Acasio Pinheiro has only been running for the last four years but he has already come a long way in the sport.
Earlier this month, the 10-year-old Princeton resident placed second in the AAU Cross Country Nationals Championship meet in Orlando, Fla. A year earlier, Pinheiro had placed third in the AAU national event.
For Pinheiro, a fifth grader at the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, taking up the sport was a way to continue a family tradition.
“I started running when I was six,” said Pinheiro, who placed first in the New Jersey AAU race to qualify for the national competition. “My dad was a runner when he was young and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Pinheiro’s dad, Angelo, imparted some of his knowledge to Acasio after he showed an interest in running.
“My dad made me train before I raced,” said Pinheiro. “I run with the Sport Newark club now. I run 3.2 miles a day, six days a week.”
The active Pinheiro, who also wrestles and plays baseball, sees running as a way to channel his energy.
“Running helps calm me down,” said Pinheiro, whose cousins, Rui and Marco, are soccer stars at the Princeton Day School. “I like passing people; it is just having fun.”
While Pinheiro enjoyed himself at the AAU race, he had mixed emotions about the result.
“I was proud but I was also sad because I wanted to win,” said Pinheiro, who covered the 3k course in 10:59.81 with the winner, Lucas Bourgoyne clocking a time of 10:48.97. “I will be trying to win next year.”
Pinheiro is planning to win a lot of races over the next 10 years or so.
“I want to run in high school, college, and all the way to the Olympics,” said Pinheiro.
Acasio Pinheiro has only been running for the last four years but he has already come a long way in the sport.
Junior guard Duke reeled off seven points as the Raiders edged ahead of WW/P-S 47-46 in the game played at Rider University.
“I felt good; my shot was feeling good so I just kept shooting the ball,” said Duke.
Hun, though, didn’t hit enough shots down the stretch as it fell 56-54 to the Pirates.
In reflecting on the loss, Duke said Hun’s impatience helped doom it to defeat.
“We took too many quick shots and it turned into easy layups for them,” said Duke, who ended up with 15 points in the contest.
“It didn’t put us in a good situation at the end of the game; we should have worked harder on offense and been more patient for open shots. We also should have done a much better job defending.”
Duke and backcourt mate, senior Bo McKinley, are trying to do a better job of running the Hun offense.
“Going back to last year, we didn’t play as much and we got used to the system,” said Duke.
“This year we have stepped into more of a leadership role so we are hoping that we develop as the season goes on.”
In Duke’s view, the disappointment of the loss to WW/P-S could help Hun develop into a stronger team.
We needed a wake-up call; that was a humbling experience for all of us,” said Duke. “We need to come out stronger and we need to come harder.”
A perturbed Hun head coach Jon Stone hopes his team learns from the setback. “The lesson is that we have got to show up to play every night,” said Stone with a clenched jaw.
“We didn’t show up to play today. They outworked us; they outplayed us, and they deserved to win 100 percent.”
In Stone’s view, his team has struggled to find a rhythm. “We have had close games go our way too but we are just not consistent,” added Stone, whose team bounced back Sunday with a 58-41 win over Paramus Catholic as McKinley scored 16 points with Rashid Epps adding 11 and Will Kelly chipping in 10 as the Raiders improved to 4-5. “We have no consistency.”
Duke, for his part, believes Hun can work through its inconsistency. “We are still learning and getting more comfortable with it,” said Duke. “I am sure that we will get things under control and figure it out.”
“I had to work mainly on my shot,” said sophomore point guard Cole. “I stepped into the weight room, I had to work on my strength a lot.”
Cole also spent a lot of time with his teammates as they worked collectively on becoming a stronger unit.
“We lost seven seniors so coming into this year it was pretty much a whole new team,” said Cole.
“We started early. We played in summer leagues, we played together in the fall. We just all got really comfortable with each other and we started jelling. By the time we got into the season, we were ready to play even though we were starting as a whole new team.”
The fruits of that labor were on display last Wednesday as PDS hosted the American History School from Newark. The Panthers jumped out to a 20-8 lead after one quarter and took a 49-19 advantage into halftime.
PDS never looked back on the way to a 79-46 triumph as it moved to 5-0 on the season.
“Today we started out really well, we came out strong and we had about a 30-point halftime lead,” said Cole, who contributed 16 points and some slick assists.
“We wanted to come out after halftime and start the first four minutes fast and well. We wanted to hold the lead and not let American History come back. We wanted to stay on our game.”
Cole and PDS junior star Davon Reed have developed a partnership that really helps PDS’s game.
“Davon and me have been playing together since were eight years old,” said Cole.
“We know how to play with each other. Playing with Davon is a really big up. I know where he is and he knows where I am all the time.”
PDS head coach Paris McLean had the sense that his team would come together this season even though it was featuring a lot of new faces in the starting lineup.
“We only had Davon and Matt Cook coming back with a lot of varsity playing time so we had to blend early,” said McLean.
“The boys’ commitment to stepping up in the offseason, whether it is in the weight room or open gym is paying off with a 5-0 start. We look like we are in great shape; I think we could run for days.”
McLean likes the way Cole is running the PDS offense from his point guard spot.
“I always knew he was going to be a great player,” said McLean, who got five points from Cole last Monday as PDS topped George School 74-50 to improve to 6-0 with Reed scoring 32 points and passing the 1,000-point mark in his career.
“For a young kid being a freshman and coming into a varsity role it is the speed of the game. Now he has adjusted to that and he feels comfortable. He is crafty; he shoots the ball well. He does a lot of things well. He is a great point guard and he can score.”
Junior guard Langston Glaude is another young kid who is playing well for the Panthers.
“Langston is such a cerebral player; he understands the game well,” said McLean.
“He thinks like a basketball player so it is nice to see him get in on the scoring as well because he can score. We have multiple weapons.”
While Reed, who has been rated as one of the top 100 juniors in the country by several hoops rating services, is the team’s top weapon, the Panthers know they can’t rely on the 6’5 star to do everything.
“One of this team’s mottos is ‘hurt the help;’ if someone comes out to help on Davon, whoever is open has to hurt the help and make them pay,” said McLean.
“So the help will be a little less next time and Davon will be open.”
PDS is dedicated to working together. “The team made another motto –‘everybody eats,’” said McLean, whose team plays at Conwell-Egan on December 21 before competing in the Delran Tournament on December 27 and 29.
“Everybody eats in this family and that means everybody gets a touch on the ball and everybody gets shots when they are open. You don’t see guys pointing fingers saying why did you take that shot or why did you do this because we are comfortable with each other.”
Cole, for his part, believes PDS can make its foes uncomfortable throughout the season.
“I think we are going to surprise a lot of people; we came out strong this year,” said Cole.
“I think we just came in with a chip on our shoulder; we just wanted to prove to everybody that PDS can beat anybody any time. We have the attitude that we can beat anybody who steps on the floor with us.”
“Every junior is more of a role model for the team, not just the seniors,” said junior star Deardorff.
“We have to be there and show them what they should be doing rather than just sitting there; we should be out there for the team.”
Last week, the Little Tigers were pressed to show their stuff as they edged a tough Robbinsville team 90-80.
“It was a pretty tough challenge, it was a good way to start our third meet of the season,” said Deardorff of the matchup with the Raven squad which is a combined team including some top-flight swimmers from Allentown.
“Everyone’s adrenaline was going; we got everyone cheering for our teammates and it was really exciting, we have all the spirit we need and it really does help in the water.”
Deardorff produced a spirited performance, placing a tight second in the 200 individual medley before coming back to win the 100 butterfly.
“It was a really good race; I loved racing Taylor [Johnson],” said Deardorff, reflecting on the 200 IM race.
“I don’t think getting second had any effect on me; it was just fun. We are both really exhausted because we had a big club meet this weekend. We went all out and that is all that really matters. In the 100, I felt better. I didn’t have Taylor to race there but it doesn’t really matter who I am racing. I am just trying to swim hard.”
PHS head coach Greg Hand saw Deardorff as exemplifying the solid effort he got from his swimmers.
“I thought Serena was a good example of somebody who gave 100 percent today and she’s got so much experience racing. She knows full well that she can’t influence anything except what is going on in her lane.”
Hand, though, acknowledges that Deardorff is having an influence on the team beyond her excellence in the pool.
“As she is getting older, she is just becoming a more confident person and is someone who seems to have a really good sense of herself and is genuinely friendly towards everyone on the team,” said Hand.
“She is injecting a lot of energy on the deck and into the team so that’s sort of automatically happening which is great. She is also conscious that she can have a really big impact because she is somebody who is automatically going to be a role model for the kids on the team. It is nice to see her realizing that there is something that she can do and ought to do and she is doing exactly that.”
In the win over Robbinsville, the Little Tigers followed Deardorff’s lead with their focus on the job at hand.
“I had this sense that the kids seemed to be excited; they were concerned with their own races,” said Hand, who got a win from Christie Samios in the 100 backstroke with Marisa Giglio taking second in both 100 and 200 freestyle races.
“They didn’t seem too worried about the score. I wasn’t getting a lot of questions about the score, which in my opinion is always a good sign. If the kids know that the only thing they can do is perform their best in their own lane, then that will be a scrappy meet. If they are worried about externals then they are really underperforming. I was happy that the kids were really trying to do their best and supporting each other.”
Hand sees that support permeating the team, both on race days and in training.
“We have a big infusion of swimmers across a whole spectrum of experience and ability but the common factor is that they seem to enjoy each other,” said Hand.
“They seem to be buying into the idea that one of the ways to assess how we are doing is how it feels when we are out there training together and how it feels during meets. I really enjoy the team. Having fun is not near the top of my priority list but when we are having fun in the right way, we know we are training better.”
Deardorff, for her part, is confident that the team is headed in the right direction.
“I think we are going to have a great season despite our loss of seniors,” said Deardorff.
“I think we really can surprise some people. Going into this meet, we thought it was going to be a really big challenge and it was. I had this gut instinct that we could pull through. I know there are some meets where we know we are not going to win but I don’t think that should matter. We should go in just trying to improve individually and that will help the team in the end if everyone can do their best and drop their times.”
Over the past few years, the Princeton High boys’ basketball team has utilized a run-and-gun approach to develop into a consistent winner.
With less depth in the frontcourt, PHS head coach Jason Carter acknowledges that he may have to slow down things a little bit this winter.
“We are going to count on the big guys to play a lot of minutes and we have got to keep them on the court,” said Carter, whose team went 12-13 last winter in making it to the sectional quarterfinals.
“We may not press as much; we will play more of a deliberate game. We will still fast break when we get 2-on-1 opportunities.”
Lanky 6’6 junior Lior Levy could emerge as the key big man for PHS if he can get up to full speed after being sidelined by a knee injury for much of last season.
“Physically he is getting there,” said Carter, whose team tips off the 2011-12 season by playing at Nottingham on December 16.
“He is working his way back to play more, we have modified things for him as to drills. Mentally, he is there with his basketball IQ and his skills. It is a marathon and we would rather have him at full speed in March than doing too much in December. He is dying to get out there.”
The Little Tigers will also be relying on juniors Jordan Phelps and Christian Giles to come up big in the frontcourt.
“Phelps is coming off a good soccer season; I am hoping he can bring his soccer savvy to the basketball court,” said Carter.
“He made some clutch plays this fall. He can finish. Christian Giles has shown some progress; he can really jump. He is really hungry. He was on the JV at the beginning of last year and he has improved dramatically.”
PHS features a trio of guards in seniors Davon Holliday-Black and Matt Hoffman together with junior Scott Bechler who have shown an ability to come through in the clutch.
“Davon can play in the backcourt and we can also post him up,” said Carter, who will also be using juniors Peter Schulman and Ellis Bloom at guard.
“Davon and Matt are seniors and have played in some big games. Matt shot the ball well at times last year. He also had a big fall; he ran well for a cross country team that won a sectional title. Scott made a lot of progress last year; he had a big win over HoVal in our win in the states. He is coming off a fantastic run in soccer where he was an outstanding contributor.”
In Carter’s view, PHS could have a good run if his veterans get on the same page.
“The five starting guys need to play together and step up at opportune moments,” said Carter. “If those guys can trust each other at crucial moments, we could be good.”
That trust will result if the team can develop a resilient nature. “Overall character is the key to the season,” asserted Carter.
“How hard do we work in practice?; can we hit clutch free throws?; can we hold onto the ball when we are up by two points?; can we come back when we are down by four?; and can we persevere through adversity?”
As a grade schooler, Conrad Denise went all out as a fan at the Princeton Day School Invitational hockey tournament.
“My whole life, I remember these weekends,” said Denise, whose older brothers John Garret and Will were PDS standouts. “I painted my face blue and white; I spray-painted my hair.”
While Denise had the pleasure of seeing his brothers taste victory at the annual tourney, he suffered through painful losses in the finals the last two winters as he started his career at PDS.
Last weekend, the junior forward took matters into his own hands as PDS broke through for its first title at the invitational since 2007.
On Friday, Denise scored two goals as PDS topped DeMatha Catholic (Md.) 7-2 in the opening round and then contributed a goal and an assist a day later as the Panthers defeated defending champion Moses Brown (R.I.) 5-3 to win the title.
“It is definitely a big deal for me to win the tournament,” said a grinning Denise.
It was definitely sweet for PDS to turn the tables on Moses Brown. “We lost to them last year in the finals so it was a chip on our shoulder that we had,” said Denise, reflecting on the win which improved PDS to 5-0.
“There are some new guys in the room but they understood. We were happy to get the job done.”
Denise was happy to give the Panthers a lead in the championship game, scoring five minutes into the contest.
“We have been known in the first games for really getting off to good starts which is something that we haven’t always been able to do in the past,” said Denise.
“That is definitely something that helps us; getting off to an early lead and then just getting into a groove and taking control of the game.”
The Panthers lost some control as they were clinging to a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
“The games are going to get chippy; it was going back and forth,” said Denise.
“The play was definitely picking up; we knew what we had to do. We were in the locker room and we were making sure that the young guys and the new guys knew what they had to do. We are just happy to pull out the win.”
PDS head coach Scott Bertoli likes the way Denise is getting it done. “Conrad is just a smart two-way hockey player; he is very passionate about hockey and PDS hockey,” said Bertoli.
“I know he has to make some sacrifices with his travel team to be here and play with us and we all appreciate that. We know what it means to him; the kid just bleeds blue and white. It is pretty evident today that this meant a lot to him.”
Bertoli appreciates the scoring punch he has at his disposal this season. “We have three very capable lines; we have 10 forwards who we play regularly and that can all score and contribute,” said Bertoli, who also got goals from Lewis Blackburn, Robert Colton, Dallas Derr, and Connor Bitterman in the title contest.
“We play good two-way hockey and when we do that, we control the tempo of the game. We are a quick team; we get to pucks. It is fun.”
The addition of the Colton brothers, junior Robert and freshman Ross, has helped PDS pick up the tempo.
“Robert gets it done at both ends of the rink; he adds a physical element that we really haven’t had in a while,” said Bertoli.
“He is not the biggest guy in the world, he like Garret Jensen [PDS senior captain] doesn’t back down from anyone. They are out there to initiate. I have him out there playing the point on the power point which he has never done before but he is doing a great job. And then Ross, he is arguably the most talented kid on the ice every time he suits up. He is just a dynamic offensive player. He is very adept at reading plays and creating scoring opportunities. All that being said from the offensive side, he kills penalties. He is very responsible defensively; he really has a good understanding of the game.”
PDS is also getting solid play at the defensive end. “The one other big thing that has evolved is the play of our defensemen; we possess the puck far more and with more confidence and with more efficiency than we have ever done,” asserted Bertoli, noting that the quartet of Tyler Olsson, Taran Auslander, Grahame Davis, and Ed Meyercord stepped up Saturday with Bump Lisk and C.J. Young not available.
“We do a lot of things on the breakout that we haven’t ben able to do before and it just has to do with the quality of our defensemen. They are willing to make plays. They are willing to get our forwards pucks on the rush and that makes a difference. As a forward, it is fun to play in transition and our defensemen are allowing us to do that.”
In Bertoli’s view, the team could have a fun winter if it plays with a little more discipline.
“I told these kids and it seems like every time I walk into that locker room, we talk about the first period and a half and say it is the best hockey I have seen,” said Bertoli, whose team will look to keep rolling this weekend when it competes at the Barber Tournament in Massachusetts.
“That was the same case today. In the first period and a half, we dominated play. We control the game and, for whatever reason, we get into penalty trouble. It gets us out of our rhythm. We are working through that. Once we resolve that issue, I like our chances in most games.”
Denise, for his part, believes the Panthers have found a good rhythm. “I am so proud of our organization and how much we have improved since my freshman year,” said Denise.
“It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my family. I am just really happy that the team is doing so well.”
Coming into its annual invitational tournament, the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team had a clear point of emphasis.
“The big thing for the weekend was putting the puck in the net and getting rebounds,” said PDS head coach Lorna Gifis Cook.
Senior forward and co-captain Megan Ofner took that message to heart.
On Saturday, Ofner scored three goals to help PDS top Summit 5-0 in the opening round of the event. A day later against Rye Country Day, Ofner tallied on a second period power play goal but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers fell 3-2 to the Wildcats.
While Ofner was disappointed by the final result in the title game, she was proud of how PDS competed.
“Rye is always a big competitor; we always look forward to the game,” said Ofner, who now has 94 points in her PDS career.
“Sometimes, we come out on top and other times, like today, it is heartbreaking loss. We left it on a high note in the Summit game so continuing on that high note really helped us get pumped up to play our best today.”
As a two-time captain and leading scorer, Ofner knows that PDS needs her to give her best in every way.
“I am just happy to help the team; my job is to do anything and everything I can for the team,” said Ofner. “We have a short bench so I try to do anything I can do to help them and encourage everyone.”
It has helped PDS to put Ofner together on a top line with classmate and fellow captain Ashley Egner and junior Zeeza Cole.
“Ashley and I have waited three years to be finally able to play together,” said Ofner.
“It is definitely great chemistry out there with Ashley and Zeeza. We have known each other for a while so we know how each other plays and we know how to get it done.”
Ofner and her teammates will be looking to get it done this Thursday when they host Princeton High in the latest installment of the heated local rivalry.
“We are so excited for PHS; they have been our rival for the last four years,” said Ofner. “We are pumped up and ready for that game.”
Head coach Cook likes the way Ofner pumps up the Panthers. “She is definitely the leader on the ice,” asserted Cook. “She always has a lot of energy; she is just very driven.”
The Panthers showed plenty of drive in the clash against Rye as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Lexie Fairman and then rebounded from a 2-1 deficit to knot the game at 2-2 heading into the third period.
“It was a very competitive game,” said Cook, whose team outshot the Wildcats 34-32 in falling to 2-1.
“We had a lot of energy; we just have to get a little more confident with the puck.”
Cook is looking for her veteran line of Ofner, Egner, and Cole to provide the team with a lot of energy this winter.
“I think they still need to fit into their roles a little more and get comfortable playing with each other but they are definitely coming along,” said Cook, who saw Egner notch a goal in the win over Summit.
“They have got chemistry with each other off the ice; they just need to translate that on the ice.”
Sophomores Mary Travers and Mimi Matthews are developing a chemistry as they look to be a one-two scoring punch on the second line.
“I think when Mary and Mimi can get things going and get a little bit stronger on the puck, they are going to make things happen for us,” said Cook who got a goal from Travers in the win over Summit with both of the sophomores picking up assists in the defeat to Rye.
PDS got a strong effort over the weekend from junior goalie Daisy Mase who made 10 saves in earning the shutout Saturday and then had 29 stops in a losing cause against Rye.
“Yesterday’s game for her was really tough; to not face that many shots is really difficult for a goalie,” said Cook.
“Today’s game you could tell she knew she was going to get a lot of shots. She did and she was in it the whole time. She kept us in the game.”
In Cook’s view, PDS should benefit from facing the tough competition provided by Rye.
“I do think the team took a step forward; they needed a game that really challenged them,” added Cook.
“They played well but it gives them something to go into practices with the kind of mindset that we are going to play them again and we are going to get better.”
Ofner, for her part, sees the Panthers getting better and better as the season unfolds.
“We definitely know our strengths and weaknesses better than we did in the beginning of the season,” asserted Ofner. “We are ready to act on them and continue on with a great season.”
When David Dudeck learned last summer that the Hun School football team was bringing in post-graduate star John Loughery to play quarterback, he had every reason to be upset.
After all, Dudeck had been the starting quarterback in 2010 when Hun fell one win short of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title.
But Dudeck, a stalwart for the Raider program since his freshman season, moved to receiver and went out of his way to get in synch with the strong-armed Loughery.
“When John reached out to us, David said ‘if it would make us better, I will move to wide receiver,’” said Hun head coach Dave Dudeck, recalling his son’s reaction to the situation.
“He and John were working out in the summer; they just connected. They both have a strong work ethic.”
The younger Dudeck provided good work at receiver all fall long, stretching defenses with his speed and route-running and then changing games with his good hands and propensity for coming through in the clutch.
In the Raiders’ showdown with local rival Lawrenceville in early October, the 6’0, 190-pound Dudeck showed how much he meant to the Raiders.
In the first half, Dudeck made touchdown receptions of 20 and 60 yards as Hun built a 21-12 halftime lead. But when Loughery was sidelined for the second half due to a jarring hit late in the second quarter, Dudeck took over at quarterback.
Showing poise and guts, Dudeck triggered the Hun offense with aplomb in the second half, running for two touchdowns and ending up with 117 yards rushing as the Raiders pulled away to a 34-18 triumph.
“John goes down and I get the call; I am ready and I am fully confident that I can lead this team to a win,” said Dudeck, reflecting on his surprise turn at quarterback.
“I think the biggest thing is playing each and every play with confidence. If you do that, it will be a lot better for you.”
In a pivotal 24-17 win over Blair the next week, Dudeck caught a 21-yard TD reception to open the scoring and then made a catch for a critical fourth down conversion to set up the game-winning touchdown.
Dudeck ended the fall in style, making three catches for 106 yards and a touchdown as Hun beat Hill 38-19 to finish with a 7-1 mark and clinch the MAPL crown.
Head coach Dudeck was justifiably proud of what his son gave Hun in his final campaign.
“Honestly, David was a difference maker and go-to guy,” said Dudeck, whose son also starred at defensive back for the Raiders.
“As he went, the team went. He is a special player and special kid. For the last four years, everything was about the program for him.”
For the younger Dudeck, the bonds with the program ran deep this fall. “We have been getting closer and closer each and every day; we are growing as a family which is awesome to see,” said Dudeck, who is considering several Division I programs including Princeton, Navy, and Boston College. “We come out here and work hard.”
For being unselfish as he helped carry the Hun program to a title, David Dudeck is the pick as the Town Topics top male performer of the fall high school season.
Top Female Performer
Coming into the Mercer County Tournament in late September, Princeton Day School girls’ tennis star Samantha Asch had a lot on her shoulders.
The slender junior was the defending champion at first singles and was seeded No. 1 for the 2011 competition at Mercer County Park. In addition, PDS needed Asch to come through if it was to have any chance at the team title in what figured to be a wide-open competition.
“I wasn’t worried about it but it is obviously there,” said Asch, reflecting on the bull’s eye on her back. “I just focused on what I had to do.”
Displaying her unerring groundstrokes and unflappable competitive mentality, Asch breezed through the competition, not dropping a set in winning her second straight first single crown.
“I didn’t really come in with a specific strategy,” said Asch, in assessing her a 6-0, 6-1 win over Sneha Rangu of Hightstown in the title contest.
“I just focused on getting prepared early and moving her around and the rest fell into place.”
For Asch, the icing on the cake came when PDS eked out the MCT team title, edging rival Princeton High by one point, 17.5-16.5.
“We came in the season having lost a bunch of valuable seniors so we didn’t really come in expecting much,” said Asch, who went on to win the state Prep B title at first singles in November.
“We have practiced really hard and everyone is coming in with their game face on and playing well.”
For first-year PDS head coach Ed Tseng, it was a pleasure to watch Asch put on her game face this fall.
“She enjoys it and that is the first thing,” said Tseng of Asch, who has been ranked in the top 15 in the nation among high school juniors
“She enjoys it so she works harder. She works harder so she gets better results. She doesn’t like to miss one day of practice and she practices after practice. With an elite athlete like Samantha, the medals and trophies are the tip of the iceberg.”
Asch, for her part, concurs, attributing her success to that unyielding work ethic.
“It reflects all the hard work I have put in,” added Asch, who estimates that she trains four hours a day in the summer when not playing in tournaments.
“After I come off a hard loss, I always try to bounce right back and come back even harder. I want to come back and practice even harder. I have gotten bigger so my serve has gotten better. I have just tried to clean everything up and cut down on unforced errors.”
Asch’s sensational work on the court this fall makes her the choice as the Town Topics top female performer.
With the graduation of star Zaid Smart, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team had a big gap at the top of its lineup entering this fall.
In the early going, PHS head coach John Woodside relied on a tight pack and senior Kevin Ivanov as the Little Tigers showed promise, winning the Group III race at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational.
But in the Shore Coaches Invitational, sophomore newcomer Conor Donahue showed that he could be a frontrunner, taking seventh with a time of 17:10 over the 5k course as PHS won the Varsity C title.
Weeks later at the Mercer County Championships, Donahue set the pace again for PHS, taking 14th individually as the Little Tigers placed fifth in the team standings.
“Donahue battled really hard; he is a guy who put himself out there and really went for it,” said Woodside, reflecting on the county meet.
In early November, Donahue really hit his stride, placing sixth individually in 16:59 over the 3.1 mile course as PHS won the team title at the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional meet at Thompson Park in Jamesburg. It was the program’s first sectional crown since 1986.
Woodside was proud of the progress Donahue made this fall. “Conor is new to cross country; he ran track last spring,” said Woodside. “He is just figuring things out; he is just starting to come into his own. He can be a star.”
For emerging as a star and playing a key role as PHS won its first sectional crown in 25 years, Donahue is the pick as the top male newcomer of the fall.
It didn’t take long for freshman Stefany Soltesz to catch the eye of Pat Trombetta during preseason training for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team.
“Stefany Soltesz has really impressed me,” said PDS head coach Trombetta, who started four other freshmen this fall, including Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Hogan, Kylie Kieffer, and Soltesz’s twin sister, Alexa.
“We are going to have her at starting sweeper as a freshman. That is a lot of responsibility but she hasn’t left the field since we started. She is aggressive.
Once the games started, Soltesz showed a resourcefulness to go with her aggressive mentality.
With Soltesz sparking a stingy defense, the Panthers got off to an 8-2 start, beating the likes of Lawrenceville and Rutgers Prep along the way.
While injuries, including a concussion suffered by Soltesz, derailed the Panthers down the stretch, PDS looks to be a force to be reckoned with in coming seasons.
Trombetta will be depending on Soltesz to patrol the back line as the Panthers look to get back into contention for a state Prep B title.
“Stefany does a great job in the back,” said Trombetta, who guided the program to Prep B crowns in 2008 and 2010.
“She has got a great game sense. She knows when to come up and make a tackle and she knows when to hold back and be a support defender. She plays bigger and older than she is.”
For making an immediate impact in a key position, Soltesz gets the nod as the top female newcomer of the fall season.
Lacking a go-to scorer, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team struggled to score goals in the early going this fall.
But that didn’t stop PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe’s well-drilled unit from producing a third straight undefeated regular season.
While Sutcliffe wanted better finishing, he brought plenty of confidence into tournament play.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with where we are at,” said Sutcliffe, as the team looked forward to the postseason “We have great spirit in the group. We are in a good place.”
In the the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals against Notre Dame, the Little Tigers displayed that spirit as they fought back from a 1-0 second half deficit to pull out a dramatic 2-1 win on a last-minute goal by Colin Lamb.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and the poise they showed,” said Sutcliffe, whose team went on to win the MCT crown by edging Pennington 1-0 in the title contest.
“They really had to scramble and put something together to get that tying goal. They believed; we could tell that they believed.”
The team’s belief increased as it produced a glorious run through the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, outscoring its foes 10-3 on the way to the program’s fourth sectional crown in the last eight year.
PHS’s superb run ended with a 2-0 loss to Timber Creek in the state Group 3 semis and afterward Sutcliffe lauded the contribution of his seniors,
“They gave us all they had and they met the demands of every single game including this one,” said Sutcliffe, whose club ended the fall with a 20-1-2 record and won the CVC Valley Division title to go with its county and sectional titles. “I am so proud of Ben [Davis] and Kyle [Ehrenworth], George [Kusserow], Bruce [Robertson], Ajami [Gikandi], and Kellen [Kenny]. Even though this was the first game we lost all season and we were on the wrong end of it, how much more could you do to meet the demands of the game. They had a great run, just fantastic.”
For getting the most out of his players and guiding PHS to three titles in another fantastic season, Sutcliffe is the choice as the top coach of a male team.
PHS girls’ tennis head coach Sarah Hibbert was cautiously optimistic as she looked ahead to the 2011 campaign.
“I would like to have a better year than last year but there are a lot of strong teams,” said Hibbert, whose lineup featured six seniors and one junior.
“WW/P-N and WW/P-S have reloaded and brought in some good freshmen so we can’t take anything for granted in the county. The seniors all know this is their last year and that we have a great chance to be a very successful team. They need to stay focused and work on keeping in the moment in the matches.”
Bringing an undefeated record in the Mercer County Tournament, PHS suffered bitter disappointment as it missed out on the team title by one point, falling to champion Princeton Day School 17.5-16.5.
As a subdued Hibbert reflected on the setback, she vowed that her team would be a force in the upcoming state tournament.
“I think we definitely played well today, we have the potential to do very well in states,” said Hibbert.
“We just have to keep everyone healthy and playing well. Hopefully we will do good things.”
The Little Tigers ended up doing some very good things in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional, breezing into the finals where they edged Manasquan 3-2.
“It is really nice,” said Hibbert in assessing the program’s first sectional title since 1999.
“It is almost a relief; being so close and never being able to win sectionals. We ran into some strong teams over the years like Moorestown and Holmdel. With Holmdel getting moved out of sectional this year; we thought we had a chance.”
After PHS’s run ended with a 3-2 loss to Montville in the Group 3 state semis, Hibbert tipped her hat to the team’s strong group of seniors which included Sarah Cen, Vinita Su, Helena Ord, Lena Sun, Keely Herring, and Alyssa Taylor.
“Many of this group made varsity as freshmen and they have been staples in the lineup for so long,” said Hibbert, whose team posted a 16-2 record this fall. “It will be hard to lose them. They are leaders, friends, and good people. It is a great group and I will definitely miss them.”
Hibbert’s steadfast leadership in guiding those seniors to the program’s first sectional title in 12 years makes her the pick as the top coach of a female team this fall.