November 19, 2014
FEELING INVINCIBLE: Vince Boccanfuso poses with his wife, Rita and daughters, Lynn, far left, and Beth, far right, before officiating in his 300th college football game. Boccanfuso, a 1966 Princeton High graduate who starred in football and track, is being inducted this Saturday into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

FEELING INVINCIBLE: Vince Boccanfuso poses with his wife, Rita and daughters, Lynn, far left, and Beth, far right, before officiating in his 300th college football game. Boccanfuso, a 1966 Princeton High graduate who starred in football and track, is being inducted this Saturday into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Starting his Princeton High sports career as a sixth-string, 120-pound receiver for the freshman football team in 1962, Vince Boccanfuso didn’t seem destined for stardom.

But using his speed and persistence, Boccanfuso worked himself up to the first team that season.

Taking off from there, Boccanfuso became a standout athlete for the PHS football and track teams.

On the gridiron, he was a two-year varsity starter who earned All-County and All-Suburban honors as a senior.

On the track, Boccanfuso emerged as a star sprinter and jumper, winning the county crown in the 100-yard dash and taking second in the 220 and the long jump in the county meet as a senior in 1966 and then winning Central Jersey Group IV titles in the 100, 220, and long jump.

This Saturday, Boccanfuso ascends to the pantheon of PHS sports as he will be inducted into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

He will be joined in the class by Wilbur E. Hines ’66, Henry Wilkinson ’69, Alec Hoke ’83, Jim Laverty ’87, Liz Hewson Blankstein ’88, Larry Madden ’64, Roger Madden ’65, Charles Edward Madden ’68, John Philip Madden ’69, and the 1960 baseball team.

Reflecting on his Little Tiger career, Boccanfuso cites his participation in the summer Princeton Playground Program as the genesis of his athletic success.

“Way back when, Princeton High, Valley Road, Harrison Street, all those different schools had a program; it was a place for kids to go in the summer,” recalled Boccanfuso, age 66.

“It was like a day care. They had softball teams and at the end of the summer, they had a track meet at PHS and I did really well in eighth grade.”

That performance put him on the radar of PHS track coach Gerry Groninger.

“One day freshman year I was sitting in homeroom and Gerry Groninger tapped me on the shoulder and said I want you to run for me,” said Boccanfuso, noting that Groninger had heard about his track prowess from the director of the summer program.

Boccanfuso did the 100, 220, long jump, and high jump and was a star from the outset.

To maximize his speed, Boccanfuso adopted an unorthodox workout method.

“I used to train with Bart Bennett; he would run the hurdles and I would sprint right next to him because no one could keep up with us.”

As a 5’9, 137-pounder in his senior year, Boccanfuso had to race past defenders to make an impact on the football.

“I was called by one of the papers as the fastest schoolboy player in the state,” recalled Boccanfuso.

Boccanfuso’s connection with quarterback and close friend, Bill Cirullo, also helped him excel as a receiver.

“We grew up on Humbert Street together; we lived across the street from each other,” said Boccanfuso of Cirullo, the longtime principal at the Riverside School.

“We started playing football in the backyard when we were five or six. I could not have done what I did without him throwing to me.”

Boccanfuso did some special things in track, starring as the 1966 team won the state title.

“Winning three events in one day at the Central Jersey Group IV meet was a highlight,” said Boccanfuso, proudly noting his personal bests in the 100 (9.8), 220 (21.3), long jump (21’5) and high jump (6’0).

“I also had a big county meet. Everybody was happy with the state title. I had busted my knee up in football so it was rough to do some of the things I did that season.”

Over his PHS career, Boccanfuso was happy to have come under the influence of some special coaches.

“Tom Murray was the biggest factor in my life besides my father,” asserted Boccanfuso. “He lived around the corner. I think he got me moved up from the sixth to first team that freshman season. He was also a track coach. He was a great guy, he is a fantastic man.”

Off the field and track, Boccanfuso did some great things as well during his high school years, getting selected for New Jersey Boys State and receiving the PHS Gold Key for meritorious service.

After PHS, Boccanfuso went to Rutgers where he earned a BA and was too busy working himself through college to continue his sports career. He went on to earn an MBA from Rider and a PhD in finance from Columbia.

During college, he became involved in a different aspect of sports that helped change the course of his life.

“I got to the point where I knew I wouldn’t be playing football forever,” said Boccanfuso.

“I wanted to keep involved in the game. In my senior year in college I took a
cadet class in 1969. I passed and became a high school ref.”

While working his way up to Director of Contracts for Sarnoff Corporation, Boccanfuso rose through the ranks of officiating.

“In 1976, a college official told me I ought to be a college ref,” said Boccanfuso, who has also worked as a high school lacrosse ref and runs the clock at Princeton University basketball and lacrosse games.

“I started doing D-3 games. In 1985, I was promoted to 1-AA. I did an FCS championship game in January 2012. It was the highlight of my officiating career along with doing three Yale-Harvard games.”

Getting inducted into the PHS Hall of Fame this Saturday will create another lasting highlight for Boccanfuso.

“It is hard to describe,” said Boccanfuso, who will be introduced by his daughters, Lynn and Beth, with wife, Rita, a fellow 1966 PHS alum, in attendance. “I am elated that they would think of me. It is unbelievable.”

November 12, 2014
STREAK BUSTERS: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco controls the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Sacco helped top-seeded Hun defeat second-seeded Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A final. Hun’s triumph snapped Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STREAK BUSTERS: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco controls the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Sacco helped top-seeded Hun defeat second-seeded Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A final. Hun’s triumph snapped Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was electricity in the air as the Hun School girls’ soccer team hosted powerful Pennington in the state Prep A championship game last Wednesday.

A throng of around 1,000 surrounded the grass field by Stony Brook, offering raucous support to a top-seeded Hun squad that was determined to snap second-seeded Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles.

At first, Hun senior star and co-captain Jess Sacco and her teammates were taken aback by the scene.

“We came out here and saw the fans and everyone was freaking out because we were nervous,” said Sacco.

“But then it was take a deep breath and then just go out there and enjoy it because we love this game and we love each other.”

Hun didn’t love the way the game went early on as a skilled Pennington squad dominated possession, generating a slew of scoring opportunities.

“They definitely had us scrambling for about 20 minutes,” acknowledged the Lehigh-bound Sacco.

“I think our defense and goalie kept our heads in it. I think the midfielders definitely worked their butts off. I am really proud of the freshmen like Nicole Apuzzi, Kara Borden, and Kendall Dandridge, they are all amazing.”

Junior goalie Courtney Arch, who had earned a shutout in a 2-0 Hun victory when the rivals met in the regular season on September 30, was working under fire as Pennington star and Stanford-bound Alana Cook produced a number of chances.

“It is a little terrifying, I remember last game I stopped her shot before and in reality she is just another girl and another player,” said Arch. “She just happens to be phenomenal. Once I start making the best saves, I know I can make the small saves.”

Hun put Pennington on its heels when senior co-captain and Lehigh-bound Ashley Maziarz found the back of the net on a stunning free kick to the top corner from 30 yards out with 1:31 remaining in the first half.

“It was just a phenomenal shot,” said Arch of Maziarz’s brilliant strike. “I think that made Pennington a little frantic and that  gives us a confidence boost. Whenever we score, we play better because we just get more confident with ourselves.”

Riding the momentum from the goal, Hun played better and better in the second half, thwarting Pennington’s offense and getting an insurance goal from freshman phenom Borden with 1:31 to seal an historic 2-0 victory.

The crowd stormed the field to congratulate the Hun players, who were hugging each other in the middle of the pitch before they gathered together to claim the championship plaque that had been so long in the stranglehold of Pennington.

A beaming Hun head coach Joanna Hallac was thrilled with her team’s effort and the support it has generated in the Hun community.

“It was huge, the girls deserve all of the credit, they show up and they work hard every day,” said Hallac.

“Even when we have setbacks, they learn from it and we move forward. It means so much to the school. The whole school came out here and the whole day was scheduled around this. I have never seen anything like it, I think it meant a lot to the community and that is what we are about here. I think it is really great for Hun.”

The Hun squad showed its resilience as it weathered the first half storm. “Things got a little hairy there for a good 20 minutes but we survived it,” said Hallac.

“Courtney had to come up big in the first half. She had to come up big throughout the game but especially in that middle 20 minutes of the first  half. They believed they could do this. They did it once already and they knew they could do it again. Pennington has so many dangerous players but we were able to defend well as a team. Our back four were unbelievable, Courtney was great. This was a real team effort and a real team victory.”

Arch, for her part, heaped praise on the gritty defensive unit, which featured junior Jess Johnson and Dandridge along with Maziarz.

“They are the best group of girls I have played with,” asserted Arch. “We know how to react under pressure and we know that, no matter what, we have each other’s backs. We recover and we work hard for each other so we always have that trust between each other which I think makes us really dynamic.”

In Hallac’s view, that ability to stay cool under pressure stemmed, in part, from last fall when Hun recovered from a 0-7 start to make the state Prep A final, where it fell 2-0 to Pennington.

“We ended last year on such a good, positive note and we had a lot of momentum and that helped carry us into this year,” said Hallac.

“I think there was just a lack of experience with these types of games last year and now the bulk of the kids had it and these freshmen have just been great, the pressure doesn’t seem to get to them. They really have done such a huge job along with these veteran returning players. I am really impressed with their play in these big game situations.”

Another key factor in the team’s success has been the obvious unity among the players.

“The chemistry off the field directly feeds the chemistry on the field, these girls really just love each other and support each other off the field,” said Hallac, whose team wrapped up the fall last Sunday by beating Mercersburg Academy 4-0 to finish with a final record of 14-4-1.

“They are like one unit, seniors, freshmen, it doesn’t matter what grade they are, they all hang out together off the field.”

Arch believes that chemistry has helped Hun stick together on the field. “I think it is that on and off the field we are best friends,” said Arch. “Off the field, we all eat lunch together. We still hang out with each other. We are a second family here, I love it.”

For Sacco, that family feeling drives the team’s competitive fire.

“Everyone plays with a lot of heart, we may not have the most talent but we have a lot of heart,” said Sacco.

“Every time we get out on that field, we play for each other and give it 110 percent. We didn’t have a letdown today, we knew we would have to go out there for 80 minutes and really battle every single second. I think we did that very well.”

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Halliday chases down a ball in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Halliday assisted on the game-winning goals as first-seeded PHS topped No. 9 Hopewell Valley 3-1 in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals. The Little Tigers, who defeated fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the sectional semis on Monday, will play for the championship when they host sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional on November 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Halliday chases down a ball in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Halliday assisted on the game-winning goals as first-seeded PHS topped No. 9 Hopewell Valley 3-1 in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals. The Little Tigers, who defeated fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the sectional semis on Monday, will play for the championship when they host sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional on November 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Zach and Kevin Halliday played prominent roles as the Princeton High boys’ soccer won Group 3 state titles in 2009 and 2012.

Oldest brother, Zach, a 2013 PHS alum, was a key reserve on the 2009 team and then was a star midfielder for the 2012 squad.

Kevin, a 2014 PHS grad and standout striker, was the leading scorer in 2012 as he tallied 23 goals.

Both of the Halliday brothers are now competing for the Tufts University men’s soccer program, which finished first in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular season standings this fall and has earned a spot in the upcoming NCAA Division III tournament.

Their younger brother, Nick, now a junior midfielder for the Little Tigers, absorbed some valuable lessons from seeing his older brothers in action on the pitch.

“I definitely watched them play many big games and I saw how they reacted,” said the youngest Halliday. “They always kept a calm head so that is what I try to do.”

Last Friday as top-seeded PHS hosted No. 9 Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals, Halliday took a page out of his brothers’ book.

With PHS locked in a 1-1 tie with HoVal late in the second half, Halliday coolly lobbed a corner kick into the box which was converted into a goal by Dwight Donis as the Little Tigers went on to a 3-1 victory.

“In the Allentown game, I assisted Dwight,” said Halliday, referring to the regulation goal tallied in PHS’s victory in the Mercer County Tournament championship game on November 1.

“I always look for him. I put it right around the six and hope he gets it and today he got it. It was nice.”

While PHS got off to a nice start against HoVal as Chase Ealy converted a penalty kick early in the first half, things got a little dicey when the Bulldogs knotted the game at 1-1 with 37:34 remaining in the second half.

“We were concerned but we have been in close games over the past few weeks and we knew we could pull out the win,” said Halliday. “It has given us confidence.”

Halliday and his classmates have gained confidence through lessons learned last fall from their first varsity campaign.

“A lot of players were sophomores last year and we had a lot of experience,” said Halliday. “Now we keep going in the big games and we get it done.”

This fall, Halliday has been getting it done as he has learned a new position on the field.

“Coming into the season I didn’t play outside mid,” said Halliday. “On my club team I play center mid so playing outside mid was a new place for me. I am finally getting comfortable with the whole situation. As long as I put in a good ball on the corners and work hard on defense and don’t let people get by my side, that is what I have got to do.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from Halliday. “Nick has been great,” said Sutcliffe. “He is so industrious, he works so hard. He’s right there with his brothers, no doubt.”

Sutcliffe was proud of how his squad made the right plays down the stretch in the win over HoVal.

“It is just a matter of advancing, that is the mindset,” said Sutcliffe. “That is what we did and that is what we are pleased with.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, PHS has developed an extra layer of toughness from its run to the Mercer County Tournament championship, which saw it prevail in penalty kick shootouts in the semis and title game.

“I think our guys throughout the experience of the last three weeks, being in one-goal games and going into overtime, are pretty battle tested,” said Sutcliffe.

Junior defender Dwight Donis showed the value of that experience as he tallied another key goal for the Little Tigers.

“It is just a matter of whoever can contribute,” said Sutcliffe. “Dwight was great, he scores the game winner and he had his hands full on defense.”

Another defender, junior co-captain Chris Harla, made a huge play in the HoVal game as he cleared a ball off the line late in the first half.

“Chris made a fantastic save prior to them going level,” said Sutcliffe. “I can’t say enough about his improvement throughout the campaign to get better and read things like that and be in the right spot at the right time. He was fantastic today.”

PHS’s improvement collectively through the fall has Sutcliffe believing that the program can earn another state crown.

“We have already won two championships this fall and now we find ourselves in the sectional semis and we are at home,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the semis on Monday on goals by Alex Ratsen, Cole Snyder, and Luis Lazo to improve to 16-2-2 and will host No. 6 Red Bank Regional in the championship game on November 13. “We have what it takes, no doubt about it.”

Halliday, for his part, is confident that he can add to his family’s tradition of tournament success.

“As long as we work hard and make no mistakes, we can definitely get another title,” said Halliday.

As the most experienced defender on the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, Emily Pawlak has assumed a take-charge role on the backline.

“A lot of it is communication; I see the field; you will hear me yelling a lot, coaching people, telling them where to go and telling them what balls to play,” said senior standout Pawlak.

“At the same time, I shield for people. I see that as a good job of mine. If a ball gets through and our fullback misses it, I am normally there and I try to stop that. I am just the eyes of the team in the back.”

Last week as eighth-seeded PHS hosted No. 9 Burlington in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectionals, Pawlak and her defensive unit didn’t let anything through as the Little Tigers prevailed 1-0.

“We have some really fast fullbacks who were able to counterattack,” said Pawlak, reflecting on the defensive effort.

“Burlington had great speed up top and we were able to stop that easily. It was just some hard tackling and some aggressive play.”

After PHS took the lead early in the second half on a goal by junior star Taylor Lis, it had to hold off a Burlington squad that repeatedly pressed forward looking for the equalizer.

“That is concerning, you don’t want them to get momentum and we were trying to stall that as much as possible,” said Pawlak.

“It was tough because they were bringing a lot on us but I thought we played well; we really stopped that from happening.”

Pawlak liked the way PHS kept its momentum to the final whistle. “It was a good win, they were a tough team but we were able to play around them and play our game,” said Pawlak.

“Sometimes we get in the habit of not playing our game; we know we can do better at times. I was happy we played our game for the full 80 minutes.”

While Pawlak was unhappy to see her twin sister Shannon, PHS’s top offensive threat, get sidelined with a leg injury earlier this fall, she is proud of how other teammates have risen to the occasion.

“Shannon is always someone I could look for; my club coach always jokes that we have twin telepathy,” said Pawlak.

“When we play, somehow we always find each other. It is tough but we have some girls who filled her role. I think by now I can say we have had girls who have stepped up and played and shown that they can take the position but I miss her.”

PHS head coach Val Rodriguez was looking for her players to step up in the second half against Burlington after the teams played to a scoreless draw through the first 40 minutes of the contest.

“The message at halftime was that we did everything to show that we could win this game without putting numbers on the scoreboard and that’s what matters, proving it on the scoreboard,” said Rodriguez.

“We talked about spreading the field, playing quick, two-touch soccer and passing it around them.”

The PHS players responded well to Rodriguez’s message. “We used our outside mids really well and got some end line crosses off,” said Rodriguez.

“We had numbers in the box; that goalie had some tremendous saves. We had multiple opportunities and we haven’t been doing that recently so that was the piece of the play that has been lacking ever since Shannon Pawlak has been gone.”

In seizing opportunity to find the back of the net, the Little Tigers relied on a sister act as freshman Devon Lis set up older sister, Taylor.

“It was such a game-time decision, coach Wash [Kori Washington] said let’s try Devon because her corners are going to be more driven so Devon to Taylor was ideal,” said Rodriguez. “I thought Taylor had a solid game, she created some great opportunities.”

Rodriguez credited Pawlak with spearheading a solid defensive effort.

“Our defense is doing a good job of learning to contain, not biting, and staying on their feet,” said Rodriguez.

“Emily keeps everybody organized, she is a really important voice on the field. Emily is the engine back there, she organizes everything, she makes great decisions, when to step and when to contain, when to tackle, when to play feet, and when to clear. She really knows the game well.”

For a PHS team that has been hit with the injury bug this fall, winning a game in the state tourney was sweet.

“It is exactly what we needed, a tournament win,” said Rodriguez, whose team’s tournament run ended when it lost 2-1 at top-seeded Colts Neck to end the fall with a 9-7-2 record.

“We had a really tough game against Ewing in the counties that could have gone either way. It was really great to get a win today.”

Pawlak, for her part, was thrilled to get a win in her final appearance at home.

“This is my last game on the turf here,” said Pawlak. “I wanted to go out with a good game. There were nerves in the beginning but I just wanted to bring it and have a good way to end.”

GROUND CONTROL: Princeton High running back Rory ­Helstrom runs to daylight in recent action. Last Friday, junior star ­Helstrom rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns as PHS defeated WW/P-N 47-21 to improve to 8-1 and earn the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title. The Little Tigers will begin their quest for a state title as they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where they are seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUND CONTROL: Princeton High running back Rory ­Helstrom runs to daylight in recent action. Last Friday, junior star ­Helstrom rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns as PHS defeated WW/P-N 47-21 to improve to 8-1 and earn the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title. The Little Tigers will begin their quest for a state title as they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where they are seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High football team got ready to play WW/P-N last Friday night with the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title up for grabs, Charlie Gallagher put the onus on the squad’s unsung heroes.

“In my pregame speech I had all the linemen stand up and said it is on your backs,” recalled PHS head coach Gallagher. “We are going to run the ball a lot tonight.”

Accepting the coach’s challenge, the linemen proceeded to dominate the trenches as PHS rolled up 382 yards rushing in defeating WW/P-N 47-21 and improving to 8-1.

Junior star Rory Helstrom led the ground attack, gaining 204 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. Senior Colin Buckley rushed for 112 yards on 10 attempts with two TDs while classmate Sam Smallzman gained 73 yards on two carries, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown run.

“It was cold and windy, we didn’t know how much we would need to pass,” said Gallagher.

“Rory, Colin, and Sam ran the ball well, they all broke long ones. We saw they had put up a lot of points. We knew we were going to be able to run the ball and we wanted to manage the clock.”

The PHS defense managed to stifle the Northern Knights, holding them to seven points through three quarters.

“We did a good job of containing the running game, they had some good runs up the middle but that was it,” said Gallagher. “We put pressure on the quarterback, I think we had five or six sacks.”

The Little Tigers felt very good about earning the division title. “They knew it hadn’t been done in a while, it would be something meaningful,” said Gallagher.

“We have been motivated coming into every game but it was definitely an added motivational factor. We are excited, it feels great.”

In Gallagher’s view, the achievement is a great testament to the squad’s work ethic and character.

“I think it shows that all the hard work paid off,” said Gallagher.  “We have great senior leadership and three great senior captains in Sam Smallzman, Colin Buckley, and Brian Tien.”

PHS will be putting in some hard work this week as it prepares to compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where it is seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest.

“I will tell the kids that it is real simple, we have a chance to lose it if we don’t play our game,” said Gallagher, reflecting on the matchup.

“It is about us. If we go out and play good football, we can win. It is a one-game season now, we are going to take it one week at a time. We have won eight games so there is a confidence level. In the beginning of the season, we wanted to just compete because we didn’t know who we were. Now we just want to win.”

GRAND FINALE: Hun School running back Chris Sharp heads upfield in a game earlier this fall. Last Sunday, senior star and Virginia-bound Sharp ended his career on a high note, rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the outright MAPL title, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GRAND FINALE: Hun School running back Chris Sharp heads upfield in a game earlier this fall. Last Sunday, senior star and Virginia-bound Sharp ended his career on a high note, rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the outright MAPL title, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Christopher Sharp joined the Hun School football team in 2011, he soaked up some valuable lessons when the Raiders produced a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship campaign.

“In my freshman year, we had seniors like Wendy Laurent and Dave Dudeck,” said Sharp. “You are growing up and you want to be just like them.”

Last Sunday, Sharp followed in the footsteps of Laurent and Dudeck,  rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the MAPL title outright, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play.

“We saw that we had something special in August and we just wanted to finish,” said Sharp. “We wanted to go undefeated in the MAPL and that’s what we did.”

To add icing to the cake, Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall.

“It was a very special moment to share with my teammates and family, especially on senior day,” said Sharp, who is heading to the University of Virginia and will be playing for its football program.

“The first thing I did was to thank all of the linemen, the fullback, and the quarterback. I can’t do it all by myself.”

As Sharp took off down the sideline on that final jaunt, he wasn’t exactly sure if he should go the distance.

“Coach [Todd Smith] told me at half that I had 31 yards to go,” said Sharp, who scored four touchdowns on the day.

“I broke it and at first I didn’t really know what to do. I hit 31 and I thought do I keep going. I wasn’t sure. I went with my gut and went all the way. It was amazing.”

Hun experienced an amazing turnaround under new coach Smith as it rebounded from a frustrating 2-6 campaign last fall.

“Coming into the season, I knew it was going to be special,” said Sharp. “With the kids that came in, we knew going in it was going to be a different feel. It was just like fresh and new things were brewing up with the Hun football team. It is exciting to see the fruition and what grew out of it.”

Sharp grew into a force this fall, producing dazzling runs and receptions as the engine of the Hun offense.

“I love running the ball and being able to catch the ball out of the receiver position is a blessing as well,” said Sharp. “It is just amazing to see the growth that I have gone through.”

In reflecting on the team’s perfect MAPL campaign, Hun head coach Smith cited the amazing support his program received this fall.

“It is not just me and the MAPL title, it is all the coaches that coach here,” said Smith.

“It is the people in the admissions department. It is the school itself, the draw of Hun. Great kids want to come to Hun and we want to match that with athletics. These kids have so many academic activities in front of them; we are trying to match that on the field for them. That was a school-wide effort this whole season.”

While Hun didn’t get the opportunity to play November 1 at Peddie as the Falcons forfeited the contest due to a shortage of healthy players, the Raiders were prepared to close the deal against Mercersburg.

“We gave the kids the day off yesterday, we brought them in early this morning and had a good walk-through,” said Smith, who got four touchdown passes from quarterback Simon Vadas in the win on Sunday with Cameren Kitchen, Justin Morrison, and Fred Hansard scoring touchdowns in addition to Sharp.

“Everything has been productive. We have been able to talk football, it has been an intelligent conversation. That game today was just a team taking care of business.”

Smith certainly liked the way Sharp took care of business this fall. “Chris is just a fantastic kid, it is a shame we only had seven games with him,” said Smith.

“He got 1,000 yards and a boatload of touchdowns to go with it. He has gotten so much better as the year went on. I am just really excited about his future, I think he is going to be a great football player at the next level.”

The team’s senior class as a whole made a great contribution this fall. “I am real happy for them, it started in the summer,” said Smith.

“They all bought into the summer workouts, the kids that could make it down here. I think they fought through camp, it was rigorous and they did a great job. They could see how much the hard work paid off.”

Putting in that hard work helped the players develop some deep bonds. “We just grew as a family as it went on,” said Smith, who experienced a special family moment after the game as he proposed marriage to his girlfriend after the game in front of the players, parents, supporters, and coaches and achieved the biggest win of the day as he got an affirmative answer.

“It was never individual. It was just let’s do a great job and play for each other. When you have 11 kids playing as one out there, there is no end to it.”

In putting the happy ending in perspective, Sharp said it was a group effort. “We were strong everywhere,” said Sharp.

“Our offensive line and defensive line are big and they get great pushes. We have receivers and we can run the ball as well. We didn’t have too many weaknesses going into the season and we just stayed healthy and that’s how it played out. Today was amazing, it was kind of like a fantasy.”

November 5, 2014
MULTI-TASKING: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Laurenz Reimitz follows through on a kick in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior Reimitz came up big as second-seeded PHS topped third-seeded Steinert on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals after the rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes. Reimitz made some key saves in the first overtime and stopped a penalty kick in the shootout before booting in the clinching PK himself. On Saturday in the MCT title game, he made four saves as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in another shootout as the teams were tied at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MULTI-TASKING: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Laurenz Reimitz follows through on a kick in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior Reimitz came up big as second-seeded PHS topped third-seeded Steinert on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals after the rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes. Reimitz made some key saves in the first overtime and stopped a penalty kick in the shootout before booting in the clinching PK himself. On Saturday in the MCT title game, he made four saves as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in another shootout as the teams were tied at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Laurenz Reimitz prefers a minimum of drama when he is playing goalie for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

“I usually like a quiet game, it is the one most goalkeepers like,” said senior Reimitz.

But last Wednesday when second-seeded PHS battle third-seeded Steinert in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, Reimitz emerged as the protagonist in an epic drama.

The rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation with Reimitz making some key saves to hold the Spartans at bay. In the first overtime, with Steinert applying intense pressure, Reimitz made a leaping stop and then kicked away a shot seconds later to keep the Little Tigers alive.

The contest remained deadlocked through 20 minutes of overtime and went into a penalty kick shootout. On Steinert’s first attempt, Reimitz came up big and punched the shot away. Then, producing a Hollywood ending, Reimitz volleyed in the penalty kick that clinched the win for PHS.

Reimitz kept a clear head in making the point blanks saves in overtime.

“It is just kind of reactions I guess, there is not much going through a goalkeeper’s mind on a shot like that,” said Reimitz.

In the shootout, Reimitz battled through some nerves. “Inside your head is going crazy but on the outside you have to act calm and that is just what I tried to do,” said Reimitz.

In taking his penalty kick, Reimitz calmly bounced the ball into the back of the net.

“In practice, we have taken them,” said Reimitz. “We have never been to a penalty shootout before so I haven’t been in that situation. Coach trusted me, he asked me before the PKs if I want to take one and I said yes. It wasn’t a great penalty kick but it worked.”

Over the last three years, Reimitz worked hard to improve technically. “The big thing was crosses,” said Reimitz, who made seven saves in the win over Steinert.

“In sophomore year and even last year, big guys would just bully me around. I have worked on my physique. Every practice and every time before a game we do crosses. I have been working on them a lot.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe has seen great improvement in his senior keeper.

“Laurenz was just terrific tonight, he has just worked so hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“He put together all the experience that he has as a three-year starter. He played in the state final when he was a sophomore. He found a way, credit to him. He leads the CVC in shutouts and we know why.”

In reflecting on his star turn, Reimitz agreed that experience made the difference for him.

“It helped me tremendously,” said Reimitz. “I got a little bit lucky sophomore year with one goalkeeper deciding not to play who would have been starting. That gave me so much experience, it is unbelievable.”

BACK ON TOP: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after they beat Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Second-seeded PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a penalty kick shootout after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through regulation and two overtimes. It was the first MCT crown for PHS since 2010. The Little Tigers will now look to add a state title to its county championship. PHS is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BACK ON TOP: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after they beat Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Second-seeded PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a penalty kick shootout after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through regulation and two overtimes. It was the first MCT crown for PHS since 2010. The Little Tigers will now look to add a state title to its county championship. PHS is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While going into overtime in a championship game can be a nerve-wracking proposition, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team was undaunted as it faced that prospect against Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament final.

In mid-October, PHS had edged Allentown 1-0 on double overtime on a Chase Ealy penalty kick in the foes’ regular season meeting.

Last Wednesday evening, the second-seeded Little Tigers edged No. 3 Steinert on PKs in the MCT semis after the teams played to a 1-1 stalemate through regulation and two overtimes.

On Saturday, when PHS and top-seeded Allentown found themselves deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of regulation at Ewing High, Little Tiger head coach Wayne Sutcliffe felt confident.

“I felt great that if we had to go through the overtime and see PKs again that we were going to be in a terrific place,” said Sutcliffe, whose squad had taken a 1-0 lead on a first half goal from Dwight Donis.

Neither team could score in OT and a shootout was necessary to determine a winner.

Drawing upon the experience from the win over Steinert days earlier, PHS senior star and co-captain Chase Ealy wasn’t fazed by going into a shootout with the title on the line.

“It was everything; we were able to experience it without the intensity of the final,” said Ealy.

“We had already had a round of PKs. We knew who our shooters were and we were going in confident after coming off a PK win earlier.”

Ealy proceeded to bury his attempt with teammates Cole Snyder and Andrew Goldsmith following suit. With Allentown missing all three of its attempts, PHS clinched the title, its first MCT crown since 2010.

For Ealy, earning the county title was a crowning achievement. “We’ve had other big wins,” said Ealy, who helped the Little Tigers earn a share of the state Group 3 title in 2012. “But this is the first time I have won it. For the senior class and everyone who is with me, it means everything to bring that back.”

In Goldsmith’s view, it meant even more to beat Allentown to get the title. “It was really tough,” said Goldsmith.

“They are a very good team; starting with [Will Sjaastad] he is very dangerous on all set pieces. We just needed to keep our composure which is why I was trying to be as vocal as possible, leading our team with our captains, Chase and Chris [Harla], so we could get through the game.”

Sutcliffe tipped his hat to Ealy and Harla, praising their positive influence. “We have some good leadership; Chase Ealy and Chris Harla have done many of the things the way they should be done in training and even more importantly during the matches,” said Sutcliffe. “Chase has so much experience at this point. He’s played in a state final and semis.”

Topping Allentown added special meaning to the championship. “The rivalry has been terrific,” said Sutcliffe. “I just think it has been good for Mercer County and good for the game. We have each won a state championship and that is good for Mercer County soccer.”

As PHS goes after a state crown, it will draw on the chemistry that spurred its MCT title run.

“It has been rare that I have had a team that was as close as this team,” said Sutcliffe, whose team is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6.

“There is a great spirit. We have had some great teams. This team, on the field and off the field, is a closer knit group and that has transcended to our quality and our spirit and our vitality. All of which helped us tonight and in the semi. And helped us close out the Colonial Division of the CVC. We had to win the last two games to win that and we beat Allentown and Hightstown.”

Ealy, for his part, believes that team spirit has been a key factor in PHS’s success this fall.

“We have a lot of young guys,” said Ealy. “At the beginning of the season we might have been a little bit worried. But these guys have shown more heart than we could ever expect. We have operated as a team this year. Everybody is friends. The team chemistry has worked out so much better than anyone could have expected.”

BEAMING IN: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer lofts a pass in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Beamer threw three touchdown passes as PHS rolled to a 43-0 win at Robbinsville. The Little Tigers, now 7-1, play at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEAMING IN: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer lofts a pass in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Beamer threw three touchdown passes as PHS rolled to a 43-0 win at Robbinsville. The Little Tigers, now 7-1, play at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cruising past Robbinsville 43-0 last Thursday evening, the Princeton High football team posted its second rout in a matter of days.

The previous Saturday, PHS rolled to a 50-0 victory over WW/P-S, posting its first win over the Pirates since 2009.

While the two laughers could seem ho-hum to some programs, David Beamer and his Little Tiger teammates savored the one-sided victories.

“Last year we went 0-10 so we never had games like this,” said junior quarterback Beamer. “We didn’t really expect to come out this big but it happened and it’s great.”

While things went smoothly for PHS as it jumped out to a 29-0 first half lead over the Ravens and never looked back on the way to improving to 7-1, there is room for improvement.

“There are still some things we have got to fix, penalties especially and turnovers,” acknowledged Beamer.

Although PHS didn’t need to pass much with such a large cushion, Beamer had some good hook-ups with senior Joe Hawes, who just took up football this fall after previously playing soccer.

“Joe Hawes was big,” said Beamer, who went 4-of-6 passing for 60 yards and three touchdowns with each of the scoring strikes going to Hawes. “When we were throwing it, it was pretty good. Joe is a great addition, he really transitioned well to playing receiver.”

This fall, Beamer has been transitioning into one of the top quarterbacks in the area.

“I think mostly my decision-making and just with completing the passes,” said Beamer, when assessing his progress from last season.

“Last year most of my yards came on big plays. I am working on just getting the ball to the receivers. I definitely feel more confident with everything with one year of experience.”

The team’s offensive
balance, which was reflected by junior star Rory Helstrom’s 176 yards rushing in the win over Robbinsville, has helped increase Beamer’s confidence.

“Last year we didn’t have much of a running game,” said Beamer. “This year, we have got the running game and a pretty good passing game. Not many teams can say that and we can rely on either one to get the job done.”

After not getting the job done in 2013, PHS has applied the lessons it learned from the winless campaign.

“Most of the guys who played last year are still starting this year so a lot of us had a lot of experience,” said Beamer.

“Last year was a train wreck. This year we got to really focus and use the experience to our benefit.”

For PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher, seeing his team bounce back from last year has been an enjoyable experience.

“I think the confidence level for everybody is good,” said Gallagher. “It was less than a year ago that we were trying to get our first win. It was really, really hard, we had a rough year. I have a lot of confidence in our guys; they play great football, try to be humble, and enjoy the wins.”

Gallagher liked the defensive effort he got from his squad against Robbinsville.

“They made a couple of big plays but for the most part the defense bottled them up,” said Gallagher. “It made some big sacks. We had some picks and a
fumble recovery. It is definitely good for these guys. We are trying to build momentum for the next two weeks.”

PHS is trying to build up Beamer’s passing efficiency all over the field.

“We are trying to give Dave an opportunity to throw the ball even down close,” said Gallagher.

“We know that there are people keying on [Colin] Buckley and that people will be looking at Rory. We have a lot of talented guys on the outside. We have got to be able to make those throws in tight quarters and score some points besides just running the football.”

Despite the 7-1 record, Gallagher knows that his team has to clean up some things as it plays at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7.

“I think we still have to limit the penalties,” said Gallagher. “We are making some turnovers. We can’t get away with that next week and the week after.”

In order to get a win over the Northern Knights, PHS will need another big defensive effort.

“They put up some points, they have a great rusher (C.J. Markisz) and a really talented QB (Kevin Murphy), everybody knows about him so we are going to have to try to bottle him up,” said Gallagher.

“The running back is good too. He is a shifty kid and he is quick and fast, he has a lot of intangibles. We will have to have a great week of practice.”

Beamer, for his part, is confident that the Little Tigers will put together another superb performance.

“They are a pretty good team and their quarterback is good,” said Beamer. “It is going to be a big test but I think we can pull it off.”

RISING TO THE OCCASION: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Madison Coyne, right, goes up for a header in recent action. Last Sunday, freshman standout Coyne tallied the lone goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers ended the fall with a 12-4-3 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING TO THE OCCASION: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Madison Coyne, right, goes up for a header in recent action. Last Sunday, freshman standout Coyne tallied the lone goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers ended the fall with a 12-4-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Abby Atkeson acknowledges that the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team wasn’t on the same page early this fall.

“In the beginning of the season, we had a hard time being positive,” said sophomore midfielder Atkeson, reflecting on PDS’s shaky 2-2-1 start.

But after PDS topped Robbinsville 2-1 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game last week, Atkeson believed the Panthers were poised to make a run for the state Prep B title.

“This is exactly what we needed,” said Atkeson, who scored a goal in the October 28 contest with the Ravens. “I definitely think we will carry this energy over into the rest of the week.”

After top-seeded PDS defeated No. 5 Newark Academy 3-0 last Thursday in the Prep B semis, the Panthers earned a title game rematch with second-seeded Morristown-Beard last Sunday.

With Mo-Beard having topped PDS 2-0 in the 2013 Prep B final, Atkeson and her teammates were determined to turn the tables on the Crimson.

“As our coach [Pat Trombetta] said, they rained on our parade last year so there was a little bit of a grudge,” said Atkeson, noting that the prep game last year came less than 24 hours after PDS had won the Mercer County Tournament championship. “I think we can do it.”

Playing with energy and a chip on its shoulder, PDS avenged that loss, edging Mo-Beard 1-0 to earn its third Prep B title in the last seven years and finish the fall with a 12-4-3 record.

But in a microcosm of the fall, things didn’t come easily for the Panthers. “Alexa Soltesz went down with a concussion in the semis,” said head coach Trombetta, referring to his star senior striker.

“It was hard to regroup. We had a walk-through on Friday to go through our game plan.”

Part of the plan involved giving sophomore Allison Klei more of a role in the attack.

“We pushed Allison Klei up top, she became the offensive threat,” said Trombetta.

“She created a number of opportunities, one of them hit the post and another went wide.”

Although the teams were locked in a scoreless tie at the half in the title showdown, Trombetta liked his team’s chances.

“The message at half was that we were playing well and keep it up,” recalled Trombetta.

“Mo-Beard had the wind in the first half and that was a big advantage. We thought that since we held them scoreless with the wind, we were in good shape.”

A key factor in shutting down the Crimson was the play of freshman goalie Grace Barbara.

“Grace played out of her mind,” said Trombetta of Barbara, who made 12 saves in earning the shutout. “She made some elite saves, three times she leaped and punched balls out over the bar.”

Another freshman standout, Madison Coyne, provided the margin of victory for PDS with a second half goal.

“We moved Madison to defense and she attacked from the back,” said Trombetta.

“From playing on an elite club (YMS) she has a good understanding of the game. She saw space and made a run through seam and Kirsten [Kuzmicz] got her a through ball and she stuck it from 25-30 yards.”

The pair of Atkeson and freshman Rebecca Kuzmicz, made a vital contribution along the back line.

“Going into game, they had big offensive threats we were concerned about,” said Trombetta.

“Kristy Cotter had 24 goals and is an All-American and Dani Kabat, who is getting recruited by D-1 teams. We put Abby on Dani and she did a great job. Rebecca Kuzmicz ended up playing the All-American and she really stepped up.”

Two key seniors, Stef Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz, also stepped up big time in their final appearance for the Panthers.

“Stef did her job in the back, sometimes you take her for granted but she was the savior several times,” said Trombetta. “We pushed Kirsten up to attacking midfielder and she got the assist on the goal.”

Once PDS took the lead, it was determined to hold on and avenge last year’s title game loss to Mo-Beard.

“It was a great defensive effort,” said Trombetta. “After we got the goal, we turned it up a couple of notches. We knew what happened last year, we were coming off of the MCT win and we lost. You never want to lose a game like that at home. We didn’t want that to happen again.”

Trombetta was thrilled to see his group of seniors prevail in their final game. “I am so happy for the seniors,” said Trombetta, whose Class of 2015 includes Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Murray, Kelly Tarcza, Jamie Thomas, and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stef.

“The group gave us an unbelievable effort over the last four years. Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, and the Solteszs got quality experience as freshmen and things got progressively better. The MCT win was historic. For the seniors to go out with the MCT and a state title on their resume is great.”

In order to make history in the finale, the PDS players had to get on the same page.

“I think what happened is that we came together as a team,” said Trombetta. “The training sessions got more competitive. Girls had to step up with the injuries that we had.”

Atkeson, for her part, saw a tight bond develop as the fall unfolded. “As the season went on, the team chemistry went up,” said Atkeson. “The positivity has improved over the season.”

In Trombetta’s view, the squad’s ability to come together when it counted most is a testament to PDS’s improvement over the years.

“I think the program has grown to be one of the most competitive in the area,” said Trombetta.

“We didn’t lose to a Prep B team this year. We played a lot of Prep A teams and that helped prepare us for the tournaments. As I told the girls afterward, it is not where you start, it is where you finish.”

TITLE CHASE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz, left, chases down a ball last Thursday against Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Maziarz contributed a goal as top-seeded Hun topped No. 5 Peddie 4-1. Hun, now 12-4-1, hosts second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington in the title game on November 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE CHASE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz, left, chases down a ball last Thursday against Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Maziarz contributed a goal as top-seeded Hun topped No. 5 Peddie 4-1. Hun, now 12-4-1, hosts second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington in the title game on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashley Maziarz and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ soccer team were determined to leave it all on the field when they faced Peddie last Thursday in the state Prep A semifinals.

“We knew this was our last chance to win something,” said senior star and co-captain Maziarz, noting that Hun came into the contest having lost to Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and Lawrenceville in a regular season contest in its last two outings.

“We just wanted to go out there and give it all we got and show them the team we can be.”

Top-seeded Hun didn’t waste any time showing fifth-seeded Peddie that it meant business as Jess Sacco and Maziarz found the back of the net early in the first half to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.

“We knew we couldn’t come out flat because we have done that before and gotten ourselves into a hole,” said Maziarz, reflecting on Hun’s quick start. “We tried to come out as strong as we could and get a couple of goals early.”

Showing her strength in the air, Maziarz’s tally came on a header assisted by freshman Nicole Apuzzi.

“It was great service by Nicole, I was lucky because I almost second-guessed myself,” said Maziarz. “Luckily I went with my gut. I thought the ball was going to drop sooner so I almost didn’t head the ball.”

While Peddie narrowed the gap to 2-1 early in the second half, Hun added two unanswered goals by Kennedy DeBow to post a 4-1 win in setting up a championship game against second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington on November 5.

“I was a little concerned, they came out hard as we knew they would,” said Maziarz.

“We seemed flat in the beginning. I was happy that we were able to pull it together and continue to work as a team and get a couple of more goals.”

Although the Lehigh-bound Maziarz has distinguished herself as a skilled defender for Hun over her career, she has been taking a greater role in the Raider attack as she heads down the homestretch of her senior campaign.

“The last couple games coach [Joanna Hallac] has put me at outside mid so I think she is trying to get me more involved in the offense,” said Maziarz. “I enjoy going up.”

Maziarz is enjoying her senior year, savoring the team camaraderie as much as the wins.

“We are trying to get as many games that we could,” said Maziarz. “It is sad that the season is coming to the end. It has been a great team and I love playing with each and every one of them. I am going to miss them a lot next year.”

It is fitting that the season will end with an appearance in the Prep A title game.

“It feels great to be back there, especially our senior year with this being our last shot at it,” said Maziarz. “We are really excited being home and having all of our fans here. Hopefully we can win this one.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac was excited by the way her squad started against Peddie.

“I felt we had a lot of the good pressure in the first half,” said Hallac. “In the first 10 minutes of the second half it was a little panicky. I think Peddie got a little tired after the first 10 minutes or so of the half and we just turned it back on and kept the pressure on.”

Hallac liked the way junior goalie Courtney Arch held up under the pressure.

“Courtney had a great game, she needed it,” said Hallac of Arch, who made five saves in the win over Peddie.

“She had a tough couple of games and I think her confidence was down a little bit so this was a nice game for her.”

The pair of senior co-captains Sacco and Maziarz inspires confidence in Hallac, “They have been just so instrumental,” asserted Hallac. “They wanted so badly to get back to that championship game and have another shot in their senior year.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun has a good shot at breaking Pennington’s 11-year Prep A title streak.

“I think it means a lot to us, it was one of our goals,” said Hallac, whose team improved to 12-4-1 with a 4-3 win over Peddie last Saturday in the regular season meeting between the rivals.

“I think this time around we know what to expect. They have a confidence this year that I don’t think we had last year. I think when we beat Pennington the first time (2-1 on September 30), they truly believed they could do it. I think they know when they play the way they are capable of, there is no other team they can’t beat. I think we have a good shot this time.”

Maziarz, for her part, believes the Raiders will have to produce another all-out effort to dethrone Pennington.

“The mindset is going out there and playing them the way we did the first time,” said Maziarz.

“We know they are a great team so we just have to keep our focus and just because we beat them once doesn’t mean it is definitely going to happen again. It definitely gives us confidence to know that we can play with them and beat them. We just need to make sure that we go out there and work hard.”

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Members of the Stuart Country Day School tennis team showing off pink socks for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Featuring a battle-tested lineup, the Tartans went 4-6 this fall in dual match play. The team included Maya Huang, Julia Rourke, Caitlyn Delaney, Mia Austria, the McGowen triplets, Natalie, Pamela, and Juliet along with their younger sister Alaina.

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Members of the Stuart Country Day School tennis team showing off pink socks for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Featuring a battle-tested lineup, the Tartans went 4-6 this fall in dual match play. The team included Maya Huang, Julia Rourke, Caitlyn Delaney, Mia Austria, the McGowen triplets, Natalie, Pamela, and Juliet along with their younger sister Alaina.

Katherine Stoltenberg had a comfort level with the Stuart Country Day School tennis team right from the start this fall.

“We didn’t graduate anybody,” said Stuart head coach Stoltenberg. “Everyone had experience, it was good.”

One of the better experiences for Stuart this season came when the Tartans recently beat Nottingham 5-0, winning each match in straight sets.

“Everyone played well and stayed focused on the task,” said Stoltenberg, whose team went on to fall 3-2 to Pennington on October 28 and 4-1 to Peddie last Thursday to end the season with a 4-6 record in dual matches.

“It is towards the end of the season and they are sore. I wanted them to focus on winning each game and each set, it was a good way to start the end of our season.”

Senior co-captain Maya Huang displayed good focus at first singles for the Tartans.

“Maya climbed up the ladder from first doubles to first singles last year,” said Stoltenberg.

“It is a challenging spot, you are at the top of the ladder but you are playing the best players from the other team. Maya rose to the occasion when playing the really good players. She works hard; she puts her heart into it.”

At second singles, senior co-captain Julia Rourke gave Stuart some good work.

“Julia has been a rock at second singles for us,” said Stoltenberg. “She has helped with the other singles players. She has been a force this fall.”

Stoltenberg is expecting sophomore and third singles players Caitlyn Delaney to be a force over the rest of her Stuart career.

“Caitlyn has a ton of potential; we are excited to have her for another two years,” said Stoltenberg.

“From day one, she has been a fighter. She will go to three sets, most of which she has won. We talk about conditioning and training in the offseason and through the season, she did that and it that showed in her three-set matches.”

The McGowen family dominated the Stuart doubles lineup as juniors Natalie and Pamela McGowen played first doubles while sophomore Alaina McGowen played at second doubles with senior Mia Austria.

The all-McGowen first doubles team predictably showed a special chemistry to go with their skill.

“They are sisters, they are two of three triplets,” said Stoltenberg. “They played last year at first doubles as well. Not only are they sisters, but they complement each other on and off the court. They have developed traditions and routines as a team.”

At second doubles, the younger McGowen made a good team with senior Austria.

“Mia had been a captain on JV and a swing player in the past, it was good to have her full-time,” said Stoltenberg.

“Ali is a sophomore but she had varsity experience and Mia stepped right in. They started to jell; they really showed how they would play to the end of any match.”

While Stuart is saying goodbye to Huang, Rourke, and Austria, Stoltenberg sees good continuity going forward.

“We are graduating three seniors but have some good JV players coming up and hopefully all four McGowens plus Caitlyn,” said Stoltenberg, noting that one of the triplets, Juliet McGowen, was sidelined with injury this fall.

HEAD FIRST: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) women’s youth 8 enjoy the moment after taking second in their class at the recently-held Head of Charles regatta in Boston. It was the highest finish ever for a Mercer boat at the event. The boat included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

HEAD FIRST: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) women’s youth 8 enjoy the moment after taking second in their class at the recently-held Head of Charles regatta in Boston. It was the highest finish ever for a Mercer boat at the event. The boat included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

In crew circles, the venerable Head of Charles in Boston is one of the premier events on the calendar, often called the biggest regatta in the world as it annually attracts around 10,000 rowers and more than a quarter million spectators over its two days of competition.

This year’s event, which marked the competition’s 50th anniversary, proved to be a platform for the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) to solidify its standing among the elite youth programs in the country.

The club’s women’s youth 8 took second while its men’s youth 8 placed seventh to highlight Mercer’s performance at the regatta. Showing the club’s depth, the men’s youth 4 placed 10th, the women’s youth 4 took 12th, and the second varsity women’s 8 came in 35th.

Ted Sobolewski, Mercer’s head coach and manager of rowing program, was justifiably proud of his team’s showing.

“All of our juniors qualified so we have five automatic entries next year,” said Sobolewski, referring to the requirement that a boat finish in the the top 50 percent of its class to earn an automatic entry to the next year’s race.

“The varsity 8s had their best placings ever, the guys’ best had been ninth and the girls’ best had been seventh.”

The women’s 8 showed pluck and skill, starting 10th and passing a number of boats to earn its second-place finish.

“It is definitely something we have been building toward,” said Sobolewski of the boat which included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

“There were 85 boats so the starting order is a big deal. When I started we were in the 40s.They worked hard from last spring to the summer and to the fall; five of the eight rowers are seniors so there is a lot of experience.”

The men’s 8, which was comprised of cox Matt Perez, stroke Elias Abilheira, Aaron Goodman, Kevin Borup, Alex Levine, Mark Hayton, Griffin Petri, Scott Hanks, and Dan Gleim overcame some adversity this fall in making the top seven.

“They did really well, they have gained a lot of speed this fall,” said Sobolewski.

“They lost some key rowers, we graduated some guys who have gone on to D-1 programs. There was a coaching change and a transition. I am happy with how they stuck with it. They put a lot of time in, it was a work-based approach. I am happy with how Justin (new coach Justin Ochal) prepared them.”

The work ethic of the club’s veteran rowers is being passed down through the ranks.

“The athletes at the top of the program are putting in a solid volume of training,” said Sobolewski.

“We have some good young rowers coming in, they have watched the seniors and what they do and they have an idea of the training it takes to do well. They have started at a higher level. It all goes back to work piece, we have asked more of the athletes in the last couple of years in terms of time, effort, and daily work in practice.”

Sobolewski, for his part, sees the club becoming a fixture at the highest level of youth rowing in the U.S.

“We want to be a top-5 program nationally in any given year,” said Sobolewski.

“We realize there are going to be up and down years but with the number of athletes we have, the varsity is capable of a top 5 finish at the youth nationals. We see ourselves as a pretty big program. Since we are a club, we can draw from a number of schools and areas.”

October 29, 2014
OVERDRIVE: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly follows through on a hit last Thursday night in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior midfielder Reilly scored the winning goal in overtime as second-seeded PHS edged No. 3 Robbinsville 3-2. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 in the title game on Saturday to fourth-seeded and four-time champion Lawrenceville. PHS, now 17-3, will start play in the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where it is seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OVERDRIVE: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly follows through on a hit last Thursday night in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior midfielder Reilly scored the winning goal in overtime as second-seeded PHS edged No. 3 Robbinsville 3-2. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 in the title game on Saturday to fourth-seeded and four-time champion Lawrenceville. PHS, now 17-3, will start play in the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where it is seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High field hockey team met Lawrenceville on September 24 in a regular season contest, the rivals battled to a 0-0 stalemate at halftime.

In the second half that day, PHS faltered as the Big Red pulled away to a 3-1 victory.

Having won 11 straight games since that setback, the Little Tigers were looking to flip the script when the teams met for a rematch last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game at Mercer County Community College.

“We definitely need to be focused and go into the game ready to play,” said PHS senior star Julia DiTosto.

“I know with Lawrenceville that we didn’t really set the tone, that is one of our big issues, setting the tone.”

In the early going on Saturday, the Little Tigers showed focus, thwarting the potent Lawrenceville attack as the teams headed into halftime locked in a scoreless tie.

Unfortunately for PHS, history repeated itself as the Big Red got untracked in the second half, scoring two goals in a one-minute span on the way to a 3-1 triumph and the program’s fourth straight MCT title.

A somber PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that Lawrenceville set the tone in the title clash.

“We just didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to make; they stepped up to every free ball and we didn’t,” said Serverson, whose team dropped to 17-3 with the loss.

“We didn’t pressure in the center as well as we should have, which could have made a big difference in this game.”

Lawrenceville’s hustle to the ball took its toll in the second half when it took a 2-0 lead on goals with 24:44 and 23:51 left in regulation.

“I think we started playing more reactive,” said Serverson. “We didn’t continue to play our aggressive game.”

While PHS answered quickly with a Lucy Herring tally just 32 seconds after the second Big Red goal, it couldn’t find the back of the cage again and Lawrenceville tacked on an insurance goal with 9:50 left in the second half.

While Serverson was disappointed by the outcome, she was happy with her squad’s run to the title game.

“It is the first time a PHS team has made it here in a long time so we are definitely proud of that,” said Serverson of her team’s achievement, the program’s first county championship game appearance since 1998.

In Serverson’s view, the experience should help the Little Tigers as they head into the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where they are seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30.

“It is definitely something that I am glad they have under their belts at this point so that the pressure won’t have the same effect on them in the state games,” said Serverson.

FINAL RUN: Princeton High field hockey star Julia DiTosto heads upfield last Thursday against Robbinsville in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Senior star and Stanford-bound DiTosto scored a second half goal to help second-seeded PHS edge the No. 3 Ravens 3-2 in overtime. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 to 4-time champion Lawrenceville in the MCT finals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL RUN: Princeton High field hockey star Julia DiTosto heads upfield last Thursday against Robbinsville in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Senior star and Stanford-bound DiTosto scored a second half goal to help second-seeded PHS edge the No. 3 Ravens 3-2 in overtime. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 to 4-time champion Lawrenceville in the MCT finals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Julia DiTosto wasn’t exactly thrilled when the Princeton High field hockey team headed into overtime against Robbinsville in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals last Thursday evening.

A year earlier, PHS had gone into overtime against Hopewell Valley in the MCT semis only to lose on strokes after neither team scored in the extra session.

“I think I almost started crying actually,” said senior star DiTosto, reflecting on her thoughts after second-seeded PHS and No. 3 Robbinsville battled to a 2-2 tie through regulation.

But stifling that initial emotion, DiTosto saw the extra session as a chance for a battle-tested PHS squad to wear down the Ravens.

“We are all just so tired already and to go into OT is a huge push,” said DiTosto. “The fact that we were able to dominate the entire second half shows how conditioned we are.”

With 2:26 left in the first OT period, PHS showed its skill as senior Trish Reilly rattled the back of the cage with a blast that gave the Little Tigers a 3-2 win and triggered an emotional celebration.

DiTosto was in the middle of the throng mobbing Reilly near the goal.

“Trish had a shot and she took it and it was awesome,” recalled DiTosto.

“She is always good on getting her shot off quick and having a hard ball. When it hit the backboard, I tackled her.”

In DiTosto’s view, the program’s first appearance in the MCT title game since 1998 was the product of a lot of hard work.

“This is the most deserving I have seen a team ever in my life; we deserve to be in the finals,” said DiTosto.

“We have worked so hard, we ran so much, we played so much. We have put in so many hours. It is great that we got to the step that we wanted.”

Moving up to the midfield from defense this fall, DiTosto has worked hard to improve her offensive skills. “This is my first year being more offensive than defensive,” said DiTosto, who had a goal in the win over Robbinsville.

“It is really fun to be part of the scoring aspect of the game because I had been hanging in the back with the defensive corners. It’s cool to be actually shooting the ball and getting it into the net.”

DiTosto is looking forward to a fun experience as she heads to Stanford University in 2015 where she will be playing for the school’s field hockey program.

“I am so excited about next year, they are doing so well,” said DiTosto. “They are in the top 3 in the nation right now, it is awesome.”

While PHS didn’t have an awesome game in the MCT finals, falling 3-1 to 4-time champion Lawrenceville, DiTosto is excited about the team’s prospects as it culminates the fall by competing in the state tournament. PHS, now 17-3, is competing in the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where it is seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30.

“I am looking forward to finishing off the season,” said DiTosto. “Hopefully we can win our section and do well in states.”

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary Sutton competes in the Mercer County cross country championship meet last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. Senior star Sutton took seventh individually in the race to help PHS place second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary Sutton competes in the Mercer County cross country championship meet last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. Senior star Sutton took seventh individually in the race to help PHS place second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mary Sutton didn’t have to look far for inspiration as she competed in the Mercer County cross country championship meet last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

The Princeton High star had her course record of 19:49 written in ink on her wrist with the message “crush it” and a smiley face next to it. On her ankle, she transcribed a passage from Isaiah 40:31, stating, in part, that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.”

Sutton succeeded on both counts, clocking a time of 19:46 as she soared to seventh place individually, helping PHS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.

“I knew there were six girls in front of me,” said Sutton. “On the second turn, I could still see Grace [Dwyer of Nottingham], Christina [Rancan of WW/P-DS] and Deirdre [Casey of WW/P-S] and I was like oh my gosh, this is awesome, I am staying up with them. I wasn’t right next to them but I was close. It was just momentum and motivation to stay up with them. I needed to do it for my team.”

The strength of the PHS team helped spur Sutton to her solid finish as senior Paige Metzheiser placed eighth with junior Emma Eikelberner taking ninth and junior Lou Mialhe placing 11th.

“Our game plan today was to run as a pack and run together,” said Sutton. “In cross country, the closer you are together, the more points you can score. When I turned around, Paige and Emma were right behind me and then Lou wasn’t much farther behind.”

Sutton has worked hard to improve her running. “I have gone to a cross country camp in Colorado the past two summers,” said Sutton, noting that she averaged 45-50 miles running per week last summer with a high of 62.

“We have motivational speakers come and talk to us, we have coaches from all over the nation come talk to us. We have nutritionists come to help us have a better body inside. We work on the leg muscles and the mental aspect of running. That has helped me. I think I have better lungs. I can charge up those hills because there were some tough hills there in Colorado.”

Sutton is determined to make a final charge as she wraps up her PHS cross country career.

“It is squeezing every drop you can as a senior,” said Sutton, who plans to run in college.

“It is sad but I wouldn’t want to end my career with any other group of girls, they are so sweet and kind. They are motivating and helpful when you need it. I am truly blessed to be part of the Princeton team.”

PHS head coach Jim Smirk liked the way his runners ran as a team in the county meet. “We stayed true to our goal which was to trust our pack,” said Smirk.

“We talk a lot about the idea that you have to race within yourself and what’s within your control and we did that. I think that has been a hallmark of our team for a long time. We talk about the ability to hold each other’s hands across the line, which we know would actually be a disqualification but that is our goal. We want to look like one finishing. There were a few people who squeezed in the pack today but we did a nice job.”

Smirk was not surprised that Sutton emerged at the front of the PHS pack. “Mary ran really well,” said Smirk. “A year ago or two years ago when push would come to shove you could see Mary having a hard time finding success there. We really rely on her to be that kid who steps up in that moment over and over again.”

Outside of the top pack, PHS had two runners who also stepped up in senior Julie Bond, who fought through injury to take 26th and sophomore Izzy Trentholm, the 16th-place finisher.

“I think there were two things today that impressed me beyond the overall race,” added Smirk.

“One thing was Julie Bond, she is dealing with a hip injury. She gutted it out, she knew she wasn’t going to have her best day but she felt she should be there for her team. Izzy Trentholm, stepped right into the slot and really did a tremendous job. She literally left it all out here so we are thrilled with how that worked. She really stepped up to the challenge today.”

With the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet taking place on November 8 at Thompson Park, Smirk believes his team is up for the challenge of succeeding at the state level “We ran this course very fast and effectively,” said Smirk.

“We had made some mistakes at the Fall Classic and we corrected those. We ran effectively and mistake free. Now we have to risk more and that is what our plan is going to be going forward. There is going to be some really good racing going on and I am excited for that. I think we will get a last good race here at our sectional. We need to improve on what we know we can do and push beyond our perceived limitations and see if we can break out and give it a run at it.”

In Sutton’s view, the Little Tigers are primed for a big title run. “I think if we run as a pack, we are unstoppable,” said Sutton. “If we fix up some of the little injuries and hiccups that we have, the sky is the limit.”

When it comes to racing, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team keeps things simple.

“You notice on the back of shirts it says ‘run,’ we don’t need any fancy slogans,” said PHS head coach Mark Shelley. “That’s our philosophy, it is just run, trust your training.”

That philosophy came in handy as PHS competed in the Mercer County championship meet last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. With senior star Jacob Rist and sophomore standout Alex Roth sidelined with nagging injuries and senior James Cao dropping out of the race in the early going, the remaining PHS runners trusted their training and came through with a fifth place finish of 19 schools.

“I was pleased,” said Shelley, who got a 25th place finish individually from junior Noah Chen as he clocked a time of 17:34 over the 5,000-meter course with sophomore Jonathan Petrozzini taking 33rd, freshman Nick Delaney coming in 34th, and freshman Alex Ackerman placing 40th.

Shelley liked how Chen took care of business. “Noah had a tough week with some school stuff; he has had kind of an up-and-down year,” said Shelley.

“We have really talked about consistency and I was so pleased that he not only ran well but in the absence of these other guys being able to finish or run, he stuck it out.”

Sophomore Petrozzini ran surprisingly well, considering that he has been dealing with injury.

“Petrozzini wasn’t going to run and we threw him in,” said Shelley. “In the past week he has been able to do a mile or a mile and a half of hard training and it tightened up. He warmed up and said it felt OK. I said go for it. Today he was better in the second half of the race than the first half; that shows me he has been rehabbing and stretching.”

The two newcomers, Delaney and Ackerman, stretched themselves in making outstanding county debuts. “I told those two that there is always pressure,” said Shelley. “What makes you good is your ability to handle pressure.”

Shelley is confident his runners can handle the pressure of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet, which is slated for November 8 at Thompson Park.

“We are really focusing on sectionals,” said Shelley. “The hardest thing about sectionals is figuring out who to run. Aidan [Donahue] and Karl [Bjorkman] didn’t run as well today but they have been much more consistent and they are older. We’ll evaluate the training over the next two weeks, there are some tough decisions to make. It is hard because you don’t want to make workouts a race ever but at the same time, we have to see who can run what interval and this kind of thing.”

THREE-PEAT: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team are all smiles after they won the program’s third straight state Prep B title last Thursday. Pictured, from left to right, are head coach Ed Tseng, Anna Kovacevich, Devika Kumar, Emily Dyckman, Maria Martinovic, Renee Karchere-Sun, Arya Jha, and assistant coach Trevor Campbell.

THREE-PEAT: Members of the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team are all smiles after they won the program’s third straight state Prep B title last Thursday. Pictured, from left to right, are head coach Ed Tseng, Anna Kovacevich, Devika Kumar, Emily Dyckman, Maria Martinovic, Renee Karchere-Sun, Arya Jha, and assistant coach Trevor Campbell.

While the Princeton Day School was confident that it could win a third straight state Prep B title, things didn’t go as planned in the opening day of this year’s tourney.

Falling at first singles and first doubles, PDS found itself trailing Gill St. Bernard’s 8-7 coming into the finals last Thursday.

“Even before the season began, we thought we had a shot at counties and preps but nothing is guaranteed in sports,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.

“I was a little concerned, both of those are matches we could have won. You want to have all five through to the finals.”

On the ride to the finals at the Garden State Tennis Center in Edison, Tseng had a clear message to PDS’s remaining players, Maria Martinovic at second singles, Emily Dyckman at third singles, and the pair of Anna Kovacevich and Arya Jha at second doubles.

“We definitely wanted it; we were only behind by one point,” said Tseng. “I told the girls that all three needed to win for us to get the title outright, otherwise we could tie or lose. I have been instilling in them the idea that I don’t care if you lose but play how you play and give it your best effort.”

Tseng got good efforts across the board from his players as PDS won all three flights to edge Gill and earn the Prep B three-peat.

The team of Kovacevich and Jha gave the Panthers an early lift. “The second doubles got done first, the other team, Montclair Kimberley, was
pretty good,” said Tseng.

“We were able to beat them to the net. Anna and Arya are a nice team, they peaked at the right time. They gained some experience from playing strong teams. The combination of peaking and believing in themselves was key.”

Senior star and co-captain Martinovic punctuated her superb autumn as she added the Prep B second singles title to the county crown she won in the flight.

“Maria had a tough match, the score didn’t indicate how tough it was,” said Tseng.

“It was straight sets but there were a lot of long games. It was closer than the score. That was big. Maria has had a great season. She is a great No. 2. She would be No. 1 on most teams and she is a great leader.”

Dyckman found herself in a tough match at third singles as she looked to clinch the title for the Panthers.

“Emily won the first set, which was key because she had a good opponent,” said Tseng.

“She was a consistent player. It was like playing against a wall, she hits everything back at you. You can try to be consistent back but she is better at that; or try a blend of aggressiveness and consistency. In the second set, Emily played her opponent’s game and they split sets.”

Trailing early in the third set, senior standout and co-captain Dyckman found the right blend of aggressiveness and consistency to pull out the victory.

“She was down love-3 but I know from experience that it ain’t over until it’s over, as Yogi Berra says,” said Tseng.

“She kept battling and battling and before you know it, she won six games in a row. I told her you have got to go for it and do what it takes to win. You can be more comfortable and play it safe and lose.”

Dyckman’s win triggered an emotional response from the team. “I am really happy for Emily, I know how much she loves the game and what this means to her,” said Tseng. “The team sprinted on the court and hugged her when it was over.”

While Tseng would have preferred to see his team cruise to the title, he acknowledged that it was special to win it the hard way.

“I would have liked it to be done the first day,” said Tseng. “I would prefer that it is not close but at the same time when it is close and you win, that makes it that much sweeter. Winning a country or prep title never gets old. This is the deepest team I have had since I have been at PDS. From the 1st singles to the 2d doubles, this is the most talent I have had.”

In achieving the three-peat, the team showed class to go with its talent. “It’s special to win three years in a row, nothing is guaranteed in sports,” said Tseng.

“It is nice for the players to do it for themselves and for the team. I always tell them that they are not just playing for themselves, they are representing PDS and the town of Princeton.”

Oscar Vik’s tenacity has helped make him a mainstay on the back line for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team.

But as the senior defender heads down the stretch of his PDS career, that quality has been put to use at the offensive end of the field.

Coming into Panthers’ Prep B opening round contest against visiting Golda Och last Thursday, Vik had goals in three of the last four games for PDS.

Vik kept up his scoring surge, scoring a second half goal as third-seeded PDS pulled away to a 4-1 win over sixth-seeded Golda Och.

“I won the interception and they kept stepping back,” said Vik, reflecting on his tally.

“I played it to Marco [Pinheiro], he played it back to me, and whenever I can, I like to score goals. Playing defense, you don’t get a lot of chances.”

In assessing his recent scoring surge, Vik said it came down to desire and a connection with the skilled Pinheiro.

“I guess I just really wanted goals,” said a smiling Vik. “All of the other ones have been on corners; Marco and I have some things set up.”

Bouncing back from a 3-11-3 campaign in 2013, PDS has shown a lot of progress this fall as it will bring an 11-5-2 record into its Prep B semifinal clash at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30.

“This has been our best chance since I was a freshman to do something,” said Vik, who scored another goal as sixth-seeded PDS topped 11th-seeded Trenton 3-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday and then fell 5-0 to third-seeded Steinert in the MCT quarters on Monday.

“It has been more pressure but we are more together as a team. I think we definitely think we can win the Prep B and we can really challenge in the MCTs. All I really want is to win one of those.”

In Vik’s view, the team’s turnaround has been the product of a more hard-nosed mentality.

“It is a lot of the same guys but it is a new maturity,” added Vik, whose twin brother, Christian, also stars on the PDS backline.

“The kids have been able to take responsibility and understand what we have to change to be better.”

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that it took his team a while to find its groove in the win over Golda Och.

“It was the jitters, they just wanted to try and get the first goal and relax,” said Murphy.

“I think in the second half, we changed the tactics a little bit. We put players out there who were capable of holding the ball a little bit better. We moved Marco back in the middle. Instead of trying to get to a 4-2-4 with four across the top, we tried to keep four across the middle to keep possession.”

Murphy is happy with how Vik has put himself in the middle of the action at both ends of the field.

“Oscar has really had a tremendous season running it from the back end,” said Murphy.

“To be honest, I did not know that he was that good on the ball or all that good in the air. He has turned himself around tremendously, he’s got some great goals. He is very good in the air, it is something that we hadn’t really seen because we like to keep the ball on the ground. He has great tenacity at the back, he plays clean.”

For Murphy, it has been great to see his squad improve so much from last fall.

“Last year, we had the injuries that just took us out,” said Murphy. “This year, we have come back from the injuries. This group was fairly young last year, there were too many breakdowns because of their insecurity. This year, they are more confident and more mature. That’s what it is, there is a lot more confidence.”

The Panthers will need that confidence in order to make a run at the Prep B title.

“It comes down to your back four, sometimes when you go away and you are in a different environment, it is a different game,” said Murphy. “If we stay composed and play our game, we can keep the ball. If we have got it, they can’t score. We’ll see from there.”

Vik, for his part, is confident that PDS will keep playing its game to the end. “I think we need to stick to our game, we can’t get pulled out when it is not going our way,” said Vik.

“We have to focus on what we can do well and we have to take our chances when we get them.”

BACK IN FORM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Oscar Vik boots the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star defender Vik contributed a goal as third-seeded PDS defeated No. 6 Golda Och 4-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The Panthers, now 11-5-2, play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 in the Prep B semis with the victor advancing to the title game on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BACK IN FORM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer star Oscar Vik boots the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star defender Vik contributed a goal as third-seeded PDS defeated No. 6 Golda Och 4-1 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The Panthers, now 11-5-2, play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 in the Prep B semis with the victor advancing to the title game on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton Day School cross country team was venturing into the unknown as it competed in the Mercer County Championships last Friday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

“We have never run on this course before; we didn’t know it,” said PDS head coach Merrell Noden.

The team’s lack of familiarity with the surroundings didn’t dampen its competitive spirit.

“On a relatively tough day with the wind, I had advised my guys to tuck in behind other runners as best they could whenever they were going into the head wind,” said Noden, whose boys’ team finished 14th of 19 schools with junior Nick Chen placing 80th as he clocked a time of 20:07 over the 5,000-meter course and sophomore Kevin Sun coming in 81st.

“With those things taken into account, we didn’t run too badly. We can be fairly pleased. Kevin Sun and Nick Chen both ran pretty well.”

As for the PDS girls’ squad, sophomore Morgan Mills set the pace as she took 47th in a time of 22:47 while junior Emma Sharer took 59th.

“We had a real trooper on the girls’ side in Morgan Mills, she had some Achilles problems and she has been sick,” said Noden, whose girls’ team placed 13th of 14 schools.

“Both of those have contributed to her not training as well or as much as we would have liked. I think she was very conscious of that as she went to the starting line. I really thought she would run 19:30 and she ran 22 something. There was a question whether she would run at all, she gutted it out for the team. We only had five scorers. We needed her if we were going to score as a team so I was pleased with that. Sharer had an OK race. We are such a walking wounded team. Tillie Lighte came out and ran her first race in a while. I was happy she did that so we could have a scoring five.”

With PDS wrapping up its season by competing in the state Prep B meet on October 29 at the Blair Academy, Noden wants to see his runners gut things out to the end.

“I am hoping we can pull it together; that is that last meet of the season so we have nothing to look forward  to beyond that,” said Noden, who is hoping to have boys’ sophomore star Ian Moini back for the prep meet.

“The kids have been training for today and Wednesday. If we run smart races on Wednesday, I think we can do pretty well and end our season on a pleasing note.”

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Hun School football player Justin Morrison races to the end zone in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior standout Morrison scored two touchdowns to help Hun rout Lawrenceville 62-14 and take sole possession of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 MAPL, play at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Hun School football player Justin Morrison races to the end zone in a game earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior standout Morrison scored two touchdowns to help Hun rout Lawrenceville 62-14 and take sole possession of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL). The Raiders, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 MAPL, play at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was no messing around last week as the Hun School football team prepared for its showdown against the Lawrenceville School.

With both squads boasting 2-0 records in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) play, Hun head coach Todd Smith demanded attention to detail.

“We knew this game meant a lot to the coaching staff and we required the players to be extra focused,” said Smith. “We wanted them to do a better job, both the scout team and the starters. We weren’t tolerating anything.”

Hun showed that focus right from the start on Saturday, drawing first blood with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Cameren Kitchen. Senior running back Chris Sharp took over from there, scoring on three touchdown runs as Hun took a 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Hun doubled its lead to 56-0 by halftime with another Sharp TD run, an interception return for a touchdown by Kyle Horihan, and two scores from Justin Morrison.

Cruising from there, Hun posted a 62-14 win in improving to 5-1 overall and taking sole possession of first place in the MAPL standings.

“We played well in both phases of the game,” said Smith. “Any time the defense scores touchdowns, that sets you apart. The defense scored 12 points and every time they came up with a stop, the offense had a short field.”

Hun dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. “I thought the offensive line got great push,” said Smith.

“C. J. Williams is a freshman and he started at guard and had a great game. Fred Hansard was also great on offensive line. On defense, Jordan McGriff played out of his mind; he had six tackles and a sack and sniffed out a screen. Kitchen has been a force on defense all season and he had TD for us on an interception.”

The University of Virginia-bound Sharp has been a force of nature this fall, piling up some eye-popping statistics.

“We watched the tape today and he had 222 yards rushing on 11 carries with 5 TDs,” said Smith, noting that senior Morrison also produced some good numbers, rushing for 81 yards in five carries.

“He is out of this world. He is getting our schemes and he is reading the cutbacks. He has the size to run over people and the speed to run away from them.”

The game film from Saturday made for pleasant viewing by Smith and his staff.

“We are always looking for that perfect game and that first half was pretty near perfect,” said Smith.

“We had just a couple of penalties. It is just about us, if we control ourselves and do our job, we can score like that every week.”

With Hun playing at Peddie (4-2 overall, 2-1 MAPL) on November 1 in another league clash, Smith will push his players to keep chasing perfection.

“We didn’t win the MAPL yet but we are the team that controls our destiny,” said Smith.

“We have to take care of business to make sure that we don’t share it with anybody. The guys are self motivated, some of them are playing for looks in college. The whole senior class is seeing what can happen if they play as a team.”

Angela Rieder believes that her Hun School cross country team took a step forward at the Mercer County championship meet last Friday.

“I think we had a strong performance,” said Hun head coach Rieder, whose boys’ squad placed 13th of 19 schools while the girls placed 12th of 14 teams in the meet held at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

“Our varsity has been working really hard this week. They have been really motivated. The heat, hill, and wind were a little off-putting. We didn’t have any personal records but on reflection afterward, I was really happy with them.”

Rieder was particularly happy with sophomore Alex Ill, who took 28th individually in the boys’ race with a time of 17:42 over the 5,000-meter course and senior Sean Duffy, the 62nd finisher.

“When we saw him originally, he was in 41st at around a mile or mile and a half and he made it up to 28th,” said Rieder.

“He was really steady, really strong, he went out smart. Sean Duffy did great as well. He is a senior so he only has a couple of races left. He has that mindset right now. He is focused so we are hoping to see good things from him in the next couple of races.”

On the girls’ side, junior Caitlin Murray showed good focus, taking 51st individually in a time of 22:31.

“Caitlyn Murray had a very strong race today,” said Rieder. “She was very positive, very focused, and very determined.”

Rieder is looking for some determined efforts as her runners conclude the season next week by competing in the state Prep A meet on October 29 at the Blair Academy and the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championships at Peddie on November 1.

“We still have Preps and the MAPL meet,” added Rieder. “They are Wednesday and Saturday. The training is a bit tricky this week so we are going to use preps for training.”

October 22, 2014
ON THE SAME PAGE: The Princeton High girls’ tennis first doubles team of Zhenia Dementyeva, left, and Nikhita Salgame consults with PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, right, during a match earlier this season. Last Friday, Dementyeva and Nikhita Salgame fought valiantly in defeat as PHS lost 4-1 to to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE SAME PAGE: The Princeton High girls’ tennis first doubles team of Zhenia Dementyeva, left, and Nikhita Salgame consults with PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, right, during a match earlier this season. Last Friday, Dementyeva and Nikhita Salgame fought valiantly in defeat as PHS lost 4-1 to to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It would have been understandable if Zhenia Dementyeva was down in the dumps last Friday moments after the Princeton High girls’ tennis team fell 4-1 to Millburn in the state Group 3 teams finals.

PHS senior star Dementyeva and junior Nikhita Salgame fell 7-6, 6-2 at first doubles to Millburn’s pair of Anya Zakusilo and Sydney Zirlin, a defeat that clinched the title for Millburn.

But Dementyeva was all smiles as she reflected on the closely fought match that featured a number of marathon deuce games.

“It was probably the most fun match we have ever had because it was so neck and neck,” said Dementyeva.

“In the first set we were down 1-4 and we came back to a tie break, for us, that is remarkable. At the same time, we weren’t nervous. We were just having the time of our lives.”

While Dementyeva and Salgame understood that PHS was on the verge of falling to Millburn, they kept their minds on the task at hand.

“We weren’t thinking about that but we had that in the back of our minds,” said Dementyeva. “We were so wrapped up in the present that we didn’t think about the other scores.”

The pair has developed a positive mindset that has helped set them apart from other teams.

“Nikhita and I fit like two puzzle pieces,” said Dementyeva. “We have our own jokes; we whisper things to each other to crack each other up. I think what makes us successful as a team is the way we understand each other. We are able to criticize each other during a match. If we think we are doing something wrong, we tell each other, we correct it, and then we play better.”

Dementyeva and senior teammates, Katelyn Hojeibane and Rory Lewis, have reached a deep understanding over the last four years.

“The whole tennis team is like a great big family, the three of us are especially close,” said Dementyeva.

“I have known Rory since 6th grade, we walk home together. Katelyn and I  take tennis lessons together. I think one thing that people wouldn’t expect about a girls tennis team is that we are drama free. There is no gossip, we mesh in such a perfect way that it makes us really comfortable with each other.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert liked the way her team created some drama in the match against Millburn, fighting back from straight-set losses in second and third singles from Hojeibane and Lewis, respectively, to turn the three remaining matches into nailbiters.

In addition to the hard-fought defeat at first doubles, PHS first singles star Christina Rosca fell in three sets to Stephanie Schrage while the second doubles team of Elise Gerdes and Gillian Samios pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Ingrid Waung and Rebecca Blevins.

“We had no delusions of anything less than a real battle,” said Hibbert. “I was really pleased with the way the doubles fought through, both of them were down 1-4 in the first set and they came back. Second doubles won the first set and first doubles forced a tie break. They proved that they could compete with the best doubles teams in the state and beat them, in this case, the second doubles.”

Rosca showed her competitive fire as she rebounded from losing the first set to turn her match into a tense battle that saw Schrage prevail 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

“Chris fought incredibly hard, Stephanie is a quality opponent as well,” added Hibbert.

“That could have gone either way, it came down to a point here or there and a bad bounce off the net, one missed shot, They had a great match. We fought and we at least scared them a little bit.”

The Little Tigers were determined to put a scare into undefeated and nine-time state champion Millburn.

“The one thing we said is that if it doesn’t start well, we are not going to give up and roll over, we are going to fight back,” said Hibbert.

“That’s one of the biggest things I was proud of, they fought back. Even though we didn’t start well, we gave them a fight and we worked hard. I think against most of the other teams here, we would have been able to pull out a victory. Unfortunately we ran into the No. 1 team in the state.”

This bunch of PHS players has established themselves as a top team in the annals of the program’s proud history.

“This is a really great group of girls, they have won the sectional title four years in a row and made it to the group final the last three so that was really exciting,” said Hibbert.

“To add the county tournament title this year as well was icing on the cake, especially for our three seniors. It is a nice way for them to go out. It would have been nicer if we had been able to win it, but we take little victories from making it through. We had a close semi match (a 3-2 win over Northern Highlands), they were a strong team too. You don’t get there if you are not a good team.”

In Hibbert’s view, her three seniors are leaving quite a legacy. “We’ll obviously miss them tremendously next year as players, as captains, as leaders, as people,” said Hibbert, whose team moved to 15-3 with a 3-2 loss to Group 4 champion WW/P-S last Monday in a regular season match.

“They are all really nice people and hard workers. They set a good tone. You can really see that they are all waiting and ready to congratulate each other. They really like being on the team together. We will miss them a lot next year.”

Dementyeva, for her part, will long remember what it was like being on the court Friday and playing her heart out to the end.

“It is so special to finish on a match like this,” said Dementyeva. “Of course I wish we won but I don’t think I would want it any other way. I am just elated. I was thinking like wow, I am never going to be able to play with these amazing girls ever again. I was just enjoying it, every moment of it.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis follows through on a forehand in recent action. Last Friday, senior Lewis prevailed at third singles against Northern Highlands to clinch a 3-2 win for PHS and book the squad a spot in the NJSIAA Group 3 team state finals. The Little Tigers ended up falling to Millburn 4-1 in the championship match.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis follows through on a forehand in recent action. Last Friday, senior Lewis prevailed at third singles against Northern Highlands to clinch a 3-2 win for PHS and book the squad a spot in the NJSIAA Group 3 team state finals. The Little Tigers ended up falling to Millburn 4-1 in the championship match. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis headed into the latter stages of the second set against Charlotte Hagan of Northern Highlands last Friday in the NJSIAA Group 3 team semifinals, a crowd gathered around court 13 at Mercer County Park to witness the showdown.

The teams were knotted at 2-2 and a spot in the state finals depended on the outcome of the third singles match.

While senior Lewis sensed what was drawing the onlookers, she didn’t dwell on the situation.

“I had an inkling, I suppose; I thought that’s what was happening,” said Lewis. “I didn’t want to psyche myself out so I pushed it out of my mind.”

Instead, she proceeded to push Hagan around on the court, posting a 6-3, 6-1 win to book PHS’s spot in the finals and earn the hugs of her teammates.

In defeating Hagan, Lewis kept the focus on her strokes and tactics. “My backhand has gotten a lot better, I worked on it a lot yesterday,” said Lewis.

“She was a very tough opponent. I had to stay in my head and not let up because she was fighting me. I think experience also helped a lot.”

It also helped Lewis to have her teammates cheering her on. “It is really nice, you feel the support,” said Lewis. “It is great, they are cheering you on no matter what, that is really nice. It is a good feeling.”

There is a great feeling around the PHS squad. “We are a small team so we know each other really well and we all support each other,” said Lewis. “We don’t push against each other; we all want to get better together.”

Although PHS ended up falling 4-1 to Millburn later Friday in the state final, making it that far was special for Lewis.

“It is very, very nice; we have done it all three years since I have been on varsity,” said Lewis.

“It means a lot, you want to go out with a bang. We have had a good season so far so I am getting my wish.”

FEELING LOW: Princeton High football player Ben Danis carries the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior Danis had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause as PHS fell 48-29 at Winslow, suffering its first defeat of the season. The Little Tigers, now 5-1, will look to get back on the winning track when they host WW/P-S on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING LOW: Princeton High football player Ben Danis carries the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, senior Danis had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in a losing cause as PHS fell 48-29 at Winslow, suffering its first defeat of the season. The Little Tigers, now 5-1, will look to get back on the winning track when they host WW/P-S on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High football team brought a 5-0 record into its clash at 1-3 Winslow last Friday evening, PHS was geared up for a dogfight.

“Despite the record, we knew they were a good program,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher. “They had talented kids on both sides of the ball.”

That talent showed early on as Winslow took a 12-7 lead into intermission.

Having battled through plenty of adversity in its magical run this fall, PHS wasn’t fazed by the deficit. “The message at half was that we had put a lot of points on the board in the second half this year,” recalled Gallagher.

While the Little Tigers ended up putting up 21 points in the second half, it wasn’t enough as Winslow pulled away to a 48-29 win.

“We moved the ball up and down the field,” said Gallagher. “We had some turnovers that hurt us. We were right there, we had back-to-back touchdowns to make it 36-29. For the most part, it was a pretty even game. It got a little out of hand, they tacked on two TDs at the end.”

Junior tailback Rory Helstrom gave the Little Tigers some touchdowns and a large dose of character.

“Rory had a really good game, he showed his leadership at the end of the game,” said Gallagher of Helstrom, who rushed for 113 yards and made two touchdown receptions in the loss.

“We look to him as a playmaker. When the going got tough at the end, he stepped up and kept the guys going.”

The combination of junior quarterback Dave Beamer and senior running back Ben Danis helped keep the PHS offense going as Beamer passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns while Danis made a number of key catches.

“Dave made a lot of good plays but we need to help him manage the game better and make better choices,” said Gallagher.

“He has 11 TD passes and 11 interceptions so far, that is not where he wants to be. We really like him; he is still young. He has only had 11 or 12 starts. Ben Danis had a big game, he made five catches for 67 yards and a TD. He made a couple of big catches. On a 4th and 5 late, he had a 6-yard catch. It was good to get him involved.”

On defense, the Little Tigers got a number of good efforts. “Defensively, Sam Smallzman did a nice job and Tommy Moore had a good game,” said Gallagher.

“Jack Cook was back from a broken finger and did a good job at corner, shutting things down. He is 6’3, he is a tough guy to get around.”

While tasting defeat for the first time this fall was tough for PHS, Gallagher put things in perspective for his players afterward.

“The first thing I said afterward is the bottom line is that to be 5-0, after where we were last year (0-10), was a great accomplishment and no one can take that away from us. We were looking to go 6-0. People were saying if Princeton got two or three wins the whole season, that would be great.”

The Little Tigers are determined to get that sixth win this Saturday when they host local rival WW/P-S.

“They are from just across the tracks, so to speak, and there is a lot of familiarity,” said Gallagher.

“It is our Senior Day and we want to get back on track. We will be amped up. I hope it’s a good game, we will work hard this week to be ready.”