November 21, 2012

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Kevin Halliday controls the ball last Thursday as third-seeded PHS battled No. 7 Middletown South in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Junior forward Halliday scored the game-winning goal in overtime as PHS prevailed 2-1. Last Monday, Halliday scored two goals as PHS upended top-seeded Allentown 4-3 in the sectional title game. The Little Tigers, now 17-3, earned a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It was a case of déjà vu for Kevin Halliday and the Princeton High boys’ soccer team as they headed into overtime tied 1-1 with Middletown South last Thursday in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals.

Three days earlier, third-seeded PHS had gone into overtime against No. 6 Wall in the sectional quarterfinals and prevailed on a goal by Chase Ealy.

In the view of junior forward Halliday, PHS was able to draw on that experience as they headed into extra time against seventh-seeded Middletown South.

“I think with us being in the same position as the last game, we knew we had to keep our heads straight,” said Halliday.

“Even when things got chippy, we knew we had to finish our chances when they came.”

Midway through the second overtime, Halliday did just that, banging home the winning goal to trigger a raucous celebration and book a spot in the sectional finals for a second straight year.

“I went up for a header and tried to shoot it and it came back to me,” recalled Halliday. “It ended up on my foot and I just had to finish the chance.”

Having nearly scored in the first overtime, Halliday felt he was due for a goal.

“I thought it was coming; I had that shot and he made the save,” said Halliday.

“We came off for halftime and my friend Andrew Braverman gave me his lucky band. I put it back on and we scored it.”

On Monday, Halliday kept scoring, tallying two goals as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a 4-3 thriller in the sectional final to improve to 17-3 and earn a spot in the state Group III semifinals on November 27 at Toms River North against the winner of Kingsway-Moorestown South Jersey sectional final.

In Halliday’s view, who now has a team-high 22 goals, his scoring prowess has been the result of several factors.

“I think just being in the right place at the right time,” said Halliday. “To be honest, I wouldn’t say that any of my goals have been beating five guys and ripping it up. It is just knowing where the pass is going, knowing where the ball is going to end, and finishing it. I think it is a matter of that little bit of luck and a little bit of experience and hard work.”

Halliday enjoys working with his brother, Zach, a star senior midfielder for the Little Tigers.

“I have always loved playing with my brother; I have done it for a while,” said Halliday. “I think we work well together.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe loves seeing how his junior striker has developed into a deadly finisher.

“Kevin has been a special player since his early days when we had him as a freshman,” said Sutcliffe.

“First of all, he has got great technique. His tactical awareness complements that. He is a terrific athlete and he is a great competitor. He just gets in and combines with Zach, Aidan [Passannante], Colin [Lamb] and Jeremy [Goldsmith]. He has this great ability to read the game. I think he separates himself a little bit because of his desire and his athleticism.”

Having won the state Group III title in 2009 and the sectional crown last fall, PHS has once again separated itself from the competition in the postseason.

“It has been a priority to be at our best when the pressure is the greatest and to have thick skins,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think this is our third overtime game of the season, two in this week. Our mentality has led us to be very strong and very focused in these tight spots. All credit to my guys.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, this year’s squad has displayed a special focus this fall. “It has been a challenging season,” said Sutcliffe.

“We had some key injuries to key players early on in the first half and then we found our form. But then we sort of lost it a little bit. The storm, for everyone, was a challenge. We were without a game for two weeks and I am proud of the team for having the maturity and the strength to get through that and get better in that two weeks because we got better even though we didn’t play a game. We were out here everyday training.”

Halliday, for his part, believes that PHS has been stronger in the wake of a 4-0 defeat to Pennington in the county tournament.

“We came back from a hard loss to Pennington in the MCTs so we had a big break, especially with Sandy so we just kept on working on it, working on it, and it paid off for us,” said Halliday.

“Before Pennington, we had been on a run and it kind of knocked us off. The biggest thing that we took from that is that when we go down a goal we have to stay composed. That’s what we did the last two games.”

STILL KICKING: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Meghan ­Brennan kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior forward Brennan scored PHS’s first goal in a 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals. The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High girls’ soccer team had some agonizing near misses against Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals as the team were knotted in a scoreless tie heading into the waning moments of regulation.

With second-seeded PHS dominating possession, Meghan Brennan was confident the Little Tigers could break the ice against the No. 3 Bulldogs, who had posted a 1-0 win in the regular season meeting between the teams.

“Every time we got a free kick, I was hoping it was here,” said senior forward Brennan.

Then with seven minutes left, freshmen defender Haley Bodden lofted a free kick towards the box and Brennan rose above the HoVal defense to head it into the back of the net.

In reflecting on her tally, Brennan credited Bodden’s service. “We all had our different runs and everybody was working really hard and Haley played the perfect ball,” recalled Brennan. “She couldn’t have placed it more perfectly.”

Minutes later, Kate Kerr fired a shot over the HoVal goalie to put the finishing touches on a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs.

The victory improved PHS to 15-2-1 as the Little Tigers earned their first trip to the sectional championship game since 2004. PHS is slated to face No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor to advance to the state Group III semifinals on November 27.

For Brennan, seeing PHS advance to the sectional title game has come as a pleasant surprise.

“At the beginning of the season, it was really hard to know what to expect,” said Brennan.

“We had 11 new players so you never really know how that’s going to go. From day one, we decided that we were going to take it day by day and work as hard as we could in practice and not set any lofty goals. I think we have done a great job sticking together, Staying behind each other and playing as a team and just putting all we have into it.”

In Brennan’s view, PHS gathered steam as the season progressed. “I think it was more of a gradual process; there wasn’t one particular turning point,” said Brennan.

“We had two losses early in the season so I think that kind of helped us get momentum. We got inspiration from those losses to come back and rebound and work hard.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand liked the work he was getting from his team as it knocked on the door against HoVal late in the second half.

“I thought for the last 20-25 minutes we had momentum,” said Hand. “We were creating really well; almost scored on several occasions. It always seems to be the case, the harder you play the more your technique and tactics really show themselves. The kids seemed to be really aware and connected in the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Hand was not surprised that the combination of Bodden and Brennan connected on the game winner. “Haley has been on the money all year long with restarts,” said Hand. “Meghan is just a big player who really stepped up.”

Kerr’s insurance goal was a prime example of how the PHS players have stepped up in big moments this fall.

“It was beautiful; it is the time you want somebody to be taking the initiative on her own and finding a way to finish,” said Hand. “I thought it was an excellent play from the first touch to the finish.”

The team’s excellent play in the second half stood as a microcosm of PHS’s title run.

“It is nice to know what we are capable of which is what we did in the second half,” said Hand. “It came out; the kids certainly worked hard enough to earn that.”

Brennan, for her part, is thrilled to see PHS come on so strong in her senior season.

“It is so amazing; everyone wants their senior year to be successful,” said Brennan.

“I am so glad we have made it this far. It is farther than I have ever made it. I love this team so much. It makes it so much more special to be with all of them during this.”

IN GOOD HANDS: Princeton High girls’ soccer goalie Lauren Ullmann takes a break during action earlier this fall. Senior star Ullmann posted 14 saves in a 3-1 win over Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals last week and then scored a shutout as PHS blanked Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semis last Friday. The second-seeded Little Tigers were slated to host No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional title game with the victor advancing to the state Group III semifinals on November 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior goalie Lauren Ullmann knows what it is like to hold the fort for the Princeton High girls’ soccer team.

“We went 100 minutes against Pennington and nothing went in,” said Ullmann, referring to PHS’s loss to Pennington on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semis after the teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.

“We have done it against other teams in the CVC with strong attacks.” Last week, Ullmann and the second-seeded Little Tigers were under attack as they hosted seventh-seeded Somerville in the Group III Central Jersey quarterfinals. The upstart Pioneers peppered PHS in the early going, building a 7-1 edge in shots and a 1-0 lead.

The cool-headed and battle-tested Ullmann wasn’t fazed. “I just think it was a matter of when we would find our rhythm and figure the game enough to play the way we play the best,” said Ullmann, who made some big saves during that early stretch of the contest.

“The only concern I would have had is that I don’t want my season to end today. I had complete faith in us that we would be able to come back. It wasn’t a problem, just come back and take it to them. I had confidence that as long we could keep getting the job done in the back, we could get the job done as a whole.”

PHS broke through on a goal by freshman Taylor Lis with 10:58 remaining in the first half.

“I think we realized that the game was in our control; we had the power to make it happen,” said Ullmann.

“We don’t want the season to end today. It is us, we can make it happen and keep the season going.”

The Little Tigers went on to win 3-1 with Ullmann making 14 saves in the win.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Ullmann. “There was no reason that we should not have been able to get those goals pretty quickly. I thought we stayed sharp and we were focused the whole game.”

PHS assistant coach Val Rodriguez liked the focus that Ullmann displayed in goal as she helped the Little Tigers survive Somerville’s early barrage.

“She made some great saves,” said Rodriguez. “Lauren is a dependable keeper and a great leader on the field. We can always count on her.”

Three days later, Ullmann had another great performance as she helped PHS blank third-seeded Hopewell Valley 2-0 in the sectional semifinals and improve to 15-3.

For Ullmann, PHS’s postseason run is all the more special since the Little Tigers came out of nowhere.

“I think we love each other and we love being together,” said Ullmann, who was looking to keep up her hot play as PHS hosted No. 8 Colts Neck on November 20 in the sectional finals.

“I think this season has been totally unexpected with 10 or 11 newcomers and six of them are freshmen. I just think no one really expected that much from us. I think we have worked hard to prove ourselves, day in and day out. We don’t stop when we push ourselves at practice.

Ullmann is hoping the Little Tigers can keep pushing a little longer. “We want to be there again and again,” added Ullmann.

“This season is extending to who knows when with Hurricane Sandy and everything. We want to be here, we want to play together. That’s what allows us to get it done.”

And with Ullmann consistently getting it done in the net, PHS has produced one of the best seasons in program history.

GROUP EFFORT: The Princeton High boys’ cross country team moves to the front of the pack in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, PHS took fifth in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

John Woodside reveled in the weather conditions that met his Princeton High boys’ cross country runners last Saturday as they competed in the state Group III championship meet at Holmdel Park.

“It was a perfect cross country day,” said Woodside, who knows a lot about the weather from his work as meteorologist at Newark Airport.

“If it is in the 40s, it is chilly and you need to loosen up. When it is in the 60s, some runners think that is too warm. It was not too hot, not too cold.”

Woodside’s runners proceeded to produce a sizzling performance, taking fifth in the team standings. Senior Luke Bozich led the way for the Little Tigers, placing 14th in the individual standings as he covered the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:43. Junior Kevin Vahdat was next for PHS, taking 38th with classmate Sage Healy finishing 46th, sophomore Jacob Rist placing 51st, and junior Conor Donahue coming in 73rd.

“Taking the whole performance together, it is probably the best performance of any team I have ever coached,” said Woodside, who is in his 12th year guiding the PHS program.

“It was really fun to watch them compete well and run hard. I was happy that they were able to do so well on a big day. It was a much, much faster and much, much deeper meet than the group meet last year.”

In Woodside’s view, his runners displayed some tactical acumen to go along with their competitive spirit.

“I thought they were a little further back early on than they should be but they really finished strong,” said Woodside.

“Last year the guys ran too hard in the first half-mile and that hurt them later in the race. They didn’t want to do that this year. When I saw them at the 2-mile mark, I was thinking we might not be doing anything today. But between 2 and the 2½ mile mark, they ran very well.”

Senior star Bozich set the pace for the Little Tigers. “Luke ran a gutsy race,” said Woodside. “The top guys didn’t take it out too hard and he was in the front pack for the first half of the race. He set the tone for our guys.”

PHS’s next guys, Vahdat and Healy, flip-flopped during the race. “Kevin Vahdat was our No. 2 guy, he started behind Sage,” said Woodside of Vahdat, who clocked a time of 17:12 with Healy just behind in 17:17.

“He ended up running 10 seconds faster than he did at the Shore Coaches meet. Sage had some injury troubles and ran an 18:48 at Shore Coaches; he was in the JV race at that meet. Once he gets in the rhythm of training he does well. We know he is a talented runner.”

Sophomore Rist is proving himself to be a talented performer for the Little Tigers.

“He didn’t run on varsity as a freshman; he has improved dramatically in a year,” asserted Woodside.

“For a sophomore, he ran a savvy race. He started further back on purpose in the first mile. It is tough, you want to be competitive but the first mile can eat you up. It rises 130 feet. It doesn’t hurt that he has talent. He works hard and he is very consistent.”

The PHS squad has developed a chemistry that has helped the runners enjoy the hard work they have put in this fall.

“They compete with each other but without animosity,” said Woodside. “They root for each other and they all run hard. They are all close and they all have fun.”

Woodside certainly had fun watching his runners excel last Saturday. “I told them if they ran the best they could and ran their hearts out, I don’t need to look at the standings,” said Woodside.

“We were almost 8 seconds faster per guy than the fastest team I have ever had, which was the 2009 team at the group meet. I would say that our first four guys, if they weren’t off the chart, they were at the edge of the chart. I couldn’t ask for any more.”

The Little Tigers will get one more chance to show their speed as they will be competing in the Nike Northeast Regional meet on November 24 in Wappingers Fall, N.Y.

“It is a reward for a great season and will give the returning guys some experience,” said Woodside. “It will be great to take the guys on a trip, go out to dinner, and stay overnight.”

Joe Gargione didn’t like the mood in the air as his Princeton High football team travelled to their NJSIAA consolation game at New Brunswick last Friday.

“On the bus ride to the game, the kids seemed giddy,” said PHS head coach Gargione.

“As soon as they got on the bus, they were talkative. It has been a long and tough season so I let it go. They settled down once we got there for the game.”

The Little Tigers settled into a back-and-forth contest with the Zebras as they looked to snap an eight-game losing streak.

“It was a pretty tight game; early on, both teams had turnovers,” recalled Gargione.

“We sacked their quarterback and got a fumble. Then Zack [DiGregorio] and Bobby [Wright] had a bad exchange and they got a fumble. They went ahead 6-0 and then we tied it at 6-6. They went ahead 8-6, getting a safety when they blocked a punt out of the end zone.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to end the season on a high note as they outscored New Brunswick 16-6 in the second half to pull out a 22-14 win.

“We buckled down in the second half and got two touchdowns,” said Gargione.

“Javon Pannell had a great game, he rushed for 174 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns. We were rushing the ball early and they were doing a good job stopping it. We started opening things up in the second half. The offensive line was making some nice holes. The intensity picked up when we saw we could win.”

Getting the win in the finale was special for the PHS senior class which includes such stalwarts as Will Xu, Jamyl Williams, Alden Reyes, Grant Schaefer, Ben Smallzman, Carl Helstrom, Sam Nelson, Matt Vieten, William Harrison, Jack Persico, Christian Giles, and David Klinges in addition to Pannell, DiGregiorio, and Wright.

“It was great; we won the first game and lost the next eight so it is great to end with a win,” said Gargione.

“It is nice for our 15 seniors, it is something they will always remember. They have done a lot for the program. We are losing eight senior starters on defense and most of the offense. We are losing a lot. They all stepped up Friday night and that was great to see.”

Gargione is looking for his returning players to step up in the future. “I want the younger kids to take the fact that we can hang with these teams,” asserted Gargione. “They just need to believe in themselves and execute what we coach. We need to stay competitive in more games.”

In order to be more competitive, PHS will need to work hard on several levels.

“We need to do a better job of finding more kids to play,” said Gargione. “I also want our players to play another sport, whether it be basketball or wrestling in the winter or track or baseball in the spring. It makes you more competitive. We will start formal weightlifting in January. It was great to win that last game and go into the offseason with a taste of victory.”

FORWARD PROGRESS: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello goes after the ball in action this fall. Junior forward Bello scored some key goals this season in helping the Raiders finish with a 6-8 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost 3-1 to Lawrenceville in regular season play, the Hun School field hockey team was the hungrier squad when the schools met for a rematch in the state Prep A semis.

“I think they were looking past us,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk. “I think they assumed it was going to be an easy game. Our seniors knew that it could be their last game.”

Hun made things hard on the Big Red from the start of the contest, battling Lawrenceville tooth-and-nail all over the field with the teams tied 1-1 at halftime.

“From the goalie to the forward line, the girls played their hearts out,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Taylor Havard in the contest.

“[Reina] Kern had a nice game in goal; everyone put it together. We monopolized possession, we transitioned all the way to the forward line.”

Although Hun ended up falling 2-1, Quirk saw the defeat as a step forward for the program.

“I told them afterward if we had played like that every game, we would have won some of the games that we lost,” said Quirk, whose team ended the season with a 6-8 record.

“I was very proud of the team. I think it was a moral victory for them to see that they could stay with the best.”

In reflecting on the season, Quirk acknowledged that her team should have produced more victories.

“I think there were some games that were disappointing, where we didn’t show up and we were a better team than we showed,” said Quirk.

“The games against PDS [a 1-0 victory], Peddie [a 2-1 loss], and Lawrenceville showed that we could pull it together and play as a team.”

Quirk credited her senior class with holding things together for the team.

“All six of them were starters and they will be missed,” said Quirk, whose senior group included Carey Million, Taylor Havard, Olivia Albanese, Sam Heyrich, Lauren Apuzzi, and Maddie Schade.

“They have been a strong force, most of them were with the program for four years. They all contributed in their way and had a positive influence.”

Looking ahead to next year, the Raiders should be a force defensively with the return of junior Alex Kane and sophomore goalie Kern.

“Alex Kane directs the defense and Kern is a very good goalie,” said Quirk, noting that Kern recorded 15 saves in the season-ending loss to Lawrenceville.

Hun has a good foundation for the 2013 season elsewhere on the field. “We have some good players returning; girls like Bri Barrett, Julia Kampanjie, and Liz Mydlowski played well,” said Quirk.

“Julia Blake is a strong midfielder and Alex Natale came on. Francesca Bello had some big goals. Courtney Faulkner did well. Vicky Leach came into her own, she had some key goals and was one of our most improved players. Bri Cifelli broke her arm in the Steinert game, but will be back next year on the forward line.”

In Quirk’s view, the program is poised to move forward. “A key for us is that we have to come back in shape next year,” asserted Quirk.

“We need to remember how we played against teams like PDS, Peddie, and Lawrenceville. We can play with the best.”

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Stuart Country Day field hockey coach Missy Bruvik makes a point during a game this fall. Bruvik enjoyed her return to the helm of the program which she led to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season. A young Stuart squad showed improvement this fall as it went 3-14-1.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Missy Bruvik knew that she faced a challenge as she returned for her second act as the head coach of the Stuart Country Day field hockey team.

“It was a season where we had only four returning varsity players,” said Bruvik, who led the program to several county and prep titles during her first tenure in guiding the Tartans for 21 years through the 2006 season.

“We wanted to see the growth of the new varsity players and see how they could handle things.”

Although Stuart went just 3-14-1 this fall, Bruvik saw marked progress as the season unfolded.

“We had a tough schedule; despite the record I was proud of how the kids played,” said Bruvik.

“They showed tenacity. Some games it might be there for 30 minutes but it was always there.”

In the team’s season finale, the Tartans showed tenacity from the opening minute to the final whistle as they fell 1-0 at Morristown-Beard in the opening round of the state Prep B playoffs.

“I thought we played great,” asserted Bruvik. “We played a really strong 60-minute game. It was one of our best games of the season. We had an all-out effort.”

Bruvik got some strong leadership from senior stars Olivia Neubert and Nikki Starke.

“I think they really embraced what the season was about; they were great about working with the young kids and doing some coaching,” said Bruvik.

“They let them know what it is all about in terms of rivalries and how important the games were. They had positive quotes everyday. You hope to see intangibles like that from your senior leaders.”

Juniors Amy Hallowell, Megan Shannon, and goalie Margaret LaNasa emerged as key performers. “I was thrilled to have Amy back; we had so few upperclassmen with experience and she played so hard.

“Megan Shannon was also a big help. They were unsung leaders; they did their jobs well. Margaret grew so much over the season; it was a testament to her work ethic and Gia’s [assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione] work with her. She took a lot of shots; we played a lot of quality foes this year. I think she is going to be really good next year.”

Stuart’s corps of freshmen has the potential be a really good group for the program. “They played so tough; they are some good young athletes who are new to the game,” said Bruvik, whose freshmen included Catherine Donahue, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser, Sam Servis, Kathleen Walsh, Emma Froehlich, and Elena Bernewitz.

“They are learning the game and how to play with each other. It takes time to learn to play together and get used to where people are going to be on the field. It was all about that sense of improvement, seeing where we were in the beginning of the season and how far we have come. They will have that much more knowledge as a team when we get out there next year.”

Bruvik, for her part, had a great year in making her return to head coaching. “I felt it was really rewarding, I enjoyed everything about it,” said Bruvik.

“I was really lucky to get a group like this that was eager to learn and work hard. I am excited about next year.”

November 14, 2012

While Hurricane Sandy has disrupted life on many levels in the tri-state area over the last two weeks, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team was able to keep on track.

With the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet having been moved back a week to November 10, the PHS runners were determined not to lose their edge.

“The kids contacted me and asked what they should do on the their own,” said PHS head coach John Woodside, whose team placed second at the Mercer County Championships on October 26 in its last action before the superstorm hit the area.

“Most of them worked out on their own on Wednesday. We were able to have practice on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They kept their focus. They said this meet is going to happen and they were going to be prepared.”

That preparation paid dividends last Saturday as PHS placed first in the sectional meet, giving the program its second straight Central Jersey crown.

“I was very proud of what they did,” said Woodside, reflecting on the win, which saw the Little Tigers come in with 61 points with runner-up Hopewell Valley at 71 and Middletown South taking third with 75.

“It was special to stand with them and hold the trophy together. They knew what it takes to win and they did the work.”

In Woodside’s view, it was togetherness that helped pave the way to the title repeat.

“At the beginning of the season, we always tell them that this is a team sport,” said Woodside.

“If you have three or four good guys, it is really good to have three or four more. If one guy has a bad day, someone else can step up. They are all in it together; they understand the team concept.”

Senior star Luke Bozich has emerged as a key for PHS, battling through injury to set the pace for the squad. In the sectional meet, Bozich placed fifth individually, covering the 3.1 mile course at Thompson Park in 16:17. Sophomore Jacob Rist was the next finisher for the Little Tigers, taking 12th with junior Sage Healy placing 14th, junior Conor Donahue coming in 16th, and junior Kevin Vahdat finishing 20th.

“I knew all along what we had with Luke,” said Woodside. “He took a couple of spills early in the season. He missed some time and some races. If he could stay on his feet, I knew he would do well. I have respect for the way he works and respect for his leadership. A team needs a guy to set a tone and he does that for us. He runs hard and he is fearless. The guys are supporting him and he supports them. They feed off of each other.”

Woodside was proud of the team’s supporting cast. “Rist had his breakout race at the counties; that was the first race where he was in that spot,” said Woodside.

“Conor did really well. We put Sage in and he does well. He ran in the JV race at the counties. He came out today and ran a great race for us.”

Junior Vahdat may have run the most courageous race for the Little Tigers last Saturday.

“Vahdat was really sick last weekend and early this week,” said Woodside. “He came back to practice on Wednesday and did the workout on Thursday. He came in Friday and he was drained so we sent him home. I was hoping to get something from him and he battled hard to come in fifth for us.”

PHS is going to be in for a battle this weekend at the run in the state Group III meet at Holmdel on November 17.

“That is a different animal; there are a lot of good teams,” said Woodside.

“We are looking forward to groups. We could run a great race and not be in the top three. The benchmark is whether they work hard and run their best.

In August, when we were talking about the season, I think the group meet was the target. They want to have a great race at that meet. We are going to fight hard and do the work next week.”

No matter what happens at the group meet, the Little Tiger program has certainly made great strides.

“I like the fact that we have put PHS back on the map in terms of high level success and the number of kids participating,” said Woodside, who is in his 12th season at the helm of the program.

“It is nice to see that PHS is a power again in cross country. We have developed a reputation for success. The program has a great history but there have been valleys. Things weren’t good in the 1990s. When I started kids didn’t know what cross country was. We are establishing a great program; the kids are racing well. I am excited to see how they do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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