November 14, 2012

B-LINE: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan eyes the ball last Saturday as PDS hosted Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals. Junior midfielder Brennan scored an early goal to help spark the Panthers to a 6-2 win. A day later, PDS fell 2-0 to Montclair Kimberley in the Prep B title game to finish the fall with an 11-4-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Brennan had extra responsibility on her shoulders last Saturday as the Princeton Day School field hockey team hosted Newark Academy in the state Prep B semifinals.

With midfield running mate Mary Travers sidelined by a concussion, junior Brennan knew that she had to step up.

“It was definitely more work because Mary is a great player,” said Brennan. “I think we all came together to make up for her absence.”

Having not played since losing to WW/P-N on October 23 in the Mercer County Tournament and with Hurricane Sandy disrupting its practice routine, Brennan and the Panthers were excited to be back in action.

“We were all really focused when we got back out on the field,” said Brennan. “The start was really great; getting us right back in the swing of things.”

Brennan helped PDS get off to a flying start on Saturday, notching a goal six minutes into the contest to draw first blood as the Panthers built a 3-1 halftime lead.

“I really just reacted, it went up and my stick followed it,” said Brennan reflecting on her goal which came off an assist by senior star and Princeton-bound Andrea Jenkins.

“It was really good to get the momentum and get the comfortable lead so we could settle in and do all the things we have been practicing.”

The Panthers kept up the momentum on the second half, outscoring Newark 3-1 over the last 30 minutes of the game to pull away to a 6-2 triumph.

“Mrs. Arndt [PDS head coach Tracey Arndt] said never let off the pressure because the second you let off the pressure, they can come back,” said Brennan. “We just stayed hard throughout the whole game.”

Brennan’s hard play in the midfield is the product, in part, of extra work she has put in with the Mystyx club program in Pennsylvania.

“I did Mystyx in the offseason; I have been playing non-stop since last season and it has just made me a lot better as a player,” said Brennan, joking that she gets some of her toughness from her father, Sean, a star defensive back for the Princeton University football team in the 1980s. “It has taught me aggression and tenacity in general.”

While PDS ended up losing 2-0 to Montclair-Kimberley in the Prep B title game on Sunday, advancing that far was a testament to the collective tenacity of the Panther squad.

“It is great; we have been trying to do it for three years now and we finally did it,” said Brennan. “I am just so happy.”

While PDS head coach Arndt wasn’t happy to see her team come up short in the title game, she was impressed by the character the players have displayed in their postseason run.

“One great thing out of this is that we really had to come together as a team and fight through adversity more than just on the hockey field,” said Arndt, who guided the Panthers to an 11-4-3 record this fall in her debut season with the program.

“We have practiced inside the gym; we have practiced in freezing cold. We haven’t really had the type of practice I would say that would get us ready but they pulled through.”

Arndt credited Brennan with coming through big time in the win over Newark Academy.

“Sarah is really used to playing with Mary Travers; they are a dynamic duo and she didn’t have her but she had to step up there,” said Arndt.

“She and A.J. [Jenkins] play really well together. She has grown into a poised player who knows her role in the center. That finish was a great finish for her and it sparked the rest of the game.”

The Panthers showed some good finishing across the board in the win as Corinne Urisko and Emma Quigley each had two goals in the win with Emily Goldman and Jenkins scoring one apiece.

“One thing we have really focused on is our finishing and making sure that we don’t rely on one or two people,” said Arndt.

“When one of the leading scorers had been out in Emma, we really had to figure out who was going to pick it up and they just decided we are all going to do it.”

Although the Panthers couldn’t pick up any goals in the title game, Arndt had no qualms with her players’ effort.

“We played hard to the final whistle,” said Arndt. “It is sad to lose but they played as hard as they could and that is all I can ask. It isn’t about wins and losses, it is about friendships and memories. They will always remember the bus ride yesterday and playing in a state title game.”

Arndt will always remember the contribution she got this fall from her senior group which includes Sarah Trigg, Zeeza Cole, and Cami McNeely in addition to Urisko and Jenkins.

“They have leadership galore; they have personalities to match, they have work ethic to match,” asserted Arndt, noting that all five seniors were key starters.

“They just don’t stop. They are there for each other; they know what’s right. They are just great leaders and great examples of hard work and commitment. We would have been lost without them.”

It didn’t take long for Arndt to realize that the PDS squad was committed to doing big things this fall.

“I knew when I first met with them this spring that they were a special group,” said Arndt. “They were on a mission to be as good as they could be and bond as a group.”

Brennan, for her part, believes that the team’s deep bond was a major factor in its success.

“Everyone is a year older and a year better,” said Brennan. “I know a lot of people have started playing club in the offseason. We are all really close friends off the field too which makes a really huge difference. Everyone calls us the field hockey cult. We are really close.”

November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TITLE CHASE: Princeton Day School field hockey player ­Emily Goldman chases down a foe in recent action. Last Friday, junior star Goldman scored three goals to help top-seeded PDS defeat No. 17 Nottingham 9-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. The Panthers were slated to host No. 8 WW/P-N on October 23 in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emily Goldman and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey weren’t about to take Nottingham lightly when the two teams met last Friday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

Even though PDS was seeded first in the MCT and the visiting Northstars were No. 17, the Panthers knew nothing was guaranteed.

Two days earlier, the Panthers had closed the regular season by losing to underdog Hun and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

“I think Hun brought us back to earth,” said junior star Goldman. “We had such a good streak going, only having one loss. I think it was the best thing for us even though I would like to beat them. It showed us that no matter what team we face, no matter what their ranking is, we need to work just as hard.”

As the Panthers hit the turf at Baker Field on Friday to face Nottingham, they were determined to work hard from the opening minute of the contest.

“I think we try to show each team that we are not here to mess around and this is our turf,” said Goldman. “We need to be victorious on our turf so we come out strong.”

Goldman led the charge on Friday scoring two goals in the first five minutes as the Panthers seized control on the way to a 9-0 rout and improving to 10-2-3.

“I think the rush of the playoffs kind of got me going,” said Goldman, who added a second-half tally to end the day with a hat trick. “I was really excited and adrenaline just made me finish.

In assessing the improvement in her finishing this year, Goldman credits her teammates.

“I think it is more about experience,” said Goldman. “We have basically had the same team for the last two years, only losing three players. I think the unity in general is a lot better and that makes everyone play at a higher level.”

The arrival of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped to raise the level of the team’s game.

“Coach Arndt has definitely led us in the right direction,” said Goldman. “She was a breath of fresh air and I think she has brought us along quite well.”

Arndt, for her part, concurred with Goldman’s assessment of the impact of the Hun loss.

“Hun was a really good team and they certainly came out firing; they finished when they needed to,” said Arndt.

“We had some nice moments of plays but mentally a lot of things were not working out as well as we wanted. All in all, it could have been the best thing that could have happened to us. It helped us understand what we really needed to focus on and that the playoffs are a whole new season.”

In Arndt’s view, the thrust of that focus comes down to taking care of business around the goal at both ends of the field.

“For me right now, it is finishing in both circles,” said Arndt. “In the attack circle, we have to be putting away goals when we need to. We took a lot of shots today which was great but we need to get them on cage. Defensively, we are working on our marking and being tight and just having a tenacious attitude in there to not let it go in.”

Goldman’s tenacity in the circle helped set the tone for the Panthers in the win over Nottingham.

“It was really exciting to see Emily get her stick down and she did what she needed to do,” said Arndt, who also got a hat trick from Emma Quigley in the win over Nottingham. “She got in the right spots and finished hard and that’s exactly what we needed from her.”

Arndt is hoping that that there is plenty of excitement ahead for the Panthers as they play in the MCT and then compete in the state Prep B tourney.

“Hopefully, we have a lot of games ahead of us but we have got to focus on each one,” said Arndt, whose team was slated to host No. 8 WW/P-N on October 23 in the MCT quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on October 25.

“We can’t focus on three or four games coming up because they may not come. We have to focus on each game and each half. We’ll go back to work on Monday and get some things accomplished.”

Goldman, for her part, is confident that the Panthers will maintain their winning focus.

“Rankings don’t matter for us at this point,” said Goldman. “We need to work hard, no matter if we are playing the last seed or the second seed.”

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Hun School field hockey goalie Reina Kern, center, controls the crease in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore star Kern made 14 saves as Hun edged Princeton Day School 1-0. In upcoming action, Hun, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the years, the Hun School field hockey team has typically saved its best for last, displaying a penchant for playing well down the stretch.

Last Wednesday, as Hun played at Princeton Day School, Alex Kane and her Raider teammates had a late-season surprise in store for the once-beaten Panthers.

“They are seeded No. 1 [in the Mercer County Tournament] and we really wanted to upset them,” said junior defender Kane. “We were excited to play, I think that is the best way to put it.”

Hun proceeded to put it to PDS, holding the fort on defense and finding the back of the cage on a Vicky Leach goal with 3:26 left in the second half for the lone score of the game in a 1-0 win.

“The girls’ attitude was unbelievable; I think we really stepped up,” said Kane.

“We are a team that builds off of each other so when we do really well, it really raises the morale.”

In Kane’s view, the Hun defense raised the level of its game in the victory over PDS.

“I think we have had an issue staying calm and the main goal today was just to relax because they have aggressive girls on their line,” said Kane.

“I think our midfield was really strong today and they were able to keep the ball further up the field so we didn’t really get hurt and it wasn’t coming into us over and over.”

Kane feels a responsibility to help control the middle of the field for the Raiders.

“As a center back, I try to keep them out of that area and push them wide,” said Kane.

“I am able to help the offense; I can have some good give-and-goes with the midfield now that Carey [Million] is there. She looks back to us and that is really good.”

It also helped to have a really good goalie in sophomore star Reina Kern. “Reina is unbelievable,” asserted Kane.

“She knows the game and is able to tell us where to go. She is our control center.”

Kern, for her part, who made 14 saves in the win over PDS, maintained control throughout the contest.

“I just keep my eye on the ball; I know a bunch of girls on this team but I don’t worry about who is shooting what,” said Kern.

“You tell your players what to do and watch the ball. I played my game and I guess I did that pretty well.”

A starter from game one as a freshman last fall, Kern is feeling a greater comfort level this year in the cage.

“Last year, I was new to the team and I had to adjust,” said Kern. “This year, I really have made the full adjustment. We had a very young team last year. We only lost one senior so we feel this year was our year. We came out this season and we were ready to play.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk sees a growing maturity in Kern. “Reina has really progressed; she is a team player,” said Quirk, whose team was seeded 10th in the MCT and fell 3-1 to No. 7 Lawrenceville last Thursday in an opening round contest.

“She talks to the girls; she has them move where they are supposed to move.”

Quirk credited Kane with helping to spearhead a superior defensive effort. “I think my whole defense did a great job,” said Quirk.

“Alex stepped up in the middle a few times and caught them off guard and took the ball away. Sam Heyrich saved one behind Reina. The whole defense just worked together.”

Hun brought an underdog mentality into the PDS contest; catching the Panthers off guard with their intensity.

“We knew they were seeded No. 1 in Mercer County; we talked about that and said wouldn’t it be great to come out on top,” said Quirk, whose team, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29.

“It has always been a good crosstown rivalry. We played the game of our life today. If we played like that every game, we could have won games that we have lost.”

Kane, for her part, believes the Raiders can maintain that mindset down the stretch.

“I feel like we are going to build off of this,” said Kane. “We are all so excited and so happy; it is just a great feeling.”

October 17, 2012

NICK OF TIME: Princeton University women’s volleyball player Lydia Rudnick goes after a ball in recent action. Senior outside hitter Rudnick has played a major role in helping Princeton go 9-8 overall and 6-1 in Ivy League play, second in the league standings to Yale (11-5 overall, 7-0 Ivy). The two-time All-Ivy performer leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148). The Tigers are next in action when they host Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

As her Princeton University women’s volleyball team got off to a 3-7 start this season with four of the defeats coming in five-setters, Sabrina King felt uneasy.

“There were lots of nerves in those losses; we were also figuring out who our starters are,” said second-year Princeton head coach King.

“It was making me concerned. Last year, the five-setters were falling our way. Some of it is luck but some teams have the mental strength to pull out five-setters. I was wondering if this might not be our year.”

In its Ivy League opener at Penn in late September, though, Princeton was on the right side of a five-set marathon, beating the Quakers 26-28, 25-22, 14-25, 25-23, 15-13.

In King’s view, that victory showed that the Tigers could be a strong team.

“That is always a really intense game; mentally it did a lot of things for us,” said King.

“To win a five-setter, to win on the road, and to start the Ivy League with a win was big. We had played a match earlier that week and three of our starters were out with injuries. We didn’t know what to expect.”

The win started the Tigers on a winning streak as they ended up producing a 5-0 start in Ivy play coming into a showdown at fellow league leader and defending champion Yale last Friday.

As Princeton looked forward to that challenge, it realized it had to play a complete game to topple the Bulldogs.

“Yale has few weaknesses; we knew we had to play really well to beat them,” said King.

Princeton started out well, winning the first set 25-22 but Yale showed its championship pedigree, responding by winning the next three sets 25-22, 25-19, and 25-22 to post a 3-1 victory.

“We won the first set and were ahead late in the second but I could feel the tide turning,” recalled King, a 2001 Princeton alumna and former All-Ivy star for the women’s volleyball program during her college days.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum; I called two timeouts but we just didn’t have the mental edge.”

In King’s view, the defeat to the Bulldogs reinforced some important themes. “We need to play consistently; we can’t have lulls against a good team like that,” said King. “We have to keep focus through the whole set; that is something we have been working on.”

A day later, the Tigers showed a laser-like focus as they posted an impressive 25-17, 25-20, 25-14 victory at Brown.

“It felt like a completely different game,” said King, whose team improved to 9-8 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the victory over the Bears.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to mourn our loss and we took care of business. Brown can be excellent defensively; the ball keeps coming back at you. We had to be patient.”

Princeton has been getting excellent play all season long from senior star Lydia Rudnick, who leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148).

“Lydia is an outstanding player,” asserted King of the two-time All-Ivy outside hitter.

“She is really a gamer; she wants the ball all the time. She has evolved as a player; she is trying to do more and work on being more successful consistently.”

The team’s sophomore players have become more consistent as well. “There is a ton of athleticism with that class; I didn’t recruit them but started with them last year so we developed a bond,” said King, whose star sophomores include Nicole Kincade, Tiana Woolridge, Sarah Hanna, and Ginny Willis. “They are great people and great athletes.”

With Kendall Peterkin (161 kills) and Sarah Daschbach (a team-high 226 digs) leading the way, Princeton’s group of freshmen have made an immediate impact.

“It is a talented class” asserted King. “They bring a lot to practices and games. They have a work hard attitude, there is no drama.”

With Princeton starting a critical five-game Ivy homestand, King doesn’t want to see too much drama.

“We have played really well at home; I hope it stays that way,” said King, whose team hosts Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

“We are talking about getting Yale at our place; I think we can do that. But we have to beat Penn, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown before we get to that. We can control our own destiny.”

In view of the pieces in place, Princeton’s destiny could be an Ivy championship.

“We do have a lot of good stuff,” said King. “This is a different type of team. It is an ensemble; it is not as distinct a lineup as last year. People are coming in off the bench and they are hungry to do well.”

D-ZONE: Princeton High field hockey star Julia DiTosto swats the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender DiTosto has been a key performer for PHS as it has produced an 11-2 record. The Little Tigers are seeded second in the Mercer County Tournament and are slated to play No. 15 Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After cruising to a 10-1 start this fall, the Princeton High field hockey team hit a speed bump when it played at the Princeton Day School last Thursday.

Generating 12 shots but unable to find the back of the cage, PHS fell 1-0 to their crosstown rivals.

While the Little Tiger players were hanging their heads after coming up on the short end of the nailbiter, PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes the setback could be a blessing in disguise for her squad.

“I thought we played well; we just weren’t finishing,” said Serverson. “They caught us off-guard; we are not used to that speed of play. It is a good thing that we lost to them because now we are ready for that. The girls honed in on that; they brought it up and I think we are going to focus on that tomorrow.”

While Serverson noted that some of her attacking players weren’t up to speed, she credited PDS with setting the tone in the midfield.

“Seventy-five percent of our forwards are ill right now; they are not their normal speedy selves but that’s no excuse,” said Serverson, whose team rebounded from the loss to the Panthers by beating Steinert 4-0 last Saturday as Sydney Watts, Emma Crain, Vivien Bazarko, and Jackie Chmiel all scored goals.

“I think the impact today was more in the midfield; I don’t think our midfield today was playing cohesively. We weren’t adjusting. They were very fast with the passing and we weren’t playing the good roll defense that we worked on all day yesterday.”

The Little Tigers had trouble breaking down the PDS defense even though they played with a heightened sense of urgency down the stretch of the game.

“We didn’t have the number of opportunities that we normally have,” said Serverson, whose team did generate four penalty corners in the last five minutes of the contest against the Panthers.

“I think percentage-wise it really stuck out because normally we get more opportunities so we put more on goal.”

In Serverson’s view, PHS has a great opportunity to do damage in postseason play.

“I think we just need to pick up the speed of the game; we need to play with intensity right from the start,” said Serverson, whose club, now 11-2, is seeded No. 2 in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to play 15th-seeded Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest.

“I think we are still gaining that confidence. They are not used to being a winning team so they are defensive at first. Once we put in a goal, then everyone starts to go and say oh yeah we are Princeton. We need to get the ball down there more often. We need to get more opportunities because once we start, we don’t stop.”

BACK-UP PLAN: Princeton High senior linebacker Carl Helstrom looks to make a hit in a game earlier this fall. Last Friday at Willingboro, PHS dug a 19-0 hole in the first quarter only to close the margin to six early in the second half after 13 unanswered points. The Little Tigers, though, couldn’t hold the fort as Willingboro pulled away to a 38-13 win. PHS, which has lost five straight to fall to 1-5, hosts Burlington High on October 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High football team fell behind 19-0 last Friday evening at Willingboro, the Little Tigers could’ve folded.

PHS entered the night mired in a four-game losing streak that had seen it outscored 140-16.

Showing some pluck, though, the Little Tigers stiffened up defensively in the second quarter and then forced a turnover late in the half when Willingboro fumbled a punt.

PHS cashed in on the miscue as senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom on a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it a 19-7 game at halftime.

Utilizing a little trickery, the Little Tigers started the second half with a perfectly executed onside kick to get possession. PHS converted that into a score as Javon Pannell ran five yards for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 19-13.

But that was as close as the Little Tigers would get as the Chimeras reeled off 19 unanswered points to post a 38-13 victory.

PHS head coach Joe Gargione saw improvement from his squad notwithstanding the final score.

“We were only six points back but they had so much speed compared to us,” said Gargione, whose team fell to 1-5 with the setback.

“We definitely showed more than the week before. We ended our streak of not scoring a touchdown. We had not scored a touchdown in three and a half games and we only had three points in a three-game homestand. It was definitely good to get some points.”

While Gargione knows his team can’t afford to dig a big hole like it did on Friday, he believes the pride his players displayed in fighting back could lead to success down the stretch.

“I told them at the end of the game that we can’t put ourselves in that kind of a hole,” said Gargione.

“I think the kids realize that even if you get down 19-0 to a good team, crazy things can happen. I said to them that I think we can get three more wins, 4-6 sounds a lot better than one and something.”

The Little Tigers are getting winning efforts from DiGregorio, Helstrom, and Pannell.

“Zack and Liam are two of our three captains,” said Gargione. “We are using Liam everywhere and Zack is dong a great job. Javon is a little guy but he keeps fighting. He hits the hole hard and has some great moves.”

Even though PHS faces a big challenge when it hosts Burlington this Saturday, Gargione thinks his club can make a move in the right direction.

“We are playing another tough team; it is our Senior Day and I want us to have a good showing,” said Gargione.

“I don’t want the seniors to leave with a bad taste in their mouths. We have so much to work on but scoring two touchdowns is a small improvement. I would like to see us score three or four next week and have the defense do better.”

RISK MANAGEMENT: Princeton Day School field hockey star Corinne Urisko clears a ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday against visiting Princeton High, senior tri-captain and sweeper Urisko contributed an assist and her usual stellar defensive play to help PDS edge PHS 1-0. The Panthers, who topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3, host Hun on October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). PDS is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will face the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior star Corinne Urisko and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad were disappointed in late August when they got outclassed in falling 3-0 to Princeton High in a preseason scrimmage.

As a result, there was a heightened level of intensity in the air last Thursday when PDS welcomed their crosstown rivals for their annual regular season meeting as Urisko and her classmates were honored in the program’s annual Senior Day.

“We were really fired up going into this,” said sweeper and tri-captain Urisko. “We wanted this more than anything.”

The Panthers didn’t wait long to show their desire to win as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 5:35 into the contest when Andrea Jenkins banged home a feed from Urisko. PDS was able to hold the fort the rest of the game, repelling several Little Tiger attacks as it held on for a 1-0 victory.

When the final buzzer surrounded, the Panthers mobbed each other on the field, riding an emotional high that had several players crying for joy.

“Having this on Senior Day made everything worth it,” asserted Urisko. “I have never been happier; we all pulled together and worked as a team.”

The Panthers worked really well together in the defensive end as they continually thwarted the high-powered PHS attack.

“We really worked on our communication and marking our players really tight,” said Urisko.

“We didn’t want any balls going into the circle. We have been working on our defense for a long time now in practice so it really helped.”

Urisko was happy to help offensively as she slotted a pass into the circle early in the game that Princeton-bound classmate Jenkins converted for the only score of the contest.

“I saw the opening and I passed it,” recalled Urisko. “I have a lot of confidence in Andrea. I knew she would get it in for us.”

The team’s group of seniors, which includes defenders Cami McNeely and Zeeza Cole and goalie Sarah Trigg, along with Urisko and Jenkins, is looking to write a special final chapter to their PDS career.

“We have been together for so long and some of us are going to play in college, this is really important to us,” said Urisko.

“We want to end this season well. We want to win the county tournament and hopefully the preps. Those are goals this season.”

In Urisko’s view, the influence of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped give PDS a championship mentality.

“She fuels our fire; she gets us pumped up,” said Urisko. “She always knows what to say and she has been a great coach for us. We have come a long way since last year. She is very encouraging; she has helped us so much.”

Arndt, for her part, saw the win over PHS as exemplifying how far her team has come this season.

“We had played them in the preseason and they were really strong then,” said Arndt.

“I knew that we had so much improvement. I knew it would be a great game. I knew Senior Day would pick things up and the energy was high.”

After battling Montgomery to a 2-2 tie two days before the showdown with the Little Tigers, PDS had to fine-tune things.

“We played Montgomery on Tuesday and they were a very strong team,” said Arndt, whose team topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3 and will wrap up regular season play by hosting Hun on October 17.

“We both gave each other a really close game but I thought there were parts of our game that had just a little bit of a mental breakdown. We worked on the things that we needed to work on, one of them being defensive corners. It was really good that we did; we had great defensive corners today. I give the Princeton attack credit for getting the corners.”

Arndt credited Urisko and her fellow senior defenders McNeely and Cole together with goalie Trigg for producing some great work in the win over PHS.

“They really came together; they had to be really strong and forceful together,” said Arndt.

“Cami came up with some great plays for us. Corinne had a great play on the goal. Trigg came out when she needed to. Zeeza plays simple and poised; you are not going to hear her ranting and raving. She is just going to do it simple and get it out. We really proud of what they have done.”

In Arndt’s view, her team can use the victory over the Little Tigers as a springboard heading into the postseason.

“We have the MCTs coming up and we have the state tournament coming up,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will host the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20.

“Mercer County is strong and any time you beat a public school, that is good. I think this just gives us momentum going into our last two games and the playoffs.”

Urisko, for her part, believes that the Panthers can make a strong playoff run.

“We need lots of communication and everyone has got to give it their all and 110 percent,” said Urisko.

“This year I feel like we really want it; we have a lot of drive. There is a high intensity out on the field and it is nice to see.”

TOUCH AND GO: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kirsten Kuzmicz boots the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Kuzmicz has provided the Panthers with offensive production and physical play this fall. PDS is going through a rough patch, having gone 0-5-1 in its last six games. The Panthers, now 3-7-3, will look to get on the winning track when they have a game at Abington Friends School (Pa.) on October 17 and then begin play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For much of its game against visiting Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team controlled possession of the ball.

But letting its guard down for a five-minute stretch in the first half, PDS’s good work went for naught as it fell 5-2 to the Blues.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta acknowledged that the Panthers wasted that possession, committing miscues at the wrong time.

“If you look at the possession, we possessed the ball most of the game,” said Trombetta, whose team trailed 4-0 at intermission, surrendering three goals in a decisive five-minute stretch midway through the first half.

“We made a lot of mistakes, we turned the ball over in the back. That hurt us today.”

PDS did fight back in the second half, displaying some sharper soccer. “We played better in the second half; we showed more composure in the second half and we put two away,” said Trombetta, who got goals from Kylie Kieffer and Britt Murray.

“We had a couple of golden opportunities that we didn’t cash in on in the first half. If you get on the board first, you have a little momentum and things can happen from there. Unfortunately we didn’t convert on the chances that we had and they cashed in on our mistakes.”

In Trombetta’s view, his club has been snakebitten in a recent stretch which has seen it go 0-5-1.

“I knew the schedule was competitive,” said Trombetta, whose team fell 2-1 in overtime to Lawrence High on Friday before tying Hopewell Valley 1-1 on Saturday.

“The Peddie game (a 1-0 loss on October 2) was an unbelievable game. It went to double overtime; we had chances and they converted on a corner kick. The Blair game (a 1-0 loss on September 29) was a tough game. The Lawrenceville game (a 4-2 loss on October 5) was really a 3-2 game. We gave up an easy goal at the end of the game when we were knocking on the door. I don’t look at it as being outplayed; I look at it as making mistakes. You can’t make mistakes at this level because good teams are going to convert on them and beat you.”

In order for the Panthers to get back on the right track, Trombetta believes his team needs to fine-tune things around the goal at both ends of the field.

“Our distribution in the back needs to improve,” said Trombetta, whose team entered this week with a 3-7-3 record.

“We have been speaking a lot about playing better defensively and offensively in the box. We are getting opportunities but we have been inconsistent. We put three on the board against Hun, we had two on the board against Lawrenceville so we are scoring against good teams. But then we come up with a couple of goose eggs against Blair and Peddie.”

Despite the team’s recent struggles, Trombetta is confident that his players can still produce a good postseason run.

“Today is not a good feeling but overall I have been very pleased,” said Trombetta, whose team plays at Abington Friends School (Pa.) in October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20.

“Coming into today, this is one of the teams that probably had been the most consistent since I have been here. We fell flat today but we can definitely make noise come tournament time.”

MAKING HIS MARK: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro dribbles the ball in recent action. The skilled play of sophomore midfielder Pinheiro has been a bright spot for a PDS team that fell to 2-8-2 with a 7-0 loss to Pennington last Friday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having won just twice in its first 11 games, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer knew it faced an uphill battle last Friday when it hosted a powerful Pennington squad that has just two defeats in its first 13 games.

For the first 33 minutes at Baker Field, PDS held the fort as the teams played to a scoreless stalemate.

But after a disputed corner kick and penalty kick led to Pennington goals, the roof fell in on the Panthers. PDS gave up anther goal in the first half to fall behind 3-0 at intermission and then surrendered four unanswered goals in the first 17:03 of the second half on the way to a 7-0 defeat.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence late in the first half changed the tone of the contest.

“We had some good work in the beginning,” said Murphy, whose team moved to 2-8-2 with the loss.

“That changes the psychology; they took charge in that last seven or eight minutes and we just couldn’t recover from that. You can’t take it away from them, they are good players.”

In Murphy’s view, his players can gain a lot from going against such high level competition as Pennington.

“I was actually proud; the one thing I did like is that we did say that we were going to play soccer throughout the game rather than just whack it up the field,” said Murphy, citing the efforts of sophomore Marco Pinheiro, junior Culver Duquette, and senior Willy Cara.

“We can use this as a great experience because there are not that many teams around like Pennington.”

With the Panthers having lost five straight games since wins over the Solebury School and the Blair Academy, Murphy knows that his team’s resilience is being tested.

“You just have to recognize who can come through it psychologically tight,” said Murphy, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 17.

“I thought this was the best game of possession that four or five of these kids have played because when we have been playing teams below our level, we have dropped to their level. Today we actually came with a game plan and tried to push it through.”

Now, Murphy is hoping his team can make a good push in postseason play as it competes in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).

“If we can manage to defend like that and learn how to break out of the back, we have a chance in the Prep Bs,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded 17th in the MCT and will face No. 16 Hun on October 18 in a play-in game with the winner facing top-seeded Allentown in the first round on October 20.

“We are also doing the counties. We are going in so we can give some of the players a better chance.”

STRIKING PRESENCE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Danielle Beal goes after a ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior striker and tri-captain Beal scored Hun’s lone goal as it played to a 1-1 tie at the Hill School (Pa.). The Raiders, now 3-2-4, host the Blair Academy on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deluge that hit the area Monday afternoon led to the cancellation of a number of high school athletic events.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the Hun School girls’ soccer team as it headed out for practice.

“Sometimes when it is like that, it is let’s go in,” said Hun head coach Ken Stevenson.

“I asked them if they wanted to go out and they were like yeah, let’s play. They were into it.”

For the Hun players, cheerfully dealing with a downpour was in character for a squad that has been overcoming adversity throughout the 2012 campaign.

Before the season even started, senior captain and star midfielder Joey Crivelli suffered a season-ending knee injury. That started an injury bug that has plagued the Raiders all season long.

“One of the challenges we have had and to which they are responding well is that our string of injuries continues unabated,” said Stevenson.

“When I sat down on Friday to do my lineup for the Hill game the next day, I had only 11 players so I called up two JV players and said here is your chance.”

Hun was up to the challenge as it battled to a 1-1 tie with the Blues in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener.

“Getting a tie against someone in your league on the road after a long bus ride is a good result,” said Stevenson, whose team moved to 3-2-4 with the tie.

“Danielle Beal got the goal on a good feed from Paige McGuire, who is working her way back. Paloma Rodney and Anna Weinand got called up and they got in and played well. Courtney Arch was already called up; she was our JV goalie and she is playing in the field and doing a good job for us. It is like the NFL with the next man up. I can’t complain about the effort or commitment.”

In the draw with Hill, sophomore defender Jess Sacco exemplified the commitment that Stevenson has been getting from his players.

“Jess Sacco excelled when I put a lot of pressure on her in the Hill game,” said Stevenson.

“We lost both Maziarz sisters [Ashley and Ally] for that game and I changed the formation to deal with it. Hill had one very fast and dangerous forward and I told Sacco she would be marking her but that I also needed her to help the offense. She went out and played, by far, the best game of her high school career against Hill when we really needed it the most.”

While senior star Crivelli hasn’t been able to play, she has been giving the team some needed leadership.

“I give Joey a lot of credit; she loves soccer and is very passionate about the game,” said Stevenson.

“She knows how much she could contribute but is unable to. That is very hard for a senior. I talked to her about going from frustrated player to helpful assistant coach. Her encouragement and talking to the girls has been a big help. I am sure it has made a difference. She is relentlessly upbeat. She is critical but in the sense of I know you can do better.”

Although the Raiders will be shorthanded down the final stretch of the season, Stevenson is upbeat about his team’s prospects.

“The biggest challenge is that every game from here on out is huge; we have Blair, Lawrenceville, Peddie, and Mercersburg coming up, every game is going to be either a MAPL or a state Prep A game,” said Stevenson, whose team hosts Blair on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20.

“When we are on our game, we are really good. We tied East Brunswick and they are 13-1-2 or something like that. We tied Episcopal and they have beaten all the MAPL teams they have played. When we start well and stay in our system we are competitive. We are good at connecting and playing to feet. When we do that, I like our chances.”

—Bill Alden

October 10, 2012

KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder and co-captain Halliday came up big in wins over Ewing and WW/P-S last week, tallying a total of two goals and three assists as the Little Tigers posted a pair of 6-0 victories in the contests to extend their winning streak to eight. PHS, now 9-2, plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After rolling to a 6-0 win over visiting Ewing last week, a bunch of the players on the Princeton High boys’ soccer team made a beeline for a pile of homemade Rice Krispie snacks near its bench.

But before they could devour the treats, PHS senior star and co-captain Zach Halliday called them off, telling his teammates to do their post-game warm down jog before satisfying their appetites.

For Halliday, keeping his teammates focused on task is one of the hallmarks of his leadership style.

“Something I try to do as a leader is to be vocal; I try to make sure the team is always taking things seriously,” said Halliday, who served as a captain of the PHS boys’ lacrosse team last spring.

“I am always giving 100 percent effort and also just leading by example when I am out there trying to make the best of a play. I am not saying things to other people that I am not doing myself. I am trying to make them see how it is done and hopefully the younger kids look at me and see the work ethic and things like that.”

In the victory over Ewing, Halliday certainly set a shining example on the field, scoring a goal and picking up two assists.

“I like to see myself as a playmaker but it is really just doing what the team needs,” said Halliday.

“Whether it is scoring goals, whether it is having assists, whether it is playing defense, I am trying to help the team out and fill in where I am needed.”

For Halliday, scoring the goal against Ewing represented a breakthrough.

“That was my first goal of the year; I have been in some different positions this year and different situations,” said Halliday.

“Today was my first day playing my old position, attacking center mid. I played there freshman, sophomore, and junior year. It was my 1st game back and I got my first goal. It may have been the fifth goal of the game but it was still exciting for me. I was trying to get everyone to celebrate with me. I was like come on guys and they were like was that really your first goal.”

Halliday is excited with how PHS is playing lately as it has reeled off eight straight wins since a 1-2 start.

“We got off to a pretty rough start but we weren’t concerned at all,” said Halliday, who chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS topped WW/P-S 6-0 last Thursday to improve to 9-2.

“We knew our best soccer was ahead of us. Back then, it was just developing the cohesiveness and chemistry and working out the kinks here or there. We are heading in the right direction.”

The connection between Halliday and younger brother, Kevin, a junior star for the Little Tigers, has helped the squad’s chemistry.

“Kevin is a real talented player and it is always a treat to get to play with him in any sport. we play together in lacrosse too,” said Halliday.

“I think this year he has shouldered the goal scoring load. Today he scored his 10th goal of the season. I think he is the first double digit goals scorer on our team since Andrei Spirin in our state championship year (2009). Kevin is bringing a new name back to Princeton High soccer and he has been clinical with his finishing. He has been playing like a senior even though he is only a junior; I am proud of him and everything he has been able to accomplish.”

Halliday and classmate Aidan Passannante have accomplished a lot since they started playing together in junior high.

“Aidan and I have been playing together since we were on the Cranbury Middle School team together,” said Halliday.

“We went undefeated our eighth grade year and that was awesome and then we came to Princeton our freshman year and the success has continued. I know Aidan as a player and a person; he is one of my best friends and is one of the most talented players I have ever played with or had to chance to play with. He is a great guy to lean on; he is a great guy to have making plays in big games. I think the chemistry is there and the trust is there.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was thrilled to have senior star Halliday making plays against Ewing.

“Zach had a good game today; it was great to see him get on the score sheet,” said Sutcliffe.

“We were without him for about week and a half because he nicked his knee. He is back and he has reestablished his fitness, form and presence. You can’t really replace him in terms of leadership.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, the team’s performance in the victory over Ewing was a reflection of the sharp form it has been displaying over the last few weeks.

“I thought it was a good result obviously; there was some quality, especially in the second half,” said Sutcliffe.

“It is always good to get a game where you can see some good finishing and give the entire team some minutes too. I think it is just fine-tuning and hard work and knowing you are not at your best early on.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Kevin Halliday has emerged as one of PHS’s best players

“I think Kevin has either scored or assisted in every game; he is our leading scorer,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“He has 10 goals; he is a real threat around the goal. He works hard; he has  been thinking the game and he has been finding the right spots at the right time and and you have to credit him for that.”

The trio of senior Pablo Arroyo, senior Jeremy Goldsmith, and junior John Blair have been giving the Little Tigers the right stuff during the winning streak.

“Pablo Arroyo has been a really great presence; a great leader for us,” added Sutcliffe.

“I would say of late, Jeremy Goldsmith and John Blair have established themselves. I think they have earned everything they have gotten. Hopefully over the next few weeks, they are going to get even better.”

PHS is aiming to remain sizzling as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on October 20 as it shoots for its fifth county crown in the last six years.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16.

“It has been our goal since last spring to work toward being at our best in the opening round of the counties. There is no doubt we are on the track with the mentality of the group.”

Halliday, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are on track for another big MCT run.

“The county tournament is always a magical time,” said Halliday. “It is something that really excites us.”

DOUBLING THEIR FUN: The Princeton High girls’ tennis second doubles team of Allison Hubert, left, and Lindsay Eberhart celebrate after winning a point during their marathon 3-set victory over WW/P-N last Wednesday in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament. The pair of Hubert and Eberhart went on to lose in three sets to the Peddie team of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the finals. PHS finished third in the team standings at the MCT with the first doubles pair of Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and Rory Lewis winning their flight and first singles star Christina Rosca taking second. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In late September, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team marked itself as surefire contenders for the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship, beating perennial power WW/P-S 4-1 in a dual match.

But in its final outing before the start of the MCT, PHS lost second singles star, Chenchen Wang, to a season-ending knee injury.

Having to juggle its singles lineup as it started play in the county tourney last week at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers were behind the eight ball.

While PHS fought valiantly, the loss of Wang dashed its title dreams with PHS having to settle for third with WW/P-S taking first and WW/P-N placing second.

Little Tiger head coach Sarah Hibbert lauded her players’ effort but she rued what might have been.

“Overall I think everyone played as well as they could based on the situation that some of them were put in,” said Hibbert, who moved third singles player Katelyn Hojelbane into the No. 2 spot and brought Zehia Dementyev into the lineup at third singles.

“I am proud of the effort that they put forth and that we were still competitive considering that we didn’t have our No. 2 singles player. I really think we could have won it this year and other coaches told me the same thing.”

PHS did get a nice win at the MCT as the first doubles team of senior Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and sophomore Rory Lewis took the title in their flight, topping Sanjana Ravi and Angela Li of WW/P-S, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the championship match.

“They just have to play their game and not get thrown off by the other team,” said Hibbert, reflecting on her first doubles pair.

“Maddie is a senior this year; she has really worked hard and she is such a good doubles player. When she gets fired up, she plays better. Some people when they get too aggressive start to down spiral. She needs to be psyched up and believe to win. I know how much they wanted this.”

The PHS second doubles team of senior Lindsay Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert showed fight as they battled to a three-set win over Ranjitha Vasa and Nanese Koike of WW/P-N in the semis before falling to the Peddie pair of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the championship match in another three-setter.

“That semifinal match was incredible; they started out playing really well and then they got very nervous in the second set and most of the third set but they were able to regroup at the right time,” said Hibbert recalling the team’s 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) semifinal marathon victory.

“They knew they had a good record in tiebreaks and I just kept telling them that and they kept telling each other we can do this; we can make it to a tiebreaker and we can win this. They just hung really tough when it counted and that was great for team points and for them as well. It is their first year on varsity and it is really nice for them that they were contenders in the tournament and made the final. They work really well together.”

Freshman first singles star Christina Rosca, who made it to the final where she lost 6-1, 6-2 to Samantha Asch of Princeton Day School, gave PHS some great work in her first county tourney.

“Chris made an amazing debut; we knew she was good but it was nice for her to make it to the final and give Sam probably the toughest match she has had in the county tournament,” said Hibbert.

“Chris went through to the final without losing a set. She had a good semis match with Sneha [Rangu of Hightstown] in the morning. I was proud of the way she regrouped after getting down 0-3 in the first set to take it 7-5. She really fought hard against Sam in the final. They were having a great match, you wouldn’t know who was winning from watching it. For Sam to be a senior who has won it three years in a row and for Chris to be a freshman, she put up an amazing fight.”

In Hibbert’s view, Rosca has an amazing future ahead of her. “She has a willingness to work very hard; she trains a lot and she is always out trying to improve her game,” said Hibbert.

“She has the complete repertoire, the serve and volley and great ground strokes. She is a very smart player. She really thinks a lot on court and knows how to find her opponent’s weaknesses. I think she can just keep improving.”

Hibbert hopes her team will keep improving as it deals with the loss of Wang.

“We still have states coming up so we we will see,” said Hibbert, whose team was seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Middletown North 5-0 last Friday in opening round action with the quarters slated for October 9 and the semis scheduled for October 11.

“Obviously this presents some new challenges, having to see how we are going to move forward from here. We have had a good start to the season and we are going to do the best we can as a team to come through.”