October 3, 2012

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.”

CARR CRASH: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Breander-Carr runs into a foe going after a ball. Last week, junior midfielder/defender Breander-Carr scored goals in two straight games as Hun tied Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 2-2 on September 25 and tied East Brunswick 1-1 to move to 2-1-3. In upcoming action, the Raiders play at Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4 before hosting Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Olivia Breander-Carr wasn’t quite at full speed last fall for the Hun School girls’ soccer team after suffering an ACL injury in 2010.

This season, though, the junior midfielder/defender is feeling 100 percent and she gave ample evidence of that last week as Hun battled Episcopal Academy (Pa.) to a 2-2 tie.

Alternating between midfield and defense, Breander-Carr was all over the field, getting loose balls and displaying her sharp ball skills. Breander-Carr’s hustle paid off as she scored midway through the first half to give Hun a 2-1 lead in the September 25 contest.

While the tally wasn’t one for the highlight reel as Breander-Carr bounced in her own rebound, she was proud of her effort.

“That was probably the ugliest goal I have ever scored,” said Breander-Carr with a grin. “I worked really hard for that; it wasn’t pretty but I will take it.”

Breander-Carr enjoys working from different spots on the field. “I like playing everywhere; I do play defense for my club team,” said Breander-Carr. “I can play anywhere coach needs me to play; anywhere to help the team.”

In Breander-Carr’s view, the Raiders played well as a team in the tie with Episcopal which saw Hun rally from an early 1-0 deficit and then controlled possession after the Churchmen tied the game 10 minutes into the second half.

“I thought we played pretty well; we are getting a lot better with getting the intensity up toward the game when we really need it,” said Breander-Carr, who scored another goal last Thursday as the Raiders tied East Brunswick 1-1 to move to 2-1-3 on the season.

“I thought we were swinging around the back pretty well and we were connecting in the middle of the field.”

Hun head coach Ken Stevenson liked the way his team showed intensity after falling behind early against Episcopal.

“We have been talking about playing as a team from day one of preseason; maintaining possession and stringing passes together,” said Stevenson.

“When we do that, we play at a pretty high level. When we get frustrated and we get away from it, things fall apart. They are a very strong team. It was nice to see us respond after we gave up a goal early and to come back in pretty short order and get one.”

Having Breander-Carr at full strength is nice for Hun. “It was good to finally see her have a really complete game where she got forward and back,” asserted Stevenson.

“She won loose balls. She followed up on her own shot to score that goal. That pressure has been building and building and so for her to really have a complete game at a time when we are against a good opponent was great timing on her part.”

Sophomore Erica Dwyer also had a good game for the Raiders, scoring their first goal and playing some tough defense.

“Dwyer can cross the ball nicely and she is a tenacious defender,” added Stevenson.

“She moves her feet well; she understands positioning. She understands where to be on the field. She has been one of the most pleasant upsides of the team this year.”

Another upside for Hun has been the consistent effort it has been getting up front from senior forwards and co-captains Angelica “Bama” Tabares and Danielle Beal.

“It is frustrating for Bama because I have asked her to take on some defensive responsibilities which we need and it limits her touches,” said Stevenson.

“So it adds the pressure when she does get those touches to follow through and convert them. She can make the ball dance and then hit it with both feet. She takes our set pieces. Beal is fast and she creates those opportunities where she plays the ball into space and then runs onto it. There are those times when we really need to get numbers forward. Her playing as a target forward has worked reasonably well so far.”

Stevenson is proud of the way his squad has come back from a 5-0 opening day defeat at Montgomery as it beat George 2-0, tied Princeton Day School 3-3, and then edged Germantown Academy 2-1 before facing Episcopal.

“It would have been very easy for panic and frustration to set in after we lost to Montgomery,” said Stevenson, whose team plays at Springside Academy (Pa.) on October 4 before hosting Blair Academy on October 6.

“George was a good win. PDS was, as it always is, a hard fought battle. To have a nice win against Germantown; that was a game that we started to prove to ourselves that we can play this at a high level against some really quality teams. To play well against these guys is equally satisfying. That game could have gone either way at the end. It was a good battle.”

Breander-Carr, for her part, believes that the Raiders have raised the level of their game.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” maintained Breander-Carr. “We started off a little slow in preseason; we had a lot of injuries. I think we are coming back out from that now. I think we are getting our groove together. We are meshing and we are starting to feel how each other play a little more.”

CITIZEN KANE: Hun School field hockey player Alex Kane pushes the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, junior defender Kane scored a goal and played well on the back line as Hun topped Pennington 4-1. The Raiders, now 3-1, host Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School field hockey team started the season with a 1-0 loss to WW/P-S, it looked like its defense was ahead of the offense.

But the Raider attack seems to have found a rhythm as Hun has bounced back with three straight wins, outscoring its foes 9-1 in that stretch.

Last Friday, the Raiders were clicking on all cylinders as they topped Pennington 4-1.

“We did take a step forward, we moved the ball well,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, reflecting on the win over Pennington that moved the Raiders to 3-1. “We did a good job in the circle defensively, we limited their short corners.”

Quirk likes the good work she is seeing on the offensive end. “We have a nice transition between the defense and the offense,” said Quirk, who got goals from Francesca Bello, Courtney Faulkner, Alex Kane, and Carey Million in the Pennington game. “The midfielders are moving into the circle and getting opportunities.”

The Hun midfield is being sparked by the trio of Olivia Albanese, Julia Blake, and Taylor Havard.

“Olivia Albanese is doing a nice job for us in the midfield,” said Quirk of the senior, who also chipped in an assist last Friday.

“She is the inserter on our short corners. Julia Blake and Taylor Havard are also doing well for us in the midfield.”

Along the forward line, the one-two punch of junior Bello and senior Million is benefitting from the good transition play.

“Bello and Million are doing a good job on the line; they are able to move the ball well and capitalize on opportunities,” asserted Quirk.

“The other girls, Courtney Faulkner, Vicky Leach, Bri Cifelli, and Juliet Kapanjie, are coming in and going to the post well.”

Junior Alex Kane has been coming up big defensively for the Raiders. “Kane is really strong for us on defense,” said Quirk, noting that Liz Mydlowski stepped up at back against Pennington.

“She moves the ball side-to-side and can break up plays. She scored on a penalty stroke against Pennington; it was a good hit.”

Quirk is encouraged by her team’s good start. “I am pleased with how we are playing,” said Quirk, whose team hosts Stuart Country Day on October 3 and Blair Academy on October 6.

“We have some tough games coming up; I hope the girls keep showing the same hunger and intensity.”

September 26, 2012

THROWN FOR A LOSS: Princeton University quarterback Connor Michelson throws a pass in recent action. Last Friday against visiting Georgetown, sophomore Michelson hit on 11-of-22 passes for 143 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 21-20 to the Hoyas on a late field goal. Princeton, now 0-2, heads to New York City this Saturday to play at Columbia (1-1) in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For DiAndre Atwater, getting a shot at playing running back for the Princeton University football team as it hosted Georgetown last Friday night was special on many levels.

Freshman Atwater, who had only seen special teams duty in Princeton’s opening day 17-14 loss at Lehigh, got his first taste of carrying the ball in a college game. To make the evening more memorable, his older brother, junior Stephen Atwater, was on the field at the same time as a Georgetown defensive back.

“I was really excited, especially because my brother was on the other team,” recalled Atwater, who brings a special football lineage to the field along with his brother as their father, Steve, played 11 years in the NFL, including 10 with the Denver Broncos, making eight Pro Bowls in the process.

“I just tried to keep doing my job and doing what I knew best and working hard.”

It didn’t take long for Atwater to do some good work as he ran six yards for a first down in his second carry. On the next series, he made gains of 46 and 27 yards on two pass plays only to see both jaunts called back due to Tiger penalties.

The upbeat Atwater was undeterred. “Everyone makes mistakes out there,” said Atwater. “We knew we just had to correct them on the sidelines and get back out there.”

In the fourth quarter, the 5’8, 205-pound resident of Duluth, Ga. made an electrifying run down the sidelines, dashing 53 yards for a touchdown to put Princeton ahead 20-18 with 14:45 left in the contest.

“I knew the line made a huge hole; it was a read play to the right so when he gave it to me, I knew that I was going to go for at least 10 yards,” recalled Atwater. “Then the safety missed and it was off to the races.”

Unfortunately, Princeton couldn’t hold off the Hoyas as Georgetown put together a 72-yard march in the waning moments of the contest that produced a game-winning field goal with 14 seconds left in a hard-earned 21-20 victory over the Tigers.

While Atwater, who ended up with 92 yards on 15 carries, was disappointed by the final result, he was proud of his contribution.

“We have been working real hard in practice and camp so I was really glad to get out there on the field and show what I could do,” said Atwater.

“A lot of it was the linemen; I can’t take credit for it. A big part of it was them.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace was bitterly disappointed to see his team’s good work go for naught in the end.

“You have to make plays to win a game and we didn’t,” said Surace, whose team dropped to 0-2 before a crowd of 6,792 at Princeton Stadium.

“I don’t know what happened at the end but we didn’t get the stop. We should have had them off the field. We had chances to win but we didn’t do it. You have to make the plays when you get the opportunities.”

The manner in which Atwater took advantage of his opportunity was a major bright spot for Princeton in a crushing loss that brought to mind the Tiger men’s basketball team’s heartbreaking 50-49 defeat to Georgetown in the 1989 NCAA tourney.

“We have been excited about DiAndre and those young backs,” said Surace. “You saw last night the next man up theory [in the New York Giants’ 36-7 win over Carolina where reserves made key contributions],” said Surace.

“Akil [Sharp] went down with an injury and Will [Powers] went down and DiAndre’s turn was called. He ran real well. He really gave us a spark and we got Dre [Nelson] in there a little bit. I saw at the end of the game that we had a freshman at running back and two freshmen corners. I am thinking this is like a JV game except that those are mature guys and they can handle it.”

Senior linebacker and co-captain Andrew Starks, who produced a career-high 16 tackles in the Georgetown loss, believes the Tigers will show maturity in bouncing back from the disappointment as they prepare for their Ivy League opener at Columbia on September 29.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we will watch film on Sunday and we will get those mistakes corrected in time for the Ivy League,” said Starks.

“You want to win all the games but those are the games that count. For us to still have a chance at the Ivy championship, that’s what drives us and will help us bounce back from this game.”

In the clash against Georgetown, the Tigers displayed their ability to bounce back as they rallied from an early 3-0 deficit. Princeton took a 7-3 lead as receiver Tom Moak took a wide snap on a field goal attempt and hit Mark Hayes on a 10-yard touchdown pass.

Princeton opened up a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter when Will Powers scored on a two-yard touchdown run to culminate a 12-play 50-yard scoring march.

The Hoyas narrowed the Tigers’ lead to 14-6 on a 26-yard field goal by Matt MacZura with 4:03 left in the first half. Princeton took possession at its own 22-yard line after the ensuing kickoff. On second down, a bad snap started a nightmarish sequence that will haunt the Tigers. Quarterback Connor Michelson failed to handle the snap out of a shotgun formation and the ball squirted into the end zone. Several Tigers had a shot at it but the Hoyas recovered the ball for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 14-12.

Surace took blame for the way his players handled that situation. “A veteran group takes a safety there, you can’t allow a touchdown,” said Surace, whose team lost one other fumble on the evening and committed seven penalties for 70 yards after getting flagged for just one violation in the Lehigh loss.

“That is my fault. We have to be clear in our preparation on that type of play. Young guys try to do too much sometimes.”

The teams traded punts for much of the third quarter before Georgetown broke through a Nick Campanella 7-yard touchdown run to take a 18-14 lead with 17 seconds remaining in the period.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, Atwater took off on his 53-yard touchdown dash and the Tigers forged ahead 20-18.

On its next possession, Princeton drove to the Georgetown 18 but failed to get any points out of the march as a Nolan Bieck 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.

The teams exchanged punts and Georgetown took over at its own 12 with 5:34 remaining in regulation. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Princeton and converting a 4th and 3, the Hoyas got to the Tiger 16. With 14 seconds left, MacZura hit a 33-yard field goal that proved to be the margin of victory as Georgetown improved to 3-1.

As hard as it might be, Princeton needs to put the Georgetown loss in the rear view mirror as it heads to New York City this Saturday to play at Columbia (1-1) in the Ivy League opener for both teams.

“It is really disappointing; we are going to come back on Sunday and be ready for Columbia,” said Surace. “Columbia is going to be ready for us; we are going to have to play a great game on the road.”

Atwater, for his part, believes that Princeton can come up with a great effort against the Lions.

“We have to correct the mistakes we made and come back hard against Columbia,” said Atwater. “We need to come back with energy and strength and do what we do best.”

SAVING GRACE: Princeton University field hockey goalie Christina Maida goes after the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday against second-ranked Syracuse, junior standout Maida made some dazzling stops in an 8-save effort but it wasn’t enough as No. 3 Princeton fell 2-0 to the Orange. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, play at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Kristen Holmes-Winn is never happy when her Princeton University field hockey team loses a game, she saw plenty of positives when the third-ranked Tigers fell 2-0 to No. 2 Syracuse last Sunday.

“By design we had a game yesterday and a game today,” said Tiger head coach Holmes-Winn, whose club had dismantled Yale 8-0 on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in Ivy League play.

“We wanted to play back-to-back to physiologically have that experience. I think we held up physically quite well. I thought our first half today was really good just in terms of how we moved the ball. The finishing stuff will come. There were a lot of really good things from this match that we will take away.”

The skilled teams gave the fans on hand at Bedford Field a demonstration of superb ball movement as the teams generated end-to end-rushes all afternoon. The game was knotted 0-0 at half. Syracuse broke through with a tally on a penalty corner 20 minutes into the second half and then added an insurance goal on a fast break with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

“We knew that Syracuse is a great defensive team and really good on the counterattack and that is exactly what got us,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team fell to 7-1 overall with the loss while Syracuse improved to 9-0.

“They have the ability to really double the ball well and they broke out of their situations and were very effective.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, it was the Orange’s defensive prowess that made the difference in the contest.

“Their ability to get numbers around the ball inside our attacking third and not foul was really the difference,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It is one thing  to defend but to be able to defend and not give anything away is a challenge and they did that really, really well.”

Tasting defeat for the first time of the season stung but Holmes-Winn viewed the result in the context of the bigger picture.

“I don’t really care a whole lot about that,” said Holmes-Winn, referring to Tigers losing their chance for a perfect season.

“We just have to keep tacking away at the areas where we are deficient. That is part of playing great teams, they will challenge your structure and your concentration. They show you individually where the weaknesses are and Syracuse did a great job of that.”

The Tigers showed some fight as senior star Kat Sharkey fired blasts on two consecutive penalty corners 25 minutes into the second half with the Tigers trailing 1-0 at that point.

“That’s how this game is, the opportunities are there,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team held a 6-5 edge in penalty corners while getting outshot 16-10.

“The stats weren’t really far off. We were really pushing there at the end so we were exposed. We were playing pretty aggressively which was a result of that second goal and us stretching out our shape a little bit.”

For Holmes-Winn, the main lessons to draw from the defeat center on being more aggressive on finishing and stretching out opposing defenses.

“The passing combinations through our midfield was just awesome; once we got into the final third, they did a great job of getting players around the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, citing the play of the Reinprecht sisters, senior Katie and junior Julia.

“It was never a situation where we were one-on-one. We need to look a little bit where those numbers are coming from and figure how to stretch those zones out of it.”

With Princeton on track for its eighth straight Ivy League title and 18th in the last 19 years, Holmes-Winn is hoping that the experience gained from battling Syracuse will help the Tigers as they pursue their goal of a first national title.

“You have to be perfect in the league, there is no doubt about that, but when it comes to these non-conference games, the point is to be challenged,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team plays at Columbia (6-2 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on September 28 before hosting fourth-ranked Maryland (7-1) on October 2.

“It is always great to win but it is not my main concern right now. If we win and play bad hockey, I am not going to be happy either.”

STEPPING UP: Princeton High field hockey star Emilia Lopez-Ona shoots the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, Lopez-Ona scored the game-winning goal as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over Allentown. The Little Tigers, who moved to 4-1 with a 2-1 loss to Hopewell Valley last Saturday, play at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Emilia Lopez-Ona has established herself as one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse program.

Last spring, Lopez-Ona scored 123 points on 99 goals and 24 assists in her sophomore season to help the Little Tigers go 14-4 and advance to the sectional semifinals.

While field hockey is Lopez-Ona’s second sport, she is starting to make a similar impact in a game she picked up just three years ago.

Last Wednesday, the junior forward scored the winning goal with 7:59 remaining in the second half as PHS rallied for a 2-1 win over powerful Allentown.

In reflecting on the clutch tally, which came on a feed from sophomore Campbell McDonald, Lopez-Ona said she was just taking care of business.

“Campbell really did the work there; she took it down the whole left side,” recalled Lopez-Ona.

“She kept her eyes up and saw me in the middle and my job is just to hit it backside pipe.”

For Lopez-Ona, refining her skills as a playmaker has been one of her main areas of focus this fall.

“Each season is a new beginning; it is a really nice break from lacrosse,” said Lopez-Ona, who had four assists in PHS’ first three games.

“The thing about field hockey is that assists and goals have the same importance.”

The progress that Lopez-Ona has made reflects the improvement PHS has made collectively as it has gotten off to a 4-1 start this season.

“Last year, I feel like we were a really young team starting to develop,” said Lopez-Ona.

“This year almost all of our starting lineup came back and I feel like we have really matured as a team.”

The Little Tigers showed that maturity in the victory over Allentown as they fought back from a 1-0 first half deficit.

“I think after the timeout at the end of the first half, we really collected ourselves and got a ton of chances,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We kept that momentum into the second half; you could see the step up in the level of play.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson credited Lopez-Ona with helping the Little Tigers step up in their second half rally.

“I think a lot of that spark came from Emilia,” said Serverson. “She really fired up and people feed off of that. When she gets excited and the shots start going, the rest of the team gets excited.”

Serverson was excited about the win over perennial powerhouse Allentown.

“This is one of the key games for us; I am so pleased that we came out with the win,” said Serverson, who got the game-tying goal from senior Vivien Bazarko on another assist by McDonald.

“We didn’t start out really well. We weren’t playing good team defense and we were dumping the ball to their stick. We turned it around and started playing our game. We just started moving the ball and passing stick to stick. We played the passing game that we practice everyday. It was definitely the team I have seen play so far this season.”

In Serverson’s view, her team showed growth by sticking with its game plan. “It is something we have been working on over the season; I think as a program we have to learn to just hang in there and keep playing our game,” said Serverson.

“Things will work out if you just do what you have done everyday in practice.”

With the combination of senior Sydney Watts and sophomore Julia DiTosto anchoring the PHS defense, the Little Tigers can hang with just about anybody.

“They are the core of the team,” asserted Serverson of Watts and DiTosto. “Without the two of them and their composure, their vision, and their ability to transition from defense to offense, we would not be doing as well as we are doing. They are definitely key.”

Bazarko and McDonald have emerged as key contributors for the Little Tigers.

“Vivien is one of our captains, she communicates very well on the field,” added Serverson.

“I think she gives great constructive feedback in the moment when she is playing with the other girls. Campbell is very consistent when she is on and today she was on. She puts her heart into it and moves to the ball.”

Serverson is hoping that her team can show even more heart collectively.

“I think this is going to be a wake-up call,” said Serverson, whose team plays at WW/P-S on September 27, at South Hunterdon on September 29, and at Ewing on October 2.

“The first half of the season wasn’t as challenging as this game. I think this win today showed them that they need to work harder in practice. I think they just need a little more confidence.”

Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that PHS possesses an unselfish mindset which should help it get through the challenges ahead.

“We work together, that is probably my favorite thing about this team,” said Lopez-Ona.

“We pick ourselves up and just work together. Every connection, every goal, it is not just one person doing the work.”

NET WORTH: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Maddie Cahill-Sanidas makes a play at the net in a match last fall. Senior first doubles standout and team captain Cahill-Sanidas has provided good play and leadership as PHS has gotten off to a 7-0 start this season. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers host WW/P-S on September 27, play at Nottingham on September 28, and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With six seniors having graduated from a Princeton High girls’ tennis team that won the Central Jersey Group III title last year, Sarah Hibbert feels like she is back to square one.

“We are starting fresh with a lot of young players,” said head coach Hibbert, noting that nine of 18 players in the program are new.

“You forget that you have to explain things to them. Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] and Lindsay [Eberhart] are the two seniors and they are really working hard to get the group together, doing a lot of team building stuff.”

In Hibbert’s view, the newcomers can build on the program’s winning tradition.

“It is also exciting,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to a 16-2 record last fall on their way to the state semifinals. “The last senior group did a lot of good things and I think this group can as well.”

PHS has a special player at first singles in freshman Christina Rosca. “Christina has a lot of experience; she has a complete repertoire of skills,” asserted Hibbert.

“She is a solid baseliner who is not afraid to go to the net. She works with private coaches outside of the team; she is always looking to get better.”

The Little Tigers boast another freshman standout, Chenchen Wang, who figures to give the team good work at second singles.

“Chenchen is very steady from the baseline; she is willing to stay in long rallies,” said Hibbert. “She is good at mixing up things and challenging an opponent’s game.”

At third singles, sophomore Katelyn Hojelbane appears to be ready for the challenge of playing at the varsity level.

“Katelyn was on JV last year; it was hard to crack the varsity lineup with the six seniors,” said Hibbert. “She is a good, steady player who has good groundstrokes.”

The steady presence of Cahill-Sanidas will be important as she pairs up with sophomore Rory Lewis at first doubles.

“Maddie has been our rock, both in terms of her play at doubles and as a captain,” maintained Hibbert.

“She is a great leader; she works very hard to make everyone comfortable. She is a great doubles player. I think Maddie and Rory have similar styles. Rory is also aggressive but younger. As she works her way into the lineup, it is good for her to have Maddie as her mentor.”

Eberhart and junior Allison Hubert should add a lot to the PHS lineup for their spot at second doubles.

“They played together on JV last year,” said Hibbert. “They have complementary styles and they are used to each other. I think they will make a smooth transition into the second doubles spot.”

Based on the early returns, it looks like the young PHS squad is making a seamless transition to the varsity level as the Little Tigers have produced a 7-0 start.

“It is always important to get off to a good start with counties and states coming up so quick,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Ewing 5-0 last Monday and hosts WW/P-S on September 27, plays at Nottingham on September 28 and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“It is a particularly important for a young team to get off to a good start to get some confidence. We opened with Hopewell Valley and won 4-1 with each of the wins coming in straight sets. They have six seniors and I was not sure how our young players would hold up. I was thrilled with the way that went.”

If PHS can keep progressing, there could be some thrills on the horizon.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” said Hibbert “We have some tough weeks coming up with WW/P-N, WW/P-S, counties and states. I am happy that the girls are having fun. On a new team that is getting introduced to high school tennis, that is important.”

ON THE RUN: Princeton High running back Javon Pannell looks for running room in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior Pannell rushed for 28 yards and made two receptions in a losing cause as PHS fell 33-0 to visiting WW/P-S. The Little Tigers, now 1-2, host Hamilton on September 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Joe Gargione went on the field twice during the third quarter last Saturday to read the riot act to his Princeton High football team as it hosted WW/P-S.

With the Little Tigers trailing the Pirates 14-0 early in the second half, head coach Gargione took advantage of a stoppage in play to go in the offensive huddle and tell his players in no uncertain terms to show more passion.

Later in the quarter, Gargione got in the faces of his players in a defensive huddle with the same message.

While the Little Tigers responded with some stretches of inspired play, they were ultimately worn down by WW/P-S in losing 33-0.

“I tried to lay into the kids to get something going,” said Gargione, reflecting on his third quarter pep talks in the defeat that dropped PHS to 1-2.

“Somebody has got to step up and show a little more fire. We made too many mistakes to overcome; they just outplayed us.”

With PHS having not scored offensively since the first half of the Hightstown game on September 14, Gargione is concerned about mistakes on that side of the ball.

“It is everything,” said Gargione, assessing the offensive drought after a day when his team was outgained 153 yards to 21 yards on the ground and 181-74 in the air.

“It is missed assignments, missed blocks and even minor things like coming out of the huddle in the wrong formation and having to switch back. That just can’t happen.”

While PHS made some good things happen defensively, it also struggled on that side of the ball.

“The defense started off well and then we had a hard time covering the simple flat,” said Gargione. “It wasn’t like he was lasering it in there.”

In Gargione’s view, his squad is at a crossroads having suffered two straight lopsided defeats in the wake of an inspiring 27-21 win over Northern Burlington on opening day.

“We have showed we can play; I just don’t want them to be content with that first win,” said Gargione, whose team hosts Hamilton on September 29.

“We have to turn it around now; this is a turning point for us. We have to turn the season around come Monday. We need to learn from our mistakes and go from there.”

If PHS is to turn things around, their veteran players will have to show the way. “We have to turn to our seniors. They have to be the ones to care,” asserted Gargione.

“If they send out the wrong message, the underclassmen don’t know any better.”

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Alexa Soltesz controls the ball in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore striker Soltesz contributed a goal and two assists as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2. The Panthers, now 2-2-2, play at Rutgers Prep on September 27, host Blair Academy on September 29, and then play at Peddie on October 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Alexa Soltesz may be just a sophomore but she knows the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team is depending on her to provide scoring punch.

With high-scoring forward Janie Smukler having graduated, the Panthers need the skilled striker Soltesz to be a productive finisher.

“My coach [Pat Trombetta] and I talked before the season that I had a big position to fill,” said Soltesz.

“I think I am doing a pretty good job with it but she was a really big loss. She was a great player.”

This past Friday, Soltesz did some pretty good things, scoring a goal and assisting on two others as PDS topped the George School (Pa.) 3-2.

In reflecting on her goal, which opened the scoring late in the first half, Soltesz acknowledged that she poached a tally away from fellow sophomore Kylie Kieffer.

“I saw my teammate Kylie coming onto the goal; she called me off while I was running but I kind of got in her way,” said Soltesz.

“I feel a little bad about it but I am happy to put one on the board; it really got our team up.”

Soltesz did pay Kieffer back, setting her up on the Panthers’ second goal. “I saw her there; I owed her one,” said a smiling Soltesz, recalling the tally which put PDS up 2-1.

On the team’s final tally, which gave the Panthers a 3-1 advantage, Soltesz booted a towering corner kick that Kirsten Kuzmicz blasted home. “I just started to take corners last game and it is working,” said Soltesz.

After not scoring a goal in PDS’ first four contests, Soltesz believes she is starting to get in a groove after breaking the ice with a tally in a 3-3 tie with Hun last week.

“I think I was in kind of a slump,” said Soltesz. “One gets me going, as my father always says.”

Playing with her twin sister, Stefany, a star sweeper for the Panthers helps get Soltesz going.

“We have been playing together since we were two years old,” said Soltesz. “We used to play offense together.”

PDS head coach Trombetta liked the way his squad played better and better in the George game.

“We started a little shaky; our decision-making wasn’t the best for the first 20 minutes,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 2-2-2 with the win over the Cougars.

“We settled down as the game went on. I think in the second half we took complete control of the game. The possession play was better; we got more girls involved in the play.”

In Trombetta’s view, Soltesz is getting settled into her role at striker. “Alexa is starting to pick it up; she started off slowly,”  said Trombetta.

“I think the game against Hun where she scored on a corner broke the ice for her. The first goal is the toughest so that opened it up for her. She is doing really well now.”

Sophomore midfielder Kieffer has been opening things up for the Panthers.

“I thought Kylie Kieffer had an excellent game for us today; she had one goal and one assist,” said Trombetta.

“She is a player we had on defense last year but this year we have moved her up to midfield because she has great touch with the ball and excellent decision-making. She was placing some nice through balls to our outside mids and then she scored the go-ahead goal.”

PDS is getting some excellent play from senior forward Kelsey Scarlett. “Kelsey creates a lot of the opportunities out there,” said Trombetta.

“She is a person we can move around a lot on the field because she is very versatile. Having her on the field with her senior experience helps out a lot, she has just got a great attitude.”

The foundation for the Panthers’ solid start has been some good work at the defensive end of the field.

“For the most part, our defense has been playing really well,” said Trombetta.

“Brit Murray is a solid defender; we always put her on the other team’s biggest weapon. She does a great job as does Stef [Soltesz] at sweeper. Kelly Tarcza coming from Steinert is a physical player out there. You need a presence like that on the field sometimes.”

PDS needs to fine-tune things as it faces some big challenges in the next week when it plays at Rutgers Prep on September 27, hosts Blair Academy on September 29, and then plays at Peddie on October 2.

“I think our decision-making and spacing has to get better,” said Trombetta. “We have just completed one-third of our season and I am looking for our composure to get better. Our possession has to get better.”

Trombetta believes his players have what it takes to get better. “We have a great group of girls; they are hardworking,” said Trombetta.

“I have complete confidence that they will be able to handle the tough stretch that is ahead of us.”

Soltesz, for her part, shares Trombetta’s confidence in the group’s prospects.

“I am really proud of us,” said Soltesz. “We did a great job today. I love this team.”

For the Hun School girls’ tennis team, this fall figures to be one of transition.

“I am looking at this season as an opportunity to rebuild,” said longtime Hun head coach Joan Nuse, whose team opened the season by losing 5-0 to Montgomery High and falling 3-2 to Springside Academy last Saturday before getting into the win column by topping Pennington 4-1 on Monday. “We graduated a lot of seniors. We have a lot of new faces.”

Hun is going with a familiar face at first singles in returning junior Shayna Glassberg.

“Shayna is looking to build on last year,” said Nuse of Glassberg, who played second singles for Hun in 2011. “She played hard in our first match against Montgomery; she didn’t give up in the second set.”

Nuse is looking for some hard play from sophomore Stephanie Taylor. “Steph is a great athlete; I am glad she chose to come out for tennis rather than soccer,” said Nuse, noting that Taylor plays club soccer.

“She showed perseverance in the Montgomery match; she was running around like a maniac.”

At third singles, Hun is welcoming back junior Lauren Kotler. “Lauren played third singles last year,” said Nuse, who got a straight sets win from Kotler in the victory over Pennington.

“She was thinking of not playing this year; it is good to have her back. She makes it fun for everybody else.’

It is good for Hun to have seniors Cansu Cabeci and Lesley Cai at first doubles. Last fall, Cai starred at first doubles while Cabeci is moving up after playing second doubles in 2011.

“They are most experienced doubles players; they are learning to play together,” said Nuse of the pair who breezed to a 6-0, 6-1 win in the Pennington match. “They both have different strengths. Cansu is a solid baseliner while Lesley likes the net.”

The second doubles pair of Olivia Hartman and Lily Razavi figures to give the Raiders some solid play. “They know each other from playing together on JV last year,” said Nuse.

In Nuse’s view, her team should be playing better and better as the fall unfolds.

“I am looking for us to be better at the end than in the beginning,” asserted Nuse, whose team hosts Princeton Day School on September 27, plays at Stuart Country Day on September 29, and then starts play in the Mercer County Tournament on October 1 at Mercer County Park.

“We only had three girls there for a lot of the preseason so that makes it harder at the start. A lot of the girls were coming from foreign countries.”

AIR SHOW: Hun School quarterback Blake Searfoss airs out a pass last Saturday as the Raiders hosted Poly Prep (N.Y.) Post-graduate Searfoss connected on five touchdown passes to help Hun post a 47-28 victory over the Blue Devils. The Raiders, now 1-1, are next in action when they host the Blair Academy on October 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While lacrosse may be Blake Searfoss’ first sporting love, football is starting to grow on him.

Searfoss, the all-time assists leader for Hunterdon Central, was set to play college lax but then he got to start at quarterback last fall for the Red Devils.

As a result, Searfoss put his lax plans on hold and opted to do a post-graduate year at the Hun School to focus on football.

“I was going to play lacrosse and then I realized that I wanted to do the football thing,” said Searfoss. “By that time, it was too late to get an offer. That is why I came to Hun.”

Last Saturday, Searfoss showed that he may have a bright future in football, passing for five touchdowns and 212 yards as Hun rolled past visiting Poly Prep (N.Y.) 47-28.

In the wake of suffering a tough season-opening 17-14 defeat at Seton Hall Prep on September 15, Searfoss and the Raiders were primed to break loose.

“After the loss, we just had to go back to work,” said Searfoss. “We had a real nice week of practice; everyone was working real hard. This was a new game and we couldn’t dwell on last week. We came out today and played hard. Everyone showed a lot of heart; I thought we had a great day.”

The Raiders showed great balance, mixing the pass and run effectively. “Today, they both opened up each other real well,” said Searfoss.

“When we started passing, it opened up the run. When we started running a lot, that opened up the play action. We had a pretty balanced set coming into the week and we knew that we should probably be able to do both.”

Searfoss opened up the Poly Prep defense as he connected on touchdown bombs of 71 and 48 yards to sophomore Christopher Sharp.

“We were working this summer,” said Searfoss of Sharp. “I know he is a good player; he is just young. He has got wheels. We were working during the week and we connected a couple of times today. It was real nice.”

Hun head coach Dave Dudeck had a nice feeling about the effort he got from his players in the win over Poly Prep.

“Our numbers are very thin; that is no secret,” said Dudeck. “On a hot day when most of your kids are going both ways and playing on special teams; our kids came up with a phenomenal, phenomenal effort. They showed so much heart.”

The Raiders produced a superior effort on offense as Searfoss’ heroics in the air were augmented by a balanced ground attack featuring Kylan Baker, Chris Cardinali, and Abdul-Malik Majeed.

“We just felt we got into a rhythm offensively and that we had a counter to what they would show us defensively,” said Dudeck.

“It worked out. But don’t give too much credit to the coaches and the play calling, it is the kids on the field.”

Searfoss is developing a good rhythm in triggering the Hun attack. “Blake has a bit of that loose swagger,” said Dudeck.

“He is a fun kid. He likes to sling it and get after it. We only have two PGs with him and Greg Golden. They have come in and have just fit in great with our team.”

Dudeck had fun watching Sharp produce a breakout performance. “Today was Sharpie’s coming out party,” said Dudeck.

“He had a big day for us. He is a young sophomore; he has a ton of potential. He is just learning how to play football. His future is bright. He is a great kid too. He listens and he is easily coached and he has a great attitude.”

If Hun is going to keep in the winning track, it is going to need to display a hard-nosed attitude.

“We are going to be a team that has to grow and mature,” said Dudeck, whose team is off this Saturday and returns to action when it hosts Blair Academy on October 6.

“We are not the type of team that can just show up and win football games. Every week we have to work hard and watch film. We have to understand; we have to execute.”

Searfoss, for his part, has reached a good understanding of how the Hun program works.

“Everybody works so hard here; we don’t have that many guys but everyone is working their butts off everyday,” said Searfoss.

“No. 5 [Golden] and I are the only PGs; they brought us right in and showed us the way. We meshed together pretty well. We have a good bunch of guys.”

September 19, 2012

OPENING MOVE: Princeton University freshman football player Anthony Gaffney looks for an opening last Saturday in Princeton’s 17-14 opening day loss at Lehigh. Gaffney, a former Pennington School standout, made a solid debut, seeing time at defensive back, receiver, and on kick returns. The Tigers trailed 17-0 at half before scoring 14 unanswered points in the second half to put a scare into the 13th-ranked Mountain Hawks. The Tigers will look to get into the win column this Friday evening when they host Georgetown (2-1) in their home opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team started its season by falling behind 13th-ranked Lehigh 17-0 at halftime last Saturday, it looked like the same old story for a Tiger program that has posted two straight 1-9 campaigns.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace wasn’t pleased as he trudged into the locker room with his team at a sun-splashed Goodman Stadium.

“We did not come out and play well in the first half; we struggled up front and all around,” said Surace, whose team was outgained 285 yards to 40 in the half and managed only two first downs.

“They did a great job of getting off their blocks through the first half and we weren’t really giving ourselves a chance. Defensively we were on the field way too long and we struggled on third down.”

But stunningly, the Tigers ended the afternoon by having a chance to win the game as they scored 14 unanswered points in the second half and had the ball near midfield with 3:15 remaining in regulation and down by three.

Lehigh, though, held the Tigers and was able to maintain possession after that as it hung on for a 17-14 victory before a crowd of 7,346 in improving to 3-0.

Surace credited the team’s seniors with holding things together in the face of the Lehigh onslaught.

“The best thing is that some veteran guys kept this thing where there was no panic,” said Surace.

“I felt in the past that some games that were like this snowballed and there was anxiety and a 17-0 game turned into a blowout. We came out in the second half and did a real good job of getting some control of the football and getting some field position. We have a real good group of seniors on defense. We have such high expectations for those guys and they really did a good job. We talked to them about the word believe before the game but I didn’t feel like we really did and then they came together, it was nice to see. Lehigh is a great team but you know what, we can play football.”

Senior running back Akil Sharp exemplified the progress in the tale of two halves as he ended the afternoon with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns after getting just 15 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

“I think we were just coming together as a team” said Sharp. “Just like what coach was talking about, we came out in the second half and the team was really believing. From there, as a team we got our blocks down. We started to get on the same page.”

Sophomore quarterback Conner Michelson, who got the starting nod after a preseason battle with classmate Quinn Epperly and freshman Kedric Bostic, acknowledged that the Tiger offense needed to give defense a rest.

“The offense started to click better, we saw from the first half that we needed to get the team going,” said Michelson, who hit on 14-of-30 passes for 103 yards in his first college start.

“We kept the defense on the field way too long. That is on me, I have got to get first downs for this team. I have to get the team rolling.”

One of the leaders of the defense, senior co-captain Mike Catapano, liked the way his unit came up big down the stretch when it had a chance to catch its breath.

“When we came out of the locker room in the second half, you started to see those big plays on third down, the stuffed runs, things like that,” said Catapano. “We just have to be more consistent with the big plays.”

In the early stages of the contest, it looked like the Tigers were going to get run out of the stadium by the two-time defending Patriot League champions. After the teams traded punts in the first four possessions of the contest, Lehigh went on the march. Mixing the run and pass, the Mountain Hawks drove 58 yards and went ahead 7-0 after a five-yard touchdown run by Zach Barket.

Princeton nearly got on the board in the waning minutes of the quarter after recovering a muffed punt deep in Lehigh territory. The Tigers got to the Mountain Hawk seven-yard line but were stymied when they went for it on a fourth and one.

The Mountain Hawks dominated the second quarter, taking a 10-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by Jake Peery and then going up 17-0 after an 59-yard march that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Keith Sherman.

In the third quarter, the Tigers kept Lehigh pinned in their territory as they tried to rally from the 17-0 halftime deficit. After its first three possessions ended with punts, Princeton started moving late in the quarter. With Sharp catching fire, the Tigers marched through the Lehigh defense. Sharp gained 34 yards on the last three plays of the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown gallop, as Princeton narrowed the margin to 17-6. The extra point attempt was blocked

Minutes later, the kicking game helped Princeton as it recovered another mishandled punt. Starting at the Lehigh 28, the Tigers cashed in this time with Sharp scoring on a one-yard plunge. Michelson then hit Roman Wilson in the end zone for a two-point conversion as Princeton narrowed the gap to 17-14.

The Tigers got the ball one more time and were forced to punt. Lehigh took possession with 2:38 left and never relinquished it, converting on a third down and 11 as tight end Dylan Colgate made a 27-yard reception with just over two minutes remaining to seal the deal.

While Surace was heartened by his team’s rally, he made it clear that another loss was not acceptable.

“There is going to be some attaboys and good efforts and everything else,” said Surace.

“For us to improve as a team, that can’t be the case. It’s got to go beyond the great effort from the hanging in there to winning a game that we gave ourselves an opportunity to. We made some mistakes at the end and we couldn’t get the ball back.”

With the Tigers hosting Georgetown (2-1) this Friday in its home opener, Surace is looking for his players to clean up those mistakes.

“The big thing is that I told them in the locker room last year is last year and unfortunately we weren’t able to turn it around,” said Surace, whose team stumbled to a 34-9 loss to Bucknell last fall after playing well in a 34-22 opening day loss to Lehigh.

“We have a short week this week, we play on Friday night. Tomorrow is the day that we start to correct errors. Whether we were able to make one more play at the end of the game and come back or not, there was going to be a lot of corrections. I am sure if you ask coach [Lehigh coach Andy Coen], they made a lot of corrections from week one to week two and they are playing better right now. It’s just the nature of it so we are going to have to do that and do a great job.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that Princeton’s second half effort shows that the program is on the verge of turning things around.

“I think that it is just a tribute to us continuing to work hard and to push toward getting this thing on the right path,” said Sharp.

BOOTING UP: Princeton University sophomore soccer star Julian Griggs prepares to boot the ball up the field in recent action. Last Sunday, Griggs and the Tigers broke a three-game losing streak as they edged Villanova 1-0. Princeton, now 2-3, hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting nationally ranked Georgetown last Friday evening, the Princeton University men’s soccer team seemed overmatched in the early going.

The Tigers were outshot 10-4 by the No. 12 Hoyas and trailed 1-0 at intermission.

“We had a hard time in the first half,” said Princeton head coach Jim Barlow. “We played a 4-4-2 in the first half and they stretched us out pretty well. I didn’t think that we got our back line up high enough and there was too much room for them to play in the midfield.”

Looking to stem the tide, Barlow made a key adjustment after halftime. “In the second half we went with a 4-3-3 with Thomas Sanner all the way up, Julian Griggs and Cameron Porter out wide, and we put three guys in the middle,” said Barlow.

“It definitely made it harder for them to keep possession in the middle. I thought Pat O’Neil, Matt Sanner, and Myles McGinley did a good job of plugging holes and I thought we took control of the game.”

The Tigers outshot Georgetown 13-4 over the last 45 minutes of the game but were unable to find the back of the net as they fell 1-0.

Still, Barlow drew positives from the team’s second half performance. “This was a big step forward for our team,” said Barlow.

“I thought we got on the same page with how we were going to try to play defense and it went much better. I think we had a few chances that we should have put away. We looked like a soccer team in the second half.”

Two days later, the Tigers built on that second half effort as they edged Villanova 1-0 on a goal by Thomas Sanner.

Freshman forward Sanner has made an immediate impact for the Tigers. “Thomas is a good target up there,” said Barlow, whose team improved to 2-3 with the win on Sunday.

“He has got good feet. He can look to get behind the defense but he can also look to make passes.”

Senior co-captain Mark Linnville helped keep the Princeton defense tight in the Georgetown game. “He is steady back there,” said Barlow of Linnville, a three-time first-team All- Ivy League performer.

“He is a leader; he keeps the back line together. I think he was a little cautious in the first half and kept the line too deep. In the second half, he pushed the line up higher. They didn’t get behind us and I think we now have a little more confidence that we can put our line up higher and play more in their end.”

In Barlow’s view, having started the season by playing five teams from the Big East (Seton Hall, St. John’s and Rutgers in addition to Georgetown and Villanova) should give the Tigers confidence going forward.

“I am always a fan of playing against good teams and the Big East has a lot of good teams,” said Barlow, whose team hosts its Princeton Invitational next weekend, playing Rider on September 21 and Fairleigh Dickinson on September 23.

“When you only have 17 games to play in a year, you want to play good teams. I know they start earlier. I know they have had a lot more games than us but we can’t focus on that. Georgetown had played six games, a few scrimmages, and have been together a lot longer than us. In the first half, especially, they looked like they are further along but this is how you make progress and I thought we did make some progress.”

BRONZE AGE: Former Princeton University fencing star Maya Lawrence, left, and current Tiger fencer Susie Scanlan enjoy the moment after they were named to the U.S. epee team that competed in the London Olympics. Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton grad who has been living and training in France the last seven years, helped the U.S. take bronze, its first-ever medal in the event. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Maya Lawrence pulled an upset in her opening bout in the individual epee at the London Olympics last month but ended up being angry with herself for getting eliminated in the next round.

“I performed well but had a bad second bout,” said Lawrence, a 2002 Princeton University grad and former fencing star for the Tigers who topped Italy’s Maria Navarria 15-12 in the Round of 32 before losing 15-7 to Rossella Flamingo of Italy in the next round.

“Navarria was No. 7 or 9 in the world so on paper she was a stronger fencer. I was training to win the first bout. It was really exciting to win the first bout, maybe too exciting. I didn’t have time to process emotions.”

Days later, Lawrence experienced an emotional high she won’t ever forget, helping the U.S. to bronze in the team epee event as it topped Russia 31-30 in the third-place match. It was the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the event.

“We were all really excited; we had been through a lot and being able to get a medal at the ends was great,” said Lawrence, who was joined on the team by Princeton junior Susie Scanlan together with sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley.

“It is an individual sport and we are used to competing against each other. I was proud that we were able to come together. You have to stop and regroup and be a team. We did team-building and we managed personalities.”

As 2012 dawned, Lawrence had the sense that the epee team could build into something special.

“In January, I had a feeling that something big was going to happen,” said Lawrence.

“Teams that had been beating us badly weren’t beating us by that much. In the World Cup event in April outside Paris, we got second. That was the best U.S. finish and, on paper, showed that we were capable.”

For Lawrence, it was fitting that the U.S. did well in France as she lives and trains in Paris.

“I have been there for seven years,” said Lawrence, who trains with Maitre Daniel Lavavasseur.

“I knew that I wanted to train in France; I had been training in the French school with Michel [former Princeton coach Michel Sebastiani]. It is a great place to train. I have great guys to train with. We have fencers from different countries.”

The influence of Sebastiani, a master of traditional French fencing technique who runs Sebastiani Fencing Academy in Princeton, helped spur Lawrence to keep competing on an international level.

“I am not sure I would have continued; he was the only one who thought I could do this,” said Lawrence, a native of Teaneck, N.J., who was a four-time All-Ivy League selection and an All-American during her Tiger career.

“He was the most emotionally supportive coach I have had, expressing to me that I had the ability to do this. He always told me to keep working.”

Lawrence had to work hard to finally qualify for the Olympics, having fallen short in 2004 and 2008.

During the Opening Ceremony at the London Games, the magnitude of making the Olympics hit Lawrence.

“At first, I didn’t feel anything but then I saw a training partner, a Tunisian,” said Lawrence. “We had shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears together. We started bawling.”

Competing together on the U.S. team with fellow Princeton standout Scanlan has been a good feeling for Lawrence.

“I graduated way before she did; we have never been on a team before,” said Lawrence.

“We get along pretty well. She is really good at motivating the team. She is mature beyond her years.”

The U.S. epee team brought plenty of motivation into the competition in London. “The whole second half of the season we have been talking to each other saying that we could do it,” said Lawrence.

“We were definitely the underdogs. There were probably only five or six people in the room that thought we could do it. All the teams that were supposed to get a medal lost in the first round.”

The U.S. pulled an upset in the quarterfinals, topping Italy 45-35 but then stumbled in the semifinals as it fell 45-36 to South Korea.

“Romania was seeded No. 1 and they had lost,” said Lawrence, reflecting on the loss to South Korea.

“This was the tableau of our dream and we couldn’t miss this chance. But we were fencing not to lose, we were to cautious against South Korea.”

In the bronze medal match, the U.S. faced Russia and pulled out a 31-30 triumph.

“We had beaten them a year ago but they had beaten us badly since,” said Lawrence.

“We went back to the strategy that beat them. We didn’t think that we had to run after them. We wanted to be cautious but aggressive when opportunities to score came up.”

In the aftermath of their achievement, Lawrence and her teammates got to soak up the scene around London over the last week of the Summer Games.

“We had some free time to go out and celebrate and see other events,” said Lawrence. “We did a lot of interviews; it was fun to be there without the stress of competition.”

Lawrence, now 32, plans to keep competing with an eye to possibly taking part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I have goals,” said Lawrence. “I am No. 19 individually, I would like to be in the top 16. I would like to do better in World Cup events and the World Championships.”

HELLBENT: Princeton High junior tight end Liam Helstrom celebrates after scoring a touchdown last Friday against Hightstown. Helstrom’s second quarter 15-yard TD reception turned out to be one of the major highlights for PHS as it fell 38-12 to the Rams. The Little Tigers, now 1-1, host WW/P-S on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Although his Princeton High football team fell 38-12 at Hightstown last Friday night, Joe Gargione doesn’t feel that there is that much difference between the two squads.

“We didn’t lose outright; we lost because of shooting ourselves in the foot,” said PHS head coach Gargione, whose team dropped to 1-1. “We weren’t using our heads.”

The Little Tigers displayed sloppiness on their first possession when they drove to Hightstown one-yard line but then committed an offsides penalty and had to settle for a field goal.

After falling behind 14-3, PHS came up with a big play in the second quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom with a 15-yard touchdown as the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 14-10.

“We got a TD on a beautiful pass from Zack to Liam,” recalled Gargione. “Zack sprinted to his left and threw a perfect ball.”

But a special teams lapse on the ensuing kickoff hurt the Little Tigers as Andrew Daniels sprinted for an 88-yard touchdown return to help the Rams build their lead to 21-10.

Bouncing back from that setback, PHS recovered a fumble and moved the ball inside the Hightstown one-yard line in the waning moments of the half.

“We had four seconds left in the half and we said let’s do a quarterback sneak,” said Gargione.

“I told the line I needed them to be tough. I thought Zack got in but they didn’t give us the call. I looked at the film over and over and it looked like most of his body was in the end zone. That would have made it 21-16 and 21-17 if we make the point after. That really changed the game.”

Deflated by that sequence, the Little Tigers saw the game get away from them in the second half as the Rams rolled to the victory.

In reflecting on the loss, Gargione pointed to the play of junior lineman and kicker Cal O’Meara as a bright spot for the Little Tigers.

“Cal O’Meara had a big game,” said Gargione. “He laid out for an interception. He kicked a field goal and made the extra point after the touchdown. He also had some big punts that put them in a hole.”

With PHS hosting a powerful WW/P-S (1-1) team this Saturday, the Little Tigers will need O’Meara and his linemates to come up big in the trenches.

“We assume that Schoenauer [WW/P-S star running back Brian Schoenauer] will be playing; he tweaked his hamstring against Steinert and they took him out to rest it,” said Gargione. “The backup played really well. Obviously, we need to stop the run.”

Gargione is looking for his team to regain the headiness it showed in its 27-21 opening day win over Northern Burlington two weeks ago.

“We need to be mistake-free like we were in the opener,” said Gargione. “We need to get the penalties out of our system. We need the secondary playing better. We gave up 240 yards passing to Hightstown and two big pass plays in the opener. We need to be where we are supposed to be and cover better. We need to get the line clicking again.”

GOLD VALUE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Jeremy Goldsmith kicks the ball last Thursday as PHS hosted Hightstown. Senior midfielder Goldsmith picked up an assist in the game but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 2-1. The Little Tigers, who rebounded with a 2-1 win over Harrison on Saturday to improve to 2-2, host Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the three campaigns from 2009-11, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team didn’t lose a game in regular season play.

Last week, the proud PHS side dropped two early season games, falling 2-1 to Allentown in overtime on September 10 and then getting edged 2-1 by Hightstown two days later.

While Little Tiger head coach Wayne Sutcliffe wasn’t happy to see his team get off to a 1-2 start, he certainly wasn’t ready to push the panic button.

“I am not discouraged at all,” said Sutcliffe after the loss to Hightstown. “We don’t like dropping games but our best soccer, without a doubt, is in front of us.”

In the Hightstown contest, PHS displayed some superb soccer in the first half as it battled back from an early 1-0 deficit to knot that game on a Kevin Halliday goal.

“We had a great start to the game aside from giving up that opportunistic goal,” said Sutcliffe.

“Our urgency was good, we were winning the battles. Kevin had a great goal. That came from some of the best soccer we have played all season. We worked it really well. It was great to see that response to Hightstown’s goal.”

In the second half, the Rams took the lead at the 5:30 mark and PHS tried valiantly to get the equalizer, putting intense pressure on the Hightstown defense.

“We are getting some bad breaks in the back third; we had most of the possession,” said Sutcliffe.

“You saw how many shots they had in the second half, maybe two or three. We are just not getting the breaks and that is something we will work out.”

Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from senior defender Adam Klein and senior midfielder Zach Halliday.

“Adam Klein had a great game today; he really neutralized No. 44 [Mohammed Sesay] and did a great job,” said Sutcliffe.

“I think Zach has had a great season so far, he has been the guy that has been carrying us.”

PHS, though, needs others to help out Klein and Halliday. “I think it is a matter of a couple of the other guys simplifying things and finding their form,” said Sutcliffe.

The first order of business for the Little Tigers is to develop the imperious defensive form that has characterized the program’s recent run of success.

“We are focusing on keeping a clean sheet; we have to tighten up the defense,” said Sutcliffe.

“We have to work on being a little sharper and more organized. We have given up five goals in three games; that is unusual for us. Clearly that is where we are going to start.”

PHS also has to start being more productive with its offensive possessions. “We are lacking a little quality in the front 18 in the attacking end,” added Sutcliffe, whose team was more productive last Saturday as it edged Harrison 2-1 with Kevin Halliday scoring both goals.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not getting in and creating chances; we are just lacking a little quality.”

With the season barely a week old, PHS has time to get in a groove. “I don’t think it is a wakeup call, the guys all have to know that,” said Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 20 before playing at Lawrence High on September 24.

“We are going to be a lot better in two weeks and we’ll be a lot better than that in four weeks. It is only the third game of the season.”

FAST START: Princeton Day School field hockey star Andrea Jenkins races up the field in recent action. Senior midfielder/forward Jenkins came up big last week, scoring two goals in a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day on September 11 before chipping in a goal in a 2-0 triumph over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then scoring the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday. PDS, now 3-0-1, hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After the Princeton Day School field hockey team generated a total of one goal in three preseason scrimmages and tied Germantown Academy (Pa.) 2-2 in its season opener, Andrea Jenkins sensed that the Panthers were about to break out offensively.

“In practice, we have been working on our movement and cutting,” said senior star Jenkins.

“We have new positioning and tactics so I think us playing with each other the last few days has really helped.”

That work paid dividends last week as the Panthers rolled to a 6-1 win over Stuart Country Day School to earn their first win of the season and the first victory in the PDS tenure of new head coach Tracey Arndt.

“It is a great feeling getting the first win for the new coach,” said Jenkins, who scored two goals in the win on September 11 with junior Emma Quigley chipping in two and Mary Travers and Bian Maloney scoring one apiece. “I think it worked out really well.”

Jenkins’ first tally in the win came on a rush up the side of the field finished off with a blast that rattled off the back of the cage. She displayed her savvy and coolness under fire on her second score which came on a penalty stroke 10 minutes into the second half.

“All my coaches tell me to look to one part of the net and show the goalie you may be going that way and then fake it and go to the other side,” said Jenkins, who kept up her clutch play, scoring a goal in a 2-0 win over Prep A power Peddie on Thursday and then knocking home the game-winner in overtime in a 2-1 victory at Hopewell Valley last Saturday.

“At first it is kind of nerve-wracking but I have gotten used to it from practicing.”

Jenkins has certainly gotten used to playing with junior standout Quigley, who also scored in the victory over HoVal.

“Emma has definitely gotten better from playing club this year,” said Jenkins. “Our passing has gotten smoother than it has been.”

Learning from older sisters Mariel and Sydney, who starred at PDS and are currently playing lacrosse and field hockey, respectively, at Harvard, has helped Jenkins be a better leader.

“I try to follow their lead and give constructive criticism and support,” said Jenkins, who is a tri-captain of the Panthers along with classmates Corinne Urisko and Cami McNeely.

“I feel like there is a lot of responsibility. This is a great group of girls. They are always willing to give their best effort. It is a really great position to be in this year.”

In one respect, though, Jenkins is taking a different path than her sisters, having committed to join the Princeton University field hockey program.

“I decided to go the other way,” said Jenkins, reflecting on her college choice. “It is relieving to be done with the whole process. I am really excited to work with the coach [Kristen Holmes-Winn] there.”

PDS head coach Arndt was excited to get her first triumph of her Panther tenure.

“To win anywhere is great, let alone your first time on your home turf with a great crowd,” said Arndt, a former Penn State All-American and U.S. National Team player, who coached Pennsbury High to a league title and the state tournament during her tenure there from 2006-09. “We won in a strong fashion. They played well, they did what we asked.”

Arndt is pleased with the strong play she is getting from her attacking trio of Jenkins, Quigley, and junior Emily Goldman.

“Between A.J., Emily and Emma, I think they can be lethal because they are very fast and they have stick skills,” said Arndt.

“If we counter attack, the three of them can almost be like a power play in hockey with odd man rushes. Emma and A.J. are doing really great things together. They have been trying to dribble it a little too much. They have really great skill and now they use that skill together.”

PDS has been getting a great effort from its battle-tested back line that features senior defenders Urisko, McNeely, and Zeeza Cole together with senior Sarah Trigg in goal.

“They have been doing really well,” said Arndt. “One thing that has been our focus is team defense as well as marking in the circle. I think if you can be a solid marker, the forwards are going to start getting frustrated. Corinne, Cami, and Zeeza have really stepped up. Their leadership as well as Sarah Trigg’s in the goal is going to be huge for our success. We are going to rely on them.”

While Arndt saw the 6-goal outburst against Stuart as a confidence builder, she was more impressed by the execution than the final numbers.

“Getting six is great but how they are doing it is even better for me,” asserted Arndt, whose team hosts Academy of New Church (Pa.) on September 21 before playing at South Hunterdon on September 24.

“They are listening to what I am saying and they are making the proper changes.”

Jenkins, for her part, believes that PDS has changed for the better under Arndt.

“We have definitely improved since last year,” said Jenkins. “I think if we keep doing the stuff we are doing now, we are going to move up every game. We are going to give it our all and give it our best effort.”

BRICK-FIRED: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Jack Brickner, left, goes up for a header against Peddie last Wednesday. Brickner scored a goal in the contest but it was not nearly enough as PDS fell 4-1 to the Falcons. The Panthers, who dropped to 0-4-1 with a 2-1 defeat to visiting Hopewell Valley last Friday, play at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After being held scoreless in its first three games this season, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team took a step forward in its contest against visiting Peddie last Wednesday.

PDS gave up an early goal to the Falcons but then responded with its first tally of 2012 as senior Jack Brickner headed home a pass from Marco Pinheiro with 6:26 left in the half.

But seconds away from going into halftime knotted at 1-1, misfortune struck PDS as one of its defenders blocked a Peddie shot with his hand, leading to his disqualification on a red card and a Falcon penalty shot.

Peddie cashed in on the chance to go up 2-1 at intermission and then pulled away in the second half against a shorthanded PDS side, tacking on two more tallies for a 4-1 victory.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that the sequence in the waning moments of the first half proved to be decisive.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes, we call it game intelligence,” said Murphy.

“When we lost that possession around the area, that’s when the decision should have been to play the ball away and send it where they can’t do any damage. Instead we wanted to play with it in the middle and it changed the whole game.”

Murphy did like the way his team responded in the early stages of the second half.

“We kept putting the efforts in,” said Murphy of his young squad that includes five sophomores and four freshmen.

“I actually thought that in the first seven or eight minutes of the half that we had some good opportunities but then again you have to put them away. Once they started to spread the field, we started losing our legs.”

While Murphy saw some good signs, he acknowledged that his team needs to develop more resolve when faced with adversity.

“For young players, it is very difficult unless you see something instant,” said Murphy, whose team lost 2-1 to Hopewell Valley last Friday to fall to 0-4-1.

“The battle gets harder and deeper and that’s where we have to learn. Resilience is not in their vocabulary just yet.”

Despite the margin of defeat, Murphy saw some bright spots. “I thought the back four played well,” said Murphy, whose defensive unit includes Brickner, Zach Golden, Chris Chai, and Taran Auslander.

“They were playing a bit of a long ball; it is hard to defend against. We are struggling to find depth in the forwards to take the pressure off of us. We don’t seem to be able to find anybody individually or in a partnership who can stop the source.”

In Murphy’s view, the team will benefit from going back to the drawing board on the practice field.

“We have the opportunity to have more training sessions,” said Murphy, whose team plays at Lawrenceville on September 20 and at the Solebury School on September 22.

“We need to step back and go through those sessions with them and show them what we are looking for in units. We’ll get there. We have been there before and they will be there again as long as they show a willingness.”

FULL CIRCLE: Stuart Country Day field hockey goalie Margaret LaNasa, center, controls a crowded circle in recent action. Junior LaNasa has provided solid play as Stuart’s last line of defense to help the Tartans get off to a 1-3 start. In upcoming action, Stuart plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Stuart Country Day field hockey team played at Princeton Day School last week, Missy Bruvik carried on a constant dialog with her players, instructing both those on the field and the others on the bench.

With a roster containing eight freshman and five sophomores, head coach Bruvik knows that her team has a steep learning curve this fall.

“There are teaching moments all game long,” said Bruvik, who is returning to the helm of the program after coaching Stuart 21 years through 2006 and then taking a break to follow her daughter Kelly’s field hockey career at Bucknell.

“I have always talked to the kids on the bench during the games. It keeps them engaged. They are learning and they appreciate what the kids on the field are doing. They have a better idea of what they need to do when they get playing time.”

In the first half against a tough, veteran PDS squad, Stuart applied those lessons, holding its own as it only trailed 2-1 at the half of the September 11 contest.

“They are taking everything that they are learning,” said Bruvik of her club. “PDS is a very good team; it was nice to see us hang in there against them. We were getting the ball in the circle more.”

It was also nice for Bruvik to get some good work from such freshmen as Julia Maser, Tori Hannah, and Sam Servis. “Julia had a nice goal; that was her second goal of the season,” said Bruvik.

“Tori Hannah worked hard at both ends of the field from the right midfield spot. Sam Servis did a good job, she won some 50/50 balls for us.”

In the second half, though, the team’s inexperience was evident as PDS pulled away to a 6-1 victory.

“We ran out of steam against a very tenacious team,” said Bruvik, whose club fell 4-0 to Lawrenceville last Saturday to move to 1-3. “We are still working on figuring out what is the best system for this team.”

The Tartans got some good work in the PDS game from senior Nicole Starke together with juniors Amy Hallowell and Margaret La Nasa.

“I think Nicole Starke and Amy Hallowell did as much as they could,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at the Academy of New Church on September 19 before hosting South Hunterdon on September 21 and the Pennington School on September 24.

“Margaret LaNasa did a good job in goal; she faced a lot of shots. She is really holding her own; she is learning a lot from Gia [Stuart assistant coach and former star goalie Gia Fruscione]. She is a good student; she is making a lot of progress.”

Bruvik believes that her young squad is studious collectively. “They are learning,” asserted Bruvik. “We go through drills and take our time and tell them this is why we are doing this. We just need to keep playing.”

September 12, 2012

GROUP DYNAMIC: Members of the Princeton University football team enjoy a light moment during the program’s annual media day last Friday. Coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, the Tigers are hoping to smile a little more this fall. Princeton kicks off its 2012 campaign with a game this Saturday at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When assessing the state of a Princeton University football program that is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, Tiger head coach Bob Surace cites the words of a legendary figure around town.

“Last Saturday after our scrimmage my daughter said ‘daddy I have a quote for you,’” recalled third-year head coach Surace,

“She said ‘learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.’ That’s a quote from Albert Einstein. It is kind of where we are at. We are learning from the mistakes we made last year, things in the red zone, turnovers; things that we have to learn from if we are going to get this fixed. We live for the moment. We gave out T-shirts right away this year that say ‘believe.’ There is hope for tomorrow.”

The Tigers could take a major step in making believers out of their supporters this Saturday if they can win their season opener at 14th-ranked and defending Patriot League champion Lehigh (2-0).

Surace knows the Tigers face a major challenge in the Mountain Hawks, who have won two straight against Princeton and 10 of the last 13 meetings in the series.

“They are a well-coached team,” said Surace, whose squad fell 34-22 to Lehigh in last year’s season opener.

“They get us in their third game and by the time we get them, whatever errors they may have had in the first two weeks have been corrected. They are a physical team. Their receiver Ryan Spadola is as good a football player as I have seen in my two years here. He’s exciting and he makes plays.”

With Princeton losing last year’s Rookie of the Year Chuck Dibilio as he takes a leave of absence after suffering a stroke earlier this year, the Tigers will be depending on senior running back Akil Sharp to make a lot of big plays.

Tiger offensive coordinator believes that the the 5’9, 210-pound Sharp is ready to fill the void left by Dibilio, who rushed for 1,068 yards last fall.

“Akil has shown that he is a trustworthy back and that he can do a lot of things,” said Perry of Sharp, who rushed for 244 yards in 2011.

“His development as a senior has been very good to see. It is nice having a senior who is the guy stepping into a situation like that. He has done a nice job of seizing things and being at the forefront.”

Others in the mix at running back include sophomore Will Powers and Jonathan Esposito together with a pair of promising freshmen, DiAndre Atwater and Dre Nelson.

Perry acknowledged that nobody has seized the starting job at quarterback with sophomores Quinn Epperly (23-for-52 passing for 259 yards, 215 yards rushing in 2011) and Connor Michelson (3-for-5 passing for seven yards) locked in a battle with freshman Kedric Bostic in the mix.

“Right now there is no separation, they have all done a good job,” said Perry, a record-setting quarterback for Brown during his college days.

“I know that is a premier position and people want to know what is going on. We needed depth there in a big way and we have gotten depth. Coach Surace and myself feel very strongly that we are in a much better position having guys who can play and not being hamstrung into a position where you feel if something happens to one guy, you are in a tough spot. I think we will reap the rewards of both the competition at that position in particular but across the board at all positions.”

The competition has been particularly stiff at wide receiver where several players are battling for snaps including senior Shane Wilkinson (38 receptions for 384 yards in 2011), sophomore Matt Costello (29 receptions for 341 yards), senior Tom Moak (9 receptions for 86 yards), sophomore Seth DeValve (1 reception for 10 yards), junior Roman Wilson (2 receptions for nine yards), and sophomore Connor Kelley (3 receptions for 23 yards).

“In modern college football you have to be able to throw the ball period,” said Perry.

“We were able to throw the ball much better in the spring and at this camp because we have a group of wide receivers who are all playing much better. We have been able to generate far more explosive plays in the pass game, those guys collectively have all stepped up.”

Princeton is hoping that senior tight end Mark Hayes (11 receptions for 107 yards) can step up and be a bigger part of the offense.

“Mark is as good a blocking tight end as you will have in college,” maintained Perry.

“He can catch the ball very well. I know last year there were some moments where we wanted to get more productivity out of him in the pass game.”

The Tigers are looking to senior Kevin Mill to help the offensive line be a productive unit.

“Kevin Mill is a guy at the tackle position who is a senior,” said Perry. “He is a guy with terrific ability and last year he came off an ACL and played well. Now he is two years removed from that and playing very well. He is providing leadership across the board. Those guys have a lot of experience and experience together. We are expecting big things out of that unit.”

The line will feature junior Joe Goss at center with junior Taylor Pearson and Max Coale listed as the starters at guard and sophomore Spenser Huston pencilled in at the other tackle spot. Others in the mix include a trio of sophomores Tom Yetter, Jack Woodall, and Ryan Peloquin together with senior Hanur Kim and freshman Britt Colcolough.

Princeton should get some big things out of its defensive line which features senior co-captain Mike Catapano, a two-time All-Ivy selection with 108 career tackles and classmate Caraun Reid, a first-team All-Ivy pick last fall when he had 68 tackles and eight sacks. The line also includes two other key veterans in senior Matt Landry and junior Greg Sotereanos.

“It is hard to block Catapano, Reid, and Sotereanos, that is a really deep group,” said Surace.

“You have to game plan to play those guys and it is hard when you have two like Catapano and Reid, you can’t slide the line both ways.”

The Tiger linebacking crew should make things hard for Princeton’s foes, headed by senior co-captain Andrew Starks, a two-time All-Ivy honoree, sophomore Garrett Leicht, and battle-tested senior Tim Kingsbury.

“Andrew plays the game the right way, he plays it hard,” added Surace. “Garrett Leicht has had his hands on the football more times in camp than our linebackers combined in the last two years.”

Surace is hoping that senior strong safety Mandela Shaeffer will get his hands on the ball more as he leads a secondary that includes sophomore star Khamal Brown and junior Trocon Davis at cornerback along with junior Philip Bhaya at free safety.

“It is fulfilling to see Mandela Shaeffer just making plays,” said Surace. “He is not just saying its cover three and I am in my spot, but he is unleashing and making plays.”

The preseason has seen some good playmaking all around, according to Surace.

“The guys are excited; we are having a really good training camp,” said Surace.

“I like the way we are practicing. I like the way we approach things. This team looks like it is going to be a very mature team.”

In Surace’s view, his maturation as a head coach has the team on the same page as it heads into the Lehigh clash.

“You know your team, you know people better,” said Surace. “You build relationships. All those guys who are seniors, I didn’t know their parents, I didn’t know their high schools so you need to build relationships, you need to build trust. Before they were doing it because we told them to. Now I think we have built a family where they now understand what we are trying to do.”

STARK REALITY: Princeton University linebacker Andrew Starks heads to an interview at the program’s recent media day. Senior star and co-captain Starks is looking to start his final college campaign with a bang as the Tigers play at 14th-ranked Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday in their season opener. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Andrew Starks made an immediate impact at safety during his freshman season with the Princeton University football team in 2009.

The Plainfield, Ill. native recorded 33 tackles and two pass breakups, earning the Harlan “Pink” Baker Award as Princeton’s top defensive freshman along with lineman Caraun Reid.

After watching Starks’ exploits, the Princeton coaches decided that he could make an impact elsewhere on the field and moved him to linebacker.

Starks was a little out of step initially as he made the transition to his new spot in the field.

“It was definitely an adjustment; I had been playing safety pretty much all my life and then moving to linebacker, things seemed to speed up quite a bit,” said Starks.

“You don’t have quite as much reaction time. Fortunately we have a great coaching staff here and they worked me a lot in the offseason and spring ball and summer camp.”

Applying those lessons well, Starks made the coaches look pretty smart, earning All-Ivy League Honorable Mention as a sophomore in 2010 with 89 tackles. Last fall, Starks recorded 80 tackles in nine games, including five for a loss, on the way to earning second-team All-Ivy recognition.

Growing into a leader as well as a star linebacker, Starks enters this fall as one of Princeton’s team captains and top players as the Tigers look to get back on the winning track after back-to-back 1-9 campaigns.

“I am looking forward going into my senior year having two years under my belt playing linebacker,” said Starks, whose final college season kicks off when the Tigers play at Lehigh (2-0) this Saturday. “It should be a good year.”

Starks acknowledged that it took him much of his sophomore year to develop a comfort level in his new spot.

“It was a bit of an adjustment; it took a little getting used to,” said Starks, who now packs 240 pounds on his 6’2 frame.

“But as the season progressed sophomore year, I felt more like a true linebacker than a safety playing linebacker. I felt pretty comfortable in the Brown game and made some big plays in that one. I started to get the hang of things and loosened up a little bit. It was a lot less thinking and a lot more just running around and playing. I kind of built on that last year as well.”

While last year was disappointing for Princeton in terms of its record, Starks believes the program made strides.

“The record wasn’t anywhere near where we wanted it to be but we did see a tremendous amount of improvement,” said Starks.

“We had a lot of young guys playing last year that are fortunately coming back this year. We have a lot of experience with everyone having another year under their belt and another year of offseason conditioning and lifting, another spring ball, and another summer camp. I think we are in pretty good shape. I think people are starting to feel comfortable and we should see the results.”

Starks feels fortunate to have been chosen as a team captain for the 2012 Tigers.

“It is a tremendous honor on a team where you have so many leaders and so many people doing the right thing,” said Starks, who will be serving as captain along with with senior defensive lineman Mike Catapano.

“To be chosen as one of the guys that everyone else looks to is just a huge honor. I couldn’t be more proud of what this team has done and to be given the opportunity to lead them off the field and on the field this year as a captain.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace is proud to have Starks as one of the leaders of his squad.

“He is just such a good person,” asserted Surace. “He is really mature; he knows how to approach people. He handles all the things you have to handle at a great school like Princeton — academics, social, leadership, and football. He has a great way about him.”

For Starks, having the title of captain isn’t going to change the way he handles things.

“As far as my leadership style I try not to do anything different than I did before; I think I was named captain for a reason,” said Starks.

“I just try to lead by example; I think the guys respect my work ethic and what I am doing. I feel if I keep that up and do the things I have been doing in the last three or four years, everybody else will follow that. I think that is the only thing you can do. You can’t expect the guys to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. If I am doing things right, putting my best effort forward and putting in the time to do extra work, people will see that and they will do the same.”

As Starks looks ahead to the Lehigh clash, he believes Princeton’s hard work over the last few years is going to start paying dividends.

“I definitely feel this program is ready to turn a corner,” said Starks. “I think we showed moments last year; we just didn’t show it for 60 minutes. That is what we need to do this year. Once we can do that, we will have a great season. I am looking forward to getting started against Lehigh this coming week.”