December 12, 2012

ON POINT: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball star ­Lauren Johnson heads to the hoop in a game last season. Last Wednesday, senior point guard Johnson displayed her versatility, scoring 11 points with five assists and eight steals as PDS topped Stuart Country Day School 40-12 in its season opener. Two days later, Johnson scored 15 points to help the Panthers top the George School (Pa.) 36-25. In upcoming action, PDS hosts the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, plays at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then hosts Rutgers Prep on December 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Lauren Johnson is looking to show her versatility as she takes over as the point guard for the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team.

“I don’t want to be that point guard who just scores; I want to be able to do a little bit of everything,” said senior guard Johnson, who has been mainly a shooting guard for PDS over the last three seasons.

“Last year, I had one or two games that were good games like that. This season I want to have a good game every night so I am really going to try to work on my weaknesses.”

Last Wednesday as PDS hosted Stuart Country Day in its season opener, Johnson displayed her all-around game, scoring 11 points and chipping in five assists and eight steals as the Panthers rolled to a 40-12 victory.

In reflecting on the win, Johnson liked the way the Panthers got into an offensive rhythm.

“I was happy with the way we played,” said Johnson. “At times, we let an opponent dictate how fast we go and I think we were able to figure out our own pace and what worked for us.”

PDS showed some good inside-out work as Johnson got freshman forwards Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew involved in the offense.

“It is great knowing that I have more than one person who is 5’10,” said Johnson. “It is reassuring that we don’t have to rely on the outside shot as much.”

The team’s height also helped defensively. “I was very impressed with the way we played defense,” said Johnson.

“The post players knew where to go. In practice, we try to make sure that everyone knows how to play certain positions and I think this game showed that all the new players and the returning players are really good at picking up new things.”

PDS head coach Mika Ryan liked the way her team defended in the opener.

“What I was really happy about is that you saw the fruits of our preseason labor because we were resolute in not glossing over defensive fundamentals,” said Ryan.

“We messed up a few times but for the most part I thought we were really solid. The best part is that we stayed out of foul trouble. I thought our positioning was good. I thought we could have fouled at times but we took that extra half step.”

Ryan liked the extra effort she got from Johnson. “Defensively and rebounding, she is tops,” asserted Ryan. “I would not play against her, she is just really a bother.”

Senior guard Levy also showed some top form. “Hannah had a very nice game; we are trying to get her to become more of an offensive threat,” added Ryan of Levy, who chipped in eight points in the victory over Stuart.

“I was happy to see her step up and shoot a little more. She has never been asked to do that much scoring for us but she needs to this year. She is just such a great kid to coach; she will do anything. I had her play in the post for a little bit in the second half, I said can you do that, I want to look at something and she said of course.”

Ryan got some good work in the post from the freshmen tandem of Van Liew and Okorodudu.

“We do have some size this year and our two freshmen, Van Liew and Okorodudu played well,” said Ryan.

“It is just nice to be able to go back to an inside-out kind of game. Last year, we were an outside all the time kind of team. We basically just had guards. I have always believed that the game is won in the post and the play in the pivot and we have players now who can help us inside.”

For Ryan, the performance against Stuart was encouraging on several levels.

“It was a good start; I am pleasantly pleased,” said Ryan, whose team built on its good opener by beating the George School (Pa.) 36-25 on Friday with Johnson scoring a game-high 15 points.

“I had no idea what to expect, they competed, they played hard. We didn’t stop playing hard, I told them not to look at the scoreboard. I don’t care what the score is, win or lose, we are trying to get better and I thought they competed the whole four quarters.”

Johnson, for her part, knows that the Panthers can play much better. “I think it was a good first game, we can definitely improve,” said Johnson, who will look to keep the Panthers on the winning track as they host the Solebury School (Pa.) on December 13, play at Morrisville High (Pa.) on December 14, and then host Rutgers Prep on December 17.

“I’d say rebounding and boxing out is our big thing. As a team, we have to work on our pace. We do get worked up. We play the boys and we are getting better at calming ourselves down but we still get worked up at times.”

December 5, 2012

PASSING THIS WAY AGAIN: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Aidan Passannante greets student fans last Saturday after PHS tied Ramapo 1-1 in the Group III state championship game at The College of New Jersey to earn a share of the title. Senior midfielder Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience as they bookended their careers with state titles, having been part of the Little Tigers’ 2009 championship team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Aidan Passannante and his teammates were crushed when they walked off the field at Toms River North High last fall after losing to Timber Creek in the state Group III semifinals.

When PHS returned to the same pitch last Wednesday night to face Moorestown in this year’s Group III semis, the Little Tigers were determined to leave Toms River with a win.

PHS didn’t waste any time showing their intentions as Kevin Halliday scored 3:27 into the contest and senior midfielder Passannante followed suit 21 seconds later with a goal of his own.

“It was huge; we started off that way in the Allentown game and it helped us get the result in that game,” said Passannante.

“I think we got the goals early and we were keeping possession really well, moving off the ball.”

Passannante acknowledged that classmate Colin Lamb played a huge role in his goal.

“It was a great play by Colin, a great find by him,” recalled Passannante. “I was inside the six so I just poked it in.”

PHS ended up topping Moorestown by that 2-0 margin, warming up the chilly night as they enjoyed a raucous post-game celebration.

Passannante acknowledged that PHS’s quick start made the difference. “It was back and forth after we got the two quick goals,” said Passannante. “They had their fair share of possession throughout the game so I think it was huge.”

The stingy Little Tiger defense, which kept its shape as Moorestown desperately tried to get on the board, was also a huge factor in the win.

“The organization in the back was great,” asserted Passannante. “Pablo [Arroyo] was doing a great job of organizing back there.”

As a result, the PHS had a great feeling as they left Toms River and headed to the state final, the second trip to the final for Passannante, who helped PHS win the 2009 state title as a freshman.

“It feels really good because it was pretty disappointing last year walking off this field,” said Passannante. “I know how they feel so it feels great to be back.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe credited Passannante with producing a great effort.

“I thought Aidan had one of his best games ever tonight,” said Sutcliffe. “Aidan had a great game and if we are going to be successful in these games at this level, he has to have a game like he had tonight.”

On Saturday, Passannante played well as PHS tied defending champion Ramapo 1-1 to end the season as Group III co-champions.

For Passannante, applying what he learned from his first title run helped PHS coming into last Saturday

“We are doing it the same way we prepared in 2009,” said Passannante. “We are just bringing experience, knowing what it is like, warming up each time before a game, being in the locker room before the game, walking out onto the field, being in a pretty big crowd situation so I think that is what we bring.”

Passannante and classmate Zach Halliday came full circle in their PHS soccer experience on Saturday as they bookended their careers with state titles.

“We have been playing together probably since third of fourth grade,” said Passannante.

“We have been playing together for a long time, great friends on and off the field. It is great that we are doing this together.”

STATE OF GRACE: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Kate Kerr goes after the ball in state tournament action. Senior midfielder Kerr helped PHS advance to the state Group III semifinals last Wednesday where the Little Tigers fell 2-0 to Moorestown. The defeat left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1 as it earned the first sectional title in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Kate Kerr acknowledged that the Princeton High girls’ soccer team may have experienced a little stage fright last Wednesday as it faced Moorestown in the state Group III semis.

“I think we were all just a bit nervous, never having been here before” said PHS senior midfielder Kerr.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We never played or heard about Moorestown. I guess we were kind of on our heels in the first half but we did everything we could.”

With Moorestown coming  out of the gate at full speed, PHS found itself trailing 2-0 heading into halftime.

The Little Tigers used the break for some soul-searching. “We just knew that we had to pick it up in the second half because we weren’t playing our game in the first half,” said Kerr.

PHS did pick up the tempo in the second half, producing some spirited play at its offensive end of the field. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, Kerr, Ally Rogers, and Shannon Pawlak each generated scoring chances. But the Little Tigers were unable to find the back of the net and ended up losing by the 2-0 margin.

In reflecting on the loss which left PHS with a final record of 16-3-1, Kerr felt that the Little Tigers just ran out of time. “If we had 10 more minutes, maybe we could have been able to finish because we were making some really great runs,” said Kerr.

Still, it was a great run for Kerr and her classmates, Meghan Brennan, Vanessa Guzman, Madison Luther, and Lauren Ullmann.

“I think the seniors on the team took it all very seriously and we all took it to heart,” asserted Kerr.

“We all realized how important and how much it affected us and we were all in this together. We were all supporting each other because we knew that we are all on the same page on this.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand was on the same page as Kerr in assessing his team’s valiant effort in defeat.

“We played an excellent team tonight; I think we had to work our way into that game and it took us at least 40 minutes to get there,” lamented Hand.

“By the time we came out in the second half and having agreed pretty much that the ingredient that was missing is exactly that ingredient we brought in the second half which is a commitment to win the play. We played them even, we had as good as they did throughout the second half.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s progress throughout the contest served as a microcosm of a season that saw PHS get off to a pedestrian 2-2 start before gathering steam and winning the first sectional title in program history.

“There has been an enormous learning curve, we have gotten better and better” said Hand, who is in his 22nd season at the helm of the program.

“Tonight’s second half is the best we have played all year, no doubt. The Notre Dame game [a 5-1 win on October 16] was perhaps our best one in the regular season. The Pennington game [0-0 stalemate in the Mercer County Tournament semis won by the Red Raiders on penalty kicks] was terrific. To get here, we had to get through a challenging tournament schedule. Our second half tonight was the best soccer we have played. And the fact that this team was very new, essentially reconstituted from last year’s team, and could learn so much about how to play the game on all levels, from individual through the whole team is a real exciting thing and a great accomplishment.”

The team’s corps of seniors played a major role in that process. “It is just a terrific group,” asserted Hand.

“Count everybody from the two seniors who stuck with us after being sidelined by ACLs [Ciara Celestin and Ellee de Baun] all the way through the kids like Madison Luther in the back who played 80 minutes in virtually all of our tournament games this year who last year was hardly getting any minutes at all and to those real money players who had terrific senior seasons, Kate, Meghan, and Lauren. It is just terrific leadership and real inspiration from them in terms of their passion for the game and their caring about the team.”

With such younger players as Haley Bodden, Kaitlyn Carduner, Gabby Deitch, Taylor Lis, Emily Pawlak, Shannon Pawlak, Jordan Provorny, Eva Reyes, and Ally Rogers slated to return, the future looks bright for the Little Tigers.

“One of the messages tonight was you can’t talk about how we are going to be next year unless you earn the right to talk about it,” said Hand.

“If you look at tonight’s game as a whole with two halves, one where we had problems that we weren’t solving really well to the second half where we came out and really did something significant, they earned the right to talk about what they might be able to do next year.”

Kerr, for her part, enjoyed being the talk of the school over the last few weeks.

“We are very proud of ourselves; everyone has been so supportive at school,” said Kerr, who plans to continue her soccer career at Franklin and Marshall.

“Everyone in the hallways is telling us congratulations. We are all proud of ourselves, no one expected us to get this far.”

FINAL APPROACH: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball star Davon Reed races up the court in action last winter. The star senior guard, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career, is primed for a big final campaign. The Panthers were slated to start their season at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team was disappointed when it fell to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B title game this past February, that defeat could be a blessing in disguise as the squad heads into this winter.

“The Prep B is wide open and we are better from having been to the final last year,” said PDS co-head coach Paris McLean, who is in his sixth year guiding the program. “We learned a lot from that.”

As PDS started its season with a game at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11, the postseason is not on the team’s radar.

“I think it is going to be business as usual,” said McLean, who coached the Panthers to a 16-11 record in 2011-12.

“We are going to focus on one practice at a time and one game at a time. We can’t be looking at the big picture. If we do the right things and take it step by step, we could make it back to the Prep B title game.”

Senior guard Davon Reed has been doing the right things over his four-year career, gaining national attention on the way to committing to the University of Miami men’s hoops program.

“Every year has been a breakout year for him; he has improved from year to year and I expect no different this year,” said McLean of Reed, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.

“He has some milestones on the horizon but he is still the same team player. He is much heavier, he is 6’6, 205. His defense is absolutely fantastic now, he has become a lock-down defender. He will be required to play in the post some of the time and he is finishing closer to the basket.”

Reed’s increased inside presence exemplifies the metamorphosis of his game.

“You have seen him go from skinny slasher as a freshman to shooter to scorer and now he is the complete package,” said McLean.

“He can play all five positions. He is a guard. The way basketball is now so up and down, you can have 6’10 guys on the wing.”

The Panthers feature two other top guards in juniors Deante Cole and Langston Glaude.

“Deante and Langston complement each other; they are familiar with each other and they are older, more seasoned players now,” said McLean, noting that 6’5 junior newcomer Chris Okorodudu should add perimeter scoring and that Tom Martino, Dan Jugo, Zack Banks and Josiah Meekins will provide further backcourt depth. “They were young pups before. They are taking leadership roles on the court and with the program.”

PDS will be depending on seniors B.J. Dudeck and Tavante Brittingham to take a lead role in the post.

“I am leaning on B.J. and Tavante to hold down the fort inside, they are both selfless players which is great,” said McLean, who should also get some good work in the paint from junior transfer Dan Lee.

McLean is not hesitating to lean on his coaching staff which includes longtime assistant and former Princeton High standout Darius Young and PDS Director of Athletics Tim Williams, who has taken on a role as the co-head coach.

“Darius did a fantastic job working with the boys on their conditioning in the summer and the fall, physically this team looks different,” said McLean.

“We look the part and we play the part. Coach Williams knows the game and it is good to have another coach on the bench to bounce things off. We run a similar offense and have similar defensive principles. We have wedded ideas, we get along well, and the kids see that.”

PDS will need to execute those principles and ideas as it faces a gauntlet this winter with games against such formidable foes as Hun, Life Center, Robert Faux (Pa.), and Rutgers Prep, in addition to competing in the Hill School Tournament and the Big Apple Classic.

“I think this team can be as good as it wants to be,” maintained McLean. “If they are willing to put in the time and effort and focus on detail, the sky is the limit. We play 26 games. It is a challenging schedule but the boys are up for it.”

In McLean’s view, his boys possess a special chemistry that will help them deal with the challenges ahead.

“The kids really enjoy being with each other,” added McLean. “It is a nice culture. We like to say that PDS basketball is a lifestyle. It is about being good people on and off the court and having some fun. If some wins come along the way, that is great.”

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton Day School star goalie Daisy Mase guards the crease in action last winter. PDS is looking for senior star and three-year starter Mase to build on her excellent season last winter which saw her record a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916. The Panthers were slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting their annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller Invitational ’51 at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last four seasons, Megan Ofner served as the go-to player for the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team.

The skilled forward scored 124 points over her stellar career, including 32 points last season on 19 goals and 13 assists as she helped PDS go 10-7 and win the Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic (WIHLMA) ‘B’ title.

With Ofner now at Sacred Heart and playing for its Division I women’s hockey program, the Panthers are left figuring out how to pick up the slack offensively without their star.

In the view of second-year PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook, it will take more than one player to replace Ofner’s output and she is relying on production from senior tri-captain Zeeza Cole (17 points on 11 goals and six assists last season) and juniors Mimi Matthews (13 points on five goals and eight assists) and Mary Travers, who was sidelined due to injury last year.

“I am looking for a collective effort,” said Cook, whose team was slated to open the season with a game at Pingry on December 4 before hosting its annual tournament, now known as the Harry Rulon-Miller ’51 Invitational at PDS, with a game against Summit on December 8 and the event wrapping up the next day.

“I have been happy with Zeeza, Mary, and Mimi. They are picking up where they left off last year. They are getting shots on the net with intention and they are hitting corners in practice. They just need to work on delivering in games.”

The Panthers boast some depth at forward with junior Lexie Fairman, sophomores Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen, and freshman Emma  Stillwaggon.

“Lexie improved a lot last year; she seems comfortable and excited about this year,” said Cook.

“She needs to build up her confidence early. Sophie Ward and Sophie Jensen bring energy and enthusiasm. They enjoy being part of the team and work as hard as they can. We need to give them specific roles and have them deliver. Emma as a freshman goes as hard as she can, I am trying to work with her on conserving energy but I love the enthusiasm.”

Cook loves watching junior defenseman Robin Linzmayer (16 points in 2012-13) in action around the blue line.

“Robin stands out every time she is on the ice; she takes control of the game,” asserted Cook of Linzmayer, an All-WIHLMA honorable mention choice last winter.

“She needs to be confident in her decision-making and provide offense when it makes sense. She has to help us with our production.”

PDS will need production for its two other veteran defensemen, junior Colby Triolo and senior tri-captain Louise Hutter.

“Colby works harder than anybody, on and off the ice,” said Cook. “She is fun to coach and I was really happy with the way she improved last year. Louise is getting more confident with the puck. She will take her chances but she is smart. I have been really happy with her leadership. She is more vocal and has been eager to take charge.”

Senior star goalie and tri-captain Daisy Mase has taken charge since she arrived at PDS as a sophomore, starting from day one.

“Daisy gives us the confidence we need going into every game,” said Cook of the star netminder who had a goals against average of 2.3 and a save percentage of .916 in earning All-WIHLMA second-team honors.

“She is going to steal some games for us and there will be other games hopefully that we won’t need to steal. There will be close games and she will keep us close. She is one of the top goalies in the state. She is really competitive which is a great quality for a goalie because it means she never gives up.”

Sophomore back-up goalie Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] is giving the team value.

“A lot of the girls have commented on how much better Katie has gotten since last year,” said Cook.

“She is very knowledgeable about what she has to do. She has grown three inches and being bigger and taller has helped her.”

Cook is confident that the Panthers can make big strides this winter. “I am really excited about how much they are going to improve,” said Cook.

“In terms of fundamentals, I have seen a big improvement already from where we were on the first day of practice. I think the fact that we have more skaters is good. We have more depth and the girls have to work hard to get playing time.

A major key to success for PDS this winter will center on generating offense.

“We need to be patient with the puck to see what is open on the ice and we need to work on getting the puck deep,” said Cook.

“We need to work away from the puck. It starts with effort and the right kind of effort.”

In Cook’s view, her players are ready to make that kind of effort. “The girls are smart and driven,” said Cook, noting that new assistant coach Brie Zdunkiewicz has added passion and defensive expertise to the program. “They are a very coachable group. It is a matter of building confidence.”

MOORE TO COME: Hun School boys’ basketball senior guard Hashim Moore drives up the court last Sunday in Hun’s 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.). The Princeton-bound Moore scored a team-high 13 points in the win which improved the Raiders to 2-0. Hun plays at Blair on December 5 before competing in the Peddie Tournament from December 7-9.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Jon Stone had a good feeling about his Hun School boys’ basketball team as it went through its preseason paces.

“I am excited about working with these guys, it’s a good group,” said Hun head coach Jon Stone. “I have felt that way all along.”

Stone’s feelings proved justified as the Raiders opened the season in style last weekend as they hosted the MAPL-Friends Challenge.

On Saturday, Hun topped the Shipley School (Pa.) 89-62 and then posted a 68-52 win over Friends Central (Pa.) on Sunday afternoon.

“I think I learned what I thought which was that our chemistry is good and we are willing to go out there and compete,” said Stone in assessing the two wins.

“I think their ability to work together on the court as well as off the court is what showed this weekend and that is always great.”

In the win over Friends Central, Hun produced a great start, leading 15-8 after the first quarter and 33-19 at halftime.

“I think we got some confidence last night; we are playing together well early on and sharing the ball.

“We have a variety of offensive weapons as well as defensive weapons. I think it helped us get off to a good start today.

The Raiders finished strong as well, holding off a late Friends Central run which saw the visitors narrow the gap to 47-37 entering the fourth period.

“It is always good to be in games like that,” said Stone, who got 13 points in the win from Hashim Moore with Grant MacKay scoring 12 and Fergus Duke chipping in 11.

“Friends Central is a very dangerous team, they can shoot the ball and any time you play a team like that, they are never out of it. They can always come back and get back into it. From that end I was proud. I thought some of our execution was very good in the fourth quarter and I thought some of us needed work. That is part of where we are in the season.”

Stone liked the work he got over the weekend from his star senior guards Duke and Princeton-bound Moore.

“They are both great players and give us so much in so many different ways,” said Stone.

Hun is blessed with depth in the backcourt as Jason Geter and Michael Bourke also played well in the team’s first two outings.

“We have so many other guys who can do different things,” said Stone.

“Geter is steady as they go. Bourke is only going to get a lot better.”

In Stone’s view, his frontcourt figures to get better and better as well. “You didn’t see Josh McGilvray’s best today; he is going to be pretty good,” said Stone.

“Jake Newman didn’t show all he can do today but he certainly did yesterday. Grant MacKay is very steady as well. David Li has been giving us that spark off the bench too. They just do a lot of good things.”

Hun has the ability to do a lot of different things on the court. “We can go big, we can go small,” asserted Stone.

“We can shoot, we have guys that can drive and we have guys that can post. We really have some nice pieces; I am excited about this team.”

Stone is excited about the challenges Hun will face over the next part of the season.

“We are going to have a really tough week; we have Blair at Blair (on December 5) and then we have three straight games in the Peddie event (from December 7-9),” said Stone.

“We are guaranteed to play St. Benedict’s, then Princeton Day Academy (Md.), and then Westtown (Pa.), which are all going to be tough games. We don’t have any breaks in our schedule. I think the key for us is being focused and continuing to get better. It is early so we have a lot of room for improvement.”

NEW LOOK: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nneka Onukwugha looks for a shot in action last winter. With new coach Dana Leary taking the helm, sophomore forward Onukwugha and the Tartans are excited for a fresh start after going 0-15 last winter. Stuart is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing her high school basketball for Immaculata in Somerville and then going on to a superb career at Caldwell College, Dana Leary wasn’t familiar with the Stuart Country Day School.

But it didn’t take long for Leary to feel comfortable with Stuart after interviewing last spring for its vacant head basketball coaching position.

“I had never heard of Stuart when I learned they were looking for a coach,” said Leary, who served as an assistant coach at her alma mater for three years and has been coaching AAU hoops for the last seven years.

“I went in and met with Kim [Stuart athletic director Kim Ciarrocca]. I felt a connection with her and I loved the school. She was very enthusiastic about turning the athletic program around and I felt she was someone I would like to work for as a coach.”

Getting the nod to replace Tony Bowman, Leary faces a turnaround project as she takes the helm of a program that suffered through a 0-15 campaign last winter.

Leary, a 2008 Caldwell grad who scored 1,049 points and was a three-time member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) All-Academic team during her college career, promises to be a breath of fresh air for the Tartans.

“I made it clear to the girls that this is a brand new year,” said Leary, whose team is slated to open regular season action by playing at Kings Christian School on December 4 and at the Princeton Day School on December 5.

“Last year is over, we have to rebuild and create a positive environment and experience for the girls.”

In creating that atmosphere, Leary is focusing on basics. “I want this to be a season of growth for the girls; I want them to really learn the game,” said Leary.

“Each day is a chance to get better and each day is an opportunity to grow as a team. I want them striving for their personal best and work to the best of their abilities because that will help the team.”

In Leary’s view, she has some players with ability in the frontcourt in senior Summer Ramsay-Burrough, sophomore Nneka Onukwugha, and the Walsh sisters, junior Maggie and freshman Kate.

“Summer has a good sense of the game that comes with playing experience,” said Leary.

“She understands the game. She is a leader and will be a captain. Nneka is only a sophomore and is doing a great job becoming stronger and being more aggressive around the basket. Maggie Walsh and Kate Walsh will also see time in the frontcourt. They are both big, strong post players. Maggie played well around the basket in our first scrimmage. Kate is only a freshman and we are working on her footwork. We want her to be more aggressive offensively.”

The Tartans have some offensive threats around the perimeter in freshman Pam McGowen, senior Simrit Gill, and sophomore Harlyn Bell.

“Right now, we have a freshman, Pam McGowen, running the point; she played in the middle school and is very eager to develop as a point guard,” said Leary.

“She has leadership skills and the confidence to handle the ball. She understands her role. Simrit Gill is looking good, she understands the game. She has a nice outside shot but she is not afraid to go to the basket. Harlyn Bell will be in the other guard position. She has a nice outside shot but will also look to go to the basket.”

As the Tartans gird for their first taste of regular season action, Leary isn’t worried about wins and losses.

“Our main goal right now is to get them to develop the fundamentals and understand the game of basketball,” said Leary, who is being assisted by Danielle Fraider.

“We are focusing on defense. Playing defense doesn’t require a lot of talent, just hard work and desire and that is what we are trying to get out of the girls.”

Leary likes the work ethic she has already seen from her team. “This group works so hard,” asserted Leary.

“They are so coachable and eager to learn. They ask the right questions. As a coach, it is so rewarding to see that.”

November 28, 2012

BY A NECK: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Madison Luther goes after the ball in recent action. Senior defender Luther’s play along the back line helped PHS hold the fort as it edged Colts Neck 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game last week. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Even though the Princeton High girls’ soccer team led Colts Neck 1-0 last week in the Central Jersey Group III sectional championship game, PHS certainly wasn’t in control of the contest.

Underdog Colts Neck, the eighth-seed in the sectional, put the No. 2 Little Tigers under fire through much of the second half, using its speed to generate a number of scoring opportunities.

PHS senior defender Madison Luther acknowledged that things got a little dicey along the Little Tiger back line.

“It was definitely a storm, that is the right word,” said Luther, reflecting on the second half of the game.

“They kept at it, they are very fast. We have to make sure that we position ourselves all the time to get ready for them. Katie Carduner is our quarterback and we have Dana Smith back there, sliding for us left and right. Sticking with them works, that’s what gets us there.”

The PHS defense held the fort, keeping Colts Neck from breaking through as it earned a 1-0 victory and the first sectional title in the 21-year tenure of head coach Greg Hand.

The win improved PHS to 16-2-1 and earned it a date with South Jersey champion Moorestown in the state Group III semis on November 28 at Toms River North with the winner advancing to the championship game on December 2 at The College of New Jersey.

For Luther and her teammates, surviving the roller-coaster ride to pull out the title left some special memories.

“It is the first time for all of us,” said Luther. “All game, it was back and forth, even with the goal it didn’t feel like we were up. You never know with the Shore Conference; they are unexpected. We were really excited; we were a good kind of nervous.”

Luther’s athletic versatility has helped her become a very good defender for the Little Tigers.

“I play basketball and lacrosse so I know defense well,” said Luther. “Since I am not the fastest, I can shadow and watch them. I am better at that.”

It certainly helps PHS to have star senior goalie Lauren Ullmann as its last line of defense.

“Lauren is a lifesaver,” asserted Luther of the netminder who made eight saves in the win over Colts Neck.

“She is always there, she is always talking, constantly directing everyone. It is very nice to have that. Having her back there is a very safe cushion, you have someone respectable and an extra barrier to protect.”

In Luther’s view, the Little Tigers gained extra motivation from two setbacks, an early season loss to Robbinville and getting eliminated in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament by Pennington on penalty kicks after playing the Red Raiders to a 0-0 draw through 100 minutes.

“After our second loss to Robbinsville, ‘we were like OK, this can’t happen,’” recalled Luther.

“The Pennington game didn’t even feel like losing, they are such a great team. We lost 4-0 to them last year. A lot of the new kids heard that and said let’s not lose. Keeping up with them made it so much better.”

PHS head coach Hand, for his part, is proud of the way his squad has taken care of business after its 2-2 start.

“It just seems that we managed to do enough of the things that we need to do throughout the 80-minutes to hold the opponents down a little and create opportunities,” said Hand.

“There is no magic to it, it is just the fact that we have a really hardworking group who take themselves pretty seriously when they have to and put their all into every single day.”

In the victory over Colts Neck, PHS followed that blueprint. “I thought we possessed really well in the first 20 minutes of the game, the second 20 after we scored, I think we actually came a little bit unglued, not taking care of the ball as well,” recalled Hand.

“We continued to work hard through the whole game and that carried into the second half. At the end, you could see the fight that was in us; we weren’t going to let anything get by.”

Hand acknowledges that he didn’t see such an ending for his team when it first convened for training this summer.

“If you asked me on August 16th, I wouldn’t have suggested that this was going to be where we were,” said Hand.

“But to take guidance from somebody like John Wooden — he says he never went into a game, even if he was a big underdog, thinking he was going to lose. But he never went in, thinking he was going to win.”

In Luther’s view, the team’s success is a product of making the most of everyday and not worrying about the big picture.

“We didn’t set any goals for ourselves,” said Luther. “At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a winning record at all, now we are 16-2-1. No one expected us to do things like this and get this far. I think the fact that we didn’t have these goals, we had nothing to lose and that just pushed us more.”

BIG MAC: Princeton High boys’ hockey star Patrick McCormick goes after a puck in action last winter. PHS is counting on junior defenseman McCormick to shoulder much of the load along the blue line this winter. PHS, which went 15-7-2 last winter in advancing to its third straight Mercer County Tournament championship game, opens its 2012-13 campaign by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last three years, the Princeton High boys’ hockey team has become a fixture in the Mercer County Tournament championship game, winning the title in 2011 and coming in second in 2010 and last winter.

PHS head coach Tim Campbell is proud of his team’s consistent excellence in the MCT and what it says about the program.

“I think, without a doubt, we have been the best public high school program in the area over the last few years,” said Campbell, whose team fell to Notre Dame in last year’s county title game on the way to a 15-7-2 record.

“We are ready to do that again. By the time we get to the playoffs in February, I think we will be good again.”

As PHS works its way over the next few months to the postseason, it will need to answer some key question marks, starting at goalie where junior Robert Quinn is replacing four-year starter Josh Berger.

“Robert did camps over the summer and played in a summer league; he has been on the ice a lot,” said Campbell, noting that Joseph Dawes and Mike Dunlap will serve as back-ups.

“Robert is a good athlete; he is a soccer goalie and a baseball catcher so he is defensive-minded. We are lucky to have someone like him who we have confidence in to come in after Josh.”

Quinn will need to be good, as the PHS defense is not blessed with depth. “We are very thin on defense; we are going to have a short bench,” said Campbell.

The Little Tigers do have some good talent along the blue line in juniors Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor.

“Patrick McCormick and Harrison Naylor will anchor the blue line for us,” said Campbell, whose team starts the season by facing Hightstown on November 30 at Mercer County Park.

“They’ll be on the ice most of the time. Patrick is a phenomenal skater. He is one of the most naturally gifted, fundamentally sound skaters that I have seen. He is a smart player and has a good shot. Harrison is one of the most improved players I have seen; he is a tough, smart player.”

At forward, PHS boasts enough depth to make things tough on its foes. “Matt DiTosto has had some key playing time for us since he has joined the team” said Campbell.

“He is definitely a go-to guy for us. Spencer Reynolds and Gabe MacGregor are in the mix. Jack Andres is really tough, Connor McCormick and John Reid are smart hockey players.”

While Campbell believes his offense can be productive, he knows that he needs to shore up the defense if PHS is going to be a title contender.

“We will focus on defense,” said Campbell, whose team also advanced to the second round of the state Public B tournament last winter.

“You build successful teams around defense and  we will do whatever we can to keep the puck out of the net. We will put whomever we need on defense to help us do that.”

The Little Tigers also have to focus on playing clean hockey to experience success this winter.

“We have to play smart hockey with as few penalties as possible,” asserted Campbell.

“We need to play smart, defense-minded hockey. We need to hold shot totals down and play good neutral zone defense.”

SUPER SAVER: Princeton Day School boys’ hockey goalie Connor Walker thwarts a Lawrenceville player in action last season. Senior netminder Walker will be a pivotal performer for PDS this winter as it faces a daunting schedule that includes several boarding schools and such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup. The Panthers open their 2012-13 campaign when they host Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last winter, the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team prospered as it battled through a daunting schedule that included the likes of Lawrenceville, Moses Brown (R.I.), St. Augustine, and the Pingry School, among others.

After going 18-5-1 against such competition, PDS is pushing the envelope this season as it seeks to further raise its profile in New Jersey hockey circles.

“We are going to be playing a tough schedule, a third of the teams we are playing are either boarding schools or have PGs,” said PDS head coach Scott Bertoli, noting that his team will be taking part in such high-level events as the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts, the Hill School tournament, and the Empire Cup.

“The kids want to compete against the best. We are not going to surprise anybody this year.”

Bertoli is cautiously optimistic that his team can hold its own against the challenges it will face.

“The guys know that the greater community is excited about the team,” said Bertoli, whose team hosts Malvern Prep (Pa.) on November 29 in its season opener.

“We are returning our four top scorers, four good defensemen, and we have a starting goalie back. I am excited but a little apprehensive. There are heavy expectations surrounding this team, many of them self-imposed.”

The return of stellar senior goalie Connor Walker gives PDS the foundation to meet its expectations.

“Connor is one of the top kids in the state record-wise,” noted Bertoli. “I think he went 11-1 as a sophomore and was something like 14-3 last year. He is about 25-4 the last two years. He is a senior and he is confident. He is bigger and stronger. He is a competitor and wants to be in there every night. He will start every game unless he tells me otherwise or he gets hurt.”

Walker will have to be sharp as the Panther defense is a work in progress with the loss of Tyler Olsson to graduation and the absence of Bump Lisk, who is playing junior hockey this winter.

“I think the defense was our strongest point last year; the kids got involved in the offense and did a lot of good things for us,” said Bertoli.

“The biggest concern is losing Tyler, he was a big, strong kid and was the first one out for our penalty kill. C.J. [Young] can play well and I think Eddie [Meyercord] can too. We need the guys to have puck possession and play well in the neutral zone.

In Bertoli’s view, the battle-tested trio of Taran Auslander, Grahame Davis, and Meyercord must play well this winter for PDS to hold the fort.

“Taran, Eddie, and Grahame are seniors and they need to be leaders,” asserted Bertoli.

“They need to play on the power play and the kill and to play extra shifts when we are going with four. We are going to be playing some bigger and older teams and they need to withstand whatever
the teams bring against us. I am trying to instill confidence in them so they will play like we did last year.”

Bertoli is confident that his group of forwards will be productive this winter. “I think we are going to be outstanding up front; I think that is going to be our strength,” maintained Bertoli.

“I don’t think there is a group of centers better in the state than Conrad [Denise], Ross [Colton], and Cody [Triolo]. The biggest challenge to is to juggle the wingers with them and figure out who will contribute the most.  We will have three lines who can score independent of each others.”

Luckily, Bertoli has some good pieces to work with in formulating his lines. “Rob Colton was our leading scorer last year,” said Bertoli.

“Sean Timmons had a shoulder injury last year and I am expecting him to have a breakout year. He has a physical edge to his game that we have been waiting to see. Lewis Blackburn, John Egner, and Connor Bitterman are kids that I expect to step in and contribute. They are juniors and seniors and they know what is going on.”

In order to have another big year, the Panthers are going to have to go hard
every game.

“We need to show up with the right attitude and work ethic,” maintained Bertoli.

“As long as we are ready to compete, we will get our share of wins. The effort is the key.”

So far, Bertoli is getting the right effort on a daily basis. “I am seeing it every day; we have some experienced success and the kids want to feed off of that,” said Bertoli.

“They want to recapture that. We have eight or nine seniors and they want to step up. We have 14 or 15 players back with the same system and most kids in the same roles. They want to play against the best and build on what we did last year.”

HARD DRIVE: Princeton Day School girls’ basketball player Lauren Johnson drives to the hoop in a game last season. Senior star guard Johnson will be a key player for the Panthers this winter as they look to improve on the 9-13 mark posted in 2011-12. PDS tips off the upcoming season by hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Mika Ryan, coaching the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team last winter was about getting the most out of limited resources.

With a lineup whittled down to six players for much of the season due to a series of injuries that affectionately became known as the “dirty half-dozen,” Ryan applied the coaching acumen built up over her long career to guide the Panthers to a 9-13 record and an unlikely run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

This season, Ryan has more resources at her disposal and is looking forward to figuring out the best way to deploy the talent on her roster.

“We have nine varsity and seven JV players this year; we are much healthier this year in terms of players,” said Ryan, whose coaching journey has included stints as an assistant at Virginia and Rider together with a 10-year run as the head coach of The College of New Jersey women’s program.

“Freddy Young and I are also going to coach the JV. We have been practicing the two teams together. I want them to learn our system and get used to what we do.”

In fact, the program’s strength in numbers has some of last year’s iron women concerned that they aren’t getting pushed enough.

“The captains came to me and said they think we aren’t working hard enough in practice,” said Ryan, whose team tips off the 2012-13 season by hosting hosting Stuart Country Day on December 5.

“I told them it is because we have more numbers and I want them to feel good in February. They have been great at sharing how we do things.”

Ryan feels good about a backcourt which features three battle-tested veterans in senior tri-captains Lauren Johnson and Hannah Levy together with versatile junior Emily Goldman.

“L.J. plays as hard as she can all the time, she only knows one way to play,” maintained Ryan.

“She has worked on her left hand and is working to make her shot more consistent. I think the most improved player since I got to PDS is Hannah Levy. She is a worker, you never have to motivate her. She thinks well and is mentally quick. She is not hesitant to share what the thinks. She will say this isn’t working, maybe we should try this. Goldman has so much versatility. She joined us late because of field hockey but she has brought a winner’s attitude from the success she had this fall. She is so versatile, I will ask her to play another position and she is always willing. I can play her at guard or forward.”

Exemplifying the team’s depth heading into the season, PDS boasts three reserves in junior Tess Zahn, sophomore Erin Murray, and freshman Devika Kumar, who will also see playing time at guard.

“Tess Zahn hit some big shots for us last year and is shooting well,” added Ryan.

“We are happy to have Erin Murray back after she spent a year at Peddie, she is a good ball handler. Devika has a lot of potential. She could be a good swing player. She is active and athletic and can defend a guard but she also has enough size to play inside.”

The Panthers have two good athletes in the frontcourt with promising freshmen Olivia Okorodudu and Morgan Van Liew.

“Okorodudu is fundamentally sound and very coachable; her dad played at Bucknell and her brother plays at WW/P-N,” said Ryan.

“Her footwork is excellent and she is a big, strong young lady.  She has the ability to shoot the 10-12 foot jump shot and we are working in some plays to take advantage of that. Van Liew is 6 feet tall and I think she has gotten taller since coming to PDS. She has played only one year of organized basketball. She has enormous potential and is so coachable.  She wants to learn and is a sponge on the things we coach her. She is ambidextrous and can shoot with either hand within three or four feet.  She is mobile.”

Senior tri-captain Daniela Levitan should provide the leadership to help the freshmen come along.

“Levitan is looking good; she came to us late because she was in the school play but she is working herself into shape,” said Ryan.

“She has dedicated herself to the program after not playing much as a freshman or sophomore. I am impressed by the interest she has taken in the program.”

As a result of PDS’s inside strength, Ryan is making some tactical adjustments.

“We will be going back to a style I like, going inside out,” said Ryan, who noted that the team may run a zone press at times to speed up tempo and take advantage of the height at the back end of the defense. “We have three quality post players this year so we can play that style.”

While Ryan is confident in her team’s strategic approach, she knows that rekindling the spirit that drove the team last winter won’t be easy.

“The thing I am concerned about the most is that we maintain the chemistry we had last year,” said Ryan.

“The thing that I most enjoyed was our team’s character through the ups and downs. They stayed the same people and didn’t get down on themselves. I am telling them this is your team, not my team. I am here to help you get better.”

Ryan is confident her team will get better and better as the winter unfolds. “I think we are a team that might take some lumps early because we are relying on some freshmen in key positions,” said Ryan. “I think we could become a good team as the season goes on.”

SPEED SKATER: Hun School boys’ hockey star Alex Vukasin races up the ice in a game last season. Senior forward Vukasin’s speed and finishing skill make him a top offensive weapon for the Raiders, who will get their 2012-13 season underway by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28 at the IceLand Skating Center in Hamilton. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ian McNally brought some high expectations when he took the helm of the Hun School boys’ hockey team last winter.

“The reason I wanted to take this team is that I wanted us to be a top program, I didn’t want an average team,” said McNally, a 2007 Princeton University alum who played for the Tiger men’s hockey program.

“The school has been supportive, we have new treats in terms of equipment; I think we will respond on the ice.”

The Raiders responded well to McNally in his debut campaign, going 10-9-1 and making it to the finals of the Independent Hockey League (IHL) championship game where it fell 2-1 to Pennington in overtime.

In McNally’s view, the title game defeat and some infusion of new talent should help Hun raise the level of its play this winter.

“I think losing the title game last year has given the team extra motivation,” said McNally, whose team opens the 2012-13 season by hosting Central Bucks (Pa.) on November 28.

“We have 12 new guys so there is a lot of new blood. There are guys who don’t know better so there is a lot more competition for positions and more accountability that way.”

Junior goalie Devin Cheifetz has shown accountability from day one of his Hun career.

“We are lucky to have him; he is one of our more valuable players,” said McNally of Cheifetz, a starter since his freshman season.

“He has decent size, good technical skills, and plays the puck well. He is collected on the ice. He is one part of the team that I don’t have to worry about. He helped to organize some of the fall workout stuff, he reaches out to the players through social network stuff. He has the respect of everybody; he has a collected demeanor on the ice.”

Star defensemen Brad Stern, a junior, and senior Eric Szeker have earned the respect of Hun’s foes.

“We have Brad Stern and Eric Szeker back on defense, they were our big two last year,” said McNally.

“Stern is the more offensive guy, the guy on the point. Eric is bigger and reliable down low. Last year, we had to lean heavily on those guys and they probably played too many minutes.”

Hun will be able to lean on some others along the blue line this winter. “We have Dan Seelagy and Andrew Zhou back; we also have J.C. Moritz, a PG from Pennsylvania who is our biggest kid,” said McNally.

“We also have Jonathan Pensler, a freshman and a local kid who should step in. We have a legitimate d-man rotation, that is by far the biggest difference from last year’s team. We just didn’t have the horses on defense last year.”

The Raiders do have some horses at forward in senior Alex Vukasin, junior Alex Karanikolas, junior Alex Bidwell, and senior Peter Nawn.

“Alex Vukasin looks as good as ever; he is very fast, he sprints on the ice,” said McNally, whose group of forwards will also include seniors Jordan Wang, Anton Salienko and Matt Waxman together with juniors Spy Avgoustiniatos and Nick Guns and sophomores Chris Rossi and Ray Demoine.

“He can go as fast with the puck as without it. Karanikolas is a power forward, he is a big bull who works the puck down low and wears you out. Alex Bidwell scored goals for us last year and should have even more this year. Peter Nawn was hurt for about a third of the year but if he is healthy he should get points. We have a rotation of three full lines returning so that is nice.”

McNally believes his team is poised to have a nice season. “We have accountability based on the numbers,” said McNally.

“I expect us to do even better in the league, which means winning it. I want us to do better in non-league play, we have scheduled some better teams. We have added to the number of games as well.”

In order to be one of the better teams in the area, Hun will need to develop some good chemistry.

“With this team, it will be about how the players come together,” asserted McNally.

“It is not strategy or individual skill, it is how close we can get in a short period of time. You are going to work harder and learn your role better if the team matters. If you are playing with your best friends, you try harder than if it is just a group of guys going to the same school.”

CARRY OUT: Hun School girls’ basketball star Carey Million heads to the hoop in action last winter. Hun will be relying on senior forward Million’s tenacity and athleticism as it looks to improve on the 15-12 record it posted last season. The Raiders start 2012-13 regular season action by playing at Pennington on November 30 and then hosting Friends Central on December 4.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bill Holup doesn’t have a group of seniors to lead the way as his Hun School girls’ basketball team heads into the 2012-13 season but that doesn’t mean that the squad isn’t battle-tested.

“We only have one senior but the junior group is very experienced, they have been with us for three years,” said head coach Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 15-12 record last winter and a spot in the state Prep A title game.

“This is our first team in a few years with some depth. The past few years we have struggled being in shape and going 32 minutes against the good teams.”

The team’s depth is most evident in the backcourt where the Raiders feature two key returners in junior Anajha Burnett and sophomore Erica Dwyer together with a pair of promising newcomers in sophomore Janelle Mullen, the younger sister of graduated star Jackie Mullen, and junior Erica Brown.

“Anajha is a junior who is in her third year with the program,” said Holup, whose team opens regular season play with a game at Pennington on November 30 and then hosts Friends Central on December 4.

“She has grown as a player and has developed; she has gotten stronger. Erica came on strong last year. She had five 3s against Peddie in the MAPL tournament. She is a more well-rounded player. She is distributing more; instead of being a one-dimensional player. Janelle has big shoes to fill with Jackie. She is a raw talent; she has more basketball potential at this point than Jackie. She is a sophomore and will be with us for three years. Erica Brown can play either guard or forward. She has good court vision and ball handling skills. She has a knack for getting the ball inside and can distribute.”

The team’s lone senior, Carey Million, brings versatility to the frontcourt. “Carey is a three-sport athlete and just signed a letter of intent to play softball at Elon,” said Holup, who posted his 250th career win with Hun’s victory over Lawrenceville in the Prep A semis last February.

“That will allow her to not have pressure; hopefully she can use basketball as a stress release.”

Holup will be counting on junior forward Johnnah Johnson to put pressure on Hun’s foes in the paint.

“Johnnah’s leadership skills are developing; she has taken charge out there, getting the girls started with their stretches,” said Holup.

“She needed to grow up a little. Basketball-wise, she is a pure talent. She still needs to understand the game more to really use her talents. She is a legit D-1 basketball player as long as she keeps her focus on the court and in the classroom. She has big shoulders and we will need her to carry the team as the younger players get used to things.”

If the Raiders can develop team unity, the squad could do some big things this winter.

“As long as the girls play as a team and learn and develop during the season, we should be good,” asserted Holup.

“We have a good mixture of youth and experience. The older girls need to trust the younger girls and the younger girls need to get to know the older girls. The talent is there; it is just a matter of meshing.”

November 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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