October 24, 2012

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Hun School field hockey goalie Reina Kern, center, controls the crease in recent action. Last Wednesday, sophomore star Kern made 14 saves as Hun edged Princeton Day School 1-0. In upcoming action, Hun, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the years, the Hun School field hockey team has typically saved its best for last, displaying a penchant for playing well down the stretch.

Last Wednesday, as Hun played at Princeton Day School, Alex Kane and her Raider teammates had a late-season surprise in store for the once-beaten Panthers.

“They are seeded No. 1 [in the Mercer County Tournament] and we really wanted to upset them,” said junior defender Kane. “We were excited to play, I think that is the best way to put it.”

Hun proceeded to put it to PDS, holding the fort on defense and finding the back of the cage on a Vicky Leach goal with 3:26 left in the second half for the lone score of the game in a 1-0 win.

“The girls’ attitude was unbelievable; I think we really stepped up,” said Kane.

“We are a team that builds off of each other so when we do really well, it really raises the morale.”

In Kane’s view, the Hun defense raised the level of its game in the victory over PDS.

“I think we have had an issue staying calm and the main goal today was just to relax because they have aggressive girls on their line,” said Kane.

“I think our midfield was really strong today and they were able to keep the ball further up the field so we didn’t really get hurt and it wasn’t coming into us over and over.”

Kane feels a responsibility to help control the middle of the field for the Raiders.

“As a center back, I try to keep them out of that area and push them wide,” said Kane.

“I am able to help the offense; I can have some good give-and-goes with the midfield now that Carey [Million] is there. She looks back to us and that is really good.”

It also helped to have a really good goalie in sophomore star Reina Kern. “Reina is unbelievable,” asserted Kane.

“She knows the game and is able to tell us where to go. She is our control center.”

Kern, for her part, who made 14 saves in the win over PDS, maintained control throughout the contest.

“I just keep my eye on the ball; I know a bunch of girls on this team but I don’t worry about who is shooting what,” said Kern.

“You tell your players what to do and watch the ball. I played my game and I guess I did that pretty well.”

A starter from game one as a freshman last fall, Kern is feeling a greater comfort level this year in the cage.

“Last year, I was new to the team and I had to adjust,” said Kern. “This year, I really have made the full adjustment. We had a very young team last year. We only lost one senior so we feel this year was our year. We came out this season and we were ready to play.”

Hun head coach Kathy Quirk sees a growing maturity in Kern. “Reina has really progressed; she is a team player,” said Quirk, whose team was seeded 10th in the MCT and fell 3-1 to No. 7 Lawrenceville last Thursday in an opening round contest.

“She talks to the girls; she has them move where they are supposed to move.”

Quirk credited Kane with helping to spearhead a superior defensive effort. “I think my whole defense did a great job,” said Quirk.

“Alex stepped up in the middle a few times and caught them off guard and took the ball away. Sam Heyrich saved one behind Reina. The whole defense just worked together.”

Hun brought an underdog mentality into the PDS contest; catching the Panthers off guard with their intensity.

“We knew they were seeded No. 1 in Mercer County; we talked about that and said wouldn’t it be great to come out on top,” said Quirk, whose team, now 6-5, will be competing in the state Prep A tournament and has a regular season game at Peddie on October 27 before hosting Germantown Academy (Pa.) on October 29.

“It has always been a good crosstown rivalry. We played the game of our life today. If we played like that every game, we could have won games that we have lost.”

Kane, for her part, believes the Raiders can maintain that mindset down the stretch.

“I feel like we are going to build off of this,” said Kane. “We are all so excited and so happy; it is just a great feeling.”

October 17, 2012

BROWN OUT: Princeton University defensive lineman Caraun Reid, right, corrals Brown quarterback Patrick Donnelly for one of his 2.5 sacks in Princeton’s 19-0 win over the Bears last Saturday. Senior star Reid was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the victory, which was Princeton’s third straight and lifted the Tigers to 3-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy. Princeton now hosts defending champion and 22nd-ranked Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the players on the Princeton University football team convened this summer for their preseason camp, they were issued T-shirts saying “Believe.”

But after falling 17-14 at Lehigh and 21-20 to Georgetown in its first two games of the 2012 campaign, it was hard to believe that Princeton was any different from the teams that posted a combined  2-18 record over the last two seasons.

But then the Tigers rolled to a 33-6 rout at Columbia and followed that up with an impressive 35-14 win over Lafayette.

Last Saturday, the growing belief around the program officially turned to swagger as Princeton suffocated Brown 19-0 before a crowd of 6,482 at Princeton Stadium, stamping itself as a bona fide contender for the Ivy League title.

In handing Brown its first shutout since 1996 and snapping its Ivy record 162-game scoring streak, the Tigers improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Ivy play, tied atop the league standings with Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) and Penn (2-3 overall, 2-0 Ivy). Princeton hosts the defending champion and 22nd-ranked Crimson this Saturday in the program’s biggest game since its 2006 Ivy title campaign.

Senior star defensive lineman Caraun Reid exemplified Princeton’s self-belief as he reflected on the win over Brown.

“We kept the focus all game; there wasn’t a moment where we had to worry about what we were doing,” said Reid, who had a safety to go with six tackles and 2.5 sacks.

“We were confident from the get-go. We’re playing with an extra little bit of oomph today, which was great. That’s what we need to do. I feel like we just played well. This is what we’re supposed to do. At times, we made mistakes in other games that would cost us, but today we just played really well and it showed.”

The win was even sweeter considering that the Tigers had suffered some adversity during the week as star sophomore cornerback Khamal Brown was lost for the season with a head injury on Tuesday. Brown, who is still hospitalized, wore his game jersey in his hospital bed as he watched the NBC Sports Network broadcast of the contest.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace said the team’s support of Brown gave its post-game celebration a special feel.

“It’s just a real fun, emotional locker room,” said Surace, whose team outgained Brown 380 yards to 242 on the day.

“We’ve had a tough week. Khamal’s dad called Coach [Jim] Salgado and asked for his jersey to see if he could wear it in the hospital yesterday. Just to see our guys come together — they do it every day, but sometimes it takes something like adversity to show it to everybody else. I’ve been coaching and playing around my dad’s team, and you’re just so proud of these guys. I’ve never been more proud of a team than how we just came together this week and supported Khamal while at the same time handling our academic and football duties. It’ll be something we’ll all remember for a long time, and we’ll continue our prayers and support for him. I thanked the guys for everything they’d done.”

The Princeton defense certainly handled its business with aplomb, holding Brown to 17 yards rushing, producing six sacks, coming up with interceptions by Anthony Gaffney and Phil Bhaya, and a fumble recovery by Alex Polofsky in addition to the safety by Reid. The Tiger defense is now ranked first in the Ivies in total defense and scoring defense.

Reid, for his part, said the unit planned to pitch a shutout. “We are not really surprised (at shutout); this is what we expect to do,” asserted the 6’2, 305-pound Reid, a first-team All-Ivy performer last fall.

“Last week, we expected a shutout. There were little things we messed up on, but the expectation is to not let them score. We’ll force them to kick a field goal, then block the field goal. We’re not letting them score. This is what we want to do. This is what we’re supposed to do. We’re happy we’re at this point and we’re going to get better.”

A surprise play helped Princeton draw first blood in the contest as left tackle Spenser Huston gathered in a throwback from quarterback Connor Michelson and raced 15 yards for a touchdown with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Huston, for his part, was thrilled to hit paydirt. “This is my first touchdown at any level,” said the 6’4, 270-pound sophomore.

“I was definitely excited. I had the easiest job on the field. Connor threw a great ball, we blocked it perfectly. When I caught the ball, there was nothing but green grass in front of me, and it was a walk in there.”

After a Nolan Bieck field goal gave Princeton a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, Reid came up with his scoring play. With Brown backed up at its own one-yard line after mishandling the kickoff, Reid swooped in and tackled Mark Kachmer in the end zone for a safety as the Tigers stretched their advantage to 12-0.

“I just got off the ball as fast as possible,” recalled Reid, who was later named the Ivy Defensive Player of the Week and was awarded a helmet sticker honor by ESPN’s College Football Final broadcast.

“That’s a great credit to our punt team (it was a kickoff actually), but the ball was barely on the one. We just knew we had to get there. We were all hungry.”

Starting the second half up 12-0, the Tigers kept up their hungry play. Princeton extended its advantage to 19-0 early in the third quarter after Will Powers ran eight yards for a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, the Tigers kept the Bears at bay, forcing three punts and stopping Brown on downs to put the finishing touches on the shutout.

In Reid’s view, the Tigers made a major statement with the win over the Bears.

“Absolutely we believed that (we were Ivy contenders going into the game); I believe we sent a message, a very physical message, to other teams in the league,” asserted Reid.

“We beat Columbia this year, and it was like, we beat them last year, great. But we have teams we haven’t beaten in my four years here. I haven’t beaten some teams yet. It’s like a checklist — we beat Brown, we’re going to beat Harvard, we’re going for it. I think we sent that message

The Tigers could send quite a message if they could upset Harvard, which is riding a 14-game winning streak and is scoring 41.0 points a game and giving up just 13.4 points per contest.

In order to overcome the Crimson, Princeton will need to rely on its veteran leaders and the confidence they have developed through maintaining their self-belief.

“When I got the job here; you see some things you’re going to emulate,” said Surace.

“I noticed Brown and I loved how their seniors replace seniors. They just have veteran guys. When you see a junior like Phil Bhaya coming on, Mandela Sheaffer coming on, Andrew Starks coming on, Caraun, Cat, Sotereanos, those names you’ve been saying for a long time, and now they’re finally, finally becoming mature men. That’s what we needed. We still have some young guys, but it’s a mixture and those young guys are being led by mature guys. I can’t say enough good things about their leadership.”

BUTLER SERVICE: Princeton University women’s hockey star Sally Butler heads up the ice in action last winter. Junior forward Butler, who led the Tigers in scoring last season with 26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists, will be looking to build on that success as Princeton gets its 2012-13 campaign underway this weekend. The Tigers open up by playing at RIT on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton University women’s hockey program, the players in its Class of 2012 left an indelible impact.

The group of Ann-Marie Elvin, Julie Johnson, Heather Landry, co-captain Charissa Stadnyk, co-captain Paula Romanchuk, Danielle DiCesare, and Rachel Weber were immediate contributors when they joined the program in 2008.

Over the next four seasons, they provided production, leadership, and spirit in helping Princeton remain in the upper echelon of ECAC Hockey.

As the Tigers got together and started going through their paces in preparation for the 2012-13 campaign, the void was apparent to Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal.

“In preseason, a lot of the players couldn’t get over the fact that Paula and Rachel and those kids are gone,” said Kampersal, whose team went 12-15-4 overall last winter to finish seventh in the ECACH standings and ended up falling to Harvard in the league quarterfinals. “The preseason was a little fractured, different kids were doing different things.”

As the Tigers look forward to opening the season by playing at Rochester Institute of Technology on October 19 and Robert Morris on October 20, Kampersal senses that a new team identity is being forged.

“Since the first practice, things have come together,” said Kampersal, a former Princeton men’s hockey star who is in his 17th season at the helm of the program and is also the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team. “Our group this year is good. We just need some more team bonding.”

The Tigers took a good step last weekend as they topped the Toronto Jr. Aeros 4-1 on Friday and Brown 4-2 the next day in two exhibition contests.

“We played pretty well; we had good production offensively,” said Kampersal. “We need to get better defensively; our power play needs to be a little better.”

Kampersal is confident that freshman goalie Kimberly Newell can emerge as a reliable last line of defense along the lines of Weber, who developed into one of the top goalies in the ECACH.

“Newell is young but she comes with a lot of experience,” said Kampersal, who will be using sophomore Ashley Holt as his backup goalie. “She is legit. She played on the Canada U-18 team; she is one of the top goalie recruits in the country.”

The Tigers welcome back their two top scoring forwards from a year ago in Sally Butler (26 points on 15 goals and 11 assists in 2011-12) and team captain Denna Laing (22 points on 11 goals and 11 assists). In addition, talented junior Olivia Mucha (10 points on 4 goals and 6 assists in 12 games) should return to action as she battles back from shoulder surgery.

“Both Butler and Laing are strong,” asserted Kampersal of the junior stars. “Mucha is back; she may be out the next 8-10 days but she should help us.”

The Tigers will also need help from a group of veteran forwards which includes senior assistant captain Kelly Cooke (9 points on 4 goals and 5 assists) and classmates Alex Kinney (7 points on 3 goals and 4 assists) and Corey Stearns (6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists) together with sophomore Brianna Leahy (9 points on 6 goals and 3 assists).

“We need the seniors and juniors to lead the way,” said Kampersal. “We have good freshmen. They are good players but they need older players to help them get up to speed.”

The defensive unit will need to be good as the Tigers don’t boast much depth along the blue line. Junior assistant captain Gabie Figueroa (7 points on 2 goals and 5 assists) and classmate Rose Alleva (8 points on 2 goals and 6 assists) should form one defensive pair with sophomores Ali Pankowski (13 points in 3 goals and 10 assists) and Brianne Mahoney (5 points on 2 goals and 3 assists) working together. Promising freshman Karen MacDonald figures to get plenty of ice time as well.

“Gabi and Rosie will lead the way; Pankowski and Mahoney have to step up,” said Kampersal.

“MacDonald is a steady Eddie; she is a good learner. She just needs to adjust to the speed of the game. All of the kids are going to play a ton; they are going to have to work hard.”

Kampersal realizes that his team is going to have to put in some good work to have a successful opening weekend.

“We don’t know much about RIT; they were Division III champs last year and are making the move up to Division I,” said Kampersal.

“They brought in some transfers; it is going to be a big weekend for them. We played Robert Morris last year and they have some real good players. They picked up some players from Niagara when that program was discontinued. It is going to be a long road trip; we are going to Rochester and then heading to Pittsburgh.”

As he looks ahead to the season, Kampersal believes his squad has what it takes to maintain the legacy of last year’s seniors.

“I want them to play hard, play smart, and be tough; we expect to compete in the ECAC,” maintained Kampersal.

“We don’t know where we will end up; it is a really tight league. We need goaltending and defense to be solid; we have to tighten up in the D-zone. Our power play has to be good; it was substandard last year.”

NICK OF TIME: Princeton University women’s volleyball player Lydia Rudnick goes after a ball in recent action. Senior outside hitter Rudnick has played a major role in helping Princeton go 9-8 overall and 6-1 in Ivy League play, second in the league standings to Yale (11-5 overall, 7-0 Ivy). The two-time All-Ivy performer leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148). The Tigers are next in action when they host Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

As her Princeton University women’s volleyball team got off to a 3-7 start this season with four of the defeats coming in five-setters, Sabrina King felt uneasy.

“There were lots of nerves in those losses; we were also figuring out who our starters are,” said second-year Princeton head coach King.

“It was making me concerned. Last year, the five-setters were falling our way. Some of it is luck but some teams have the mental strength to pull out five-setters. I was wondering if this might not be our year.”

In its Ivy League opener at Penn in late September, though, Princeton was on the right side of a five-set marathon, beating the Quakers 26-28, 25-22, 14-25, 25-23, 15-13.

In King’s view, that victory showed that the Tigers could be a strong team.

“That is always a really intense game; mentally it did a lot of things for us,” said King.

“To win a five-setter, to win on the road, and to start the Ivy League with a win was big. We had played a match earlier that week and three of our starters were out with injuries. We didn’t know what to expect.”

The win started the Tigers on a winning streak as they ended up producing a 5-0 start in Ivy play coming into a showdown at fellow league leader and defending champion Yale last Friday.

As Princeton looked forward to that challenge, it realized it had to play a complete game to topple the Bulldogs.

“Yale has few weaknesses; we knew we had to play really well to beat them,” said King.

Princeton started out well, winning the first set 25-22 but Yale showed its championship pedigree, responding by winning the next three sets 25-22, 25-19, and 25-22 to post a 3-1 victory.

“We won the first set and were ahead late in the second but I could feel the tide turning,” recalled King, a 2001 Princeton alumna and former All-Ivy star for the women’s volleyball program during her college days.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum; I called two timeouts but we just didn’t have the mental edge.”

In King’s view, the defeat to the Bulldogs reinforced some important themes. “We need to play consistently; we can’t have lulls against a good team like that,” said King. “We have to keep focus through the whole set; that is something we have been working on.”

A day later, the Tigers showed a laser-like focus as they posted an impressive 25-17, 25-20, 25-14 victory at Brown.

“It felt like a completely different game,” said King, whose team improved to 9-8 overall and 6-1 Ivy with the victory over the Bears.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to mourn our loss and we took care of business. Brown can be excellent defensively; the ball keeps coming back at you. We had to be patient.”

Princeton has been getting excellent play all season long from senior star Lydia Rudnick, who leads the team in kills (233) and is second in digs (148).

“Lydia is an outstanding player,” asserted King of the two-time All-Ivy outside hitter.

“She is really a gamer; she wants the ball all the time. She has evolved as a player; she is trying to do more and work on being more successful consistently.”

The team’s sophomore players have become more consistent as well. “There is a ton of athleticism with that class; I didn’t recruit them but started with them last year so we developed a bond,” said King, whose star sophomores include Nicole Kincade, Tiana Woolridge, Sarah Hanna, and Ginny Willis. “They are great people and great athletes.”

With Kendall Peterkin (161 kills) and Sarah Daschbach (a team-high 226 digs) leading the way, Princeton’s group of freshmen have made an immediate impact.

“It is a talented class” asserted King. “They bring a lot to practices and games. They have a work hard attitude, there is no drama.”

With Princeton starting a critical five-game Ivy homestand, King doesn’t want to see too much drama.

“We have played really well at home; I hope it stays that way,” said King, whose team hosts Penn (9-9 overall, 4-3 Ivy) on October 19.

“We are talking about getting Yale at our place; I think we can do that. But we have to beat Penn, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Brown before we get to that. We can control our own destiny.”

In view of the pieces in place, Princeton’s destiny could be an Ivy championship.

“We do have a lot of good stuff,” said King. “This is a different type of team. It is an ensemble; it is not as distinct a lineup as last year. People are coming in off the bench and they are hungry to do well.”

D-ZONE: Princeton High field hockey star Julia DiTosto swats the ball in recent action. Sophomore defender DiTosto has been a key performer for PHS as it has produced an 11-2 record. The Little Tigers are seeded second in the Mercer County Tournament and are slated to play No. 15 Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After cruising to a 10-1 start this fall, the Princeton High field hockey team hit a speed bump when it played at the Princeton Day School last Thursday.

Generating 12 shots but unable to find the back of the cage, PHS fell 1-0 to their crosstown rivals.

While the Little Tiger players were hanging their heads after coming up on the short end of the nailbiter, PHS head coach Heather Serverson believes the setback could be a blessing in disguise for her squad.

“I thought we played well; we just weren’t finishing,” said Serverson. “They caught us off-guard; we are not used to that speed of play. It is a good thing that we lost to them because now we are ready for that. The girls honed in on that; they brought it up and I think we are going to focus on that tomorrow.”

While Serverson noted that some of her attacking players weren’t up to speed, she credited PDS with setting the tone in the midfield.

“Seventy-five percent of our forwards are ill right now; they are not their normal speedy selves but that’s no excuse,” said Serverson, whose team rebounded from the loss to the Panthers by beating Steinert 4-0 last Saturday as Sydney Watts, Emma Crain, Vivien Bazarko, and Jackie Chmiel all scored goals.

“I think the impact today was more in the midfield; I don’t think our midfield today was playing cohesively. We weren’t adjusting. They were very fast with the passing and we weren’t playing the good roll defense that we worked on all day yesterday.”

The Little Tigers had trouble breaking down the PDS defense even though they played with a heightened sense of urgency down the stretch of the game.

“We didn’t have the number of opportunities that we normally have,” said Serverson, whose team did generate four penalty corners in the last five minutes of the contest against the Panthers.

“I think percentage-wise it really stuck out because normally we get more opportunities so we put more on goal.”

In Serverson’s view, PHS has a great opportunity to do damage in postseason play.

“I think we just need to pick up the speed of the game; we need to play with intensity right from the start,” said Serverson, whose club, now 11-2, is seeded No. 2 in the Mercer County Tournament and is slated to play 15th-seeded Steinert on October 20 in an opening round contest.

“I think we are still gaining that confidence. They are not used to being a winning team so they are defensive at first. Once we put in a goal, then everyone starts to go and say oh yeah we are Princeton. We need to get the ball down there more often. We need to get more opportunities because once we start, we don’t stop.”

BACK-UP PLAN: Princeton High senior linebacker Carl Helstrom looks to make a hit in a game earlier this fall. Last Friday at Willingboro, PHS dug a 19-0 hole in the first quarter only to close the margin to six early in the second half after 13 unanswered points. The Little Tigers, though, couldn’t hold the fort as Willingboro pulled away to a 38-13 win. PHS, which has lost five straight to fall to 1-5, hosts Burlington High on October 20.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High football team fell behind 19-0 last Friday evening at Willingboro, the Little Tigers could’ve folded.

PHS entered the night mired in a four-game losing streak that had seen it outscored 140-16.

Showing some pluck, though, the Little Tigers stiffened up defensively in the second quarter and then forced a turnover late in the half when Willingboro fumbled a punt.

PHS cashed in on the miscue as senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom on a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it a 19-7 game at halftime.

Utilizing a little trickery, the Little Tigers started the second half with a perfectly executed onside kick to get possession. PHS converted that into a score as Javon Pannell ran five yards for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 19-13.

But that was as close as the Little Tigers would get as the Chimeras reeled off 19 unanswered points to post a 38-13 victory.

PHS head coach Joe Gargione saw improvement from his squad notwithstanding the final score.

“We were only six points back but they had so much speed compared to us,” said Gargione, whose team fell to 1-5 with the setback.

“We definitely showed more than the week before. We ended our streak of not scoring a touchdown. We had not scored a touchdown in three and a half games and we only had three points in a three-game homestand. It was definitely good to get some points.”

While Gargione knows his team can’t afford to dig a big hole like it did on Friday, he believes the pride his players displayed in fighting back could lead to success down the stretch.

“I told them at the end of the game that we can’t put ourselves in that kind of a hole,” said Gargione.

“I think the kids realize that even if you get down 19-0 to a good team, crazy things can happen. I said to them that I think we can get three more wins, 4-6 sounds a lot better than one and something.”

The Little Tigers are getting winning efforts from DiGregorio, Helstrom, and Pannell.

“Zack and Liam are two of our three captains,” said Gargione. “We are using Liam everywhere and Zack is dong a great job. Javon is a little guy but he keeps fighting. He hits the hole hard and has some great moves.”

Even though PHS faces a big challenge when it hosts Burlington this Saturday, Gargione thinks his club can make a move in the right direction.

“We are playing another tough team; it is our Senior Day and I want us to have a good showing,” said Gargione.

“I don’t want the seniors to leave with a bad taste in their mouths. We have so much to work on but scoring two touchdowns is a small improvement. I would like to see us score three or four next week and have the defense do better.”

RISK MANAGEMENT: Princeton Day School field hockey star Corinne Urisko clears a ball in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday against visiting Princeton High, senior tri-captain and sweeper Urisko contributed an assist and her usual stellar defensive play to help PDS edge PHS 1-0. The Panthers, who topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3, host Hun on October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). PDS is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will face the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Senior star Corinne Urisko and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad were disappointed in late August when they got outclassed in falling 3-0 to Princeton High in a preseason scrimmage.

As a result, there was a heightened level of intensity in the air last Thursday when PDS welcomed their crosstown rivals for their annual regular season meeting as Urisko and her classmates were honored in the program’s annual Senior Day.

“We were really fired up going into this,” said sweeper and tri-captain Urisko. “We wanted this more than anything.”

The Panthers didn’t wait long to show their desire to win as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 5:35 into the contest when Andrea Jenkins banged home a feed from Urisko. PDS was able to hold the fort the rest of the game, repelling several Little Tiger attacks as it held on for a 1-0 victory.

When the final buzzer surrounded, the Panthers mobbed each other on the field, riding an emotional high that had several players crying for joy.

“Having this on Senior Day made everything worth it,” asserted Urisko. “I have never been happier; we all pulled together and worked as a team.”

The Panthers worked really well together in the defensive end as they continually thwarted the high-powered PHS attack.

“We really worked on our communication and marking our players really tight,” said Urisko.

“We didn’t want any balls going into the circle. We have been working on our defense for a long time now in practice so it really helped.”

Urisko was happy to help offensively as she slotted a pass into the circle early in the game that Princeton-bound classmate Jenkins converted for the only score of the contest.

“I saw the opening and I passed it,” recalled Urisko. “I have a lot of confidence in Andrea. I knew she would get it in for us.”

The team’s group of seniors, which includes defenders Cami McNeely and Zeeza Cole and goalie Sarah Trigg, along with Urisko and Jenkins, is looking to write a special final chapter to their PDS career.

“We have been together for so long and some of us are going to play in college, this is really important to us,” said Urisko.

“We want to end this season well. We want to win the county tournament and hopefully the preps. Those are goals this season.”

In Urisko’s view, the influence of new head coach Tracey Arndt has helped give PDS a championship mentality.

“She fuels our fire; she gets us pumped up,” said Urisko. “She always knows what to say and she has been a great coach for us. We have come a long way since last year. She is very encouraging; she has helped us so much.”

Arndt, for her part, saw the win over PHS as exemplifying how far her team has come this season.

“We had played them in the preseason and they were really strong then,” said Arndt.

“I knew that we had so much improvement. I knew it would be a great game. I knew Senior Day would pick things up and the energy was high.”

After battling Montgomery to a 2-2 tie two days before the showdown with the Little Tigers, PDS had to fine-tune things.

“We played Montgomery on Tuesday and they were a very strong team,” said Arndt, whose team topped Northern Burlington 3-1 last Monday to improve to 9-1-3 and will wrap up regular season play by hosting Hun on October 17.

“We both gave each other a really close game but I thought there were parts of our game that had just a little bit of a mental breakdown. We worked on the things that we needed to work on, one of them being defensive corners. It was really good that we did; we had great defensive corners today. I give the Princeton attack credit for getting the corners.”

Arndt credited Urisko and her fellow senior defenders McNeely and Cole together with goalie Trigg for producing some great work in the win over PHS.

“They really came together; they had to be really strong and forceful together,” said Arndt.

“Cami came up with some great plays for us. Corinne had a great play on the goal. Trigg came out when she needed to. Zeeza plays simple and poised; you are not going to hear her ranting and raving. She is just going to do it simple and get it out. We really proud of what they have done.”

In Arndt’s view, her team can use the victory over the Little Tigers as a springboard heading into the postseason.

“We have the MCTs coming up and we have the state tournament coming up,” said Arndt, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the MCT and will host the victor of the Nottingham-Hamilton play-in game in an opening round contest on October 20.

“Mercer County is strong and any time you beat a public school, that is good. I think this just gives us momentum going into our last two games and the playoffs.”

Urisko, for her part, believes that the Panthers can make a strong playoff run.

“We need lots of communication and everyone has got to give it their all and 110 percent,” said Urisko.

“This year I feel like we really want it; we have a lot of drive. There is a high intensity out on the field and it is nice to see.”

TOUCH AND GO: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Kirsten Kuzmicz boots the ball in recent action. Sophomore midfielder Kuzmicz has provided the Panthers with offensive production and physical play this fall. PDS is going through a rough patch, having gone 0-5-1 in its last six games. The Panthers, now 3-7-3, will look to get on the winning track when they have a game at Abington Friends School (Pa.) on October 17 and then begin play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For much of its game against visiting Hill School (Pa.) last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team controlled possession of the ball.

But letting its guard down for a five-minute stretch in the first half, PDS’s good work went for naught as it fell 5-2 to the Blues.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta acknowledged that the Panthers wasted that possession, committing miscues at the wrong time.

“If you look at the possession, we possessed the ball most of the game,” said Trombetta, whose team trailed 4-0 at intermission, surrendering three goals in a decisive five-minute stretch midway through the first half.

“We made a lot of mistakes, we turned the ball over in the back. That hurt us today.”

PDS did fight back in the second half, displaying some sharper soccer. “We played better in the second half; we showed more composure in the second half and we put two away,” said Trombetta, who got goals from Kylie Kieffer and Britt Murray.

“We had a couple of golden opportunities that we didn’t cash in on in the first half. If you get on the board first, you have a little momentum and things can happen from there. Unfortunately we didn’t convert on the chances that we had and they cashed in on our mistakes.”

In Trombetta’s view, his club has been snakebitten in a recent stretch which has seen it go 0-5-1.

“I knew the schedule was competitive,” said Trombetta, whose team fell 2-1 in overtime to Lawrence High on Friday before tying Hopewell Valley 1-1 on Saturday.

“The Peddie game (a 1-0 loss on October 2) was an unbelievable game. It went to double overtime; we had chances and they converted on a corner kick. The Blair game (a 1-0 loss on September 29) was a tough game. The Lawrenceville game (a 4-2 loss on October 5) was really a 3-2 game. We gave up an easy goal at the end of the game when we were knocking on the door. I don’t look at it as being outplayed; I look at it as making mistakes. You can’t make mistakes at this level because good teams are going to convert on them and beat you.”

In order for the Panthers to get back on the right track, Trombetta believes his team needs to fine-tune things around the goal at both ends of the field.

“Our distribution in the back needs to improve,” said Trombetta, whose team entered this week with a 3-7-3 record.

“We have been speaking a lot about playing better defensively and offensively in the box. We are getting opportunities but we have been inconsistent. We put three on the board against Hun, we had two on the board against Lawrenceville so we are scoring against good teams. But then we come up with a couple of goose eggs against Blair and Peddie.”

Despite the team’s recent struggles, Trombetta is confident that his players can still produce a good postseason run.

“Today is not a good feeling but overall I have been very pleased,” said Trombetta, whose team plays at Abington Friends School (Pa.) in October 17 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 20.

“Coming into today, this is one of the teams that probably had been the most consistent since I have been here. We fell flat today but we can definitely make noise come tournament time.”

MAKING HIS MARK: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro dribbles the ball in recent action. The skilled play of sophomore midfielder Pinheiro has been a bright spot for a PDS team that fell to 2-8-2 with a 7-0 loss to Pennington last Friday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having won just twice in its first 11 games, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer knew it faced an uphill battle last Friday when it hosted a powerful Pennington squad that has just two defeats in its first 13 games.

For the first 33 minutes at Baker Field, PDS held the fort as the teams played to a scoreless stalemate.

But after a disputed corner kick and penalty kick led to Pennington goals, the roof fell in on the Panthers. PDS gave up anther goal in the first half to fall behind 3-0 at intermission and then surrendered four unanswered goals in the first 17:03 of the second half on the way to a 7-0 defeat.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence late in the first half changed the tone of the contest.

“We had some good work in the beginning,” said Murphy, whose team moved to 2-8-2 with the loss.

“That changes the psychology; they took charge in that last seven or eight minutes and we just couldn’t recover from that. You can’t take it away from them, they are good players.”

In Murphy’s view, his players can gain a lot from going against such high level competition as Pennington.

“I was actually proud; the one thing I did like is that we did say that we were going to play soccer throughout the game rather than just whack it up the field,” said Murphy, citing the efforts of sophomore Marco Pinheiro, junior Culver Duquette, and senior Willy Cara.

“We can use this as a great experience because there are not that many teams around like Pennington.”

With the Panthers having lost five straight games since wins over the Solebury School and the Blair Academy, Murphy knows that his team’s resilience is being tested.

“You just have to recognize who can come through it psychologically tight,” said Murphy, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 17.

“I thought this was the best game of possession that four or five of these kids have played because when we have been playing teams below our level, we have dropped to their level. Today we actually came with a game plan and tried to push it through.”

Now, Murphy is hoping his team can make a good push in postseason play as it competes in the state Prep B tourney and the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).

“If we can manage to defend like that and learn how to break out of the back, we have a chance in the Prep Bs,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded 17th in the MCT and will face No. 16 Hun on October 18 in a play-in game with the winner facing top-seeded Allentown in the first round on October 20.

“We are also doing the counties. We are going in so we can give some of the players a better chance.”

STRIKING PRESENCE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Danielle Beal goes after a ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior striker and tri-captain Beal scored Hun’s lone goal as it played to a 1-1 tie at the Hill School (Pa.). The Raiders, now 3-2-4, host the Blair Academy on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The deluge that hit the area Monday afternoon led to the cancellation of a number of high school athletic events.

But the rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the Hun School girls’ soccer team as it headed out for practice.

“Sometimes when it is like that, it is let’s go in,” said Hun head coach Ken Stevenson.

“I asked them if they wanted to go out and they were like yeah, let’s play. They were into it.”

For the Hun players, cheerfully dealing with a downpour was in character for a squad that has been overcoming adversity throughout the 2012 campaign.

Before the season even started, senior captain and star midfielder Joey Crivelli suffered a season-ending knee injury. That started an injury bug that has plagued the Raiders all season long.

“One of the challenges we have had and to which they are responding well is that our string of injuries continues unabated,” said Stevenson.

“When I sat down on Friday to do my lineup for the Hill game the next day, I had only 11 players so I called up two JV players and said here is your chance.”

Hun was up to the challenge as it battled to a 1-1 tie with the Blues in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener.

“Getting a tie against someone in your league on the road after a long bus ride is a good result,” said Stevenson, whose team moved to 3-2-4 with the tie.

“Danielle Beal got the goal on a good feed from Paige McGuire, who is working her way back. Paloma Rodney and Anna Weinand got called up and they got in and played well. Courtney Arch was already called up; she was our JV goalie and she is playing in the field and doing a good job for us. It is like the NFL with the next man up. I can’t complain about the effort or commitment.”

In the draw with Hill, sophomore defender Jess Sacco exemplified the commitment that Stevenson has been getting from his players.

“Jess Sacco excelled when I put a lot of pressure on her in the Hill game,” said Stevenson.

“We lost both Maziarz sisters [Ashley and Ally] for that game and I changed the formation to deal with it. Hill had one very fast and dangerous forward and I told Sacco she would be marking her but that I also needed her to help the offense. She went out and played, by far, the best game of her high school career against Hill when we really needed it the most.”

While senior star Crivelli hasn’t been able to play, she has been giving the team some needed leadership.

“I give Joey a lot of credit; she loves soccer and is very passionate about the game,” said Stevenson.

“She knows how much she could contribute but is unable to. That is very hard for a senior. I talked to her about going from frustrated player to helpful assistant coach. Her encouragement and talking to the girls has been a big help. I am sure it has made a difference. She is relentlessly upbeat. She is critical but in the sense of I know you can do better.”

Although the Raiders will be shorthanded down the final stretch of the season, Stevenson is upbeat about his team’s prospects.

“The biggest challenge is that every game from here on out is huge; we have Blair, Lawrenceville, Peddie, and Mercersburg coming up, every game is going to be either a MAPL or a state Prep A game,” said Stevenson, whose team hosts Blair on October 17 and Lawrenceville on October 20.

“When we are on our game, we are really good. We tied East Brunswick and they are 13-1-2 or something like that. We tied Episcopal and they have beaten all the MAPL teams they have played. When we start well and stay in our system we are competitive. We are good at connecting and playing to feet. When we do that, I like our chances.”

—Bill Alden

October 10, 2012

GETTING THE CALL: Princeton University men’s squash coach Bob Callahan, far right, celebrates with his squad last February after it beat Trinity to win the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national championship and snap the Bantams’ 13-year title streak. Later that month, Callahan learned that he had a malignant tumor in his head and subsequently had successful brain surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This Wednesday, Callahan will cap his year of triumph and suffering as he is inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame in Philadelphia.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

On February 19, Bob Callahan’s arms were weary from hugging people after he guided his Princeton University men’s squash team to a win for the ages as it rallied to beat Trinity and snap the Bantams’ 13-year stranglehold on the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) national title.

Characteristically, longtime Princeton head coach Callahan deflected the credit in assessing the third CSA national title of his 31-year tenure.

“What it reminded me is that there is a key ingredient in all these championship matches, which is luck,” said Callahan.

“We were down 4-2 and we won 5-4. Three years ago [in a 5-4 loss to Trinity in the 2009 national title match], we had some matches we should have won that we didn’t win. This year, we had some matches that we won that we should not have won.”

Two days later, Callahan experienced a strange feeling in his arms that triggered a much tougher battle than toppling the Trinity dynasty.

“We won on Sunday and that Tuesday, I was sitting here in Jadwin and one of the kids, as always, walked in the door, and as he did my two arms, from elbow down, had a kind of tingling like they had fallen asleep. It happened twice in about 30 seconds that day. I thought that’s weird and then it happened three times on Wednesday.”

Callahan experienced more tingling in his arms a few days later and went to the University Medical Center of Princeton where an MRI was performed on his head, revealing a black mass that was subsequently diagnosed as a malignant brain tumor. In early March, Callahan, 57, had brain surgery performed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“The surgery was successful; I started six weeks of radiation and chemo and then had a month off,” said Callahan.

“Then you start going in monthly for MRIs and they check you out. It has been fine; I am just more tired than I normally would be. That is the effects of radiation and chemo. Now I take two chemo pills for five days and I take 23 days off and I start again. I was lucky, not only that they recognized what is was right away but the placement of the tumor was over here on the right front of my head. For all right handers, the important stuff happens on the left side of your brain.”

In recognition of Callahan’s importance and standing in the squash world, he will be inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame this Wednesday in Philadelphia.

For Callahan, the honor adds a special high to his roller-coaster 2012. “I felt unworthy of consideration; I am not a big awards person to begin with so it was a surprise,” said Callahan, a 1977 Princeton graduate who was a two-time squash All-American during his college days.

“It is an honor to be associated with some folks who have tried to help squash; that is what my life has been about.”

When Callahan arrived at Princeton in 1973 from Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, squash wasn’t a huge part of his life.

“I was a tennis recruit at Princeton, not a squash recruit,” recalled Callahan, who was a nationally junior squash player during his high school career.

“I came here all fired up to be No.1 in tennis and win Wimbledon and everything else. I wasn’t going to play squash my freshman year. The captain of the squash team my freshman year happened to go to Episcopal and he said ‘come on Bob, just try squash for two weeks.’”

Callahan agreed and never looked back, rising up the ladder to No. 6 as a freshman and No. 3 as a sophomore before playing at No. 1 his last two seasons. He played on three national championship teams at Princeton and gained as much off the court from his involvement with the program.

“It was fun to come to practice; it was fun to travel,” said Callahan, who continued to play tennis at Princeton but didn’t experience the success that he enjoyed at squash.

“You can  remember the bus trips, shooting the breeze. It was great to have a built-in group of guys who will do anything for you and you for them. You wind up being closest friends. They are the people you eat dinner with, the people you socialize with. It is a big part of the experience.”

After graduating from Princeton, Callahan left the world of squash to sell computers for IBM. But serving on a search committee to find someone to serve as Princeton squash head coach and tennis assistant led Callahan back to his alma mater.

“I was dutifully doing my job on the search committee when somewhere in the process someone said you should consider this yourself which I had not thought of,” recalled Callahan, who had done some summer coaching during high and college.

“I had no interest in coaching outside of Princeton; the draw was to go back to the alma mater and do the sport that meant so much to you as a student. IBM nicely agreed to give me a leave for three years to coach so I still had an affiliation with them.”

It didn’t take long for Callahan to realize that he had found his calling. “I loved the kids that were here,” said Callahan, who guided the Tigers to a national title in his debut season.

“After three years were up, IBM came calling; I had talked to them and had a nice offer. I remember one night a friend of mine from the area said when you worked for IBM on Sunday evenings, did you ever have an upset stomach or headaches thinking about the week ahead. I said every Sunday, I was uptight about stuff as a salesman. At Princeton, I couldn’t wait until Monday morning arrived to go to the office and get going. So what I am thinking, I am not going back to IBM. I am staying here so that was it.”

Staying put at Princeton gave Callahan the chance to coach his five sons, Greg, Scott, Tim, Matt, and Peter, who each played squash for the Tigers.

“It was really special; it was great fun,” said Callahan. “It was 10 years worth of having my kids around; it was wonderful for me.”

Another wonderful experience for Callahan came when he got to work with the legendary Yasser El Halaby, a native of Cairo, Egypt who won four national individual titles from 2003-06 during his Princeton career.

“He was one of world’s best young players and he was extraordinary,” recalled Callahan.

“He was very talented and exceedingly gracious towards the rest of the team and college squash. He was very popular on campus; he really thrived at Princeton and we thrived as a result.”

Princeton senior star Todd Harrity, a national champion himself in 2011, appreciates how Callahan helps his players thrive on and off the court.

“He really watches over and takes care of all of us,” said Harrity. “College is an adjustment and is hard at times for everyone and Bob is a great mentor. He is a Princeton grad himself so he understands the school and the curriculum.”

Harrity and his teammates were stunned when they learned last March of Callahan’s battle with cancer.

“We had a conference call and he told us everything,” said Harrity. “We didn’t know how to react. It was confusing as to what the consequences were. There was a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of mixed emotions.”

There will be no mixed emotions for the Princeton players as they accompany Callahan to the Hall of Fame ceremony this week.

“I am happy for him and proud of him,” said Harrity. “It is going to be great; we are excited to be going there with him.”

For Harrity, though, it is Callahan’s character more than his on-court success that has impacted him the most.

“To him sportsmanship is a big deal; it is just as important as winning,” said Harrity.

“I respect and admire that about him; it is easy to get caught up in the emotions of a match. He gets up and tells the crowd to calm down and be respectful; to cheer the good points and don’t jeer the bad ones.”

Callahan has a better perspective on the good things in life in the wake of his battle with cancer.

“It makes crystal clear that the important things in life are very few and they are family-related,” said Callahan, who credits wife Kristen with providing him amazing support. “I’ll do anything to increase the number of days I have with my family.”

For now, Callahan is looking forward to spending time with his squash family as he gets ready to coach Princeton in its title defense.

“It is full speed ahead,” said Callahan, whose hair is closely cropped on the right side of his head but retains a constant twinkle in his eyes.

“Practice starts officially on October 15 and I told Gary Walters [Princeton Director of Athletics] I am in. Next spring, we’ll decide about the following year.”

While Callahan knows he is facing some tough times ahead, he is determined to stay all in.

“I want to be fair to everybody; my life is definitely not going to be as long as it was which is OK,” said Callahan.

“I am going to do my best to beat the thing but a very small percentage of people make it five years. Everyone is going to die at some point. It is not how old you are, it is what you do while you are here.”

This Wednesday, Callahan will be getting more congratulatory hugs as the good that he has done in the game of squash is recognized by receiving the sport’s highest honor.

LOOKING SHARP: Princeton University running back Akil Sharp carries the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Sharp rushed for a team-high 60 yards and two touchdowns as Princeton routed Lafayette 35-14 for its second straight win. Princeton, now 2-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, hosts Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 13 in a critical league contest.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As his Princeton University football team battled Lafayette to a standstill in the first half last Saturday evening, Bob Surace had a flashback to his days with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It reminded me of an AFC North game with the Steelers or the Ravens and some really good defense,” said Princeton head coach Surace, who served as an assistant on the Bengals staff for nine seasons before taking over the Tiger program  prior to the 2010 season.

“You might gain some yards but it is hard to score points. It was two teams playing hard and not turning it over.”

With the teams locked in a scoreless tie heading into the last minute of the first half, Princeton broke the ice as Akil Sharp scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left in the quarter.

Sharp’s scoring jaunt culminated a nine-play, 86-yard drive. Using some trickery on the extra point attempt, the Tigers increased their lead to 8-0 as the ball was snapped to Jason Ray and he ran in a two-point conversion.

“To score and get that two-point conversion, that was big,” said Surace, whose team took the 8-0 lead into intermission. “Having that 86-yard drive gave us momentum.”

Still, Surace knew that his team had to be sharper in the second half.

“We needed to finish drives better,” said Surace, recalling his halftime message. “We moved the ball but they got a couple of big third down stops. We were backed up in field position.”

In the third quarter, Surace may have had visions of the dominant Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s as Princeton produced one of its better quarters in recent memory.

Utilizing an opportunistic defense and a balanced offense, the Tigers outscored Lafayette 21-0 in the quarter on the way to a 35-14 rout before a crowd of 6,812 at Fisher Field.

The victory improved Princeton to 2-2, marking its first two-game win streak since topping Lehigh and Columbia on successive Saturdays early in the 2008 campaign. It was the Tigers’ first win over a team with a winning record since week seven of 2007 when Princeton defeated a 4-2 Cornell team 34-31.

The defense triggered the Tigers’ third quarter explosion as an interception by senior linebacker Andrew Starks set up Princeton’s first score. Five plays after Starks’ pick gave the Tigers the ball at the Lafayette 45-yard line, sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly ran 23 yards for a touchdown as Princeton jumped ahead 15-0.

On the ensuing Lafayette possession, the Tiger defense struck again as junior safety Philip Bhaya picked off a Zach Zweizig pass and ran 34 yards for a touchdown as Princeton increased its lead to 22-0.

“Our defense was swarming to the ball; we were so close to making turnovers,” said Surace, whose star defensive end Mike Catapano was later named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles in the win, including three for loss, and a career-high 2.5 sacks.  “That play by Andrew was a big momentum shift and then Phil makes a good read on his interception.”

The Tigers got another big play late in the third quarter as junior receiver Roman Wilson scampered 34 yards for a touchdown on a rushing play to give Princeton a 29-0 advantage with 12 seconds left in the quarter.

The balanced Princeton rushing attack made a huge difference for the Tigers as they pulled away from the Leopards. Five different players gained at least 30 yards as Princeton rushed for 262 yards on 54 attempts. Senior star Sharp led the way with 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Wilson had 55 yards and Will Powers chipped in 48 with quarterbacks Epperly and Conner Michelson gaining 45 and 30 yards, respectively.

“Once we got rolling last year, we knew that Chuck Dibilio could get the ball 25 times for 150 yards and we had two or three guys to get that last 100,” said Surace, noting that sophomore Dibilio was at the game Saturday as he continues to recover from a stroke that sidelined him this fall.

“Now we have so many guys who can get yards for us. Wilson had a big run. Powers had some good runs and Akil made some nice carries. Epperly had that big run and some other good ones.”

Surace was concerned to see Lafayette make some big plays in the fourth quarter as former Allentown High star Ross Scheuerman ran 65 yards for a touchdown early in the period and Marc Ross scored on a 29-yard pass play with 6:54 left in regulation.

“We can’t turn the on and off switch,” said Surace, whose team’s fourth quarter tally came on a one-yard plunge by Sharp.

“What we learned is that when the game is in hand, I want us to keep our foot on the gas pedal. You only get 600 minutes in a season and you need to take advantage of every moment. You can’t throw away seven or eight minutes. But teaching lessons off a win is a lot better than teaching them off a loss.”

Putting the Lafayette win in the rear view mirror, Surace didn’t waste any time starting to prepare for this Saturday’s critical clash with visiting Brown, which is 3-1 overall and 0-1 Ivy League.

“Brown plays good, solid football; you know they are going to give an honest effort,” said Surace, whose team has a 1-0 Ivy record by virtue of its 33-6 win at Columbia on September 29.

“When I was on the bus at 10:30 on Saturday, I was looking at my Brown notes. As soon as the sun was up on Sunday, I was in the office getting the good taste from Lafayette out of my mouth and looking at Brown. They are going to be the best team, by far, that we have played to this point.”

As Surace looks to get the best from his team, he will be following the formula that has served the Tigers well the last two weeks.

“Every step we take from here is going to be a bigger step,” said Surace. “We have to continue to work hard and focus.”

SCORING PUNCH: Princeton University field hockey star Kat Sharkey prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Senior forward Sharkey is the leading scorer in the nation with 47 points on 21 goals and five assists. Last Sunday, she chipped in a goal as the third-ranked Tigers beat American University 2-0 to improve to 10-1. In upcoming action, Princeton, 3-0 in Ivy League play, hosts Brown (3-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kat Sharkey was disappointed when she didn’t make the U.S. Olympic field hockey team for the London Games after spending a year training with the national program, she wasn’t about to let that experience go to waste in getting ready for her final season with Princeton University team.

“Once I was released from training in California, I went home and really  focused in on preseason and what I needed to do to be back at 100 percent mentally and physically for this team,” said Sharkey, a senior forward and tri-captain from Moosic, Pa.

“I think taking the year off made me even more excited to come back here and I really missed the team last year and it is just amazing to be back with everyone.”

For Sharkey, being immersed in the game for a year with the national team has helped raise the level of her play.

“I think as a forward, I really benefitted from the training in California with the national team coaches and playing internationally,” added Sharkey, who was joined in San Diego by Princeton teammates Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia.

“You really have to be pretty on with your shots and deflections to get that goal at the international level so I think I definitely learned through all that training. I think I have brought what I learned back here to Princeton and I look to continue to improve my attack every day.”

So far, Sharkey has been on with her shot, leading the nation in goals and points per game through Princeton’s first 10 games with 45 points on 20 goals and five assists.

Last Sunday, Sharkey added to that total, scoring an insurance goal as third-ranked Princeton topped American University 2-0 at Bedford Field to improve to 10-1 overall.

“I actually felt like I had a lot of time on that play,” said Sharkey, reflecting on her goal which came with 11:32 remaining in the contest.

“I had mis-hit some reverse shots in the first half, a few went over the cage and a few went wide. So I really wanted to focus in and take my time on the shot and place it where I needed to place it in the cage and get it by the American goalie.”

With the game knotted at 0-0 at intermission even though Princeton had outshot the Eagles 9-1, Sharkey believed that the Tigers would break through which they did when sophomore Allison Evans scored five minutes into the second half.

“It was definitely frustrating given the amount of opportunities that we had and to enter the halftime not having a goal,” said Sharkey.

“But I was confident in our attack. I knew that we were eventually going to put one away and we just had to keep on pushing in that second half and I knew we would get one. A 1-0 lead is not enough for us to hang on to so we definitely wanted that security goal. It was really nice; it took some pressure off when we did.”

Looking to avoid a letdown after a 3-2 win over No. 4 Maryland earlier in the week, Princeton knew that American would provide a stern test.

“We try to improve every single game, no matter who our opponent is,” said Sharkey.

“We give it our all. I give a lot of credit to American, they are a strong team defensively and they had a lot of dangerous forwards. They gave us a tough game today and I am happy we were able to come out with the win.”

Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn, for her part, was happy to see her team survive the challenge posed by American.

“I was really pleased with how we moved the ball and I think we picked the right moments to attack; we were patient,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team outshot American 22-2 on the day and built a 15-2 edge in penalty corners.

“All of that is showing lots of growth and we won by two goals. They are a very good team. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their program. They always come out super hard against us. I think we have a genuine rivalry with American. Every year, they are really good so I am very pleased to get the win.”

Holmes-Winn was pleased to see Sharkey tally the late insurance goal. “Everyone was struggling at different points to find their shot; it just happens in some games,” said Holmes-Winn.

“One goal is not enough and two is sometimes not enough either so I think it was good to get that.”

But two goals turned out to be more than enough on Sunday as the Tiger defense continually thwarted American in the circle area.

“Our defense was just super tight,” asserted Holmes-Winn. “Julia Reinprecht was just brilliant back there. She was just awesome as was Katie [Reinprecht] and  Michelle [Cesan] at center mids and Amy Donovan and Amanda Bird in the back. I thought the whole back five was extraordinary today.”

The Tigers will be tightening things up conditioning-wise as they head into the final phase of the season.

“We are going in the right direction, physiologically this is a really tough patch for us,” added Holmes-Winn, whose team hosts Brown (3-7 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on October 13.

“We are really pushing the girls hard; they have got another 10 days where they are going to get pushed really hard and then we’ll look to taper a bit as we head in. It was good to see them perform today under some fatigue.”

In Sharkey’s view, Princeton is primed to keep performing at a high level. “I think this is a very special team, we have so much depth,” said Sharkey.

“Every single person on our roster from the starters to the subs is giving it 100 percent everyday in practice and doing what they need to do on and off the field to really help the team. It is just a great atmosphere to be in.”

While Alison Nabatoff has been a starter since her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s soccer team in 2009, the star defender hadn’t scored a point in her first 50 appearances for the Tigers.

The Burke, Va. native picked a good time to finally get on the score sheet, assisting on a second half goal by Rachel Sheehy last Saturday to give Princeton a 1-0 lead over visiting Brown.

“We were lucky; we got a ball into the box and Caitlin Blosser fought hard in the middle and won a ball and then Sheehy was there to clean it up so it was a full team effort,” said Nabatoff. “It was my first point ever at Princeton; I got a lot of help from the people up there.”

The Tigers took things from there, adding a goal by Lynessa McGee and thwarting the Brown offense on the way to a 2-0 win as they improved to 7-3-1 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play.

Even though the game was knotted 0-0 at half, Nabatoff believed that the Tigers would come through.

“We are definitely confident in how we are playing right now,” said Nabatoff.

“We aren’t really worried when the game gets late. We have confidence in Jen Hoy, Blosser, Lauren [Lazo], and anyone who is up top that they will get it done.”

The Tiger defense produced one its best efforts of the season as Princeton won its fifth straight game.

“We have given up a bunch of goals this season so it is nice to get a shutout,” said Nabatoff, noting that she was joined on the back line by Gabriella Guzman, Gabrielle Ragazzo, and childhood friend Diane Metcalf-Leggett along with goalie Claire Pinciaro.

“No matter how many goals we have given up this year, we definitely  have an awesome back line and a good goalie. Even in the back, it is a full team effort and everyone does their job.”

The vocal Nabatoff directs traffic along the backline, shouting instructions all game long.

“I love being in that last line of defense; it is four players back there and we are all helping each other,” said Nabatoff, the 2009 Ivy Co-Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Ivy selection.

The team’s group of eight seniors is trying to help Princeton enjoy a big year in their final campaign.

“I think as a class, we want it more than anything,” asserted Nabatoff. “Having a strong group of seniors who are all on the same page and know what they want really helps.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford credits Nabatoff and her classmates with playing a key role in her squad’s recent surge.

“When you have that big senior class, it makes all the difference in the world,” said Shackford, who is in her 18th season at the helm of the Tigers. “You can’t put a price tag on the experience of being in these games.”

In Shackford’s view, Nabatoff is one of her key seniors. “Alison is a phenomenal leader and communicator,” said Shackford. “In terms of being soccer savvy, she is our best, no question. She is not flashy but she gets the job done.”

The Tigers got the job done in the second half against Brown, sharpening up their finishing as the game went on.

“I thought we could have been a little sharper with the ball and could have gone forward a little bit quicker in the first half,” said Shackford.

“I don’t think it was our best half but I think we came out of it in the second half and had a good 25 minutes in that middle section and I think that was enough.”

Shackford credited senior midfielder Sheehy with providing sharp play all over the field.

“She has been phenomenal,” said Shackford. “She was our MVP today, I think, in terms of defending, attacking, and possession.”

In Shackford’s view, her team’s hot play of late is the product of an attacking mentality.

“They have all bought in,” said Shackford. “I think we know we can score goals which is really what every soccer team is looking to do. Jen [Hoy] hasn’t scored in three Ivy games. I think it is good to know that other people can score. We know we can score which is really a confidence builder.”

Nabatoff, for her part, is confident that the Tigers can be an Ivy title contender.

“We know that if we put our minds to it we can accomplish anything,” said Nabatoff. “We have to just keep working hard, that is the main thing. We can’t get complacent.”

KICKING IN: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Zach Halliday kicks the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior midfielder and co-captain Halliday came up big in wins over Ewing and WW/P-S last week, tallying a total of two goals and three assists as the Little Tigers posted a pair of 6-0 victories in the contests to extend their winning streak to eight. PHS, now 9-2, plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After rolling to a 6-0 win over visiting Ewing last week, a bunch of the players on the Princeton High boys’ soccer team made a beeline for a pile of homemade Rice Krispie snacks near its bench.

But before they could devour the treats, PHS senior star and co-captain Zach Halliday called them off, telling his teammates to do their post-game warm down jog before satisfying their appetites.

For Halliday, keeping his teammates focused on task is one of the hallmarks of his leadership style.

“Something I try to do as a leader is to be vocal; I try to make sure the team is always taking things seriously,” said Halliday, who served as a captain of the PHS boys’ lacrosse team last spring.

“I am always giving 100 percent effort and also just leading by example when I am out there trying to make the best of a play. I am not saying things to other people that I am not doing myself. I am trying to make them see how it is done and hopefully the younger kids look at me and see the work ethic and things like that.”

In the victory over Ewing, Halliday certainly set a shining example on the field, scoring a goal and picking up two assists.

“I like to see myself as a playmaker but it is really just doing what the team needs,” said Halliday.

“Whether it is scoring goals, whether it is having assists, whether it is playing defense, I am trying to help the team out and fill in where I am needed.”

For Halliday, scoring the goal against Ewing represented a breakthrough.

“That was my first goal of the year; I have been in some different positions this year and different situations,” said Halliday.

“Today was my first day playing my old position, attacking center mid. I played there freshman, sophomore, and junior year. It was my 1st game back and I got my first goal. It may have been the fifth goal of the game but it was still exciting for me. I was trying to get everyone to celebrate with me. I was like come on guys and they were like was that really your first goal.”

Halliday is excited with how PHS is playing lately as it has reeled off eight straight wins since a 1-2 start.

“We got off to a pretty rough start but we weren’t concerned at all,” said Halliday, who chipped in a goal and an assist as PHS topped WW/P-S 6-0 last Thursday to improve to 9-2.

“We knew our best soccer was ahead of us. Back then, it was just developing the cohesiveness and chemistry and working out the kinks here or there. We are heading in the right direction.”

The connection between Halliday and younger brother, Kevin, a junior star for the Little Tigers, has helped the squad’s chemistry.

“Kevin is a real talented player and it is always a treat to get to play with him in any sport. we play together in lacrosse too,” said Halliday.

“I think this year he has shouldered the goal scoring load. Today he scored his 10th goal of the season. I think he is the first double digit goals scorer on our team since Andrei Spirin in our state championship year (2009). Kevin is bringing a new name back to Princeton High soccer and he has been clinical with his finishing. He has been playing like a senior even though he is only a junior; I am proud of him and everything he has been able to accomplish.”

Halliday and classmate Aidan Passannante have accomplished a lot since they started playing together in junior high.

“Aidan and I have been playing together since we were on the Cranbury Middle School team together,” said Halliday.

“We went undefeated our eighth grade year and that was awesome and then we came to Princeton our freshman year and the success has continued. I know Aidan as a player and a person; he is one of my best friends and is one of the most talented players I have ever played with or had to chance to play with. He is a great guy to lean on; he is a great guy to have making plays in big games. I think the chemistry is there and the trust is there.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe was thrilled to have senior star Halliday making plays against Ewing.

“Zach had a good game today; it was great to see him get on the score sheet,” said Sutcliffe.

“We were without him for about week and a half because he nicked his knee. He is back and he has reestablished his fitness, form and presence. You can’t really replace him in terms of leadership.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, the team’s performance in the victory over Ewing was a reflection of the sharp form it has been displaying over the last few weeks.

“I thought it was a good result obviously; there was some quality, especially in the second half,” said Sutcliffe.

“It is always good to get a game where you can see some good finishing and give the entire team some minutes too. I think it is just fine-tuning and hard work and knowing you are not at your best early on.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Kevin Halliday has emerged as one of PHS’s best players

“I think Kevin has either scored or assisted in every game; he is our leading scorer,” asserted Sutcliffe.

“He has 10 goals; he is a real threat around the goal. He works hard; he has  been thinking the game and he has been finding the right spots at the right time and and you have to credit him for that.”

The trio of senior Pablo Arroyo, senior Jeremy Goldsmith, and junior John Blair have been giving the Little Tigers the right stuff during the winning streak.

“Pablo Arroyo has been a really great presence; a great leader for us,” added Sutcliffe.

“I would say of late, Jeremy Goldsmith and John Blair have established themselves. I think they have earned everything they have gotten. Hopefully over the next few weeks, they are going to get even better.”

PHS is aiming to remain sizzling as it starts play in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) on October 20 as it shoots for its fifth county crown in the last six years.

“We are looking forward to it,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 11 before hosting Notre Dame on October 16.

“It has been our goal since last spring to work toward being at our best in the opening round of the counties. There is no doubt we are on the track with the mentality of the group.”

Halliday, for his part, believes the Little Tigers are on track for another big MCT run.

“The county tournament is always a magical time,” said Halliday. “It is something that really excites us.”

DOUBLING THEIR FUN: The Princeton High girls’ tennis second doubles team of Allison Hubert, left, and Lindsay Eberhart celebrate after winning a point during their marathon 3-set victory over WW/P-N last Wednesday in the semifinals of the Mercer County Tournament. The pair of Hubert and Eberhart went on to lose in three sets to the Peddie team of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the finals. PHS finished third in the team standings at the MCT with the first doubles pair of Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and Rory Lewis winning their flight and first singles star Christina Rosca taking second. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

In late September, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team marked itself as surefire contenders for the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship, beating perennial power WW/P-S 4-1 in a dual match.

But in its final outing before the start of the MCT, PHS lost second singles star, Chenchen Wang, to a season-ending knee injury.

Having to juggle its singles lineup as it started play in the county tourney last week at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers were behind the eight ball.

While PHS fought valiantly, the loss of Wang dashed its title dreams with PHS having to settle for third with WW/P-S taking first and WW/P-N placing second.

Little Tiger head coach Sarah Hibbert lauded her players’ effort but she rued what might have been.

“Overall I think everyone played as well as they could based on the situation that some of them were put in,” said Hibbert, who moved third singles player Katelyn Hojelbane into the No. 2 spot and brought Zehia Dementyev into the lineup at third singles.

“I am proud of the effort that they put forth and that we were still competitive considering that we didn’t have our No. 2 singles player. I really think we could have won it this year and other coaches told me the same thing.”

PHS did get a nice win at the MCT as the first doubles team of senior Maddie Cahill-Sanidas and sophomore Rory Lewis took the title in their flight, topping Sanjana Ravi and Angela Li of WW/P-S, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the championship match.

“They just have to play their game and not get thrown off by the other team,” said Hibbert, reflecting on her first doubles pair.

“Maddie is a senior this year; she has really worked hard and she is such a good doubles player. When she gets fired up, she plays better. Some people when they get too aggressive start to down spiral. She needs to be psyched up and believe to win. I know how much they wanted this.”

The PHS second doubles team of senior Lindsay Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert showed fight as they battled to a three-set win over Ranjitha Vasa and Nanese Koike of WW/P-N in the semis before falling to the Peddie pair of Rebecca Seman and Hannah Spears in the championship match in another three-setter.

“That semifinal match was incredible; they started out playing really well and then they got very nervous in the second set and most of the third set but they were able to regroup at the right time,” said Hibbert recalling the team’s 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) semifinal marathon victory.

“They knew they had a good record in tiebreaks and I just kept telling them that and they kept telling each other we can do this; we can make it to a tiebreaker and we can win this. They just hung really tough when it counted and that was great for team points and for them as well. It is their first year on varsity and it is really nice for them that they were contenders in the tournament and made the final. They work really well together.”

Freshman first singles star Christina Rosca, who made it to the final where she lost 6-1, 6-2 to Samantha Asch of Princeton Day School, gave PHS some great work in her first county tourney.

“Chris made an amazing debut; we knew she was good but it was nice for her to make it to the final and give Sam probably the toughest match she has had in the county tournament,” said Hibbert.

“Chris went through to the final without losing a set. She had a good semis match with Sneha [Rangu of Hightstown] in the morning. I was proud of the way she regrouped after getting down 0-3 in the first set to take it 7-5. She really fought hard against Sam in the final. They were having a great match, you wouldn’t know who was winning from watching it. For Sam to be a senior who has won it three years in a row and for Chris to be a freshman, she put up an amazing fight.”

In Hibbert’s view, Rosca has an amazing future ahead of her. “She has a willingness to work very hard; she trains a lot and she is always out trying to improve her game,” said Hibbert.

“She has the complete repertoire, the serve and volley and great ground strokes. She is a very smart player. She really thinks a lot on court and knows how to find her opponent’s weaknesses. I think she can just keep improving.”

Hibbert hopes her team will keep improving as it deals with the loss of Wang.

“We still have states coming up so we we will see,” said Hibbert, whose team was seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Middletown North 5-0 last Friday in opening round action with the quarters slated for October 9 and the semis scheduled for October 11.

“Obviously this presents some new challenges, having to see how we are going to move forward from here. We have had a good start to the season and we are going to do the best we can as a team to come through.”

GOING FOURTH: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis senior star Samantha Asch pauses last Wednesday during the championship match at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT). Asch went on to defeat Christina Rosca of Princeton High 6-1, 6-2 to win the title. It was the fourth straight MCT individual crown for the Wake Forest-bound Asch, who won second singles as a freshman and first singles the last three years. Asch’s heroics helped PDS take fifth in the MCT team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Samantha Asch possessed firsthand knowledge of the challenge she faced when she played Christina Rosca last Wednesday in the first singles final at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).

Princeton Day School senior star Asch has spent a lot of time on the court with Princeton High freshman standout Rosca.

“For years we have been hitting with Marc [Hill of Nassau Racquet Club],” said Asch, who was going for her fourth straight MCT title, having won second singles as a freshman and first singles the last two years.

“This was the first time we ever played a match officially. We did have a scrimmage earlier in the year. She is a really good player; there was no way she was going to hand that to me.”

Asch had to summon her skill and experience to get the upper hand on Rosca in posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory. “I had to concentrate and play hard to beat her,” said Asch.

“I dipped at the beginning of the second set; I had a little bit of a mental lapse. She had a couple of good serving games.”

While Asch was proud to join the select club of players who have won four MCT individual crowns, she was disappointed to see PDS fall short of repeating its team title as it placed fifth with WW/P-S taking first overall.

“I don’t think I could ask for more,” said Asch, reflecting on her MCT achievement.

“I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the team title because I feel like our team was even better going into this year. That is the way it goes but I am still really happy about it.”

Asch is happy about the improvements she has made in her game over the last year.

“I think I have gotten a lot stronger since last year and I have more power,” said Asch. “I have gotten bigger and my serve has gotten a lot better.”

Now Asch feels ready for a bigger challenge as she has committed to Wake Forest and will be joining the school’s women’s tennis program.  Asch, who is graduating this December from PDS, is excited about getting her college career underway in a few months.

“First of all, I couldn’t ask for better tennis competition than the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference),” said Asch.

“I loved the school. I love the coach and the girls and the atmosphere in general. There is also great academic support for the athletes. I am going to have to play on a high level really consistently.”

PDS head coach Ed Tseng admires Asch’s consistent excellence. “That is very special,” said Tseng, reflecting on Asch’s four-peat.

“We are very proud to have her on our team and she is a great person too. Even as good as she is, she improved her game in the offseason. She improved her serve and her forehand.”

Asch’s battle-tested game made the difference in the win over Rosca. “It was no joke today; Samantha’s experience really came through,” added Tseng.

“Without knowing the score, you would say they are pretty even from watching them. I think Samantha’s experience helped her play the big points better and stay focused on her game plan.”

While PDS had hoped to repeat as MCT team champions, Tseng was happy by how his players performed at the county competition in taking fifth.

“I am proud of how everyone performed,” asserted Tseng. “We just focus on giving our best and have fun. You need a little luck as well. We set the goal to win it again but we also knew it is sports and anything can happen. It is a little disappointing but not that much; nobody is going to win every match in every tournament.”

Some bad luck befell second singles player Renee Karchere-Sun as she was hampered by a sore wrist in taking third in her flight.

“She took last week off because of her wrist so her timing was a little off,” said Tseng.

“That last match she played was fantastic, she is a great player. It is just unfortunate in her semifinal match she wasn’t on her game. If she had been on her game, it would have been a different result. She is a freshman and she is strong.”

The Panthers boast another strong young player at third singles in sophomore Emily Dyckman, who placed fourth in her division.

“Emily is a nice surprise because she played doubles last year,” said Tseng.

“She won a challenge match in the preseason and earned a third singles spot. I am very pleased that she got to this point. She is another great girl who leaves everything on the court. She is such a great athlete.”

In Tseng’s view, his squad can use their effort at the MCT to be better prepared for the upcoming state Prep B tournament.

“It is funny because last year we won the counties but we didn’t do great in the preps,” said Tseng, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 11 and Moorestown on October 12 before playing at Pennington on October 16.

“So it might be a nice ending to the season to win that. It is possible, we’ll see. I think if we stay healthy, we have a chance. Because this is later in the season now, it could benefit us. We had some good competitive matches now rather than in the beginning of the season. Who knows, maybe that could give us a little momentum.”

Asch, for her part, believes the Panthers will be bringing some extra motivation in the Prep B tourney in the wake of last week’s competition.

“We are going to be hungry for it for sure,” maintained
Asch. “Last year, we weren’t as excited about it because we had already won the county title. I think this year, we are going to come looking for revenge so I think it is going to be exciting. We had a lot of good matches here, everyone played well.”

GRIESE FIRE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Alex Griese controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Griese scored the lone goal as Hun edged visiting Blair 1-0. The Raiders, now 3-7, play at perennial power St. Benedict’s on October 10 and at Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) foe Hill School (Pa.) on October 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School boys’ soccer team lost its first four games this fall, it could have suffered from an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

In 2011, Hun started 0-10 on the way to a disappointing 4-12 campaign.

This year’s Raider squad, though, has avoided a similar tailspin, having regrouped to win three of its next five games.

Hun head coach Pat Quirk noted that his players never got discouraged despite the rocky start.

“They haven’t stopped working,” said Quirk. “They have really buckled down.”

Last Saturday, the Raiders buckled down when it counted as they edged the Blair Academy 1-0.

“It was a good win,” said Quirk. “We may not have played the best soccer but it was good to start the MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) season with a win.”

Hun is getting some of its best play from junior goalie Chris Meinert, who recorded eight saves in the victory.

“Meinert made some great saves,” said Quirk of his keeper who earned his second straight shutout as Hun had blanked the Princeton Day School 2-0 last Wednesday.

“There was a flurry of shots at one point, five or six and he stayed on his line. I think he is getting into a rhythm. We want him to be more vocal and be bigger in the box and he is coming around.”

In the win over the Buccaneers, Hun got a big goal from senior Alex Griese.

“We put Griese on the outside and he is getting more space,” said Quirk. “He is a creative player.”

In Quirk’s view, getting more balls in the back of the net has made the difference for the Raiders.

“We are scoring goals,” said Quirk, whose team’s initial win came when it beat Academy of New Church (Pa.) 4-0 on September 27.

“We got two goals in a loss to Pennington. I thought we played pretty well; they got some goals on defensive mix-ups. It was good to see us score a bunch of goals against ANC, we haven’t done that in a while.”

The Raiders have been getting some nice contributions from such experienced players as senior Peter Stoddard, junior Bailey Hammer, senior Robert Hedberg, junior Andres Gonzalez, and senior Nick Revano.

“Stoddard and Bailey have been playing well; Robert Hedberg is new to the team and he has been playing well,” said Quirk.

“The back line has been good. Andres and Revano have been good in the middle of the field.”

Quirk has been happy with the contributions he has been getting from some of his younger players.

“All the freshmen have been playing well; they have been getting quality minutes,” said Quirk, whose freshmen include defenders MJ Cobb, Devin Ducharme, and Alex Semler.

After battling high-quality foe Trenton Catholic hard in a 2-1 loss on Monday, the Raiders play at perennial power St. Benedict’s on October 10 and at MAPL foe Hill School (Pa.) on October 13.

“They are two of the best teams in the area and the state,” said Quirk, whose team is now 3-7 after the loss to TCA which saw Revano find the back of the net for the Raiders.

“Hill has a really good record so far. We need to put together some good soccer and not get down on ourselves if things don’t go well. It is a fast-paced game and we have to be ready for that. This is going to help us.”

WELL PLAYED: Stuart Country Day field hockey star Amy Hallowell sprints to the ball on a penalty corner in recent action. Junior midfielder Hallowell’s relentless play has been a bright spot for the Tartans this fall. Stuart, which moved to 3-8-1 with a 1-1 tie against Steinert last Friday, plays at the Blair Academy on October 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over her first two years with the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team, Amy Hallowell helped anchor the Tartan backline.

This fall, junior Hallowell has moved up to the midfield and is taking a greater role in the Stuart attack.

“I am more offense-minded this year,” said Hallowell. “I like putting the ball off to both sides and getting it to people. Whenever I can help get them get it up the field, I like to do that.”

With Hallowell making plays all over the field, Stuart battled Steinert to a 1-1 overtime tie last Friday to move to 3-8-1 on the season.

While Stuart came excruciatingly close to a win as it held a 1-0 lead until the Spartans scored with 20.3 seconds left in regulation, Hallowell was pleased with the brand of hockey displayed by the Tartans.

“I think we let up a little at the end but we worked hard throughout the entire game,” said Hallowell.

“It was a good game and we played with a lot of intensity. Both the defense and offense played really well. We worked well together today so that was good.”

Hallowell likes the work Stuart is getting from its crew of freshmen as it has gone 2-3-1 in its last six games.

“The freshmen are working hard at practice and everyone is working hard to better themselves,” asserted Hallowell. “The entire team has improved so much.”

Utilizing the experience she has gained by starting since her freshman year, Hallowell has given the younger players some reinforcement on the field.

“I just give them tips on positioning,” said Hallowell. “If I see something that may help them out with their individual skills I will point it out. Usually they keep learning and practicing things.”

Over the years, Hallowell learned a lot from her older sisters, Kristi and Ani, who both starred for the Tartans.

“I think over the years they guided me into the right positions,” said Hallowell.

“I am so used to them telling me to back up or to go here and mark this person. I learned from them and I always try to do it like they did with a positive attitude.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw a lot of positives in her team’s performance against Steinert.

“We did a great job putting the ball from the back to the middies; we transitioned beautifully against a big, strong team,” said Bruvik, whose team took a 1-0 lead on a goal by freshman Elena Bernewitz with 28:20 left in regulation.

“They always have good athletes and I thought we did a good job of controlling the ball and giving our attack an opportunity to put it in during the first half. As long as we continued to do that, we would make something happen in the second half.”

The Stuart defense also did a good job, looking coolheaded for most of the afternoon.

“The backs really held their own today and that is something that we worked on yesterday, not panicking, knowing where to go and marking tighter,” said Bruvik, noting that the Spartan goal came off a well-placed long ball. “Near the circle, you’ve got to mark, you can’t just contain.

Hallowell certainly made her mark for the Tartans. “Amy is relentless,” said Bruvik. “She was absolutely exhausted at some points of this game; she gave her whole heart.”

Stuart’s group of freshmen have been showing a lot of heart as they have adjusted quickly to the varsity level.

“They are players; they just go out and play,” said Bruvik, whose corps of newcomers includes Catherine Donahue, Tori Hannah, Julia Maser, and Sam Servis in addition to Bernewitz.

“They are learning through the drills but also they are playing against tough competition. They are learning how to fight back and be more aggressive. In these types of games, they play through it.”

With its steep learning curve, Stuart is hoping it can be a sleeper come tournament time.

“We keep playing good solid, competition; teams in this area that I know are doing well,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at the Blair Academy on October 10.

“The players know what is right and what is not right and they know how hard they need to work. They have been so dedicated, all of them.”

Hallowell, for her part, is confident about the team’s prospects, both in the short term and long term.

“I think if we put our minds to it we can definitely do some damage in the tournaments; it will all depend on how everyone works together everyday,” said Hallowell. “I think both the rest of this season and next year are going to be great.”

October 3, 2012

TOM TERRIFIC: Princeton University men’s soccer star Thomas Sanner dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, the freshman forward made a superb debut in Ivy League play, scoring a goal to help the Tigers edge Dartmouth 2-1 in overtime in the league opener for both teams. Sanner, the younger brother of Tiger senior star and co-captain Matt Sanner, leads Princeton in goals (3) and assists (5) and has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times already this season, including this week. Princeton, now 5-3 overall and 1-0 Ivy, hosts Brown on October 6.
(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Thomas Sanner has been looking forward to getting his first taste of Ivy League men’s soccer for a few years.

The Indianapolis, Ind. native has followed the career of his older brother, Matt, a senior star and co-captain for the Princeton University squad, and decided to join him.

Last Saturday, the younger Sanner, now a freshman forward on the Tigers, made his Ivy debut as Princeton hosted Dartmouth in the league opener for both teams.

Sanner knew he was in for a challenge as the Tigers battled the Big Green.

“All I was hearing this week was how much more intense, physical, and fast the game is in the Ivy League,” said Sanner.

“Because you don’t have a tournament, the games are that much more important. Especially the first game against Dartmouth; they have been a perennial powerhouse.”

The 6’3, 185-pound Sanner didn’t waste any time making a big impact, scoring the first goal of the contest 17 minutes into the first half as he converted a feed from his older brother.

“It was kind of funny because my brother passed me the ball; he has been teasing me all year how I haven’t scored on one of his passes,” said Sanner.

“I got it down the right side and I didn’t really have anything else so I just hit it low to the back post. That was crazy; I blacked out when I scored.”

Dartmouth responded with a goal 20 minutes later and neither team scored again in regulation and the game went into overtime knotted in a 1-1 stalemate.

Just 1:45 into the extra session, the Tigers came through as Cameron Porter banged a ball off the Dartmouth goalie over the line with Sanner lurking in the box as the Tigers won 2-1.

“We felt like we really deserved this game; I think this might be the best that we have played as a team,” said Sanner.

“There was a really good vibe going into OT. We were saying just get it quick and we got it quick. Cam made a great run down the sideline and he tried to cross it and the goalie missed it and it went barely over the line. I probably should have hit it in but that was Cam’s goal.”

Sanner has adjusted quickly to the college game, establishing himself as a key weapon for the Tigers.

“The game is a lot more physical and quicker,” said Sanner, who leads Princeton in goals (3) and assists (5) and has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times already this season, including this week.

“You have to get the ball off your feet a lot quicker. It has definitely taken me a lot longer to get used to it but I feel like I have been getting in a groove.”

Having his older brother around has helped Sanner get in a groove on and off the field.

“Ever since Matt got here, it has just been a dream to come here and play with him; this is the first time I have ever played with him,” said Sanner, noting that he was on the JV as a freshman at North Central High as his brother starred on the varsity.

“It is amazing; there is nothing better than the goal celebration and just jumping up and hugging each other. He has been telling me all the mistakes that he has made and has introduced me to a bunch of people. It has been really fun.”

It was certainly fun for Princeton head coach Jim Barlow to see his club rise to the occasion in the win over Dartmouth.

“I thought that the effort we put on the field against Rutgers [in a 2-0 loss on September 8] was one of the more disappointing efforts we have put on the field since I have been here,” said Barlow, whose team has won four straight to improve to 5-3 in his 17th season at the helm of the program.

“Today, it was the exact opposite. I think from start to finish this was one of  the best efforts that we have put together, competing-wise, soccer-wise, and discipline-wise.”

Some spirited competition in practice has helped Princeton get on the winning track.

“We had a really good week of training and the credit for so much of how we are going right now goes to the guys who are not getting in the game because the training sessions have been so good,” said Barlow.

“There have been some days where the second team has beaten the first team. The battles everyday in training remind us of the good years we have had.”

Barlow knows that a team has to set a positive tone from the start of the league campaign to have a good year.

“We knew from the last couple of years how important the first couple of games in the league are,” said Barlow.

“With only seven league games, if you get in a hole then you are panicked a little bit and your backs are against the wall and you have to win. If you win early, you get a little momentum and you get confidence. There is not as much pressure on you. You have got to win your home games; it was a really big result for us today.”

The Tigers are getting a big lift from precocious freshman Sanner. “It is really nice to have a pure center forward like Thomas,” said Barlow.

“To have a guy who stays all the way up the field, who doesn’t mind if guys are up his back all the time and who is big and strong enough that he can hold guys off is just a really nice weapon to have. He can pass and he is really good around the goal.”

With sophomore star Julian Griggs sidelined by an ACL injury, the Tigers need Sanner and others to be sharp around the goal.

“Julian is a guy who we were counting on for a lot of goals this year so now  we have to figure out where those goals are going to come from,” said Barlow.

“I think we still have weapons and different ways of getting dangerous, whether it is with our possession on counters or restarts, throw-ins, and corners. I think we got a lot of opportunities today.”

In Barlow’s view, the Tigers have been seizing opportunity during their winning streak.

“I think we are just getting better as a team,” asserted Barlow. “I just think when you look at how we move the ball now and how we stay connected now compared to three weeks ago, we are better. I think the guys have really taken everyday seriously and it is showing in how it looks offensively and defensively.”

With the student fans showing some raucous support at Roberts Stadium, the Tigers are looking like a team that is going to be tough to beat at home.

“The other thing I will say is how great it is to have some really fun fans at the games here,” said Barlow. “You can’t help but feel the energy and that’s awesome.”

Sanner, for his part, believes Princeton can draw a lot of cheers this fall.

“Last year when you watched, these were the games they would lose,” said Sanner.

“I think they had two or three games last year where they lost in the last minute of OT. This is a  big confidence boost; we have got to keep it up.”

SETTING THE TONE: Princeton University football player ­Anthony Gaffney eludes a tackler in recent action. Last Saturday at Columbia in the Ivy League opener for both teams, former Pennington School standout Gaffney returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to set the tone as the Tigers rolled to a 33-6 victory. Gaffney, who also had two interceptions in the game, was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and National Co-Freshman of the Week. Princeton, now 1-2 overall and 1-0 Ivy, plays at Lafayette (3-1) on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the naysayers may have been bashing the Princeton University football team after it blew a late lead in losing 21-20 to Georgetown on September 21 and falling to 0-2, Bob Surace wasn’t about to go negative on his squad.

“I decided to be as positive as I could when we practiced on Tuesday,” said Princeton head coach Surace.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go. The whole group responded well and I thought we practiced well all week.”

In fact, Surace felt his team was on the verge of a breakthrough even though his record stood at 2-20 in his tenure guiding the Tigers.

“We had played hard and with a lot of energy in the first two games,” said Surace, whose squad fell 17-14 at Lehigh in its season opener.

“We just lacked the small details and things like that hurt you against the good teams.”

Playing at Columbia last Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both programs, the Tigers certainly looked like a good team as they rolled to a 33-6 win over the Lions before 4,469 at R.K. Kraft Field.

It was Princeton’s first road win since the final game of the 2009 season and the 27-point margin of victory was the largest for the Tigers since a 30-0 win over Dartmouth in the 2005 season finale.

Princeton didn’t wait long to set a positive tone as promising freshman Anthony Gaffney returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.

Surace had the sense that Princeton could produce something big on special teams.

“We had the players watch film of what they were doing well on special teams and they saw films of them making mistakes,” said Surace.

“Against Georgetown, we were so close on kickoffs. We were just a block or two away. The players went out and were positive.”

Early in the second quarter, the Tigers turned a special teams blunder into points as Tom Moak took a botched snap and hit Des Smith on a 43-yard scoring pass to give Princeton a 14-0 lead.

“You don’t want to have errors on the snap,” said Surace, whose team also scored a touchdown in the Georgetown loss in a similar situation.

“But we practice that since it might happen once or twice in a season. To see the poise and execution was great. Tom did a great job. Nolan [Bieck] blocked two guys and that is pretty hard for a kicker. Smith took a great angle to get open.”

The teams traded field goals over the rest of the quarter and Princeton took a 17-3 lead into the locker room at intermission.

Despite the advantage, Surace was still wary. “I didn’t think we played our best; we had a few too many mistakes,” said Surace.

Columbia narrowed the gap to 17-6 with a field goal midway through the third quarter. The Tiger defense stiffened after that, pinning the Lions back at their own 20-yard line after a bad snap on a punt. Princeton got a Bieck field goal and took a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Tigers dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points. Princeton took a 27-6 lead after Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson in a 44-yard touchdown pass with 13:20 left in regulation.

Princeton tacked on six more points as Bieck hit field goals of 29 and 24 yards to make the final margin 33-6. Freshman Bieck, who had four field goals on the day, was later named the Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the win was the solid performance Princeton got from its quarterback rotation of sophomores Connor Michelson and Epperly. Michelson hit on 11-of-19 passes for 109 yards on the day while Epperley went 7-of-10 for 101 yards and also rushed for 42 yards.

“They are good players; they work hard,” said Surace, whose team outgained Columbia 335 yards to 213. “They are making good decisions; I can count on one hand the bad decisions they have made in three games and that is pretty good.”

A consistent bright spot for Princeton this fall has been the play of its defensive unit, which is giving up 14.7 points a game this year after surrendering an average of 32.5 in 2011. On Saturday, the Tigers held the Lions to 39 yards rushing and got two turnovers on a pair of interceptions by Gaffney.

“I think the defense played really well,” asserted Surace, who had eight players with four or more tackles against Columbia. “The guys are tackling well.”

In Surace’s view, the manner of the win should help solidify the belief the coaching staff has been trying to instill in its players as the program looks to turn the corner after two straight 1-9 campaigns.

“I think some of the guys were looking not to lose; they were not in complete belief,” said Surace.

“This group of seniors really believes; they feel this group is different. We are seeing progress. Against Lehigh we had played well but they had beaten us pretty good the previous two years. This year we could have won; we just needed one more play. I feel we played OK against Georgetown; we left some things on the field. To win like we did on Saturday was nice to see.”

While the Tigers basked in the glow of the victory, Surace knows that his team still had plenty to prove as it plays at Lafayette (3-1) on October 6 before getting into the heart of its Ivy League campaign.

“We can’t get caught up in it,” said Surace, whose team is now in a four-way tie for first in the Ivy standings with Harvard, Penn, and Cornell.

“We have a tough Lafayette team coming up. Whether you win or lose, you still come in Sunday and work on fixing things. It is only three weeks into the season. We are feeling better about ourselves; I think this is something we can build on.”

MOORE SUPPORT: UMass men’s hockey fans hold up placards with images of Kevin Moore as he made his sole appearance during his final campaign as the fourth-string goalie for the Minutemen this March on the program’s senior night. Moore, who started playing the game with Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) as a five-year-old, is looking to continue his hockey career on the pro level as he tries out for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League later this month.

It only lasted 1:34 on senior night for the University of Massachusetts men’s ice hockey team but it made years of toil and perseverance worthwhile for Kevin Moore.

For Moore, who first hit the ice with the Princeton Youth Hockey Association (PYHA) as a youngster, that stint was his sole appearance during his final campaign as the fourth-string goalie for the Minutemen.

While Moore would have liked to seen a lot more action last winter, he will never forget that evening at the Mullins Center.

“Looking back, it is the best day of my life,” said Moore, reflecting on getting into the UMass’s 5-1 win over Merrimack on March 2.

“I am getting a big smile on my face just talking about it now. All that behind the scenes work has paid off; I was cheered by people who didn’t even know me. It shows that a little guy can be recognized; a team is about everybody.”

The appearance was also the culmination of a Twitter campaign, #FreeMoore, started by Moore’s roommates and some stalwart UMass fans, to get Moore on the ice for senior night. It ended up drawing hundreds of Tweets, including some from NHL players intrigued by Moore’s underdog tale.

“My friends and family picked up on it and then my teammates started tweeting,” said Moore, who was cheered wildly by the crowd of 5,219 on hand, many of whom had been waving placards with huge images of Moore.

“It just blew up; celebrities and pro athletes got involved. There were tweets from NHL guys like James Van Riemsdyk, and Derek Stepan and John Buccigross of ESPN. Some guys were calling me the ‘Rudy’ of hockey (referring to the movie about Rudy Ruettinger, a walk-on who made it on the field for the Notre Dame football team).”

Later this month, Moore, 24, will be looking to produce another Rudy-like tale as he tries out for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League.

“I love being part of a team and 25 guys coming together for one goal,” said the 6‘1, 180-pound Moore.

“I am still shooting for the NHL. I know it is a longshot. I don’t want to give up my goals. You saw what happened to guys like Kurt Warner and Tim Thomas. I look at their examples. I am going to work as hard as I can. I don’t want to be old and regretting that I didn’t give it my best.”

Moore took a circuitous route to become a member of the UMass team, starting his high school career at Montgomery High before playing two years at Williston-Northhampton (Mass.).

After trying out for several junior teams, he hooked on with the Phoenix Polar Bears of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) where he went 16-4 with a goals against average of 1.98 in the 2008-09 season. He then got the chance to walk-on to UMass when one of its goalies decided to focus on baseball.

It didn’t take long for Moore to develop a passion for the game “I started playing hockey with the PYHA when I was five,” recalled Moore.

“I was playing soccer and I said to my parents that I wanted to play hockey and they said I had to make a choice and I chose hockey. I wanted to be on the ice all the time so I eventually switched to goalie.”

After Moore made the switch to goalie, he honed his skills by going to summer goalie camps run by former Princeton University netminder Craig Fiander.

“I started with Craig when I was about 10,” said Moore. “It was great to have goalie attention over the summer; you couldn’t get that anywhere else. Craig and the counselors were Princeton University goalies. Before that, I basically learned from watching goalies on TV. It made it easier to learn from having things explained to you by goalies who had played at a high level.”

Fiander, for his part, had the sense that Moore was going to develop into something special.

“I remember Kevin as a raw kid; he was just picking up the position and he was a lefty,” said Fiander, who held his 15th Annual Textbook Goaltending Summer School this past July at the Ice Land Skating Center.

“There was something about him. He was a great kid. He was a good student. He listened, he asked good questions, he wanted to learn.”

In Fiander’s view, Moore’s story exemplifies some of the key life lessons he strives to impart to his goalie students.

“He has worked his butt off,” added Fiander. “He has dealt with adversity. His perseverance is the key thing for me. I remember that he sent me a video when he was trying to get a spot in junior hockey. He has always worked so hard at trying to get an opportunity.”

For Moore, getting the opportunity to play early in his career at Montgomery High helped build his confidence.

“The highlight was winning Jim Dowd Cup, Southern White Division, as freshman,” said Moore, reflecting on his MHS career.

“I became a starter halfway through the season. Montgomery had no tradition of winning at that point. No one expected us to win; it was a big Cinderella run.”

Realizing that he needed more seasoning in order to play at the college level, Moore headed to The Williston Northampton School in western Massachusetts.

“I got a lot out of it, more than I expected,” said Moore, who played two years at Williston and was the MVP of the hockey team in his junior year.

“It was great how much the teachers cared about you. From a hockey standpoint, I was playing against guys who were stars of their high school. I was on my own for the first time, a year earlier than my peers. I felt like I had a head start.”

After graduating from Williston, Moore hooked on with the Phoenix Polar Bears of the WSHL, a Junior A Tier III hockey league.

“I went to five or six junior league tryouts: I was coming back from last tryout in Chicago with my dad and he said we are running out of cash for more tryouts and that it might be time to be looking for colleges,” said Moore.

“I convinced him to let me go to one more tryout. I had done the east so I went out to Phoenix. I killed the tryout; I don’t think I let in a goal in two day. I made it so they had to take me. It was a really strong team; it was a great situation.”

Looking for a good college situation, Moore found a spot with UMass in January 2009 when one of the team’s back-up goalies, Matt Gedman, son of former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, switched to baseball full-time.

“I got there with no expectations; I was a real walk-on,” said Moore of the program which was headed by former Princeton head coach Don Cahoon.

“They told me I would be on the team for the rest of freshman year and the next year and then we’ll see what happens.”

Not seeing any game action as a freshman or sophomore, Moore found ways to stay sharp.

“I created my own game situations,” said Moore. “If someone was scratched or looking for more playing time, I would have them come in and work on stuff and I would see a ton of pucks.”

In his junior year, Moore did see some ice time when he got into an exhibition game against the Under-20 Swedish National team and a late season game against Merrimack.

“Getting into the Merrimack game was a thrill; I felt I had made it,” said Moore.

“I had achieved my goal of playing D-1 hockey; I had been going through a lot of downs over the past few years. We were down 11-2 when I got in so I couldn’t smile like I wanted on the way home. I was telling my friends I was now statistically relevant.”

Coming into his senior year, Moore thought he was going to pile up some more stats but was disappointed to learn that the coaches had something else in mind for him.

“My confidence was high; I thought I was going to see time,” said Moore. “The two freshmen goalies had been hurt leading up to the first game. I ended up having a meeting with the coaches. They told me they wanted me to be a mentor to the two freshmen and sophomore goalies and help coach them when the goalie coach wasn’t there. They had predetermined my role based on recruiting the kids and the fact that they had scholarships.”

Characteristically, Moore decided to make the most of his role. “I could have folded and enjoyed my senior year,” said Moore, who was named as an “executive officer” by Cahoon to help the team’s captains.

“Instead, I made a commitment to be ready in case we had injuries. I was the first one on the ice and the last one off. I was a rink rat; I would be doing extra stretching or conditioning when teammates were at home doing video games.”

As Moore looks to catch on in the pro ranks, he will be bringing the sense of commitment he displayed during his UMass career.

“The biggest thing is to never give up; I never gave up or threw in the towel,” said Moore, a journalism major who earned Hockey East All-Academic honors during his years with the Minutemen.

“I had a goal to be D-1 goalie and I gave everything to that goal. I may not have been a starter but I was the hardest worker in college hockey the last four years. You can achieve something good even if you don’t get the ultimate goal.”

SWEEPING UP: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Dana Smith heads up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Thursday in a 3-1 victory over Hamilton, junior Smith showed her versatility, playing sweeper for much of the game and then moving up front and scoring the winning goal. PHS, which handed Steinert its first loss of the season when it beat the Spartans 2-0 last Saturday, is now 6-2 and hosts WW/P-S on October 4 before playing at WW/P-N on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dana Smith played sweeper along the back line for much of the game as the Princeton High girls’ soccer team hosted Hamilton last Thursday.

But when Hamilton scored a goal early in the second half to knot the game at 1-1, the speedy Smith moved up into the PHS attack.

Giving the team a lift, Smith put the Hornet defense on its heels as she made some penetrating runs at the Hamilton goal.

With just over seven minutes left in regulation, Smith’s pace and persistence paid off as she blasted a shot into the lower corner of the goal to give PHS a 2-1 lead. The Little Tigers added an insurance goal by Shannon Pawlak in the waning seconds of the game to post a hard-earned 3-1 victory.

In reflecting on her game-winning tally, junior Smith said it came down to being composed when she got her chance.

“We were really trying to fight back and get the go-ahead goal,” said Smith. “That ball was just bouncing around in the box and it landed at my feet and I took the time. On my first couple of shots I was rushing them, so I looked up and found that side of the net. It was what we had to do to put the game away.”

Smith, who also stars for the PHS girls’ lacrosse team, is more than happy to provide versatility for the Little Tigers.

“I like playing both ways,” said Smith. “I like getting a chance to go forward and make things happen but I also know that I have to play in the back and make sure to keep balls away from Lauren [goalie Lauren Ullmann] and support the team that way. Right now because we are missing Emily Pawlak and we need the defense to be together so I want to be there to help out my team and do whatever I need to do.”

In Smith’s view, PHS has been coming together well. “We have really been making sure that we connect and find feet and play together as a whole team,” said Smith.

“We have great depth on our bench and we have been making sure that everyone finds a way to help the team. We all get forward together and we all get back together. We don’t let things like giving up a goal slow us down; we need to rise up and keep powering through.”

As a battle-tested junior, Smith is looking to help the team through utilizing her experience.

“Now I have more of a leadership role, we have three freshmen playing really good minutes so I am helping them out,” said Smith.

“Especially with Haley Bodden in the back with me; it is her first time playing that position so I like being able to help her. It is also setting an example for the other girls in practice, games, and off the field too.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand knows that Smith can help his squad in a number of ways.

“Dana is a creator; she makes things happen,” asserted Hand. “Whether it is winning the ball or settling something that is pretty ugly and getting it down to the ground again. She is always moving quickly and is a quick decision maker. She is dynamic.”

In Hand’s view, his team made some good decisions with the ball as it overcame Hamilton.

“We have been focusing since the beginning of the year on how to play within the system that we have,” said Hand, whose team topped Steinert 2-0 last Saturday in improving to 6-2.

“It is one thing to establish a 4-4-2, it is another thing to do what that system needs you to do. I felt we had very good supporting play throughout the first half and in big chunks of the second half too. And in the second half, when we might have been rushing too much, I thought we still managed to stay composed and keep supporting. We were relaxed enough when we received the ball to find feet rather than just play too quickly. It created situations where we had great final passes and terrific finishing.”

The Little Tigers also showed some character as they battled back after the Hamilton tally.

“The goal was dismaying; I don’t think they created it particularly well, they just got the goal,” said Hand.

“So our team was a little disappointed but we did seem to bounce back and we certainly played with a lot of heart needing a goal. I think we had great composure given that sense of pressure.”

After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Hopewell in the season opener, PHS has shown more creativity on the offensive end of the field.

“It all seems like part of the same progression; the Robbinsville loss looks like a step back but I think we have learned from every game,” said Hand, who will be looking for his squad to keep progressing as it hosts WW/P-S on October 4 before playing at WW/P-N on October 9.

“We are just a better team than we were 10 days ago. After the loss to Hopewell in the opener, there was no question of how hard we worked, the question was how are we are going to score and we have kept trying to answer that question.”

Smith, for her part, feels that the team’s daily focus has helped it find the right answers.

“We are not thinking about what is happening next week and the weeks after that,” said Smith.

“We are not thinking about any tournaments, counties and states, that are coming up. We have to keep working hard everyday in practice and not getting complacent with our wins.”

DAT’S FINE: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Kevin ­Vahdat heads to the finish line in a meet earlier this season. Last Saturday at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational, junior Vahdat finished sixth individually to help PHS win the team title in the Group 3 division. Vahdat covered the the 3.1 mile course at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park in a time of 16:49. PHS is next in action when it runs against Lawrence, Steinert, and WW/P-N on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With senior star Luke Bozich sidelined by an ankle injury, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team faced an uphill battle as they competed in the Passaic County Coaches Invitational last Saturday.

But showing depth and resolve, PHS ended up at the front of the pack in the Group 3 division, edging Middletown North by four points.

For Little Tiger head coach John Woodside, the victory reflected his squad’s character as much as its talent.

“It is always good to be the winning team,” said Woodside. “It is nice to look a little deeper, the indications are real nice. Stuff happens and you adjust. Guys fill in and other guys do well. Cross country is absolutely a team sport; the individual is secondary.”

Woodside was happy with the individual effort he is getting from junior Kevin Vahdat, who finished sixth on Saturday, covering the 3.1 mile course at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park in a time of 16:49.

“I am really proud of him; he is starting to do the things we know he is capable of,” said Woodside.

“He has had a series of leg injuries. He is growing and maturing; his stride has changed a lot. He has adjusted to it. He is running pain free and it is nice to see.”

PHS got some nice performances from two veterans, junior Conor Donahue and senior Matt Wong, at the Passaic meet, as they placed 11th and 12th, respectively.

“Conor has had leg pain; he is dealing with a problem in his quads,” said Woodside.

“He has to hold back a little bit; he finished well on Saturday. Matt Wong had a great race. He was tired Tuesday and disappointed by how he did. He came back today.”

Two members of the team’s supporting cast, junior Anders Berg and sophomore Jacob Rist, came through in a big way on Saturday.

“Anders Berg and Jacob Rist are two guys that are pulling closer to the front of the pack,” said Woodside.

“At four and five, they did a fantastic job; they really won the race for the team. Middletown North had three guys in the top 8 but Anders and Jacob were ahead of their 4th place runner. I am really proud of how they did.”

Woodside expect Bozich to do some fantastic things when he returns to action.

“There are multiple indications that he is our top runner,” said Woodside. “He has been quite a way out front in training runs. He is taking that step that runners sometimes take. He is stepping into role of leader; he is not afraid and always runs hard.”

In Woodside’s view, PHS has the ability to make a good run in the upcoming county and state meets.

“The guys are feeling good about where they are going,” said Woodside, noting that program got some good performances from its younger runners as Simon Gabriel won the JV race to help PHS take second in the team standings in that event and that the freshman team placed first in their race.

“They are happy with the way things have gone and focused on where we are going in another month. The kids are really excited; they are coming together. We have hit our stride in training and we are getting ready for the big meets.”

GOAL HAPPY: Princeton Day School field hockey player Emma Quigley celebrates after a goal in recent action. Last Saturday, junior forward Quigley scored two goals as PDS topped Blair 5-0. The Panthers, now 5-1-2, host Solebury School (Pa.) on October 3 and Morrisville High (Pa.) on October 5 before playing at Montgomery on October 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After losing to Lawrenceville last Thursday to suffer their first defeat of the season, Emma Quigley and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey squad knew they had to play more as a unit.

“That was not one of our best games; we didn’t start off on a good note,” said junior forward Quigley, reflecting on the 4-2 loss to the Big Red. “Coach [Tracey] Arndt wanted us to pass more and let the ball do the work.”

As the Panthers hosted Blair Academy last Saturday, it didn’t take long for them to regain their offensive rhythm. With Quigley and senior star Andrea Jenkins finding the back of the cage, PDS jumped out to a 2-0 halftime lead over the Buccaneers.

Just over 10 minutes into the second half, Quigley scored again and minutes later Jenkins tallied and the rout was on as PDS cruised to a 5-0 victory and improved to 5-1-2.

In Quigley’s view, bouncing back with the victory over Blair should get the Panthers back in the right track.

“I think this game has really pumped up our spirits for the next couple of weeks,” asserted Quigley.

“We have Montgomery and Princeton High, which are going to be really tough games. It can only get better from here. We are climbing up the mountain of success.”

For Quigley, who has been scoring a goal a game this fall, her success has come, in part, from the work she has put in with the Total Dutch Field Hockey club.

“I have played club non-stop since last season and that has improved my game so much,” said Quigley.

“I practiced for the festival [USA Field Hockey’s National Hockey Festival] I practiced for the Disney [Showcase] and then I did indoor and my spring team all summer. I am practicing for festival now. I have improved so much from that.”

The arrival of new head coach Arndt, a former All-American at Penn State and national team member, has helped PDS improve collectively.

“She has really created and made our team a unit; we are so close on and off the field,” asserted Quigley.

“In practice everyday we do stuff that really helps us improve in the games; we do specific stuff that we didn’t do in the game before so we do that in the next game. I think our team as a whole has gotten so much better; it helps the forwards in general to get the ball and get it in the goal.”

PDS head coach Arndt saw improvement from her team in the win over Blair.

“During the game, when we had our moments of really good play it was when we were looking to pass it more than dribble,” said Arndt.

“We have some players on the team who the other teams know they have the skill and they are sending two or three girls at them so we need to pass quickly. That’s what we were focusing on as well as our Finishing. To get five goals in any game is hard and I am glad that we were able to do that.”

The Panthers did learn some lessons from the Lawrenceville defeat. “Lawrenceville was a great game because it showed us our weaknesses,” said Arndt.

“I think Lawrenceville was a very good team; they were solid, they were fluid and quite frankly they beat us to every ball and that was hard to recover from. So that was something we really worked on yesterday. We have got big games coming up. We have to be thankful that we were able to pull out a win today but know that we still have to come in on Monday and work hard.”

Quigley has certainly been giving PDS some good work. “Emma has got a lot of speed up front which is good,” said Arndt.

“The one thing you need to be a scorer is the want to score and she does. She scraps those balls and she is able to get in good spots and she puts it away. She can see the goal and see where the holes are so that’s been good.”

The Panther backline has very few holes with the trio of senior defenders Corinne Urisko, Cami McNeely, and Zeeza Cole together with senior goalie Sarah Trigg.

“The three that we have back there and Sarah Trigg in goal have been really solid for us,” said Arndt.

“They have really listened to what we have asked them to do and have executed. Our marking still needs to improve and that’s something we are continuing to work on. That is a team thing.”

The play of juniors Sarah Brennan and Mary Travers in the midfield has helped hold the team together.

“Sarah and Mary in the center are nice; they are double threats in that they have their attacking skills and they have their defending skills as well,” added Arndt.

While the Panthers have displayed plenty of skill in their first eight games, Arndt wants to see the team to be more cohesive on the field.

“To have only lost one game is good,” said Arndt, whose team hosts Solebury School (Pa.) on October 3 and Morrisville High (Pa.) on October 5 before playing at Montgomery on October 9.

“We had done some really good things in the beginning that we have been losing a little bit recently in terms of our basic skills so I think our focus for the next week is the fundamentals and to really start to play as a team. The more we play fluidly and as a team the more we can rely on everybody and not just one person.

Quigley, for her part, believes that PDS can do some really good things as the fall unfolds.

“We have really high hopes; we have some great team goals,” said Quigley. “We really hope that we can get up there and give it our all and make this a great year.”