October 30, 2013
FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High field hockey team didn’t produce its best effort when it played Hopewell Valley in mid-September.

Coming out flat offensively, PHS dug a 2-0 hole on the way to a 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs.

When the teams met in a rematch last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, the Little Tigers gave extra effort from the opening whistle, battling HoVal tooth-and-nail all over the field.

After teams fought to a scoreless draw in the first half at Mercer County Community College, PHS turned up the heat after intermission on the chilly evening, controlling possession and generating several good scoring chances.

Neither team, however, was able to break through and the game headed into overtime.

PHS head coach Heather Serverson had a good feeling as her team got ready for the extra session.

“I think it really got the girls’ intensity and energy up,” said Serverson. “I think they had a great talk about specific things to do like quick passing and less dribbling and getting the ball in behind their defense.”

During the 20 minutes of overtime, PHS made several forays into the HoVal defensive end but couldn’t hit the back of the cage and the game was decided on strokes. The Bulldogs managed to convert three strokes to PHS’s one in order to survive and advance to the MCT title game.

With her players walking away teary-eyed from the MCCC field, Serverson lauded their effort.

“I think they played a great game, they played as well as they could,” said Serverson, whose team moved to 12-4-1 with the setback. “They left it all out on the field, I don’t think there is one more thing that they could have done.”

Serverson tipped her hat to HoVal and its play. “It is just tough to get through their defense, they were double and triple teaming us,” lamented Serverson. “It was just little things they took advantage of to win the game. You have to be prepared for everything at this level and they were better prepared.”

PHS got high-level play all evening long from junior Lucy Herring and senior Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“I think Emilia and Lucy really stood out,” asserted Serverson. “Lucy has been playing some great offense and defense all at the same time. Emilia is Emilia, she is a competitor.”

In Serverson’s view, her team’s effort in the MCT should serve it well as it competes in the upcoming state tournament.

“I said to the girls if you don’t learn from a loss it wasn’t worth it,” said Serverson, whose team was seeded fifth in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. “Hopefully we learn from it and we are able to move on.”

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conor Donahue wasn’t just racing against his foes when he competed last Friday in the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park.

“I didn’t run too well when we came here for the dual meet,” said Princeton High senior Donahue.

“After the dual meet, I talked to coach [Mark] Shelley and asked him when is the next time we are doing the Washington Crossing because I really want to work on this, this, and this. We did a really good run here with 800 meter repeats on the hill. I think I found out more about the course. Before I had this mentally if I was in a race here, oh it is this course again.”

Donahue’s hard work paid dividends on Friday as he placed ninth overall in a time of 16:21 over the 3.1 mile course.

“I am extremely happy,” said Donahue. “I finally beat the course. With the workouts we did here, I was able to put that aside and work through everything.”

Sparked by Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S,  runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.

For Donahue, running with junior teammate Jacob Rist, the 16th-place finisher on Friday, kept him in contact with the front pack.

“It helps so much,” said Donahue. “Jacob did well today. I think he wanted to do better but he is having some problems with his Achilles heel right now. He is great. Every single dual meet, we have had, when were together, we have been able to pull off countless strategies. We work together very well.”

Over the last quarter-mile, Donahue produced a blistering sprint to pull away from Rist and get himself up into the Top 10.

“I love kicking; I picked off a couple of guys,” said Donahue, who won the 1,600-meter run last spring in the Mercer County Track Championships.

“I was working on that last stretch before the final straightaway because I think that is where I failed in my past races so I passed a couple of guys there and I passed a guy near the end. I am happy with that.”

Donahue is happy to assume a leadership role in his final campaign with the Little Tigers.

“First there is organizing the guys which is fun,” said Donahue. “I would like to think that when I am working hard and the younger guys see that, they get influenced by that hard work. I know that happened to me when I was going through my sophomore year, I looked up to the older guys, I saw how hard I am working.”

In excelling so far in his final cross country campaign, Donahue has combined racing savvy with work ethic.

“I always have worked hard, it is experience,” said Donahue. “I am just seeing the results. One of my favorite things about running is when you work hard and you see the results of hard work directly in the race.”

In Donahue’s view, the Little Tigers have the potential to get a good result at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe.

“I think we are a contender for the Group III state championship,” said Donahue.

“If we get everybody together. I am starting to see some clear lines. I think we have a really good chance.”

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place  with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Even though she is just a sophomore, Lou Mialhe has emerged as the frontrunner this fall for the Princeton High girls’ cross country team

“It is lovely; it feels great,” said Mialhe, reflecting being at the front of the PHS pack. “I feel kind of like a role model. It is the first time I have ever felt that.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, Mialhe
handled her leading role well, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually.

Paced by Mialhe, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Mialhe for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th, and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.

On one hand, Mialhe was pleased with her effort. “Timewise I am happy,” said Mialhe. “I wanted to break 20 and I did.”

But befitting her status as a team leader for PHS, Mialhe wasn’t satisfied with her place.

“I was shooting to beat at least two South (WW/P-S) girls, I didn’t quite accomplish that,” lamented Mialhe.

“I let them go at the very beginning and I wasn’t able to catch up. I ran with the fourth South girl for half of the second lap. She got me up on that hill so I was behind all four South girls.”

Mialhe acknowledged that she is still working on developing her mental toughness.

“I am not confident enough in myself which is what coach [Jim] Smirk says as well,” said Mialhe.

“He thinks that since I am younger, I am not confident enough in myself to push harder and go to the top of my ability. He says I should be more confident. I need to improve my mental approach.”

With the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe, Mialhe is confident that PHS can produce a top performance there.

“I think we really need to run as a pack; our top three or four runners really need to stick together,” said Mialhe.

“We need to really learn to push each other together. I thought it would come faster but obviously it takes a lot more work; it should be coming soon. I am waiting for us to get that mental strength.”

As Princeton Day School runner Ian Moini competed in the freshman race at the Mercer County Championships last Friday, he enlisted an unlikely partner in crime.

Moini found himself in lockstep with the Hun School’s Alex Ill at the front of the pack at the Washington Crossing State Park course.

“I knew the guy from Hun,” said Moini, referring to Ill. “We were pacing together. We were looking to run the race smart. We were running as a team. In the backwoods, we said we are going to take over now.”

Coming down the stretch, the pair staged a mano a mano battle for the title as they sprinted to the line. Ill edged Moini out by an eyelash, clocking a 17:30.16 over the 3.1-mile course with Moini coming in at 17:30.41.

Knowing that he gave everything he had, Moini was able to live with the narrow defeat.

“With that sprint, it is just whoever got there,” said Moini. “We were within 0.5 seconds of each other so it is not really a big deal getting second place. I am not disappointed with that.”

Moini was joined at the top in the freshman race by classmate Sam Noden, who took fifth. A depleted boys’ varsity team took 18th in that race while the PDS girls’ varsity team placed ninth in their competition. Freshman Morgan Mills set the pace for the Panther girls’ team, taking 35th individually in 20:59 with senior Abby Sharer placing 45th and senior Liz Gudgel finishing 49th.

Moini acknowledged that he might have taken first if he had started his kick earlier.

“Alex was a little bit winded by the hill; I have been training hills all summer so I was ready for the hill,” said Moini.

“If I had started the kick as I got out of the hill and got 10 yards on him, I probably could have been able to win. Being in the top two and both of us being from private schools, that is really good.”

For Moini, his running career took off at another local private school, the Chapin School.

“I started in seventh grade at the Chapin School,” said Moini. “I didn’t like it right away, I didn’t start liking it until eighth grade. I had always run around 6:30 a mile and in this first race there was a kid who had won Junior Olympics the year before. I went out and beat him. I ran a 5:55 and it was the fastest I had ever done. I went on that year to run a 5:34 which was my fastest. Last year I got second for my age group at the New Jersey Junior Olympics. I have all the records at the Chapin School for running.”

Adjusting to high school competition, Moini has proved to be a fast study. “I am very happy,” said Moini.

“Sam Noden and I have been training together all year. I had two injuries and I am wearing an ankle brace. I missed some races because of that. My first race back was the Newark race and I ran my second fastest time all year.”

Buoyed by his good showing last Friday, Moini is hoping to end the season with a bang as PDS competes in the state Prep B championship meet on October 30 at the Blair Academy.

“We are looking forward to the preps; it is a tough course,” said Moini. “This is more than looking for a time as a freshman. I think that this is more about getting a top 10.”

SERVING UP A REPEAT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Renee Karchere-Sun pounds a serve in recent action. Last week, sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles to help PDS repeat as state Prep B champions. The Panthers got individual Prep B crowns from junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SERVING UP A REPEAT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Renee Karchere-Sun pounds a serve in recent action. Last week, sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles to help PDS repeat as state Prep B champions. The Panthers got individual Prep B crowns from junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ed Tseng knew that his Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team faced a major challenge in its bid to win a second consecutive state Prep B title.

“One of the things that make it hard to repeat is that there are a lot of good teams and players out there,” said PDS head coach Tseng.

“You are facing the unknown and that can be scary. The girls were excited. I thought we had a good chance if we played pretty well and gave a good effort.”

Gill St. Bernard’s put a scare into PDS as the two teams were tied for first place coming into the championship round last Thursday.

“I was glad to see us do well on Sunday,” said Tseng, whose team advanced to the finals in four of the five flights of the event.

“We were tied with Gill for first although I would have like to have been in the lead. We knew we had to come out on Thursday and play well.”

The PDS players were anxious about their prospects as they headed into the last day of the competition.

“I was getting all the questions from them about how many wins did we need to get the title,” said Tseng.

“I told them there were so many different combinations that they just need to go out and play a good match and see where the numbers fall.”

The numbers ended falling PDS’s way as the Panthers tallied 11 points to Gill’s 10 in winning their second straight Prep B crown.

Wins by junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles made the difference for PDS. Martinovic topped Sharon Jin of Gill 6-2, 6-0 while Dyckman defeated Stephanie Fuentes 6-3, 7-5.

“Maria and Emily were on courts right next to each other so I was able to watch them both,” recalled Tseng.

“They both got off to similar leads. I think Maria had some confidence going into the second set; she got into a zone. Emily was up 5-4 and serving for the match but lost that game. She is a fiery player and she was able to win those final two games to get the win.”

PDS got some fiery play in defeat on Thursday as first singles player Renee Karchere-Sun fell to Krishna Patel of Gill, 6-1, 7-5 while the second doubles team of Hope Boozan and Touria Salvati lost in three sets, as Nikita Isrania and Caroline Friezo of Montclair Kimberley prevailed 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.

“Renee had chances to pull out that second set but the Gill player was able to win it,” said Tseng.

“If it had gone to a third set, anything could have happened. The second doubles won the first set and then lost the second. I think they were deflated coming into the third.”

At the end of the day, though, everyone on the PDS squad was pumped up. “Once we won, it was awesome,” said Tseng.

“It is great to see Maria and Emily win individual titles but it is so much more special to win as a team. Samantha Asch [former PDS star and current Wake Forest player] won a lot of individual titles but she said she enjoyed the team titles a lot more. It was a good show of mental toughness, going into the final day we were tied and anything could happen. They need to give a full effort and they did that.”

In Tseng’s view, an all-for-one and one-for-all attitude helped pave the way to victory.

“I think one quality that made this team special is that we have a lot of players with experience, either in tournaments or for the school team,” said Tseng.

“They are used to pressure and playing in big matches. The more experienced players can help the younger players. The younger players bring a fresh approach and excitement and they help the team with that attitude. It is a nice big family. As a team, we would do anything for each other.”

TITLE SHOT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior star and Princeton University-bound Brennan scored two goals to help third-seeded PDS top No. 6 Newark Academy 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The win earned the Panthers, now 9-9, a berth in the Prep B semifinals where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE SHOT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior star and Princeton University-bound Brennan scored two goals to help third-seeded PDS top No. 6 Newark Academy 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The win earned the Panthers, now 9-9, a berth in the Prep B semifinals where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last year, Sarah Brennan has put in extra effort to make herself a better field hockey player.

“I play year round with Mystx club, they are based out of Feasterville, Pa.” said Brennan, a senior midfielder for Princeton Day School.

“Mrs. Reinprecht [club coach Tina Reinprecht] and Mrs. Arndt [PDS coach Tracey Arndt] said I needed to work on my ball control and my hit; those are the two things I worked really hard on in the off-season to try to get ready for this high school season. I am much more comfortable handling the ball and taking a leadership role on the team.”

Last Wednesday, Brennan showed her comfort level and skill, scoring two goals to spark third-seeded PDS to a 3-0 win over No. 6 Newark Academy in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament.

As Brennan and her teammates hit the field, they were determined to keep their season going.

“Our mindset was just to win; everyone was going to do whatever they could to win,” said Brennan, reflecting on the win which earned PDS a berth in the Prep B semis where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3.

“This could be the seniors’ last game on Smoyer. Winning was our only option basically.”

Brennan took matters into her hands, scoring off a penalty corner 2:15 into the game and then adding another tally late in the first half as PDS took a 2-0 lead into intermission.

“We have practiced corners a ton,” said Brennan. “Mrs. Arndt was practicing with me, Mary [Travers], and Emma [Quigley] a lot yesterday; it was insert, hit, insert, hit. It is just a routine. On the second goal, I had an open shot. You look at the black and you try to hit it.”

The Panthers tacked on their third and final goal when Quigley scored early in the second half as they improved to 9-9 and won their third straight game, outscoring their foes 11-0 in that stretch.

In Brennan’s view, the Panthers have been playing their best hockey of the season over the last week.

“We are all working as a team; there is not much individualistic work, there is more passing and give-and-goes,” said Brennan.

“We do know how to come from behind. We know we are never out of a game, we can always come back because we have been on both ends of it just in this season. We play until the final whistle.”

Brennan is going to be playing beyond the final whistle this year as she has committed to Princeton University, the alma mater of her mother and father.

“My parents left the decision entirely up to me; they were great,” said Brennan.

“They were so supportive. It is just really exciting to be right down the road playing for Kristen Holmes-Winn. I couldn’t be luckier. I did my official visit this fall and I saw Andrea Jenkins [former PDS star] a bunch there. I am so excited to be playing with her again; she is a great player and a great friend.”

PDS head coach Arndt believes that Brennan has taken her game to a higher level.

“Sarah was on today and when she is on, she is on in terms of her hit and her finishing,” said Arndt.

“She has really stepped her game up since the beginning of the season but even from last year. She is ready for what college is going to bring. There are just little details that we want to get but she is really becoming a finesse player and doing exactly what she needs to do for us.”

In Arndt’s view, PDS did what it needed to do in the win over Newark Academy.

“Today was important, it was a win or you are out type of game so we needed to get on the board early, which I think we did and that was important,” said Arndt.

“Some of the game plan we were looking to accomplish was achieved. We got a lot of shots on goal which was great but as a coach I certainly want more to go in.”

Arndt knows her team will have to put in more work if it is to accomplish its goal of playing for a start title.

“So we’ll go back to the drawing board and make sure we are ready for Morristown-Beard,” said Arndt.

“We are in a lucky position because we have a week before the game and some other teams have a bunch of games in between the state game. We have got time to heal any injuries, refocus, and make sure that our next goal is to be the best we can against Morristown Beard. They are a great team so we have to be ready for them.”

PDS seems to be playing its best heading into the final week of the season. “We have been finishing; I really focus on winning each half,” said Arndt.

“If we think of it as 60 minutes, it gets long. I think it is better to focus in on a few minutes at a time and they have been winning those little battles so that’s been important. I think we have been finding our niche of who is playing in the positions that we need them to. I hope we are peaking at the right time but there is still stuff to do. With one game, anything can happen and so we just have to be focused on that game.”

The quartet of Panther seniors, Brennan, Quigley, Travers, and Emily Goldman, are ready to go out with a bang. “They are great friends and teammates,” asserted Arndt. “They knew this could be their last time together and they did everything.”

Brennan, for her part, vows that she and her classmates are going to leave it all on the field.

“This is the seniors’ last year, we are going to finish it,” said Brennan.

“It is a really special group of captains. I think that this team obviously means the world to us. We will do anything for them.”

SURVIVAL MENTALITY: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Lilly Razzaghi clears the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior defender Razzaghi and her teammates survived a major scare in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday as top-seeded PDS edged No. 16 Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to improve to 14-1-1 and set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2. PDS is also competing in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31 with the victor earning a spot in the championship game on November 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURVIVAL MENTALITY: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Lilly Razzaghi clears the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior defender Razzaghi and her teammates survived a major scare in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday as top-seeded PDS edged No. 16 Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to improve to 14-1-1 and set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2. PDS is also competing in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31 with the victor earning a spot in the championship game on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With her right thigh heavily taped, Brit Murray struggled as the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team hosted Hamilton last Saturday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

The PDS senior defender repeatedly misfired as the top-seeded Panthers found themselves in a battle with the upset-minded 16th seeded Hornets.

“I was having a horrible day with my free kicks,” said Murray. “I have a little hamstring injury but it is fine, it is getting better. I didn’t let it bother me.”

The scrappy Hamilton squad certainly bothered PDS, fighting back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the contest 2-2 late in regulation and force overtime.

In the waning moments of the second overtime and the game apparently heading to a penalty-kick shootout, the Iona College-bound Murray had one last chance to find the back of the net as she lined up a free kick from 35 yards out.

“With 38 seconds left, I knew I had to show something,” said Murray. “I was really nervous because they have been really bad all day.”

Harnessing her nerves, Murray launched a soaring volley that flew over the Hamilton goalie into the back of the net, giving PDS the win and triggering a raucous celebration as Murray’s teammates mobbed her.

“Our mantra for the whole game was to never give up,” said a beaming Murray, reflecting on her moment of glory.

“We kept trying to score. I never gave up on that and just kept trying to get it in the net.”

Murray credited the Hornets with trying hard all game long and pushing the Panthers to the limit. “We knew they could come back at any time,” said Murray.

“They were really good on their free kicks and their corner kicks and in the air with the ball. We knew if we gave up any of those, they could come back which they did.”

The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta wasn’t surprised at how hard Hamilton played. “We knew going into this game that they had nothing to lose,” said Trombetta, who got goals from Allison Klei and Erin Murray in regulation in the win over the Hornets.

“Any CVC team on any given day can beat anybody, that is how strong the county soccer is here.”

Trombetta lauded Murray for her display of skill and mental strength. “I give Brittany a lot of credit because her free kicks were off today but it is all about battling back and launching the one that counted the most,” said Trombetta. “That was a beautiful kick.”

The battle was even harder for PDS as two of its key players, Alexa Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz, left the game due to injury.

“I thought we had control of the game but when one of your defensive forces Kirsten is not out on the field the tide starts turning,” said Trombetta.

“On that corner kick where they got the second goal, she is one of our girls that clears it and so we had a void there and they took advantage of it so I give them credit for keeping pressing the whole game.”

With the Panthers also competing in the state Prep B tournament where they are seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31, Trombetta is hoping that the win over Hamilton will spark his squad to a big postseason.

“The way I look at it, the girls know right now that there are no games that are going to be easy to win,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 14-1-1 with the victory over Robbinsville.

“Each game is going to get more difficult. When you survive a game like this, you can go on a roll. It can be a momentum build-up for us as we go from there.”

Murray, for her part, is confident that PDS can keep rolling. “I feel like if we all work together we can get the job done,” asserted Murray.

“We need to play for each other and play for the people who are injured. We all want to win. There is a lot of pressure because everyone wants to beat us. Honestly, we just have to keep moving forward and keep being strong.”

October 23, 2013
NET GAME: Princeton High doubles player Nikhita Salgame hits a volley in a match earlier this fall. Last Thursday, sophomore Salgame and her partner, senior Allison Hubert, posted a straight set win at second doubles as PHS topped Chatham 3.5-1.5 in the the state Group III semifinals. Later in the day, the Little Tigers came up short against Montville in the state championship match, falling 4-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NET GAME: Princeton High doubles player Nikhita Salgame hits a volley in a match earlier this fall. Last Thursday, sophomore Salgame and her partner, senior Allison Hubert, posted a straight set win at second doubles as PHS topped Chatham 3.5-1.5 in the the state Group III semifinals. Later in the day, the Little Tigers came up short against Montville in the state championship match, falling 4-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At around 11 on Thursday morning, the players on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team were all smiles as they gathered together after beating Chatham 3.5-1.5 in the state Group III semifinals.

But about three and a half hours later, the players were glumly lined up on a fence at the Mercer County Park tennis complex as they watched Katelyn Hojelbane fall at third singles to wrap up a 4-1 defeat to Montville in the Group III championship match.

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert acknowledged that things went awry in the afternoon after the semifinal victory.

“We fought hard, we tried but unfortunately we didn’t play as well this afternoon as we did this morning,” said Hibbert, whose team moved to 16-1 with the defeat to Montville.

“I don’t know if it was being a little bit tired or a carryover from the excitement this morning. We weren’t quite able to get the level back up again. Credit them, they came out and played well. Unfortunately we just weren’t able to rise to the challenge this time.”

The win over Chatham did require PHS to expend a lot of energy, mentally and physically.

“We had a great match this morning, that was a very tough team,” said Hibbert.

“It was really exciting for the girls to move on to the final. The girls really fought hard. I am proud of the way everyone played. They knew they would have to work hard and everyone did and they put us in position to get to the final.”

It was exciting for Hibbert to see her sophomore star Christina Rosca win the state singles title on Wednesday and then post victories in both of her matches on Thursday.

“Chris won yesterday and was able to come back and win both of her matches today,” said Hibbert. “So she won three matches in less than 24 hours so that is pretty good going for her, especially at this level of competition.”

PHS has shown it can compete at the highest level as it has advanced to the state final two straight years.

“Being in the group final is certainly a great accomplishment, there are a lot of tough teams in this group,” said Hibbert.

“We were hoping that last year we would learn from our really close loss in the final for this year. Unfortunately it wasn’t able to happen.”

In Hibbert’s view, the group of players she has assembled could make that happen.

“We do have a young team; we only have one senior [doubles player Allison Hubert],” said Hibbert.

“It looks good for the future. We’ll keep trying. We are getting closer and hopefully next year, we’ll win it.”

STATEMENT WIN: Princeton High sophomore tennis star ­Christina Rosca pounds a backhand in a match earlier this fall. Last Wednesday, Rosca rallied to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final at Mercer County Park. It was the first-ever state singles crown for a PHS player. A day later, Rosca helped the Little Tigers reach the Group III team championship match where they fell 4-1 to Montville.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STATEMENT WIN: Princeton High sophomore tennis star ­Christina Rosca pounds a backhand in a match earlier this fall. Last Wednesday, Rosca rallied to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final at Mercer County Park. It was the first-ever state singles crown for a PHS player. A day later, Rosca helped the Little Tigers reach the Group III team championship match where they fell 4-1 to Montville. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It looked like Princeton High sophomore Christina Rosca could be in over her head as she played Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover in the NJSIAA state girls’ singles final last Wednesday.

Rosca felt some butterflies in her stomach as she fell behind 5-1 to senior Shklover in the match at Mercer County Park.

“At the beginning of the match, I was nervous and I didn’t really play the way I am supposed to play,” recalled Rosca.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing at the beginning because of the nervousness.”

But the poised Rosca kept her head and went on to pull out a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

“I think I settled in because I realized my back was against the wall and I really needed to pick it up,” said Rosca. “I started playing better.”

In reflecting on the win, Rosca attributed it to a more mature mentality on the court.

“I think my mental state and attitude made a really big difference,” said Rosca, who had reached the state semis last year in her freshman campaign and rallied from a set down in this year’s semi to make the title match.

“That is something I have improved a lot on. A year ago or a half a year ago I think I would have lost those matches because I would have let my emotions get the better of me. Staying calm really helps. As time progressed, starting last year from the state tournament, I saw sometimes in matches, it is not a difference of strokes or technique but rather it is a difference of how you play the important points and your mental attitude.”

It was important to Rosca to make history for her school. “It definitely means a lot, it is the first time a player from PHS has ever won it so I think this is a huge achievement for me,” said Rosca.

“That is more than I imagined I could have done. I am definitely happy to represent PHS.”

Rosca was happy to have a raucous group of teammates and friends on hand to root her on.

“That is really the first time I have had an entourage of people cheering for me,” said a smiling Rosca.

“It was definitely a fun experience and I was really happy they were there for me.”

Being there for the PHS team and helping it make it to the Group III state final the next day was a fun experience for Rosca.

“I think playing for the team is an aspect I really like about high school tennis because it is something I don’t get to experience that the rest of the year besides that fall,” said Rosca, who won both of her matches at first singles as PHS topped Chatham 3.5 -1.5 in the state semis before falling to Montville 4-1 in the championship match. “I am really eager to help my team do really well.”

IN FORM: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Kevin Halliday prepares to kick the ball in a game last year. Senior star ­Halliday has scored a team-high 10 goals this fall for PHS, which moved to 8-4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Little Tigers start play in the Mercer County Tournament this week, where they are seeded sixth and will host No. 11 Hun School in a first round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN FORM: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Kevin Halliday prepares to kick the ball in a game last year. Senior star ­Halliday has scored a team-high 10 goals this fall for PHS, which moved to 8-4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Monday. The Little Tigers start play in the Mercer County Tournament this week, where they are seeded sixth and will host No. 11 Hun School in a first round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last three years, Kevin Halliday has risen through the ranks of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

The shifty forward has gone from looking to get on the field as a freshman to the top scorer last fall with 23 goals for a PHS squad that shared the Group III state championship with Ramapo.

But this year, Halliday hasn’t been able to lean on veteran players, like his older brother Zach, who is currently a freshman with the Tufts University men’s squad.

“It is different with the transition from last year when we had 16 seniors, an incredible senior class leading us to a state championship,” said Halliday, who is a team co-captain this fall along with classmate John Blair.

“They all left and it is that moment when look, it’s on me, I don’t have anyone else to lead the team. I have got to start stepping up. Sometimes I haven’t known what to do but I try my best.”

Last week, with PHS trailing Nottingham 2-0 in the first half and mired in a rare two-game losing streak, Halliday knew that he had to step up.

“Let me tell you, the nerves kick in,” said Halliday, reflecting on his thoughts as PHS fell behind against the Northstars.

“In my career at Princeton, it’s been we go down I still feel like we are going to win the game. After we lost those last two games, I was nervous. I try to not to show it on the outside. I tried to rally the team.”

Halliday did just that as he blasted in a feed from Blair to get the Little Tigers on the board midway through the first half.

“I hadn’t been with the ball up by the 18 basically the entire game so I got it there and that’s just a play that seniors have to make,” said Halliday, who is following in his older brother’s footsteps as he recently committed to Tufts and will join the men’s soccer team there. “I was in the role so I had to step up and make the play.”

PHS went on to pull out a 3-2 win over Nottingham as Blair found the back of the net on a soaring free kick in the second half and freshman Zeno Mazzocato  scored on a penalty kick in overtime to seal the comeback.

“We did a helluva job,” asserted Halliday, who has a team-high 1-0 goals in the season.

“Other than those first five minutes, we played well and we held down their really good forwards. We held them down; the defense stepped it up and our offense started holding the ball, which is something we haven’t been doing.”

Halliday credited Mazzocato with doing a great job in burying the penalty kick.

“That is a big time play from a freshman,” said Halliday. “I am so proud of him for being able to put that one away for the team.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was also proud of his precocious freshman star.

“It is a learning curve at this level and Zeno has worked very hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“He is learning from the older guys, John, Kevin and Chase [Ealy], some of the more experienced senior level players and credit to him for finding a way to draw that foul. Credit to him for stepping up and taking the PK. He initiated that; I didn’t choose him to take it.”

Sutcliffe was not surprised that Halliday stepped up in the first half when PHS desperately needed a goal.

“Kevin had a big goal, really the most important goal in a long time for us,” said Sutcliffe.

“His work rate, his mentality, his resilience, his belief, his experience define him. He is our most experienced player, perhaps the most experienced player in the CVC, a 4-year varsity player. No one else has a player in all the state championships, state semis, and all those games. He shows that, he never gives up.”

Blair showed his quality with the sensational free kick that knotted the game at 2-2.

“That is one of his  strengths, it could not have come at a better time,” said Sutcliffe.

“We don’t need that when we are 3-0 up. We need that when we are 2-1 down, so the quality and timing was fantastic. Credit to John for hitting it.”

With PHS starting play in the Mercer County Tournament, where it is seeded sixth and will host No. 11 Hun School in a first round contest, Sutcliffe is hoping that the win over Nottingham can be a turning point for his side.

“It is so important because we had dropped two in a row and we were down 2-0, and the natural thing is to think that things are going to be even more difficult to turn around,” said Sutcliffe, whose team tied Notre Dame 1-1 last Thursday before falling 2-1 to Hopewell Valley on Monday as it moved to 8-4-1.

“I think this is going to be a game that is going to change our place in our season as we enter into the MCT and look beyond that.”

Halliday, for his part, believes the comeback effort signals good things to come for PHS.

“This win is huge,” said Halliday. “We are going to need this game. Even if we had tied it, it would be pretty detrimental.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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