Wilkes University and then we took the team out to dinner. We got up the next day and played a football game.”

Once the game started, the Raiders took care of business with aplomb, jumping out to a 28-6 first quarter lead on the way to a 56-14 victory.

“I was really happy with the way we came off the ball,” said Smith. “We wanted the ball right away so we could set a tone. I think the first drive was eight plays, it was our longest of the day. We mixed the run and pass well. I was happy with all facets of the game, special teams, offense, and defense. I was excited by how we played.”

While Smith was able to contain his excitement in the wake of the triumph, the players enjoyed the moment.

“I was pretty even-keeled,” said Smith, who has been involved in a lot of victories as the head coach at WW/P-S from 2005 to 2012 and the offensive coordinator at Hopewell Valley last fall.

“It was a happy bus ride home. It was really good for them to see how their hard work paid off. We hadn’t gone against another team since Nottingham, scrimmage and those practices can drag.”

The Raiders got some hard running from senior and Virginia-bound Christopher Sharp, who rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a 43-yard touchdown pass.

“Chris did a great job on offense, both catching and running the ball,” said Smith. “He has that balance of power and speed. He played four quarters and went both ways and came out of it fine. He is in great shape.”

Junior transfer quarterback Simon Vadas enjoyed a great debut for Hun, hitting on 7-of-9 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns.

“Simon did a great job managing the game,” noted Smith. “He hit Julian Williams on a 37-yard TD and Chris on a 43-yarder. We wanted to put him in good spots and I thought he did really well.”

The Raiders also got some terrific special teams performances. “Justin Morrison did a great job; he had two punt returns and two kickoff returns and had about 200 return yards,” said Smith.

“He gave us a short field. Danny Seelagy was 8-for-8 on kicks and got our last TD so that was a good 14 point day for him.”

In the trenches, post-graduate Cameron Kitchen was all over the field. “Cameron was the dominant player for us on defense,” said Smith.

“It is unusual for a defensive lineman to lead you in tackles but he had 10 tackles, 5 for a loss, and 4½ sacks.”

Despite Hun’s dominance last Saturday, Smith knows the Raiders will have their hands full when they host powerful Poly Prep (N.Y.) on September 27 in their home opener.

“We are playing the toughest team on our schedule,” said Smith of Poly Prep (4-0).

“I was happy with the tempo and speed that we had on Saturday but we can’t afford any mental mistakes. It will be the most physical game of the year. I wish it came later in the schedule because they have already played four games and this will be our second. But I came to Hun for games like this. To be the best, you have to beat the best.”

 

September 17, 2014
BREAKING THROUGH: Princeton High football player Rory ­Helstrom breaks away on a run last season. Last Saturday, junior star ­Helstrom came up big as PHS defeated Hamilton 28-7 for the program’s first win since November, 2012. Helstrom rushed for 131 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He also made a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that put the Little Tigers ahead to stay. PHS hosts Ewing (0-1) on September 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING THROUGH: Princeton High football player Rory ­Helstrom breaks away on a run last season. Last Saturday, junior star ­Helstrom came up big as PHS defeated Hamilton 28-7 for the program’s first win since November, 2012. Helstrom rushed for 131 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He also made a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that put the Little Tigers ahead to stay. PHS hosts Ewing (0-1) on September 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Rory Helstrom and his teammates on the Princeton High football team viewed their season opener against Hamilton last Saturday as the chance to set a positive tone after going winless last fall.

“We knew the first game would really demonstrate how we are going to play the rest of the season,” said junior running back/linebacker Helstrom.

“If we came out hot and won the first game, we could keep doing well and that would give us momentum for the homecoming game.”

The 5’10, 165-pound Helstrom made sure that the Little Tigers started out with a bang, sprinting down the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown run on PHS’s first drive of the season to give it a 6-0 lead.

“I just saw a cutback and I took it,” said Helstrom. “Once I got outside one guy, there was no one left and I just took it down the sideline.”

As the first half unfolded, though, PHS squandered two possessions deep in Hamilton territory and went into halftime down 7-6.

“We had opportunities in the red zone but we just couldn’t convert them,” lamented Helstrom. “We had trouble with that.”

In the third quarter, Helstrom seized opportunity once again, producing a scintillating 91-yard punt return for a touchdown that put PHS ahead 12-7.

“I saw a lot of guys coming so I went left,” recalled Helstrom. “Then I just went right and there was no one left so I just took it.”

The Little Tigers took it from there, adding touchdowns on an 80-yard scoring strike from Dave Beamer to Joe Hawes and a nine-yard run by Sam Smallzman to pull away to a 28-7 win, the program’s first victory since topping New Brunswick 22-14 on November 16, 2012.

While the big plays on offense turned heads in the win, the foundation of the triumph was a stifling defensive effort.

“We knew if we got into their backfield we could beat them,” said Helstrom.

“Coach Goldsmith [defensive coordinator Scott Goldsmith] kept sending us on blitzes to rush the quarterback because he had trouble dealing with the pressure.”

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher likes the way Helstrom puts opposing defense under pressure.

“He is a playmaker, everybody is going to have to do something to try to defend him which will hopefully open things up for other players as well,” said Gallagher of Helstrom, who rushed for 131 yards on the day.

“We are just excited that he is on our squad and we don’t have to defend against him. He’s a player on offense and he’s a player on defense. You can tell that he is just a talented football player.”

The Little Tigers boast another talented offensive weapon in junior quarterback Dave Beamer, who passed for 110 yards in the victory.

“Dave Beamer is a great quarterback, we are really high on him,” asserted Gallagher.

“He can be one of the best quarterbacks in this area, there is conversation about other QBs but we love Dave. He has a great arm.”

Gallagher loved the way his defense performed as it made four interceptions and held the Hornets to 207 yards total offense.

“Defensively we are doing a great job too,” said Gallagher, whose team had lost 34-0 to Hamilton last year. “We are swarming to the ball and making some plays.”

As preseason camp went on, Gallagher got the sense that his team was primed to do the job in the opener.

“We got better every scrimmage that we played this year,” noted Gallagher. “You want to peak for that first game, you want to be ready. Now we have to carry that peak through the season.”

For second-year head coach Gallagher, getting his first career win was a peak experience.

“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet, to be honest with you,” said a beaming Gallagher, who got the obligatory water bucket shower as part of a raucous post-game celebration which saw the Little Tigers jumping for joy with hugs all around.

“I am excited for the players and I am excited for myself, no doubt. It is good to be 1-0, we are not going to be looking at any division races yet or anything like that. We are going to take it one game at a time. We have a tough Ewing squad next week, I think they made the playoffs last year.”

Helstrom, for his part, hopes that the triumph sets the tone going forward as the Little Tigers host Ewing (0-1) on September 19 as part of the school’s homecoming festivities.

“It is the first win since two years ago,” said Helstrom. “We want to use this to keep rolling and win the rest of the season.”

 

POWER PLAY: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis blasts a serve in action last season. Senior tri-captain Lewis has starred at third singles this fall as PHS has produced a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host Lawrence on September 17 before playing at Notre Dame on September 19 and at Steinert on September 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POWER PLAY: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis blasts a serve in action last season. Senior tri-captain Lewis has starred at third singles this fall as PHS has produced a 5-1 start. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host Lawrence on September 17 before playing at Notre Dame on September 19 and at Steinert on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Based on its match last week against WW/P-S, it appears that the Princeton High girls’ tennis team is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the upcoming Mercer County Tournament.

Although PHS lost 3-2 to the Pirates, who have won five of the last six  MCT team titles, the Little Tigers showed that they are a top level squad.

“It was really close, it could have gone either way,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, who got wins from Christina Rosca at first singles and Rory Lewis at third singles.

“It came down to three third sets. It would have been a better step if we had won it but it was definitely a good experience. Overall, everyone fought hard. I want the girls to learn from this.”

Having junior superstar Rosca at first singles makes PHS hard to beat.

“Chris looked great in her match,” said Hibbert of Rosca, who won the first singles crown at the MCT last year and went on to take state singles championship.

“She was blasting the ball, she was in good form. She has got some more pace on her shots. Her footwork is better; her serve is a little better.”

At second and third singles, PHS features two battle-tested seniors in Katelyn Hojelbane and Lewis, respectively.

“The two of them are at a very similar level; on any given day one can beat the other,” said Hibbert, noting that Lewis played second singles in 2013 and that Hojelbane held that spot the year before.

“They are both hard workers with solid ground strokes. Confidence will be a big thing for them; they need to believe in themselves because their games are there.”

Hibbert believes her first doubles team of senior Zhenia Dementyev and junior Nikhita Salgame and the second doubles pair of junior Gilliam Samios and sophomore Elise Gerdes should be solid.

“Their styles complement each other,” explained Hibbert. “Zhenia is more aggressive and likes taking over at the net. Nikhita is very steady and keeps the ball in play. Gillian is willing to be aggressive and Elise is a steady player. I didn’t want to put the two aggressive players together and the two steady players together. It is better to balance styles.”

In terms of team leadership, the Little Tigers are benefitting from the complementary styles of seniors Lewis, Dementyev, and Hojelbane,

“All three seniors are co-captains,” said Hibbert. “ All three have different styles and I like that Rory is not the most vocal of the three. She is always working hard and is always ready to go, she is a true leader by example. Zhenia and Katelyn are also great leaders. Katelyn and Zhenia organize the team bonding stuff and cheer on the girls.”

The Little Tigers have the potential to put away most foes. “Overall we have a good group of girls, everyone is working really hard,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Ewing 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-1 and hosts Lawrence on September 17 before playing at Notre Dame on September 19 and at Steinert on September 22.

“The key is to solidify our doubles teams. Being strong at the bottom is as important as being strong at the top. You can have the best first singles player but you need two other points to back her up. We have good players waiting in the wings. We will be looking to give some players experience at the varsity level.”

If things come together, Hibbert believes her squad can make a very good run at the MCT, which is slated for September 29 and October 1.

“The key is to have everyone there and healthy this year,” said Hibbert. “It can be very close, a lot will depend on the draws and who plays well on the day.”

 

SWEEPING UP: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Stef Soltesz controls the ball in her role as sweeper. Last week, senior standout and Gettysburg College-bound Soltesz helped key a solid defensive effort as PDS battled the George School (Pa.) to a scoreless draw through two overtimes. The Panthers, who improved to 1-1-1 with a 1-0 win over Abington Friends (Pa.) last Friday, play at the Hun School on September 18 and at the Peddie School on September 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SWEEPING UP: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Stef Soltesz controls the ball in her role as sweeper. Last week, senior standout and Gettysburg College-bound Soltesz helped key a solid defensive effort as PDS battled the George School (Pa.) to a scoreless draw through two overtimes. The Panthers, who improved to 1-1-1 with a 1-0 win over Abington Friends (Pa.) last Friday, play at the Hun School on September 18 and at the Peddie School on September 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

A stingy defense was the calling card for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team last fall as it won the Mercer County Tournament.

With star defenders Lilly Razzaghi and Brit Murray having been lost to graduation from a unit that only yielded six goals last season, senior sweeper Stef Soltesz is looking to hold the fort on the backline this fall.

“I think I need to be loud, positive, and support my team,” said Soltesz. “I need to make sure that I am doing everything I can to help myself improve.”

After PDS battled the George School (Pa.) to a scoreless draw through two overtimes last week, Soltesz believes the team’s defensive unit is showing improvement this fall.

“I think Isabel Meyercord and Erin Hogan are really great in the back, they have both stepped up big time,” asserted Soltesz. “Grace [Barbara], our goalie, is amazing.”

In the tie with George, the Panthers stepped up in the latter stages of the contest, putting intense pressure on the Cougars, just missing goals as a free kick hit a post late in regulation and a chance in the box went just wide in the first overtime.

“I was really impressed,” said Soltesz. “In the beginning of the game we were a little slow. In the second half and the overtime we really picked it up. We were really aggressive; we definitely need to carry that out there throughout the whole game.”

Soltesz and her twin sister, star striker Alexa, give PDS an impressive one-two punch at opposite ends of the field.

“I definitely try to get it to her as much as I can because I know she is really hungry to score,” said Soltesz. “I usually know where she is.”

That connection is continuing on the next level as the twins have committed to attend Gettysburg College and play for its women’s soccer program.

“We had a couple of options actually,” said Soltesz, reflecting on the college choice.

“We ended up going to their summer camp and we really liked the school. The team was great, it reminded me a lot of PDS. I thought it would be a good fit academically and athletically. We definitely want to stay together.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta likes the way Soltesz is holding the defense together.

“Stef is solid back there,” said Trombetta. “With her quickness and speed, we push more players upfield, knowing that we have her in the back. That is what is helping us maintain possession and create the opportunities by our backs getting forward.”

“I thought we had the better of play throughout and more possession, we were looking for each other,” said Trombetta, whose team broke through with a 1-0 win over Abington Friends (Pa.) last Friday on a goal by freshman Madison Coyne and will look to build on that when it plays at the Hun School on September 18 and at the Peddie School on September 23.

“It is just misfortune right now, we can’t find the net. I am not frustrated because we are having the opportunities. If we weren’t getting the opportunities on the offensive end, I would have more concern.”

In Trombetta’s view, his squad should get better and better as the fall unfolds.

“It is a good group, they will get it together,” said Trombetta. “It is just going to take a little bit more time than we had hoped for.”

Soltesz, for her part, believes the Panthers are coming together. “I think we are starting to jell as a team and we can tell in practice,” said Soltesz. “We are improving. Everyone is really supportive of each other in school and outside of school. I think we are a good team and we have a good bond.”

 

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Taylor Lis heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Lis contributed four assists as PHS defeated Hamilton 6-0 to improve to 2-1. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers are slated to play at Ewing on September 19 before hosting powerful Pennington on September 20 as part of homecoming weekend.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Taylor Lis heads upfield in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Lis contributed four assists as PHS defeated Hamilton 6-0 to improve to 2-1. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers are slated to play at Ewing on September 19 before hosting powerful Pennington on September 20 as part of homecoming weekend. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton High girls’ soccer team suffered a frustrating 2-1 loss to Robbinsville to begin last week, the squad concentrated on its passing game as it hosted Hamilton on Friday.

“We actually had a team meeting before this game and we knew what to do in a situation like that,” said PHS junior star Taylor Lis.

“We had to focus on connecting the passing and getting the little things done first and we knew that would build into the bigger pieces.”

Midfielder Lis took that message to heart, connecting for four assists against Hamilton to help the Little Tigers go from a 1-0 halftime advantage to a 6-0 rout of the Hornets.

For Lis, her performance reflected her comfort level at playing in a new spot for PHS as she has been moved to center midfield this season after playing on the outside her first two years.

“Playing in the center mid, a key role of mine is to distribute the ball,” said Lis.

“A lot of the balls were on in behind today so I would get the ball and play in until I stepped up and drew the other girls’ defenders. I was able to play it through on most occasions.”

In the win over Hamilton, it took a while for PHS to get it going as it didn’t score its first goal until under 31 seconds were left in the first half despite generating six straight corner kicks in one seven-minute stretch.

“We were getting a little frustrated,” said Lis. “As soon as we got that first goal, they kept coming. We were getting the passes off. We were getting the quick passes and getting everyone involved throughout the whole field.”

Lis has enjoyed seeing her younger sister, freshman midfielder Devon, get involved in the PHS attack.

“That is definitely fun for me,” said Lis. “I was looking forward to her stepping up to high school. We played together when we were younger. She stepped into my outside mid position and she took my old number too so I like to call her my little mini-me. I love working with her. She is another one, I know exactly how she plays.”

The Little Tigers have loved working with new head coach Val Rodriguez, who has taken the helm of the program from longtime head coach Greg Hand.

“It is a great dynamic, it carried over from what coach Hand was doing when he was here,” said Lis.

“She had been working with him for many years. I know throughout my whole high school career we have had her with us. It is definitely a bit of a different style but we knew what to expect so we were prepared for that. We did great work in the preseason so when the season came, we knew what she expected of us and we knew what to do. It was a pretty smooth transition actually.”

Rodriguez, for her part, liked the way her squad learned from the loss to Robbinsville.

“We watched a lot of film on it and evaluated some of the things we did wrong,” said Rodriguez. “We were possessing for three, four passes and then we would give it away. We did an OK job of winning it right back but we weren’t truly building.”

PHS did a great job of building things in the second half against Hamilton, tallying five goals in a span of 27 minutes.

“It was good soccer; it wasn’t just individual stuff,” said Rodriguez, who got three goals from senior striker Shannon Pawlak with a trio of juniors Serena Dibianco, Haley Bodden, and Gabby Deitch adding one apiece.

“It was team effort. The assists were the biggest piece of it and then the composure to put the ball in the back of the net. They weren’t always easy shots, they placed the ball very well.”

In Rodriguez’s view, Lis showed good composure in setting up her teammates on four of those goals.

“Bringing Taylor into the middle as a junior is huge for our possession,” said Rodriguez.

“She really sees the attack. Being an outside mid, she was constantly going up and down the sidelines. Now we are just focusing on how do we keep her central and involved. As a center mid, assists are the name of the game for her; she is figuring it out.”

On the defensive end, the Little Tigers figured out some things as well.

“The defense stepped up big-time today,” said Rodriguez, whose squad improved to 2-1 with the win over Hamilton and is slated to play at Ewing on September 19 before hosting powerful Pennington on September 20 as part of homecoming weekend.

“We had a rough game defensively against Robbinsville with some defensive things that were a little bit soft. We needed Emily [Pawlak] to lead and the confidence to play the ball out of the back. The backs kept their heads to go wide and keep possession today.”

Lis, for her part, believes the win over Hamilton demonstrates that PHS is headed in the right direction.

“I know we have some big games next week, especially Pennington on our homecoming so this was definitely a confidence booster for that,” said Lis.

“We are going to come out hard in practice and hopefully do the same thing next week. The team chemistry is great, everyone knows each other. We know how each other work. I think that is the biggest part, knowing how your teammates play, knowing what balls to play and to which person. That allows us all to connect.”

 

BACK IN THE SWING: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Renee Karchere-Sun smacks a backhand in a match last fall. Junior Karchere-Sun has performed well at first singles this season, helping PDS to a 3-1 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers host the George School (Pa.) on September 17 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 19 and at the Peddie School on September 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BACK IN THE SWING: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Renee Karchere-Sun smacks a backhand in a match last fall. Junior Karchere-Sun has performed well at first singles this season, helping PDS to a 3-1 start. In upcoming action, the Panthers host the George School (Pa.) on September 17 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 19 and at the Peddie School on September 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team, facing some tough challenges out of the gate should be good preparation for the tests ahead.

“We had a nice win over Haddonfield to start the season and then we had a tough loss to Montgomery,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.

“It was nice to bounce back against Pingry. Emily [Dyckman] and Maria [Martinovic] had tough matches and pulled them out. It is nice to get some tough matches as we get ready for the counties.”

Tseng is seeing a greater toughness in first singles star Renee Karchere-Sun.

“She is a nice No. 1 for us, she has great talent and the nice thing about her is that she worked so hard in the offseason,” said Tseng of junior Karchere-Sun.

“She is playing well, she seems to be mentally tougher. She is pulling out matches this year that she might not have won in the past.”

Junior co-captain Maria Martinovic figures to win a lot of matches at second singles this fall for the Panthers.

“Maria is looking good, we are happy to have her at No. 2,” added Tseng. “She is a co-captain with Emily so she’s a leader as well as a great player. She is able to be steady but aggressive when she needs to be.”

Third singles player, senior Emily Dyckman, has proven to be a steadying presence for PDS over her career.

“Leadership is the No. 1 thing with her, both on and off the court,” said Tseng. “She is solid at No. 3 for us. She is very athletic; she is very competitive. She wants to win every match.”

At first doubles, the Panthers should be competitive with the pair of Devika Kumar and Tauria Salvati.

“Devika and Tauria are both returners, Tauria was at second doubles last year,” said Tseng.

“They are playing very nicely. They are both athletic. We are working on doubles strategy with them and they are good learners. They will face some tough doubles teams but if they do what they know, they will be fine.”

The second doubles spot is currently in the hands of Anna Kovacevich and Arya Jha.

“It is Anna and Arya right now,” said Tseng. “Vasilissa [Paushkin] is coming back from an injury, she will have to earn her way back. Anna and Arya are both nice additions to the team.”

There is a good chemistry around the team. “It is a nice group of girls, there is no drama,” said Tseng, noting that new assistant coach Trevor Campbell, the former PDS junior varsity coach, has been a positive influence on the squad. “They are having fun.”

Tseng, for his part, believes the Panthers can have a lot of fun at the Mercer County Tournament, which is scheduled for September 29 and October 1.

“I can’t talk about the other teams but I like our chances,” said Tseng, whose team topped the Hun School 4-1 on Monday and hosts the George School (Pa.) on September 17 before playing at the Hill School (Pa.) on September 19 and at the Peddie School on September 23.

“In something like the MCT you never know, anything can happen. In my first year (2011), we won and that was the first time PDS had won in something like 25 years. You have to stay in the moment and take it one match at a time.”

 

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Christopher Sharp heads upfield last fall. Senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp should be a force on both side of the ball for Hun this year at running back and linebacker. The Raiders kick off their 2014 campaign by playing at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on September 20 as they look to win in the debut of new head coach Todd Smith.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Christopher Sharp heads upfield last fall. Senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp should be a force on both side of the ball for Hun this year at running back and linebacker. The Raiders kick off their 2014 campaign by playing at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on September 20 as they look to win in the debut of new head coach Todd Smith. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Todd Smith takes the helm of the Hun School football team, he is bringing a different perspective to the program.

Having served as the head coach at WW/P-S for eight seasons and the offensive coordinator for Hopewell Valley last fall, Smith has cut his teeth in the public school environment, a different world than the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) circles in which Hun travels.

Smith’s success, which includes a 63-22 record at WW/P-S from 2005 to 2012 and helping HoVal to the Central Jersey Group III title last fall, is founded upon a voluminous playbook, meticulous attention to detail, and instilling a gung-ho attitude in his players.

Based on the early returns, Smith’s approach is gaining wide support among his new players.

“Camp has been going well,” said Smith, reflecting on the team’s preseason preparation.

“The kids are grasping the concepts. We have the base offense in and we are building off of that. It is the same thing with the defense. The kids are bonding; they are having fun.”

Smith is having fun working with junior transfer quarterback Simon Vadas.

“Vadas has been great, he played well in both scrimmages,” said Smith, whose team kicks off the 2014 campaign by playing at Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) on September 20.

“He has great touch and he is a great leader. The more he learns the offense, the quicker he will be able to get rid of the ball.”

Hun boasts a great offensive weapon in senior star and University of Virginia-bound Christopher Sharp.

“Sharp is our workhorse,” said Smith. “He is playing at wide receiver as much as running back.”

The Raiders figure to get some good work from its
talented receiving corps. “Justin Morrison is our shiftiest athlete, he has got wiggle,” added Smith.

“Cameron Kitchen is at tight end and wide receiver, he is a big target. The other wide receiver is Julian Williams, he is a big time athlete. Donavon Harris played QB last year. We are getting him back for the second game; he will add a lot.”

As usual, Hun will feature a lot of beef in the trenches. “The line looks sharp, we have some local kids and they were able to work out here and they did a lot of weightlifting,” said Smith.

“Fred Hansard is a sophomore, he is 6’5, 295-pounds and he is our anchor. I am happy with right tackle Justin McGriff (6’3, 325). We have two senior guards in Tom Zuewsky (6’3, 275) and Panayiotis Zavaliangos (6’3, 265). The center is Dave Niciforo (6’0, 215), he is a senior and is new to the position and he is getting better and better.”

That bulk will help on the other side of the ball as most of the offensive linemen will also be manning the defensive line.

“The defensive line will have a lot of the same guys as the offensive line,” said Smith.

“Cameron is playing defensive line and one of the defensive ends is Mike McMenamin, who also plays fullback.”

At linebacker, HoVal transfer Kyle Horihan has made an immediate impact in the middle.

“Kyle Horihan has been named a captain, he is at inside linebacker and is flying all over the place,” said Smith. “The outside linebackers are Sharp and Niciforo.”

The secondary boasts some veterans with a trio of seniors in Morrison, Daniel Seelagy, and Mike Salerno.

“Justin is at cornerback,” said Smith. “Daniel Seelagy and Mike Salerno are in a battle for the other cornerback spot.”

For Hun, a lot of the battle this fall will come down to staying away from injury.

“As long as we stay healthy, we should be able to play with anyone,” said Smith, who is determined to restore the program to its winning ways after a 2-6 campaign in 2013 under interim head coach John Law.

“We have not been doing much hitting, it may take us a while to get warmed up in games because that will be some of our first live action. Health is our No. 1 concern.”

If Hun has its pieces in place, Smith will get the chance to show his full repertoire.

“I think we have to stay balanced on offense,” said Smith. “I don’t want to be one-dimensional. We will run to open up the pass and pass to open up the run. On defense, we need to get after the QB and put pressure on the other teams.”

September 10, 2014
STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey player Lucy Herring heads upfield last Saturday against Peddie. Senior star Herring scored a goal in the game to help PHS prevail 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-1, play at Robbinsville on September 10 before hosting Lawrence on September 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey player Lucy Herring heads upfield last Saturday against Peddie. Senior star Herring scored a goal in the game to help PHS prevail 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 2-1, play at Robbinsville on September 10 before hosting Lawrence on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Lucy Herring and her teammates on the Princeton High field hockey team were determined to be proactive as they hit the field against Peddie last Saturday.

After falling 1-0 at Allentown a day earlier in a weather-shortened game to open the season, PHS brought an upbeat mentality into the contest.

“I think in general, there was a more positive attitude today; I think it started on the bus ride,” said senior star forward Herring.

“We realized that yesterday we didn’t get the result we wanted. We played to their game and responded to their game instead of playing what we know.”

PHS played its game from the start on Saturday, controlling possession and stifling Peddie in the midfield.

“In this game we were working hard, spacing and communication were definitely key,” said Herring.

That communication paid dividends as Herring banged home a feed from classmate Campbell McDonald to give the Little Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“It was kind of in slow motion, I saw the goalie move to one side and I just kind of hit at the back,” said Herring.

“Campbell and I have played with each other, whether it is field hockey or ice hockey, for something like seven years. We always have that on-field, on-ice connection.”

After the Falcons scored with 7:52 left in the second half to knot the game at 1-1, PHS hit back as senior Cara Straus scored off a penalty corner with 2:54 remaining in regulation to give the Little Tigers a 2-1 triumph.

“I think they were angry and we were angry; it was a really good match,” said Herring.

“We kind of knew that we could get a corner at the end; corners are definitely an advantage for us. Everyone knew that we had to get a goal no matter how we got it so I think everyone stepped it up. Cara was definitely in perfect position for that tip in so that was great.”

It was a great way for PHS to end a stiff opening weekend test. “Coach (Heather Serverson) put two of our hardest opponents first which was a challenge,” said Herring.

“I was glad that we got to face that first so we know what to work on and we know how to compete against the best, which is always a good lesson early on in the season.”

PHS head coach Serverson, for her part, was thrilled with the progress her team made in 24 hours.

“It was like night and day,” said a beaming Serverson. “Everything we didn’t do well yesterday, we fixed for today and that is all I ask of them. After our game yesterday, we talked about it. We wanted stick-to-stick passing, intensity, and the second wave.”

Serverson wasn’t surprised that the one-two punch of Herring and McDonald accounted for PHS’s first goal.

“They have mental telepathy on the field, they work well together,” said Serverson.

The Little Tigers displayed mental toughness when they broke the tie late in the contest.

“That is one of our goals as well, setting the tone and answering back,” said Serverson, whose team topped Hamilton 3-0 last Monday to improve to 2-1 and plays at Robbinsville on September 10 before hosting Lawrence on September 15.

“In the past, we would kind of sit back on our heels and be more reactive at that point. One of our goals this year is to be more proactive, to go after it right away, and not let anything get in our heads.”

Senior Cara Straus has been going after it in her final campaign, emerging as a valuable performer on the front line for the Little Tigers.

“Cara embodies hustle, she does what you tell her to do,” said Serverson. “You tell her to go pads, she is on pads; you tell her to go to the post, she is on the post. You tell her to hustle back and she hustles back. She has been a key on our offense.”

PHS got some good hustle on defense, spearheaded by senior star Julia DiTosto and junior Trish Reilly in the midfield, along with juniors Julia Snyder and Lucia Matteo on the back line.

“We have tightened that up positioning-wise,” said Serverson. “That is a key that we didn’t have yesterday. We were on our heels a lot yesterday and today they were more composed and in the right position in the defense and the midfield. That transitional marking was really good today.”

Reflecting on the opening weekend, Serverson believes her team has the right stuff when it comes to character.

“I think the big thing was that we were able to pick ourselves up from yesterday and we played in 90 plus weather back-to-back days” said Serverson.

“We had two tough games, that shows what they are made of. They have a lot of grit, that is going to take us really far this season.”

Herring and her classmates are committed to going as far as they can in their final campaign with the program.

“Since we have all been on the team since freshman year, we have that chemistry and I think we know what the team is about,” said Herring.

“We know how to play our game and we have tried our best to teach the team and the young ones. We have gotten better every year so this year, our senior year, we want to make it the best, so getting far in MCTs and states, those are definitely our goals.”

ROARING TIGER: Princeton High running back Rory Helstrom heads upfield in action last fall. PHS will be relying on Helstrom as its go-to rusher this fall as it looks to bounce back from a 0-10 season. The Little Tigers kick off their 2014 campaign by hosting Hamilton on September 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING TIGER: Princeton High running back Rory Helstrom heads upfield in action last fall. PHS will be relying on Helstrom as its go-to rusher this fall as it looks to bounce back from a 0-10 season. The Little Tigers kick off their 2014 campaign by hosting Hamilton on September 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High football team went through a rough 0-10 season last fall, Charlie Gallagher doesn’t want his players to totally erase 2013 from their memories.

“Last season was a big learning year and I hope it left a bad taste in their mouths,” said PHS second-year head coach Gallagher, whose squad was outscored by a 401-100 margin last fall.

“We have a good core of guys coming back, there is a sense of urgency. The schedule is different and they see opportunities for wins.”

Junior quarterback Dave Beamer’s passing skills give the Little Tigers an opportunity to score in a hurry.

“We are excited to have Dave back at quarterback,” said Gallagher, whose team opens its 2014 campaign by hosting Hamilton on September 13.

“He has a big arm, a live arm. He has a lot of velocity and a tight spiral. We will be looking for a lot of down the field plays from him.”

PHS boasts two playmakers at running back in junior tailback Rory Helstrom and senior fullback Colin Buckley.

“Rory is definitely going to be a go-to guy, he will get the bulk of the carries,” said Gallagher.

“He wants the ball in his hands. We have a solid fullback in Colin Buckley. He is 6’1, 200-pounds, and is not your typical guy at fullback, he hits hard. We are going to run some power formations and he is good at that kick out block. We will get him to run the ball. He has got some speed for a big guy.”

The Little Tigers have a jack-of-all trades in the backfield with senior Sam Smallzman, a starting linebacker and quarterback last year before getting sidelined by injury.

“Sam Smallzman is coming back, he doesn’t want to just be a defensive player,” said Gallagher.

“He is going to fill just about every offensive role, tight end, fullback, halfback, and he is our back-up QB. He can go anywhere we need him; he just wants to play some football.”

The group of junior Matt Ochoa, senior Ben Danis, senior Jack Cook, senior Joe Hawes, and senior Brian Tien gives PHS versatility at receiver.

“Matt Ochoa is back,” said Gallagher. “Ben Danis has come back. He was a starter as sophomore, had an ACL and took last year off. He will be a starter. Jack Cook is a senior but it his first year out. He is a big guy, 6’3, 185. Joe Hawes was backup soccer goalie and a good lacrosse player. The guys got him to come out; he’s a real nice player. Brian Tien is at tight end. He’s a strong guy, about 6’1, 185 pounds, and has done a lot of work in the weight room.”

Gallagher is relying on his battle-tested offensive line to give him some good work.

“Just about everybody is back,” said Gallagher. “We have Noah Ziegler at left tackle and Omar Moustafa at left guard. The right guard is up in the air. Brian Lemus-Camey is coming off an ACL. Joe Cunsolo has been playing there and is doing a good job. We have Tommy Moore at right tackle. He started last year at RG and then moved to tackle when Lemus-Camey got hurt. We have two or three guys at center. Matt Toplin is on the shelf and should be getting cleared soon. Ethan Guerra is a sophomore but is a real strong kid. Joe Cunsolo is also in the mix.”

Many of those linemen will be doing double duty as they will form the foundation of the front six in the PHS defense.

“We are playing a 4-2-5,” said Gallagher. “On the line will be Buckley, Moustafa, Ziegler, Tommy Moore, Guerra, Toplin, and Cunsolo. At linebacker, we have Tien, Smallzman, and Anthony Trainor.”

The backs and receivers will comprise most of the secondary. “At safety, we will have Rory and Danis,” added Gallagher. “Tad Moore is also helping us at safety. The corners are Ochoa, Cook, and Mike Chonka. At free safety, we have Joe Hawes.

While Gallagher knows it will be tough for the Little Tigers to break into the win column, he believes his players will compete to the final whistle.

“When you are coming off a 0-10 season, nothing comes easy,” said Gallagher, noting that PHS will be hosting Ewing under the lights on the evening of September 19 for homecoming.

“We just want to be competitive in the fourth quarter. The kids see the opportunities for wins but they know they have to work hard, there will be a lot of tight games. I am excited for the season.”

IN PLAY: Hun School soccer player Natalie Csapo takes a throw-in during action last season. Sophomore midfielder Csapo and the Raiders are looking to build on the last surge they made last fall when they rebounded from a 0-7 start and advanced to the state Prep A title game. Hun opens its 2014 campaign by hosting South Brunswick on September 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN PLAY: Hun School soccer player Natalie Csapo takes a throw-in during action last season. Sophomore midfielder Csapo and the Raiders are looking to build on the last surge they made last fall when they rebounded from a 0-7 start and advanced to the state Prep A title game. Hun opens its 2014 campaign by hosting South Brunswick on September 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for the returning players on the Hun School girls’ soccer team to start looking forward to the 2014 season.

Advancing to the state Prep A finals last fall after starting the season at 0-7 left the team’s returners with a heavy dose of optimism.

“The mood is good, even from when the season ended last year knowing that we were losing only two players,” said Hun second-year head coach Joanna Hallac, who guided Hun to a 7-12-1 record in 2013. “They were feeling good about the direction of the program.”

Things have continued to move in the right direction as the Raiders have enjoyed a productive preseason.

“They are seeing good players coming in and the returning players making a lot of improvement,” said Hallac, noting that a strong group of freshmen have joined the program.

“It could be a special season. A big if is if we stay healthy; we have had difficulty doing that in the past. We have a little depth this year.”

That depth is evident at forward, where Hun will feature precocious freshman Kara Borden, junior Marleigh Nociti, senior Paige McGuire, and senior Becky Barus.

“We have a lot of forwards, it is a good problem to have,” said Hallac, whose team opens its 2014 campaign by hosting South Brunswick on September 13.

“Kara Borden has raised the level for the older girls. She has a real nose for the goal; she knows how to finish. Marleigh, Paige, Becky will all see action.”

The pair of Lehigh-bound senior Jess Sacco and promising freshman Nicole Apuzzi are showing a nose for the ball in the midfield.

“Jess will be center midfielder; she is such a calming influence,” said Hallac, who will also use junior Sophia Sauma, sophomore Natalie Csapo, sophomore Abby Gray, and freshman Kennedy Debow in the midfield.

“She is more defensive but she can go forward; she can help instigate things. Nicole Apuzzi is the attacking midfielder, she is a really strong player.”

One of Hun’s strongest players is Lehigh-bound senior defender Ashley Maziarz.

“Ashley is much like Olivia Braender-Carr,” said Hallac, referring to the team’s senior star last year who is currently playing at NYU. “She is very dependable. She is a great leader and a great defender. She can help offensively, she is good in the air on corner kicks. She can make those runs.”

Hun has some other good options on the back line. “Jess Johnson is the other center back; she is very graceful and very fluid,” added Hallac, noting that junior Amanda Douglas will also see time on defense.

“She is a very smart defender and she can be an offensive threat too. Kendall Dandridge is one of the outside backs and Julia Salerno is the other. Kendall can get up the field and makes some great crosses. She is also a great defender. Julia is just solid.”

At goalie, junior Courtney Arch has developed into a solid performer. “Courtney has been doing very well,” said Hallac, who has freshman Livia Kooker as the back-up goalie.

“I am really happy with her progress. She is communicating better; she is taking command in the box. Livia is pretty good, they will push each other.”

In order to build on last year’s progress, Hun will need to be more pushy around the goal and more intense on defense.

“We need to take advantage of our opportunities; we had a lot of chances last year but we didn’t finish well,” said Hallac.

“We lost some 1-0 games where we outplayed the other team, we really have to finish better. We need to be better on transition defense. If we lose the ball, we have to get it back. We have to maintain possession.”

In Hallac’s view, the optimism around the program is justified. “We have a lot of potential, we have a lot of talent,” maintained Hallac.

“The expectations are higher than last year. The MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) championship ought to be within our reach and we hope to get to another Prep A final. We want to advance farther in the MCT (Mercer County Tournament). We are setting the bar higher. The girls are putting in the work; they are competing hard in the preseason.”

ON THE BALL: Hun School boys’ soccer player Alex Semler, right, goes after the ball in a game last fall. Junior defender Semler has emerged as the rock of the Hun backline and helped the Raiders make an unlikely run to the 2013 Mercer County Tournament semifinals as an 11th seed. Hun kicks off regular season play by hosting Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 12.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Hun School boys’ soccer player Alex Semler, right, goes after the ball in a game last fall. Junior defender Semler has emerged as the rock of the Hun backline and helped the Raiders make an unlikely run to the 2013 Mercer County Tournament semifinals as an 11th seed. Hun kicks off regular season play by hosting Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Youth will be served this fall for the Hun School boys’ soccer team.

Losing eight seniors from a 2013 squad that made an unlikely run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals as an 11th seed, Hun will have sophomores and even some freshmen in key spots this season.

“It really is a youth movement,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk, who led the Raiders to a 7-12 record last fall. “We have some big shoes to fill.”

In Quirk’s view, the inspirational MCT performance last fall could have a carry-over effect into 2014.

“We had a good run in the MCT last year and the returners have gained confidence from that; we have talked about it,” said Quirk, whose team opens regular season play by hosting Episcopal Academy (Pa.) on September 12.

“Once the guys play with each other a little more, we will get better. I get that feeling, like I had last year before the MCT. It is a fun group to be around and you see they like to kick it around and play the game.”

At forward, the Raiders will be depending on senior Tucker Stevenson and two young guns, sophomore Andrew Kaye and freshman Jake Keller, to show some game.

“Tucker is going to help us a lot,” said Quirk of Stevenson, who scored four goals in 2013. Andrew Kaye and Jake Keller are also going to be at forward.”

Two sophomores, Pat Nally and Connor Hufer, should get things moving forward from the midfield.

“Pat and Conor are shooting from the midfield,” said Quirk. “They are young, they have a good vision of the game and they have good feet. They can control the ball.”

Hun boasts good depth in the midfield with the return of  junior Devin Ducharme, sophomore Gunnar Schellscheidt, and senior Esham MacAuley

“Devin Ducharme is looking good, Gunnar Schellscheidt has stepped up,” said Quirk.

“Esham MacAuley has moved to the outside. He is a senior; he works hard and knows what to do. He is excited to get out there. He didn’t play much last year; he is seeing the field now and he wants to step up.”

Junior Alex Semler has stepped into a leading role for the Hun back line. “Alex is a rock back there on defense for us,” asserted Quirk. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm. He has that mentality that nobody is getting by us. He is always looking to push forward.”

The trio of sophomore James Nicholas, junior M.J. Cobb, and junior Chris Andrews will help Semler hold the fort.

“Nicholas is on the outside,” added Quirk. “M.J. Cobb has been playing for three years. Chris Andrews is also back there.”

Sophomore Logan Leppo will serve as Hun’s last line of defense as he fills the shoes of graduated star Chris Meinert at goalie.

“Logan Leppo came up through our middle school and was the starting JV goalie last year,” said Quirk.

“He has got skills, he has great reactions, quick hands, makes kick saves, the guys are getting confident in him. We want him to be more aggressive vocally but he is a sophomore and that takes a little time. It is good that we have Semler back there.”

While it may take some time for the Raiders to get into synch, Quirk believes the team can be formidable if it takes care of the basics.

“We have to work on keeping the ball moving.” said Quirk. “We have been talking to them about three keys — playing fast, having good communication, and keeping good possession of the ball.”

SHINING STAR: Hun School field hockey goalie Reina Kern surveys the action in a game last season. Hun is relying on senior star and Penn-bound Kern to have a big year as it looks to improve on the 6-14 record it posted in 2013. The Raiders open regular season play by hosting Academy of New Church on September 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHINING STAR: Hun School field hockey goalie Reina Kern surveys the action in a game last season. Hun is relying on senior star and Penn-bound Kern to have a big year as it looks to improve on the 6-14 record it posted in 2013. The Raiders open regular season play by hosting Academy of New Church on September 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Hun School field hockey team boasts strength in numbers as it looks to rebound from a 6-14 campaign last fall.

“We have 45 kids out, two of them are hurt right now,” said longtime Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.

“I have 40 field players and three goalies. The kids are working hard, we have been in preseason since August 22.”

A key to Hun’s success this fall will be getting some good work from its one-two punch of senior Vicky Leach and sophomore Julie Fassl at forward.

“I am looking for big things from Leach and Fassl,” said Quirk, who will also be using freshman Julia Revock on the front line. “

“Vicki is very determined, she is a great kid, very coachable. I am looking for senior leadership from her. Fassl gave up fall ball softball; she has committed herself to being a better field hockey player. She works hard every day in practice. She is great on carrying the ball upfield and making crosses into the circle.”

Quirk will be relying on senior Julia Blake and junior Maura Kelly to carry the team in the midfield.

“We had Blake at center but we are going to go with two midfielders so she will be on the right,” said Quirk, whose team opens regular season play by hosting Academy of New Church on September 11.

“We are hoping that she steps up and scores some goals. Maura Kelly has only played for two years. She has got a lot of speed, she is still learning the game but she is a good learner.”

The trio of senior Shannon Graham, sophomore Sophia Albanese, and senior Taylor Nehlig gives Hun some experience on defense.

“Shannon Graham will anchor the center,” said Quirk. “She left soccer after tearing her ACL. She is still learning the game but she is picking it up; I think playing defense in soccer really helped her. Sophia Albanese will be on one side. Taylor Nehlig on the other side; she is another senior who I hope will step up with her leadership.”

Penn-bound senior goalie Reina Kern figures to be a leading light this fall for the Raiders.

“We are hoping that Reina will have her best year ever,” said Quirk. “She knows the game and is good at directing her teammates. She communicates and keeps them in the right place. I am hoping that she is the strong anchor of the defense.”

Quirk is hoping her team will get better and better as the fall unfolds. “We are very inexperienced at the varsity level; it may take a couple of games for us to get going,” said Quirk.

“We will make progress every game. We may take our lumps before we make that big jump. We need to be goal hungry. Defensively, we need to remember who to mark and then mark them. We have to stay strong and communicate.”