October 3, 2012

CITIZEN KANE: Hun School field hockey player Alex Kane pushes the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, junior defender Kane scored a goal and played well on the back line as Hun topped Pennington 4-1. The Raiders, now 3-1, host Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School field hockey team started the season with a 1-0 loss to WW/P-S, it looked like its defense was ahead of the offense.

But the Raider attack seems to have found a rhythm as Hun has bounced back with three straight wins, outscoring its foes 9-1 in that stretch.

Last Friday, the Raiders were clicking on all cylinders as they topped Pennington 4-1.

“We did take a step forward, we moved the ball well,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, reflecting on the win over Pennington that moved the Raiders to 3-1. “We did a good job in the circle defensively, we limited their short corners.”

Quirk likes the good work she is seeing on the offensive end. “We have a nice transition between the defense and the offense,” said Quirk, who got goals from Francesca Bello, Courtney Faulkner, Alex Kane, and Carey Million in the Pennington game. “The midfielders are moving into the circle and getting opportunities.”

The Hun midfield is being sparked by the trio of Olivia Albanese, Julia Blake, and Taylor Havard.

“Olivia Albanese is doing a nice job for us in the midfield,” said Quirk of the senior, who also chipped in an assist last Friday.

“She is the inserter on our short corners. Julia Blake and Taylor Havard are also doing well for us in the midfield.”

Along the forward line, the one-two punch of junior Bello and senior Million is benefitting from the good transition play.

“Bello and Million are doing a good job on the line; they are able to move the ball well and capitalize on opportunities,” asserted Quirk.

“The other girls, Courtney Faulkner, Vicky Leach, Bri Cifelli, and Juliet Kapanjie, are coming in and going to the post well.”

Junior Alex Kane has been coming up big defensively for the Raiders. “Kane is really strong for us on defense,” said Quirk, noting that Liz Mydlowski stepped up at back against Pennington.

“She moves the ball side-to-side and can break up plays. She scored on a penalty stroke against Pennington; it was a good hit.”

Quirk is encouraged by her team’s good start. “I am pleased with how we are playing,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6.

“We have some tough games coming up; I hope the girls keep showing the same hunger and intensity.”

September 26, 2012

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University field hockey goalie Christina Maida goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday against second-ranked Syracuse, junior standout Maida made some dazzling stops in an 8-save effort but it wasn’t enough as No. 3 Princeton fell 2-0 to the Orange. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, play at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kristen Holmes-Winn is never happy when her Princeton University field hockey team loses a game, she saw plenty of positives when the third-ranked Tigers fell 2-0 to No. 2 Syracuse last Sunday.

“By design we had a game yesterday and a game today,” said Tiger head coach Holmes-Winn, whose club had dismantled Yale 8-0 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in Ivy League play.

“We wanted to play back-to-back to physiologically have that experience. I think we held up physically quite well. I thought our first half today was really good just in terms of how we moved the ball. The finishing stuff will come. There were a lot of really good things from this match that we will take away.”

The skilled teams gave the fans on hand at Bedford Field a demonstration of superb ball movement as the teams generated end-to end-rushes all afternoon. The game was knotted 0-0 at half. Syracuse broke through with a tally on a penalty corner 20 minutes into the second half and then added an insurance goal on a fast break with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

“We knew that Syracuse is a great defensive team and really good on the counterattack and that is exactly what got us,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team fell to 7-1 overall with the loss while Syracuse improved to 9-0.

“They have the ability to really double the ball well and they broke out of their situations and were very effective.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, it was the Orange’s defensive prowess that made the difference in the contest.

“Their ability to get numbers around the ball inside our attacking third and not foul was really the difference,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is one thing  to defend but to be able to defend and not give anything away is a challenge and they did that really, really well.”

Tasting defeat for the first time of the season stung but Holmes-Winn viewed the result in the context of the bigger picture.

“I don’t really care a whole lot about that,” said Holmes-Winn, referring to Tigers losing their chance for a perfect season.

“We just have to keep tacking away at the areas where we are deficient. That is part of playing great teams, they will challenge your structure and your concentration. They show you individually where the weaknesses are and Syracuse did a great job of that.”

The Tigers showed some fight as senior star Kat Sharkey fired blasts on two consecutive penalty corners 25 minutes into the second half with the Tigers trailing 1-0 at that point.

“That’s how this game is, the opportunities are there,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team held a 6-5 edge in penalty corners while getting outshot 16-10.

“The stats weren’t really far off. We were really pushing there at the end so we were exposed. We were playing pretty aggressively which was a result of that second goal and us stretching out our shape a little bit.”

For Holmes-Winn, the main lessons to draw from the defeat center on being more aggressive on finishing and stretching out opposing defenses.

“The passing combinations through our midfield was just awesome; once we got into the final third, they did a great job of getting players around the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, citing the play of the Reinprecht sisters, senior Katie and junior Julia.

“It was never a situation where we were one-on-one. We need to look a little bit where those numbers are coming from and figure how to stretch those zones out of it.”

With Princeton on track for its eighth straight Ivy League title and 18th in the last 19 years, Holmes-Winn is hoping that the experience gained from battling Syracuse will help the Tigers as they pursue their goal of a first national title.

“You have to be perfect in the league, there is no doubt about that, but when it comes to these non-conference games, the point is to be challenged,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team plays at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2.

“It is always great to win but it is not my main concern right now. If we win and play bad hockey, I am not going to be happy either.”

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey star Emilia Lopez-Ona shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, Lopez-Ona scored the game-winning goal as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over Allentown. The Little Tigers, who moved to 4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Saturday, play at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona has established herself as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program.

Last spring, Lopez-Ona scored 123 points on 99 goals and 24 assists in her sophomore season to help the Little Tigers go 14-4 and advance to the sectional semifinals.

While field hockey is Lopez-Ona’s second sport, she is starting to make a similar impact in a game she picked up just three years ago.

Last Wednesday, the junior forward scored the winning goal with 7:59 remaining in the second half as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over powerful Allentown.

In reflecting on the clutch tally, which came on a feed from sophomore Campbell McDonald, Lopez-Ona said she was just taking care of business.

“Campbell really did the work there; she took it down the whole left side,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

“She kept her eyes up and saw me in the middle and my job is just to hit it backside pipe.”

For Lopez-Ona, refining her skills as a playmaker has been one of her main areas of focus this fall.

“Each season is a new beginning; it is a really nice break from lacrosse,” said Lopez-Ona, who had four assists in PHS’ first three games.

“The thing about field hockey is that assists and goals have the same importance.”

The progress that Lopez-Ona has made reflects the improvement PHS has made collectively as it has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season.

“Last year, I feel like we were a really young team starting to develop,” said Lopez-Ona.

“This year almost all of our starting lineup came back and I feel like we have really matured as a team.”

The Little Tigers showed that maturity in the victory over Allentown as they fought back from a 1-0 first half deficit.

“I think after the timeout at the end of the first half, we really collected ourselves and got a ton of chances,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We kept that momentum into the second half; you could see the step up in the level of play.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited Lopez-Ona with helping the Little Tigers step up in their second half rally.

“I think a lot of that spark came from Emilia,” said Serverson. “She really fired up and people feed off of that. When she gets excited and the shots start going, the rest of the team gets excited.”

Serverson was excited about the win over perennial powerhouse Allentown.

“This is one of the key games for us; I am so pleased that we came out with the win,” said Serverson, who got the game-tying goal from senior Vivien Bazarko on another assist by McDonald.

“We didn’t start out really well. We weren’t playing good team defense and we were dumping the ball to their stick. We turned it around and started playing our game. We just started moving the ball and passing stick to stick. We played the passing game that we practice everyday. It was definitely the team I have seen play so far this season.”

In Serverson’s view, her team showed growth by sticking with its game plan. “It is something we have been working on over the season; I think as a program we have to learn to just hang in there and keep playing our game,” said Serverson.

“Things will work out if you just do what you have done everyday in practice.”

With the combination of senior Sydney Watts and sophomore Julia DiTosto anchoring the PHS defense, the Little Tigers can hang with just about anybody.

“They are the core of the team,” asserted Serverson of Watts and DiTosto. “Without the two of them and their composure, their vision, and their ability to transition from defense to offense, we would not be doing as well as we are doing. They are definitely key.”

Bazarko and McDonald have emerged as key contributors for the Little Tigers.

“Vivien is one of our captains, she communicates very well on the field,” added Serverson.

“I think she gives great constructive feedback in the moment when she is playing with the other girls. Campbell is very consistent when she is on and today she was on. She puts her heart into it and moves to the ball.”

Serverson is hoping that her team can show even more heart collectively.

“I think this is going to be a wake-up call,” said Serverson, whose team plays at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2.

“The first half of the season wasn’t as challenging as this game. I think this win today showed them that they need to work harder in practice. I think they just need a little more confidence.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that PHS possesses an unselfish mindset which should help it get through the challenges ahead.

“We work together, that is probably my favorite thing about this team,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We pick ourselves up and just work together. Every connection, every goal, it is not just one person doing the work.”

NET WORTH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas makes a play at the net in a match last fall. Senior first doubles standout and team captain Cahill-Sanidas has provided good play and leadership as PHS has gotten off to a 7-0 start this season. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on September 27, play at Nottingham on September 28, and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With six seniors having graduated from a Princeton High girls’ tennis team that won the Central Jersey Group III title last year, Sarah Hibbert feels like she is back to square one.

“We are starting fresh with a lot of young players,” said head coach Hibbert, noting that nine of 18 players in the program are new.

“You forget that you have to explain things to them. Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] and Lindsay [Eberhart] are the two seniors and they are really working hard to get the group together, doing a lot of team building stuff.”

In Hibbert’s view, the newcomers can build on the program’s winning tradition.

“It is also exciting,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 16-2 record last fall on their way to the state semifinals. “The last senior group did a lot of good things and I think this group can as well.”

PHS has a special player at first singles in freshman Christina Rosca. “Christina has a lot of experience; she has a complete repertoire of skills,” asserted Hibbert.

“She is a solid baseliner who is not afraid to go to the net. She works with private coaches outside of the team; she is always looking to get better.”

The Little Tigers boast another freshman standout, Chenchen Wang, who figures to give the team good work at second singles.

“Chenchen is very steady from the baseline; she is willing to stay in long rallies,” said Hibbert. “She is good at mixing up things and challenging an opponent’s game.”

At third singles, sophomore Katelyn Hojelbane appears to be ready for the challenge of playing at the varsity level.

“Katelyn was on JV last year; it was hard to crack the varsity lineup with the six seniors,” said Hibbert. “She is a good, steady player who has good groundstrokes.”

The steady presence of Cahill-Sanidas will be important as she pairs up with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles.

“Maddie has been our rock, both in terms of her play at doubles and as a captain,” maintained Hibbert.

“She is a great leader; she works very hard to make everyone comfortable. She is a great doubles player. I think Maddie and Rory have similar styles. Rory is also aggressive but younger. As she works her way into the lineup, it is good for her to have Maddie as her mentor.”

Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert should add a lot to the PHS lineup for their spot at second doubles.

“They played together on JV last year,” said Hibbert. “They have complementary styles and they are used to each other. I think they will make a smooth transition into the second doubles spot.”

Based on the early returns, it looks like the young PHS squad is making a seamless transition to the varsity level as the Little Tigers have produced a 7-0 start.

“It is always important to get off to a good start with counties and states coming up so quick,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Ewing 5-0 last Monday and hosts WW/P-S on September 27, plays at Nottingham on September 28 and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“It is a particularly important for a young team to get off to a good start to get some confidence. We opened with Hopewell Valley and won 4-1 with each of the wins coming in straight sets. They have six seniors and I was not sure how our young players would hold up. I was thrilled with the way that went.”

If PHS can keep progressing, there could be some thrills on the horizon.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” said Hibbert “We have some tough weeks coming up with WW/P-N, WW/P-S, counties and states. I am happy that the girls are having fun. On a new team that is getting introduced to high school tennis, that is important.”

ON THE RUN: Princeton High running back Javon Pannell looks for running room in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior Pannell rushed for 28 yards and made two receptions in a losing cause as PHS fell 33-0 to visiting WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, now 1-2, host Hamilton on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Gargione went on the field twice during the third quarter last Saturday to read the riot act to his Princeton High football team as it hosted WW/P-S.

With the Little Tigers trailing the Pirates 14-0 early in the second half, head coach Gargione took advantage of a stoppage in play to go in the offensive huddle and tell his players in no uncertain terms to show more passion.

Later in the quarter, Gargione got in the faces of his players in a defensive huddle with the same message.

While the Little Tigers responded with some stretches of inspired play, they were ultimately worn down by WW/P-S in losing 33-0.

“I tried to lay into the kids to get something going,” said Gargione, reflecting on his third quarter pep talks in the defeat that dropped PHS to 1-2.

“Somebody has got to step up and show a little more fire. We made too many mistakes to overcome; they just outplayed us.”

With PHS having not scored offensively since the first half of the Hightstown game on September 14, Gargione is concerned about mistakes on that side of the ball.

“It is everything,” said Gargione, assessing the offensive drought after a day when his team was outgained 153 yards to 21 yards on the ground and 181-74 in the air.

“It is missed assignments, missed blocks and even minor things like coming out of the huddle in the wrong formation and having to switch back. That just can’t happen.”

While PHS made some good things happen defensively, it also struggled on that side of the ball.

“The defense started off well and then we had a hard time covering the simple flat,” said Gargione. “It wasn’t like he was lasering it in there.”

In Gargione’s view, his squad is at a crossroads having suffered two straight lopsided defeats in the wake of an inspiring 27-21 win over Northern Burlington on opening day.

“We have showed we can play; I just don’t want them to be content with that first win,” said Gargione, whose team hosts Hamilton on September 29.

“We have to turn it around now; this is a turning point for us. We have to turn the season around come Monday. We need to learn from our mistakes and go from there.”

If PHS is to turn things around, their veteran players will have to show the way. “We have to turn to our seniors. They have to be the ones to care,” asserted Gargione.

“If they send out the wrong message, the underclassmen don’t know any better.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Alexa Soltesz controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore striker Soltesz contributed a goal and two assists as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, now 2-2-2, play at Rutgers Prep on September 27, host Blair Academy on September 29, and then play at Peddie on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexa Soltesz may be just a sophomore but she knows the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team is depending on her to provide scoring punch.

With high-scoring forward Janie Smukler having graduated, the Panthers need the skilled striker Soltesz to be a productive finisher.

“My coach [Pat Trombetta] and I talked before the season that I had a big position to fill,” said Soltesz.

“I think I am doing a pretty good job with it but she was a really big loss. She was a great player.”

This past Friday, Soltesz did some pretty good things, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2.

In reflecting on her goal, which opened the scoring late in the first half, Soltesz acknowledged that she poached a tally away from fellow sophomore Kylie Kieffer.

“I saw my teammate Kylie coming onto the goal; she called me off while I was running but I kind of got in her way,” said Soltesz.

“I feel a little bad about it but I am happy to put one on the board; it really got our team up.”

Soltesz did pay Kieffer back, setting her up on the Panthers’ second goal. “I saw her there; I owed her one,” said a smiling Soltesz, recalling the tally which put PDS up 2-1.

On the team’s final tally, which gave the Panthers a 3-1 advantage, Soltesz booted a towering corner kick that Kirsten Kuzmicz blasted home. “I just started to take corners last game and it is working,” said Soltesz.

After not scoring a goal in PDS’ first four contests, Soltesz believes she is starting to get in a groove after breaking the ice with a tally in a 3-3 tie with Hun last week.

“I think I was in kind of a slump,” said Soltesz. “One gets me going, as my father always says.”

Playing with her twin sister, Stefany, a star sweeper for the Panthers helps get Soltesz going.

“We have been playing together since we were two years old,” said Soltesz. “We used to play offense together.”

PDS head coach Trombetta liked the way his squad played better and better in the George game.

“We started a little shaky; our decision-making wasn’t the best for the first 20 minutes,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 2-2-2 with the win over the Cougars.

“We settled down as the game went on. I think in the second half we took complete control of the game. The possession play was better; we got more girls involved in the play.”

In Trombetta’s view, Soltesz is getting settled into her role at striker. “Alexa is starting to pick it up; she started off slowly,”  said Trombetta.

“I think the game against Hun where she scored on a corner broke the ice for her. The first goal is the toughest so that opened it up for her. She is doing really well now.”

Sophomore midfielder Kieffer has been opening things up for the Panthers.

“I thought Kylie Kieffer had an excellent game for us today; she had one goal and one assist,” said Trombetta.

“She is a player we had on defense last year but this year we have moved her up to midfield because she has great touch with the ball and excellent decision-making. She was placing some nice through balls to our outside mids and then she scored the go-ahead goal.”

PDS is getting some excellent play from senior forward Kelsey Scarlett. “Kelsey creates a lot of the opportunities out there,” said Trombetta.

“She is a person we can move around a lot on the field because she is very versatile. Having her on the field with her senior experience helps out a lot, she has just got a great attitude.”

The foundation for the Panthers’ solid start has been some good work at the defensive end of the field.

“For the most part, our defense has been playing really well,” said Trombetta.

“Brit Murray is a solid defender; we always put her on the other team’s biggest weapon. She does a great job as does Stef [Soltesz] at sweeper. Kelly Tarcza coming from Steinert is a physical player out there. You need a presence like that on the field sometimes.”

PDS needs to fine-tune things as it faces some big challenges in the next week when it plays at Rutgers Prep on September 27, hosts Blair Academy on September 29, and then plays at Peddie on October 2.

“I think our decision-making and spacing has to get better,” said Trombetta. “We have just completed one-third of our season and I am looking for our composure to get better. Our possession has to get better.”

Trombetta believes his players have what it takes to get better. “We have a great group of girls; they are hardworking,” said Trombetta.

“I have complete confidence that they will be able to handle the tough stretch that is ahead of us.”

Soltesz, for her part, shares Trombetta’s confidence in the group’s prospects.

“I am really proud of us,” said Soltesz. “We did a great job today. I love this team.”

For the Hun School girls’ tennis team, this fall figures to be one of transition.

“I am looking at this season as an opportunity to rebuild,” said longtime Hun head coach Joan Nuse, whose team opened the season by losing 5-0 to Montgomery High and falling 3-2 to Springside Academy last Saturday before getting into the win column by topping Pennington 4-1 on Monday. “We graduated a lot of seniors. We have a lot of new faces.”

Hun is going with a familiar face at first singles in returning junior Shayna Glassberg.

“Shayna is looking to build on last year,” said Nuse of Glassberg, who played second singles for Hun in 2011. “She played hard in our first match against Montgomery; she didn’t give up in the second set.”

Nuse is looking for some hard play from sophomore Stephanie Taylor. “Steph is a great athlete; I am glad she chose to come out for tennis rather than soccer,” said Nuse, noting that Taylor plays club soccer.

“She showed perseverance in the Montgomery match; she was running around like a maniac.”

At third singles, Hun is welcoming back junior Lauren Kotler. “Lauren played third singles last year,” said Nuse, who got a straight sets win from Kotler in the victory over Pennington.

“She was thinking of not playing this year; it is good to have her back. She makes it fun for everybody else.’

It is good for Hun to have seniors Cansu Cabeci and Lesley Cai at first doubles. Last fall, Cai starred at first doubles while Cabeci is moving up after playing second doubles in 2011.

“They are most experienced doubles players; they are learning to play together,” said Nuse of the pair who breezed to a 6-0, 6-1 win in the Pennington match. “They both have different strengths. Cansu is a solid baseliner while Lesley likes the net.”

The second doubles pair of Olivia Hartman and Lily Razavi figures to give the Raiders some solid play. “They know each other from playing together on JV last year,” said Nuse.

In Nuse’s view, her team should be playing better and better as the fall unfolds.

“I am looking for us to be better at the end than in the beginning,” asserted Nuse, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on September 27, plays at Stuart Country Day on September 29, and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“We only had three girls there for a lot of the preseason so that makes it harder at the start. A lot of the girls were coming from foreign countries.”

AIR SHOW: Hun School quarterback Blake Searfoss airs out a pass last Saturday as the Raiders hosted Poly Prep (N.Y.) Post-graduate Searfoss connected on five touchdown passes to help Hun post a 47-28 victory over the Blue Devils. The Raiders, now 1-1, are next in action when they host the Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While lacrosse may be Blake Searfoss’ first sporting love, football is starting to grow on him.

Searfoss, the all-time assists leader for Hunterdon Central, was set to play college lax but then he got to start at quarterback last fall for the Red Devils.

As a result, Searfoss put his lax plans on hold and opted to do a post-graduate year at the Hun School to focus on football.

“I was going to play lacrosse and then I realized that I wanted to do the football thing,” said Searfoss. “By that time, it was too late to get an offer. That is why I came to Hun.”

Last Saturday, Searfoss showed that he may have a bright future in football, passing for five touchdowns and 212 yards as Hun rolled past visiting Poly Prep (N.Y.) 47-28.

In the wake of suffering a tough season-opening 17-14 defeat at Seton Hall Prep on September 15, Searfoss and the Raiders were primed to break loose.

“After the loss, we just had to go back to work,” said Searfoss. “We had a real nice week of practice; everyone was working real hard. This was a new game and we couldn’t dwell on last week. We came out today and played hard. Everyone showed a lot of heart; I thought we had a great day.”

The Raiders showed great balance, mixing the pass and run effectively. “Today, they both opened up each other real well,” said Searfoss.

“When we started passing, it opened up the run. When we started running a lot, that opened up the play action. We had a pretty balanced set coming into the week and we knew that we should probably be able to do both.”

Searfoss opened up the Poly Prep defense as he connected on touchdown bombs of 71 and 48 yards to sophomore Christopher Sharp.

“We were working this summer,” said Searfoss of Sharp. “I know he is a good player; he is just young. He has got wheels. We were working during the week and we connected a couple of times today. It was real nice.”

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck had a nice feeling about the effort he got from his players in the win over Poly Prep.

“Our numbers are very thin; that is no secret,” said Dudeck. “On a hot day when most of your kids are going both ways and playing on special teams; our kids came up with a phenomenal, phenomenal effort. They showed so much heart.”

The Raiders produced a superior effort on offense as Searfoss’ heroics in the air were augmented by a balanced ground attack featuring Kylan Baker, Chris Cardinali, and Abdul-Malik Majeed.

“We just felt we got into a rhythm offensively and that we had a counter to what they would show us defensively,” said Dudeck.

“It worked out. But don’t give too much credit to the coaches and the play calling, it is the kids on the field.”

Searfoss is developing a good rhythm in triggering the Hun attack. “Blake has a bit of that loose swagger,” said Dudeck.

“He is a fun kid. He likes to sling it and get after it. We only have two PGs with him and Greg Golden. They have come in and have just fit in great with our team.”

Dudeck had fun watching Sharp produce a breakout performance. “Today was Sharpie’s coming out party,” said Dudeck.

“He had a big day for us. He is a young sophomore; he has a ton of potential. He is just learning how to play football. His future is bright. He is a great kid too. He listens and he is easily coached and he has a great attitude.”

If Hun is going to keep in the winning track, it is going to need to display a hard-nosed attitude.

“We are going to be a team that has to grow and mature,” said Dudeck, whose team is off this Saturday and returns to action when it hosts Blair Academy on October 6.

“We are not the type of team that can just show up and win football games. Every week we have to work hard and watch film. We have to understand; we have to execute.”

Searfoss, for his part, has reached a good understanding of how the Hun program works.

“Everybody works so hard here; we don’t have that many guys but everyone is working their butts off everyday,” said Searfoss.

“No. 5 [Golden] and I are the only PGs; they brought us right in and showed us the way. We meshed together pretty well. We have a good bunch of guys.”

September 19, 2012

HELLBENT: Princeton High junior tight end Liam Helstrom celebrates after scoring a touchdown last Friday against Hightstown. Helstrom’s second quarter 15-yard TD reception turned out to be one of the major highlights for PHS as it fell 38-12 to the Rams. The Little Tigers, now 1-1, host WW/P-S on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although his Princeton High football team fell 38-12 at Hightstown last Friday night, Joe Gargione doesn’t feel that there is that much difference between the two squads.

“We didn’t lose outright; we lost because of shooting ourselves in the foot,” said PHS head coach Gargione, whose team dropped to 1-1. “We weren’t using our heads.”

The Little Tigers displayed sloppiness on their first possession when they drove to Hightstown one-yard line but then committed an offsides penalty and had to settle for a field goal.

After falling behind 14-3, PHS came up with a big play in the second quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom with a 15-yard touchdown as the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 14-10.

“We got a TD on a beautiful pass from Zack to Liam,” recalled Gargione. “Zack sprinted to his left and threw a perfect ball.”

But a special teams lapse on the ensuing kickoff hurt the Little Tigers as Andrew Daniels sprinted for an 88-yard touchdown return to help the Rams build their lead to 21-10.

Bouncing back from that setback, PHS recovered a fumble and moved the ball inside the Hightstown one-yard line in the waning moments of the half.

“We had four seconds left in the half and we said let’s do a quarterback sneak,” said Gargione.

“I told the line I needed them to be tough. I thought Zack got in but they didn’t give us the call. I looked at the film over and over and it looked like most of his body was in the end zone. That would have made it 21-16 and 21-17 if we make the point after. That really changed the game.”

Deflated by that sequence, the Little Tigers saw the game get away from them in the second half as the Rams rolled to the victory.

In reflecting on the loss, Gargione pointed to the play of junior lineman and kicker Cal O’Meara as a bright spot for the Little Tigers.

“Cal O’Meara had a big game,” said Gargione. “He laid out for an interception. He kicked a field goal and made the extra point after the touchdown. He also had some big punts that put them in a hole.”

With PHS hosting a powerful WW/P-S (1-1) team this Saturday, the Little Tigers will need O’Meara and his linemates to come up big in the trenches.

“We assume that Schoenauer [WW/P-S star running back Brian Schoenauer] will be playing; he tweaked his hamstring against Steinert and they took him out to rest it,” said Gargione. “The backup played really well. Obviously, we need to stop the run.”

Gargione is looking for his team to regain the headiness it showed in its 27-21 opening day win over Northern Burlington two weeks ago.

“We need to be mistake-free like we were in the opener,” said Gargione. “We need to get the penalties out of our system. We need the secondary playing better. We gave up 240 yards passing to Hightstown and two big pass plays in the opener. We need to be where we are supposed to be and cover better. We need to get the line clicking again.”

GOLD VALUE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jeremy Goldsmith kicks the ball last Thursday as PHS hosted Hightstown. Senior midfielder Goldsmith picked up an assist in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 2-1. The Little Tigers, who rebounded with a 2-1 win over Harrison on Saturday to improve to 2-2, host Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the three campaigns from 2009-11, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team didn’t lose a game in regular season play.

Last week, the proud PHS side dropped two early season games, falling 2-1 to Allentown in overtime on September 10 and then getting edged 2-1 by Hightstown two days later.

While Little Tiger head coach Wayne Sutcliffe wasn’t happy to see his team get off to a 1-2 start, he certainly wasn’t ready to push the panic button.

“I am not discouraged at all,” said Sutcliffe after the loss to Hightstown. “We don’t like dropping games but our best soccer, without a doubt, is in front of us.”

In the Hightstown contest, PHS displayed some superb soccer in the first half as it battled back from an early 1-0 deficit to knot that game on a Kevin Halliday goal.

“We had a great start to the game aside from giving up that opportunistic goal,” said Sutcliffe.

“Our urgency was good, we were winning the battles. Kevin had a great goal. That came from some of the best soccer we have played all season. We worked it really well. It was great to see that response to Hightstown’s goal.”

In the second half, the Rams took the lead at the 5:30 mark and PHS tried valiantly to get the equalizer, putting intense pressure on the Hightstown defense.

“We are getting some bad breaks in the back third; we had most of the possession,” said Sutcliffe.

“You saw how many shots they had in the second half, maybe two or three. We are just not getting the breaks and that is something we will work out.”

Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from senior defender Adam Klein and senior midfielder Zach Halliday.

“Adam Klein had a great game today; he really neutralized No. 44 [Mohammed Sesay] and did a great job,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think Zach has had a great season so far, he has been the guy that has been carrying us.”

PHS, though, needs others to help out Klein and Halliday. “I think it is a matter of a couple of the other guys simplifying things and finding their form,” said Sutcliffe.

The first order of business for the Little Tigers is to develop the imperious defensive form that has characterized the program’s recent run of success.

“We are focusing on keeping a clean sheet; we have to tighten up the defense,” said Sutcliffe.

“We have to work on being a little sharper and more organized. We have given up five goals in three games; that is unusual for us. Clearly that is where we are going to start.”

PHS also has to start being more productive with its offensive possessions. “We are lacking a little quality in the front 18 in the attacking end,” added Sutcliffe, whose team was more productive last Saturday as it edged Harrison 2-1 with Kevin Halliday scoring both goals.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not getting in and creating chances; we are just lacking a little quality.”

With the season barely a week old, PHS has time to get in a groove. “I don’t think it is a wakeup call, the guys all have to know that,” said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24.

“We are going to be a lot better in two weeks and we’ll be a lot better than that in four weeks. It is only the third game of the season.”

FAST START: Princeton Day School field hockey star Andrea Jenkins races up the field in recent action. Senior midfielder/forward Jenkins came up big last week, scoring two goals in a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day on September 11 before chipping in a goal in a 2-0 triumph over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then scoring the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday. PDS, now 3-0-1, hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton Day School field hockey team generated a total of one goal in three preseason scrimmages and tied Germantown Academy (Pa.) 2-2 in its season opener, Andrea Jenkins sensed that the Panthers were about to break out offensively.

“In practice, we have been working on our movement and cutting,” said senior star Jenkins.

“We have new positioning and tactics so I think us playing with each other the last few days has really helped.”

That work paid dividends last week as the Panthers rolled to a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day School to earn their first win of the season and the first victory in the PDS tenure of new head coach Tracey Arndt.

“It is a great feeling getting the first win for the new coach,” said Jenkins, who scored two goals in the win on September 11 with junior Emma Quigley chipping in two and Mary Travers and Bian Maloney scoring one apiece. “I think it worked out really well.”

Jenkins’ first tally in the win came on a rush up the side of the field finished off with a blast that rattled off the back of the cage. She displayed her savvy and coolness under fire on her second score which came on a penalty stroke 10 minutes into the second half.

“All my coaches tell me to look to one part of the net and show the goalie you may be going that way and then fake it and go to the other side,” said Jenkins, who kept up her clutch play, scoring a goal in a 2-0 win over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then knocking home the game-winner in overtime in a 2-1 victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday.

“At first it is kind of nerve-wracking but I have gotten used to it from practicing.”

Jenkins has certainly gotten used to playing with junior standout Quigley, who also scored in the victory over HoVal.

“Emma has definitely gotten better from playing club this year,” said Jenkins. “Our passing has gotten smoother than it has been.”

Learning from older sisters Mariel and Sydney, who starred at PDS and are currently playing lacrosse and field hockey, respectively, at Harvard, has helped Jenkins be a better leader.

“I try to follow their lead and give constructive criticism and support,” said Jenkins, who is a tri-captain of the Panthers along with classmates Corinne Urisko and Cami McNeely.

“I feel like there is a lot of responsibility. This is a great group of girls. They are always willing to give their best effort. It is a really great position to be in this year.”

In one respect, though, Jenkins is taking a different path than her sisters, having committed to join the Princeton University field hockey program.

“I decided to go the other way,” said Jenkins, reflecting on her college choice. “It is relieving to be done with the whole process. I am really excited to work with the coach [Kristen Holmes-Winn] there.”

PDS head coach Arndt was excited to get her first triumph of her Panther tenure.

“To win anywhere is great, let alone your first time on your home turf with a great crowd,” said Arndt, a former Penn State All-American and U.S. National Team player, who coached Pennsbury High to a league title and the state tournament during her tenure there from 2006-09. “We won in a strong fashion. They played well, they did what we asked.”

Arndt is pleased with the strong play she is getting from her attacking trio of Jenkins, Quigley, and junior Emily Goldman.

“Between A.J., Emily and Emma, I think they can be lethal because they are very fast and they have stick skills,” said Arndt.

“If we counter attack, the three of them can almost be like a power play in hockey with odd man rushes. Emma and A.J. are doing really great things together. They have been trying to dribble it a little too much. They have really great skill and now they use that skill together.”

PDS has been getting a great effort from its battle-tested back line that features senior defenders Urisko, McNeely, and Zeeza Cole together with senior Sarah Trigg in goal.

“They have been doing really well,” said Arndt. “One thing that has been our focus is team defense as well as marking in the circle. I think if you can be a solid marker, the forwards are going to start getting frustrated. Corinne, Cami, and Zeeza have really stepped up. Their leadership as well as Sarah Trigg’s in the goal is going to be huge for our success. We are going to rely on them.”

While Arndt saw the 6-goal outburst against Stuart as a confidence builder, she was more impressed by the execution than the final numbers.

“Getting six is great but how they are doing it is even better for me,” asserted Arndt, whose team hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24.

“They are listening to what I am saying and they are making the proper changes.”

Jenkins, for her part, believes that PDS has changed for the better under Arndt.

“We have definitely improved since last year,” said Jenkins. “I think if we keep doing the stuff we are doing now, we are going to move up every game. We are going to give it our all and give it our best effort.”

BRICK-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Jack Brickner, left, goes up for a header against Peddie last Wednesday. Brickner scored a goal in the contest but it was not nearly enough as PDS fell 4-1 to the Falcons. The Panthers, who dropped to 0-4-1 with a 2-1 defeat to visiting Hopewell Valley last Friday, play at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being held scoreless in its first three games this season, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team took a step forward in its contest against visiting Peddie last Wednesday.

PDS gave up an early goal to the Falcons but then responded with its first tally of 2012 as senior Jack Brickner headed home a pass from Marco Pinheiro with 6:26 left in the half.

But seconds away from going into halftime knotted at 1-1, misfortune struck PDS as one of its defenders blocked a Peddie shot with his hand, leading to his disqualification on a red card and a Falcon penalty shot.

Peddie cashed in on the chance to go up 2-1 at intermission and then pulled away in the second half against a shorthanded PDS side, tacking on two more tallies for a 4-1 victory.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence in the waning moments of the first half proved to be decisive.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes, we call it game intelligence,” said Murphy.

“When we lost that possession around the area, that’s when the decision should have been to play the ball away and send it where they can’t do any damage. Instead we wanted to play with it in the middle and it changed the whole game.”

Murphy did like the way his team responded in the early stages of the second half.

“We kept putting the efforts in,” said Murphy of his young squad that includes five sophomores and four freshmen.

“I actually thought that in the first seven or eight minutes of the half that we had some good opportunities but then again you have to put them away. Once they started to spread the field, we started losing our legs.”

While Murphy saw some good signs, he acknowledged that his team needs to develop more resolve when faced with adversity.

“For young players, it is very difficult unless you see something instant,” said Murphy, whose team lost 2-1 to Hopewell Valley last Friday to fall to 0-4-1.

“The battle gets harder and deeper and that’s where we have to learn. Resilience is not in their vocabulary just yet.”

Despite the margin of defeat, Murphy saw some bright spots. “I thought the back four played well,” said Murphy, whose defensive unit includes Brickner, Zach Golden, Chris Chai, and Taran Auslander.

“They were playing a bit of a long ball; it is hard to defend against. We are struggling to find depth in the forwards to take the pressure off of us. We don’t seem to be able to find anybody individually or in a partnership who can stop the source.”

In Murphy’s view, the team will benefit from going back to the drawing board on the practice field.

“We have the opportunity to have more training sessions,” said Murphy, whose team plays at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22.

“We need to step back and go through those sessions with them and show them what we are looking for in units. We’ll get there. We have been there before and they will be there again as long as they show a willingness.”

FULL CIRCLE: Stuart Country Day field hockey goalie Margaret LaNasa, center, controls a crowded circle in recent action. Junior LaNasa has provided solid play as Stuart’s last line of defense to help the Tartans get off to a 1-3 start. In upcoming action, Stuart plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Stuart Country Day field hockey team played at Princeton Day School last week, Missy Bruvik carried on a constant dialog with her players, instructing both those on the field and the others on the bench.

With a roster containing eight freshman and five sophomores, head coach Bruvik knows that her team has a steep learning curve this fall.

“There are teaching moments all game long,” said Bruvik, who is returning to the helm of the program after coaching Stuart 21 years through 2006 and then taking a break to follow her daughter Kelly’s field hockey career at Bucknell.

“I have always talked to the kids on the bench during the games. It keeps them engaged. They are learning and they appreciate what the kids on the field are doing. They have a better idea of what they need to do when they get playing time.”

In the first half against a tough, veteran PDS squad, Stuart applied those lessons, holding its own as it only trailed 2-1 at the half of the September 11 contest.

“They are taking everything that they are learning,” said Bruvik of her club. “PDS is a very good team; it was nice to see us hang in there against them. We were getting the ball in the circle more.”

It was also nice for Bruvik to get some good work from such freshmen as Julia Maser, Tori Hannah, and Sam Servis. “Julia had a nice goal; that was her second goal of the season,” said Bruvik.

“Tori Hannah worked hard at both ends of the field from the right midfield spot. Sam Servis did a good job, she won some 50/50 balls for us.”

In the second half, though, the team’s inexperience was evident as PDS pulled away to a 6-1 victory.

“We ran out of steam against a very tenacious team,” said Bruvik, whose club fell 4-0 to Lawrenceville last Saturday to move to 1-3. “We are still working on figuring out what is the best system for this team.”

The Tartans got some good work in the PDS game from senior Nicole Starke together with juniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret La Nasa.

“I think Nicole Starke and Amy Hallowell did as much as they could,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24.

“Margaret LaNasa did a good job in goal; she faced a lot of shots. She is really holding her own; she is learning a lot from Gia [Stuart assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione]. She is a good student; she is making a lot of progress.”

Bruvik believes that her young squad is studious collectively. “They are learning,” asserted Bruvik. “We go through drills and take our time and tell them this is why we are doing this. We just need to keep playing.”

September 12, 2012

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton High senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio drops back in a preseason scrimmage this summer. Last Saturday, DiGregorio helped PHS rally from deficits of 7-0, 14-6, and 21-14 to top Northern Burlington 27-21 in the season opener for both teams. DiGregorio threw two touchdown passes in the win. PHS plays at Hightstown on September 14.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton High football team pulled out a dramatic 27-21 win over Northern Burlington last Saturday in the season opener, PHS quarterback Zack DiGregorio made a beeline for his father on the sideline.

The senior star and his dad, Steve, a former Princeton University assistant coach and Nutley High head coach who is helping guide the Little Tigers this fall, embraced each other in an extended bear hug with grins plastered to their faces.

For the younger DiGregorio, it was a highlight moment he will remember for a long time.

“My dad is on the sideline now and that is huge for me,” said DiGregorio. “Hugging him like that was one of the coolest things I have experienced.”

DiGregorio showed his experience in the victory over the Greyhounds, coolly running the PHS offense, hitting four of nine passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

The Little Tigers kept their composure collectively, battling back from deficits of 7-0, 14-6, and 21-14 in rallying for the win.

In the third quarter, PHS marched 40 yards on a drive that culminated with a 15-yard touchdown pass from DiGregorio to Will Xu to tie the game at 21-21.

After Jack Persico recovered Northern Burlington fumble late in the third quarter, DiGregorio engineered a 41-yard march that ended with a 31-yard touchdown gallop by Javon Pannell which put PHS ahead to stay at 27-21.

A key to the PHS win was its superb running game, featuring Pannell (10 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown), Ben Smallzman (7 carries for 108 yards), and Will Harrison (23 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown).

DiGregorio, for his part, thought that offensive balance would be a strength this fall for the Little Tigers.

“As we were coming through camp this year, we saw that we could really spread the ball around a little bit,” said DiGregorio. “Last year we had Eric [Shorter] but this year we didn’t have an offensive force. I feel like we have a lot of pieces we can use equally. It makes us pretty hard to defend.”

In order to make himself tougher to defend, DiGregorio put in extra time in the weight room and got tutored by a legendary former New York Giants quarterback.

“I also had the opportunity to work with Phil Simms up in northern Jersey,” said DiGregorio.

“He knows his stuff, we worked on fundamentals and just being more efficient with my delivery and getting more out of my body than I was getting. It was a huge, huge improvement; that is something I worked really hard on this summer.”

In the win over Northern Burlington, the Little Tigers benefited from a huge effort in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

“We have a bunch of really resilient guys,” said DiGregorio. “I am not the one you should be talking to, it’s the guys up front. They stuck their necks out for everybody; you can’t play harder than they played today. The defense was bearing down when it needed to; it made my job really easy.”

In trying to master the job of quarterback, DiGregorio has learned a lot form his predecessors.

“I have had great role models here as quarterbacks,” said DiGregorio. “From Mike Olentine, who was great in what he did. We still talk. Alex Mitko and I are still really, really good friends. I have learned so much from them.”

PHS head coach Joe Gargione credited DiGregorio with making some great improvements.

“Zack stepped up big time today,” said Gargione. “We didn’t throw the ball that much because the run game was working so well today and we stuck with what worked. When he did throw the ball, he just had confidence. His arm strength has improved so much as has his footwork.”

Gargione liked the strength of character that his players showed as they kept battling back.

“I told the team no matter how tired you are, you dig a little deeper because you are not as tired as you think you are,” said Gargione.

“I think the biggest thing about today is that we didn’t let down. Even when they beat us twice on the long ball, we bounced back. I am so proud of them today.”

The win sparked some déjà vu for Gargione as the Little Tigers started last season by edging Northern Burlington 20-14.

“We knew that the two main reasons we beat them last year were turnover margin and I believe we were more in shape than they were,” said Gargione, whose team won the turnover battle again, recovering two fumbles and making two interceptions without committing any miscues.

“Today it seemed similar in the regard that they were hanging their heads a lot. I said to our guys take a look at them, they are hunched over. It is a key that they are tired and we need to feed off of that.”

The Little Tigers also fed off their togetherness in overcoming the Greyhounds.

“That’s the thing I have been stressing to these guys, we don’t have strength in numbers, we have strength when we all play together as one,” said Gargione.

”You may never come off the field other than for a blow or two. You get a drink of water and then you have to get back on the field. You have to play ironman football here. The line on both sides of the ball played awesome today”

In Gargione’s view, the Little Tigers can build on its encouraging performance.

“It is obviously good momentum going into the game Friday night at Hightstown,” said Gargione. “Beating a team like Northern Burlington at home to start off was awesome. That was huge.”

DiGregorio, for his part, believes that PHS has what it takes to beat a lot of teams this fall.

“This is huge momentum, especially with way we played this game so emotionally,” asserted DiGregorio.

“We know what we are capable of and it is even more than this. Good things are in the future, I am feeling it.”

MS. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally Rogers goes after the ball last Thursday in PHS’s 1-0 loss to Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they play at Hightstown on September 14 before hosting Trenton Central on September 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the season, Greg Hand acknowledged that his Princeton High girls’ soccer team was a work in progress.

Noting that the program is undergoing a youth movement with wholesale changes in the lineup, Hand predicted it would take some time to get in synch.

Last Thursday as PHS hosted Hopewell Valley in the season opener for both teams, the Little Tigers showed their youth, displaying some good stretches of soccer but coming up short 1-0.

“Although we have scrimmages, in the first 10 minutes, we weren’t organized,” said Hand.

“I thought we were playing pretty responsibly when they had the ball and we started to figure things out on attack. The whole middle of the first half and perhaps a little more after they scored, we tended to rush the play too much. When we played a ball forward to someone facing our own goal, we tended not to organize off of that and make it easy to relieve the pressure and change the point of attack.”

Hand liked the way his team handled the pressure on the defensive end as the Little Tigers stymied the Bulldogs with the exception of one lapse in the second half.

“We had a terrific effort through the back, I thought we played solid defense all day,” asserted Hand.

“There was just one time when they got around us. I don’t think we were marking on the far post and they were able to slip one in.”

PHS got some good efforts from such attacking players as sophomore forward Shannon Pawlak and senior midfielder Kate Kerr.

“I thought we got a great game from Shannon Pawlak,” added Hand.

“She worked really hard; she was winning 50/50 balls and was very tricky at times. Kate Kerr really controlled her piece of the field. We want to find more ways to use our middies better and help get them more touches.”

In Hand’s view, the Little Tigers can get better at controlling the ball. “We are going to continue to grow because we have a great commitment within this team,” said Hand.

“It has been such an impressive preseason leading up to this. We have to figure out to really possess the ball effectively.”

Hand is hoping that his young squad will use the loss to HoVal as a learning experience on its way to figuring things out.

“Tomorrow is another work day; they have established a great training rhythm,” said Hand, whose team plays at Hightstown on September 14 before hosting Trenton Central on September 18.

“They take themselves seriously; it is all business. The outcome today doesn’t make them any worse of a team. I think they are a better team by virtue of the experience and we can build on it by having a great session tomorrow. That is all you can ask.”

ALL TIED UP: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer star Hannah Levy, left, battles a Germantown Academy (Pa.) player for possession in action last Friday in PDS’s season opener. Senior Levy scored a goal and had an assist as the teams played to a 2-2 overtime tie. The Panthers play at Shipley School (Pa.) on September 14 and at Hamilton High on September 15.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

This past spring, Hannah Levy proved to be a superb finisher for the Princeton Day School girls’ lacrosse team, piling up 94 points on 69 goals and 25 assists.

Last Friday, Levy showed that her scoring knack translates to the soccer field as well. The senior star tallied a goal and added an assist as PDS battled Germantown Academy to a thrilling 2-2 overtime tie in its season opener.

In reflecting on her performance on the soccer pitch, Levy said she drew on her lacrosse skills.

“The sports are similar in a lot of ways,” said Levy. “They are both field sports; they both have a possession aspect and you see the field in the same way.”

Levy’s goal came with 25:15 left in the first half as she converted a feed from sophomore Alex Soltesz.

“That was a great cross,” recalled Levy, noting that her finish wasn’t a thing of beauty.

“I think the crosses were definitely open today. I kind of ran through it. I don’t even know where it hit off of me; it might have been my abs. It was a little too low for my head. I just went with it; it is a goal.”

Germantown tied the game late in the first half and then Levy hit a cross of her own with 13:18 left in regulation on a corner kick which led to a Kelsey Scarlett score.

“That was definitely good; we always focus on having it in the target zone,” said Levy.

“We did a kick called ‘the USA’ that is into the six; there are a lot of touches that can happen on that.”

The Panthers lost their lead less than 30 seconds later as Germantown scored on a run right after the kickoff.

PDS, though, didn’t lose its focus as the team held together and put plenty of pressure on the Patriots as the contest ended in a draw.

“We are lifting each other up on the field, we are out there for each other and playing as one unit,” said Levy. “I definitely think our possession work is much better than it was earlier. We are building off what we did in preseason and coming out really strong.”

“I don’t really know what position I am playing,” said Levy. “I got some minutes on attack. I really like that; it is new to me. I feel with Jane [Smukler] gone, I can pose a threat up there and push some people over and get some shots off. I am also very comfortable at center mid.”

PDS assistant coach Howie Powers is comfortable with Levy’s versatility. “We are asking Hannah to play a couple of things for us, mostly in the middle,” said Powers.

“We want her to use her strength on the ball. She goes after the ball and she shields so she plays a lot of withdrawn striker for us. Alex is there to run fast and hard while Hannah can strike the ball with her left or right foot. We are probably not going to get too many goals down low. We are going to get goals on crosses and shots outside and that’s where we got our goals today.”

Powers liked the way PDS didn’t get down even after Germantown knotted the game at 2-2.

“I think for the first game, to go 100 minutes was huge for us,” asserted Powers. “GA is always a very competitive team. They came right back in a minute and the nice thing was that we could have collapsed on that. I think we had more energy in the overtime; both teams could have won this game.”

In Powers’ view, junior goalie Rory Finnegan deserves a lot of credit for keeping PDS in the game.

“I think our most improved spot on the team is Rory Finnegan out of the goal,” maintained Powers.

“She made some phenomenal saves and her distribution was great. She really worked on her game over the summer. It’s coming out hard on the field and that is giving everybody else confidence.”

Showing its confidence, PDS is playing a more competitive slate this year, taking on teams like Germantown, Pennington, and the Shipley School (Pa.) as it aims to make a big postseason run.

“We upped our schedule, we changed three games where we may have been the favorite and we put in three games where we are the underdogs,” said Powers, whose team plays at Shipley School (Pa.) on September 14 and at Hamilton High on September 15.

“When we are playing the right size schools, it should make us much more competitive and that’s obviously where we are steering for this season. We play a very competitive regular season schedule which might hurt us in seeding and home games but it preps us a little more. It gets us a little more ready.”

Levy, for her part, believes the Panthers are ready to play some good soccer. “We need to look for the easy pass, sometimes we are trying to kick it down the field and we are not really a kick and run team,” said Levy.

“We have a lot of soccer players; we need to play to feet. We need to spread the field with outside midfielders on the end line calling for the ball and doing all the simple stuff.”

FOR PETE’S SAKE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Pete ­Stoddard chases down a ball in action last season. Hun is depending on Stoddard to help anchor its defensive unit this fall. The Raiders kick off the 2012 season by playing at the Haverford School (Pa.) on September 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After struggling through a 4-12 season in 2011, the Hun School boys’ soccer team will be featuring a new look this fall.

“We have revamped our entire system,” said fifth-year Hun head coach Pat Quirk. “We will be playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. A lot of European teams are playing it. I bought some books and studied them over the summer. I thought it would play more to our strengths; the guys are liking it.”

Quirk also likes the new attitude he is seeing from his returning players. “The core of kids is very dedicated,” asserted Quirk, noting that his team showed character down the stretch last fall as it won four of its last six games after a 0-10 start.

“They want to return to what we were before. I think they all learned lessons from last year and they worked hard through the summer.”

Quirk is expecting some good work from junior Andres Gonzales who will play the lone striker position in the team’s new formation. “Andres is a bit of a target,” said Quirk, whose team kicks off the 2012 season by playing at the Haverford School (Pa.) on September 15.

The trio of attacking players in the new formation will include senior Robert Merfield, sophomore Foster Broad, and senior Alex Griese, with junior Felix Dalstein and senior Nick Revano filling the two holding midfield spots.

“Griese is very slick with the ball,” added Quirk. “Felix is a good offensive distributor while Nick is more defensive; he breaks up plays. They all know their roles.”

The Hun backline will feature a pair of seniors, Peter Stoddard and Zach Winterstein, together with junior Bailey Hammer.

“As much as Stoddard and Hammer want to go forward, they know they have to stay back and protect,” said Quirk.

Quirk is expecting junior goalie Chris Minert to do a good job of protecting the net for the Raiders.

“Chris has gotten a lot better; he worked hard in the offseason with a trainer,” said Quirk.

As Quirk looks forward to the season, he is confident his players will do a better job this fall of playing as a unit.

“The players have a good attitude, they are willing to try anything,” said Quirk.

“None of them are selfish. We need to continue to share the ball and not wait and watch. There needs to be less dribbling and more controlling the midfield and making two-touch passes.”

NOT SO ANGELIC: Hun School girls soccer player Angelica ­Tabares, center, fights for ball in a game last fall. Senior tri-captain and star forward Tabares figures to be a key player for Hun this fall. The Raiders start their 2012 campaign with a game at Montgomery on September 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In 2011, a Big Three of senior stars drove the Hun School girls’ soccer team to a superb campaign.

The trio of striker Holly Hargreaves, midfielder Nicole Campellone, and goalie Lexi Golestani sparked the Raiders to a 10-5-2 record.

With those standouts now playing college soccer, Hun head coach Ken Stevenson knows he is going to need all hands on deck to maintain the program’s winning tradition.

“I have been having discussions with the captains and we have been talking that we need to be team-first,” said Stevenson, whose team starts the 2012 campaign with a game at Montgomery on September 13.

“We are more focused on making sure that everyone is involved because we are relying on everyone.”

The team’s togetherness has been tested as star midfielder and tri-captain Joey Crivelli had season-ending knee surgery before practices even started.

“We have already shown that we can bounce back from adversity,” said Stevenson, noting that Crivelli is still around the team on a daily presence, providing a presence and some coaching help. “Joey having surgery before the preseason was a tough blow.”

Stevenson is relying on his other senior captains and forwards Angelica Tabares and Danielle Beal to provide production and leadership.

“Angelica and Danielle are responsible for picking up the scoring mantle,” said Stevenson.

“Both had great junior seasons and need to continue that momentum for us to be competitive. Beal is good in the air so we have to use that. Tabares’ work ethic is incredible. A lot of Division I programs are looking at her but none of that is going to her head.”

Hun is looking for two other veterans, senior Gianna Crivelli and junior Olivia Breander-Carr, to produce some good work in the midfield.

“One of the positive developments is that Gianna is taking Joey’s injury personally,” said Stevenson, whose midfield will also include sophomores Shannon Graham, Erica Dwyer, and Page McGuire together with freshman Sophia Sauma.

“She came into the season in great shape and ready to take on more responsibility. Olivia is a big variable. When she has the ability to put together her speed and toughness, she is a very dynamic player.”

The Raider defense will be spearheaded by a dynamic sister act, senior Allison Maziarz and sophomore Ashley Maziarz.

“Ally is coming off an ACL but she has such an enjoyment of the game,” said Stevenson.

“She is excited to be out there. She has done the work to return and is hungry to make the most out of her senior season. Ashley was a lights-out defender as a freshman who started every game. She is very dedicated and very tough.”

Freshman defender Jess Johnson, who has already exhibited some notable toughness, will bolster the backline.

“Jess Johnson will be a starting central defender, which is a lot to ask of a freshman but she can handle it,” asserted Stevenson.

Another freshman, Courtney Arch, may be asked to handle a major responsibility with returning sophomore goalie Caitlin Hoagland having picked up an injury in the preseason.

“Caitlin got banged up in the Allentown scrimmage and should be back by mid-September,” said Stevenson.

“She is an outstanding goalkeeper who is ready to make her mark after being tutored by Lexi Golestani. Courtney is an unheralded freshman who stepped into the scrimmage and did really well. We may need her to begin the season as the starter.”

In Stevenson’s view, the Raiders need to show togetherness if they are to do really well this fall.

“The biggest thing is that they need to make sure that we are getting contributions from everybody,” said Stevenson.

“Part of that is my responsibility to make sure that everyone is engaged and playing hard.”

CARRYING ON: Hun School field hockey star Carey Million heads up the field in a 2011 game. The Raiders will be looking to senior forward Million to provide offensive production this fall. Hun gets its 2012 season underway by playing at WW/P-S on September 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Hun School field hockey team has displayed a penchant in recent years for getting stronger as the fall goes on, it looks like defense is going to be a strength right from the start of the 2012 season.

In assessing her squad, Hun head coach Kathy Quirk knows that she has plenty of talent on defense, starting with junior Alex Kane.

“Kane has been playing extremely well, you can tell that she has played a lot of hockey since last season,” said Quirk, who guided the Raiders to a 7-8-1 record in 2011 on the way to a spot in the state Prep A semifinals.

“She plays center back and you don’t have to worry about her back there. She communicates well; she has a good feel for the game.”

Quirk doesn’t have to worry about depth along the back line with a trio of seniors in Lauren Apuzzi, Maddie Schade, and Sam Heyrich.

“Lauren is solid; she is doing what we are asking her to do,” said Quirk, whose team gets its 2012 season underway by playing at WW/P-S on September 14.

“Maddie Schade is a tall player with a long reach and can get some balls that others can’t. Sam Heyrich is at sweeper and is doing well.”

The team’s last line of defense, sophomore goalie Reina Kern, figures to be another bright spot for the Raiders.

“She has played a lot; she was in the developmental program and Junior Olympics,” said Quirk, who will be using sophomore Taylor Nehlig as her backup goalie.

“She played all summer long. We need her to take verbal command of the game. She needs to see the ball and direct the other kids.”

At forward, the Raiders boast a tandem in senior Carey Million and junior Francesca Bello who can form a commanding presence.

“When the two of them are working together well, they are a great duo,” asserted Quirk.

“Million is such a great competitor; I have her in the center and she seems to take charge. When Bello is on, she is on.”

Hun needs its midfield to be on the same page. That unit features junior Olivia Albanese, sophomore Julia Blake, sophomore Vicky Leach, junior Kristen Manochio, junior Liz Mydlowski, and junior Courtney Leach.

“Albanese has skills,” said Quirk. “Mydlowski is going to see time; she’s a scrappy hard worker. She can play middie or the back line. Faulkner played in Europe this summer.”

Quirk, for her part, hopes to see her team build off of its defensive foundation.

“We have to play as a team, we need to be unselfish and we can’t be afraid to pass,” said Quirk.

“We have to work on transition from the back line all the way to the forward line. We also have to be hungry.”

September 5, 2012

GOOD DAY: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday kicks the ball in a preseason training session. Senior midfielder ­Halliday brings skill and experience to a PHS team that aspires to once again be a power as it comes off a 2011 campaign that saw it win the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group III title. The Little Tigers kick off their 2012 season by playing at Hopewell Valley on September 6.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing seven seniors to graduation from a squad that went 20-1-2 last fall on the way to winning the Mercer County Tournament and the Central Jersey Group III title, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team could see 2012 as a transition year.

But, as in past seasons, PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe expects his program to keep rolling.

“We have been very fortunate,” said longtime coach Sutcliffe, who has guided the Little Tigers to a record of 53-3-7 over the last three seasons, including an undefeated state championship campaign in 2009.

“We lost some very special players from last year’s team but we bring back 12 seniors.”

PHS boasts a special senior one-two punch in four-year varsity performers Zach Halliday and Aidan Passannante.

“Zach and Aidan have been playing together since grade school,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at Hopewell Valley on September 6 to open regular season play.

“They are combining really well; they could be up front or in the midfield. They have been around a lot of older guys. They have seen the hard times in training and they have been in big games. They get it; they understand what needs to be done. It is now their time to see if they can do something special.”

Sutcliffe sees some hard work paying off for senior striker Colin Lamb.

“Colin had a good summer; he did a lot of training and went to college camps,” said Sutcliffe.

“He had a big spring in the weight room. We couldn’t be happier with him. He has the knack of scoring big goals in big games. He scored an overtime goal in a win against Hightstown last year and scored the game winner in our two victories over Notre Dame.”

In addition to the trio of Halliday, Passannante, and Lamb, PHS features several other good attacking players in junior Kevin Halliday, senior Peter Schulman, junior John Blair, sophomore Chase Ealy, and senior Jeremy Goldsmith.

Sutcliffe acknowledges that the team’s attack is a work in progress. “What we need is six or eight guys on the same page around the ball,” said Sutcliffe.

“We are finding our way. It is a slow process. We are not where we are going to be or where we need to be.”

PHS is going to need seniors Scott Bechler and Pablo Arroyo to step up as they lead a defense that lost such stars as Ben Davis, Bruce Robertson, and Kellen Kenny to graduation.

“Scott and Pablo are in their third season as full-time players for us,” said Sutcliffe, whose defense will also include seniors Juan Polanco and Adam Klein.

“They have experience and that is important. They are filling some big gaps. They have a big challenge, probably bigger than the others. We have been built from the back over the years.”

Sutcliffe faces a big challenge at goalkeeper where the Little Tigers are looking at junior Robert Quinn and sophomore Laurenz Reimitz to follow in the footsteps of graduated star George Kusserow.

“Both are showing well; they are full-time soccer guys and it is showing,” said Sutcliffe.

“The other guys are rallying behind them; it is like when Stephen Hellstern [former PHS star goalie] was a sophomore. It is our job to get them to the match fit and confident. We hope to have one guy showing better and go with him.”

While the goal for PHS is postseason success on the county and state level, Sutcliffe focuses on keeping his players in the present.

“We never really talk about that; it is getting into training and working hard everyday,” said Sutcliffe.

“With the return of a lot of players and a large senior class, we are expecting a lot from them.”

And based on the program’s recent history of success, that group should give  PHS a lot.

AIR FORCE: Princeton High quarterback Zack DiGregorio goes to the air in a scrimmage last month. PHS is counting on senior DiGregorio to step up this fall as he takes over the starting QB spot. The Little Tigers will kick off their 2012 campaign by hosting Northern Burlington on September 8.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High football team only won three games last fall but that amounted to marked progress since the program was coming off a winless season in 2010.

In the view of PHS head coach Joe Gargione, the improvement experienced last year should carry into this fall.

“I do feel that we are more confident; I believe we are a more solid team,” said Gargione, whose team kicks off its 2012 campaign by hosting Northern Burlington on September 8.

“We were 3-7 last year but we lost three games by a total of 11 points. My big phrase this summer has been don’t be satisfied with being good, always try to be better.”

Senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio has exemplified Gargione’s theme. “Zack has really stepped up; he did a lot of weight training and he got some quarterback coaching,” said Gargione.

“His arm strength is much better, he is moving really well in the pocket. He is being his own guy; he is not trying to be like Alex [last year’s starting QB Alex Mitko]. His attitude is that it is his position now.”

PHS will be featuring junior Will Harrison and senior Javon Pannell at the tailback position with senior Ben Smallzman at fullback.

“Will Harrison is No. 1 right now,” said Gargione. “He is an aggressive runner. He has worked hard. He is not a big kid but he hits the hole hard. Ben has taken a step up at fullback.”

Gargione is depending on junior Liam Helstrom to step up at tight end. “Liam Helstrom at tight end is a big player for us,” asserted Gargione. “He has good hands. He is only 6’2, 170 pounds but he is very strong.”

While PHS is losing a strong receiver in the graduated Eric Shorter (49 receptions for 1,052 yards in 2011), Gargione believes the Little Tigers will have more balance in the passing game with a group of pass catchers that includes senior Will Xu, senior David Klinges, sophomore Ben Danis, and senior Jamyl Williams.

“They are all unique,” said Gargione. “Will is a little guy but he runs well and has good hands. Klinges is lankier and he also has good hands. I expect Danis to play bigger than a sophomore and play smart. Jamyl Williams is an athletic guy who can go up and get the ball. We will spread it out; there won’t be a go-to receiver like Eric Shorter who the defenses can key on.”

A key to PHS’s success this fall could be its strength in the trenches. “We have a lot of depth on the offensive line,” said Gargione.

“Jack Persico is a three-year starter at left tackle. It is good to have an experienced guy protecting the blind side. Cal O’Meara has size; he is athletic and competitive. We also have Matt Vieten, Colin Buckley, and Papakojo Kuranchie.”

That collection of talent should also bolster the defensive front, which will feature the same quintet of Persico, O’Meara, Vieten, Buckley, and Kuranchie. “The depth gives us the option to sub guys in and out,” said Gargione.

PHS has some good guys at linebacker as well. “Grant Schaefer and Ben Smallzman are inside,” said Gargione, noting that the Little Tigers will again utilize a 4-4 defensive scheme this fall. “Klinges and Carl Helstrom are outside. It is a good group.”

The secondary will feature a combination of the team’s running backs and receivers.

“Will Harrison and Javon will split time at safety,” said Gargione. “Will Xu and Jamyl will be the cornerbacks. Danis will switch between outside linebacker and defensive back.”

In Gargione’s view, the Little Tigers can’t beat themselves if they are to increase their win total.

“We need to play consistently all four quarters,” said Gargione. “We have had some mental letdowns in our scrimmages and we need to minimize those. Offensively, we need to reduce the number of errors. We can’t have things like offsides or holding penalties. We need to keep moving forward.”

CENTER STAGE: Princeton High girls’ soccer standout Kate Kerr dribbles the ball in a preseason training session. Senior midfielder Kerr should be a commanding presence in the center of the field for PHS this fall. The Little Tigers get regular season play underway by hosting Hopewell Valley on September 6.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)


For the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, this fall is going to be about new faces in new places.

“The whole 11 looks different, said PHS head coach Greg Hand, noting that he lost the core of his team up the middle with the graduation of midfield stars Mason O’Brien and Logan O’Meara together with standout defenders Mia Haughton, Roni Nagle, and Katie Reilly.

“We are a substantially different team than we were. The challenge is to find the right players and the right mix.”

Hand thinks he has some good players at forward in junior Ally Rogers, sophomore Shannon Pawlak, freshman Gabrielle Deitch, and junior Jordan Provorny.

“Ally Rogers is coming back from an ACL injury suffered late last season,” said Hand, who guided the Little Tigers to a 10-4-4 record in 2011.

“She is in great shape, she has gotten more skillful. She is quite tricky and very tenacious. Shannon also has quick feet and is a very quick decision-maker. She has a wicked shot and is able to adjust and place it. Gabby Deitch has shown a lot; she has a solid skill set for a freshman. We know Jordan Provorny from JV, she has developed a lot ”

The development of senior star Meghan Brennan has prompted Hand to move her to midfield from forward.

“We are using Brennan more in midfield; her game has improved in every dimension,” noted Hand, whose club starts its 2012 season by hosting Hopewell Valley on September 6.

“She came in extremely fit. She has an attacking mindset but she is one of those kids who can make things jell. We are expecting a lot from her.”

PHS will also be expecting a lot from battle-tested Kate Kerr in the midfield. “Kate Kerr has been developing through high school,” said Hand.

“She will likely spend most of her time in the front of the midfield with Meghan behind her. She is always fighting and able to get off good shots. She is a presence in the center.”

The pair of freshman Taylor Lis and junior Eva Reyes should give the Little Tigers some good play on the outside of the midfield.

“Taylor is a very smooth player, very aware,” added Hand. “She is visually improving as she gets used to the U-19 environment we are in. On the left side, Eva will hold that spot down. She came in very fit and her feet have improved since the end of last year. She is right-footed but now can do more things with her left.”

In the middle of the defense, junior Dana Smith and freshman Haley Bodden will play key roles.

“Dana Smith is playing sweeper now and is likely to move to stopper,” said Hand, noting that last year’s sweeper, Emily Pawlak, is recovering from a broken foot and should be in action later this month.

“She has a lot of pace and has great judgment. She reads 1-v-1 situations very well. She comes up and tackles well. In front of her is Haley Bodden. She is tall, athletic and keeps her balance. She can keep her space, you can’t move her.”

The athleticism of Kaitlyn Carduner should be a big help as she moves to the defense from her previous spot in the midfield.

“Carduner played midfield last year but we are glad to have her in the back,” said Hand, who will also be using junior Emily Costa and senior Maddie Luther on defense.

“It is a spot she plays on her club team and she has gotten used to it and very confident. She can track people down if we are in trouble.”

The presence of four-year starter Emily Ullmann in goal gives Hand a lot of  confidence.

“Emily trains a lot and trains at a high level,” said Hand of Ullmann, who yielded only eight goals last season in 18 appearances.

“She is an even more complete goalie than she was a year ago; she sees the game so well. She is a real shot stopper and real tactician. Her greatest strength is not just that she talks but that everything she says is on point, helping us to get in a better shape or to execute better.”

In Hand’s view, the Little Tigers have what it takes to ultimately find the right shape.

“The team feels like a really good team; it is nice to see that they have the same approach to training hard,” said Hand.

“We need to get on the same page; we are figuring out what our game is going to be. I think this is a team that could continue improving during the season.”

CLEAR LEADER: Princeton High field hockey star Sydney Watts sends the ball upfield in a recent practice. Providing superb skills and leadership, senior defender Watts will once again anchor the PHS backline. The Little Tigers start their 2012 campaign by hosting Hamilton on September 6.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High field hockey team came a long way last fall as it posted a 10-6 record, Heather Serverson thought her squad should have gone even further.

“We were very disappointed in not getting past the first round of the states or going further in the Mercer County Tournament,” said PHS head coach Serverson.

Focusing on the last fall’s success, the PHS players are bringing an upbeat attitude into the 2012 season.

“I see a big change in the confidence level,” said Serverson. “We have 16 players who have two or three years experience. We also have some talented first-year and second-year players.”

Serverson has confidence that junior star Emilia Lopez-Ona can make a big impact at forward.

“I wanted to move Lopez-Ona up front last year but I needed her more in the midfield,” said Serverson, whose team starts the 2012 season by hosting Hamilton on September 6.

“I bumped her up this year and she is providing a spark. The others follow her lead. She is such an athlete.”

PHS boasts some other good offensive weapons in seniors Vivien Bazarko and Emma Crain together with sophomores Lucy Herring and Campbell McDonald.

“Vivien is on the right and we are rotating Lucy, Campbell, and Emma in the other spot,” said Serverson. “We have a lot of depth off the bench; I would say we easily have a talented sub for half the team.”

There is a talented crew in the midfield, featuring senior standout Jackie Chmiel along with junior Genevieve Quinn, senior Kelly Dredger, and freshman Trish Reilly.

“We have Jackie Chmiel back; she was out last year with a concussion,” said Serverson.

“We really needed her; she is a talented midfielder. Quinn stepped into Jackie’s spot last year and is playing well. Kelly is in the center. Trish Reilly will see a lot of time if she keeps playing like she has been in the preseason.”

The Little Tigers have put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of senior leader Sydney Watts.

“Watts is the defensive anchor of the team; she reads plays so well,” said Serverson. “She communicates in a positive way and she can distribute well. She doesn’t act like she is better than everybody else, she sees the team as a unit. She really helped Julia [DiTosto] last year. They play so well together.”

Serverson is expecting sophomore DiTosto to emerge as a force on the defensive end.

“DiTosto was great last year but she has improved 10-fold,” asserted Serverson, whose defensive unit will also include seniors Rebecca Freda and Hannah Kostenbader.

“She worked with May-Ying Medalia [former PHS and Princeton University standout] all summer and she helped teach Julia new skills.”

The Little Tigers will have a new goalie in the wake of the graduation of Tobi Afran. Right now, Serverson is deciding between junior Breanna Hegarty and sophomore Caitlin Duncan.

“Right now both are playing well,” said Serverson. “I have been having them on an even rotation in scrimmages. We are looking for one of them to stand out. It has been really great in practice, they are pushing each other. They work really well together.”

The team’s chemistry should help push PHS to greater heights this fall. “I think with the combination of experience and the group dynamic, our ability to play well together and communicate, we should take it further in the county and state tournaments,” said Serverson.

In order to make a big postseason run, the Little Tigers have to take care of the basics.

“We need to perfect the fundamentals in practice so that they are second nature in games,” added Serverson. “I like to work on the small passing game, you have to possess the ball to score.”

HEADS-UP PLAY: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kirsten Kuzmicz, right, bangs heads with a foe in action last year. Sophomore Kuzmicz figures to spark the Panthers this fall with her physical play in the midfield. PDS kicks off its 2012 season by hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on September 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the past four years, Janie Smukler provided the finishing touch for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.

But now that four-year starter Smukler is at Emory University after completing her PDS career with a total of 73 goals, the Panthers will have to spread the wealth offensively this fall.

“The bottom line is offensive production,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta, who guided the team to a 10-7-1 record last fall.

“We will be OK on defense but we will miss Janie. We could count on her when we needed a big goal. If we get in synch as a unit, we could be very good. It will have to be scoring by committee.”

To bolster the PDS attack, Trombetta has reshuffled the deck, relying on senior co-captains Kelsey Scarlett and Ellen Bartolino together with talented sophomore Alexa Soltesz to be dangerous around the net.

“We are going to lean on Kelsey for scoring production, we moved her from outside middie up top,” said Trombetta, whose team starts the 2012 campaign by hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.)  on September 7.

“We have also moved Alex up top from outside. They both have the skills to make the transition. It is a gradual process, we are still getting them connected. Bartolino will also see some time at forward.”

One of the team’s top performers figures to be sophomore midfielder Kirsten Kuzmicz.

“Kirsten will patrol the midfield, she is real solid,” said Trombetta, whose midfield unit will also include senior Hannah Levy, junior Lily Razzaghi, together with sophomores Erin Hogan and Erin Murray, a transfer from Peddie.

“She is a physical player; I look for her to win 50/50 balls and give us some production from that area of the field.”

Trombetta is depending on sophomore Stef Soltesz to control things at the defensive end of the field.

“We have Stef at sweeper, she has unbelievable speed and good decision-making,” asserted Trombetta. “She knows when to break up a play and when to sit back and wait for help.”

Soltesz will be getting help along the back line from Levy along with junior Britt Murray and sophomores Kylie Kieffer and Steinert transfer Kelly Tarcza.

The team’s last line of defense, sophomore goalie Rory Finnegan, is showing progress.

“I think with a year under her belt, she should be better,” said Trombetta. “She has looked good in preseason. She worked hard, she went to a couple of camps. She is committed to getting better.”

A key to PDS getting better will be the growth of the team’s seven sophomores.

“The sophomore class is very strong,” said Trombetta. “I think with the addition of two transfers, it should be even stronger. It could make or break the team.”

In Trombetta’s view, a strong collective work ethic could also make a big difference for the Panthers this fall.

“Out of all the teams I have had, this is one of the hardest working groups,” said Trombetta.

“They are committed to doing their best. We have a very competitive schedule, we have added teams like Germantown, Pennington, and Shipley. That should help come tournament time.”

WILL DO: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Willy Cara goes after the ball in a preseason training session. PDS is depending on senior Cara to provide skill and savvy in the midfield this fall. PDS opens its 2012 season with a game at New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on September 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Saying goodbye to seven seniors from last year’s squad, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team is undergoing a youth movement by necessity.

Longtime PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy initially had some trepidation over the callow nature of his squad which includes five sophomores and four freshmen.

“I think everybody was a little concerned because we do have a lot of younger players now,” said Murphy, who guided his veteran club to a 9-7-2 record last fall and a spot in the state Prep B championship game.

“They are not huge or athletic-looking, they are wiry. The teams we are playing against in our conference have a lot of good players and they are going to be coming at us with a lot of juniors and seniors.”

But after a few weeks of preseason training, Murphy has been pleasantly surprised by the soccer acumen displayed so far his young players.

They are very skillful, very technically inclined and tactically inclined,” asserted Murphy, noting that the team showed a good possession game against Nottingham in its first scrimmage. “They know when to hold the ball, they know when to push forward.”

Sophomore midfielder Marco Pinheiro has emerged as one of PDS’s most skillful and imposing players.

“Marco is an extremely good player; he is a little different from the rest because he is tall and carries more weight,” said Murphy of Pinheiro, whose older brother, Rui, was one of the star seniors on the 2011 squad and is now playing for Tufts University.

“No one is going to try to come in and knock him down; he is a big guy. His vision in the scrimmage was tremendous. He anchored the midfield in front of the defense and did extremely well. He’s very good with the ball. He’s got good distribution skills; he can place a ball from 50, 60, or 70 yards with accuracy.”

The rest of the PDS midfield will include a pair of freshmen, Amir Melvin and Matthew Olosunde, along with senior Wily Cara.

Murphy is expecting Cara to be a catalyst in his final campaign with the Panthers.

“We play Willy wide to get him up and down the field,” said Murphy, whose team opens regular season play with a game at New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on September 5.

“I expect him to be a leader and a true player in there working with these other guys and combining.”

PDS is looking for sophomore Oscar Vik and senior Absnel Esteban to develop into a potent combination at forward. “Oscar Vik stood out tremendously well against Nottingham,” said Murphy.

“We didn’t really need a big physical forward, we were able to play good quality balls in, and he played very well. Absnel Esteban works hard off the ball. We have to work a lot on finishing. We were impressive against Nottingham in finding the front players and getting up there but we were pretty erratic with our finishing.”

Murphy believes he has an impressive defensive unit with freshman Chris Chai and junior Zach Golden in the middle and seniors Taran Auslander and Jack Brickner on the wings.

“The two that have worked together the best were Zach Golden and Chris Chai,” said Murphy.

“Chris is young but he has done so well with his possession. They have impressed me with the way they play off each other. They have got a good understanding of how each other works so we decided to go with them down the middle and try the seniors, Taran and Jack, on the outside.”

At goalie, Murphy will be trying sophomore Christian Vik and junior Tom Hagan.

“We started with Christian Vik against Nottingham; he did extremely well,” said Murphy.

“He is a very aggressive keeper; he gets off his line. They had a couple  of tall players and he was out of his box, clearing and fisting everything. He took a lot of pressure off us. They didn’t have a lot of corners but he dealt with them extremely well. Tom Hagan is the other goalie; he will get his chance. I told them that if I put you in to start and you are doing well, I am going to give you the opportunity to finish the 80 minutes.”

In Murphy’s view, his youthful squad is ready to seize opportunity collectively this fall. “Right at this moment, it can go from strength to strength, week after week,” asserted Murphy.

“I have seen such an improvement already. Psychologically, nothing seems to faze them so far when it comes to keeping the ball. The younger guys are very intelligent in the game. They understand group and team play.”