October 22, 2014

Stepping into the starting goalie spot for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team from day one this fall as a freshman, Grace Barbara has been under the gun.

“There are some very strong players on some of these opponents’ teams,” said Barbara. “Since I am a freshman it has been a little bit difficult with these very skilled players.”

Last week, Barbara faced one of the toughest opponents around as PDS played at Pennington, the perennial state Prep A champion.

“Pennington is a great team, I have a lot of friends from my club team, YMS, on that team so it is definitely a rivalry,” said Barbara.

“We knew going into the game that it was going to be a tough one,  Pennington is ranked second in the nation. They had lost to Hun 2-0 and we were strong with Hun so we felt going into the game that if we played our best and played to the level of the opponents, we would pull through with a win or a tie.”

The squads were level through the first half, locked in a 0-0 stalemate with Barbara making several good saves to thwart the Red Raiders.

“I felt pretty good in the first half, attacking two corners,” said Barbara. “Winning those definitely boosted my confidence and the team’s. Everyone played their hearts out.”

In the second half, however, Pennington’s attack broke through with two goals as PDS fell 2-0 in the October 14 contest.

While Barbara was disappointed with the loss, she gained some valuable experience from the setback.

“They are a skilled team so I can learn a lot, especially from the goals,” said Barbara, who ended up with 10 saves in the setback.

“I can work on sets and high balls coming from long and the short balls pegged down in the corners. I can definitely work on that in practice.”

Barbara has developed a good working relationship with the PDS defensive unit. “I feel like my defense back here with Erin Hogan, Alexis Davis, and Stef Soltesz has been working great with me,” said Barbara.

“Abby Atkeson was stepping back on defense today. I feel quite protected back here, even though we are only playing with three in the back a lot of the time.

Playing goalie since grade school, Barbara is relishing her debut campaign for the Panthers.

“I was always interested in the position and I started in U-8 so I have been playing for quite a while,” said Barbara, who made two saves to earn the shutout as PDS topped New Brunswick 7-0 last Monday in improving to 9-3-3.

“My club team, the YMS Pride, really got me ready for the high school season and this is just a great opportunity because I am just playing with high skilled players on my team and the other teams. It is really building me up.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta saw the matchup with Pennington as a great opportunity with postseason play around the corner.

“We usually play them late in the season and it gives us a measurement of where we stand,” said Trombetta, whose team is the defending Mercer County Tournament champion and is seeded sixth in this year’s MCT where it will host No. 11 Notre Dame on a first round contest on October 25.

Trombetta liked the way his defense stood tall all night long against Pennington.

“We put Abby [Atkeson] and Kirsten [Kuzmicz] in the back, that’s something that we haven’t done all year,” said Trombetta.

“I think it worked, it kept us in the game. Grace made some good saves, she was in control. Abby and Kirsten had good games today. Stef did a great job in the back again; she was solid.”

The Panthers didn’t do as good a job at the offensive end of the field as they generated chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“We couldn’t connect,” lamented Trombetta. “We had a couple of opportunities here in the second half that we probably could have done better with.”

While Trombetta hoped for a better result against Pennington, he had no qualms about his team’s competitiveness.

“I was proud of the effort, we played aggressive, we played physical, and we stayed with them,” said Trombetta, whose team is also competing on the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded first and has a bye into the semis.

“We played toe-to-toe with them and that’s all you can ask as a coach when you are playing one of the top teams around.”

Barbara, for her part, believes the Panthers can emerge as a top team in postseason play.

“I feel like even though we did lose, we played a great game,” said Barbara. “This was a great segue way for the tournaments. We will be playing some skilled teams in the postseason just like Pennington and it got our heads in check.”

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Emily Pawlak tracks the ball during a game earlier this season. Senior defender Pawlak has been trying to hold the fort as the Little Tigers have been hit by the injury bug. PHS, which fell 6-0 to Allentown last Thursday to drop to 7-5-1, starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week. The Little Tigers are seeded 9th in the MCT and are slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Emily Pawlak tracks the ball during a game earlier this season. Senior defender Pawlak has been trying to hold the fort as the Little Tigers have been hit by the injury bug. PHS, which fell 6-0 to Allentown last Thursday to drop to 7-5-1, starts play in the Mercer County Tournament this week. The Little Tigers are seeded 9th in the MCT and are slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite being shorthanded due to a number of injuries, the Princeton High girls’ soccer team battled Notre Dame on even terms in the early going when the rivals met last week.

Displaying some scrappy play, PHS thwarted a number of Irish runs and the teams went into halftime locked in a 0-0 stalemate.

“The 11 that I chose to put out on the field to begin did a great job of defending and then trying to build when we won the ball,” said PHS head coach Val Rodriguez.

“We had a little bit of fire when we put some subs into the game. They generated a few things in the first half.”

In the second half, though, Notre Dame generated the offense as it scored three unanswered goals to pull away to a 3-0 win over the Little Tigers.

“We got a little bit flat and we had a couple of defensive breakdowns,” said Rodriguez, in assessing the second half.

“We didn’t keep our shape to build anything and then it is injury after injury. I was down to one sub by the end of today’s game from a 20-girl roster.”

For PHS, having senior striker and top offensive threat Shannon Pawlak sidelined for the rest of the season due to a leg injury has proven to be a huge problem.

“We have to find a way to have a target up top to somewhat replace Shannon,” said Rodriguez, whose team struggled again last Thursday as it fell 6-0 at Allentown in dropping to 7-5-1.

“We never found a rhythm today, we had to keep shifting people from one spot to another. Shannon could go forward and have high pressure on her back, get the ball and keep it for a couple of seconds and be able to dish it off or turn and shoot. She did it very, very well.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting this week, Rodriguez is hoping that PHS can find a rhythm down the stretch.

“Getting healthy is a big piece of it,” said Rodriguez, whose squad is seeded 9th in the MCT and is slated to play at No. 8 Ewing on October 25 in a first round contest. “We have some positive stuff, they are doing their best.”

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Chris Sharp races upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp totaled four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, to help Hun rout the Hill School (Pa.) 49-6. The Raiders, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action, host Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHARP EXECUTION: Hun School running back Chris Sharp races upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and University of Virginia-bound Sharp totaled four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, to help Hun rout the Hill School (Pa.) 49-6. The Raiders, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action, host Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though his Hun School football team was coming off two successive routs, Todd Smith was looking for sharper execution as the Raiders played at the  Hill School (Pa.) last Saturday.

“We were really concentrating on the offensive side of the ball and limiting mistakes,” said Hun head coach Smith, whose team had topped Blair 46-16 on October 11 and Germantown Academy 42-21 on October 2 in its previous two outings. “We hadn’t played that perfect game yet.”

Against Hill, the Raiders got the lead before the offense touched the ball as Donavon Harris returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, giving Hun a 7-0 lead.

“That is one way to take care of things, it was a good way to start,” said Smith, whose team led 28-0 after the first quarter on Saturday. “It is always good to get a special teams touchdown.”

The Raiders proceeded to score six more touchdowns on the day as they romped to a 49-6 victory, improving to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action.

Senior star and University of Virginia-bound Chris Sharp led the way with four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving. Jacob Gallahdari chipped in a 16-yard scoring jaunt while Dan Seelagy broke away for an 81-yard TD gallop.

While the talented Sharp turned heads with his
brilliance, it was a group effort.

“We actually spread the ball around; we didn’t want to overwhelm Chris with touches,” said Smith.

“He made the most of his opportunities. Both his catches were touchdowns; he had 80 yards receiving and ran the ball well (131 yards on 12 carries). Jacob had more than 45 yards on five carries. Danny Seelagy went over 100 yards (126 yards on five carries) rushing.

Ever the perfectionist, Smith sees room for improvement. “We still have to fine tune some things,” said Smith. “I am really happy with the intensity; we are coming off the ball hard.”

The Raiders displayed some very good intensity on the defensive side of the ball against Hill.

“I thought we did a great job of stopping the run and did well when we were backed into the red zone,” said Smith.

“We also forced the most turnovers we have had in a game this year. We had three interceptions on the day and a fumble recovery. We really swarmed to the ball.”

Hosting arch-rival Lawrenceville (2-3 overall, 2-0 MAPL) on October 25, Hun will look to click on all cylinders.

“We are excited; they are probably the most complete team we will see the rest of the year,” said Smith.

“We have to play smart and be comfortable with the game plan. I couldn’t be happier with where we are, the kids are really jelling and competing hard.”

HITTING HER STRIDE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah dribbles the ball upfield in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior star Hannah scored both goals as Stuart pulled out a 2-1 last-second win over South Hunterdon. On Monday, she added a goal and an assist as the Tartans topped Nottingham 4-0 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest to improve to 5-12. In upcoming action, Stuart will start play in the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded sixth and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HITTING HER STRIDE: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah dribbles the ball upfield in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior star Hannah scored both goals as Stuart pulled out a 2-1 last-second win over South Hunterdon. On Monday, she added a goal and an assist as the Tartans topped Nottingham 4-0 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation contest to improve to 5-12. In upcoming action, Stuart will start play in the state Prep B tourney where it is seeded sixth and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tori Hannah has been talking more on the field this fall in her junior season with the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

“I think I am communicating more with the team and am helping them with stopping the ball and boosting their spirits,” said Hannah.

Last Wednesday, Hannah boosted her team’s spirits with her stickwork, scoring goals on penalty corners right before halftime and at the end of regulation as Stuart pulled out a thrilling 2-1 won over South Hunterdon.

“I have been working on my hits and my stick and ball skills and it’s come a long way,” said Hannah. “It has been great.”

In Hannah’s view, Stuart’s 5-0 win over Nottingham in a Mercer County Tournament (MCT) play-in game a day earlier gave the Tartans a big boost coming into the South Hunterdon contest.

“I think the win from yesterday really helped us in this game today,” said Hannah. “I think we were really pumped. We were ready to win and we really brought it.”

Even though Stuart fell behind 1-0 in the early going against South Hunterdon, Hannah and her teammates weren’t fazed.

“I think we were concerned but we didn’t let it take over our game,” said Hannah. “We still played a hard game; we tried to get back and we did.”

The Tartans showed some game with its penalty corner execution in the waning moments.

“It looks complicated but we pulled it off and it was such a great feeling,” said Hannah. “I was ecstatic, it was amazing.”

Having struggled in the early going this fall, the victory over South Hunterdon was sweet for the Tartans.

“It means the world, we have practiced so hard this year,” said Hannah.

“To come out against a really hard team and beat them was great. I think we have been more intense and we have wanted it a lot more than the other teams. We have just come out strong and stayed strong throughout the whole game.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik liked the strength of character her team displayed in pulling out the win, battling rain showers along with a tough foe.

“I thought we did a great job keeping the ball inside of our attacking zone,” said Bruvik.

“It was very important to get that goal in the first half. We talked about that, we said we have to call that timeout before the end of the half and not wait until halftime. They play better with urgency. You give them the small goals and they accomplish them. We were trying to build off of that.”

In Bruvik’s view, the Tartans showed a good build up offensively against South Hunterdon. “I thought the midfield did a great job of supporting the offensive line this time,” said Bruvik.

“I am seeing the attack push up and really make more of an effort to get in the circle and finish. That had been a struggle for us the first half of the season.”

Hannah is providing Stuart with some good production on attack. “Tori had a huge game today,” said Bruvik. “She has better decision-making, she is staying poised. She is a good communicator on the field, she talks a lot. I am seeing improvement.”

Junior Sam Servis has improved as the season has gone along. “Sam had a big game yesterday,” said Bruvik. “She is starting to take it to the goal. She is understanding that with that talent, we need her in the circle. Her assets and skills are important to us.”

Another important factor in the win over South Hunterdon was Stuart’s work at the defensive end.

“We gave up an early goal but we hung tough; I thought the defense did a better job stepping up to the ball,” said Bruvik.

“I think South Hunterdon’s attack gave us a really good challenge. They are a big hitting team.”

While Stuart ended up falling to Princeton High in the opening round of MCT last Saturday, Bruvik feels her team can do some damage in the state Prep B tourney.

“The kids don’t dwell on the record, they are taking it game by game,” said Bruvik, whose team is seeded sixth in the Prep B tournament and plays at No. 3 Pennington on October 22 in a first round contest.

“I feel like we are definitely stepping up. I think the kids are realizing that the season is coming to an end.”

Hannah and her teammates are looking to get the most out of the season.

“We are going to have to play our hearts out in every single game,” said Hannah, who had a goal and an assist as Stuart topped Nottingham 4-0 last Monday in an MCT consolation contest to improve to 5-12.

“We have to practice with intensity. I think we just need to be ready and have our heads in the game all the time.”

October 16, 2014
sports4

NO ORDINARY JOE: Princeton High football star Joe Hawes grabs some water during a game earlier this season. Hawes has made an immediate impact for PHS, taking up football this fall after spending last year as the backup goalie for the Little Tiger boys’ soccer team. The senior has emerged as a go-to receiver and ball-hawking defensive back for undefeated PHS. Last Saturday, he made four receptions for 55 yards and a game-sealing touchdown as PHS topped Steinert 28-14 to improve to 5-0. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Hawes didn’t want to spend the fall of his senior year sitting on the bench for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

Realizing that he had hit a dead end as a little used back-up goalie for the PHS squad, Hawes decided he would get more action on the gridiron.

“I hadn’t tried football; my parents never really wanted me to,” said Hawes.

“This year, they were like you can’t do anything else why don’t you try football. I wasn’t getting playing time in soccer so I was — why not.”

Having never played organized football, Hawes underwent a crash course in the game over the offseason.

“I went to some summer league stuff,” said Hawes. “Defense wasn’t necessarily a problem but the offense was tough, learning routes, learning where you are on the field.”

Starring at lacrosse helped Hawes pick up his new sport. “The footwork and the physical play of lacrosse was a help,” said Hawes. “Knowing that you have a set play and doing what you have to do.”

The lanky Hawes has been doing well this fall for the Little Tigers, emerging as a go-to receiver and ball-hawking defensive back for the undefeated squad.

Last Saturday, he made four receptions for 55 yards and a game-sealing touchdown as PHS topped Steinert 28-14 to improve to 5-0.

On the TD, Hawes showed how quickly he has picked things up, changing his route to be an option for PHS quarterback Dave Beamer.

“I was just supposed to run down the field and I saw Beamer scrambling,” said Hawes. “We are taught to run across where he is and he just hit me.”

Against Steinert, the Little Tigers ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half only to see the Spartans narrow the gap to 21-14 as the game headed into the fourth quarter.

“Personally I was concerned, it was 21-14 and one more score and then you are tied up and it is a whole new game,” said Hawes. “We just couldn’t let that happen.”

Executing on both sides of the ball, PHS held off the Spartans. “It was our offensive line blocking and our defense communicating and marking up correctly,” said Hawes. “Our O-line really won the game.”

Hawes got the sense early that he could make a mark on the football field.

“I think it was the Ewing game, our homecoming,” added Hawes, who made an 80-yard TD reception in the PHS’s opening day win over Hamilton. “I was just super confident. I knew in my mind what I had to do and I got it done.”

With just five games under his belt, Hawes acknowledges that he hasn’t mastered the fine points of the game.

“I am still working on it, there are still some things I need to do better,” said Hawes.

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher was proud of the way his team got things done in the victory over Steinert.

“A lot of credit goes to coach [Dan] Caruso and the Steinert ball squad because they grinded it out, they took it one touchdown at a time to cut it to 21-14,” said Gallagher.

“But you know that when you look at the four games we have played so far, we are talking about Hamilton being up by a point in the first game. We are talking about being in a stalemate in the Ewing game at halftime. We are talking about a slugfest, a heavyweight fight against Hightstown and then we are down a point in the fourth quarter against Lawrence. It is a resilient team, we are just battling through.”

Along with that resilience, PHS boasts a number of weapons to help it win battles. In addition to getting a big game from Hawes in the win over Steinert, PHS got 102 yards rushing and a 57-yard punt return for a TD from junior star Rory Helstrom with junior quarterback Dave Beamer passing for 155 yards. Sam Smallzman returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown and Colin Buckley added a one-yard touchdown run.

“Joe is doing well, we would like to call his number more often,” said Gallagher.

“What is great about the squad right now is that we have a lot of playmakers, whether it be Rory Helstrom or Sam Smallzman or Joe Hawes or Colin Buckley or Dave Beamer or the special teams. Tad Moore made a great play today on that punt, he seals Steinert’s fate. He just wanted that ball and it pops out. Special teams is a third of the game, just as important as offense or defense. The offense or defense might be out there longer but special teams can win the game. We had a punt return for a TD. We are scoring in a variety of ways, which is great.”

There is a great feeling around the program as it has made a stunning turnaround from a 0-10 campaign last fall to its undefeated start this season.

“They have jelled from the very beginning,” asserted Gallagher. “It is great team chemistry and we are just happy to be coaching them up.”

Hawes, for his part, is very happy to have made the switch to football. “I couldn’t get this excited about a soccer game any time of the year except maybe a state championship,” said Hawes.

“This has been the best. I think the thing is that we just all want it. We are making history here, bringing football back into Princeton. We are all working for the same goal and we want it in our hearts.”

 

sports5

CHASING VICTORY: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in recent action. Senior striker Ealy scored three goals in PHS’s 4-0 win over WW/P-N on October 7. Ealy and the Little Tigers edged Nottingham 2-1 last Thursday to improve to 10-1. In upcoming action, PHS hosts Allentown on October 16 before playing at Hightstown on October 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Chase Ealy covered a lot of territory for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team last Thursday as it hosted Nottingham.

The senior striker raced up and down the field, making dashes toward goal and serving crosses into his teammates.

Ealy’s industry didn’t result in any goals or assists by his name on the scoresheet but he was all smiles as PHS pulled out a 2-1 win over Nottingham.

“I was running all over the place and we were really building plays and that is what I am looking for,” said Ealy. “I did get some shots off but at the end of the day if the team gets goals, it doesn’t matter to me if I don’t get any.”

It did matter a lot to Ealy that PHS outlasted Nottingham via a Jake Caddeau goal late in regulation which decided the tight contest that saw the Little Tigers jump out to a 1-0 first half lead only to see the Northstars knot the game at 1-1 with 10:53 remaining in the second half.

“That is something we are going to have to get used to in the playoffs,” said Ealy. “The fact that we came back and got that goal showed a lot of character. I was proud of the guys for keeping their heads up. The guys that were coming off the bench came in with the right attitude. We decided we were going to win this one.”

As a battle-tested senior and team co-captain, Ealy looks to instill the right mentality.

“I think my role on the field is to be a leader foremost,” said Ealy. “I want to help the guys along, I want to make sure that the attitude is where it is. I have played under great captains, like Kevin Halliday and Zach Halliday. I want to do everything I can to really be those guys on the field for these guys for this team.”

Ealy knows that he also has to produce offensively. “I want to be the best striker I can be,” said Ealy, who scored three goals in PHS’s 4-0 win over WW-P-N on October 7. “My job is to put balls away, but at the same time, if it helps to pass it to other people and create opportunities, then that is what I will do.”

With PHS improving to 10-1 with the win over Nottingham, Ealy believes the team is headed in the right direction.

“We are getting everybody back and we are starting to get back in the groove,” said Ealy.

“We are starting to pass the ball around like we were doing early in the season. We are building up, getting ready for the counties. We are very excited.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was excited to see his team come through late in the victory over the Northstars.

“They tie the game and you are thinking how can we adjust and what can we do,” said Sutcliffe.

“One of our goals is to be at our best when the pressure is greatest,  maybe this is indicative of a little of that. Going into the tournaments, there will be that little added pressure where you are level 1-1 late in a game. It is about finding a way.”

Junior defender Caddeau found a way to get the win with his clutch tally. “Jake is doing great,” said Sutcliffe.

“He is a wide outside back and he’s having a great season. I can’t say enough about his work rate. His decision-making is great, he can win balls out of the air, his distribution is good. He has a good mentality which he showed there, scoring the game winner.”

Ealy has also been providing some good work for PHS. “Chase gives us another dimension to our attack; he has been fantastic,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“He’s got to keep getting better, just like the rest of them. He had a good day the other day against North, it was good to see him get on the scoresheet.”

Some of the team’s younger players have been getting better and better as the season goes on.

“The three sophomores, Andrew Goldsmith, Sam Serxner, and Alex Ratsen have been fantastic,” added Sutcliffe. “Alex scored the opening goal today.”

The Little Tigers have some big challenges looming before they start play in the  county tournament as they finish the regular season by playing at Notre Dame on October 14, hosting Allentown on October 16, and then playing at Hightstown on October 21.

“We are just looking forward to the next week, it is the most important week of the regular season,” said Sutcliffe.

Ealy, for his part, believes that PHS is ready for a big week. “I would definitely say that we have been improving as the season goes on,” said Ealy.

“We are already a great squad and I think we are going to continue to get better. We have three very tough teams coming up. Allentown is a great team, Notre Dame is a great team, and Hightstown is there, too, so we just have to be ready.”

 

boy's first place finisher for PHS

IN STRIDE: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner James Cao heads to the finish line in a recent race. Last Saturday, senior Cao placed 34th individually in the Boys Varsity A race in the Fall Classic at Thompson Park, helping PHS to finish fifth of 17 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mark Shelley, getting the best out of his Princeton High boys’ cross country team this fall is about marshaling his resources.

“We have been battling some injuries over the last few weeks,” said PHS head coach Shelley, whose squad took fifth of 17 teams in the Boys Varsity A race last Saturday in the Fall Classic at Thompson Park as senior Jacob Rist placed 28th individually followed by junior Aidan Donahue in 31st and senior James Cao in 34th.

“We have not run our top guys in the middle-of-the-week meets in the last few weeks. We can’t do seven races in three and a half weeks and be good in November.”

In order to be very good, PHS will need senior star Rist to be at full speed. “Jacob has been dealing with some leg tightness; he  had some achilles tendinitis problems and he hasn’t done all of our workouts,” said Shelley, noting that sophomore star Alex Roth has been sidelined the last few weeks.

“Rist is a great senior leader, he knows running and he understands his body. He is still one of our two or three best runners but he isn’t running where he can. He ran 17:15 at Thompson Park and he can be in the 16:00s.”

One of Rist’s classmates, Karl Bjorkman, has been running well for the Little Tigers.

“Karl came into the school last year as a rising junior, he has really taken off this season in terms of his times,” said Shelley.

“He is a great leader, he is coachable, and second to none in terms of work ethic.”

Shelley is getting good work from his sophomores, led by Jonathan Petrozzini and Patrick O’Connell.

“We have a real strong and deep sophomore class,” asserted Shelley. “When someone on the team runs under 19:00 they are invited to run intervals. We have 22 kids running intervals now and I would say almost half are sophomores.”

The Little Tigers also boast some freshmen who are making an impact. “Two of the freshmen are doing well,” said Shelley.

“Nick Delaney has been in our top 5 and Alex Ackerman has been in the low 17:40s, he was our fifth runner on Saturday. Jackson Donahue is another 9th grader and he is going to be solid. It is really exciting to see freshman breaking into the lineup and doing well in big races.”

The older Donahue, junior Aidan, has been doing well this fall. “I have been very pleased with Aidan, last year he got down on himself at times,” said Shelley.

“This year he is running the way he should. He is outleaning people at the line and that is a good thing to see from a runner. He keeps impressing us and moving up the ladder.”

It is good for PHS to have Cao back in action. “James is a fifth-year senior and was cleared by the NJSIAA to run last Monday,” said Shelley. “It is only his third year of running. He was third overall for us at Thompson Park. He is a great kid and the kids love him.”

Shelley is hoping that his team can produce a great finish this fall. “Our focus is ultimately the divisional, county, sectional, and group meets,” noted Shelley.

“Part of doing well is getting better on a weekly basis, another part of it is getting healthy. The key is to have Jacob getting his times down to where they have been and getting Alex Roth back so we have a big three of those two and James Cao. Then guys who have been running second and third can be fourth and fifth. That gives us the depth to do well.”

 

sports6

CAMP FIRE: Princeton High field hockey player ­Campbell ­McDonald heads upfield in recent action. Senior star ­McDonald started this month on fire, producing two straight hat tricks as PHS topped Lawrence 5-0 on October 1 and Princeton Day School 6-1 on October 7. Last Monday, McDonald chipped in two goals as PHS beat Steinert 5-1 to improve to 13-2. The Little Tigers are seeded second in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament (MCT). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hampered by a lingering hamstring injury, Campbell McDonald got off to a slow start this fall for the Princeton High field hockey team.

But getting up to speed with her leg feeling better, senior striker McDonald has caught fire as the calendar has turned to October.

On October 1, McDonald scored three goals to help PHS defeat Lawrence 5-0. Six days later, McDonald registered another hat trick as the Little Tigers topped Princeton Day School 6-1.

In reflecting on her hot streak, McDonald said it is a joint effort. “I do feel like I am in a good groove,” said McDonald.

“I think it is just knowing that is my last season and it is so close to ending. I want to get it while it is hot. I cannot take all of the credit for that, my team is always behind me. I just try to be where they need me.”

The PHS team was clicking on all cylinders in the win over PDS, jumping out to a 3-0 first half lead.

“We have been working really hard in practice,” said McDonald. “At this point, everything is just looking toward MCTs and states. We are just trying to raise our game to the highest level we can play so that we are ready for what is coming.”

Falling 3-1 to Lawrenceville in late September helped PHS get better ready for the stretch drive.

“I think we went into Lawrenceville knowing that it was going to be a tough game and it definitely challenged us more than we anticipated,” said McDonald.

“We are going to hopefully see them again in MCTs so we have had to step up all over so that we are ready for that. We work really hard in practice and it is showing. I could not be happier with the girls I am out there with. They all work so hard and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

McDonald loves being out on the field with her classmates on the squad, who include Lucy Herring, Julia DiTosto, Elisa Kostenbader, and Cara Straus.

“We have been together since middle school so we have always had this strong bond,” said McDonald, who scored two more goals last Monday as PHS topped Steinert to improve to 13-2.

“I think it just grows and grows as we come towards our end. It is bittersweet so we are just trying to use all the time we have together and make the most of it.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes her team is getting stronger and stronger on the offensive end.

“We have been working a lot on finishing in practices, especially that midfield transition into the circle,” said Serverson.

“It is really starting to pay off, both in that press to goal and our offensive corners.”

Serverson likes the way McDonald has been going to goal over the last few weeks.

“Campbell has really stepped up her game; she wasn’t playing as well in the beginning of the season,” said Serverson. “Somewhere in the middle she found the old Campbell and she is back.”

In Serverson’s view, senior star and Stanford-bound DiTosto has emerged as a force in the middle of the field for the Little Tigers.

“I think Julia has done a great job controlling the middle of the field, more offensively than defensively, so we are working on that defensive part of it,” said Serverson of DiTosto, who had two goals on the win over Steinert on Monday.

“She is a good offensive playmaker and we are starting to really feed off of that. It starts in that midfield transition and, in particular, if Julia is the one that starts it, things are just clean, perfect, and in all the right spots.”

For PHS, its losses to Lawrenceville and Allentown have helped the team focus on bringing the right mentality to each game.

“The biggest lesson that we took from Lawrenceville, and actually from Allentown too (a 1-0 defeat on September 5), is that we need to set the tone,” asserted Serverson, whose team is seeded second in the upcoming MCT and will play the winner of the Stuart Country Day-Nottingham play-in game in the first round of the tourney. “We need to go after every team with the same intensity right from the start.”

PHS is poised for a big finish. “I think we are just trying to stay healthy, we are trying to stay well rested,” said Serverson.

“We have been taking some days off so that the girls can fully recover. Luckily our schedule right now isn’t as challenging so we are able to utilize the depth of our bench and get everyone in the games and actually see what they are capable of. Some of them are really stepping up their games as well. I think we are going to peak at just the right time.”

McDonald, for her part, believes that last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Hopewell Valley in the MCT semis will help fuel this year’s postseason run.

“That gives us a lot of motivation,” said McDonald. “We are just so determined to get where we were last year and hopefully go farther.”

 

sports8

HOLDING THE FORT: Princeton Day School field hockey goalie Katie Alden makes a stop in recent action. Senior Alden and classmates Dana Poltorak, and Niki van Manen have provided positive leadership this fall as PDS has battled through a tough season. The Panthers, now 2-10, will be competing in the Mercer County Tournament this week where they are seeded 13th and will be playing at No. 4 Lawrenceville in a first round contest. PDS is also slated to play at the Hill School (Pa.) on October 15 and host Hopewell Valley on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Borrowing a page from the U.S. Marines playbook, “the few, the proud” motto applied as the Princeton Day School field hockey team celebrated its Senior Day last week.

Through attrition and injury, the program’s Class of 2015 was whittled down to three with Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter], Dana Poltorak, and Niki van Manen as the only seniors remaining on the team.

Of those three, only two are still in action with van Manen having been sidelined indefinitely as she recovers from mono.

For Alden, the ceremony, which occurred before the team’s game against cross-town rival Princeton High on October 7, triggered mixed emotions.

“It was obviously a bittersweet moment, it was really sad that we couldn’t play with Niki since she is out,” said Alden.

“She is one of our best players and we really depend on her in the backfield. We want her to be healthy; we don’t want anything bad to happen to her so we know it was right of her to not play as much as she wanted to.”

On the other hand, Alden appreciated the support she felt from the team’s younger players.

“Every year since my freshman year, on senior day I always want to play harder for my seniors,” said Alden.

“I looked up to them. This year, they were playing for me and that flipped the table as to what it usually is for me. They got us gifts, it was sweet. They were like play great Katie, this is for you, and that really pumped us up before the game.”

While the game didn’t turn out great for PDS as PHS posted a 6-1 win, Alden played hard to the final whistle, piling up 17 saves.

“I just want to stay in it, no matter what the score is,” said Alden. “It is easy to get your head out of the game but you really have to stay focused and keep the score as low as you can. You know that it has to go through everyone to get to you and that they are leaning on you to stay in this game.”

With a roster that includes eight freshmen and six sophomores, Alden knows that she has to call the shots along the backline.

“I try to communicate as often as I can because as the goalie, I can see everything,” said Alden.

“This is my seventh year playing field hockey so I can anticipate plays and put people in better positions than I could as a freshman. I am not scared to direct players. I know that they will understand if I scream at them, they will mark up, and get their sticks down. I know that with my direct communication, it’s going to be the best field hockey we play. We really need to have that structurally sound and technical game, that basic game.”

Although PDS has struggled to a 2-10 record, Alden and her teammates aren’t hanging their heads.

“We try to make everything fun; even though we are losing, I still walk off the field happy,” said Alden

“We are a lot more cohesive than we have been in the past couple of years, especially because there is no JV team. Everyone is on the same team which I think made a big difference. We have a locker room to ourselves, which is fun. We give them little inspirational notes before every game. I think we really try and support them because we want the program to stay together and keep building. The only way for that to happen is if we have a fun year. We may not have the best record but is has always been fun and I think that’s key.”

PDS head coach Tracey Arndt credits her trio of senior tri-captains with holding things together through a challenging fall.

“They have been great,” said Arndt. “They have been on the varsity for four years and with me for three years. They had good leaders in the classes before them and they have emulated them. They understand how I want things done.”

Arndt notes that the team’s younger players have been positively influenced by the seniors.

“We have a brand new team and the freshmen didn’t know stuff, like this is what happens on game day and this is what we need to do when we play on the road,” said Arndt.

“The younger girls have been looking to them. I am not at school during the day and they make the transition smooth.”

The Panthers have looked to Alden to hold the fort in the goal. “What I enjoy seeing is that when things are under pressure and getting tougher, Katie is stepping up,” said Arndt.

“She has played her best in some of the harder games. She had older players in front of her on defense in the past and now there are a lot of young players in front of her. She has taken on the role of communicating. It is tough when you are also making the saves. She has been adaptable and flexible.”

Poltorak has provided a maternal approach along with some aggressive play. “Every team has a mom; Dana is always caring for everyone, making sure that everyone is OK,” said Arndt.

“In terms of hockey, she has played with fluidity. Even as she is in the last weeks of her senior season, her confidence is increasing. She is coming into her own. She has worked hard to get her hit perfected. That comes to light when we play on grass fields where it is harder. She is the one we depend on to get the ball up the field.”

While van Manen hasn’t been on the field as much as she would have wanted, she has gained from the experience. “She is a player, she is hoping to go on and play at the next level and I am sure she will,” said Arndt.

“We have put her in a lot of positions, we moved her to defense from midfield and she did a great job even though it is riskier there if you lose the ball. Being out, she is seeing it from a different perspective this year and gaining a greater understanding of how the game is played. It will help her when she goes to college.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting this week, Arndt is hoping to have more games with the seniors.

“The three of them have been class acts,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded 13th in the MCT and will play at fourth-seeded Lawrenceville in the first round.

“It has been great to have had them the last three years. I wish I had them for a couple of more years. We are trying to extend the season so we have as much time with them as possible.”

Alden has enjoyed spending time this fall with her teammates. “I think this year has made me more patient,” said Alden.

“You play as a team to be together. It is about who you are with and not how you are doing as a team. We don’t see who we are playing next, it is kind of a nameless, faceless team when you walk into the game. We focus on playing our best hockey.”

PDS is bringing that focus on the present into the postseason. “I think the goal is to go as far as we can and be the little team that could,” added Alden.

“Even though we have a lot of injuries and a young team, I think that if we play our best hockey, we could shock teams. They are going to be very confident going into games with us. I think we can take advantage of that and really capitalize on those moments.”

 

sports9

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Hun School girls’ soccer player Becky ­Barus goes after the ball in recent action. After taking last season off, senior Barus returned to the squad this fall and has become a key contributor. Last Saturday, Barus scored two goals to help Hun beat the Blair Academy 5-0 and improve to 6-2-1. The Raiders play at the Life Center on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being plagued by injury in the first two years of her career with the Hun School girls’ soccer team, Becky Barus decided to take a break from the game last fall.

While the respite gave her a chance to heal, Barus realized there was a void in her life.

“I just missed it so much so I said I want to be with my team and play and have fun,” said Barus. “It is my senior year and my last year.”

Barus has been having a lot of fun this fall, emerging as a key contributor for Hun, bringing energy and spirit to the squad.

Last Saturday, she brought some offensive punch as well, scoring two second half goals as the Raiders rolled to a 5-0 victory over visiting Blair on a waterlogged field.

“We practice slotting and finishing the ball,” said Barus. “It was so muddy over there and I saw the balls bouncing around and I decided to go for it.”

Coming into the game with Blair, Hun was primed to go for it collectively.

“We have a goal list and one of our goals was to win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and it started here with our first MAPL game,” noted Barus. “We pumped ourselves up and did what we wanted to do.”

A 2-0 victory over perennial state Prep champion Pennington on September 30 pumped up the Raiders.

“That was another one of the goals on our goal list, to beat Pennington,” said Barus. “We hadn’t beaten them in so long and our mindset was that we thought we have a lot of potential this year and we came in focused. It was a huge win.”

In addition to their potential and skill on the field, the Raiders boast a special team unity.

“We have really good team chemistry,” said Barus. “It is important to us to be able to get along and play well together and we have fun doing it.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac had a lot of fun watching her team’s display against Blair.

“We just played some really beautiful soccer in the first half with the way we were knocking the ball around,” said Hallac.

“We were doing the same in the second half and finishing even better. That’s what really impressed me the most, the way we played despite the conditions and the circumstances. They really did take care of business. They were doing everything right on both sides on the ball. They were working hard but they were working smart.”

Hallac likes the hard work she has been getting from Barus upon her return to the squad.

“I talked to her in the spring and she decided to play and I am really glad that she did,” said Hallac.

“She’s been working her tail off. She takes advantage of the minutes that she gets. She just works like an animal out there for us. The girls love her and she loves them. She brings a lot of positive energy to the team.”

The pair of senior stars, defender Ashley Maziarz and midfielder Jess Sacco, is another big positive for Hun.

“Ashley and Jess are the tandem in the back there,” added Hallac. “It is hard to separate them, they are both so solid. I really never get too worried about our defense.”

Sophomore Abby Gray is emerging as another solid performer for the Raiders.

“Abby is very composed, she is maturing very nicely as a player,” said Hallac. “She is really starting to take off.”

In Hallac’s view, the win over Pennington has helped her team take off in recent weeks.

“They went out there and played their hearts out,” said Hallac. “I was really proud of the way they performed. It finally convinced them of what they could do. I think they were starting to believe it last year but they walked into that game believing that they could truly play with anyone and they proved it.”

With the county and state Prep A tournaments around the corner, Hallac believes her squad can be a title contender.

“I think with the group we have got and the way we are playing, the sky is the limit,” asserted Hallac, who guided the Raiders to the state Prep A title game last fall.

“I think we have seen a recommitment to the goals we set and to each other, knowing that you are going to make mistakes on the field but we have got to be  able to settle down and overcome those challenges. You don’t try to do everything yourself, you play within yourself, trust your teammates, and work together.”

Barus, for her part, is confident that things will come together for Hun in postseason play.

“We just have to stay focused and play every game like it’s a game against a big team,” said Barus.

“We have the potential to win every game; we are a solid team. I think the win against Pennington gave us a lot of confidence. Our practices have been really focused. We like to have fun. We play best when we are having fun together and enjoying the game that we love to play. Every practice I think we are all getting better, individually and as a team.”

 

sports10

FINISHING KICK: Hun School field hockey star Vicki Leach sprints after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior star Leach scored two goals to help Hun beat Lawrence 3-1. The Raiders, who improved to 6-3 with the victory, are slated to play at the Hill School (Pa.) on October 18. Hun will also start action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded fifth and will host No. 12 Steinert in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Vicki Leach felt things were a little out of synch in the early going as the Hun School field hockey hosted Lawrence last Wednesday.

“We were just playing a little messy, the energy wasn’t what it has been the last three games,” said senior striker Leach reflecting on the contest which saw Hun trailing 1-0 at halftime despite dominating possession. “I think we all felt the disconnect.”

In the second half, Leach made some key connections in the circle, scoring two goals as the Raiders rallied to post a 3-1 victory over the Cardinals.

“We talk a lot about finding the drive, finding the drive in yourself, and the desire to win,” said Leach in assessing Hun’s strong second half.

“At the halftime meeting, we worked it out. We talked about what it was like to win those past games, what it was like to play Stuart, Steinert, and Hamilton West.”

Leach kept things simple in getting Hun on the board within the first five minutes of the second half.

“The only thought is just get my stick on it,” said Leach, who added her second goal with 5:18 left in regulation to make it 3-1 and seal the victory for the Raiders as they improved to 6-3.

“On all of those if you just touch them and redirect them it gets them somewhere. I was thinking I really hope that Julie [Fassl] gets this hit up.”

The win over Lawrence was the fourth straight for Hun since a 4-0 loss to Princeton Day School on September 23.

“I think the PDS game woke us up, you hate to lose,” said Leach. “We played a really bad game. We were playing pretty strong before that so we lost it for that day. We came back to practice and practiced hard and it has worked out well.”

Leach is determined to work as hard as possible as she comes down the stretch of her Hun career.

“Every season I come out of it regretting, thinking oh, I wish I had played harder in that game, and I wish I had done that in this game,” said Leach.

“My goal this year was to never have that feeling at the end of games. So far I have done pretty well. I haven’t been perfect but I am getting there.

As a team captain, Leach looks to be there for her teammates as a scorer and a leader.

“On the field, I try to hang out up here near the circle because a lot of times what happens is the girls will get the ball on the other side and cross it so I want to catch all of those crosses and keep it in the field,” said Leach.

“As much as the desire thing is important on the field, it starts off the field. It starts during the day, it starts at practice, and it starts before the game.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk was looking for her team to show more desire against Lawrence after the shaky first half.

“I wanted them to hustle to the ball and be more aggressive in the circle,” said Quirk, recalling her halftime message.

Quirk was not surprised that Leach came through in the circle. “I think with her scoring and us tying it, it just gave us some momentum,” said Quirk.

“She is just a phenomenal kid. I am so proud of her, on and off the field. She is a true leader and she is a scholar athlete.”

Leach’s classmate and fellow captain, Julia Blake, showed leadership in the midfield.

“I thought Julia Blake played a nice game today,” said Quirk. “I think she and Julie Fassl are working well together. She also worked well together today with Delia Lawver, they had some good give-and-goes.”

The Raiders also showed some good stuff on the defensive end as they stifled Lawrence in the second half. “I am very pleased with the way our defense is playing,” said Quirk.

“We have struggled with defense. We have done a lot of talking and working on getting our sticks low and getting the ball out and not in the middle. They seem to take from practice to the games which makes me happy.”

All in all, Quirk is very happy with how her team has been playing over the last few weeks.

“They are a great bunch of kids that works together,” said Quirk. “They work hard in practice, I like their work ethic. I like the way they support each other, no one is screaming and yelling at each other.”

With the county and prep tournaments around the corner, Quirk is confident that her squad can do some great things.

“When we are on, I think we are on,” said Quirk, whose team is seeded fifth in the Mercer County Tournament and will host No. 12 Steinert in the first round.

“When we can score first, I think it really changes our momentum. That’s what we try to do.”

Leach believes that the Raiders are bringing a lot of momentum into the postseason. “We are definitely a very skilled team,” said Leach.

“It’s all about who shows up in the tournaments. If we show up and play the way we have been playing these past few games and in the second half of this game, we will definitely be a contender.”

 

October 8, 2014
FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca goes after the ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Rosca won her second straight MCT first singles title, helping PHS to the team championship. It was the program’s first MCT team crown since 1984.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FIRST CLASS: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca goes after the ball last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior Rosca won her second straight MCT first singles title, helping PHS to the team championship. It was the program’s first MCT team crown since 1984. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tennis star Christina Rosca has a lot on her plate this fall in her junior year at Princeton High.

The defending New Jersey state high school singles champion, who has risen to the mid-20s in the 18-and-under national rankings, is playing in USTA events around the country on the weekends. During the week, she is keeping busy by
taking five Advanced Placement courses.

But Rosca was determined to carve out time from her hectic schedule to keep competing for the PHS girls’ tennis squad.

“They are all really good players and they are all really good people,” said Rosca.

“I really enjoy being with them. It is really enjoyable to be in a team environment compared to playing as an individual all the time.”

Last Wednesday, Rosca and her PHS teammates enjoyed a special day as the squad won the team title at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT), taking the crown for the first time since 1984 and earning its first championship under the event’s current five-flight format which was adopted in the late 1980s.

As usual, Rosca led the way at the top of the lineup, taking the first singles title without losing a set in her four matches, beating Brianna Shvets of Hopewell Valley 6-2, 6-1 in the championship match.

While Rosca was happy to defend her first singles crown, she was thrilled to see the Little Tigers prevail as they edged runner-up and perennial power WW/P-S with WW/P-N taking third.

“It means a lot,” said Rosca. “We have been really close the last two years and some unfortunate things have happened, some injuries and stuff like that.”

In reflecting on closing out Shvets in the title match, Rosca saw her match experience as a critical factor.

“No matter who I play, I always try to be really aggressive and come into the net as much as possible but off of the right balls, not just any ball,” said Rosca.

“I think today, I did that pretty well. I think overall shot selection made the difference. I think I have played more matches than she has. I know what shots to hit in what moments and to prevent hitting some silly shots in important moments in the match.”

For PHS senior Rory Lewis, taking the crown at third singles with 6-3, 6-2 win over Amanda Binder of WW/P-N was a moment to savor.

“It is a great experience,” said Lewis, who won the MCT first doubles crown with Maddie Cahill-Sanidas as a sophomore but had never taken a singles title at the county competition. “It is great for the team; it is a good way to go out as a senior.”

Lewis’ game has come a long way over the last four years. “I think mentally I am steadier on the court,” said Lewis.

“Last year if I had played this match I might not have won. It was my first year at singles and I had to step it up. It was a new experience for me. I didn’t have someone on the court the way you do with doubles, cheering you on and pumping you up. It is all on you. This year the mental game is better for me. My serve has gotten better, I can place it in the corners and it goes in with pace. I think my groundstrokes have gotten stronger.”

As one of the three senior tri-captains on the squad along with Zhenia Dementyeva and Katelyn Hojelbane, the experience of winning the team title had Lewis pumped up.

“It means a lot because every year it seems like we have been one step closer,” said Lewis.

“I remember sophomore year, we were third. Last year, we were second. To go out as a senior and get the Mercer County title as a team is just great. It has been a goal for the team for a long time and it is great to finally see that come to fruition. There are three seniors and we are really close. We have all played together for a while on varsity and we all know each other well.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert wanted to see
Lewis and her classmates go out on top.

“The girls worked really, really hard this year,” said a smiling Hibbert, who got good work throughout her lineup as Hojelbane took fourth at second singles while the first doubles pair of Dementyeva and Nikhita Salgame placed second as did the second doubles team of Elise Gerdes and Gillian Samios.

“Having three seniors in our lineup who have been part of the lineup for a long time, we were really hoping that this would be the year we could do it for them. We have been really close the last couple of years but we have always had an injury or a lineup switch or a sickness or something that threw us right before the tournament. We just haven’t been quite able to get it done.”

In Hibbert’s view, the team’s combination of depth and chemistry proved to be the winning formula.

“Allison [Hubert] was the only one who graduated from last year’s team so it is a really solid core coming back,” noted Hibbert.

“They have been on the team together for a long time now. They have good chemistry. They enjoy doing team bonding and just spending time together. I think the thought was definitely there that we could do it but no one wanted to get too overconfident and look too far ahead because we know the competition is very tough. There are a lot of good schools here. We got new uniforms this year and we joked that these are going to be lucky uniforms and carry us to the county tournament title.”

There was no luck involved with the singles titles earned by Rosca and Lewis.

“I was really pleased with the way Chris stepped up and took control early and was able to put the pressure on Brianna,” said Hibbert, whose team will be going after another title as it is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional which gets underway this week with the final slated for October 14.

“From there she was able to stay tough and close it out. Rory is such a hard worker. She will be the first one on the court, she will serve 100 buckets of balls until her shoulder is ready to fall off. She will continue working and working until she achieves what she wants. Especially as a senior, she has had a great run for us and it is really nice for her to win a county title.”

Lewis, for her part, believes that the team’s closeness on and off the court helps set it apart.

“We all get along so well, we all really support each other and cheer each other on, no matter what,” said Lewis. “It is not just that we all play tennis, it is more than that. We are friends, it is great.”

BLOCK PARTY: Princeton High senior fullback Colin ­Buckley makes a block last Thursday in helping the PHS football team roll to a 40-20 win over previously undefeated Lawrence. Buckley also rushed for 38 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, which improved the Little Tigers to 4-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track when it hosts Steinert on October 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BLOCK PARTY: Princeton High senior fullback Colin ­Buckley makes a block last Thursday in helping the PHS football team roll to a 40-20 win over previously undefeated Lawrence. Buckley also rushed for 38 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, which improved the Little Tigers to 4-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track when it hosts Steinert on October 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the fullback for the Princeton High football team, Colin Buckley knows that his main job is to open holes for star tailback Rory Helstrom.

“I do a lot of the kick out blocks for Rory,” said Buckley. “You know if you lay the block, he is going to break it. If the block is there, he is gone.”

Last Thursday against visiting Lawrence, the rugged 6’1, 200-pound Buckley performed that role with aplomb, blasting through the Cardinal defense as Helstrom rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown and PHS pulled away to a 40-20 victory in improving to 4-0.

But as PHS overpowered previously undefeated Lawrence, Buckley got to take advantage of some good blocking himself, rushing for 38 yards and two TDs.

“I just got big holes, I got the ball and fell on the goal line,” said Buckley. “Our offensive line took these guys out. Our O-line was much better, they played hard.”

Buckley pointed to the offensive line, which features junior Noah Ziegler, junior Matt Toplin, sophomore Ethan Guerra, senior Brian Lemus-Camey, senior Tommy Moore, and senior Omar Moustafa, as the unsung heroes of PHS’s remarkable reversal of fortune which has seen the Little Tigers go from 0-10 in 2013 to their undefeated start this fall.

“They were all together last year,” said Buckley. “As younger guys, we all kind of got beat up as a team but they came back and they are beasts now.”

Although PHS found itself trailing Lawrence 20-19 early in the fourth quarter, Buckley had no doubt that the Little Tigers would come back.

“I knew we were going to win,” said Buckley. “We have been down before in other games and we knew that we just had to do what we are trained to do and we were going to win. We have good coaches and we have 100 percent faith.”

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher never lost faith in his players even as the team dealt with a 5-day turnaround from its draining 36-29 win over Hightstown  on September 27 and then found itself trailing Lawrence early in the fourth quarter.

“We were really banged up and I knew the guys were going to persevere and give it everything they have got because that is what they have been doing all year,” said Gallagher.

“You could see in the beginning of the game that there were no ill effects, they were ready to play the game. Then to go down, you say to yourself, maybe we hit a wall. But on our next drive, Rory Helstrom comes to work and makes a great play. The O-line is doing a great job, they are opening holes. Danny Rodriguez, our line coach, had mentioned that this game is going to be won in the trenches. I think we won the game in the trenches, no doubt.”

Buckley’s work on the trenches was a big positive for the Little Tigers. “Colin is doing everything that we ask him to do,” said Gallagher.

“He wants to do it. He’s battling out there, he’s doing a great job for us. I was glad that he could get into the end zone. It is great stuff.”

In pulling away from Lawrence, PHS showed some great balance as Sam Smallzman rushed for 66 yards while Joe Hawes and Brian Tien each caught TD passes and quarterback David Beamer passed for 159 yards.

“The way the offense is set up it is to spread the ball around,” said Gallagher.

“We don’t have any one big threat. We have a lot of guys. We have a lot of talented football players on this team so we are excited.”

In Gallagher’s view, his team’s reversal of fortune is the product of learning lessons from the lumps the program endured last fall.

“It is great to be 4-0,” said Gallagher. “I think it is the experience of the guys. I may call something from last year. They will say we haven’t run that but I know that it will click with those guys. We don’t have to put so much legwork into everything. These guys are
picking it up fast.”

With PHS hosting Steinert on October 11, Gallagher knows that his players have to keep working hard to keep on the winning track.

“Steinert is still a good football team, they are a good ball squad,” said Gallagher.

“You look at 2009, we were 4-0 at the time and we played Steinert and we lost. There is deja vu so we need to bring it next Saturday.”

In Buckley’s view, the Little Tigers aren’t about to stop bringing it. “We just worked hard in the offseason,” said Buckley. “We got the whole team back. We knew how bad it feels to lose every game so we certainly don’t like that. We can’t get too cocky.”

Diego Garcia has faced some major challenges this fall in his freshman campaign with the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team.

“It is a pretty hard level, facing kids way bigger and older than me,” said Garcia. “I am really just glad to be having some time on the field.”

Last week, Garcia made the most of his time on the field as the Panthers went across town to play at Hun. Garcia chipped in a first half goal as PDS pulled out a 2-1 win over the Raiders in the September 30 contest.

While Garcia acknowledged his goal wasn’t a thing of beauty, he conceded that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

“It was a cross and it got deflected by the defense and went in,” said Garcia with a sheepish grin, reflecting on his second tally of the fall.

In the win over Hun, things got a little dicey for PDS as the Raiders tied the game at 1-1 early in the second half before Panther senior star Marco Pinheiro blasted a volley into the back of the net to provide the margin of victory.

“We had most of the control in the first half,” said Garcia. “It was in the beginning of the second half when we gave up control for a few minutes. After that, we played pretty well.”

It felt pretty good for Garcia and his teammates to post a win over Hun.

“They are known as an athletic school,” said Garcia. “It is a pretty good thing knowing that you can beat the close rival.”

Getting off to a 6-3-1 start, the Panthers have displayed some pretty good soccer.

“As coach [Malcolm Murphy] says, we are the best soccer playing team in most games,” said Garcia of the squad, which topped Foundation Academy 6-0 last Monday and hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 8 and Hamilton on October 10.

“I think we have to concentrate on finishing because if we get that down, we are going to be a much better team than we already are.”

Learning from his older teammates, Garcia feels he is getting better and better as the season goes on.

“They are really supportive; if I am not doing something right, they all come up to me and say what I am doing wrong as a player,” said Garcia.

“I am just trying to do my best. As the season goes on, I am getting more comfortable and eventually I am getting better.”

SECOND ACT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Maria Martinovic follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior star Martinovic won the second singles title at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 18 schools in the team standings.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SECOND ACT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Maria Martinovic follows through on a shot last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Senior star Martinovic won the second singles title at the MCT, helping PDS take fourth of 18 schools in the team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Advancing to the second singles final at the Mercer County Tournament last week gave Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Maria Martinovic the chance for redemption on several levels.

Last fall, Martinovic made it to the second singles title match at the MCT, only to leave the court in tears after losing 6-4, 6-0 to Haley Rich of WW/P-S.

A few weeks ago, Martinovic dropped a match to her 2014 finals foe, Audrey Chen of WW/P-N, in a preseason scrimmage.

Exorcising those demons, Martinovic rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Chen, helping PDS take fourth of 18 schools in the team standings.

Grinning broadly in the wake of the triumph, Martinovic said staying cool helped pave the way to the title.

“Last time I played her I got easily frustrated,” said Martinovic. “This time, I kept my composure.”

The savvy senior also made some tactical changes from the preseason match. “I remembered that she is a very steady player and she likes a lot of pace,” said Martinovic.

“She hits both forehand and backhand great so I was thinking that this time I should probably mix it up and give her some different looks. I would hit a higher ball and then a shorter ball and hit some angles. I think that definitely helped.”

For Martinovic, winning the crown was a definite highlight. “I think it is great, I know that my teammates were all very supportive,” said Martinovic.

“This is a big tournament and we wanted to do well. Each one of us had different goals that we set from last year and mine was since I went to the finals, I wanted to actually win it.”

In order to achieve her goal, Martinovic has worked hard on improving her game.

“I think my serve has improved a lot,” said Martinovic. “In this match especially, I had a very good wide serve. A lot of times, I would get her off the court and then I would finish the point. It really set me up on a lot of points. Also I think my footwork is a lot better. I have been trying to move my feet more during the point and not just stand around.”

PDS head coach Ed Tseng is happy with the improvement he sees in Martinovic.

“Maria has always been consistent so she is still consistent but at the same time, she knows when to pull the trigger and finish her opponents off,” said Tseng. “She had lost to Audrey in scrimmage so going into today she wanted revenge and was looking forward to the opportunity.”

The PDS team took the opportunity to show that it is still among the elite programs in the county, with Renee Karchere-Sun taking third at first singles and the first doubles team of Devika Kumar and Touria Salvati also placing third to help propel the Panthers to their fourth-place finish.

“I am very proud of the way everybody played,” said Tseng. “Renee had a great win over Sneha [Rangu of Hightstown]. The doubles had a great win as well. On Monday we had a couple of tough losses against South (WW/P-S). If we had won those two, it could have been a different story.”

Karchere-Sun is showing toughness in the first singles spot. “Renee is a great No. 1 and she has had a great season for us so far, playing  really well,” said Tseng.

“She is another player, who I am very proud of, not just for her efforts in  training and competing but also as a leader on the team.”

The team of Kumar and Salvati is competing at a high level. “They played a great match just now and it is great to see them get some pretty good success,” said Tseng.

“They are playing nice together. They both have good desire, they are both competitors. Sure you get nervous, but that last one was a nice match.”

In Tseng’s view, playing well at the MCT will help the team as the fall unfolds.

“I am big into playing as many matches as possible against good teams and quality opponents,” said Tseng.

“That will just help us prepare for Prep B, which we are looking forward to. We won the last two years so we are looking to three-peat. Anything can happen but I think if we play like we did here, we have a great chance.”

Martinovic, for her part, likes the team’s chances to end the season on a high note.

“It is a good experience for us all,” said Martinovic. “I think we all played really tough matches today and although not all of us did as well as we wanted to, we all learned a lot of things.”

SIMON SAYS: Hun School quarterback Simon Vadas lets a pass fly last Thursday against the Germantown Academy (Pa.). Junior transfer Vadas hit 13-of-18 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the contest to help Hun roll to a 42-21 win over the Patriots. The Raiders, now 2-1, host Blair Academy on October 11.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SIMON SAYS: Hun School quarterback Simon Vadas lets a pass fly last Thursday against the Germantown Academy (Pa.). Junior transfer Vadas hit 13-of-18 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the contest to help Hun roll to a 42-21 win over the Patriots. The Raiders, now 2-1, host Blair Academy on October 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It didn’t take long for Simon Vadas to develop a comfort level as he joined the Hun School football team this season.

“It has been very smooth, the people here are wonderful,” said quarterback Vadas, a junior transfer from Hunting Valley, Ohio.

“Coming out here for preseason made it really easy because you meet a lot of the guys. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms so it has been very easy. We hit some bumps in preseason but we bulldozed right through those. You can tell on the field that we are all friends. There is nobody that doesn’t jell.”

Vadas has jelled quickly with his receivers and backs. “It is awesome; I have been at different high schools and this is by far the most talent I have had on a team,” said Vadas. “It is just nice to have anybody to go to on the field.”

Last Thursday, Vadas and the Raiders put their talent on display as they rolled to a 42-21 win over Germantown Academy (Pa.) and improved to 2-1. Vadas hit on 13-of-18 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Chris Sharp rushed for 122 yards and four touchdowns while Donavon Harris and Julian Williams each hauled in touchdown receptions.

While Hun got off to a sluggish start as the game was knotted at 0-0 after the first quarter, the Raiders got into a rhythm, turning the contest into a rout.

“We knew we weren’t playing to our full potential so to pull away it was like we were reaching our full potential,” said the 6’2, 175-pound Vadas. “Everybody was fired up when we started to pull away.”

In the wake of a tough 34-7 loss to Poly Prep on September 27, the Raiders were fired up to get back into the win column.

“Coming back from last week was tough, only having two days of practice,” said Vadas. “We really had to get to it in those two days so I think we came out here a little bit slow but we picked it up.”

Vadas has already picked up a lot from Hun head coach Todd Smith. “I knew what I was getting myself into; I knew his personality because we sat down and talked this summer,” said Vadas.

“He is surprising me on a day to day basis with how much he knows about the game and how good he is with the team. He is a team coach; he is a good guy.”

Hun head coach Todd Smith liked the way his team closed the deal against Germantown.

“At halftime, if they had come out scared that would have been a totally different game,” said Smith, whose squad led 28-14 at half and then stretched its advantage to 42-14 by late in the third quarter. “We put two on them in the third quarter, which gave us some breathing room.”

Despite the rout, Smith sees plenty of room for improvement. “It was just like with Poly, it wasn’t the other team stopping us, it was ourselves stopping us,” said Smith.

“Whether it was a penalty or a mental error, we need to clean that up. I think once we play our first complete football game, it could be a pretty great experience for these kids but we are not there yet.”

In Smith’s view, Vadas cleaned up against Germantown. “Simon bounced back great from the Poly game, he took charge of it,” said Smith.

“He is starting to get it, you are seeing things click inside his head. I am real happy with the way he played.”

As Hun starts its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) campaign by hosting Blair Academy on October 11, Smith is hoping his team can click on all cylinders.

“Our goal is to win the MAPL championship,” said Smith. “It starts this week with a pretty good Blair team that is going to come back and try to bounce back from their loss to Germantown. It is our alumni weekend so we are excited.”

Vadas, for his part, is excited to take on Blair. “We have to prepare for them, because they are a good football team,” said Vadas. “We are coming in steamrolling.”

COURT CHATTER: Hun School girls’ tennis head coach Cheryl Beal, left, consults with her second doubles team of Nina Yao (center) and Olivia Hartman last week at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). New head coach Beal guided Hun to sixth of 18 schools in the team standings at the MCT. The pair of Yao and Hartman took fourth in their flight at the event.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COURT CHATTER: Hun School girls’ tennis head coach Cheryl Beal, left, consults with her second doubles team of Nina Yao (center) and Olivia Hartman last week at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). New head coach Beal guided Hun to sixth of 18 schools in the team standings at the MCT. The pair of Yao and Hartman took fourth in their flight at the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Taking the helm of the Hun School girls’ tennis team this fall has given Cheryl Beal the chance to indulge in another aspect of her current sporting passion.

“This is my adult sport, so this is thrilling to me,” said Beal, who starred in field hockey, basketball, and softball at Hun in the 1970s on her way to making the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I get a chance now to work on the stuff that I do on a daily basis in my own game. I do a lot of drills. I play four or five times a week, I do a lot of USTA competitions. I used to coach softball, field hockey, and basketball because I did all of those in high school.”

Beal has focused on developing her players’ inner game along with their strokes.

“I work a lot on the mental aspect,” said Beal, who is following longtime head coach Joan Nuse, a Hun Hall of Fame inductee this past spring for her success in guiding the program. “They are young, it is getting them to fight through things.”

Last week, the Raiders fought hard in taking sixth of 18 schools at the Mercer County Tournament.

“I am thrilled with our performance here; all the girls won their first round matches,” said Beal, reflecting on the team’s overall effort at the MCT.

“Obviously, there are things that we need to work on but I am very excited to be working with girls who want to win.”

The second doubles team of Olivia Hartman and Nina Yao picked up some big wins on the way to taking fourth in their flight at the MCT.

“They have been our winningest team this fall,” said Beal. “I think they have learned to get over the negativity when they get down. Their styles complement each other. Olivia has the really deep groundstrokes and Nina is really great at the net and putting stuff away. Olivia sets her up and Nina puts it away. It is awesome.”

In Beal’s view, her players gained some great experience from competing in the MCT.

“This gets us a little more match savvy,” said Beal. “I think it is the first time in a long time where all the girls won their first match. I think that is something we can bring forward for confidence.”

Beal is confident that Hun can get better and better as the season goes on.

“There is so much talent and they are a very cohesive team,” said Beal, who also teaches English at Hun.

“I feel like going forward we need to get some of the singles down; getting a little more mentally tough, especially in those close matches.”

The singles lineup of Paige Braithwaite, Steph Taylor, and Tali Prozmenter is starting to round into form.

“Paige, our No. 1, is young,” added Beal, whose team edged Moorestown Friends 3-2 last Thursday and plays at South Brunswick on October 9 before hosting Blair Academy on October 11.

“She has won some and has played some really, really tough opponents. Steph is our No. 2, she was No. 1 last year. She is awesome; she is so tough. Tali played a lot in the summer and improved her game and earned the third singles spot.”

In reflecting on her debut campaign as head coach, Beal feels she is in a great spot.

“They support me, I support them,” said Beal. “I tell them everyday that hopefully they know I appreciate them as much as they appreciate me.”

Hosting cross-town rival Princeton Day School last week, the Hun School boys’ soccer team got off to a sluggish start.

Failing to maintain consistent possession of the ball, Hun found itself trailing the Panthers 1-0 at halftime.

At intermission, the Hun players trudged to one corner of the field and sat in a circle as Raider head coach Pat Quirk looked to light a fire under the squad.

Playing with more urgency after the break, Hun drew even in the first minute of the second half as Jacob Keller found the back of the net.

“We said at halftime that we wanted to put them under pressure,” said Quirk. “We did that and that led to our goal.”

But the Raiders found themselves under pressure minutes later and surrendered a goal to PDS, which turned out to be the decisive tally as Hun fell 2-1.

“We got excited after the goal but we couldn’t sustain it,” lamented Quirk. “We were just talking to the guys about giving it their all. I think we have some guys taking some plays off and that is hurting us at times.”

Although taking on some tough teams in the early going has hurt Hun’s record in the short term, Quirk thinks the team will benefit from that experience.

“We had three Inter-AC (Inter-Academic League) schools, Haverford (Pa.), Germantown Academy (Pa.), and Chestnut Hill (Pa.), and Pennington,” said Quirk, whose team went 0-4 in that stretch, getting outscored 23-0.

“I think it helps us as we get into the tournaments. It didn’t help that we played them with a couple of injuries and guys missing each game. We haven’t had a complete team in a few weeks now. We are still trying to fill some holes.”

Although Hun didn’t play a complete game against PDS, Quirk saw progress.

“We did some good things,” said Quirk of his squad which fell 2-1 to the George School (Pa.) last Thursday in dropping to 2-6 and is slated to host Life Center on October 9 and Blair Academy on October 11.

“We had some moments where we possessed the ball well, which is what we practice everyday and now we are trying to get it to translate from practice to a game. We haven’t quite got there yet. We are going to have to outwork teams.”

October 1, 2014
BEAM OF LIGHT: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to throw a pass in a game last fall. This past Saturday, junior Beamer passed for 273 yards and four touchdowns as PHS edged Hightstown 36-29 to improve to 3-0. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Lawrence High (2-0) on October 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEAM OF LIGHT: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to throw a pass in a game last fall. This past Saturday, junior Beamer passed for 273 yards and four touchdowns as PHS edged Hightstown 36-29 to improve to 3-0. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Lawrence High (2-0) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although the Princeton High football team had won its first two games this fall, junior quarterback Dave Beamer hadn’t gotten into a groove yet with his passing game.

“I was talking to the coaching staff and we said we are trying to get him to have that breakout game,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher of Beamer.

As the Little Tigers played at Hightstown last Saturday afternoon, Beamer wasn’t on target in the early stages of the contest. “He didn’t start out great, I think he was 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 on his first few passes,” recalled Gallagher.

But with PHS trailing 8-0, Beamer found Rory Helstrom for a touchdown and some great things ensued from that point as he passed for 273 yards and three more TDs to help the Little Tigers pull out a 36-29 thriller.

“He connected with Rory on our first touchdown; I think that was his first completion,” said Gallagher, reflecting on a performance which saw Beamer go on to hit scoring strikes of 80 yards to Helstrom, 19 yards to Jack Cook, and 8 yards to Nick Fliss, the last of which broke a 29-29 tie in the fourth quarter.

“He was about 50 percent on his completions (10-for-21) which was great. On the 80-yarder to Rory in the second quarter, he took a huge hit. He had to throw it over their defender and he did a really good job getting it to Rory.”

The Little Tigers certainly needed Beamer’s breakout day as the contest turned into a shootout that saw five lead changes.

“We knew they had weapons and we have weapons,” said Gallagher. “It was 21-15 at half and I said to the guys I thought we need to get three more touchdowns to win the way the game was going. It was a slugfest, both Hightstown and PHS were throwing haymakers.”

As has been the case all season, junior star Rory Helstrom proved to be a lethal weapon for the Little Tigers, scoring two touchdowns on pass receptions and rushing for a third TD.

“Rory had five receptions for 170 yards, rushed for around 60 and had some good kick returns,” said Gallagher.

“He went down after his last TD, he was dehydrated and had cramps. With all of the things he can do, you just hope you get one of those guys. He’s that player for us.”

Senior inside linebacker and back-up running back Smallzman is also a special player for the Little Tigers.

“Sam Smallzman came in for Rory at running back on that last drive and we fed him the ball,” said Gallagher. “We gave it to him six times in a row right up the middle and we ran out the clock.”

Coming on the heels of a 0-10 campaign last fall, PHS’s 3-0 run to start the season has been heartening for Gallagher.

“To say I am proud of the guys would be an understatement,” said Gallagher, who is in his second year at the helm of the program.

“You don’t get to do this every year. I think the last time we were 3-0 was in 2009 when we went to the playoffs. To be 3-0 is special where we are coming from.”

While Gallagher is proud of his team’s record, he doesn’t want his players to get ahead of themselves.

“We are going to take it one game at time,” said Gallagher. “I think the kids are really selling out. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on them but Hightstown was a huge game. It was a division game, a group game, and I told the kids that is a game we have to win. We are in the thick of things. The kids are excited and we are in a rhythm.”

With PHS hosting Lawrence on October 2 in a short turnaround from Saturday, the focus is on maintaining the winning rhythm.

“Lawrence is a brand new team from last year with a new coach, they are 2-0 and they had a bye last week,” said Gallagher.

“We have to take a lot of mental reps this week. The guys need to get their rest. We want to keep the kids healthy and fresh. We want them to come out Thursday, ready to jump out again. We want to keep playing and keep winning.”

ON THE SAME PAIGE: Princeton High girls’ country runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a 2013 race. Last week, senior Metzheiser took seventh in a meet at Mercer County Park, helping PHS to wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. On Saturday, Metzheiser placed 24th as PHS finished third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers race against Allentown on October 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE SAME PAIGE: Princeton High girls’ country runner Paige Metzheiser heads to the finish line in a 2013 race. Last week, senior Metzheiser took seventh in a meet at Mercer County Park, helping PHS to wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. On Saturday, Metzheiser placed 24th as PHS finished third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers race against Allentown on October 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High girls’ cross country team, the goal this fall is to reach a higher level of competitiveness.

“We are trying to extend ourselves, we have shown that we can run tough,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“We have reacted in races; now we want to create a situation where we are changing races. Every time we lace them up, it is about how are we going to get better as athletes and competitors, not just physically, but mentally.”

PHS got better last week as it dominated a meet at Mercer County Park, placing five in the top nine in posting wins over Hamilton and Robbinsville. Junior Emma Eikelberner led the way for PHS, placing second in a time of 18:50 over the 5,000-meter course. Senior Julie Bond was next in third with senior Paige Metzheiser taking seventh, senior Mary Sutton finishing eighth, and junior Lou Mialhe coming in ninth.

In Smirk’s view, Eikelberner has made a lot of progress, physically and mentally.

“Emma ran a 29-minute 5k as a freshman so she has earned every second off of her time,” said Smirk.

“She is learning how to fill the role of being a top runner. In the spring she had a breakthrough and she put in a lot of work over the summer.”

Senior Bond has worked on remaining injury free. “She looks great, we shut her down early in the spring so she would be ready for cross country,” said Smirk

“That is the season she likes the best, we said the day after track was the first day of pre-training for cross country. She ran much better this week than last week, we know she can be a stellar runner for us.”

Metzheiser produced a stellar effort in the meet last week. “She is one of the girls whose skill set we are trying to broaden,” said Smirk.

“She has been sitting in the middle of the pack and grinding it out. We want her to get leadership options and not just be part of the pack. She is going to be challenged. With her 800 pedigree, she can get out of her depth against more experienced runners who have some tricks.”

PHS is relying on the experience of Sutton and Mialhe to make a difference as the fall unfolds.

“They are definitely tested,” said Smirk. “They know what they need to do from here on out.”

The trio of Sarah Klebanov, Sophia Zahn, and Izzy Trenholm are figuring out what they need to do on the varsity level.

“Sarah is kid who had been dancing around the edge of the varsity, spring track didn’t shake out well for her,” said Smirk.

“She worked to rebuild herself this summer; she is exciting to watch. She shook two girls off from HoVal in the meet in the last ¼ mile, she uncorked a great kick. Sophia has been dancing around the varsity too. Izzy is a sophomore; we are looking for her to move up. She is still pretty raw, last year was her first year. She is growing into it and what it means to be a varsity athlete.”

Smirk believes his team has the depth to do well in championship meets.

“One of the things we have prided ourselves on is having the best 5,6,7 when we get to the state meets,” said Smirk, whose team races against Allentown on October 1 as it prepares for the county meet later this month.

“We believe in the importance of every single runner in the line. Even if they don’t beat someone’s No. 5, they are providing the drive from the back.”

The squad is driven to do some special things this fall. “They are going to go after it; we know there are tough teams out there,” said Smirk, whose team took third in the Varsity 2 division at the Bowdoin Cross Country Classic in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., last Saturday, led by Sutton in 11th place and Bond in 20th.

“We have always raced well as a group, now it is more about taking advantage of each other’s strengths and racing together to create a competitive dynamic.”

FRONT ROW: Princeton Day School field hockey player Rowan Schomburg gets in position near the goal in recent action. Last week, junior star Schomburg tallied a goal and two assists as PDS topped Hun 4-0. The Panthers, now 2-6, play at Lawrenceville on October 1 and at Pennington on October 6 before hosting Princeton High on October 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRONT ROW: Princeton Day School field hockey player Rowan Schomburg gets in position near the goal in recent action. Last week, junior star Schomburg tallied a goal and two assists as PDS topped Hun 4-0. The Panthers, now 2-6, play at Lawrenceville on October 1 and at Pennington on October 6 before hosting Princeton High on October 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last fall, Rowan Schomburg deferred to the senior stars on the Princeton Day School field hockey team as they carried the offensive load for the Panthers.

But after being a member of the supporting cast of a team led by the graduated Sarah Brennan, Emma Quigley, Mary Travers, and Emily Goldman, Schomburg has been thrust into a leading role as a junior in 2014.

“The seniors put a lot of pressure on us juniors this year and I put a lot of pressure on myself, said Schomburg.

“I want to be a good role model for the underclassmen. I try to give them the best opportunities that I can. Whether that is working with Elizabeth [Brennan] in the midfield or anyone on offense, I try to make them look good.”

Last week against visiting Hun, Schomburg made the PDS attack look very good, contributing a goal and two assists as the Panthers pulled away to a 4-0 triumph.

With PDS having lost three straight games by a combined score of 11-2 coming into the September 23 contest, the Panthers were determined to right the ship.

“We wanted to play a full 60 minutes really strong so our mindset was transitions and finishing, which we have had trouble with a little bit,” said Schomburg.

“Possession was really key in this game, we really tried to focus on passing to a player rather than to a space. I think we improved on that and we are hoping to improve on that even more in upcoming games.”

Despite controlling possession from the outset, it took PDS nearly 20 minutes to score as Schomburg set up Brennan for the first goal with 10:23 left in the first half.

“I was definitely looking forward to it, I knew it was coming,” said Schomburg. “I knew we would finish it strong but that was definitely a good starting point.”

In the waning seconds of the half, Schomburg got her goal, fighting through a scramble in the circle.

“I just saw the backboard; I didn’t see the goalie at all so I just pushed it into the net,” recalled Schomburg.

Despite leading 2-0 at half, PDS kept pushing to the final whistle. “We wanted to win the second half so even if they got a goal we wanted to come back and get another goal,” said Schomburg, who assisted on PDS’s third goal as Lauren Finley found the back of the cage with Madison Mundenar completing the scoring for the Panthers.

“We always wanted to stay on top and I think we did that. We came out of the gate really strong and I think we kept that intensity and energy all the way through the second half.”

PDS head coach Tracey Arndt liked the way her team played hard all the way to the final whistle against Hun.

“It is just a matter of consistency,” said Arndt. “I think we were just done with hanging our heads at the end of every game, knowing that we would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.”

In Arndt’s view, focusing on fundamentals helped pave the way to the win over the Raiders.

“We did have a few days of practice which was really nice,” said Arndt. “We really just broke it down and worked on some skills. We took some time to make sure that they look up before they pass so they just don’t get rid of it. We started to spread out a little more, both width and depth-wise. I think that helped us and just getting hungry. If you want to score, are you are going to get in and do what’s right.”

Schomburg is showing the right stuff for the Panthers this fall. “Rowan had the other girls around her last year so she played that supportive role,” said Arndt.

“Now that we have looked up to her from the beginning. She still wanted to play the supportive role but we said you are them. She gets it. She gets what it means to work hard, she gets what it means to be tenacious. She gets what it means to be a teammate, I think because of that she will do whatever she can to get her team to score. She is an absolute coach’s dream; she is really stepping up.”

Senior tri-captain Dana Poltorak provided some tenacity to the PDS attack. “We switched her forward in the second half, she really had some flow to her skill and some fluidity,” said Arndt.

“She just continued to fight. If she lost the ball, she got it right back. I think it’s a big thing for our forwards, we say you are the actual first line of defense. We can’t wait until it gets back to our defense. Our girls are really putting pressure on them and getting a lot of jabs in while the defense is heading down. Once you do that, your next line can step up.”

The PDS defense held the line in thwarting Hun. “We moved Katie Shih back there and she did a good job of stepping up,” said Arndt.

“Niki van Manen has been talking more and organizing the defense. Kyra Hall on the other side as a young player wasn’t necessarily as aggressive as she needs to be, although she was in practice. It is just a matter of pulling that out of here, she’s stepped up to a lot of cross balls which was really good. Kiely French plays very simple, we moved her over to one of the rushers on corners and I think it has really helped. Katie [Alden] is back there in goal really supporting the team.”

Arndt is hoping that the Panthers can keep up their aggressive play. “I sure hope so; they are working hard at practice,” said Arndt, whose team fell 3-2 to South Hunterdon last Monday to move to 2-6.

“All I am asking them to do is to stay consistent and work hard and walk off the field proud, whether it is a win or a loss. We’ll be fine with good attitudes and hard work.”

In Schomburg’s view, the win over Hun could be a turning point for the squad. “I think we really needed this,” said Schomburg. “This is a great starting point, it is really going to propel us forward.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Hannah Bunce chases down the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore Bunce scored the game-winning goal as PDS rallied to beat Germantown Academy (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, who topped Blair 3-1 on Saturday to improve to 5-2-1, play at Lawrenceville on October 2 before hosting Montclair Kimberley on October 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Hannah Bunce chases down the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore Bunce scored the game-winning goal as PDS rallied to beat Germantown Academy (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, who topped Blair 3-1 on Saturday to improve to 5-2-1, play at Lawrenceville on October 2 before hosting Montclair Kimberley on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hannah Bunce wasn’t fazed as the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team fell behind twice in the first half against visiting Germantown Academy (Pa.) last Friday.

“We definitely knew that they were going to be a tough challenge,” said sophomore Bunce, reflecting on the contest which saw PDS trailing 1-0 and 2-1.

“We focused. We worked hard, we kept going and we stayed positive and the next thing you know we were banging in one goal after another.”

The Panthers tied the game at 2-2 late in the first half and then Bunce banged in the biggest goal of the afternoon, tallying the game-winner with 3:02 left in regulation as PDS pulled out a 3-2 victory.

“I knew a goal would come,” said Bunce. “We kept working, we just had to be patient. I was a little nervous when the ball came to me. I just took a whack at it. I was thinking don’t miss.”

With a high school season under her belt, Bunce feels less nervous on the field this fall.

“As a freshman, I lacked a lot of confidence playing on varsity,” said Bunce.

“This year, I am a little more confident on the field, I know my place and the older girls help out with that.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta believes the dramatic win over Germantown should be a confidence builder for his squad. “We didn’t play a great first half but what we did is battled,” said Trombetta.

“We came from behind 1-0 and 2-1. At halftime we made a couple of adjustments. For us as a team, this is a special win because we needed a win against a real high caliber team to give them a boost of confidence. This goes a long way.”

Trombetta is seeing more confident play from Bunce. “We talked about crash the net, crash the net, and that’s how we won the game with a girl crashing the net,” said Trombetta, who also got goals from Abby Atkeson and Alexa Soltesz in the victory.

“We saw that keeper coming off her line a lot. She was very aggressive so we were hoping that we were going to beat her on a couple of those. Hannah was in the right place at the right time there, crashing the net. We moved Hannah from outside mid to up top this year; she is creating some opportunities. She has a left foot cannon on her. She takes the corner kick from that one side of the field as well and some of our free kicks. She has come along, she has adjusted to this new position. She is doing a great job.”

Freshman goalie Grace Barbara did a great job for the Panthers against Germantown, making 10 saves, including some leaping stops and a full-out dive late in regulation to deny Germantown. “Grace kept us in the game, she had a fantastic game,” asserted Trombetta.

In addition to scoring the first PDS goal of the afternoon, sophomore Abby Atkeson gave the Panther defense a big lift.

“We knew that No. 1 was a special player for them; she was the playmaker and she was beating us left and right in the first half,” said Trombetta.

“We put Abby on her and she did a great job of shutting her down. She blanketed her for the rest of the game. I think that made a big difference.”

In recent games, the PDS attack has been making a big difference. “All along we have been getting the opportunities but we haven’t been finishing but now we got four goals in the Peddie game and three goals in the Germantown Academy game,” said Trombetta, whose team took another step forward last Saturday, beating Blair 3-1 with a pair of goals by Alexa Soltesz and one by Allison Klei to improve to 5-2-1.

“I think things are starting to come together on the offensive end. Now we are starting to play as a team and finish our chances.”

Bunce, for her part, believes the win over Germantown is proof that things are coming together for the Panthers.

“We are getting our thing going,” said Bunce. “It was definitely a confidence builder; they were a good team.”

While the Princeton Day School cross country program doesn’t boast strength in numbers, it does feature some high quality runners.

As the PDS boys’ squad defeated visiting Pennington 24-35 last week, Panther sophomore Ian Moini set the pace, covering the 5,000-meter course in 16:35, more than a minute better than runner-up Ryan Rizzuto of Pennington (17:40).

PDS head coach Merrell Noden wasn’t surprised that Moini cruised to victory.

“Ian is on his way to becoming the best runner in PDS history; he is a year older, that is part of it,” said Noden, noting that Moini went to cross country camps this summer in Indiana and at Princeton University.

“He is more focused and more intense. He wants to do everything hard and fast. I want him to do a long run of 70 minutes each week and he comes back after a hard 40 minute run. He ran 17:08 twice last year. He did 16:50 at the Newark Academy Invitational earlier this season. I think he can get down to the low 16s this year.”

Sophomore Kevin Sun is coming on fast for the Panthers. “Kevin had never run before this year; he is an incredible workhorse,” said Noden.

“Without knowing what he was doing, he was running 60 miles a week this summer. He has run only four races in his life to this point. We finish practice and he wants to go out and run another 20 minutes; he always adds to whatever we are doing.”

PDS is getting good work from the trio of junior Nick Chen, junior Peter Klein, and freshman Tommy Batterman.

“Nick Chen is a steady guy for us; he was under 20 for us last year,” said Noden.

“Peter Klein is a good looking runner for us, he is showing steady improvement. Tommy Batterman has been fourth, fifth, or sixth for us in every race; we expect him to keep improving.”

As for the girls’ team, Noden is expecting big things from sophomore Morgan Mills.

“Like Ian with the boys, Morgan is on her way to being the best girl runner ever at PDS,” said Noden of Mills who posted a time of 20:29 in placing first as the Panther girls defeated Pennington 23-32.

“She insists on training with the boys. She ran a 20:08 last year against New Hope, that is the best time ever for a PDS girl. I think she can get in the mid 19s.”

Noden believes that junior Emma Sharer can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“Emma is a smooth and efficient runner,” added Noden. “She has started slowly but I expect her to improve and get to where she was last year when she helped the girls’ team to its first medalist performance at the prep meet.”

Freshman Bridget Kane has been a big help so far this fall. “I didn’t know her before she showed up this summer,” said Noden, noting that senior captain Emma Kaplan is currently sidelined by injury but could return later this fall. “She was instantly able to run with our top girls. She has been third for us in every meet.”

ONE TO WATCH: Hun School field hockey player Julie Fassl looks for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Fassl scored a goal to help Hun beat the George School 4-2 and improve to 3-3. The Raiders host Steinert on October 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ONE TO WATCH: Hun School field hockey player Julie Fassl looks for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore Fassl scored a goal to help Hun beat the George School 4-2 and improve to 3-3. The Raiders host Steinert on October 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into last week, the Hun School field hockey team appeared to be on the right track.

The Raiders had won two of their last three games, including an impressive 2-0 victory over WW/P-S on September 20.

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk was happy with the way things were going. “Oh definitely, we were making progress,” said Quirk in assessing her team’s 2-2 start.

But the Raiders took a step backward when they played at the Princeton Day School on September 23, falling 4-0 to the Panthers.

“We didn’t come ready to play today, it was very
obvious,” said Quirk.

“They pounded and pounded away at the goalie and we took one shot and stood and watched. We just couldn’t seem to capitalize today. We had too many long passes go out that normally we run and get. Their goalie [Katie Alden] played a nice game.”

Hun has been getting some nice play from the trio of seniors Vicki Leach and Julia Blake along with sophomore Julie Fassl as all three had produced in Hun’s previous three games with Leach tallying two goals and two assists in that stretch and Blake chipping in two goals and an assist, and Fassl contributing a goal and two assists.

“Leach and Fassl have been bright spots, so has Julia Blake,” said Quirk, who got a 20-save effort from senior goalie Reina Kern in the loss to PDS.

With the Hun program having shown a penchant for late-season surges in recent years, Quirk believes her squad can get back on the winning track.

“We have to change our attitudes a little,” said Quirk, whose team topped the George School (Pa.) 4-2 last Saturday with goals by Maura Kelly, Julia Revock along with Blake and Fassl as it improved to 3-3.

“We just have to get more aggressive. We have to look up before we pass. We need to work on confidence.”

September 24, 2014
PILING ON: Princeton High linebacker Sam Smallzman flies on top of the pile as PHS stymies Ewing last Friday on its way to a 7-0 win over the Blue Devils. Senior star Smallzman contributed a fumble recovery and game-sealing interception along with a slew of tackles as the Little Tigers improved to 2-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Hightstown on September 27.(Photo by John Dowers)

PILING ON: Princeton High linebacker Sam Smallzman flies on top of the pile as PHS stymies Ewing last Friday on its way to a 7-0 win over the Blue Devils. Senior star Smallzman contributed a fumble recovery and game-sealing interception along with a slew of tackles as the Little Tigers improved to 2-0. PHS will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Hightstown on September 27. (Photo by John Dowers)

With Harris Field packed last Friday evening as the Princeton High football team played under lights specially brought in for Homecoming festivities, the school’s studio band got the fans on their feet with a spirited halftime rendition of the Supremes’ classic “Respect.”

The crowd kept cheering all night long as PHS earned a large dose of respect, stifling Ewing en route to a hard-earned 7-0 win.

It was the second straight victory for the Little Tigers, who have emerged as one of the pleasant surprises of the fall, bouncing back from a 0-10 campaign in 2013.

Afterward, a beaming senior linebacker Sam Smallzman said he and his teammates fed off the festive atmosphere of the throng estimated at 2,000.

“It was great, the whole school was here,” said Smallzman. “It was the first game under the lights ever at PHS. It was a great feeling to give our fans that. It was great to have them support us.”

For Smallzman, it was an especially great moment, considering that he was sidelined early last season with an ACL and meniscus injury.

“I worked all off season,” said Smallzman. “My teammates pushed me and believed in me to get back. I am doing what I can for them.”

On Friday, Smallzman did quite a lot for the Little Tigers, making a slew of tackles, recovering a fumble in the third quarter, and coming up with an interception in the last minute of regulation to seal the victory.

While Smallzman stood out, the defensive performance was definitely a group effort.

“Coach Goldy [defensive coordinator Scott Goldsmith] does a great job of making sure that we all have fun,” said Smallzman.

“We are really getting after it, swarming, and communicating. We have a great group of guys; we all trust each other to lock it down. It was just no big plays, everyone swarm, wrap up, and communicate. I think we did a great job.”

Smallzman has a big job as the team’s defensive signal caller. “I call the plays but it is really everybody,” said Smallzman. “There is no one guy who does it all. It was great to get a shutout.”

Smallzman won’t soon forget getting the game-clinching play on the late interception.

“I was missing them earlier in the game, I had one that hit me in the hands,” said Smallzman. “I read the QB, I jumped it, and the rest is history.”

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher liked the way his defensive unit jumped all over the Blue Devils.

“We tried to put together a great defensive scheme,” said Gallagher.

“Coach Goldsmith, our d-coordinator, is doing a great job. We are firing on all cylinders. It was a great total team effort from the front line of the defense to the backers to the defensive backs. They are all making plays.”

The Little Tigers got a special effort from Smallzman. “He is a beast in the middle, we love him,” asserted Gallagher.

“He is the heart and soul but at the same time he is one of several guys this year. Last year, there weren’t as many guys out there. There were one or two guys trying to carry the load. We have other great players out there who are filling everything that needs to be filled to win football games because you just can’t do it with two or three kids.”

The Little Tigers were thrilled to get a second straight win to start the season.

“I think they say the hardest part about being 1-0 is getting to be 2-0,” said Gallagher, whose offense came through when it counted as junior star Rory Helstrom scored the lone touchdown of the night on an 11-yard run in the third quarter after PHS got the ball deep in Ewing territory on a botched fake punt by the Blue Devils.

“It is a big confidence boost. Getting that first win gave us confidence. I felt good this week. I was a little bit nervous about feeling good and confident; I haven’t had that feeling too often. But now we are 2-0. We are just going to take it one a game at a time. We have got a strong Hightstown team next week.”

Gallagher felt his team drew strength last Friday from the standing-room only crowd on hand at Harris Field.

“Without a doubt, to come out here and see the entire stands filled, what a great atmosphere,” said Gallagher.

“Thanks to the PTO and the football booster club because this wasn’t cheap. They did a great job of helping the PHS football program out and putting on a great event.”

Smallzman is hoping for some more great moments in the upcoming weeks. “We are just taking it game by game,” said Smallzman.

“We beat Hamilton West and as soon as that was over, we moved on, and focused on Ewing. The same goes for this week. We will watch a little film and move on and start getting ready for next week.”