November 26, 2014
HIGH STICKING: Hun School field hockey star Julia Blake (No. 12) celebrates after a Raider goal this fall. Senior star and co-captain Blake starred in the midfield, helping Hun post an 8-11 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HIGH STICKING: Hun School field hockey star Julia Blake (No. 12) celebrates after a Raider goal this fall. Senior star and co-captain Blake starred in the midfield, helping Hun post an 8-11 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Hun School field hockey team didn’t make the kind of postseason run this fall that it has been known for in recent years, it did end the season on a high note.

The Raiders rolled to a 6-1 win over Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) in its finale, snapping a six-game losing streak to post a final record of 8-11.

“The seniors knew it was their last game and they came out strong,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk.

“We had a nice ceremony for them before the game and they felt good about themselves.”

One of Hun’s top seniors, co-captain Vicki Leach, ended things with one of the strongest performances of her career, tallying four goals and two assists in victory against Mercersburg.

“Vicki came out feisty in front of the cage,” said Quirk. “She is very
unselfish, she is not afraid to pass but she was in the right place in the right time to score goals that day.”

Even in defeat, Hun showed feistiness collectively. “I think when we were playing Springside, we were down 3-0 and came back to lose 4-3,” recalled Quirk.

“We were down 4-0 to Germantown Academy and scored two goals to make it close. When we wanted to, we showed we could score goals.”

The Raiders also made improvement at the defensive end of the field. “I think the defense stepped up; they were so young and inexperienced,” said Quirk, noting that senior co-captain Julia Blake and sophomore Sophia Albanese were the only returning players.

“Charlotte Stout, Taylor Nehlig, Shannon Graham, Julia and Sophia really played well. Julia did a great job leading back there; she would get the ball side to side and would carry it up the field when needed.”

In addition to Leach and Blake, Hun got good work from its other seniors, Nehlig, Graham, and Penn-bound goalie and co-captain Reina Kern.

“They all had a really big impact, they all contributed in their own way,” said Quirk.

“Taylor really blossomed this year. I am glad that she got out of goal and became a field player. She was not afraid to go after opponents and just bother them on the field. Shannon was new to the team last year, coming over from soccer. With her soccer and lacrosse experience she was able to pick up the game quickly and did a good job skill-wise on defense. Reina ended her season on a high note. She really progressed from her freshman year to her senior season. She was a true leader on the field, not afraid to direct her teammates.”

In Quirk’s view, the program is headed in the right direction. “We have a good group of players returning,” added Quirk, whose core of returners includes junior Shannon Dargan, sophomore Julie Fassl, junior Gabrielle Cifelli, freshman Julia Revock, sophomore Delia Lawver, junior Sierra Hessinger, sophomore Sophia Albanese, junior Mariesa Cay, and junior Maura Kelly.

“Shannon Dargan is ready to step up on goal. Fassl is just a coach’s dream. She works hard and asks questions. She puts out 100 percent all the time. She has speed up and down the field and sends the ball across well. She has a great hit. Cifelli will be on the line next year. Revock learned a lot this season and Delia played well. We have some good defensive players coming back in Sierra and Sophia. Cay and Kelly will help in the midfield. We have good numbers, we carried 21 and are losing just five.”

Going forward, Quirk is looking for her team to carry the play on a more frequent basis.

“Sometimes they waited too long to put out the intensity; sometimes we would give up a goal before we got going,” said Quirk.

“It is a good group. I hope they work hard over the summer and come back in good shape.”

CARRYING ON: Princeton Day School field hockey player ­Lauren Finley moves the ball up the field in a game this fall. Junior Finley was a bright spot for the Panthers this season as they posted a 2-15 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CARRYING ON: Princeton Day School field hockey player ­Lauren Finley moves the ball up the field in a game this fall. Junior Finley was a bright spot for the Panthers this season as they posted a 2-15 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Undergoing a youth movement by necessity this fall with only three seniors on the roster, the Princeton Day School field hockey team predictably took its lumps.

Although PDS went 2-15, Panther head coach Tracey Arndt saw a lot of positives.

“A 2-15 record never sounds pretty but when you reflect on it, we were successful,” said Arndt.

“We had girls who had never played before and we had six freshmen on the field at times. They improved mentally, they played teams at a higher level and never backed down. Their individual skills all improved. They did what we asked them to do as coaches and you can’t ask for more than that.”

The Panthers gave their all in the state Prep B quarterfinals at the Ranney School, battling through a downpour before succumbing 1-0 in overtime.

“It is what I hoped for,” said Arndt. “With the weather being the way it was, they could have used that as an excuse but they didn’t. It was new to play in those conditions. They kept fighting and fighting. Katie Alden made a great stick save at the end of the first half. Kate Laughlin played great on defense. Dana Poltorak had that look in her eyes. We walked off the field proud of how we played.”

Arndt was proud of what the senior tri-captains contributed as Alden starred in goal, Poltorak showed improved stick skills, and Niki van Manen spearheaded the back line before being sidelined by illness.

“We are going to have a huge void without Katie,” said Arndt of Alden, who was a first-team All-Prep B selection and made honorable mention CJFHCA All-Mercer County.

“We had to overcome not having Niki. Dana gave us a great hit. The seniors gave us great leadership.”

In Arndt’s view, the squad has a great foundation in place, featuring such returning players as juniors Lauren Finley, Kate Laughlin, and Rowan Schomburg, together with sophomores Kiely French, Emma Garcia, Kyra Mason, Catherine Stephens, and freshmen Elizabeth Brennan, Kyra Hall, Emma Latham, Catherine Laylin, Gretchen Lindenfeldar, Madison Mundenar, Elena Schomburg, and Claire Szuter.

“I am hoping we can start next year where we left off this year, we have a great core coming back,” said Arndt.

“The girls learned it is about playing where you are needed. They all did whatever we asked, they all improved at knowing the game. At the end of the season, they were coming up to me asking what can I do to get better, what clinics and camps can I go to.”

The players also learned some lessons beyond field hockey as they stuck together through adversity.

“It is about why we are here,” said Arndt. “They had a strong purpose. They showed pride in playing for PDS and in the effort they gave everyday.”

Despite finishing the season by losing six straight games and getting outscored 23-2 in the stretch, the Hun School boys’ soccer team didn’t get down on itself.

“The kids never quit, they played hard, no matter what the score,” said Hun head coach Pat Quirk, whose team finished the fall at 4-14-1.

“The record was not as successful as we wanted but it was still a fun season.”

Quirk pointed out that some untimely injuries did make things harder for the Raiders this fall.

“We have a lot of the right pieces but we couldn’t get them all healthy at the right time,” said Quirk. “We would try to plug one hole and then we would have another hole.”

One of the key pieces for Hun this fall was senior striker Tucker Stevenson.

“Tucker was a great guy for the program,” asserted Quirk, whose other seniors included Brendan Black and Esham Macauley.

“He was with us for three years, he studied abroad one fall. He was always happy and trying to have fun. He scored in the last game and he scored our first goal this season so I thought that was fitting.”

In Quirk’s view, the program has a good foundation in place with such players as sophomores Pat Nally, Connor Hufer, Logan Leppo, and Andrew Kaye together with juniors Alex Semler, M.J. Cobb, Chris Andrews, and Kieran Choi.

“Nally and Hufer played well in the middle but as sophomores, it is hard to go against junior and seniors there,” said Quirk.

“M.J. Cobb played a great defense for us. When he got hurt that was tough, that was a hole we couldn’t plug. We had three juniors and a sophomore in the back (Semler, Andrews, and Kaye in addition to Cobb) and the goalie  (Leppo) was a sophomore. Kieran Choi was in his second year for us and played defensive midfield and did a good job for us there.”

That core of players showed a love for the game, working hard in practice each day.

“The game is the teacher, the more we play, the more we learn,” said Quirk.

“That is why we scrimmage a lot in practice. They kept their heads up. In high school sports, something can switch at any time.”

Quirk believes his program can switch things up next fall and get back on the winning track. “The guys tried really hard, they can only get better and stronger,” said Quirk.

“We are still looking for that guy who can put the ball in the back of the net. I want them to just realize that it is still fun no matter what the record is and that you can still have a good time. I want them to get better each day in the offseason. We have been at the bottom and we want to rise to the top.”

November 19, 2014
OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz prepares to put up a shot in a recent practice session. Last Friday, sophomore forward Weisz contributed a game-high 18 points as Princeton topped Rider 64-58 in the season opener for both teams. The Tigers, who fell 63-60 at George Mason on Sunday to drop to 1-1, play at Lafayette on November 19 before hosting Incarnate Word on November 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz prepares to put up a shot in a recent practice session. Last Friday, sophomore forward Weisz contributed a game-high 18 points as Princeton topped Rider 64-58 in the season opener for both teams. The Tigers, who fell 63-60 at George Mason on Sunday to drop to 1-1, play at Lafayette on November 19 before hosting Incarnate Word on November 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Spencer Weisz gained some valuable lessons last winter in his freshman campaign with the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Helping Princeton win eight of its last 10 Ivy League games after a 0-4 start in league play, Weisz averaged 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game on the way to being named the Ivy Rookie of the Year.

Last Friday, when Princeton fell behind visiting Rider 39-30 in the season opener for both teams, Weisz applied some of that knowledge.

“We got down nine and I just felt with the experience that I had last year, it was time to step up and make some plays,” said Weisz.

Princeton proceeded to put together a 28-12 run with Weisz chipping in eight points during that stretch, seizing control of the contest on the way to a 64-58 victory before a crowd of 1,939 at Jadwin Gym.

In Weisz’s view, the comeback served as a valuable blueprint for the Tigers. “There was a long way to play and we needed to just settle in offensively and defensively,” said Weisz, who ended up with a game-high 18 points for the night along with six rebounds and two assists.

“Throughout the season there are going to be times when we are playing well but our shots aren’t falling. It is going to be scrapping and clawing for tough wins and fortunately we were able to come out with the win tonight.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson liked the mental toughness displayed by his squad on opening night.

“The biggest thing that I would talk about and would take away from the game is the poise,” said Henderson.

“I thought that they didn’t get rattled when they got down by nine. It is a fairly young group but they have the ability to stay with things. We said at the 16 minute timeout that we can’t play much worse so have some poise and let’s see where this thing goes and I thought they stayed with it. I thought Hans [Brase] made a couple of huge 3s to close the gap for us. We got to the line a couple of times. We were really good at getting to the line tonight, we took 20 free throws, which I was happy about. I thought the guys didn’t lose their cool.”

Princeton’s defensive effort also made Henderson happy. “It is the first game of the season, you don’t have a lot of information and we did some things we had only worked on a little bit,” said Henderson.

“I thought we came up with some really big plays, that is a tough Rider team so we are happy to get it. You have to count on your defense to get you back into the game. We were able to score but if we weren’t stopping them in that stretch, it would not have mattered.”

With senior star Denton Koon currently sidelined with a knee injury, Henderson is counting on his team’s depth and character to show through.

“Denton went down with a knee injury and I thought the group really responded well,” said Henderson, whose team went down last Sunday, falling 63-60 at George Mason to move to 1-1.

“Whenever you lose a senior, it is tough. Denton has been, in particular, very helpful in encouraging his teammates.”

Henderson is also encouraged by his squad’s diligence. “I just really like this team, I like the way that they are thinking about things,” said Henderson.

“They are concentrating on getting better. We really have so much to work on. I like the young guys, I like the old guys. I like the way that they are all going about their business.”

In assessing areas for improvement, Henderson focused on sharper offensive execution.

“There were a lot of turnovers (15),” said Henderson, whose team plays at Lafayette on November 19 before hosting Incarnate Word on November 22.

“We have potential to be good with the ball, we are trying to eliminate the dumb ones. There were a lot of walks called, which we will have to look at because we have been teaching that move for a long time around here. We have to look at that because I thought those were some really nice moves in the post. Overall, it is just valuing the ball and executing. Amir [Bell] is going to be on the floor for us and has to get us into something that everybody recognizes.”

Freshman guard Bell, for his part, produced a nice debut, contributing seven points, four rebounds, and three assists in 30 minutes of action.

“At the start, you just want to get into the flow,” said Bell. “As a team we  played really well. I was trying to help us in the best way possible and contribute to the game and, with my teammates, get a great win.”

Weisz sees a lot more wins on the horizon for Princeton as long as it plays sharper at both ends of the court.

“We have to execute better defensively and I think that starts with our veterans,” said Weisz. “From there we will be able to have better offense and be better as a team as a whole.”

FINAL PUSH: Princeton University senior quarterback Quinn Epperly gets ready to fire the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Epperly rushed for three touchdowns in a losing cause as Princeton fell 44-30 at Yale. The defeat dropped the Tigers to 5-4 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, thereby extinguishing their hopes for a second straight Ivy title with Harvard leading the pack at 9-0 overall, 6-0 Ivy followed by Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (7-2 overall, 5-1 Ivy) as the teams head into the last week of the season. Princeton hosts Dartmouth on November 22 in its season finale.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL PUSH: Princeton University senior quarterback Quinn Epperly gets ready to fire the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Epperly rushed for three touchdowns in a losing cause as Princeton fell 44-30 at Yale. The defeat dropped the Tigers to 5-4 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, thereby extinguishing their hopes for a second straight Ivy title with Harvard leading the pack at 9-0 overall, 6-0 Ivy followed by Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (7-2 overall, 5-1 Ivy) as the teams head into the last week of the season. Princeton hosts Dartmouth on November 22 in its season finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Playing at the Yale Bowl last Saturday as the 100th anniversary of the venerable stadium was celebrated, the Princeton University football rolled up 29 first downs, 386 yards of total offense, and scored 30 points.

While that production would be sufficient to win a lot of games, it wasn’t enough against the highest-scoring Yale squad in a century as the Bulldogs pulled away to a 44-30 triumph before a crowd of 23,260.

The defeat dropped Princeton to 5-4 overall and 4-2 Ivy League, thereby extinguishing its hopes for a second straight Ivy title with Harvard leading the pack at 9-0 overall, 6-0 Ivy followed by Yale (8-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy), and Dartmouth (7-2 overall, 5-1 Ivy) as the teams head into the last week of the season.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace lamented his team’s lack of execution in key moments against Yale.

“It is just frustrating, we put so much time and effort into preparation and the effort was outstanding but we made fundamental mistakes,” said Surace.

“Against a team as good as Yale, you have to be more detailed and more exact. They had eight or nine explosive plays and we had one.”

Two critical mistakes in special teams play turned the tide against Princeton as Yale blocked a punt to score a touchdown to take a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter and then added a field goal after a botched snap led to a short punt and gave the Bulldogs good field position.

“Those 10 points against a team as good as Yale makes it tough,” said Surace. “They have been scoring, getting 54, 51, 49 points in games this season.”

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like Princeton may be headed to a 50-point afternoon.

“Offensively we got off to a good start, we went right down the field and scored,” said Surace, whose team took a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Conner Michelsen to James Frusciante.

Yale responded with a seven-yard scoring strike from Morgan Roberts to Robert Clemons to make it a 7-7 game. Two possessions later, Princeton’s defense came up big as Matt Arends intercepted a Roberts pass to give the Tigers the ball at the Yale 29. Princeton cashed in as Quinn Epperly scored on a 7-yard run to give Princeton a 14-7 advantage midway through the first quarter.

After getting 10 points due to Princeton’s punting miscues to go up 20-14, the Bulldogs kept rolling as star running Tyler Varga rushed 30 yards for a TD to make it 27-14.

Princeton answered with an 11-play, 63-yard march that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Epperly.

But blunting the Tigers’ momentum, Yale added a field goal with no time remaining to take a 30-21 lead into intermission.

In the third quarter, Princeton seemed to be poised for a comeback. “In the second half we stopped them and we got the ball inside their five,” said Surace. “But we dropped a snap and then had to go for a field goal and the kick hit the upright. It is not our day when the kick hits the upright. We continued to battle back.”

But it turned out to be a losing battle as Varga scored on a 13-yard pass to make it 37-21. After Epperly ran for his third TD of the day to narrow the gap to 37-27, Varga struck again with a six-yard run as Yale took its biggest lead of the day at 44-27. Bieck kicked a field goal for the Tigers midway through the fourth quarter to end the scoring.

Surace tipped his hat to the Yale offense, which totaled 568 yards and is now averaging 43.0 points a game.

“Varga is having an unbelievable year, you have got to be at your best to stop him,” said Surace of the senior tailback who rushed for 137 yards on 26 carries in the win over Princeton.

“He had a 30-yard run when a safety got tripped by an umpire. We did as good a job as anyone on him. Their quarterback was outstanding all game. When we had a rusher on him, he found the right guy. When he had time, he was almost automatic. They have some really good receivers.”

Despite the frustrating setback, Surace is confident that Princeton can end the fall on a high note as it hosts Dartmouth on November 22 in the season finale and assumes the spoiler role with the Big Green still alive in the Ivy title race.

“You only get 10 games and each one is important and enjoyable,” said Surace. “They present different challenges. You have peaks and valleys in a season and we have responded well to the low points this season.”

Dartmouth presents some major challenges for Princeton, who will be looking to end the season on a high note and avenge a 2013 loss to the Big Green that kept it from winning an outright Ivy crown.

“Their quarterback [Dalyn Williams] is one of the best players in the league and he is having his best year,” said Surace.

“They run the ball well and they are strong up front. They have a really good group of receivers, starting with [Ryan] McManus. They always play well on defense, they are well coached and they run to the ball. We have to be focused on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Emotions will be running high but all those things can be a distraction. We have to play our best game in order to have a chance to beat them.”

Surace turned emotional when he reflected on how senior stars Epperly and linebacker Mike Zeuli competed in the Yale loss.

“Seeing Quinn Epperly on Saturday was inspiring,” said Surace. “He has been in pain and has been been injured but he was fighting so hard. Mike Zeuli plays as hard as any player I have ever coached. They are not the only two guys doing that but they are the captains and they are out front. The guys follow that.”

SHANNY TOWN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Cristin Shanahan glides up the ice. Last Saturday, junior forward Shanahan scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Rensselaer 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, now 6-1-1 overall and 4-0 ECAC Hockey, host St. Lawrence on November 21 and Clarkson on November 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SHANNY TOWN: Princeton University women’s hockey player Cristin Shanahan glides up the ice. Last Saturday, junior forward Shanahan scored the winning goal as Princeton edged Rensselaer 2-1 in overtime. The Tigers, now 6-1-1 overall and 4-0 ECAC Hockey, host St. Lawrence on November 21 and Clarkson on November 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cristin Shanahan saw no need for finesse when she got the chance to give the Princeton University women’s hockey team an overtime win against visiting Rensselaer last Saturday.

With just over two minutes gone in the extra session, Shanahan received the puck on the doorstep of the goal on a nice pass from Kiersten Falck and she closed the deal with aplomb.

“I wasn’t really the playmaker there, my teammates did a good job,” said Shanahan, whose tally gave Princeton a 2-1 win as it improved to 6-1-1 overall and 4-0 ECAC Hockey.

“I don’t know how Falck manages to thread the puck through every single time. She got it to me, it was a perfect puck laying right there for me and I had the open net so I slammed it home.”

The triumph marked the third overtime win for the Tigers in their last four games as they had edged Union 3-2 in OT on Friday and had topped RIT 4-3 in overtime on November 7.

In Shanahan’s view, Princeton’s clutch play exemplifies the team’s special spirit.

“I have never played on a team that loves hockey so much,” said Shanahan. “We just love coming to the rink, we love being here. It just means a lot playing with kids who love it; coming through in those moments shows how much heart we have.”

Shanahan acknowledges that the Tigers need to play better so they don’t have to keep going to overtime to get wins.

“I think our team just has to work on being consistent through the whole game,” said Shanahan.

“We are a very strong team. I think we have a ton of potential and that we can absolutely kill this season. One thing we have to do is play 60 minutes.”

With two seasons of college hockey under her belt, Shanahan feels she is getting more out of her potential this winter.

“I think I am way more confident, I have noticed that and the coaches have told me that,” said Shanahan, a 5’6 native of Ottawa, Ontario who is second in goals scored for the Tigers this season with four, trailing only Molly Contini’s total of five.

“I am doing my own thing and not worrying about how other people are playing. I am just focusing on my game and doing my thing; it is finally working out for me.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal is looking for his team to do better at maintaining its focus.

“We have come up at big moments and have made big plays,” said Kampersal, whose team took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by sophomore Morgan Sly.

“We have spurts of really hard-working play where we are really getting to work and we are strong on the puck and getting shots on goal and then other times when it is not very pretty and we are throwing pucks away, playing a little ping pong with the puck. We have done a good job defensively of keeping teams to the outside for the most part so we don’t let up a ton of shots, which is good.”

In the win over Rensselaer, the Tigers did a good job when it mattered most.

“We didn’t generate enough shots on offense tonight but again we killed off the big penalty at the end of regulation, which was huge, and then to get the goal right after was even bigger,” said Kampersal, who got 20 saves from junior goalie Kimberly Newell. “We got all the points, they are not drawing pictures on the scoresheet, luckily.”

Shanahan’s game-winning shot brought a smile to Kampersal’s face. “Shanny is solid, she slammed that home, which was great,” added Kampersal. “The pass by Falck was a big league pass. It was a really nice play all around. Leahy sent them in with a nice entry. That group played fairly well all day.”

While Kampersal is happy that Tigers are undefeated so far in ECACH play, he knows that won’t last long if the team doesn’t get more consistent.

“They are finding ways to win games,” noted Kampersal, whose team hosts St. Lawrence on November 21 and Clarkson on November 22.

“There has been adversity where we might have folded in years past, like getting down 3-0 to RIT last week or having Union score on us with 30 seconds to go last night and losing the lead late here. They kept with it and they kept resiliency. We will take where we are at, no question, but we definitely need to play a lot better and work on being consistent for 60 minutes.”

Shanahan, for her part, believes the Tigers can get better and better as the season unfolds.

“We are all pumped, I was just talking to some of my teammates and we think we are going to play home ice in the playoffs,” said Shanahan. “We are hoping to be Ivy champs. We think we have something special going here.”

GROUP EFFORT: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Lou Mialhe heads to the finish line in a race last fall. Last Saturday, junior star Mialhe led the way for PHS at the Group 3 state championship meet, placing 14th individually to help the Little Tigers take second in the team standings. Mialhe covered the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel in a time of 19:45. The Little Tigers will be back at Holmdel on November 22 as they qualified for Meet of Champions (MOC), the program’s first appearance at the prestigious event since 2010.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUP EFFORT: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Lou Mialhe heads to the finish line in a race last fall. Last Saturday, junior star Mialhe led the way for PHS at the Group 3 state championship meet, placing 14th individually to help the Little Tigers take second in the team standings. Mialhe covered the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel in a time of 19:45. The Little Tigers will be back at Holmdel on November 22 as they qualified for Meet of Champions (MOC), the program’s first appearance at the prestigious event since 2010. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton High girls’ cross country team, its second-place finish at the Group 3 state championship meet last Saturday was a microcosm of the program’s rise up the ranks over the last few years.

“We didn’t have a great start, I had us at seventh or eighth at the first mile,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk, reflecting on the competition which took place at Holmdel.

“We ran effectively on the back end of the race. They are veteran runners; I like the way they stuck with the race plan and trusted their training.”

In placing second to champion Mendham, PHS was paced by junior Lou Mialhe, who took 14th individually, covering the 5,000-meter course in a time of 19:45. Senior Mary Sutton placed 20th in 20:01 with junior Emma Eikelberner coming in 28th at 20:12, senior Paige Metzheiser taking 32nd in 20:17, and senior Julie Bond finishing 57th in 20:49

The team’s second-place finish booked PHS a trip to the Meet of Champions (MOC) on November 22 at Holmdel, the program’s first appearance at the prestigious event since 2010.

“It wasn’t just our goal this year; we set out to do it a couple of years ago,” said Smirk, whose team’s 20:12 average time on Saturday was a program record for the Holmdel course.

“When Elyssa [Gensib] and Jenna [Cody] graduated, we lost two top-end runners and there was a void in the program. We had to re-imagine ourselves. Julie Bond and Mary Sutton were sophomores and Paige was a JV runner. We take a lot of pride in what we accomplished; we didn’t get a big infusion of talent. When you go back a few years ago, we weren’t at this level. We were a decent team, we would make states. Every season we got better, not just in cross country.”

Running together in a tight pack has helped PHS make strides. “This is what the program is built on, they had to be ready to do the work to make the MOC,” said Smirk. “It was not going to happen overnight. The pack raised the level of each runner.”

Mialhe has raised her level of performance over the last few weeks. “Lou struggled early; she had an interruption in her training,” said Smirk.

“She was in Peru this summer in a place where she couldn’t really run. I am impressed by her ability to hit on all cylinders but it is very much because of the team. Girls like Emma took the burden off of her; Mary did that too. All five of the top runners have placed first for us at some point.”

Harnessing her talent and intensity has helped senior Sutton become a top performer for the Little Tigers.

“Day in, day out, we have to pull Mary back and have her be more patient,” said Smirk.

“A year ago, had this happened she would not have been able to do as well. We fell behind but at the 2-mile mark, she pops out in the lead for us and I realized that Mendham was the only team with two runners ahead of us. She dominated that middle mile. She still looked great and was able to set Lou up for a fantastic finish. That is four years of high quality work.”

Junior Eikelberner showed her quality on Saturday by overcoming a shaky start.

“She was 82nd at the first mile; she got swallowed up a little bit at the beginning,” said Smirk.

“Last year or even earlier this season, she might have panicked but she kept her focus and ran very well. She took an elbow in the jaw late in the race and just took the thump and kept going. She was locked in and she ran great.”

Metzheiser’s consistency has been a great plus for PHS this fall. “Paige has been a rock for us,” asserted Smirk. “She has given us constant quality, with no injuries, no setbacks. She just got a little better each race; she has been a big part of our success.”

The presence of Bond in the race despite a nagging hip injury helped PHS succeed on Saturday. “As of 3:30 on Friday, she was sitting out the race,” said Smirk.

“We kept her on the bike. I said that if she could convince me that we would be a better team with her on the line, she could go. She didn’t have to convince me because some of the other girls did. They said our best team would be with her on the line because of the fact that she is on the line makes us a better team no matter what she does. The proof was in the pudding. She was only 10 seconds off her Shore Coaches time. She was hampered by a hip injury but she was very confident and strong.”

While PHS was proud of its strong performance last Saturday, it isn’t planning to rest on its laurels as it returns to the MOC.

“They weren’t talking about getting second on the bus ride home, they were talking about next week and doing better,” said Smirk.

GOLDEN GOAL: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Andrew Goldsmith controls the ball last Thursday as first-seeded PHS hosted sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final. Sophomore Goldsmith scored a second-half goal to help PHS pull away to a 4-1 win. The Little Tigers will now face Ocean City on November 19 in the Group 3 state semifinals at Toms River North.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOLDEN GOAL: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Andrew Goldsmith controls the ball last Thursday as first-seeded PHS hosted sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final. Sophomore Goldsmith scored a second-half goal to help PHS pull away to a 4-1 win. The Little Tigers will now face Ocean City on November 19 in the Group 3 state semifinals at Toms River North. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Andrew Goldsmith has been a key playmaker for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team as it has won the county crown and advanced to Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final, he hadn’t scored a goal all fall.

The sophomore midfielder picked a good time to finally find the back of the net, scoring a vital second half goal as first-seeded PHS pulled away to a 4-1 win over sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional last Thursday in the sectional title game.

Goldsmith’s tally made it 3-1 and gave the Little Tigers breathing room on the way to the triumph, which earned them a spot in the state Group 3 semis where they will face Ocean City on November 19 at Toms River North.

“When they played that ball in, I thought the goalie was going to come out and get it but then I hear people screaming my name to run on it and I ran it,” recalled Goldsmith.

“I was going to score that one after getting so many opportunities this year. I needed to get my first one and it is a great feeling.”

Despite falling behind 1-0 in the first half against Red Bank, Goldsmith and his teammates had the feeling that they could find the back of the net and seize momentum.

“We knew that this goalie was really good and we found that he comes off his line very quickly,” said Goldsmith.

“We just knew that once we get in the break, we knew we would get more opportunities. We just had to stay composed because we knew the goal was going to come.”

PHS knotted the game at 1-1 on a goal by Nick Kapp late in the first half. With nearly 14 minutes gone on the second half, PHS forged ahead 2-1 and then Goldsmith tallied to help break Red Bank’s spirit.

“Whenever you go up two goals in a major tournament or even in a normal game, it is very tough to get your heads up,” said Goldsmith, whose goal was followed minutes later by a tally from Luis Lazo.

PHS has been getting tougher and tougher as the postseason has unfolded, playing its best soccer when it matters most.

“We were only focused on this game, you have to take it one game at a time,” said Goldsmith. “We just keep improving every game.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe kept the faith even as his team dug the early hole against Red Bank.

“We had plenty of time and with their high line and us getting in behind a couple of times, we were not that concerned,” said Sutcliffe.

“I was more concerned with the quality of their goalkeeper and the possible fact that he might have had a career day.”

Kapp’s game-tying tally changed the tone of the day for PHS. “What a timely goal, it was good work on the behalf of every guy, just trying to find a way to keep it and get in behind them,” said Sutcliffe. “It was a quality goal, that was the turning point in the game.”

In reflecting on his team’s high quality play down the stretch, Sutcliffe attributed it to chemistry and depth.

“I think more than anything, it is a great work ethic, camaraderie, and quality,” said Sutcliffe.

“We have a lot of quality and depth on the team. We are finding a way to let a lot of players become the personality player, and not just one player or two players. Our depth and our quality, I think has carried us through in the last four weeks.”

For Sutcliffe, winning another sectional crown and getting through to the state semis with this group means a lot. “I am as happy now as I have ever been winning any championship,” said Sutcliffe, who guided PHS to state titles in 2009 and 2012.

“Last year, we really worked hard with 17 new varsity players. I am particularly happy for the seniors. It is not a big class in numbers, there are only six of them and they have just persevered. They have been challenged by the juniors and the sophomores. The end result of that is what you saw today, a lot of quality and finding a way to win.”

Goldsmith, whose older brother, Jeremy, starred for the 2012 state championship team, saw the sectional title as redemption after the Little Tigers produced a subpar campaign in 2013.

“It is great,” said Goldsmith. “I have gotten a lot of grief from last year when we got knocked out in the first round of MCTs and the semifinals of the sectionals coming off a state championship year. This is just a great feeling and I can’t wait to call my brother up and tell him about it.”

RIST AND REWARD: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Jacob Rist competes in a 2013 race. Last Saturday, senior Rist placed 35th individually at the Group 3 state championship meet to set the pace for PHS as it took 13th in the team standings. Rist clocked a time of 17:05 over the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RIST AND REWARD: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Jacob Rist competes in a 2013 race. Last Saturday, senior Rist placed 35th individually at the Group 3 state championship meet to set the pace for PHS as it took 13th in the team standings. Rist clocked a time of 17:05 over the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton High boys’ cross country team didn’t finish as high at the Group 3 state championship meet last Saturday as it did last fall, Mark Shelley saw progress.

“Other people ran great races and we couldn’t control that,” said PHS head coach Shelley.

“What we could control, we did well. We ran very, very well. We were 11th last year and 13th this year but I think this was a better performance in terms of hitting our potential. I was very pleased, we were going south at the state meet last year in terms of injuries and this year we were headed in the other direction.”

Senior Jacob Rist battled through injury to set the pace for the Little Tigers, placing 35th as he covered the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel in a time of 17:05.

“Jacob has not been 100 percent this fall, he had achilles tendinitis,” said Shelley of Rist, who took ninth at the Central Jersey sectional meet on November 8 to help PHS finish second in the team standings in that competition.

“He gutted it out; he wanted to break 17 and came really close. The only way for him to heal would have been to take six weeks off but he is a senior and didn’t want to do that. We listened to his parents and doctor.”

Another PHS runner, sophomore Alex Roth, gutted it out as he overcame knee problems to place 57th at the state meet.

“We were amazed with how Alex did,” said Shelley. “He ran 17:05 at Thompson Park last week and then ran a 17:24 at Holmdel on a harder course. Holmdel has more hills. He was tentative with his knee earlier. At Holmdel, there is the hill in the beginning and he got out a little better. He was just seven seconds off his Holmdel record. He has six weeks off with just rehab; it shows his natural ability and how seriously he took rehab.”

Senior James Cao gave the team a serious effort as he finished 93rd with a time of 17:55.

“James was emotional after the race, it was his last race,” said Shelley. “He has always been the ultimate teammate, the kids love him and we as coaches love him.”

Shelley loves what he has seen from junior Noah Chen over the last few weeks.

“Noah is very talented and very personable; he has sometimes struggled with consistency in workouts and meets,” said Shelley of Chen, who was PHS’s third finisher at the state meet, taking 62nd in a time of 17:28.

“We have seen a positive change in his consistency over the last few weeks. He is going to be a leader for us next year. Getting him to harness his ability has been our goal.”

Sophomores Jonathan Petrozzini and Patrick O’Connell showed their ability as they took 89th and 105th, respectively, on Saturday,

“Petrozzini and O’Connell are both sophomores and it was their first state meet,” said Shelley.

“Petrozzini has had problems with hips and O’Connell had strep throat and was out 10 days; it has been tough for him to get his stamina back. Both PR’s at Holmdel.”

In Shelley’s view, his runners gained some mental toughness as they dealt with the ups and downs of the season.

“It was frustrating that we had a number of injuries to our top guys,” said Shelley.

“It hurt us in terms of competitiveness but it gave the opportunity for freshmen and sophomores. We had two freshmen, Nick Delaney and Alex Ackerman, who got to run some varsity races. One of the things about sports is that it is like life, you get lessons in dealing with adversity, individually and collectively. Individually, you may lose your place and you have to still be a good teammate. The team might not do as well as we want. The lessons go beyond cross country. We want to help the kids take the lessons and learn from them.”

With a stellar group of young runners returning, Shelley believes the future is bright if those lessons are heeded.

“We have a great group of kids; we have a super foundation for the next two or three years,” said Shelley.

“We had a freshman, three sophomores, and a junior run on Saturday; we may have been the youngest team in the state meet. They need to be running consistently in the summer, that let’s us do more focused practices in the fall and it also helps prevent injuries because you increase the base. We are looking for them to be in the 30-50 weekly mileage range, depending on the individual runner. They have seen that guys like Jacob do that and how it has helped.”

CHARLIE COMPANY: Princeton High football head coach Charlie Gallagher plots his next move in a game earlier this season. Gallagher’s leadership helped PHS make the state playoffs, where the seventh-seeded Little Tigers fell to second-seeded Brick Township 48-12 last Friday in an opening round contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CHARLIE COMPANY: Princeton High football head coach Charlie Gallagher plots his next move in a game earlier this season. Gallagher’s leadership helped PHS make the state playoffs, where the seventh-seeded Little Tigers fell to second-seeded Brick Township 48-12 last Friday in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Despite the daunting prospect of facing defending sectional champion and second-seeded Brick Township in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 4 state playoffs last Friday evening, the seventh-seeded Princeton High squad was cautiously optimistic.

“The kids were real excited, we thought we had a good game plan and that it was a good matchup for us,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher, reflecting on the program’s first state playoff appearance since 2009.

“We had told them before the game that yardage was at a premium. It was a playoff game, we were playing a high caliber opponent that doesn’t give up a lot of points. We are going to have to battle for every yard.”

But the contest quickly turned into an uphill battle for the Little Tigers as they fell behind 14-0 early in the first quarter.

“We opened up with an onside kick because they only had four on the line; we thought this set up well because most teams have five guys,” said Gallagher.

“They didn’t catch it. We kicked it out of bounds, they had a short field and scored in three or four plays. We had a third and long on our next possession and we had a 30-yard catch and then we fumbled the ball. Even though they didn’t have good field position, they were able to march in for another score.”

After PHS quarterback Dave Beamer scored on a one-yard touchdown run to make it 21-6 in the second quarter, Gallagher thought the Little Tigers were back in business.

“No doubt, we thought we were in the game,” said Gallagher. “We have been down before this season and made comebacks. But that Sclafani (Brick quarterback Carmen Sclafani) kid was real talented. We didn’t have an answer for him. We matched up well against the rest of the team but they had one kid who was real special. He was a dual threat, he could run and he could pass.”

Ultimately, Sclafani proved to be the difference, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another as Brick pulled away to a 48-12 win.

Despite the final margin, PHS wasn’t hanging its heads in the wake of the defeat, which marked the final chapter of a heartening reversal of fortune that saw the team post an 8-2 record after going 0-10 last fall.

“We talked about how proud we were of the team,” said Gallagher, recalling his postgame message.

“The seniors had a great run, they put so much into it. Going 8-2 was a remarkable turnaround. Most guys picked us at the bottom of the division in the beginning of the season. We had no number of wins in mind, we just wanted to compete. We competed at a high level and got eight wins, the guys should be very proud.”

For second-year head coach Gallagher, there were a number of proud moments this fall.

“The first win stands out (a 28-7 victory over Hamilton in the season opener) although it seems like a long time ago,” said Gallagher, crediting senior captains Sam Smallzman, Brian Tien, and Colin Buckley with setting a positive tone.

“The second win over Ewing on homecoming under the lights was a great event. It was great to see such a huge crowd. People told me it was one of the most memorable sporting events they had seen at PHS. Even though it was a loss, the Winslow game stood out. I liked how the kids rebounded. There were lessons that needed to be learned and learned quickly.”

Gallagher likes the program’s future prospects. “We have an up and coming line that got better every week,” said Gallagher, noting that linemen Noah Ziegler, Matt Toplin, and Ethan Guerra will return to wreak havoc in the trenches.

“We have Beamer and Rory Helstrom back; it is good to have continuity on offense. We have to fill a couple of holes but the future is bright. The guys are excited to get back to it.”

The excitement surrounding PHS’s memorable fall has Gallagher optimistic that others will want to join the fun.

“I think the kids had a really great time,” said Gallagher. “The tale of the tape will be next year in August. I hope kids from John Witherspoon and Cranbury want to play for a quality football team because we have it right now. Winning attracts kids.”

FEELING INVINCIBLE: Vince Boccanfuso poses with his wife, Rita and daughters, Lynn, far left, and Beth, far right, before officiating in his 300th college football game. Boccanfuso, a 1966 Princeton High graduate who starred in football and track, is being inducted this Saturday into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

FEELING INVINCIBLE: Vince Boccanfuso poses with his wife, Rita and daughters, Lynn, far left, and Beth, far right, before officiating in his 300th college football game. Boccanfuso, a 1966 Princeton High graduate who starred in football and track, is being inducted this Saturday into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Starting his Princeton High sports career as a sixth-string, 120-pound receiver for the freshman football team in 1962, Vince Boccanfuso didn’t seem destined for stardom.

But using his speed and persistence, Boccanfuso worked himself up to the first team that season.

Taking off from there, Boccanfuso became a standout athlete for the PHS football and track teams.

On the gridiron, he was a two-year varsity starter who earned All-County and All-Suburban honors as a senior.

On the track, Boccanfuso emerged as a star sprinter and jumper, winning the county crown in the 100-yard dash and taking second in the 220 and the long jump in the county meet as a senior in 1966 and then winning Central Jersey Group IV titles in the 100, 220, and long jump.

This Saturday, Boccanfuso ascends to the pantheon of PHS sports as he will be inducted into the ninth class of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

He will be joined in the class by Wilbur E. Hines ’66, Henry Wilkinson ’69, Alec Hoke ’83, Jim Laverty ’87, Liz Hewson Blankstein ’88, Larry Madden ’64, Roger Madden ’65, Charles Edward Madden ’68, John Philip Madden ’69, and the 1960 baseball team.

Reflecting on his Little Tiger career, Boccanfuso cites his participation in the summer Princeton Playground Program as the genesis of his athletic success.

“Way back when, Princeton High, Valley Road, Harrison Street, all those different schools had a program; it was a place for kids to go in the summer,” recalled Boccanfuso, age 66.

“It was like a day care. They had softball teams and at the end of the summer, they had a track meet at PHS and I did really well in eighth grade.”

That performance put him on the radar of PHS track coach Gerry Groninger.

“One day freshman year I was sitting in homeroom and Gerry Groninger tapped me on the shoulder and said I want you to run for me,” said Boccanfuso, noting that Groninger had heard about his track prowess from the director of the summer program.

Boccanfuso did the 100, 220, long jump, and high jump and was a star from the outset.

To maximize his speed, Boccanfuso adopted an unorthodox workout method.

“I used to train with Bart Bennett; he would run the hurdles and I would sprint right next to him because no one could keep up with us.”

As a 5’9, 137-pounder in his senior year, Boccanfuso had to race past defenders to make an impact on the football.

“I was called by one of the papers as the fastest schoolboy player in the state,” recalled Boccanfuso.

Boccanfuso’s connection with quarterback and close friend, Bill Cirullo, also helped him excel as a receiver.

“We grew up on Humbert Street together; we lived across the street from each other,” said Boccanfuso of Cirullo, the longtime principal at the Riverside School.

“We started playing football in the backyard when we were five or six. I could not have done what I did without him throwing to me.”

Boccanfuso did some special things in track, starring as the 1966 team won the state title.

“Winning three events in one day at the Central Jersey Group IV meet was a highlight,” said Boccanfuso, proudly noting his personal bests in the 100 (9.8), 220 (21.3), long jump (21’5) and high jump (6’0).

“I also had a big county meet. Everybody was happy with the state title. I had busted my knee up in football so it was rough to do some of the things I did that season.”

Over his PHS career, Boccanfuso was happy to have come under the influence of some special coaches.

“Tom Murray was the biggest factor in my life besides my father,” asserted Boccanfuso. “He lived around the corner. I think he got me moved up from the sixth to first team that freshman season. He was also a track coach. He was a great guy, he is a fantastic man.”

Off the field and track, Boccanfuso did some great things as well during his high school years, getting selected for New Jersey Boys State and receiving the PHS Gold Key for meritorious service.

After PHS, Boccanfuso went to Rutgers where he earned a BA and was too busy working himself through college to continue his sports career. He went on to earn an MBA from Rider and a PhD in finance from Columbia.

During college, he became involved in a different aspect of sports that helped change the course of his life.

“I got to the point where I knew I wouldn’t be playing football forever,” said Boccanfuso.

“I wanted to keep involved in the game. In my senior year in college I took a
cadet class in 1969. I passed and became a high school ref.”

While working his way up to Director of Contracts for Sarnoff Corporation, Boccanfuso rose through the ranks of officiating.

“In 1976, a college official told me I ought to be a college ref,” said Boccanfuso, who has also worked as a high school lacrosse ref and runs the clock at Princeton University basketball and lacrosse games.

“I started doing D-3 games. In 1985, I was promoted to 1-AA. I did an FCS championship game in January 2012. It was the highlight of my officiating career along with doing three Yale-Harvard games.”

Getting inducted into the PHS Hall of Fame this Saturday will create another lasting highlight for Boccanfuso.

“It is hard to describe,” said Boccanfuso, who will be introduced by his daughters, Lynn and Beth, with wife, Rita, a fellow 1966 PHS alum, in attendance. “I am elated that they would think of me. It is unbelievable.”

November 12, 2014
SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University field hockey star Sydney Kirby (No. 6) celebrates after a Tiger goal earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Kirby starred in her final home game for the Tigers, chipping in two assists as Princeton edged Penn 4-3. The win give the Tigers the outright Ivy League title. In upcoming action, Princeton, now 7-10 overall, 6-1 Ivy, will head across the state to play at Monmouth (13-7 overall, 4-1 MAAC) on November 12 in an NCAA tournament play-in game with the winner advancing to face second-seeded Maryland in the Round of 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University field hockey star Sydney Kirby (No. 6) celebrates after a Tiger goal earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Kirby starred in her final home game for the Tigers, chipping in two assists as Princeton edged Penn 4-3. The win give the Tigers the outright Ivy League title. In upcoming action, Princeton, now 7-10 overall, 6-1 Ivy, will head across the state to play at Monmouth (13-7 overall, 4-1 MAAC) on November 12 in an NCAA tournament play-in game with the winner advancing to face second-seeded Maryland in the Round of 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sydney Kirby was determined to do something special on her Senior Day for the Princeton University field hockey team as it hosted Penn last Saturday.

“Senior Day is always exciting and it is always a little bittersweet because you never know if it is going to be the seniors’ last game,” said star midfielder Kirby, reflecting on her thoughts before the Tigers took the field to host Penn in their home finale.

“I know the seniors wanted to play their best games for everyone. We spent four years here and we owe it to the program to play our best. We love playing for everyone, the team was so excited.”

Although Princeton came into the day tied with Columbia for first place in the Ivy League standings at 5-1, it could have been the last game for the Tigers. If the Lions prevailed in their game against Harvard going on simultaneously, they would get the league’s bid to the NCAA tournament by virtue of beating Princeton 3-2 in late September.

Kirby helped Princeton get off to an exciting start against Penn, assisting on a goal by Hailey Reeves off of a penalty corner to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

After the Quakers took a 2-1 lead, Kirby figured in another goal, setting up a Teresa Benvenuti tally with seven seconds remaining in the first half.

“It definitely helped our momentum, going into halftime losing would not have been awesome,” said Kirby.

“We came out in the second half and it is like the score was 0-0 so it’s anybody’s game. We would have come back no matter what, we had never lost hope.”

Building on the momentum from the goal just before intermission, Princeton ended up outscoring Penn 2-1 in the second half to pull out a 4-3 win. At the same time, Columbia lost to Harvard 4-1, thereby making the Tigers the outright Ivy champs.

Princeton, 7-10 overall, will now head across the state to play at Monmouth (13-7 overall, 4-1 MAAC) on November 12 in an NCAA tournament play-in game with the winner advancing to face second-seeded Maryland in the Round of 16.

Although the Tigers have suffered through a rough fall which saw them go 1-9 in non-conference games, winning the title makes up for a lot of the disappointment.

“This means everything,” said a beaming Kirby, reflecting on the program’s 20th Ivy title in the last 21 years.

“We have had ups and down for sure and we have never lost sight of what is important and winning the Ivy League title is what we all come here to do. Everything else is icing on the cake.”

With Princeton having gone 45-14 overall and 20-1 Ivy in Kirby’s first three years, highlighted by winning the 2012 NCAA title, dealing with 10 losses this fall has been tough.

“It has been a different season, people aren’t used to it and that is a fact,” said Kirby, a native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio and the team’s leading scorer this fall with 18 points on six goals and six assists. “We have learned to deal with the adversity and it has made us stronger now.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn lauded her team’s strong character in coming through to win another Ivy crown.

“It has been so hard, it has been such a tough season but they persevered,” said Holmes-Winn.

“I am just so happy for them. I don’t think our record necessarily reflects the team that we have. Honestly we have been training well.”

Princeton had to navigate its way through a nerve-wracking second half to get the win over Penn.

“We would win the ball and turn it over, it was a lot of back and forth,” said Holmes-Winn.

“When you have a team that is chasing the game, they can take more risks which they were. Penn was trying to smash the ball into the middle of the field and hope for a mistake. I think we managed that chaos pretty well but this was not an easy game. I am so proud of the girls for sticking to it.”

The team’s core of seniors helped the Tigers stick with it through the topsy-turvy fall.

“They are just really sweet kids,” said Holmes-Winn of the program’s Class of 2015, which includes Cassidy Arner, Colleen Boyce, Julia Boyle, Allison Evans, and Stephanie Goldberg in addition to Kirby.

“One of the big things when the freshmen come in is helping integrate them into the fabric of the team. This year has been the best integration and it is largely due to the seniors and how they have chosen to include them and make them feel like a part of the family very quickly. I think that has been really good for the team. They have been great players and they have worked hard. They are great kids.”

Junior Maddie Copeland made great a play on the winning goal as she backhanded a blast past the Penn goalie with 8:56 left in regulation.

“It is execution, we have had breakaways like that,” said Holmes-Winn. “It was just really good to see the finish come through and it was just a sensational shot from Maddie. That’s the beauty of the game right there. She will go backhand 100 percent of the time; don’t even bother defending her forehand because she isn’t going to shoot there. She is really good at it.”

Holmes-Winn credited Kirby and sophomore Annabeth Donovan with providing good work all over the field.

“Sydney’s work rate is great, both she and A.B. work so hard in the middle of the field,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “They plug a lot of holes; they really keep our structure intact.”

Senior striker Evans also came up big, tallying Princeton’s third goal early in the second half.

“That’s been Allie, ever since she has been a freshman she has been coming up with huge goals for this team,” said Holmes-Winn of Evans, who now has 40 goals in her Tiger career. “I am not surprised.”

With Princeton having won four of its last five games heading into the clash at Monmouth, Holmes-Winn believes her team could pull some surprises in the NCAAs.

“I think our best games have been against the likes of UConn and Syracuse, I really rate those teams. We play better when there is a little more structure in the game. This is a game that had very little structure and we don’t necessarily thrive with that.”

Kirby, for her part, believes the Tigers can thrive in postseason play. “I 100 percent do,” said Kirby, when asked if the Tigers could make an NCAA run.

“No one is expecting it, everyone is underrating us. We have gotten better every day this week and we are only going to get better from here.”

GOOD HANS: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase (with ball) looks to make a move in a recent practice session. Junior forward Brase, Princeton’s leading returning scorer after averaging 11.2 points per game in 2013-14, figures to be pivotal player for the Tigers this winter. Princeton opens up its 2014-15 campaign by hosting Rider on November 14.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GOOD HANS: Princeton University men’s basketball player Hans Brase (with ball) looks to make a move in a recent practice session. Junior forward Brase, Princeton’s leading returning scorer after averaging 11.2 points per game in 2013-14, figures to be pivotal player for the Tigers this winter. Princeton opens up its 2014-15 campaign by hosting Rider on November 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The concept of “next man up” has become a catchphrase in the pro football world as the injury rate that naturally results from the collision sport necessitates that reserves will be called on to get their opportunity to shine.

That principle is serving as a theme for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it opens up its 2014-15 campaign by hosting Rider on November 14. Princeton is looking to make up for the void left by the graduation of T.J. Bray, who led the Tigers in points, assists, and steals last winter on the way to earning first-team All-Ivy League honors.

“It is who is stepping up, I can’t answer that question right now,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, speaking at the program’s annual media day.

“Of the teams I have had since I have been here, this is the most balanced team that we have had. I think this team’s strength is whose turn is it to score.”

Henderson does acknowledge that junior Hans Brase, the team’s leading returning scorer with 11.2 points per game last winter when the Tigers went 21-9 overall and 8-6 Ivy on the way to the second round of the CBI (College Basketball Invitational), will be expected to shoulder a greater share of the scoring load.

“Hans is pivotal for us,” said Henderson, who welcomes back a number of experienced upperclassmen including seniors Ben Hazel (6.1 points in 2013-14), Denton Koon (7.7 points), and Clay Wilson (4.5 points). “He has got to stay out of foul trouble, he is going to have the ball in his hands a lot. Can he understand time and place, and that there is a time for that, and not a time for that.”

Brase, for his part, is ready for his time in the spotlight. “The way we work, a lot of people say how are we going to replace T.J. but we never  really replace people,” said the 6’8, 231-pound Brase, who played with the German second national team last summer.

“Our program is built on the next people are up so now it is my turn. As juniors and seniors it is our turn. I don’t feel like I have a bigger load, it is just my turn next.”

Sophomore guard Spencer Weisz, the Ivy Rookie of the Year last winter when he averaged 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, is also prepared to take a star turn.

“I feel like I am going to have to make some plays more without T.J.  here but then again everyone on the team brings a little bit of diversity to the table,” said Weisz.

“People can put the ball on the floor and shoot pretty well. Maybe I will get some more post touches for myself. I need to play within the offense and take more of a leadership role than I did last year.”

Henderson is looking for a more balanced offensive approach from his club, which relied heavily on the three-pointer last year as it made a team-record 278 baskets from beyond the arc.

“There are a lot of stats out there that show if you make a lot of 3s, you are going to win a lot of games,” said Henderson, whose team will be without the services of Koon for a while as he is sidelined with a knee injury.

“I hope we don’t rely on it the way we did. We have the emphasis on going to the rim.”

Princeton will also be looking to stop foes from getting to the rim. “Defensively, I think we hit a skid in league play and we have got to have a little more fire in the eyes so to speak,” said Henderson, whose team started 0-4 in Ivy play last season before winning eight of its last 10 league contests.

“We have been zeroing in on that. We faltered defensively and then we got back on track, which I was proud of. We became the best defensive team in the league but it was a little too late.”

Henderson knows that his team can’t falter again early in league play if it wants to be a title contender.

“It is a tough league, I think the talent level is really good,” said Henderson, whose team was picked fourth in the Ivy preseason poll behind defending champion Harvard, Yale, and Columbia.

“We are the 11th highest rated league in the country. I do think that it is the most underrated league. Every team is well coached, everybody is making the extra pass and doing a little more to make sure you win. I was in the Big 10 for a long time and I thought there was some good coaching here. This is equally as tough.”

In Henderson’s view, some of the team’s new faces could do good things this winter.

“I like the freshmen a lot, the thing I like the most is a complete buy-in into what we do,” said Henderson, whose crop of newcomers includes Amir Bell, Alec Brennan, Jackson Forbes, Mike LeBlanc, and Aaron Young. “I am happy about the freshmen.”

The team’s group of sophomores, which includes Pete Miller (2.5 points), Steven Cook (4.5 points), Henry Caruso, and Hun School alum Hashim Moore in addition to Weisz, is also making Henderson happy.

“That said, the sophomore class has made a huge leap forward which is what you want,” added Henderson. “It is a very solid sophomore class, right now they are all showing signs.”

As the Tigers host Rider this Friday, they will be looking to show that are ready to make a leap forward this winter.

“We know the Rider guys pretty well, I like local games,” said Henderson. “Our non-conference is designed to help us trend up, that is what we want.”

ON THE REBOUND: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart answers a question at the program’s recently-held media day. The Tigers will be looking to regain the Ivy League crown they lost to Penn last winter after winning four straight league titles. Princeton tips off its 2014-15 season this weekend with games at Pittsburgh on November 14 and at Duquesne on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE REBOUND: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart answers a question at the program’s recently-held media day. The Tigers will be looking to regain the Ivy League crown they lost to Penn last winter after winning four straight league titles. Princeton tips off its 2014-15 season this weekend with games at Pittsburgh on November 14 and at Duquesne on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s basketball team, winning four straight Ivy League titles from the 2009-10 season through 2012-13 may have lulled the program into a false sense of security.

“You get numb to winning, it becomes — that’s what we do here,” said Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart, at the program’s annual media day.

While Princeton won plenty of games last winter as it posted its fifth straight 20-victory season, the Tigers fell to Penn in the regular season finale to finish second to the Quakers in the Ivy standings.

Banghart is relishing being in the role of the hunter this winter. “It is a  different mentality in terms of chasing a title versus protecting a title,” said Banghart, who guided Princeton to a 21-9 record last winter as the program won its first postseason game by advancing to the second round of the WNIT.

“It is something the program hasn’t had in a few years. We have proven it’s not what we do here, it is what we earn here and we didn’t earn it last year.”

As Banghart looks ahead to the the 2014-15 season, which starts this weekend with games at Pittsburgh on November 14 and at Duquesne on November 16, the eight-year head coach believes that tightening up things defensively is the key to earning another league crown.

“We went to four NCAA tournaments and in every one of those years we were the best defensive team, whether we played one-on-one, two-on-two, or three-on-three,” said Banghart.

“I always say you want to go into a competition and if the ref said by the way it is two-on-two today, you would still win it. Last year no way, we were not the best defensive team. So come hell or high water, we are going to be the best defensive team in the league this year if we are going to be champions.”

Princeton welcomes back a lot of experience in its quest to regain the league crown as the roster includes 12 letter winners from last year.

“We pretty much know what we are made of because we bring so much back,” said Banghart, noting that Princeton had four sophomores and a junior in its starting lineup for the WNIT win over Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I was able to focus a lot on the films from last year this summer to figure out where the holes were. We are certainly ahead of where we were. I don’t know if we will be where we need to be but we are certainly ahead of where we were in a lot of facets.”

One of those key returners, junior shooting guard Michelle Miller, said the Princeton players have come back with a more hungry attitude in the wake of last year’s second-place finish.

“I think we are all really driven this year,” said Miller, who averaged 11.7 points a game last winter.

“We are all really hungry to get the league title back and I think that has really changed our mentality. We hadn’t lost before so it became something like winning is what we do but you realize it is not, by any means, something that is given to you. You have to go out and earn it every single game and that starts with the way you practice.”

Senior point guard, Blake Dietrick, a first-team All-Ivy selection last year when she averaged a team-high 14.3 points a contest, is ready to earn it on the defensive end.

“From top to bottom, we have totally renewed our defensive commitment and desire,” said Dietrick.

“That is just being accountable on every play. If someone misses a help rotation we are not going to say it’s OK, get it the next time. We are going to say that is unacceptable.”

Banghart likes the commitment she has seen so far from the team in the preseason.

“I like the energy of this group,” said Banghart. “I like the enthusiasm, I like the youth, I like the experience.”

The trio of freshmen Kenya Holland, Tia Weledji, and Leslie Robinson should provide Princeton with a burst of energy.

“We are making it an obligation of our upperclassmen to ensure that our freshmen help us,” said Banghart, whose top returning veterans include juniors Alex Wheatley (10.2 points per game in 2013-14), Taylor Williams (6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds), Annie Tarakchian (6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds), and Amanda Berntsen (5.7 points) along with senior Mariah Smith (3.0 points) and sophomore Vanessa Smith (5.1 points).

“We tried last year to play without freshmen and it didn’t go so well. If we want to be as good as we can be, those freshmen have to help us. The seniors and juniors have been doing a really good job of bringing them along.”

Banghart believes that the 6’0 Robinson, the daughter of former Princeton men’s hoops standout Craig Robinson and the niece of President Obama, is poised to have a really good debut season.

“Leslie Robinson is a really special talent,” said Banghart. “Leslie’s dad played here, he was a two-time player of the year, and she obviously has some pretty famous family history. She comes at the game honestly. She brings toughness and she brings coachability.”

The Tigers face some tough tests on opening weekend. “Those are two really good challenges on the road,” said Banghart. “I haven’t even worried about what Pitt and Duquesne do yet, except that I know they are programs that carry with them a tradition as do we. I want our kids to be thrown into the fire early.”

As Princeton looks to add to its recent tradition of winning Ivy titles, competing well in non-conference games will lay the foundation for success.

“Yesterday’s thought of the day at practice was that what gets evaluated is performance, not potential,” said Banghart.

“We haven’t had any performance yet so we will see. I think it is a better league than it was four years ago. It means that the top teams have to be legitimately good and we have a role in that. We are obligated to do well nationally and represent our league well.”

SPECIAL EFFORT: Princeton University kicker Nolan Bieck boots the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior Bieck hit three field goals, including a career-long 46-yarder, to help Princeton top Penn 22-17. Bieck was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance as the Tigers improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SPECIAL EFFORT: Princeton University kicker Nolan Bieck boots the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior Bieck hit three field goals, including a career-long 46-yarder, to help Princeton top Penn 22-17. Bieck was named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance as the Tigers improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the calendar headed into the second week of November, it was Survival Saturday around the world of college football.

On the national scene, there were four top-20 clashes that had directly impacted the race to make the final four in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff.

Closer to home, the Princeton University football team was playing to stay alive in the Ivy League when it hosted Penn as the Tigers were locked in a three-way tie for second in the league standings with Dartmouth and Yale, one game behind undefeated frontrunner Harvard.

While it wasn’t a thing of beauty, Princeton kept pace atop the Ivies as it pounded out a 22-17 win over the Quakers before a crowd of 9,486 at Princeton Stadium.

The win left Princeton at 5-3 overall and 4-1 Ivy as the Tigers remained tied with Yale and Dartmouth for second with Harvard still one game in front.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, for his part, saw beauty in winning ugly. “We played with such great heart and how we finished that game with a stop on defense and running out the clock is how we had to play today,” said Surace.

“I just loved how physical we played, we finished things terrifically on both sides of the ball. We came up with some huge stops on defense as they got inside the 50 a number of times throughout the day. Offensively, we just continue to finish runs.”

Senior quarterback and co-captain Quinn Epperly, who ran for one touchdown and passed for another, liked the grit displayed by the Tigers.

“We want to score more than we did tonight,” said Epperly. “I think the games that you grind out, that are tough, physical games, almost taste a little better to you. You are proud that everyone manned up and at the end of the day, got done what we needed to do. That was a good win.”

It was good for Epperly to get back in action after having been sidelined due to injury for two of Princeton’s last three games.

“I try to come out and practice every day I can, regardless of what is going on with my body,” said Epperly.

“It is extremely important to me and especially to the seniors. We have put so much work into it. The only thing we are striving for right now is to come out next week and get another win.”

Junior DiAndre Atwater made a nice return from a three-game hiatus due to injury, rushing for a game-high 98 yards.

“It was a great feeling, I miss being out there with the guys,” said Atwater. “Just going out there everyday, I saw how hard they were working. I knew I wanted to get back out there with them and I wanted to contribute today.”

On the other side of the ball, sophomore defensive back Dorian Williams made a big contribution, returning a recovered fumble for 85 yards, getting an interception, and making a career-high 13 tackles.

“My job on the play is to stay outside contain; I saw the fumble so I bit on it,” said Williams, recalling his fumble return which gave Princeton the ball at the Penn 9 and set up a field goal.

“I am not sure who made the tackle but coach [Jim Salgado] stresses scoop and score so I just got it. I had blockers in front of me so I just ran with it.”

In the first half, Princeton ran out to an early 6-0 lead, courtesy of two field goals by junior kicker Nolan Bieck. He hit a career-long 46-yarder to put the Tigers up 3-0 with 10:40 left in the first quarter. He added a 21-yard boot two minutes later.

Epperly doubled the Princeton advantage to 12-0 as he scored on a one-yard plunge with 5:33 left in the quarter. Penn responded with a five-yard TD pass from Alek Torgersen to Connor Scott to make it a 12-7 game.

Princeton regained its 12-point cushion when Epperly found Connor Kelley on a one-yard TD pass as the Tigers went up 19-7. Penn added a field goal in the waning seconds of the quarter to narrow the gap to 19-10 at halftime.

The only scoring in the third quarter came on a  22-yard scoring strike from Torgersen to Justin Watson as the Quakers pulled to within 19-17.

Early in the fourth quarter, Bieck, who was later named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week, hit a 20-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 22-17 lead.

The Quakers responded by marching to the Princeton 27 where they were stopped on downs. The Tigers took over with 5:23 remaining and were able to run out the clock. The big play on the possession came when senior running back Will Powers bulled eight yards for a first down on a third and four at the Penn 47.

Powers, for his part, gave his all to gut out the first down. “The line got a good push and there was one guy in the hole and I knew we needed four or five yards,” said Powers.

“I just did what I had to do to get the first. I broke off the guy to get a few more yards.”

In Surace’s view, Powers’ effort exemplified the team’s battling spirit. “I think our team is a little more of an ugly team right now, we have to win that way where we are fighting each play,” said Surace.

“We want to score every drive. There is no doubt in my mind when we start a drive, that is the emphasis on offense. But the way we are doing it, we are struggling to get the explosive plays. We need to get those ugly first downs and keep the drives going. I thought we played the game the way we needed to.”

While Epperly likes the way Princeton has bounced back in winning two straight games since its 49-7 loss to Harvard on October 25, he believes the team’s ultimate legacy will be determined by how it does in its last two games as it plays at Yale on November 15 before hosting Dartmouth on November 22.

“We’ll see how we come out and finish the season and I think that will show how well we recovered,” said Epperly.

“When you go back and look at this year, these next two games are going to be a lot of how this season goes down in the books.”

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer player Myles McGinley, left, goes after a ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder/defender and tri-captain McGinley contributed an assist as Princeton edged Penn 3-2 to stay alive in the Ivy League title race. The Tigers moved to 10-3-3 overall and 4-1-1 Ivy with the win, remaining tied for first with Dartmouth (10-4-2 overall, 4-1-1 Ivy). Princeton wraps up regular season play with a game at Yale on November 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s soccer player Myles McGinley, left, goes after a ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder/defender and tri-captain McGinley contributed an assist as Princeton edged Penn 3-2 to stay alive in the Ivy League title race. The Tigers moved to 10-3-3 overall and 4-1-1 Ivy with the win, remaining tied for first with Dartmouth (10-4-2 overall, 4-1-1 Ivy). Princeton wraps up regular season play with a game at Yale on November 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Myles McGinley relishes being a jack-of-all-trades for the Princeton University men’s soccer team.

“It is wherever the team needs me and I have prided myself on being a bit of a utility player,” senior midfielder/defender and tri-captain McGinley.

“I have done that my whole career. Since youth, I have played a lot of positions so it is nothing new for me. I am just happy to be on the field.”

McGinley’s final regular season game on the field at Robert Stadium last Saturday had a happy ending as Princeton edged Penn 3-2 to stay alive in the Ivy League title race as the Tigers moved to 10-3-3 overall and 4-1-1 Ivy, tied for first with Dartmouth (10-4-2 overall, 4-1-1 Ivy).

“There was a lot of nostalgia, I am pretty sad to see my last home game,” said McGinley, a 5’8, 160-pound native of Oakton, Va.

“We won, which is awesome. We really won for the two guys who are injured tonight, Andrew Mills and Joe Saitta. Mills is another captain and Saitta has been a guy in the back all season. We missed both of them but we are really happy to get the win.”

McGinley was involved in the first goal of the evening, picking up an assist on a tally by classmate Cameron Porter.

“I nicked it off of a guy who was under pressure and passed it to McSherry, who did a brilliant one-touch to Cam, who beat the keeper from a pretty tight angle,” said McGinley, who now has a team-high five assists on the season. “We were off to the races from there.”

Although Princeton raced out to a 3-1 lead, the Quakers got a late first half goal to turn the contest into a nail-biter.

“They play with three guys up top and their dangerous plays came from a forward dropping back into the midfield which we were having trouble picking up,” said McGinley.

“In the second half I dropped back a little more and paid attention to their forward dropping into the midfield and we neutralized it from there.”

With the win extending Princeton’s unbeaten streak to 7-0-1, McGinley feels that the squad has been displaying a sense of urgency.

“I think it is just a mentality among the guys,” said McGinley. “Since the loss to Dartmouth, we have had the mentality that the next game could be our last real one. We have had some really good leadership, not just from the seniors but throughout all of the classes. We have really been able to keep that mentality going, it is awesome. I think that is really the key to our success so far.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow credits the team’s seniors with setting a winning tone.

“It is a big class,” said Barlow, whose Class of 2015 includes Julian Griggs, Alex Wettermann, Samuel Suskind, Cole McCracken, and A.J. Swoboda in addition to Mills, Saitta, Porter, and McGinley.

“We have got guys who have dealt with injuries over the years, we have walk-ons in that class. They have found a way to all provide very good leadership. Whether on the field, on the reserve team, or injured, the whole group has found a way to keep the team together. We got off to a rocky start and we had a bunch of injuries early but the senior class did a good job of keeping things together.”

The Tigers held things together as they thwarted a dangerous Penn squad over the last 45 minutes of the contest. “At halftime, you got the feeling that the game was going to be 9-8 or something like that. I thought we did a pretty good job of getting it settled down in the second half,” said Barlow.

“We don’t play many teams whose attacking guys are as dangerous and crafty as Penn’s. All three of the attacking guys, Alec Neumann, Duke Lacroix, and Forrest Clancy, are very clever, good players and can make things happen. I thought our guys did a good job of dealing with their major threats in the second half.”

Barlow thought McGinley did a good job of dealing with a last-minute position switch.

“Myles was scheduled to be the right back today until Mills went down in warmup and then we had to throw him in the midfield, which is something he wasn’t even expecting,” said Barlow. “I thought he did a very good job.”

McGinley’s mentality reflects the qualities that have helped Princeton produce its late surge.

“We think this team has the mentality and attitude to deal with adversity and stick together and have the belief that we are going to find a way,” said Barlow.

“It helps when you have guys who can make goals out of nothing. Cam is one of those guys and Thomas Sanner can score. Nico Hurtado had a great goal today. In that way, it is a special group and we are hoping that we can keep it going a while longer.”

With the Tigers wrapping up regular season play at Yale (1-12-3 overall, 0-5-1 Ivy) on November 15, Barlow hopes that won’t be Princeton’s last game.

“We feel at this point that we control our own destiny,” said Barlow. “If we win, we are co-champs at worst with Dartmouth. I would hope we would be in good shape for an at-large bid. You just don’t know what the committee is going to do. If you had asked at the start of the year, I would have said that 10 wins would have been enough.”

McGinley, for his part, isn’t ready for his senior season to end. “I think it is every senior’s dream to win it going out and we have, in my opinion, quite a talented class,” said McGinley.

“To not get any sort of silverware or not get any tangible results in our four years would be a shame so we are hoping to beat Yale and take a share of the Ivy League, if not win it outright. Hopefully the other two teams in contention will drop points next week. It is in our hands and hopefully we will get a bid to the tournament.”

RALLYING POINT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Ali Pankowski thwarts a foe’s shot in a game last season. Last Friday, senior defenseman and co-captain Pankowski scored the game-tying goal in the third period as Princeton rallied from a 3-0 deficit to edge Rochester Institute of Technology 4-3 in overtime. The Tigers, now 4-1-1 overall, host Union on November 14 and Rensselaer on November 15.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RALLYING POINT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Ali Pankowski thwarts a foe’s shot in a game last season. Last Friday, senior defenseman and co-captain Pankowski scored the game-tying goal in the third period as Princeton rallied from a 3-0 deficit to edge Rochester Institute of Technology 4-3 in overtime. The Tigers, now 4-1-1 overall, host Union on November 14 and Rensselaer on November 15. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s hockey team trailing Rochester Institute of Technology 3-0 after the first period last Friday, Ali Pankowski decided to speak up in the Tiger dressing room at the first intermission.

“There was a lot of negativity, everyone came in the locker room upset,” said senior defenseman and co-captain Pankowski.

“It is my job as a captain to stifle it so we turned it around in the locker room and the tone totally changed.”

The Tigers scored two unanswered goals in the second period to get back into the game and then Pankowski added a tally early in the third period on a power play goal to make it 3-3.

“We have been working on that power play,” said Pankowski, reflecting on her goal. “In the second intermission, I told Molly [Contini] that pass back to me is open for the one timer and it came through.”

After the game went into overtime with the teams knotted in a 3-3 deadlock through regulation, Princeton came through as sophomore Morgan Sly notched her first career goal to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory.

In Pankowski’s view, the comeback win reflects Princeton’s work ethic. “We work hard, and we want it really bad,” said Pankowski. “We might not be a team of big names, we don’t have a bunch of national team players. We are a bunch of hard workers, we play our systems and we come out and try and play every period as hard as we can.”

A renewed commitment to conditioning has helped Princeton play hard to the final buzzer.

“We have a lot of buy-in this year, coach says this is what we are going to do and that’s what we do,” said Pankowski.

“We go to the weight room twice a week. A lot of us hit the weight room really hard this summer to come back as strong as we could. We have done more cardio and long distance running this year, just trying to cross train and be the best athletes we can be.”

In looking to be the best defenseman she can be, Pankowski has focused on the fine points of her position.

“I have been working on my footwork and getting quick in the corners,” said Pankowski, a 5’10 native of Laguna Hills, Calif., who has two goals and an assist so far this season.

“My shot has always been my strength. I am working on staying out of the box. I think I have the least amount of penalties that I have had so far in a season. It is just being smart and knowing what to do when the play moves forward.”

As a co-captain, along with classmate Brianna Leahy, Pankowski is looking to be a strong leader for the Tigers.

“It is a lot of responsibility,” said Pankowski. “I really have to lead by example and come out every day ready to play. If I am not ready to play, it probably means that the rest of the team is not ready to play so it is trying to set the tone early.”

Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal didn’t like the way his team came out to play on Friday.

“It was a really lousy start, a focus for us is to be consistent for 60 minutes,” said Kampersal. “If we are focused and intense and make mistakes, they are livable but to be lazy and get walked around, that is not acceptable.”

Kampersal was heartened by the focus he saw from his players over the rest of the contest.

“We turned it around in the next 45 minutes and I thought we played great,” said Kampersal.

“We had a bunch of chances to score. RIT is a solid team, they are well- coached. Their power play is like tic-tac-toe. They scored in five seconds on that first power play in the first period. We defended a little bit better as we went.”

Kampersal credits Pankowski and fellow senior Brianne Mahoney with leading the team’s defensive unit.

“She and Mahoney have been great in the back, they have logged in a lot of minutes,” said Kampersal, whose defense stood tall on Saturday as the Tigers and RIT skated to a scoreless tie as Princeton moved to 4-1-1 overall.

“It is tough. We have to monitor their minutes but they are also really necessary to be on the ice so it is a hard balance. They have both been great.”

In Kampersal’s view, the mental toughness the team showed in topping RIT will make it hard to beat.

“It is huge to be down three and not give up,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Union on November 14 and Rensselaer on November 15.

“In years past we could easily pack it in. Last year, we had a game where we  were down 5-0 to Cornell after the first and scored four goals in the next period. That was the first start of our fightback ability, that we are not going to just fold, and showing we can be tough.”

Pankowski, for her part, likes Princeton’s blend of talent and character. “We have a lot more depth than we have had in the past, we have four lines that we can put out there and seven defensemen,” said Pankowski.

“Really having depth has helped a lot. Also, having the knowledge that if you come out in that first period and don’t do so well, you can come back to the locker room, reset, and come back out there and play as hard as you can. It is a really resilient team.”

STREAK BUSTERS: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco controls the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Sacco helped top-seeded Hun defeat second-seeded Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A final. Hun’s triumph snapped Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STREAK BUSTERS: Hun School girls’ soccer player Jess Sacco controls the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior midfielder Sacco helped top-seeded Hun defeat second-seeded Pennington 2-0 in the state Prep A final. Hun’s triumph snapped Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

There was electricity in the air as the Hun School girls’ soccer team hosted powerful Pennington in the state Prep A championship game last Wednesday.

A throng of around 1,000 surrounded the grass field by Stony Brook, offering raucous support to a top-seeded Hun squad that was determined to snap second-seeded Pennington’s streak of 11 straight Prep A titles.

At first, Hun senior star and co-captain Jess Sacco and her teammates were taken aback by the scene.

“We came out here and saw the fans and everyone was freaking out because we were nervous,” said Sacco.

“But then it was take a deep breath and then just go out there and enjoy it because we love this game and we love each other.”

Hun didn’t love the way the game went early on as a skilled Pennington squad dominated possession, generating a slew of scoring opportunities.

“They definitely had us scrambling for about 20 minutes,” acknowledged the Lehigh-bound Sacco.

“I think our defense and goalie kept our heads in it. I think the midfielders definitely worked their butts off. I am really proud of the freshmen like Nicole Apuzzi, Kara Borden, and Kendall Dandridge, they are all amazing.”

Junior goalie Courtney Arch, who had earned a shutout in a 2-0 Hun victory when the rivals met in the regular season on September 30, was working under fire as Pennington star and Stanford-bound Alana Cook produced a number of chances.

“It is a little terrifying, I remember last game I stopped her shot before and in reality she is just another girl and another player,” said Arch. “She just happens to be phenomenal. Once I start making the best saves, I know I can make the small saves.”

Hun put Pennington on its heels when senior co-captain and Lehigh-bound Ashley Maziarz found the back of the net on a stunning free kick to the top corner from 30 yards out with 1:31 remaining in the first half.

“It was just a phenomenal shot,” said Arch of Maziarz’s brilliant strike. “I think that made Pennington a little frantic and that  gives us a confidence boost. Whenever we score, we play better because we just get more confident with ourselves.”

Riding the momentum from the goal, Hun played better and better in the second half, thwarting Pennington’s offense and getting an insurance goal from freshman phenom Borden with 1:31 to seal an historic 2-0 victory.

The crowd stormed the field to congratulate the Hun players, who were hugging each other in the middle of the pitch before they gathered together to claim the championship plaque that had been so long in the stranglehold of Pennington.

A beaming Hun head coach Joanna Hallac was thrilled with her team’s effort and the support it has generated in the Hun community.

“It was huge, the girls deserve all of the credit, they show up and they work hard every day,” said Hallac.

“Even when we have setbacks, they learn from it and we move forward. It means so much to the school. The whole school came out here and the whole day was scheduled around this. I have never seen anything like it, I think it meant a lot to the community and that is what we are about here. I think it is really great for Hun.”

The Hun squad showed its resilience as it weathered the first half storm. “Things got a little hairy there for a good 20 minutes but we survived it,” said Hallac.

“Courtney had to come up big in the first half. She had to come up big throughout the game but especially in that middle 20 minutes of the first  half. They believed they could do this. They did it once already and they knew they could do it again. Pennington has so many dangerous players but we were able to defend well as a team. Our back four were unbelievable, Courtney was great. This was a real team effort and a real team victory.”

Arch, for her part, heaped praise on the gritty defensive unit, which featured junior Jess Johnson and Dandridge along with Maziarz.

“They are the best group of girls I have played with,” asserted Arch. “We know how to react under pressure and we know that, no matter what, we have each other’s backs. We recover and we work hard for each other so we always have that trust between each other which I think makes us really dynamic.”

In Hallac’s view, that ability to stay cool under pressure stemmed, in part, from last fall when Hun recovered from a 0-7 start to make the state Prep A final, where it fell 2-0 to Pennington.

“We ended last year on such a good, positive note and we had a lot of momentum and that helped carry us into this year,” said Hallac.

“I think there was just a lack of experience with these types of games last year and now the bulk of the kids had it and these freshmen have just been great, the pressure doesn’t seem to get to them. They really have done such a huge job along with these veteran returning players. I am really impressed with their play in these big game situations.”

Another key factor in the team’s success has been the obvious unity among the players.

“The chemistry off the field directly feeds the chemistry on the field, these girls really just love each other and support each other off the field,” said Hallac, whose team wrapped up the fall last Sunday by beating Mercersburg Academy 4-0 to finish with a final record of 14-4-1.

“They are like one unit, seniors, freshmen, it doesn’t matter what grade they are, they all hang out together off the field.”

Arch believes that chemistry has helped Hun stick together on the field. “I think it is that on and off the field we are best friends,” said Arch. “Off the field, we all eat lunch together. We still hang out with each other. We are a second family here, I love it.”

For Sacco, that family feeling drives the team’s competitive fire.

“Everyone plays with a lot of heart, we may not have the most talent but we have a lot of heart,” said Sacco.

“Every time we get out on that field, we play for each other and give it 110 percent. We didn’t have a letdown today, we knew we would have to go out there for 80 minutes and really battle every single second. I think we did that very well.”

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Halliday chases down a ball in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Halliday assisted on the game-winning goals as first-seeded PHS topped No. 9 Hopewell Valley 3-1 in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals. The Little Tigers, who defeated fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the sectional semis on Monday, will play for the championship when they host sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional on November 13.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

IN THE NICK OF TIME: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Halliday chases down a ball in recent action. Last Friday, junior midfielder Halliday assisted on the game-winning goals as first-seeded PHS topped No. 9 Hopewell Valley 3-1 in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals. The Little Tigers, who defeated fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the sectional semis on Monday, will play for the championship when they host sixth-seeded Red Bank Regional on November 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Zach and Kevin Halliday played prominent roles as the Princeton High boys’ soccer won Group 3 state titles in 2009 and 2012.

Oldest brother, Zach, a 2013 PHS alum, was a key reserve on the 2009 team and then was a star midfielder for the 2012 squad.

Kevin, a 2014 PHS grad and standout striker, was the leading scorer in 2012 as he tallied 23 goals.

Both of the Halliday brothers are now competing for the Tufts University men’s soccer program, which finished first in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular season standings this fall and has earned a spot in the upcoming NCAA Division III tournament.

Their younger brother, Nick, now a junior midfielder for the Little Tigers, absorbed some valuable lessons from seeing his older brothers in action on the pitch.

“I definitely watched them play many big games and I saw how they reacted,” said the youngest Halliday. “They always kept a calm head so that is what I try to do.”

Last Friday as top-seeded PHS hosted No. 9 Hopewell Valley in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals, Halliday took a page out of his brothers’ book.

With PHS locked in a 1-1 tie with HoVal late in the second half, Halliday coolly lobbed a corner kick into the box which was converted into a goal by Dwight Donis as the Little Tigers went on to a 3-1 victory.

“In the Allentown game, I assisted Dwight,” said Halliday, referring to the regulation goal tallied in PHS’s victory in the Mercer County Tournament championship game on November 1.

“I always look for him. I put it right around the six and hope he gets it and today he got it. It was nice.”

While PHS got off to a nice start against HoVal as Chase Ealy converted a penalty kick early in the first half, things got a little dicey when the Bulldogs knotted the game at 1-1 with 37:34 remaining in the second half.

“We were concerned but we have been in close games over the past few weeks and we knew we could pull out the win,” said Halliday. “It has given us confidence.”

Halliday and his classmates have gained confidence through lessons learned last fall from their first varsity campaign.

“A lot of players were sophomores last year and we had a lot of experience,” said Halliday. “Now we keep going in the big games and we get it done.”

This fall, Halliday has been getting it done as he has learned a new position on the field.

“Coming into the season I didn’t play outside mid,” said Halliday. “On my club team I play center mid so playing outside mid was a new place for me. I am finally getting comfortable with the whole situation. As long as I put in a good ball on the corners and work hard on defense and don’t let people get by my side, that is what I have got to do.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from Halliday. “Nick has been great,” said Sutcliffe. “He is so industrious, he works so hard. He’s right there with his brothers, no doubt.”

Sutcliffe was proud of how his squad made the right plays down the stretch in the win over HoVal.

“It is just a matter of advancing, that is the mindset,” said Sutcliffe. “That is what we did and that is what we are pleased with.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, PHS has developed an extra layer of toughness from its run to the Mercer County Tournament championship, which saw it prevail in penalty kick shootouts in the semis and title game.

“I think our guys throughout the experience of the last three weeks, being in one-goal games and going into overtime, are pretty battle tested,” said Sutcliffe.

Junior defender Dwight Donis showed the value of that experience as he tallied another key goal for the Little Tigers.

“It is just a matter of whoever can contribute,” said Sutcliffe. “Dwight was great, he scores the game winner and he had his hands full on defense.”

Another defender, junior co-captain Chris Harla, made a huge play in the HoVal game as he cleared a ball off the line late in the first half.

“Chris made a fantastic save prior to them going level,” said Sutcliffe. “I can’t say enough about his improvement throughout the campaign to get better and read things like that and be in the right spot at the right time. He was fantastic today.”

PHS’s improvement collectively through the fall has Sutcliffe believing that the program can earn another state crown.

“We have already won two championships this fall and now we find ourselves in the sectional semis and we are at home,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped fourth-seeded Allentown 3-0 in the semis on Monday on goals by Alex Ratsen, Cole Snyder, and Luis Lazo to improve to 16-2-2 and will host No. 6 Red Bank Regional in the championship game on November 13. “We have what it takes, no doubt about it.”

Halliday, for his part, is confident that he can add to his family’s tradition of tournament success.

“As long as we work hard and make no mistakes, we can definitely get another title,” said Halliday.

As the most experienced defender on the Princeton High girls’ soccer team, Emily Pawlak has assumed a take-charge role on the backline.

“A lot of it is communication; I see the field; you will hear me yelling a lot, coaching people, telling them where to go and telling them what balls to play,” said senior standout Pawlak.

“At the same time, I shield for people. I see that as a good job of mine. If a ball gets through and our fullback misses it, I am normally there and I try to stop that. I am just the eyes of the team in the back.”

Last week as eighth-seeded PHS hosted No. 9 Burlington in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectionals, Pawlak and her defensive unit didn’t let anything through as the Little Tigers prevailed 1-0.

“We have some really fast fullbacks who were able to counterattack,” said Pawlak, reflecting on the defensive effort.

“Burlington had great speed up top and we were able to stop that easily. It was just some hard tackling and some aggressive play.”

After PHS took the lead early in the second half on a goal by junior star Taylor Lis, it had to hold off a Burlington squad that repeatedly pressed forward looking for the equalizer.

“That is concerning, you don’t want them to get momentum and we were trying to stall that as much as possible,” said Pawlak.

“It was tough because they were bringing a lot on us but I thought we played well; we really stopped that from happening.”

Pawlak liked the way PHS kept its momentum to the final whistle. “It was a good win, they were a tough team but we were able to play around them and play our game,” said Pawlak.

“Sometimes we get in the habit of not playing our game; we know we can do better at times. I was happy we played our game for the full 80 minutes.”

While Pawlak was unhappy to see her twin sister Shannon, PHS’s top offensive threat, get sidelined with a leg injury earlier this fall, she is proud of how other teammates have risen to the occasion.

“Shannon is always someone I could look for; my club coach always jokes that we have twin telepathy,” said Pawlak.

“When we play, somehow we always find each other. It is tough but we have some girls who filled her role. I think by now I can say we have had girls who have stepped up and played and shown that they can take the position but I miss her.”

PHS head coach Val Rodriguez was looking for her players to step up in the second half against Burlington after the teams played to a scoreless draw through the first 40 minutes of the contest.

“The message at halftime was that we did everything to show that we could win this game without putting numbers on the scoreboard and that’s what matters, proving it on the scoreboard,” said Rodriguez.

“We talked about spreading the field, playing quick, two-touch soccer and passing it around them.”

The PHS players responded well to Rodriguez’s message. “We used our outside mids really well and got some end line crosses off,” said Rodriguez.

“We had numbers in the box; that goalie had some tremendous saves. We had multiple opportunities and we haven’t been doing that recently so that was the piece of the play that has been lacking ever since Shannon Pawlak has been gone.”

In seizing opportunity to find the back of the net, the Little Tigers relied on a sister act as freshman Devon Lis set up older sister, Taylor.

“It was such a game-time decision, coach Wash [Kori Washington] said let’s try Devon because her corners are going to be more driven so Devon to Taylor was ideal,” said Rodriguez. “I thought Taylor had a solid game, she created some great opportunities.”

Rodriguez credited Pawlak with spearheading a solid defensive effort.

“Our defense is doing a good job of learning to contain, not biting, and staying on their feet,” said Rodriguez.

“Emily keeps everybody organized, she is a really important voice on the field. Emily is the engine back there, she organizes everything, she makes great decisions, when to step and when to contain, when to tackle, when to play feet, and when to clear. She really knows the game well.”

For a PHS team that has been hit with the injury bug this fall, winning a game in the state tourney was sweet.

“It is exactly what we needed, a tournament win,” said Rodriguez, whose team’s tournament run ended when it lost 2-1 at top-seeded Colts Neck to end the fall with a 9-7-2 record.

“We had a really tough game against Ewing in the counties that could have gone either way. It was really great to get a win today.”

Pawlak, for her part, was thrilled to get a win in her final appearance at home.

“This is my last game on the turf here,” said Pawlak. “I wanted to go out with a good game. There were nerves in the beginning but I just wanted to bring it and have a good way to end.”

GROUND CONTROL: Princeton High running back Rory ­Helstrom runs to daylight in recent action. Last Friday, junior star ­Helstrom rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns as PHS defeated WW/P-N 47-21 to improve to 8-1 and earn the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title. The Little Tigers will begin their quest for a state title as they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where they are seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUND CONTROL: Princeton High running back Rory ­Helstrom runs to daylight in recent action. Last Friday, junior star ­Helstrom rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns as PHS defeated WW/P-N 47-21 to improve to 8-1 and earn the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title. The Little Tigers will begin their quest for a state title as they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where they are seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High football team got ready to play WW/P-N last Friday night with the West Jersey Football League’s Valley Division title up for grabs, Charlie Gallagher put the onus on the squad’s unsung heroes.

“In my pregame speech I had all the linemen stand up and said it is on your backs,” recalled PHS head coach Gallagher. “We are going to run the ball a lot tonight.”

Accepting the coach’s challenge, the linemen proceeded to dominate the trenches as PHS rolled up 382 yards rushing in defeating WW/P-N 47-21 and improving to 8-1.

Junior star Rory Helstrom led the ground attack, gaining 204 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. Senior Colin Buckley rushed for 112 yards on 10 attempts with two TDs while classmate Sam Smallzman gained 73 yards on two carries, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown run.

“It was cold and windy, we didn’t know how much we would need to pass,” said Gallagher.

“Rory, Colin, and Sam ran the ball well, they all broke long ones. We saw they had put up a lot of points. We knew we were going to be able to run the ball and we wanted to manage the clock.”

The PHS defense managed to stifle the Northern Knights, holding them to seven points through three quarters.

“We did a good job of containing the running game, they had some good runs up the middle but that was it,” said Gallagher. “We put pressure on the quarterback, I think we had five or six sacks.”

The Little Tigers felt very good about earning the division title. “They knew it hadn’t been done in a while, it would be something meaningful,” said Gallagher.

“We have been motivated coming into every game but it was definitely an added motivational factor. We are excited, it feels great.”

In Gallagher’s view, the achievement is a great testament to the squad’s work ethic and character.

“I think it shows that all the hard work paid off,” said Gallagher.  “We have great senior leadership and three great senior captains in Sam Smallzman, Colin Buckley, and Brian Tien.”

PHS will be putting in some hard work this week as it prepares to compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs, where it is seeded seventh and will play at second-seeded Brick Township (8-1) on November 14 in a quarterfinal contest.

“I will tell the kids that it is real simple, we have a chance to lose it if we don’t play our game,” said Gallagher, reflecting on the matchup.

“It is about us. If we go out and play good football, we can win. It is a one-game season now, we are going to take it one week at a time. We have won eight games so there is a confidence level. In the beginning of the season, we wanted to just compete because we didn’t know who we were. Now we just want to win.”

GRAND FINALE: Hun School running back Chris Sharp heads upfield in a game earlier this fall. Last Sunday, senior star and Virginia-bound Sharp ended his career on a high note, rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the outright MAPL title, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GRAND FINALE: Hun School running back Chris Sharp heads upfield in a game earlier this fall. Last Sunday, senior star and Virginia-bound Sharp ended his career on a high note, rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the outright MAPL title, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Christopher Sharp joined the Hun School football team in 2011, he soaked up some valuable lessons when the Raiders produced a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship campaign.

“In my freshman year, we had seniors like Wendy Laurent and Dave Dudeck,” said Sharp. “You are growing up and you want to be just like them.”

Last Sunday, Sharp followed in the footsteps of Laurent and Dudeck,  rushing for 212 yards as Hun routed Mercersburg Academy 64-16 to earn the MAPL title outright, finishing the fall at 7-1 overall and 5-0 in league play.

“We saw that we had something special in August and we just wanted to finish,” said Sharp. “We wanted to go undefeated in the MAPL and that’s what we did.”

To add icing to the cake, Sharp’s final run in a Hun uniform, a 96-yard scoring gallop down the sideline to start the third quarter, put him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark this fall.

“It was a very special moment to share with my teammates and family, especially on senior day,” said Sharp, who is heading to the University of Virginia and will be playing for its football program.

“The first thing I did was to thank all of the linemen, the fullback, and the quarterback. I can’t do it all by myself.”

As Sharp took off down the sideline on that final jaunt, he wasn’t exactly sure if he should go the distance.

“Coach [Todd Smith] told me at half that I had 31 yards to go,” said Sharp, who scored four touchdowns on the day.

“I broke it and at first I didn’t really know what to do. I hit 31 and I thought do I keep going. I wasn’t sure. I went with my gut and went all the way. It was amazing.”

Hun experienced an amazing turnaround under new coach Smith as it rebounded from a frustrating 2-6 campaign last fall.

“Coming into the season, I knew it was going to be special,” said Sharp. “With the kids that came in, we knew going in it was going to be a different feel. It was just like fresh and new things were brewing up with the Hun football team. It is exciting to see the fruition and what grew out of it.”

Sharp grew into a force this fall, producing dazzling runs and receptions as the engine of the Hun offense.

“I love running the ball and being able to catch the ball out of the receiver position is a blessing as well,” said Sharp. “It is just amazing to see the growth that I have gone through.”

In reflecting on the team’s perfect MAPL campaign, Hun head coach Smith cited the amazing support his program received this fall.

“It is not just me and the MAPL title, it is all the coaches that coach here,” said Smith.

“It is the people in the admissions department. It is the school itself, the draw of Hun. Great kids want to come to Hun and we want to match that with athletics. These kids have so many academic activities in front of them; we are trying to match that on the field for them. That was a school-wide effort this whole season.”

While Hun didn’t get the opportunity to play November 1 at Peddie as the Falcons forfeited the contest due to a shortage of healthy players, the Raiders were prepared to close the deal against Mercersburg.

“We gave the kids the day off yesterday, we brought them in early this morning and had a good walk-through,” said Smith, who got four touchdown passes from quarterback Simon Vadas in the win on Sunday with Cameren Kitchen, Justin Morrison, and Fred Hansard scoring touchdowns in addition to Sharp.

“Everything has been productive. We have been able to talk football, it has been an intelligent conversation. That game today was just a team taking care of business.”

Smith certainly liked the way Sharp took care of business this fall. “Chris is just a fantastic kid, it is a shame we only had seven games with him,” said Smith.

“He got 1,000 yards and a boatload of touchdowns to go with it. He has gotten so much better as the year went on. I am just really excited about his future, I think he is going to be a great football player at the next level.”

The team’s senior class as a whole made a great contribution this fall. “I am real happy for them, it started in the summer,” said Smith.

“They all bought into the summer workouts, the kids that could make it down here. I think they fought through camp, it was rigorous and they did a great job. They could see how much the hard work paid off.”

Putting in that hard work helped the players develop some deep bonds. “We just grew as a family as it went on,” said Smith, who experienced a special family moment after the game as he proposed marriage to his girlfriend after the game in front of the players, parents, supporters, and coaches and achieved the biggest win of the day as he got an affirmative answer.

“It was never individual. It was just let’s do a great job and play for each other. When you have 11 kids playing as one out there, there is no end to it.”

In putting the happy ending in perspective, Sharp said it was a group effort. “We were strong everywhere,” said Sharp.

“Our offensive line and defensive line are big and they get great pushes. We have receivers and we can run the ball as well. We didn’t have too many weaknesses going into the season and we just stayed healthy and that’s how it played out. Today was amazing, it was kind of like a fantasy.”

November 5, 2014
POWERFUL RESPONSE: Princeton University running back Will Powers heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior standout Powers rushed for a team-high 83 yards as Princeton topped Cornell 38-27. Princeton, now 4-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, hosts Penn (1-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on November 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

POWERFUL RESPONSE: Princeton University running back Will Powers heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior standout Powers rushed for a team-high 83 yards as Princeton topped Cornell 38-27. Princeton, now 4-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League, hosts Penn (1-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on November 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Bob Surace sensed that his Princeton University football team was in the right frame of mind when the players complained vociferously about some unfavorable officiating calls at Cornell last Saturday.

“The big word this week was passion,” said Princeton head coach Surace, whose team was coming off a deflating 49-7 loss to Harvard on October 25.

“We didn’t want to ignore the technical things but it was let’s see guys flying around the field and enjoying themselves. The guys were hooting and hollering when Dre Nelson’s 50-yard kickoff return was called back on a penalty and we didn’t get an interception because they said the Cornell quarterback’s knee was on the ground.”

Channelling that passion into some good execution, Princeton posted a 38-27 win over the Big Red before 5,313 at Schoellkopf Field, improving to 4-3 overall and 3-1 Ivy League.

While the Tigers sputtered in the early going, things clicked as the game went on.

“We got rolling from the the mid-first quarter to the fourth quarter,” said Surace. “We executed well in all three sides of the game.”

Senior quarterback Connor Michelsen executed superbly, hitting 23-of-33 passes for 281 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

“He has a strong arm, we got the ball downfield to Trevor Osborne, Connor Kelley, and Scott Carpenter,” said Surace of Michelsen.

“As good as that was, I liked the way he handled things play to play. He scrambled when reads broke down and he hit his checkdowns. He showed a general maturation as a quarterback. You want a QB to be an extension of the coach and execute the plays well.”

Senior receiver Kelley played the game of his career, making a personal-best 13 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

“We have had a few injuries at the wide receiver position; we wanted to do some things and get him the ball in different ways,” said Surace.

“When [Matt] Costello went down, that added to his plate. He was exceptional, he ran the ball hard and finished plays. It seemed like every catch gave us a first down.”

Princeton drew first blood as it took a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal by Nolan Bieck late in the first quarter.

After Cornell forged ahead 7-3 early in the second quarter on a halfback option touchdown pass from Luke Hagy to Ben Rogers, Michelsen started clicking. He found Dre Nelson on a three-yard touchdown pass to put Princeton up 10-7. Minutes later, he connected with Carpenter for a 16-yard scoring strike as the Tigers increased their advantage to 17-7.

The Big Red narrowed the gap to 17-14 at halftime as quarterback Robert Somborn hit Lucas Shapiro on a five-yard TD pass.

The third quarter turned into the Connor Kelley show. In the first minute of the quarter, he hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Michelsen as Princeton took a 24-14 lead. With just seconds left in the quarter, he made a 28-yard scoring reception to give the Tigers a 31-14 cushion heading into the last 15 minutes of regulation.

Cornell made it a 31-21 game when Somborn found Shapiro for a 10-yard TD play. The Tigers responded with an 11-play, 78-yard march that culminated with a two-yard touchdown run by Kedric Bostic. The Big Red added a late TD on a 6-yard run by Hagy and got the ball back on an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.  Princeton held the Big Red on downs and was able to run out the clock.

Although the defense yielded 447 yards, Surace liked what he saw on that side of the ball.

“We forced some turnover opportunities early,” said Surace, noting that the Tigers had one interception called back and had a sack/fumble where it didn’t get the ball along with an Anthony Gaffney interception.

“We still have to tighten up some things. We need to be tighter in coverage. We didn’t generate a pass rush in the fourth quarter after doing that well in the first three. Overall, we did a number of good things.”

It was a good thing for Princeton to pull away from Cornell in Ithaca, where it had lost seven times in its last nine games.

“The objective is to score more than the other team,” said Surace. “It was good to see us come out and play as hard as we did and finish it off the way we did. We have struggled up there, I think I read that the last nine games there were within a TD so it was good to come out and win like we did.”

Princeton will be looking for another win to keep pace with Ivy leader Harvard (7-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy) as it hosts Penn (1-6 overall, 1-3 Ivy) on November 8.

“It is not the record you expect from a Penn team, they play a brutal non-conference schedule with teams like Villanova and Fordham,” said Surace.

“They have had some heartbreakers. You watch them and they are the tough, physical Penn team you are used to. They throw the ball more. They get the ball down the field, they are the most explosive Penn team we have seen. We have to come ready to go. When the guys come out on Tuesday, they won’t be thinking this is a one-win Penn team, they will be thinking it is a tough, physical team that played Brown to the last play and had a tough, physical loss to Dartmouth.”

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell goes after the puck in action last season. Junior forward McDonell has contributed five points on one goal and four assists this season to help Princeton get off to a promising start this season. Last Saturday, McDonell contributed two assists as the Tigers beat Colgate 4-2 to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 ECAC Hockey. Princeton hosts a two-game set against Rochester Institute of Technology (5-3-2 overall) this weekend with games slated for November 7 and 8.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GETTING IT DONE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Jaimie McDonell goes after the puck in action last season. Junior forward McDonell has contributed five points on one goal and four assists this season to help Princeton get off to a promising start this season. Last Saturday, McDonell contributed two assists as the Tigers beat Colgate 4-2 to improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 ECAC Hockey. Princeton hosts a two-game set against Rochester Institute of Technology (5-3-2 overall) this weekend with games slated for November 7 and 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Unsettled by some travel issues, the Princeton University women’s hockey team lost its way early in its season opener at Penn State on October 26.

The Tigers surrendered two first period goals on the way to a 2-1 defeat. “We didn’t start sharp and we paid for it,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, noting that the team had problems finding accommodations due to a scarcity of hotel rooms in the area resulting from Penn State’s home football game against Ohio State that weekend. “They play a disciplined system and caught us in traps and neutralized our speed.”

The Tigers got up to speed from there, outplaying Penn State in the latter stages of the opener and then posting a 4-1 win over the Nittany Lions in the final game of the two-game set. “I thought we played well the next five periods,” said Kampersal. “We played really well on Monday and possessed the puck.”

Last weekend, the Tigers played really well, opening up its ECAC Hockey campaign by beating Cornell 5-4 on Friday and then topping Colgate 4-2 the next day.

“We were going into Cornell where we finished the ECAC season last year,” said Kampersal, who got goals from Fiona McKenna, Molly Contini, Audrey Potts, Kiersten Falck, and Ali Pankowski in the win over the Big Red.

“We got out to a good start. We had three really good minutes in the second period. They play aggressively and we took advantage of some 2-on-1 situations.”

In the victory over Colgate, the Tigers exorcised some demons. “We were 1-4-1 at Colgate our last six years, it is a place where we haven’t played well in a while and we made that point to the girls,” said Kampersal, who got two goals from Molly Contini in the triumph with Cristin Shanahan and Kelsey Koelzer adding one apiece and Jaimie McDonell picking up two assists. “We won the opening face-off and got the puck deep and I knew it was going to be a good first period. We kept playing well.”

The pair of Contini and McDonell have been triggering the Princeton offense in the early going.

“Contini had a wraparound and finished on an entry play we have been working on,” said Kampersal, reflecting on the sophomore’s tallies against Colgate.

“She almost had a third one; she has a knack for finishing the puck. Molly is picking up where she left off freshman year. Jaimie has been our best overall player, she sets the tone.”

On defense, sophomore defenseman Koelzer and junior goalie Kimberly Newell have been leading the way.

“Kelsey has been great in the back, she should be under consideration for ECACH Player of the Week,” asserted Kampersal of Koelzer, who leads Princeton in scoring with seven points on a goal and six assists.

“Kimberly had different forwards thrown at her last weekend and was up to the task. She was smothering things down low and played big.”

Kampersal is hoping his team keeps playing well as it hosts the Rochester Institute of Technology (5-3-2 overall) this weekend with games slated for November 7 and 8.

“RIT plays quick and aggressive,” said Kampersal. “We are in that mode after playing Cornell and Colgate. We have that pace going.”

For the Princeton University men’s hockey team, it was a fresh start in more ways than one as the Tigers opened the season by playing Yale last Friday in the Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark.

First, it was the dawn of a new era for the program as head coach Ron Fogarty made his debut behind the bench for the Tigers.

“It is great to be part of Princeton as a head coach, I am very honored to be in that role,” said Fogarty, reflecting on his first game at the helm of the program as he replaces Bob Prier.

On the ice, the team’s corp of freshmen made a good first impression as the Tigers battled Yale to a 2-2 tie through overtime before losing in a shootout as the Bulldogs advanced to the title game of the event. Newcomers David Hallisey and Eric Robinson accounted for both Princeton goals while fellow freshmen Matt Nelson and Joe Grabowski picked up assists.

“The freshmen did a great job, they were all over the ice for us,” said Fogarty.

“Eric Robinson had a great weekend, every time he was on the ice, good things happened for us. Yale scored first and we quickly responded as David Hallisey got his first career goal.”

Another young Tiger, sophomore goalie Colton Phinney, came up big, making 45 saves on the evening.

“Colton was called on in the second period when they had some power plays,” said Fogarty.

“He made some big saves and we were able to take a 2-1 lead into the third period We held them to four shots in the third but gave up a goal on a quick breakout and that cost us the win.”

While Princeton ended up falling 6-1 to Merrimack in the third-place game on Sunday, Fogarty wasn’t fazed by the result.

“We had four or five breakdowns, it was just a few small mistakes,” said Fogarty, who got a goal from another freshman in the loss as Ryan Berlin found the back of the net.

“We are not that far away. We told them not to quit, it is a 60-minute game. We sagged a little when we got down 2-0; we just have to refocus. I liked how we responded in the third period.”

Senior Tucker Brockett showed good focus for the Tigers. “Tucker Brockett played well; he gave us some solid work,” said Fogarty.

“We asked him to play a lot of minutes. He wasn’t on the score sheet but he did a lot of things on the penalty kill and in the 5-on-5 for us.”

Fogarty saw plenty of good things as he assessed the weekend. “Overall it is great to have 125 minutes of tape and see where we are at,” said Fogarty.

“We need to solidify strengths and shore up weaknesses. We had some good support in the d-zone. I love the energy and the togetherness of the team even when we were down to Merrimack. There is a desire to get better.”

With Princeton opening ECAC Hockey action by hosting Cornell (0-1-1 overall) on November 7 and Colgate (6-2 overall) the next day, Fogarty knows that his team has to get better to break into the win column.

“We want to make sure we keep working on ourselves,” said Fogarty. “We are not going to show a lot of tape of other teams to them. We will go over key points. We want to keep supporting the puck in the defensive zone. We didn’t get a lot of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Most of our chances came on breakouts. We need to reload and keep the puck in the offensive zone.”