November 20, 2013
BELLOWING OUT: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello, right, goes after the ball in action this fall. Senior Bello provided offensive punch for Hun as it went 6-14 this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BELLOWING OUT: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello, right, goes after the ball in action this fall. Senior Bello provided offensive punch for Hun as it went 6-14 this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School field hockey team, its season finale against Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) turned into a microcosm of an uneven campaign.

Hun fell behind 2-1 at halftime only to forge ahead 3-2 after the break. Mercersburg, though, reeled off three unanswered goals to pull away to a 5-3 victory.

“We did OK in the first half and then we took a 3-2 lead but I don’t know what happened after that,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, whose team finished with a final record of 6-14. “It was a frustrating year, it was up and down.”

The Raiders did produce some good hockey along the way. “We had highs and lows; we had games that we should have won,” said Quirk.

“We held Lawrenceville scoreless for 51 minutes but lost 2-1. We played the game of our lives. I wish we could have played every game like it was Lawrenceville. We lost in the county opener and consolation and then came back and beat George, that was a nice win.  We played Hill tough, they were beating up on everybody but we only lost 2-0. We couldn’t seem to capitalize.”

Hun’s group of seniors, Francesca Bello, Alex Kane, Courtney Faulkner, Liz Mydlowski, and Brianna Barratt, showed toughness.

“When Francesca Bello was on, she was on,” said Quirk. “Alex was solid in the back. We moved Courtney from the line to defense to give us a spark there. Bettner came in and did a good job, she was very coachable. Mydlowski was a four-year player. She never missed a practice or game in four years, that really says something about her. Bri Barratt did a nice job in the midfield.”

The Raiders have a nice foundation in place with such players as junior Vicki Leach, junior Julia Blake, freshmen Julie Fassl, and junior Reina Kern.

“Vicki Leach has really come on strong,” said Quirk of Leach, who tallied 10 goals and five assists this fall.

“She is putting the ball in the cage, she is carrying the ball up the field and she is getting into the right place at the right time. Julia Blake played well in the midfield. Julie Fassl did a quite a bit of scoring for us. Our goalie Reina Kern returns.”

Quirk is hoping that her returners will be strong competitors. “We have a good group of kids who will be stepping up and getting their chance,” noted Quirk. “They need to play hard every game.”

STICKING TOGETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah controls the ball in a game this fall. Hannah was one of several sophomore standouts who helped Stuart show progress this fall as the Tartans posted a 7-14 record, doubling its win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING TOGETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah controls the ball in a game this fall. Hannah was one of several sophomore standouts who helped Stuart show progress this fall as the Tartans posted a 7-14 record, doubling its win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team edged Pennington 1-0 in overtime in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament, it symbolized how far the squad has progressed this fall.

“That was a great win for us,” said Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik of the October 23 contest.

“We had lost to them 4-0 earlier in the season. They had talent in the midfield. By the time we saw them again, we were doing a better job taking what we were working on in practice and applying it in the game.”

In the second half of the Pennington game, Stuart applied those lessons with aplomb, as it held the Red Raiders scoreless and got the game winner on an overtime goal by sophomore Sam Servis.

“At halftime, it was 0-0 and we were doing a lot of things right,” recalled Bruvik.

“Margaret LaNasa was rock solid in the goal and that ignited the rest of the team. The kids felt they had to play well. Amy Hallowell was out with an injury and they dug deep to win for the seniors so that they would have another game to play. We won in overtime; we were 3 for 3 in OTs.”

While Stuart ended up falling to eventual champion Montclair Kimberley in the Prep B semis to end the season at 7-14, Bruvik believes the program is headed in the right direction.

“We went from three wins to seven so we doubled what we did last year,” said Bruvik.

“The overtime games were huge for us, it showed we could persevere and had the talent to execute for 70 minutes or more.”

Bruvik credits her core of seniors with setting a positive tone. “All four of the seniors were leaders for the kids,” said Bruvik, whose Class of 2014 includes Hallowell, LaNasa, Meghan Shannon, and Sarah Barkley.

“They always focused on what they could do not only to help the team but to help the program. Three of the four of them played in JV games when we needed enough players to go 11 on 11. It was never about them, it was always what could they do to help the program.”

Senior midfielder Hallowell was a huge help for the Tartans over her career.

“Amy was the heart and soul of the program the last two years,” said Bruvik. “She was out three weeks with a high ankle sprain and she was great on the sidelines. She came back for the last two games. She sees the field so well and has a great way of communicating with the kids. She was really the quarterback of the team on the field.

Shannon, LaNasa, and Barkley helped spearhead the Stuart defense. “Meghan dropped to the back line and she was very in tune with wanting to know what she could do to help the team every game,” said Bruvik.

“For Margaret LaNasa, working with Gia [assistant coach and former star Princeton goalie Gia Fruscione] the last two years really helped her. She finished 17th in the state in saves, she had around 225. She was really tested this year. She kept us in all the games we won in overtime. Sarah was a good leader for the team; she was really a committed player to the program.”

The team’s core of sophomores showed plenty of game, led by Servis and Tori Hannah.

“Sam has really improved. Her stick skills and timing are much better. She is finding the back of the net. Tori was very good for us, she filled in for Amy, she played in the midfield and she went up on the line to help our offense.”

Four other sophomores, Julia Maser, Elena Bernewitz, Kate Walsh, and Cate Donahue, also made valuable contributions this fall for the Tartans.

“Julia Maser can run the field for 60 minutes, she never stops,” added Bruvik. “She was playing left mid and went against a lot of good players. Bernewitz has exceptional speed and she is becoming more self-confident. Kate Walsh is very versatile and will help wherever you need her. Cate Donahue had a concussion and was out for a while. She played some of her best hockey when she came back near the end of the season.”

The Tartans also got some good hockey from a number of other returning players.

“The dedication, versatility, and improvement of Izzy Engel, Fayette Plambeck, Asha Mohandas, Madison Kirton, Nneka Onukwugha, Harlyn Bell and Rose Tetnowski were critical to this team and to the future of the hockey program,” said Bruvik.

“Their contributions were pivotal in what defines teamwork in both practice sessions and games.”

Going forward, Bruvik believes Stuart has the potential to be a formidable team. “Knowing that we are still young has the girls excited,” asserted Bruvik.

“The sophomores were all very versatile and we played a schedule that was much more competitive than last year.”

November 13, 2013
TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Over the last two seasons, Chase Ealy has been a threat from left back for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

But with senior midfielder John Blair getting sidelined for the season due to a knee injury and the team struggling to score goals, the PHS coaches decided to move Ealy up the field.

Putting junior star Ealy at striker paid immediate dividends as he scored a goal in a 1-1 tie with Pennington in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game and then chipped in two tallies as the fourth-seeded Little Tigers topped No. 13 Neptune 4-0  in the opening round of the Group III Central Jersey sectional.

Last Friday in a sectional quarterfinal contest against fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley, Ealy gave further evidence of his finishing prowess, scoring two more goals as the Little Tigers topped the Bulldogs 3-0.

The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.

Ealy is relishing the chance to have a bigger role in the PHS attack. “I have had a lot of good looks in the state tournament,” said Ealy.

“Coach put me up at striker and obviously that puts me in front of the net a lot more and I have been hitting the shots.”

The loss of Blair left a void that Ealy is trying to fill. “John was definitely a big part of our offense and now that I am up at striker I do feel as if I can really help Kevin [Halliday] and Zeno [Mazzucato],” said Ealy.

“The other two have been at the forward positions all year to get the goals. I have been working here a long time; I know the team.”

In the win over HoVal, Ealy benefited from being a bit of an unknown quantity. He scored on a penalty kick midway through the first half and then tallied on a point blank blast as he converted a feed from Kevin Halliday with 24:01 remaining in regulation to put PHS up 2-0.

“They knew to mark Kevin, I don’t think they had much of a report on me and I took advantage of that,” said Ealy.

“I hit my corner every time on the PK, I don’t change it. That was a great play by Kevin on the second goal. No one stepped up to him, he had all the time in the world to find his pass. I just knew if I posted up, he would hit me and off the six I can hit my shots. It was a nice tap-in.”

The PHS defense also put in a great effort against HoVal, stifling the talented Bulldogs throughout the contest.

“I was so impressed with our defense today,” asserted Ealy. “They held down that line. They did what they needed to do. Whenever they did get back there, Laurenz [Reimitz] was a wall. It all went well.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that Ealy’s skills could be put to good use up the field.

“We weren’t really in a position to really use him as a striker in the first half of the season,” said Sutcliffe, who also got a goal from freshman Andrew Goldsmith in the win over HoVal.

“We worked to slot him in there. John is out for the season, Chase characteristically can play anywhere. He is a flank left player but he is pretty threatening so what a day for him. These moments are scripted for guys like that.”

With PHS having lost 2-1 to HoVal in the rivals’ regular season encounter, Sutcliffe knew that his team had to flip the script through better ball possession.

“In the middle third and the front third, we wanted to hold it and let the ball move in different ways because Hopewell has such a big, fast, athletic team,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 10-5-2.

“Our goal is to make them chase and to try to keep it, build from there, switch the point, and get it in to Kevin and Chase who can put pressure on them there and hold the ball up.”

With a playoff pedigree that features a 16-2-1 record in state tournament play over the last four years, including three sectional titles, a state title in 2009, and state co-championship last year, the Little Tigers have proven they can thrive under postseason pressure. As a result, PHS was not fazed when it struggled down the stretch, going 1-4-2 in its last seven games before the state tournament.

“We lost 12 guys from last year so we knew we had to rebuild,” said Sutcliffe.

“So during the season we are going to have some ups and downs. We are either going to bow out in a bad way or we are going to be where we are now and credit to the guys for doing it. I think there is a lot of resilience in the group, there is a lot of quality with eight sophomores and three freshmen. But then we have guys on this team who have been around for three or four years, and in the last two years, we have won 10 state tournament games.”

Ealy, for his part, believes that the program’s tradition of tournament success drives the Little Tigers.

“We just have a legacy here where we are a championship team,” said Ealy.

“We know that no matter what we did in the regular season we are always expected to contend for every championship. No one wants this to be that year that we didn’t win anything. No matter how we did in the regular season, we want states and we want the MCT. We can do it, we always have the skill for it.”

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dana Smith expected her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team to extend beyond last Thursday when the third-seeded Little Tigers hosted No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals.

But PHS fell behind the Rams 2-0 by halftime and, despite some valiant play, couldn’t overcome an inspired Hightstown squad, falling 4-1 to end the fall with a final record of 14-4.

While star midfielder and team co-captain Smith desperately wanted the Tigers to keep going in the states, she has no regrets when looking back at her four years with the program.

“I am so happy with what I have done and what I have gotten to be part of at Princeton High School,” said Smith, a key performer last fall in PHS’s run to its first-ever sectional title.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better second half to finish with. Every single girl on the team was giving her all. Our fans were here. It just wasn’t our day. We gave it our all and did the best we could.”

The day got off to a rough start for PHS as Hightstown scored with 25:21 left in the first half to take the lead and then added a critical tally just 4:22 before halftime.

The Little Tigers came out firing in the second half, generating several corner kicks but just couldn’t cash them in. The Rams tallied with 24:56 left in regulation to go up 3-0 and then PHS senior Ally Rogers found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 3-1. The Little Tigers kept pressing forward but got burned on a counter attack in the waning seconds as they lost 4-1.

“We never really put our heads down,” said Smith. “We were really focusing on coming back and trying for that goal. Even when they scored that third goal, we were still fighting. We thought we still had time; there was about 20 minutes left at that point. We never gave up; we played to the last second all the way to the last kickoff with seven seconds left. We were still going to goal.”

Although PHS fell short of its goal to win a second straight sectional crown, Smith believes that the pluses outweighed the minus of the finale.

“This whole season has been really great,” said Smith. “We have had so many great wins, beating Hopewell at night was a really good one. Starting the season with two close wins set the tone for the whole season. We knew we were going to fight until the end in every single game. We were never going to give up. I don’t think we did, not for a minute.”

In Smith’s view, the tone set this season will benefit the PHS program going forward.

“We have six sophomores and a freshman so they are going to come back so strong next year,” said Smith. “We have built off of last year’s success. We are going to build off of this year’s successes.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand viewed the season as a success despite the sour ending.

“I was so impressed with the quality of the soccer we played this season,” said Hand. “Sometimes it was a little sporadic and we hoped that we would be more consistent over the course of a whole game. It was some of the best soccer that PHS has played over the years. We became a better defensive team as well as the year went along.”

The Little Tigers displayed that quality game in the second half as they tried to overcome the deficit.

“It was tough falling behind,” acknowledged Hand. “We worked so hard in the second half to try to get it back. We played some terrific soccer and we found a way to get one. It was too much to get back.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s group of seniors, which includes Kaity Carduner, Emily Costa, Krysta Holman, Jordan Provorny, and Eve Reyes in addition to Smith and Rogers, has shown the way for the younger players.

“What a terrific group, they are really great role models for what you need to do to be successful,” said Hand.

“Regardless of the record, I think this was a very successful team. Certainly by external measures, they were successful as well.”

While Smith also stars in lacrosse for PHS and has committed to play for the Lafayette College women’s lax program, soccer isn’t truly over for her.

“I am going to focus on lacrosse but it is going to be sad to end my soccer career,” said Smith. “It will always be a part of my life. This is definitely not going to be the last soccer game. I will definitely find a way to get a ball and kick it around. It has been such a huge part of my life and this team has been such a huge part of my year so far. We are going to wake up tomorrow and still be a team. We’ll be hanging out in the halls together.”

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley liked what he saw from his Princeton High boys’ cross country team as it got ready to compete in the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet last Saturday.

“I felt like we had trained and tapered appropriately,” said first-year head coach Shelley.

“When you are working with your top 10-12 runners, you can really get in some great workouts.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to put in some good work in the meet held at Thompson Park in Monroe, placing second of 18 teams, trailing only champion Middletown North.

“We knew how good Middletown North was and that we were going to be in a dogfight for second place,” said Shelley, whose team trailed Middletown North 40-88 with Northern Burlington taking third at 95 and Middletown South coming in fourth with 109. “It was good to see us come through.”

Senior star Conor Donahue came through in a big way for PHS, placing eighth in the individual standings, clocking a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course.

“Conor was actually a little sluggish in the first mile,” said Shelley. “He had a super last mile. He had a great kick, he passed some guys who have finished ahead of him before.”

The next Little Tiger finisher, junior Jacob Rist, showed some great character as he battled through injury to finish 12th in a time of 16:48.

“Jacob looked great in the first two miles but he had an issue with his foot over the last mile,” said Shelley.

“His kick wasn’t there. He gutted it out and that’s what you want from your top runners. You don’t drop out, you keep running and do as well as you can.

Freshman Alex Roth is emerging as a top runner for PHS, taking 16th at the sectional with a time of 17:11.

“Alex is so unflappable,” asserted Shelley. “He works hard and doesn’t seem to get too excited. We have been careful with his mileage and training. We have been working on getting him to race more aggressively. He tends to start a little slowly, relatively speaking. We want him to be quicker at the starts. We have been doing some interval pacing with him, trying to cut 10-15 seconds from his time.”

Two PHS juniors, Alex Harvey and Karl Bjorkland, had a good time at the sectional meet. Harvey placed 24th in 17:30 with Bjorkland taking 28th in 17:32.

“They were both fighting a cold,” said Shelley. “Harvey ran an exceptional race. I give the runners goals in each race based on the course and how they are running and he hit his goal exactly. Karl had a good race, but not his best. He is usually closer to Alex Roth. Karl has been a good surprise, he is a transfer from Pittsburgh.”

With PHS competing at the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel, Shelley knows his team faces a challenge as it shoots to stay around the front of the pack and earn a spot in the season-ending Meet of Champions.

“I like where we are at,” said Shelley. “It depends on being injury free and running our very best. We have some injuries to work through but that’s why you run the race. We are going to continue our tapering. We try to do more speed work at this time of the season to keep them sharp as we are cutting the mileage.”

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped  Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LIVING IT UP: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Braender-Carr boots the ball up the field last Wednesday in the state Prep A championship game. Senior defender Braender-Carr and the sixth-seeded Raiders fought hard in falling 2-0 to top-seeded and 11-time champion Pennington. Last Saturday, NYU-bound Braender-Carr ended her Hun career by picking up an assist as the Raiders topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 in their regular season finale to post a 7-12-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Braender-Carr’s senior season with the Hun School girls’ soccer team got off to a rocky start.

Hampered by injuries and with young players taking their lumps as they were thrust into key roles, Hun lost its first seven games this fall.

As the lone senior captain on the squad, Braender-Carr did her best to pump up the team’s younger players during the early losing streak.

“I just tried to keep them positive after those first couple of losses,” said Braender-Carr, a defender who helped trigger Hun’s offense with her deft corner kicks and penetrating runs up the field.

“I was trying to keep them working, trying to figure out what I could do to motivate them.”

Braender-Carr’s influence paid dividends as Hun caught fire in mid-October, propelled by a pair of wins over Lawrenceville in a week.

“The wins over Lawrenceville really got us going,” said Braender-Carr. “I think it just kept building and building. We really started to want to win, the drive got bigger. We got some players back that were injured, Ashley Maziarz and Jess Sacco.”

That drive to win spurred Hun on a stirring run in the state Prep A tournament as the sixth-seeded Raiders topped No. 3 Lawrenceville and No. 2 Peddie on the way to the title game last Wednesday against top-seeded Pennington School.

While Hun fell 2-0 to 11-time champion Pennington in the championship game, Braender-Carr had no qualms with the effort produced by the Raiders.

“I think we played really tough; we hung in there,” said Braender-Carr in assessing the contest that was knotted 0-0 at halftime.

“I think we had more shots in the first half on goal, some good chances. We had a few breakdowns in the back obviously. We didn’t stay on our marks enough on the 18 when they scored their first goal and on the other one they showed a great counterattack off the corner kick.”

Despite trailing 2-0 in the waning moments of the contest, Hun kept attacking to the final whistle. “Ashley had a chance off my corner; I had a shot at the end,” said Braender-Carr.

“We really worked well as a team defensively, stopping them at the box. I just thought we played our hearts out.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac thought that her team showed plenty of heart in defeat.

“We knew it was going to be a really tough matchup,” said Hallac. “We hung with them. I thought the first half was a really good battle. They had more looks but I didn’t think they had great looks, it was nothing too dangerous so I felt good heading into the second half.”

Pennington, though, took charge in the second half, going up 1-0 with 32:30 remaining in regulation and then tacking another tally with 5:25 left.

“Giving up that goal changed the momentum,” said Hallac. “We were down for a few minutes there and we were able to claw back a little but the second one kind of sealed it. The girls should really be proud of the way they played.”

Hallac is proud of how her squad rebounded from its 0-7 start. “It makes you wonder what could have happened if everyone was healthy all year,” said Hallac, whose team topped Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) 3-0 last Saturday in its regular season finale to end the fall at 7-12-1.

“But you know what, you have all of these freshmen who wouldn’t get the experience that they did and that not only helped us at the end of this season, but it is going to be a huge help going forward.”

Hun’s late surge has Hallac looking forward to 2014. “I think the way that we finished the season, they should see what is there for us in the future and keep looking towards that,” said Hallac.

“We need to keep building towards that because we basically bring almost everyone back. There is no reason that we can’t be back here next year.”

It will be difficult not having Brander-Carr back on the team. “It is hard to even put it in words; Olivia has done such a great job as a leader on the field, off the field in so many ways,” said Hallac, whose other senior on the team this year was Tanya Clark.

“She does a lot of those intangible things that coaches just love to have in their players, but especially in their captains. We are going to feel her loss tremendously. She has really done so much for this program; we are going to miss her.”

Braender-Carr, for her part, loved the way things came together in her final days with the program.

“The last three or four weeks have really been good; that’s how I wanted my whole senior season to go,” said Braender-Carr, who will be playing for the NYU women’s soccer team next fall.

“I am glad I got to spend time with this group of girls; this is the closest bond we have had in all the grades in the four years I have been here.”

November 6, 2013

While the Princeton University men’s soccer team may have won ugly in posting a 2-1 victory over Cornell last Saturday, the triumph left the Tigers in pretty good shape in the Ivy League title race.

The Tigers are now 6-7-1 overall and 3-1-1 Ivy, tied with Penn (6-8-1 overall, 3-1-1 Ivy) for second place and trailing frontrunner Harvard (5-7-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy).

In reflecting on the win, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that his team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“It is funny we didn’t think we were playing that well but we got two goals,” said Barlow.

“We thought we got off to better starts against Dartmouth and Columbia but they got the first goal. That was not one of the best games soccer-wise from beginning to end but we got those two first half goals.”

The Princeton tallies came on good individual efforts by junior star Cameron Peter and senior standout Patrick O’Neil.

“Cameron did a good job on that play,” said Barlow. “Thomas Sanner made a play in the midfield and then Brendan McSherry got it to Myles McGinley and he sent it up the field. Cameron was in a wrestling match with the two center backs and was able to score. O’Neil came in at left back due to an injury to Joe Saitta. We like our backs to come up wide and he scored that goal from left back.”

Barlow didn’t like what he saw in the second half as Cornell put Princeton on its heels.

“We had a good opportunity to get a third but Thomas Sanner hit the post,” lamented Barlow.

“They had a player seriously injured, he got tangled with Chris Benedict and his head hit Benedict’s knee. They thought there might be a neck injury; he was immobilized and taken off by an ambulance. The game was delayed for 25-30 minutes. When it restarted, they threw the kitchen sink at us. They scored on a corner and we had to hold them off.”

In Barlow’s view, the Tigers have a good opportunity to come out on top in the Ivy dogfight.

“I have been saying all along that we have a good team,” said Barlow. “It was good to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Harvard; we had our backs to the wall. We are focused on the league right now. We hope Columbia can beat Harvard so our game with Penn will be for first place. It is wide open with two weeks to go, we think if we play our best we can win the title.”

The Tigers will have to be at their best to pull out a win over the Quakers. “They have one of the best attacks in the league,” asserted Barlow.

“They have four special players in Duke Lacroix, Alec Neumann, Sam Hayward, and Stephen Baker. They are also not conceding many goals. We will have to keep track of those four going up the field. We need to win the midfield, that sets the tempo. It is going to be a really good game.”

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At around 6:30 on Saturday evening, the players on the Princeton Day School soccer team were crying tears of joy after their dramatic 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game at Rider’s Ben Cohen Field.

“That was huge; I don’t know if there was one dry eye on the team after that,” said PDS senior star Lilly Razzaghi, reflecting on the emotions triggered by the program’s first-ever county crown. “We were all so happy.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happiest about the character his team displayed in its rise from a 4-9-4 campaign in 2012 to the MCT title.

“You know what it is; it is a team that is resilient,” said Trombetta. “The whole thing started last season when we finished with only four wins. It was a bad taste in our mouths and those girls remember that. I said it is unacceptable. I said you have got to come back and bounce back and that is exactly what they did this year.”

The first-seeded Panthers had to bounce back in the second half as No. 2 HoVal had them on their heels in the early going.

“I said you didn’t play well and it is 0-0 right now, you start making things happen and we are going to win this game,” said Trombetta, recalling his halftime message.

“Hopewell had the better of the play  But if you look at our back four, I will put them up against any back four in the county, with Stef Soltesz, Brit Murray, Erin Hogan, and Lily Razzaghi, That it is a strong four. I thought Rory Finnegan played excellent in goal today.”

In the the second half, PDS got goals through its strong play on set pieces as Eloise Stanton scored on a corner kick from Alexa Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from Brit Murray.

“We have been working on that in practice over and over and I told the girls this is how games are won or lost right here on this stuff,” said Trombetta. “I said  you guys need to be the aggressive team inside the box and they did it.”

In Trombetta’s view, pushing his players to come together as a team was a key factor in PDS’s title win.

“The chemistry is great,” said Trombetta. “If you look at the makeup of the team with underclassmen and upperclassmen, it is about 50/50. What I had the upperclassmen do is for each to take an underclassmen under their wing and just mentor them all season so that tightens the bond and it just grew and grew. It is a real close-knit group and, you know what, it means a lot in games when the players are playing for each other. It has been an amazing journey.

Utilizing that camaraderie, PDS struck a blow for the underdogs. “This is for all the teams out there, the small schools that nobody looks at,” said Trombetta, with his voice rising.

“The girls that might not be academy-type players but if you have a bunch of girls who have great team chemistry, it goes a long way. They have got so much heart and determination.”

At around 2:30 the next afternoon, however, the PDS players cried tears of frustration as their hearts were broken in a 2-0 loss to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game played on their Jan Baker Field.

The top-seeded Panthers got off on the wrong foot against No. 6 Mo-Beard as they surrendered two goals in the first 13 minutes of the contest and then had a player sent off with a red card minutes later.

“It is bad enough playing less than 24 hours after the county game and then you get dealt a red card,” lamented Trombetta.

“That was an unfortunate situation, playing a man down for three-quarters of the game. The girls competed right to the end, they never gave up.”

Trombetta acknowledged that team’s grueling schedule, which saw it play six tournament games in nine days, may have caught up with the players on Sunday.

“We were flat off the bat,” said Trombetta. “It is tough. I have been coaching this game a long time and trying to play six games in nine days is tough. Fatigue was a factor, we were running on fumes to be honest with you. To have a game like last night with that kind of emotional game and that hard-fought battle and then to come back the next day and play in another championship game is a tall task.”

Razzaghi, for her part, liked the way the Panthers kept on task despite tired legs.

“We definitely have had a lot of games and it catches up to us sometimes,” said Razzaghi.

“But I don’t think we ever gave up. We kept playing. They may have scored on us but we came back and fought hard. Even when we switched up our formation, we played really hard. I am really proud of the girls.”

The loss to Mo-Beard didn’t diminish the pride that Razzaghi feels over what the Panthers accomplished this fall.

“In the four years I have been here, I have never seen a team of girls work so well together towards such a common goal,” said Razzaghi.

“We played so well. We have these (holding up county champion t-shirts) which is the first time we have these and I am pretty proud of the girls for having done that.”

Trombetta, for his part, won’t soon forget what his team did in 2013. “We couldn’t be more proud of the performance of these girls and the team as a whole and the way they stuck together,” said Trombetta, whose squad posted a final record of 17-2-1.

“I told the seniors, regardless of how this stings, what you did this year, no other PDS team did. I am very happy for the seniors to go out this way. Obviously they are upset and I told the other girls, take a look at the seniors right now.”

Things are looking up for PDS in the wake of its historic run. “We had a very good eighth grade team that didn’t lose a game,” said Trombetta.

“The junior class has been the warriors in this group. I think next year we are going to hopefully be up there again.”

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Eloise Stanton waited to get back on the field midway through the second half of the Mercer County Tournament girls’ soccer title game last Saturday, the Princeton Day School senior midfielder was confident she could make an impact.

With top-seeded PDS locked in a scoreless tie with No. 2 Hopewell Valley, Stanton trotted onto the field at Rider University and got into the fray.

“I came off from outside mid and I was pretty tired and just got a quick drink,” said Stanton. “Everyone on the bench cheered me on and I went in and when I was on the field everybody was really helpful.”

With 11:21 left in the half, Stanton got her teammates cheering as she headed in a soaring cross from Alexa Soltesz to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was perfectly placed and I just looked up and hit it,” said Stanton, recalling the goal that proved to be the game-winner in a 2-0 victory for the Panthers as they won the program’s first county crown.

“It was easy for me, she did all the work. As an outside mid, I am told to go on the keeper and I tried to do that. Alexa has amazing crosses. She has a great foot and her corners are always beautiful.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happy to see Stanton’s work pay off with the decisive tally.

“Eloise started the season off great,” said Trombetta. “I had a conversation with her the other day and I said ‘Eloise you have had a little bit of a lull here in scoring. This is your last week as a PDS Panther, go out and make something happen.’ That was a beautiful header.”

Just over a minute later, Stanton and her teammates experienced another beautiful moment as junior Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from senior star Brit Murray to give the Panthers some insurance.

“It felt really good; getting the first goal is good but you know it can easily be tied up,” said Stanton, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s tally.

“Getting the second goal is really nice, especially since there were only about 10 minutes left in the half. I think that is when we knew we had it in our grasp.”

With the game tied at 0-0 at halftime, things weren’t coming easy for PDS as it battled a tough HoVal squad that had knocked off powerful Pennington on the way to the title game.

“We were concerned,” said Stanton. “We knew how to play it, especially from the PHS game when we were down 1-0 at the half. We have a lot of heart.

“We knew we could do it. We all have faith in each other. I think that is the main thing, we have confidence in our teammates and that is what makes us good.”

Coming together as a team paved the way to PDS’s championship breakthrough with the squad bouncing back from a frustrating 4-9-4 campaign in 2012.

“I think a lot of it is that we have been working on team chemistry,” said Stanton.

“Last year, we had all the talent but the seniors have been working on bringing that together because we kind of played individually. We did have the talent but we didn’t really work together as well. So this year the seniors tried to get the team to have one goal and one big picture in mind for what we wanted in the end.”

In Stanton’s view, winning the county title was not only a great way to end her career, it should serve as big inspiration for the program going forward.

“It means so much especially for the seniors and this being our last season,” said Stanton.

“It is a great way to end. I think for the incoming freshmen it is a great way to start because it shows them how much everything means to us and that getting this far, it gives them something to shoot for in the future.”

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a disappointing 2-1 loss to Princeton Day School last week in the semis of the Mercer County Tournament, Ally Rogers and her teammates on Princeton High girls’ soccer team were excited to get things started in the state tourney,

With third-seeded PHS hosting No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional last Monday, the Little Tigers were looking to make a statement.

“This is a new tournament, this is a new start,” said senior forward Rogers. “We want to just show everyone what we have because we didn’t do that in the county tournament so we are going to do that in this tournament. We are going to come out strong.”

PHS certainly came out strong against Jackson Liberty, scoring five unanswered goals in the first half on the way to a 6-0 victory.

Rogers, who scored two of the first half goals, said that the Little Tigers showed progress from the PDS setback.

“We learned from it; we know we didn’t play our best in that game,” said Rogers.

“We could have won, I think. We just lost the momentum a little bit and stopped winning the 50/50 balls, which was a big problem. We just focused on that in our practices and we focused on that in this game and I think we did fairly well.

“Placing the ball and just calming down when you are in front of the goal are two of our other biggest things.”

In blasting in her tallies, Rogers showed clinical precision. “On my goals personally, I just made sure I took a breath before I shot,” said Rogers, who now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season. “I just saw the goalie and saw where she was and just placed it in the space.”

The productive partnership between Rogers and junior Shannon Pawlak was on display as Pawlak contributed two goals and an assist in the first half onslaught.

“Shannon uses her foot skills in the middle and I use my speed to get up the side and cross it to her,” explained Rogers.

“We just work very well with each other and we have learned to play off of each other and we talk to each other and make sure that we are on the same page.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his players were on the same page Monday as they bounced back from the PDS loss and started the defense of their sectional crown.

“We were disappointed there, we were not dejected,” said Hand, referring to the team’s mood after the PDS setback. “We had been focusing on training well and wanted to come out and be sharp on attack and on defense. Today was a good start.”

In Hand’s view, Rogers and Pawlak were particularly sharp in the win over Jackson Liberty.

“Ally is so dynamic; she does some surprising things in every game,” asserted Hand, whose team will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on November 7.

“She is always working hard. She has developed a great ability to hold the ball under pressure and to get behind people and get in serves from really difficult angles. Shannon always works so hard for us. She did a great job of finishing off that early goal in the game.”

Rogers and her classmates, for their part, are determined to produce a big finish to their PHS careers.

“All of the seniors are so stoked that this is the team that is going to be our last team for the high school,” said Rogers.

“We just know that we are so strong that we can go all the way if we connect and play our game the whole time.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High field hockey team battled Warren Hills last Saturday in the first half of the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals, it was clicking on all cylinders.

Looking strong at both ends of the field, fifth-seeded PHS took a 2-0 lead over the No. 4 Blue Streaks into halftime.

“We played the way we play best with a quick passing, possession game,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, reflecting on her team’s first-half performance.

“We have been working on pushing harder to the goal and playing tighter defense and we did both of those in the first half.”

But midway through the second half, a hard six-minute stretch doomed the Little Tigers to a 3-2 defeat.

“About 15 minutes in, we were still ahead 2-0 but then they scored three goals in six minutes, it was a wave of intensity,” said Serverson, who got goals from Julia DiTosto and Trish Reilly in the loss. “We had trouble responding and we had a couple of injuries in that stretch.”

In addressing her players in the wake of the defeat that left PHS with a final record of 13-4-2, Serverson saw parallels to the team’s heartbreaking loss on strokes to Hopewell Valley a week earlier in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“It was sort of the same as after the Hopewell loss in the Mercer County Tournament,” said Serverson.

“I told them they have to be able to respond and adjust to the other team. It is the little things that make a difference at this level.”

In Serverson’s view, while her team played high-level hockey all fall long, it could have reached even greater heights.

“It was an excellent season,” said Serverson. “We had a great record even with the two late losses. I feel that they didn’t reach their potential, they were capable of more.”

The team’s core of seniors did their best to help the team maximize its potential.

“Our captains [Emilia Lopez-Ona, Merritt Peck, and Gennie Quinn] helped provide stability and calm in the postseason games,” said Serverson. “Breanna [Hegarty-Thorne] did a great job in the cage.”

Welcoming back such talented players as DiTosto, Reilly, Lucy Herring, Elisa Kostenbader, Campell McDonald, Jordyn Cane, and Georgia McLean, Serverson believes PHS can do some great things next fall.

“I think the experience they got in this postseason will be drawn upon next year,” said Serverson. “We are returning more than half the starters.”

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The mood was solemn as the Hun School girls’ soccer team headed to Peddie last Thursday for a state Prep A semifinal clash.

”We had to prepare ourselves for this game,” said Hun junior star Ashley Maziarz.

“We were really focused on the way here. We were very quiet and focused on the game when we got here. We paid attention to what we were doing in the warm up. We really worked hard.”

Once the game started, a business-like sixth-seeded Hun team controlled possession, generating a number of corner kicks and putting the second-seeded Peddie defense under pressure.

On one of those corners, defender Maziarz got on the end of an Olivia Braender-Carr volley and headed the ball in for a goal.

That combination has been the blueprint for several Hun goals this fall. “Usually that is how we set up the corners; we like to get me to the far post,” said Maziarz.

“Olivia likes to take the kick, she has a really good strike. She always know swhere to hit it and knows where I am. A lot of time it falls into place. It was a really lucky goal. The goalie came out and I think she might have gotten a tip on it and the ball fell right on my head.”

Maziarz’s goal proved to be the lone tally of the contest as Hun prevailed 1-0 and booked its spot in the Prep A championship game at top-seeded Pennington on November 6.

After the final whistle below, the mood around the Hun squad was joyous as the players hugged after the game and then jogged to the cheers of their fans on the post-game warm down.

A smiling Maziarz acknowledged that there were some anxious moments as Peddie battled hard after intermission.

“It was definitely a different feel in the second half, they were pressing hard,” said Maziarz. “They came out strong. We had some rough moments but we pulled together.”

The victory was another step forward in a surprisingly strong late surge which has seen Hun rebound from a 0-7 start to make its first appearance in the state Prep A title game since 2009.

“We started off weak,” said Maziarz, noting that she was sidelined in the early going due to a partial tear in her patella.

“Now is the time that really matters; we seem to be pulling together and peaking at the right time. We are working as a team and we are working hard, especially in practice, getting what we need to do.”

As a team captain, Maziarz has felt the need to be extra supportive of Hun’s large contingent of freshmen and sophomores.

“I like to keep them focused and positive,” said Maziarz. “In the beginning of the season when it wasn’t going  the way we wanted it to, I tried to build them up.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac points to the return of Maziarz as a key factor in her squad’s strong finish.

“Getting Ashley back from injury as well as Jess Sacco has really changed the dynamic on the team,” asserted Hallac.

“The two of them not only possess the ball well, but they calm things down, they control things out there. Now that these freshmen have had all of this experience and you are getting veteran players back, it is really a good time to start jelling and we are.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun got off to a really good start in the Peddie clash. “I told the girls at halftime this was the best 40 minutes of soccer I had seen them play all year,” said Hallac.

“They were doing everything right other than one little missed communication in the back. We really possessed the ball, we were moving it around. We were getting good looks at it and all it takes is that one opportunity that you capitalize on.”

Hun had to hold the fort in the second half as Peddie looked to equalize. “I thought we handled it well,” said Hallac.

“There are always going to be those scary moments, a couple where we got lucky. I told the girls that you make your own luck. We took care of our chance and then we did what we needed to do to solidify the win. We were able to hold on and I was proud of them.”

Hallac is proud of the resilience her players have shown in battling back from their rocky start this fall. “These girls have been working hard and getting better every time they step on the field,” asserted Hallac.

“Even when we were 0-7, they were showing such improvement every game. It was just a matter of keeping them positive and keeping them hungry. They kept showing up every day and working hard and doing every thing I asked and I told them it is going to come together you have just got to believe me. They saw it and kept working.”

Beating Lawrenceville in the opening round of the Prep A tournament and in a regular season contest in the same week helped propel Hun, now 6-11-1, into the title clash with perennial power Pennington.

“They gained a new kind of confidence that is allowing them to really reach their potential and playing the kind of soccer I know they have been capable of the whole time,” said Hallac, whose team battled hard in losing to Pennington 4-2 in a regular season contest and 2-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. “I  think they feel they can beat Pennington if they play their best soccer.”

Maziarz, for her part, believes Hun will give Pennington all it can handle. “I think right now we are focused a lot more and that is really helping,” said Maziarz. “Once we won those games against Lawrenceville, it definitely gave us confidence. We want to keep playing and play hard.”

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Bailey Hammer joined the Hun School boys’ soccer team as a freshman in 2010, he soaked up some important lessons from the squad’s veterans.

“Three of us were on the varsity team our freshmen year, Andres Gonzalez, Chris Meinert, and me,” recalled Hammer.

“We had a phenomenal group of seniors, a lot of them went D-1. Guys like Julian Plummer who played at Lafayette. There were a lot of great kids and we were learning from them. Thank God for them because they taught us so much at a young age.”

Over the last few weeks, senior midfielder Hammer together with classmates Gonzalez, Meinert and Felix Dalstein applied those lessons as they led 11th-seeded Hun on an improbable run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

The Raiders came together as they stunned sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing 2-0 to Hightstown last Wednesday night in the semis.

“It would be our leadership, the four senior captains,” said Hammer, when assessing what made the difference for the Raiders in its MCT run.

“A lot of guys listened to us, they looked up to us which helped us out a lot and definitely our coaches. They were there for us no matter what, academically, anything so it was nice to have that friendship and bond where you could bond off the field. You could go out for pizza but at the same time, battle on the field together like brothers. It was really nice.”

The Raiders brought a battling spirit into the postseason. “Our whole motto is if you don’t believe us, we’ll show you how we do it,” said Hammer.

In the loss to Hightstown, Hun showed plenty of skill and fight, generating some good chances as the teams were knotted 0-0 at halftime. In the second half, Hun kept pressing forward, just missing goals on a header attempt by Hammer and a point blank volley by Alex Semler off a corner kick. Hightstown broke through with a goal on a penalty kick with 19:09 left in regulation and then added a second score on a free kick some seven minutes later.

“Coming off of two overtime wins, we were hyped, we were ready to go,” said Hammer.

“We had a light practice yesterday and we knew what we had to do coming into the game. I just wish we could have come out with a win but I thought we battled to the end, everyone hustled. It was a really good game.”

Hammer’s fiery presence helped spark Hun to give its all against Hightstown. “I like being loud, I am competitive and everything,” said Hammer, who also stars for the Hun baseball team.

“It was definitely a blast being out there and getting the team fired up. I think we battled and it was just really nice to see everyone leave it out on the field.”

Hun head coach Pat Quirk was likewise proud of Hun’s effort. “We created a lot of good opportunities for ourselves,” said Quirk.

“We couldn’t finish but we never gave up and that’s been the story of this team all season. There were times where they could have packed it in but they never do. They are always trying to keep scoring.”

Even though the Raiders brought a losing record into the MCT, Quirk sensed that his team could pull off some surprises.

“I had a good feeling coming into the tournament,” said Quirk. “We started playing well together. We started making some combinations and we had that whole never give up thing. The first two games in the tournament we won in overtime. No one really expected us to do anything and we were able to prove some people wrong.

Quirk credits his quartet of seniors with holding things together for the Raiders.

“Bailey, Felix, Andres, and Chris have all shown some great leadership,” said Quirk, whose team topped Peddie 3-2 last Saturday to move to 7-11 and will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. “They are lead by example players.”

Based on the team’s late surge, Quirk is confident that his younger players will follow the good example set by the seniors going forward.

“We have guys coming back that are part of this,” said Quirk. “Two freshmen are on the field the majority of the time in the game for us. We have a bunch of sophomores and some juniors. I think it looks good.”

Hammer, for his part, believes his class is leaving a good legacy for the program.

“We are going to be ready for next year,” said Hammer. “We got a lot of young kids so hopefully this is a good learning experience for them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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