October 23, 2013
BUCK SHOT: Princeton High junior fullback/linebacker Colin Buckley, right, delivers a shot in recent action. Last Saturday, Buckley and PHS fell 36-5 to visiting Willingboro in their first game on the school’s new turf field. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, play at Burlington Township on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BUCK SHOT: Princeton High junior fullback/linebacker Colin Buckley, right, delivers a shot in recent action. Last Saturday, Buckley and PHS fell 36-5 to visiting Willingboro in their first game on the school’s new turf field. The Little Tigers, now 0-6, play at Burlington Township on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Excited to finally be playing their first game on the school’s new turf field, the players on the Princeton High football team made a grand entrance last Saturday.

The PHS players sprinted en masse between a cordon of cheerleaders with music blaring moments before the kickoff against visiting Willingboro.

Unfortunately, the Chimeras spoiled the homecoming party as they raced out to a 28-3 lead on the way to a 36-5 triumph.

In reflecting on the defeat, which left his team at 0-6, PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher liked the way his team hung in there during the second half.

“We got on the scoreboard in the second half,” said Gallagher. “We didn’t know it was going to come via a safety but we’ll take it any way we can, especially with underclassmen getting out there on the field. We were playing well, we held tough. We are playing good football; we are getting after it on defense.”

While the PHS defense forced two fumbles in addition to getting the fourth quarter safety, Gallagher acknowledged that his offense misfired.

“We need to work on offense and the game plan,” said Gallagher. “We need to be able to run down the field and pass down the field. We didn’t get into the end zone. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we get inside the 20 with errant snaps, fumbles, and interceptions.”

Despite the miscues, sophomore quarterback Dave Beamer did make some big plays in his second start in place of injured Sam Smallzman.

“I was yelling at him; it is his second game and he is a veteran now,” said Gallagher. “He’s young; I am not going to get all over him.”

In Gallagher’s view, youth is a strength for the Little Tiger program. “We have a lot of sophomores out there; most likely those guys are supposed to be playing some good JV football and we are moving them to the varsity level,” said Gallagher.

“The speed of the game has obviously changed and they are just learning. I am excited for them; I know they are excited to have that opportunity. Guys like Matt Ochoa, Noah Ziegler, and Matt Toplin are doing a nice job for us. These are sophomores who are going to be around for a long time and we are going to take our lumps this year.”

With PHS having lost some key starters to injury and others playing both ways, it needs to be as sharp as possible.

“We want to eliminate the mistakes, the fumbled snaps, bad throws, and things like that, those things can be fixed,” said Gallagher, whose team plays at Burlington Township on October 26.

“That is just playing good fundamental solid football and trying to move down the field. I am not sure why we are making the mistakes. We do a nice job in practice. At the same time, obviously our numbers are hurting a little bit so we are not getting that great quality look in practice that we need.”

Despite the steady diet of losing, the Little Tigers have shown a hunger for the game.

“You look at a kid like Liam Helstrom, he is out here having fun, he is out here playing football,” said Gallagher, referring to his senior star who has played well at receiver and linebacker all season long.

“I keep getting complimented by the refs, saying my God, your guys are fighting. They are scratching, they are clawing; they are not getting terribly upset about it. They are out there playing football. It is a game, they realize the bigger picture for 2013. We want to get some wins, no doubt about that. We’ll work hard and get ready for Burlington Township.”

For the Princeton Day School cross country team, the arrival of freshman Morgan Mills from overseas has symbolized the program’s new direction.

With Mills asserting herself as the top runner for the girls’ team, the Panthers have posted dual meet wins over Pennington, Hun, Stuart, Rutgers Prep, and Hamilton and placed eighth in the Varsity E girls’ race at the Shore Coaches Invitational.

PDS head coach Merrell Noden is certainly happy that Mills returned to America.

“Morgan Mills moved here from London,” said Noden “She ran for a school there, St Paul’s, and the Thames Valley Harriers. She is very competitive; she does most of her training with our boys’ runners. She is also a very good competitive swimmer.”

Senior Liz Gudgel has proven to be a top competitor and leader for the Panthers.

“I have never seen a runner improve her 5k so much in a year as Liz has,” said Noden.

“She ran a 24:24 last year and her best this year is around 20:38 or 20:40. She worked very hard over the summer. She is one of our captains and is doing a good job.”

The team’s other senior captain, Abby Sharer, has shown grit as she battled through injury this fall.

“Abby has shin splints; she is so determined and brave,” said Noden, noting that Abby’s, younger sister, sophomore Emma, has also been in PDS’s top five this fall. “We got to that point where she could have taken three or four days off and see if it clears up or baby it and keep running. She chose the latter.”

Sophomore Meghan Wilmott has also gotten better this fall. “Meghan did a lot of running over the summer, she has been right in the mix,” said Noden.

The PDS boys’ squad is also running well this fall, benefiting from the addition of two freshmen, Ian Moini and the coach’s son, Sam Noden.

“Ian Moini already has a lot of experience; he has run in Junior Olympic events,” said Noden.

“He likes shorter, fast, aggressive runs. He is very talented, he has run a 17:08 5k. It has been a great pleasure to coach Sam, I try to treat him like everybody else. I have been very impressed by his improvement. On July 4, he ran a 5k in around 20:30. He has 5k down to 17:53.”

Senior Jake Hall has impressed Noden with his toughness and leadership. “Jake is a basketball player,” said Noden.

“He does a lot of running and last year asked if I would mind if he ran in some races. We were short on runners and he ended up being our second runner. He has improved since last year. He’s a tough guy, he has been a good captain.”

With the country meet slated for October 25 at Washington’s Crossing Park and the state Prep B championships taking place on October 30 at the Blair Academy, Noden is looking for more good results.

“We will run Ian and Sam in freshman race at the counties; we think Ian has a chance to win,” said Noden. “We will run a weakened team in the boys’ varsity race. We will run a strong girls team in the varsity race; we think we can score well and maybe get fifth or sixth. We have a lot of kids who want to improve their times. They have a better chance to do that at Washington’s Crossing rather than Blair.”

For Noden, though, the placings are secondary to getting his runners to fall in love with the sport.

“My goal is have the kids learn something about running and cross country, to make them enjoy it and stay with it, and to improve,” said Noden.

“I think just about every one of our runners has improved this fall. They all get along well and support each other and that is important.”

PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It has been mix-and-match for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team this fall as it has dealt with a series of injuries.

Last Friday as PDS hosted Lawrence High for its Senior Day, two of the honorees, Culver Duquette and Tom Hagan, were sidelined by injury while junior Oscar Vik was in a sling due to a shoulder problem.

During the second half on Friday, the Panthers dealt with some more misfortune as goalie Aaron Gold left the contest due to a knock and Christian Vik had to move from midfield to the keeper spot. Undeterred by the upheaval, PDS battled the Cardinals tooth-and-nail, dropping a 1-0 decision.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy was proud of his team’s resilience. “I thought the first half, I thought we did very well, considering that we have so many injuries,” said Murphy, whose team fell to 3-7-3 with the loss.

“I thought they played well, composed and kept the ball like we like them to do.”

Murphy acknowledged that his team didn’t do enough with the ball, getting held scoreless for a fifth straight game.

“We didn’t do enough in the final third; that’s what we struggle with even when we have a full team out,” said Murphy.

“We can get the ball up there, we just can’t manage to keep it up there with enough effort on goal.”

The change at goalie didn’t faze the Panthers as they pressed forward until the final whistle.

“With the injury we had to switch the midfield around but by now they should be used to it,” said Murphy.

“They never know who they are playing next to. We overcame what happened and they have finally become immune to it. It is just a case of going out and seeing what they could get. I think the last 10 minutes, they put something together.”

PDS got some good play from several individuals, including junior midfielder Marco Pinheiro, senior Sean Hudson, and senior Gabriel Vazquez.

“There is always Marco, he is out there playing well, “added Murphy. “Sean Hudson at the back was excellent again. Vazquez did a lot of work up top and it is not easy for a forward in this type of game. When you are looking to keep possession like this you look for more technical players, but they work hard for us.”

With the Panthers entering postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament, Murphy is looking for more flexibility from his squad.

“We’ll just have to look at the tactics, especially the Prep B, to see if there is anything where we can take a little bit maybe from the back four and give to the forwards,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded sixth in the Prep B tourney and 14th in the MCT.

“Each game is a one-off and you have to go out and play to win. We have just got to make sure and see if we can switch a couple of players around and out them higher up the field.”

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It may be early October but the Hun School football team didn’t hesitate in celebrating its 41-0 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Saturday by dousing head coach John Law with a bucket of water.

After losing its first four games under new head coach Law, the Raiders had plenty of reason to treat the victory like a championship effort.

“We were so hungry for this win,” said junior running back Christopher Sharp. “At 0-4, we needed this win. This is a great game, a great feeling right now.”

Even though Hun jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the coaches didn’t want the players feeling too good about themselves.

“In the locker room, everybody was happy but the coaches came to us and said we have got to play like we are down 14-0 right now so we have to come out stronger than we did in the first half,” recalled Sharp. “That really helped us.”

The Raiders produced a strong second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter and tacking on 13 more in the fourth while stifling the Hill offense. Hun’s final score for the day came on a four-yard touchdown run by former Princeton High star Zack DiGregorio.

“We have come out strong in the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter this season and then we just die off,” said Sharp.

“This past week of practice, we conditioned and worked and worked. It is really paying off now, we are finishing.”

Sharp played a big role in finishing off Hill, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel as though I had a good game but it is all due to the line,” said Sharp. “They played a great game.”

It was a very good feeling for Sharp and his teammates to get that first win for their coach.

“I love Coach Law, personally I feel like he is one of the greatest coaches in New Jersey,” asserted Sharp.

“He is great and this win for him feels great. I know that there is a lot of talking, people thinking it is his fault that we are losing but it really is not. I am so happy we got this win for him.”

Coach Law, for his part, was more happy for his players than he was for himself.

“I have been at it a long time and it does feel good,” said a beaming Law.

“It is never about me in my 24 years here. I am absolutely thrilled that we got a win but it is about the kids for me. I just love that they were so happy today. I have been looking for that. We kept believing in them. We kept grinding and I told them if they do the basics, this game will be good to them and I thought the game was good to them today.”

The Hun players put their noses to the grindstone last week as they looked to break their losing streak.

“On Monday, we said we were going to strip the bus down and then rebuild it,” said Law.

“The biggest thing was their mental approach in how to play the game for four quarters. That was the focus on Monday, just having them be mentally tough and handling the pressure of the game; handling the ebbs and flows of it and not crumbling and not get down. That is what it is all about and what we have been fighting for for four weeks.”

Law liked the way Sharp handled things as he not only paced the Hun rushing attack but played well at defensive back.

“He is learning and learning fast, now he gets it,” said Law, noting that Sharp was moved to running back this season after playing receiver last year.

“This is what we expected out of him and I am real proud of him today. He played both sides of the ball, he put a lot on his back today and I am so happy for him.”

The play of the Hun offensive line also made Law happy. “We got back to the old fashioned Hun way to play,” said Law. “If you can control the line of scrimmage, you can control a lot of other things.”

The Raiders also dominated in the trenches on defense, getting after Hill quarterback Matt Foltz all game long as they picked up five sacks.

“The big thing was that we wanted the quarterback uncomfortable and I think that was the key,” said Law.

“I ran a three-front and I never had to get to a four-front. We were putting on pressure that way. Our goal was to keep a quarterback like that uncomfortable and they did and it worked for us.”

Hun can’t start feeling comfortable about things as it plays at high-powered Lawrenceville (3-2) on October 26.

“We know we have a test against Lawrenceville, that is going to be a major emotional game for us,” said Law.

“We are going to use this as our foundation to move forward. I have a lot of confidence now that they will compete. If they compete and they take the right mental approach to the game, we are going to show up and that is all we can do.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that the Raiders will compete very hard against the Big Red.

“We are going to practice harder than we did this past week,” maintained Sharp.

“It was a great confidence builder but we are staying humble and we are not going to get too cocky with it. We are just going to come out strong.”

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19.(Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19. (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

As Bill Long enjoys his first fall in retirement after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean at the Hun School, he and his wife, Nancy, are heading west this week to start a six-week trip to Calgary, Seattle, and Arizona.

But before he left for that journey, Long was honored last Saturday by Hun for his success in heading the Raider football program from 1987-1997.

The school held a ceremony for Long at the halftime of the Hill-Hun football game, where he was introduced by Athletic Director Bill Quirk and given an ‘H’ made out of wood from the old gym floor and painted red and black.

After the game, a reception was held in his honor on campus, which drew numerous former players and his coaching staff. He received a lamp made out of a Hun football helmet and signed by former players along with a book of letters from players who couldn’t make it back for the evening.

Long, who retired after the 2012-13 school year, was moved by the outpouring of affection.

“What was particularly nice is that the impetus came from past players,” said Long, a 2004 inductee to the Hun Athletics Hall of Fame who guided the Raiders to a 79-19 mark in his 11 seasons at the helm.

“They talked to Nancy, they wanted to surprise me at the Nassau Inn during the summer camp. Nancy contacted Bill Quirk and he suggested that we do something at Homecoming so others could come.”

While Long enjoyed the mementos he received, the biggest gift he got on Saturday was the presence of so many former players and his assistant coaches.

“There were 80-100 people at the reception with around 40-50 players and all of my assistant coaches,” said Long, who was the Dean of Students at Hun upon his retirement and now lives on the Jersey shore.

“I had 12 minutes to speak. I worked three hours in Ocean County Library on Friday preparing the speech, making sure I mentioned all of the people that were going to be there. The main thing I said was that it was my honor and privilege to work alongside every one of the players and coaches.”

For Long, it was his work ethic that helped set him apart as one of the top football coaches in the area.

“I would work all day Sunday on football and I would be thinking about it 24 hours day,” recalled Long, whose teams won more than 20 games in a row during a stretch from 1989-1991 and had three undefeated seasons with five state Prep A crowns.

“I would wake up thinking where a guy could be better on punt coverage than someone else we were using. It was all consuming.”

Spending all that time on football was a labor of love for Long, who is legendary for his positive influence on his players.

“It was the relationships with the players and the assistant coaches that meant the most,” said Long, noting that one of the highlights of his tenure came in 1994 when his son, Bill, served as a team captain.

“I thank my wife Nancy for being a great mother and raising our kids while I was raising other people’s kids.”

October 16, 2013
ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Rory Lewis is affectionately known as “the machine” by her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team due to her unyielding work ethic, she views the time spent on the game as a labor of love.

“It is not really training to me, it is just fun,” said junior Lewis, who plays second singles for PHS.

“It is a break from school and all those other things. I love to do it and you get better if you work at it so that it is a good by-product. It is just about loving to do it.”

Last Friday, Lewis had plenty of fun as she posted a 6-1, 6-1 win over Artemis Tapliga of Wall as the Little Tigers posted a 5-0 win in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.

On Monday, she defeated Rachael Peters 6-0, 6-0 as PHS topped Steinert 5-0 to win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.

In reflecting on her win in the Wall match, Lewis credited a positive approach with helping her prevail.

“I just came out aggressively; I was confident in my strokes,” said Lewis. “That is the most important thing in tennis and it was working. I played well.”

For Lewis, moving up to singles from doubles this year is a reflection of her increased confidence.

“It was a big change but last year I got a lot of confidence,” said Lewis. “My doubles partner, Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], was great. She really helped me build my confidence. In the beginning of preseason, I really wasn’t sure of my strokes. She helped me gain the confidence needed to play in any spot. When I got second singles this year, I was glad and I decided I had to step it up and I was able to.”

In order to step up in her new spot, Lewis has learned to deal with the solitary nature of singles.

“You have to pump yourself up more, especially if you are down,” said Lewis, who took third in second singles at the Mercer County Tournament last month.

“You don’t have somebody out there giving you advice. At the same time, you get used to it. Obviously, it means you moved up, and you have to stay focused and not feel alone and just enjoy it. I have been through a few rough patches where I am not so sure but I have been able to pull through most of the time.”

Lewis was pumped up to see PHS pull through in the state tournament. “It is awesome; it is a great experience,” said Lewis. “We all love tennis and it means we get to play more. It is fun, it is great.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert loved seeing her team advance. “Any time you are able to get to a sectional final you are pleased with the result,” said Hibbert, whose first singles star Christina Rosca is in the running for another title as she will play in the state singles final on October 16.

“I knew we had a lot of potential this year and it would come down to how we could get the doubles players fitting into their roles. We obviously have strength at the top of the lineup with Chris and Katelyn [Hojelbane] returning and Rory making the jump up from doubles. One of the things we do best is carry depth through our lineup. I knew that the doubles [Zhenia Dementyev/Gillian Samios at first doubles and Allison Hubert/Nikhita Salgame at second doubles] would be a key to our season and they have come together really well so far.”

A key to PHS’s success this fall has been Lewis’ development into a singles star. “I think the biggest thing she has improved on this year is her confidence,” said Hibbert.

“She has really been able to play up to her level. Last year, she came in and she didn’t play as well during preseason because of the nerves and the pressure she puts on herself. I think partnering with Maddie helped her. Maddie was such an outgoing aggressive, terrific person that it kind of pulled Rory along. She has more confidence and belief in herself. She has really been able to translate that into winning matches. She still puts pressure on herself and she still wants to win and work as hard. She is the first one there; she is always willing to work harder and do more. She is a good asset.”

Hojelbane had to work hard in her match at third singles as she rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 6-4, 6-1 win over Shaina Donner.

“I went out there when she was down 4-1. I could tell it was just nerves and not tennis right now so I said you just need to relax, move your feet, hit your shots and play your game and don’t look at the scoreboard and you will be able to come back,” recalled Hibbert.

“She won 12 out of the next 13 games so she listened quite well and got herself relaxed and was able to play her game. It is nice to have that taken care of because doubles is funny, the better team doesn’t always win. You always want to have confidence in your team but it is always nice when you can just watch.”

Hibbert is confident her team can take the final step in the state final four, having fallen in the semis in 2011 and then in the finals last year. “It depends on matchups; we were hoping it was a possibility,” said Hibbert.

“We take it one match at a time and see how it goes. Five of these girls played in the states last year and I think having that experience and being as close as we were last year and we just missed out on it. I know they are going to want it just as much, if not more. It may or may not happen. There are a lot of strong teams out there. We want to get there and see what happens.”

Lewis, for her part, believes that the strong bonds the team has developed this fall lead the players to compete harder for each other.

“It is support all around; we give each other a lot of support,” said Lewis, noting with a smile that every player on the team has a nickname.

“That is part of it, you have to feel like your team has confidence in you, and that win or lose, they are not going to care. It is just about friendship and being really close. We have gotten closer with each match and it is great.”

 

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Shannon Pawlak and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ soccer were frustrated as they found themselves locked in a 1-1 halftime tie at WW/P-S last week.

“For some reason, we got off to a really slow start,” said PHS junior forward Pawlak.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on. We knew coming off the field that we were better than how we were playing and we can do better than this.”

Midway through the second half, Pawlak got PHS feeling a lot better as she slotted home a feed from Ally Rogers to give the Little Tigers a 2-1 lead.

“Ally Rogers hit a really good cross to me and luckily I was just running in the middle and got in front of the defender and was able to play it in,” recalled Pawlak.

“It was a simple pass in. It was a really good play by Ally and a good possession by us. It gave us hope because we kept breaking their defense and we kept getting shots and we knew it was coming and to finally get it was definitely satisfying.”

Minutes later, Pawlak enjoyed another satisfying moment as she buried a penalty kick to give PHS a lead of 3-1, which turned out to be the final score of the contest.

“Usually I go low right but now my strategy is to look and see what direction the goalie leans in right before I kick it,” explained Pawlak. “It is kind of how I feel.”

With 21 goals in this season and 13 in the team’s last six games, Pawlak feels good about the way her teammates are setting her up.

“I have been having a lucky season but along with that, the way we play as a team is helping me,” said Pawlak, who chipped in an assist last Thursday as PHS topped WW/P-N 2-0 in improving to 9-1.

“It is not just me who is making the goals; it is the whole team as a collective unit. By building through the defense and building through the midfield and Ally giving me great crosses, that is mainly where my goals are coming from. It is the work of everybody else.”

Pawlak, though, acknowledges that she has taken a more cold-blooded approach this fall around the net.

“I think I am just creating a lot more opportunities than last year,” said Pawlak.

“I am a little bit more selfish in front of the net, which just comes with the position.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand believes that Pawlak’s diligence alone has helped to create a lot of scoring chances for the Little Tigers.

“Shannon never stops working, she is in a spot where you are going to fail a lot more than you are going to succeed; I think she knows that,” said Hand.

“She is intense on the field. She is terrific, she makes great decisions. We just need to have one or two players there that she can play to if she doesn’t like where she is. She paid a lot of dues since last season. She has worked very hard to become stronger, more agile, and develop every dimension of the game of soccer. Everything we are seeing this year is a product of that hard work since last year.”

Hand liked the good work he saw from his players in the WW/P-S game as they picked up their intensity after the sluggish first half.

“Several kids just really stepped up in the second half and really had an impact on the momentum of the game in the first few minutes,” asserted Hand.

“Haley Bodden was a great ball-winner in the midfield. Dana Smith was just really organizing things throughout that second half and finding players and relieving pressure. Ally Rogers had some fantastic crosses, she has shown us a knack for getting around players and getting crosses in. The quality of the crosses that she served today is something that any forward would like to have.”

With the county tournament starting later this month, Hand believes his squad has the quality to be a title contender.

“We’ll be in the mix; the one-goal games that we have won we could have lost had luck gone the other way,” said Hand, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.

“I love the fact that we seem to be able to compete with everybody and at least make a game of it and find ways to create against them. We are still working on our defensive team concept.”

Pawlak, for her part, is confident that the team can emulate last year’s stretch run which saw the program win its first sectional title.

“We have been playing similarly to last year, I think we have the same amount of talent,” said Pawlak.

“I think as we keep progressing through our games, we can go as far hopefully.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High field hockey team fell behind 1-0 at Princeton Day School midway through the second half last Wednesday, Campbell McDonald and her teammates weren’t about to back down.

“We were concerned but I think in moments like that our team steps up and plays the best game they can,” said McDonald.

“It does wake us up a little bit. It woke us up and I think that is what inspired us to push even harder than we already were.”

Moments later, PHS was able to push in two goals as Lucy Herring scored with 12:21 left in regulation and then McDonald found the back of the cage with 3:17 remaining to notch the game-winner as the Little Tigers pulled out a 2-1 victory.

“I was thinking when the corner went off that we have to get it in this time so I knew my job was to get to pads and Elisa [Kostenbader] was getting to post,” said McDonald, reflecting on her tally.

“We had perfect passing in the end and all that passing added together and we got that clean first shot.”

In McDonald’s view, the first goal from Herring proved to be the turning point for the Little Tigers.

“It was a big spark,” said McDonald. “At that point we were just hitting it into the pads and we didn’t know what was going to happen and to see it go through and Lucy get that touch was just so exciting. It just sparked everything for everyone.”

Even though the Little Tigers had only lost twice this fall with PDS having six defeats as the teams hit the field, McDonald was expecting an exciting game.

“We came into this game knowing that it was going to be tough and we were going to go back and forth,” said McDonald.

“There was no outcome that we could predict at that point because either team could have won.”

With the teams knotted 0-0 at halftime, PHS knew that it had to pick things up to avoid an upset.

“We communicated a lot better, which was one of our goals,” said McDonald. “We were just getting passes off and we were being clean and crisp, which was exactly what we needed to do.”

Having tallied two goals and an assist in the three games leading up to Wednesday’s clash with the Panthers, McDonald has been playing crisply.

“I know that sometimes it is hard because when you play for a club team you need to learn to adjust and change,” said McDonald, who competes for the Princeton field hockey club which is headed by Princeton University head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“I think when I feel like I am ready, I just start playing and everyone starts playing with me. I fit everyone’s mold and then they fit mine.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that it took a while for her team to start playing well against PDS.

“Every year it is a challenge for us to get past PDS,” said Serverson. “I don’t think this year was that much different. They played a really tight game, they have very good sticks, and they stop everything. We had to adjust to that. We weren’t playing our game at first. We were kind of reacting to them as opposed to doing what we know we do best and we finally got our act together.”

Showing its maturity, PHS reacted well when it fell behind. “I think that ability to come back is something I have been working on with this program over years,” said Serverson.

“I think it is finally at the point where I don’t have to prompt them or get them excited. They just know we need to respond to that now, we need to turn it on right now.”

It was not surprising to Serverson that Herring and McDonald tallied the PHS goals in the rally.

“Lucy is a scrappy player, I love it,” said Serverson. “She is always there when she needs to be there with the proper execution. I couldn’t ask for more from her. I think Lucy and Campbell are very similar. She is usually on, they rarely have a bad game. When they are on together, it is wonderful.”

Junior forward Elisa Kostenbader, who assisted on both Little Tiger goals against PDS, has been on in recent action.

“Elisa definitely has been contributing more and more in terms of scoring and assists,” said Serverson. “She has been working hard at it and it has been paying off.”

With PHS seeded third in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and hosting No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round, Serverson is hoping her team’s hard work collectively will pay off with a deep run in the tourney.

“We have two losses to two very strong teams in the area,” said Serverson, whose team picked up a third defeat on Monday when it fell 2-1 to Hightstown last Monday to move to 10-3-1 and will host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the MCT.

“I think we have learned lessons from those losses because they were early on and we have made the adjustments. If we are playing the Princeton game, we are going to be hard to stop. We need a tight defense with quick, crisp passing.”

McDonald, for her part, believes PHS will be hard to beat in tournament play.

“We are very excited; I think the postseason is something we look forward to from the beginning,” said McDonald.

“We think about the season as preparation for postseason because every year we want to get farther and farther. I think we improve more and more every year and we have successfully gotten further so hopefully we can get one more step or a few more steps in the right direction.”

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High girls’ cross country team won the Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational earlier this month, it gave a potential preview of things to come.

“All season we have been talking about gearing up for some of the bigger meets,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“Everyone is talking about South (WW/P-S) but we think we can make a name for ourselves. The Shore race was an example of that; we want to race tough courses to show that we are tough runners.”

Last weekend, PHS learned that it has to be tougher as it took fourth in the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic at Thompson Park in Lincroft.

“Middletown South looked good, they have a lot of juniors and seniors,” said Smirk, referring to the second place team in the race won by Jackson Memorial. “We showed our youth yesterday. We need to be ready to risk more in the middle of the race.”

Smirk is looking for his top runner, sophomore Lou Miahle, to risk more at the head of the PHS pack.

“Lou ran really well at the Shore meet, she has taken a big step” said Smirk. “There are parts of her racing strategy that she needs to execute better so she can get to an even higher level and she knows that.”

Junior star Mary Sutton has steadily worked her way to a very high level. “Mary Sutton has talked about how the next two years are going to be her time,” said Smirk. “Over the summer, the team worked out together and took the initiative to get better and Mary was doing things on her own to improve. She has been patient in getting better and that goes hand in hand with her durability. She is not forcing the issue. At the end of last season she was a little impatient and she didn’t do as well as she would have hoped. We have talked about that.”

Former soccer player and 800-meter specialist, junior Paige Metzheiser has shown marked improvement at the longer distances.

“One of the great things about Paige is that we had Libby Bliss, the best 800 runner in PHS history, and I can say to Paige this is what she did in cross country,” said Smirk.

“Libby’s role was not to be our No. 1 but to be a solid third which is what we want from Paige. We want her to be within 15-20 seconds of the top two. We have had a couple of races where she has been right on Mary’s shoulder and they ran well together.”

The team’s top returning performer, junior Julie Bond, is racing well as she works to get up to full health and full speed.

“Julie Bond has been working through some inner leg injuries,” said Smirk. “We want to give her an opportunity to get back to full strength. We have been racing her in big races so she doesn’t get rusty. We want her to be right when it means the most.”

PHS has gained additional strength from the contribution it is getting from freshmen Maddie Whaley and Izzy Trenholm.

“It is no surprise that Maddie Whaley is doing well, not just because of her older sisters but because she is also a competitive swimmer,” said Smirk.

“Izzy has been a little bit of a surprise. She ran a 20:40 at a race and I asked if she had ever run before and she said she had done track and her best time in the mile was 7:40. She reminds me of Elyssa Gensib [former PHS star and current Penn runner], she comes to the mile marker with a smile on her face, she is happy being out there racing. She has a joy in getting better. It can get serious so that is good to see.”

Another pleasant surprise for the Little Tigers has been sophomore Emma Eikelberner.

“Last year, Emma ran a 19:25 in a 2.5 mile race; on Saturday, she ran a 21:17 in 3.1 mile race,” said Smirk. “She is phenomenally fast compared to last year. She was the quintessential person who had never run before and then came out to race. She worked through the winter and spring to turn herself into a varsity runner. She is blossoming into a varsity runner.”

In Smirk’s view, PHS can blossom into something special as it competes in the county meet on October 25 and then starts state competition with the sectionals in early November. “I think our depth is really going to come through,” said Smirk.

“Of our top 12 runners, the only senior is Belinda Liu. They are eager and focused. If we run the way we did at Shore Coaches, we can give South a run for its money at the counties. I think the 4-5-6-7 runners could make a difference in a meet like that where the top runners are going to be separated.”

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Determined to rebound from a frustrating 2012 campaign, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team got off on the right foot this fall.

PDS opened the season by edging a powerful Wardlaw-Hartridge squad 1-0 in early September and hasn’t looked back, notching one big win after another.

Along the way, PDS has posted victories over such formidable foes as the Hill School (Pa.), Hun School, and the Lawrenceville School.

Last Wednesday, the Panthers took one of its biggest scalps so far as it posted a 2-0 win over the Peddie School.

“The girls were really excited,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta. “That was a very big win for us. I was told that we haven’t beaten Peddie in 15 years.”

It was exciting for Trombetta to see the PDS goals in the win come from a pair of freshmen, Allison Klei and Alexis Davis.

“Allison is a solid player, Alexa Soltesz missed four games and Allison has stepped up to striker,” said Trombetta, whose team topped Villa Victoria 5-0 last Friday to improve to 11-0-1.

“I can play her anywhere on the field. Davis had been getting a lot of opportunities early on but things weren’t going in for her; she scored a huge goal that put the Peddie game away. She got a good cross from Kirsten and stuck her foot out and hit it with confidence.”

Trombetta has certainly gained a lot of confidence in his team as the season has unfolded.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Trombetta. “The seniors are all having their best years and that is nice to see. The juniors have matured a lot, there is a big difference between the way they were as sophomores and how they are now. We have two sophomores who are playing well. We have nine freshmen and six of them are seeing a lot of time.”

Stingy defense has been making a big difference for the Panthers as the team has surrendered only two goals so far this fall.

“The defense has been great, everyone playing in the back has been very good,” said Trombetta. “Steph Soltesz has been great at sweeper, Brit Murray at left back has been great attacking up the field. We moved Erin Hogan to right back and she is doing the same things that Brit does. Lily Razzaghi has been at stopper and center mid; she battles every minute she is on the field. Kirsten Kuzmicz always gives 110 percent. She battles in the air and you really need a player like that. She had a beautiful header for a goal against Lawrenceville.”

At the offensive end, PDS boasts a variety of weapons as Alexa Soltesz, Eloise Stanton, Murray, Kuzmicz. and Klei have all proven to be threats around the net.

“We are a well-balanced team,” said Trombetta “We have a lot of players who can find the back of the net. We have a bunch of girls with five or six goals.”

As Trombetta looks ahead to the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney, he believes his team can get a bunch of wins. “We are hoping to get a high seed and take it from there,” said Trombetta, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.

“We are happy with the development of the players and the team chemistry is the best I have seen since I have been here.”

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tracey Arndt realized that her Princeton Day School field hockey team faced a major challenge when it hosted cross-town rival Princeton High last Wednesday.

“We knew Princeton was going to be a great team, they always are,” said PDS head coach Arndt, whose team entered the day with six losses on the year while PHS had only two defeats on its ledger.

“We saw them in the summer when we were training and then we saw them in the preseason so we just knew that it was going to be a battle.”

PDS showed its fighting spirit against the Little Tigers as the game proved to be a taut contest from beginning to end. The teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime. The underdog Panthers took a 1-0 lead midway through the second half on a goal by senior star Mary Travers. The Little Tigers, though, responded with two goals down the stretch to pull out a hard-earned 2-1 victory.

Afterward Arndt spent extra time consoling her disappointed players, lauding them for their effort in a losing cause.

“One of our focuses was to keep possession and do what is best for each other, make each other look good,” said Arndt.

“Except for the result, I am really proud of how our girls played. It was a matter of pulling it together and making it really cohesive. I think they kept possession so well. We were knocking on the door and we got one in during the second half, which was awesome.”

A day later, the Panthers broke through with a signature win, posting a 5-3 victory over a South Hunterdon squad that brought a 12-1 record into the contest. Senior star Emma Quigley scored two goals in the victory while classmates Emily Goldman, Sarah Brennan, and Travers added one apiece with junior goalie Katie Alden making 10 saves.

In Arndt’s view, the skill and leadership of her quartet of senior captains, Brennan, Goldman, Quigley, and Travers, has held the team together through the ups and downs of a fall that has seen the Panthers go 6-7.

“The four of them have been tremendous,” asserted Arndt. “I think they all have great skills and leadership on the field. I have asked so much of them. I have asked them to play several different positions. I have asked them to do things off the field because I am not in the building. I think the world of them. They have been great athletes and people.”

With the county and state Prep B tournaments around the corner, Arndt believes her team can do some great things in the postseason.

“I say we are in a good situation,” said Arndt, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.

“As a coach, you always want to peak at the right time. I absolutely think we tried our best today and we had really awesome moments of hockey so I am really proud of the girls and I am looking forward to the games to come.”

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing its potential, the Hun School boys’ soccer team recently reeled off a three-game winning streak as it bounced back from a 1-4 start.

But in the last week, Hun has slipped, losing three straight games with its latest defeat coming when it fell 2-1 at the Blair School in overtime last Saturday.

Hun head coach Pat Quirk acknowledges that he has been frustrated by his team’s failure to build on the run of good form. “It was a confidence builder,” said Quirk, referring to the winning streak. “We were taking so many steps forward and now we took a step back with the Blair game.”

While Quirk had no qualms with his team’s effort against Blair in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener, he noted that Hun wasn’t sharp when it needed to be.

“It was not the result we wanted,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Andres Gonzalez in the loss to Blair which left the Raiders at 4-7.

“We got off to a slow start, they got a goal in the first two or three minutes.  We were able to tie it but we couldn’t convert our chances later on. We hit a post and we hit some wide. There was a mix up on a free kick at the end which led to their goal.”

The Hun defense has been unsettled as senior goalie Chris Meinert was sidelined after a 5-1 win over the Princeton Day School on October 2.

“Chris Meinert suffered five fractures in his face in the PDS game,” said Quirk.

“We brought Taylor Heilman in because had played some soccer before. He made 20 saves against St. Benedict’s in his first game. He is still learning the position. Chris is hoping to be back in a week or so. He should be back just as we start the county tournament.”

Quirk is confident the Raiders can get back on the right track. “I think we just need to regain some confidence,” said Quirk.

“We have a week off before our next game against Hill on Saturday. We have a few things to work on, starting with our finishing. We will be working on conditioning until Thursday. We need to work on defending free kicks and corner kicks.”

The team is relying on its trio of senior stars, Bailey Hammer, Felix Dalstein, and Gonzalez, to give it some good work.

“Bailey and Felix need to step it up, they have to realize that they are seniors and this is it for them,” said Quirk.

“They have the ability to play at an exceptional level. When they elevate their game along with Andres Gonzalez, the rest of the team does too.”

With the Raiders competing in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep A tourney as well as going for the MAPL crown, Quirk knows that his team has plenty to play for.

“I am getting excited about the county tournament,” said Quirk. “I think we could get a seed in the middle and we have a chance to win some games. I tell the guys they have three opportunities to make a name for ourselves with counties, Prep A, and MAPL.”

October 9, 2013

sports3As the Princeton High boys’ soccer team has dealt with losing 12 seniors from last year’s state championship team, the defense has been a particular area of concern this fall.

The Little Tigers, who tied Ramapo 1-1 last December in the state Group III finals, lost their whole starting backline to graduation.

For Dalton Sekelsky, who moved into the starting center half position this fall for his senior campaign, there were some nervous moments early on.

“I thought there would be a little bit of trouble,” said Sekelsky. “We saw that in the first week of preseason in the summer but we have pulled it together and we are pretty solid.”

Last Thursday, Sekelsky and the PHS defense showed that it is becoming more than solid as the Little Tigers blanked Steinert 2-0. It was the fifth straight shutout of the Little Tigers, who last surrendered a goal against Hightstown on September 10 in the first half of a 2-1 win.

In Sekelsky’s view, the clean sheet against Steinert was another step forward in the growth of the new defensive unit.

“It has been a good development for them coming into this season,” said Sekelsky.

“They are pretty big kids. They are pretty good with the ball, they don’t lose it too much.”

As the veteran member of the backline group, Sekelsky has taken extra responsibility on his shoulders. “I try to keep everybody focused in the midfield and the back,” noted Sekelsky.

The Little Tigers had an extra motivation to win the game in the wake of PHS christening its new turf field in late September.

“We wanted to win this game and keep a tradition going on this new turf,” said Sekelsky. “None of the soccer teams or field hockey has lost on it yet.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that his team faced a fight with the Spartans as the teams have traditionally played hard-fought battles.

“It is always a good test, always a very close game,” said Sutcliffe.

“Last year, I think it was 1-0 us in the second overtime. Credit to Steinert and their play, I just thought we found a way to win today.”

With the game knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS ratcheted up its intensity over the last 40 minutes of the contest.

“I felt like we got a little more familiar with things as the game went on,” said Sutcliffe.

“We pressed on; we were able to find one another better. We were able to get into the front third and hit the final pass a little better and find one another a little better.”

PHS broke the ice when freshman Andrew Goldsmith tallied his first career goal with 16:50 remaining in regulation.

“There was a good bit of play that preceded the goal,” said Sutcliffe. “Nick Halliday hit a good square ball to him and credit to Andrew for hitting a first-time, left-footed shot off the post. He will remember that for a long time.”

The combination of seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair produced some good play in tallying the second goal as Blair chased down a ball and then Halliday volleyed a shot that deflected off a Steinert defender and found the back of the net.

“Kevin’s mentality in and around the area is to let it fly and take some chances and that is what happens sometimes,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped Ewing 4-0 last Thursday to improve to 7-1-1 with Blair contributing a goal and two assists and Halliday adding a goal. “But credit to John Blair for really doing the hard work prior to that, that really put us in a good spot.”

Sutcliffe likes the mentality his rebuilt defense has been showing as it has now gone nearly a month without yielding a score.

“We keep working hard to improve on that; we are fine-tuning things,” said Sutcliffe. “I am very proud of another clean sheet. It is a lot of progress.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Sekelsky’s improvement is a big reason for the success of the defense.

“Dalton has been fantastic, he just keeps getting better and better every week,” said Sutcliffe. “His feet are getting better, his touch is getting better. He is just reading the game and the little nuances of the game.

Junior goalie Laurenz Reimitz has also been a bright spot, getting better and better with a year of starting experience under his belt.

“What a great stride Laurenz had made; all credit to him, he has worked so hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“In training, we have really emphasized hitting a lot of flighted balls into him and putting him under pressure. He is doing well in commanding the box and communicating with the back four. He has put himself in a position where we not only trust him, but we can relay on him in a big game. I am so happy about that.”

With his team riding an 8-game unbeaten streak, Sutcliffe is very happy with how things are going.

“We are so focused on the little things on the field,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 12 before hosting Nottingham on October 15.

“The record is one thing and that is the most important thing in the end. In terms of our quality, we are playing better soccer. We have been able to keep the ball primarily and have been better in and around the penalty area.”

Sekelsky, for his part, believes things are going to end well for the Little Tigers this fall.

“I am pretty sure we can go for a state championship again,” said Sekelsky. “This is how we started out last season and we are going in a good direction.”

 

Start of boys raceWhile Mark Shelley is hoping for good results in his first year guiding the Princeton High boys’ cross country team, he is more focused on building the foundation for success.

“I am process-oriented,” said Shelley, who joined the program as an assistant coach last year before replacing John Woodside as head coach this fall.

“I don’t talk about beating WW/P-S, for instance, I talk about running the best race possible. I am really focused on daily development. We really, really try for a developmental approach: we try to not put pressure on the runners.”

Last Saturday, PHS handled the pressure of the Shore Coaches Invitational with aplomb, taking third of 24 teams in the Varsity C race.

“We had a lot of guys set personal bests at Holmdel and others got their first experience. Our No. 3 runner [Kevin Vahdat] dropped out due to a leg problem, which was smart. If he had run his regular race, we could have won.”

Junior star Jacob Rist ran a terrific race, taking fifth overall in a time of 16:53.

“Jacob is very coachable,” said Shelley. “He listens carefully and asks good questions about training. He has perfect running form. Last year he was in the high 18s at the Shore meet and was at 17:30s in the state meet so he improved by 30 seconds. Breaking 17 at Holmdel is legit.”

PHS boasts another legit star in battle-tested senior Conor Donahue, the eighth-place finisher at the Shore meet in a time of 17:04. “Conor is very knowledgeable about the sport,” said Shelley.

“He understands his body and the difference between being sore and injured. He struggled with quad tightness and Jim Smirk has really helped him with that. Conor has been a leader for us, not just in running. The seniors have done a very good job working with the younger runners and setting a good example. Cross country is a sport that requires a lot of self-discipline.”

Freshman Alex Roth has done a good job of following the example set by the PHS veterans, taking 18th last Saturday in a time of 17:37.

“He has taken off tremendously, he has been in the low 17s,” said Shelley, noting that the program has a good group of freshmen, including Ty Watsky, who ran an 18:15 time in the JV race at the Shore meet.

“We are trying to keep him within the process. He was hurt a little bit and we had him ride the bike for a few days so he could get his legs back. Alex has been humble; he doesn’t say a lot, he just goes about his business.”

With the county and sectional competitions coming up in a few weeks, Shelly is hoping that his team can take care of business when it counts most.

“I want them to be fast at the right time,” said Shelley, who hopes to have Vahdat and senior Anders Berg at full health in time for those events.

“We have the potential to be competitive in the big meets. To win an elite race, we have to have all our key runners do well on the same day. We want to run our best races at the right time; that is the goal going into the counties and sectionals.”

 

sports6When Neeraj Devulapalli started doing volunteer work five years ago for the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton (NJTLT), his focus was local.

“I liked the experience and what I started to realize is that the kids at NJTLT only played once a week when they were there,” said Devulapalli, a senior at the Princeton Day School and a boys’ tennis star for the Panthers.

“They had no opportunity to carry it on outside of that, like they can with a sport like basketball. They have the tennis courts at Cadwalader Park but they didn’t have the equipment. They couldn’t just go across the street and get a tennis racket. I wanted to make tennis more accessible. I wanted it to be a more common sport in the area.”

As a result, Devulapalli started gathering tennis equipment for the Trenton youths, putting out collection boxes at the Garden State Tennis Academy in Edison where he trains.

But as Devulapalli got involved in that effort, he realized that the needs stretched far wider than the Trenton area.

“I did a lot of research online and found others doing the same thing,” said Devulapalli.

“I didn’t want to send the equipment to one place,
I wanted to make it a broader, more global thing.”

As a result, he created “Game Set Health!,” a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and donating used tennis rackets, balls, and equipment across the globe to those in need.

To date, Game Set Health has donated over 1,000 tennis balls, 150 rackets, and other equipment such as shoes, clothes, and strings to New York, Florida, Kenya, India, and Canada in addition to New Jersey.

“The first shipment went to New York, Florida, Canada, and Kenya,” said Devulapalli. “It was 40 balls, 40 rackets, other equipment.”

In order to make that donation, Devulapalli had to navigate through logistical and financial issues.

“I went to UPS in North Brunswick and the first shipment was going to cost $2,000 if they shipped it,” recalled Devulapalli.

“They agreed to pack it for free and then I took it USPS in Kendall Park and we sent it at the less expensive USPS rate. It is a drill now.”

Getting the 501(c)(3) charter status for his organization was another challenge for Devulapalli.

“In the summer after my freshman year, the organization was formally started,” said Devulapalli.

“The 501(c)(3) process takes a while. There is a lot of paper work and it is hard for an underage person to get it started. I needed five adults over 21 who weren’t family to support me.”

Devulapalli has found support for his efforts across the world. “We have formed a network of tennis charities,” said Devulapalli, whose group is global partners with the Victoria Tennis Academy in Kisumu City, Kenya.

“We will have 4-way Skype conference with one guy in Italy and another in Atlanta to talk about ways to increase shipments and figure out more organizations to get involved.”

The recipients of the equipment have shown their gratitude in a number of ways.

“The most prevalent follow-ups are in the form of pictures,” said Devulapalli. “The guy from Kenya is really good about that. The kids are really underprivileged there; they are not only getting rackets and balls, they are getting clothing. I have pictures of kids wearing the clothing to school. The places in Florida and Toronto send me letters; the kids thank you so much.”

Devulapalli is thankful for the equipment donors who have stepped up. “It is a really good feeling, it is great to see how willing people are to help,” said Devulapalli, noting that he has received equipment from as far away as Arkansas and Ohio. “I can see that people care so much.”

While Devulapalli is heading off to college next fall, he is more than willing to maintain the organization.

“I am 100 percent planning to keep this going when I am in college,” said Devulapalli, who is opening a website, gamesethealth.org, and hopes to organize a tennis/soccer tournament at PDS to raise money for the effort.

“My parents and family have really helped a lot. My mom knows the shipment drill. I am trying to recruit members by trying to get local involvement in schools.”

For Devulapalli, managing the organization has definitely been a labor of love.

“It is a year-round enterprise,” said Devulapalli. “I spend 15-20 hours in a tough week and 6-8 hours in other weeks. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to have a global impact. It is fulfilling; it is fun.”

 

For much of the first half last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team held its own as it hosted cross-town rival Hun.

After surrendering a goal at the 12-minute mark, PDS tightened up defensively until the waning moments of the half when Hun tallied with 3:20 remaining to take a 2-0 lead into intermission.

The roof fell in for the Panthers in the beginning of the second half as they surrendered two goals in the first three minutes on the way to a 5-1 loss.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that it was a tough day for his side.

“It was one of those games, the changes of circumstance hurt us,” said Murphy.

sports5“We tried to play out of the back and I thought for 15 minutes we were keeping the ball very well. One thing happens and because of the youthfulness of the side, they panic and can’t settle down any more.”

The combination at forward of junior Marco Pinheiro and senior Culver Duquette were on the ball as they put pressure on the Hun defense.

“I think Marco and Culver certainly led the line,” said Murphy, who got a goal from Pinheiro in the second half of the Hun game on a penalty kick.

“They were enterprising, they were creative. They brought a new dynamic. They went at them and did not let the opposition settle. They kept the speed of the game up; the tempo was tremendously high. They brought in a lot of subs by then but it still didn’t change the dynamic. They were keeping their back four honest certainly.”

Along the backline, junior Christian Vik provided some dynamic play for the Panthers.

“We took one of the forwards, Christian Vik, and put him at central defender,” said Murphy. “He played extremely well back there.”

With PDS hosting Rutgers Prep on October 10 before playing at Pennington on October 15, Murphy is hoping that his squad will show some forward movement.

“Now with the accumulation of injuries and just moving people around, we have got last year’s midfield and forwards playing in the back,” said Murphy, whose team was missing five players due to injury last Saturday as it fell 5-0 to the Lawrenceville School to drop to 3-5-2.

“It will work itself out and if it doesn’t this year, it will give them some experience for next year. They are a young squad. There is still hope. You play it as it goes.”

 

sports7Even though the Hun School girls’ soccer team lost 4-2 to Pennington School last week in falling to 0-7 on the season, Joanna Hallac liked what she saw from her players.

“We came out playing real hard,” said Hun first-year head coach Hallac, whose team led 2-1 at halftime against Pennington. “We didn’t hold on to the lead but it gave the girls hope and motivation.”

Last Friday against visiting Springside/Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.), Hun came out hard again and took a 1-0 lead at intermission. This time, the Raiders built on the halftime advantage and pulled away to a 4-0 victory.

“We were really due for a win and the girls were convinced that it would come on Friday,” said Hallac, who got goals from Marleigh Nociti, Ashley Maziarz, Jess Johnson, and Tanya Clark in the triumph.

“We put it all together for 80 minutes. We were playing well from the start but at halftime I told them we were letting Springside hang around and we needed to play even better. We played a great second half and really took care of business. It was really nice to see.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior tri-captain Olivia Braender-Carr and junior tri-captain Maziarz, have been doing well for the Raiders.

“I have tried Braender-Carr in the midfield but she makes such good runs out of the back and distributes the ball so well that I am keeping her on defense,” said Hallac of Braender-Carr, who tallied two assists in the win on Friday.

“Ashley Maziarz has come back and having her out there is a calming presence; she settles things through the back and the midfield.”

Some of the squad’s younger players are calming down on the field. “Abby Gray has been close to scoring, she is really coming along,” said Hallac of the freshman, who picked up an assist against Springside.

“Marleigh Nociti has been playing well.  She is really fast and she is using her speed to her advantage. She is not just firing shots, she is combining.”

Hallac and her players were fired up to break into the win column. “It was a relief,” said Hallac, who previously served as a head coach at Weston High (Conn.).

“It is hard going into a new situation and knowing what they have done in the past and what the expectations are. The girls really needed this. They have been playing well but they needed validation in the form of a win.”

In the wake of the victory, Hallac is hoping her team can start rolling as it opens its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) campaign this Saturday at the Blair Academy.

“I told them I would rather peak in the middle and at the end; we are heading into the meat of our schedule,” said Hallac.

“We need to work on consistency of effort and consistency of play. We need to play the ball on the ground and possess it offensively. We have talked about capitalizing on opportunities, both on mistakes by our opponents and when we get a shot. We also can’t make lapses that give the other teams chances.”

 

sports8In the first three games of the season, the Hun School football team has done a lot of good things.

The Raiders have displayed an ability to move the ball on the ground and in the air. In the trenches, they have been physical and hard-nosed.

But a failure to take care of the ball has left the Raiders without a win to show for their good work. The latest case in point came last Saturday when Hun made four turnovers in falling 30-14 at Germantown Academy (Pa.).

“That seems to be a recurring theme,” said Hun head coach John Law in reflecting on his team’s sloppiness with the ball.

“We have cleaned up a lot of things but the last thing that we have to take care of is the turnovers. What is frustrating for us is that these kids can play.”

As a result, Law and his coaches are going to harp on playing error-free football.

“We need to be mentally complete; we need to play a complete game,” said Law.

“We play a schedule that is good and that is what we want. We are going to do some drills this week focusing on ball security.”

Hun is getting some very good play at running back from junior Christopher Sharp, who had a big game in a losing cause last Saturday, gaining 182 yards on 19 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt.

“That is what has got us excited; we have some young kids handling the ball who are really talented,” said Law.

“It was a breakout game for Christopher. He is a special kid, he is learning how to read holes and trust the holes and when to break it out. He is a rising star.”

Senior linebacker/running back Colton Jay Jumper has emerged as a star for the Raiders in his first year with the program.

“Jumper is a leader for us on defense, we’ll go as he goes,” asserted Law of the Lookout Mountain, Tenn. native. “He has a nose for the ball. He hadn’t run the ball at his other school. We have him doing lead blocking and running the ball in short yardage situations.

Another leader for Hun has been senior receiver/defensive back Cam Dudeck. “I think Cam Dudeck is making catches and is helping us on defense,” said Law of Dudeck, who made six receptions for 49 yards last Saturday.

“I am really happy with him. He has been so consistent and I hope that rubs off on some of the other players.”

As Hun prepares to play at the Blair Academy on October 12 in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener, Law knows that his team has to play more consistently to knock off the Buccaneers.

“It is always a big one for us,” said Law. “It will be an old-fashioned slugfest. They know us and we know them. It is a heavyweight fight with the last one standing as the winner and hopefully that will be us. The kids are ready to go, we have some talented kids. We are not surviving the mistakes right now. A win would give them great momentum.”

 

l-r Hun #8 and Stuart #6Over the first 10 games of the season, Madison Kirton hadn’t scored a goal for the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

But as Stuart hosted WW/P-N last Thursday, junior forward Kirton produced a breakthrough effort, scoring a goal as time ran out in the first half and then tallying again three minutes into the second half.

Sparked by Kirton’s heroics, Stuart pulled away to a 4-1 victory over the Northern Knights as it improved to 4-7.

Afterward, a beaming Kirton acknowledged that she was thrilled to find the back of the cage. “I was in a little bit of a slump so definitely this built up my confidence and it built up everybody’s confidence,” said Kirton.

Although Stuart had lost 4-0 to Hun a day before the WW/P-N contest, Kirton had the sense that the Tartans were poised for a big performance.

“We definitely took what we learned off the field yesterday and applied it today,” said Kirton. “We were more aggressive today and we tried to communicate more on and off the field. I think just supporting each other was the biggest thing that helped us win today.”

While Stuart dominated possession in the early stages of the contest, it was a goal by sophomore star Tori Hannah midway through the first half that got things rolling in the right direction for the Tartans.

“Tori definitely set the tone for the game today,” said Kirton. “That goal in the first half made us more tenacious.”

Kirton displayed her tenacity minutes later when she got loose in the circle and banged home a feed from sophomore Sam Servis to give the Tartans a 2-0 lead at halftime.

“I was paying attention to Sam,” recalled Kirton. “We have learned to be aware of where everyone is on the field. She had a great pass to me and I just got my stick there.”

After WW/P-N scored a goal early in the second half to make it a 2-1 game, Kirton struck again, converting a pass from Servis into her second tally.

“You can’t let it effect you when they score,” said Kirton. “You just have to keep battling and that’s what we did. The score for us doesn’t really matter, it is more how you play the game and you come back. I was definitely more aggressive in the circle today.”

Kirton certainly enjoys playing with Servis as the two are developing a solid connection on attack.

“We definitely look for each other because she is the right inner and I am the left so it is easy to do those crosses,” said Kirton. “We try to play with each other up the field.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik liked the way that her team performed all over the field in the victory over WW/P-N.

“I thought all of them played well,” asserted Bruvik. “The win was a total team effort and everyone’s contributions were timely and significant to the outcome. I think every player felt she had a solid performance and was inspired by her teammates’ efforts.”

Bruvik acknowledged that Kirton’s finishing touch proved to be inspirational for the Tartans. “Madison had two big goals,” said Bruvik. “I thought her, as well as the rest of the kids, were positioning themselves beautifully. We are doing a better job of anticipating; before we were doing way too much watching the game. We have been working on a lot of full field transition, where you need to be off ball.”

Sophomore Hannah has been giving Stuart a needed spark on the offensive end.

“We brought a freshman up, Izzy Engel, who has done a nice job at that right midfield spot which allows Tori more freedom to push up,” explained Bruvik. “Tori is really playing an offensive mid. She is defensive minded but it gives her a chance to carry the ball and see her teammates and put the ball on goal herself. She has always had that innate athletic ability but the stick skills are just more consistent right now.”

In Bruvik’s view, the win over WW/P-N is a sign that her team is developing better consistency. “I think it is a confidence builder,” said Bruvik, whose team hosts the Blair Academy on October 9 in its annual Play for the Cure breast cancer awareness fundraiser.

“They were looking for each other better. They are filling the spaces better and trying to put the ball into the spaces better. It was just timing and sheer effort today.”

Kirton, for her part, believes things are looking up for the Tartans. “I think moving forward we are ready to end the season with a bang,” said Kirton.

 

October 2, 2013
TOP FLIGHT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand last Wednesday on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S in the first singles title match at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TOP FLIGHT: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand last Wednesday on her way to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S in the first singles title match at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After finishing second at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) last fall as a freshman and being seeded No.1 coming into this year’s tourney, it would have been understandable if Christina Rosca felt some pressure.

But Princeton High sophomore Rosca wasn’t fazed by the attention coming her way.

“I didn’t really think about it that much,” said Rosca. “I don’t usually look at draws even in normal tournaments that I play. I just go out and play each point as well as I can, so I never really felt pressure.”

Rosca ended up playing extremely well at the MCT, rolling to the title without losing a set. In the championship match, Rosca posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S.

“I thought my serve was very accurate this match,” said Rosca, reflecting on her performance in the final. I was really happy with how I served. Also I think I did a great job with attacking and coming to the net.”

Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points.

For Rosca, moving one spot up the ladder at first singles was satisfying. “I am very happy that I was able to play well this year and win,” said Rosca.

“Last year, I was a little disappointed that I lost but there was no shame in losing to Sam [former Princeton Day School star and current Wake Forest player Samantha Asch] because she was an exceptional player. I am definitely happy that I was able to play well and do it.”

Rosca has worked hard to become an exceptional player in her own right.

“I think my serve has improved a lot,” asserted Rosca. “Also I think my movement and footwork has gotten better. I am able to transition into the net more efficiently and faster.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert is thrilled with what Rosca brings to the team.

“Obviously Chris was a highlight for us winning at first singles,” said Hibbert.

“She has continued working hard. She has really upped all aspects of her game. She can put a lot of pace on the ball but she does have other options to fall back on as well. She is a team player as well. She enjoys being out there, rooting for the other girls. She wins her matches and she doesn’t take off. Instead she goes around and sees who else is playing which is really nice.”

The Little Tigers produced other highlights at the MCT as the first doubles team of Allison Hubert and Nikhita Salgame took second as did the the second doubles pair of Zhenia Dementyev and Gillian Samios. Rory Lewis placed third at second singles while Katelyn Hojelbane took fourth at third singles.

“Overall, we had a good tournament,” said Hibbert. “We got four through to the finals. That’s certainly a great showing. Especially considering that the doubles were moved around, split up a little bit, and didn’t have very much warning.”

The play of Lewis and Hojelbane at singles showed the depth of the Little Tigers.

“Rory won the third place match 0 and 0; she could have played a little bit better in her semifinal match and I think she feels that way as well,” said Hibbert. “But to recover from that and turn around and play such an impressive third place match is important. Katelyn was hoping to have that happen last year but with her sliding up to second singles she was put in a tougher position. She has worked really hard.”

The PHS doubles teams were in a tough position coming into the tournament as the lineups were recently shuffled after Chenchen Wang decided to take the fall off to give a knee injury more time to heal.

“We were scrambling a little bit to put pairings together but I am really pleased with the way both teams played,” said Hibbert, whose team topped WW/P-N 5-0 in a dual match on Monday and hosts Notre Dame on October 2 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 4 and at WW/P-S on October 8.

“They both made the finals which is impressive in a tough county. We are planning on going forward with these girls since the teams did well here. We are going to try to keep these pairings intact. Their positions may swap.”

Hibbert is hoping that the MCT will help toughen up her team for another deep run in the state tournament.

“It is a lot of matches and it is good competition between the best teams in the county,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to the Group III state championship match in 2012.

“It looks like it is one of the closer first and second place finishes. We are very pleased with that result and we hope it will help us going forward.”

In Rosca’s view, PHS has the potential to produce some good results over the rest of the fall in the wake of its effort at the county tourney.

“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, especially the new pairings, because we didn’t really know how things would turn out in this tournament,” said Rosca.

“They were a little nervous. I think that they did really well. I think we are grouped very well and we can be a great team this year.”

HELL-RAISER: Princeton High football player Liam Helstrom celebrates after scoring a touchdown in 2012 action. Last Friday, senior receiver/linebacker Helstom caught a touchdown pass in a losing cause as PHS fell 27-14 at WW/P-S. Helstrom had seven receptions for 71 yards in the contest along with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. The Little Tigers, now 0-3, will look to get in the win column when they play at Hamilton (0-3) on October 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HELL-RAISER: Princeton High football player Liam Helstrom celebrates after scoring a touchdown in 2012 action. Last Friday, senior receiver/linebacker Helstom caught a touchdown pass in a losing cause as PHS fell 27-14 at WW/P-S. Helstrom had seven receptions for 71 yards in the contest along with 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. The Little Tigers, now 0-3, will look to get in the win column when they play at Hamilton (0-3) on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High football team trailed WW/P-S 27-7 last Friday night with a few minutes remaining in the game, Liam Helstrom wasn’t about to throw in the towel.

With PHS senior star Helstrom making some key receptions, including a 5-yard touchdown catch with 54.5 seconds left, the Little Tigers made it a 27-14 final.

“That just shows, as coach [Charlie Gallagher] says, the kind of team that we are,” said Helstrom, who made a total of seven catches for 71 yards on the evening in the defeat which left PHS at 0-3.

“We weren’t going to win the game but I am not out there to slack off and put my head down. I am out there to play football; it is my senior year.”

Entering the evening, PHS believed it could play a good game against WW/P-S.

“We came out thinking we were going to win the game,” said Helstrom. “South was 0-2, we were 0-2. We had a good thing going, we thought we could beat them from watching film. A couple of plays didn’t go our way at the beginning.”

In the early stages of the contest, the Little Tigers made some big plays as the game was knotted at 7-7 after one quarter with PHS scoring on a Sam Smallzman quarterback sneak after falling behind 7-0.

In the second quarter, PHS got outscored 13-0 to trail 20-7 at halftime. In the third quarter, the Little Tigers had a 15-play drive but got nothing to show for it. WW/P-S scored a touchdown with 4:24 left in the fourth to go up 27-7 before PHS went its late drive to close out the scoring for the evening.

While PHS was fighting an uphill battle for most of the contest, Helstrom enjoyed the struggle.

“I had fun the whole game,” said Helstrom. “Even when I am down, I am still busting hard. I didn’t want these kids to think that they could just stroll in on us and just roll through their homecoming. I was just going to pop them every once in a while.”

Having played tight end last season, Helstrom is having fun as he has switched to wide receiver.

“Playing tight end taught me a lot about using my hands, plus going into the weight room and thinking about going up against these big 250-pound guys, I had to lift a lot more,” said the 6’2, 185-pound Helstrom, who bench presses 285 pounds.

“Now I am out here against 150-pound kids running track. I have what they call deceptive speed.”

Helstrom also utilizes his power and speed on defense as he starts at linebacker after previously playing at defensive end.

“They moved me to linebacker,” said Helstrom, who had 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in the WW/P-S game.

“I always thought of myself as more of a defensive end. It’s good for the power that they got going. So there are holes and cutback lanes that I find. Sam [Smallzman] is telling me what to do; he is a real good linebacker.”

PHS first-year head coach Gallagher saw good effort from his players against WW/P-S.

“We have got a lot of fight; I think that is our motto right now,” said Gallagher.

We play good football from the beginning to the end. We are a little thin on numbers and everybody is going both ways. We got players playing with banged up knees and one got knocked in the head tonight and is possibly concussed.”

Gallagher acknowledged that PHS took a hit when Will Harrison broke his collarbone against Hightstown on September 20.

“We only have three seniors right now,” said Gallagher. “We have one senior, Will Harrison, who is out for the season. He is our star running back, free safety, punt returner, kick returner, PAT holder. We had to step up; we did a nice job with that. He’ll be missed all year. He has been with this program for four years and it is just heartbreaking.”

The Little Tigers are depending on Helstrom together with junior Smallzman, junior Colin Buckley, and sophomore Rory Helstrom, Liam’s younger brother, to show a lot of heart.

“Liam is a great football player, he loves playing football,” asserted Gallagher.

“Sam Smallzman loves playing football, Rory Helstrom loves playing football and so does Colin Buckley. Some of those guys are standout guys and other coaches come up to me and say we have got to be worried about this guy and we got be worried about that guy. It is flattering for those guys.”

Gallagher loved seeing his team drive for the late touchdown against the Pirates.

“We want to score points and the bottom line is that the kids didn’t want to come out of the game, they wanted to punch it in,” said Gallagher.

“Liam and Sam haven’t connected in the end zone yet so that was big for them. They wanted to get that touchdown. That was Sam’s first touchdown throw of the year. He has thrown his share of picks and we talked about reducing that. I think he had just one pick and he had the touchdown so that is not a bad day from Sam.”

PHS will be looking to have a big day as it plays at Hamilton on October 5. “We’ll be taking a trip to Hamilton so we will be on the road for the seventh week in a row,” said Gallagher.

“It is two 0-3 teams and somebody is going to get a win. It is a second opportunity for us; we played a 0-2 team today. Unfortunately we came out on the losing end. I know that coach Tom Hoglen has a good program, a good staff and good
players and hopefully we’ll give them another battle.”

Helstrom, for his part, is ready to keep fighting. “We are not going to put our heads down,” said Helstrom.

“We are going to bust up Hamilton West as much as we can and even if comes down to two minutes to go and we are down by two touchdowns, we are still going to bust our butts.”

SMOOTH TRANSFER: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Maria Martinovic rips a forehand last week at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Junior Martinovic, a transfer from the Lawrenceville School, placed second at second singles in her MCT debut, helping PDS take third in the team standings. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Lawrenceville on October 5 before playing at the Hun School on October 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SMOOTH TRANSFER: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Maria Martinovic rips a forehand last week at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Junior Martinovic, a transfer from the Lawrenceville School, placed second at second singles in her MCT debut, helping PDS take third in the team standings. In upcoming action, the Panthers host Lawrenceville on October 5 before playing at the Hun School on October 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Maria Martinovic, joining the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team after transferring from the Lawrenceville School has proved to be a good move.

“I love the team, they are awesome, all of them,” said junior Martinovic. “Everyone was so welcoming and nice.”

Last week, Martinovic made a very nice debut at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT), taking second at second singles.

“I was really happy with how I played,” said Martinovic, reflecting on her fine performance, which helped PDS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up Princeton High.

“There were a lot of good schools. My second match on Monday was really difficult. I was really happy that I won that one. The semi was good too.”

Martinovic, though, did acknowledge that she wasn’t happy with how she played in losing 6-4, 6-0  to Haley Rich of WW/P-S in the championship match.

“It was a really tight match at first,” said Martinovic, who was teary-eyed after the setback. “I was just really nervous, I felt that way. When you are nervous, I feel like you should be moving your feet more and trying to hit your way out of it. I was kind of pulling back and doing the opposite. I think that is why I lost.”

The loss was a good learning experience for Martinovic. “Hopefully next year, I will know how to deal with that,” said Martinovic, who topped Arial Bosworth of WW/P-N 6-4, 6-0 in the semis to reach the title match.

“In my other matches, I wasn’t as nervous so it was easier for me to deal with when it was close. In this one, I really felt it.”

PDS head coach Ed Tseng felt good about how his team performed collectively at the MCT. “We are obviously pleased to have everyone through to today,” said Tseng, whose players advanced to the semis in all five flights of the tourney.

“There are a lot of good teams, a lot of the matches could have gone either way. I am pleased with the way that everyone has played.”

Tseng has been pleased to welcome Martinovic to the squad. “She is very nice player, a smart player,” said Tseng.

“She is a great team player as well. We are very happy and fortunate to have her.”

PDS got some nice play from its other singles players at the MCT as sophomore Renee Karchere-Sun took third at first singles while junior Emily Dyckman placed fourth at third singles.

“Renee is stepping up her game and we are happy to have her at No. 1,” said Tseng. “Emily fought hard. I am very pleased with the results. She had a tough final match but she played great, she never gave up. That’s the main thing I look for.”

The Panthers got what they were looking for in doubles as the first pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Devika Kumar placed third while the second doubles team of Hope Boozan and Touria Salvati took fourth.

“Our first doubles got third place so we are happy about that,” said Tseng. “They played great; they played smart. Our second doubles played well together.”

In Tseng’s view, the experience of playing in the MCT should help his team down the road. “It is always nice to play more matches to get our timing and rhythm and get ready to finish the rest of the season strong,” said Tseng, who guided the Panthers to the state Prep B championship last fall.

“The girls were nervous coming in which is totally normal. But once they saw that we had a chance, they played well. It is two of the best days of the season. It is a great atmosphere; it is fun. It is good for team bonding and it is good tennis.”

Martinovic, for her part, believes that PDS has the chance to accomplish some great things over the rest of the fall.

“I think we can do really well; I think we have a really deep team this year,” said Martinovic.

“We all hit with each other so sometimes our singles will hit against our doubles players so they challenge each other and that’s good.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School field hockey star Mary Travers, left, runs upfield in recent action. With Travers moving to forward from her customary midfield spot, PDS has caught fire, reeling off three straight wins as it topped Hun 3-1 last Thursday before beating Blair 3-0 last Saturday and blanking Pennington 5-0 on Monday. Travers scored a total of five goals in those victories. PDS, now 5-4, hosts Hill on October 2, Lawrenceville on October 5, South Hunterdon on October 7, and Princeton High on October 9, with the latter game being the program’s annual Play 4 the Cure fundraiser.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FORWARD PROGRESS: Princeton Day School field hockey star Mary Travers, left, runs upfield in recent action. With Travers moving to forward from her customary midfield spot, PDS has caught fire, reeling off three straight wins as it topped Hun 3-1 last Thursday before beating Blair 3-0 last Saturday and blanking Pennington 5-0 on Monday. Travers scored a total of five goals in those victories. PDS, now 5-4, hosts Hill on October 2, Lawrenceville on October 5, South Hunterdon on October 7, and Princeton High on October 9, with the latter game being the program’s annual Play 4 the Cure fundraiser. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary Travers’ thoughts were centered on one present as she celebrated her 18th birthday last Thursday.

With her Princeton Day School field hockey team mired in a three-game losing streak, senior star Travers had a simple wish as the Panthers played at Hun. “Coming into this game, I was super excited because it is my birthday,” said Travers. “I told everyone on the team all I want is for us to win.”

Moving to forward from her normal midfield spot, Travers helped make her wish come true, scoring the go-ahead goal as PDS rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to pull out a 3-1 victory over the Raiders.

Although PDS had been struggling recently, Travers had a sense that the Panthers were primed for a breakthrough.

“This week we had two really good practices,” said Travers, a team co-captain along with classmates Sarah Brennan, Emily Goldman, and Emma Quigley.

“We even came out a little to do some extra conditioning because throughout the season we know what we want but we haven’t been necessarily working for what we want and executing. So working for what we want instead of just wanting it has been a big change.”

That desire paid dividends against Hun as the Panthers were not fazed by trailing 1-0 at halftime.

“I honestly wasn’t thinking about that at all,” said Travers. “We knew that we had been playing with them the whole first half and we knew that we could come back. In some of our earlier games this season, when we got a goal scored against us, we kind of had the mindset that was it. So we were really focused, we said 1-0, that’s OK, the game is only halfway done.

The Panthers were sparked by a Bian Maloney goal early in the second half which knotted the game at 1-1.

“I think our warmup was a little slow, it wasn’t our best so we came into the first half a little slowly,” said Travers. “I think Bian’s goal really catalyzed some energy that we needed.”

Travers showed energy minutes later as she scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

“It was awesome; I have never played forward before so it was a change for me,” said Travers, reflecting on the goal.

“We have been working a lot on just keeping our sticks down in the circle. Coach [Tracey] Arndt has really tried to hammer that into our heads and that was what was going through my head. There are girls around but if I have my stick down, it might pop out and I will have an opportunity there.”

With PDS losing top scoring threat Quigley earlier this season due to a thumb injury, Travers was more than willing to assume a more offensive role for the Panthers.

“When Emma first got out, we struggled with that because she is a huge scorer for us and an amazing asset,” said Travers.

“We have tried a couple of different things to adjust and this is the latest iteration of that, putting me forward and keeping Sarah [Brennan] back spread us out and helped us work a little more upfield.”

PDS head coach Tracey Arndt is proud of the way her team has adjusted collectively.

“It was a little tough for us but we kept persevering and we said we are going to work through the fundamentals and make sure that we are sound that way,” said Arndt.

“We took the mentality that it doesn’t matter what the score is. We have got the speed, we have got the skill. It is a just a matter of putting it together. We have had some injuries. I think today was just a culmination of finally being frustrated enough to do what it takes to get over the hump. We still have a long road ahead of us.”

Arndt marvels at all the things that Travers does for the team. “Mary is fantastic; she is certainly an all-around person,” said Arndt of Travers, who scored a goal in a 3-0 win over Blair last Saturday and then tallied a hat trick on Monday as PDS blanked Pennington 5-0 to improve to 5-4.

“I love her spirit. I love her heart. I love her work ethic. She is the definition of a competitor but also is a very kind person. She is a finisher for us as well. So having her in the back, we were hiding some of her skill so we kind of just looked at each other and I said do you want to do it and she said “yup.” It is a new role for her. She was asking appropriate questions and at the end of the day you just have a feel for that cage. You start to salivate for it, that is the only word I can think of.”

Senior star Brennan, who has scored a goal in three straight contests for the Panthers, has also shown a good feel for the game.

“Sarah has been doing great too; she and Mary usually work together in the center,” said Arndt.

“It was Sarah who had to do a lot of that work today getting back and transferring fields and getting it up to the forwards where it is usually Sarah and Mary working together. They just kind of worked together on a different line from the midfield to the forward. She has a lot of grit and competitiveness to her as well. She has always had skills but they have really been refined in the last year. She made it a goal to be able to play Division I college field hockey. She said I have to do what it takes and she has really been working hard.”

PDS has been getting some good work from its defense, having posted back-to-back shutouts and giving up only one goal in its three-game winning streak.

“Nikki van Manen has been moved from an outside mid position to a sweeper, back position,” said Arndt.

“She has really stepped up her game which is great. Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] really stepped up in goal. The one thing we were focusing on with her was don’t worry about all those people around you, focus on the ball and making that first save and I think she did a great job that way. We have got some young players back there. At the end of the day, it was beating them to the 50/50 balls. I tell them all the time, that is going to win or lose games. The more times you have the ball, the more chances you have to score.”

In Arndt’s view, PDS has the chance to win a lot of games this fall if it can keep on the ball.

“I think we did some things well tactically that we haven’t done in the past,” said Arndt, whose team hosts Hill on October 2, Lawrenceville on October 5, South Hunterdon on October 7, and Princeton High on October 9, with the latter game being the program’s annual Play 4 the Cure fundraiser.

“Mentally we were down a goal and I said we have to win that half, that at least gives us a chance to get a tie if we won the second half 1-0. We just kept fighting and fighting. Nobody likes to lose, that is the overall goal. We have so much more hockey to play and still a lot of things to do but certainly this was a nice win.”

Travers, for her part, believes that the win over Hun can be a harbinger of things to come.

“I think we needed a win to boost us,” said Travers. “As Coach Arndt said after the game, this is the up part of the roller-coaster and we are going to keep going up.”

TUCKING IN: Hun School boys’ soccer player Tucker ­Stevenson, center, goes after the ball in recent action. Junior forward Stevenson has emerged as a scoring threat for the Raiders, tallying three goals and an assist in the team’s last four games. Hun, which edged Nottingham 3-2 on Monday to improve to 3-4, plays at Princeton Day School on October 2 and at the George School on October 5 before hosting Trenton Catholic on October 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TUCKING IN: Hun School boys’ soccer player Tucker ­Stevenson, center, goes after the ball in recent action. Junior forward Stevenson has emerged as a scoring threat for the Raiders, tallying three goals and an assist in the team’s last four games. Hun, which edged Nottingham 3-2 on Monday to improve to 3-4, plays at Princeton Day School on October 2 and at the George School on October 5 before hosting Trenton Catholic on October 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Tucker Stevenson was about 7,000 miles away from the Hun School boys’ soccer team as he did a semester in India.

While Stevenson enjoyed that journey, he is happy to have rejoined the Raiders.

“I went to India for four months,” said junior Stevenson. “I played soccer over there but I missed the guys so coming back has been awesome.”

Upon returning to the squad, Stevenson has found a home at forward, moving up the field from the defender position he played as a freshman.

Over the last week, Stevenson has been displaying his finishing touch, scoring his first goal of the season in a 4-2 loss to Germantown Academy on September 21, adding another tally in a 3-2 loss to Pennington on September 24, and then scoring the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory at Bridgewater-Raritan last Friday.

In reflecting on the tally in the Pennington game, Stevenson noted that he utilized strength and positioning to find the back of the net.

“That was a great feed from Connor Hufer,” said Stevenson. “It got deflected actually. I was able to hold off the defender, turn and hit one in. That’s what I bring to the table.”

Stevenson’s goal knotted the Pennington game at 2-2 and even though Hun went on to lose the contest 3-2, he saw the performance as a step forward for the Raiders.

“That was one of the better 80-minute games we have played,” said Stevenson.

“We have put it together for 60 or 65 minutes but that was a pretty complete game we played. It hurts because we beat ourselves really. I don’t think we were outplayed at all, kudos to them for finishing their opportunities.”

In Stevenson’s view, Hun deserves kudos for its battling spirit. “We are kind of a scrappy team; we are not the most skilled,” said Stevenson, who contributed an assist on Monday as Hun edged Nottingham 3-2 to improve to 3-4.

“We are down to fight; we are not just going to roll over. This team doesn’t really have losses. Yes we lose but we learn from it all. It hurts to have another number in the loss column; I think we learned a lot from this and we’ll grow from it.”

Hun head coach Pat Quirk saw his team’s performance in the Pennington game as an example of its growth.

“I thought we played extremely well,” said Quirk, who also got a goal from senior midfielder Andres Gonzalez in the game.

“It was a well-played game of soccer. We did what we have been preaching to them which was to get creative around the goal and not just trying to settle on long balls. We were trying to get some combinations going inside the goal and we were just unlucky. That is the way it has been going all season. We make a few mistakes and every team seems to capitalize on all of our mistakes. We haven’t been able to capitalize too much.”

Quirk likes the way Stevenson is starting to capitalize on his opportunities.

“I think Tucker is getting in a rhythm, their kid in the back, [Austin] Sumners, is probably the best defender we will see all season,” said Quirk. “He gave Tucker a little run for his money. But Tucker has a way of getting dangerous; he uses his body well. He is able to get his hips around the ball. Everything he shoots stays on net.”

Seeing Gonzalez find the back of the net was another positive for Quirk.

“That was the first time we actually had him out wide, he has been playing in the middle and the back, he has played a little at center mid,” said Quirk. “He did well; he got dangerous and put it away.”

Others who did well for Hun against Pennington include senior midfielders Felix Dalstein and Bailey Hammer together with sophomore defender Alex Semler and defender Max Vounatsos.

“This is a team that is never going to give up and that stems from the seniors in the middle, Felix and Bailey,” said Quirk.

“They play a full 80 minutes and never stop working. Our center backs Semler and Maxime have been playing really good soccer; two guys that haven’t been playing very often in the back.”

In Quirk’s view, his team is headed in the right direction. “After our first game, it looked a lot like this,” said Quirk, whose team plays at Princeton Day School on October 2 and at the George School on October 5 before hosting Trenton Catholic on October 7.

“We scored a few more and then we had a little bit of a lull. I think we are back on track. We just need to capitalize on the balls in the box. We have a lot of balls bouncing inside the 18 that we have trouble putting away there.”

Stevenson, for his part, thinks the bounces are going to start going Hun’s way.

“It was tough before, coming back there were some new pieces and we are trying to put it all together,” said Stevenson.

“Now that we have had a couple of games under our belt, I feel like we are getting in a groove.”

EYE ON THE BALL: Hun School field hockey player Julia Blake goes after the ball in action last fall. Last Thursday junior standout Blake scored the lone goal for Hun in a 3-1 loss to Princeton Day School. The Raiders, now 1-4, play at Stuart Country Day on October 2 before hosting Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4, Princeton High on October 5, and Solebury School (Pa.) on October 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

EYE ON THE BALL: Hun School field hockey player Julia Blake goes after the ball in action last fall. Last Thursday junior standout Blake scored the lone goal for Hun in a 3-1 loss to Princeton Day School. The Raiders, now 1-4, play at Stuart Country Day on October 2 before hosting Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4, Princeton High on October 5, and Solebury School (Pa.) on October 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After starting the season with three close losses, the Hun School field hockey team appeared to be turning the corner as it hosted Princeton Day School last Thursday.

Building on a 1-0 win over WW/P-S three days earlier, Hun led the Panthers 1-0 at halftime in the annual meeting of cross-town rivals.

But in the second half, PDS scored three unanswered goals to pull out a 3-1 win over the Raiders.

As a result of the setback, Hun head coach Kathy Quirk went back to the drawing board.

“I thought that we were playing extremely well,” said Quirk, referring to her team’s first half effort.

“I don’t know what happened in the second half. We seem to get complacent when we get a goal.”

Quirk held an extended post-game session with her team in the wake of the loss.

“We just talked about being more goal hungry,” said Quirk. “We have to be more aggressive in the circle. We knock at the door but we are not scoring enough. One goal is not enough to win games.”

Quirk was happy to get goals from newcomer Julie Fassl in the victory over WW/P-S and from junior Julia Blake in the PDS game.

“Julie is a freshman; she is still young and learning,” said Quirk. “She scored a goal against WW/P-S and I think that gave her confidence. Julia Blake is doing a nice job for us.”

With Hun at 1-4, Quirk is looking for senior captains Francesca Bello, Alex Kane, and Hannah Bettner to get the team on the winning track.

“The kids are working hard,” said Quirk. “I talked to the captains about leadership and leading on and off the field. I need them to light a fire under the team.”

The Raiders have been getting some fiery play from junior goalie Reina Kern, who made 16 saves in the loss to PDS.

“Reina has been doing a nice job,” said Quirk. “She has been getting pounded at times. She is working hard and has to keep positive. I know she is the last person on defense but sometimes the ball is coming through 10 players in front of her.”

With Hun having shown a penchant in recent years for coming through down the stretch, Quirk hopes her team can make another late run.

“I think we do have the potential for that,” said Quirk, whose team plays at Stuart Country Day on October 2 before hosting Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4, Princeton High on October 5, and Solebury School (Pa.) on October 8.

“I am thinking about making some changes in the lineup. I am looking to get some more speed on the forward line and some gutsiness in the circle.”