October 23, 2013
DOWN SHIFT: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Melissa Downey dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, junior forward Downey scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Lehigh and then added another tally in a 3-3 tie with Columbia last Saturday. Princeton, now 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League, plays at Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

DOWN SHIFT: Princeton University women’s soccer player ­Melissa Downey dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last week, junior forward Downey scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Lehigh and then added another tally in a 3-3 tie with Columbia last Saturday. Princeton, now 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League, plays at Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After missing most of her 2012 season with the Princeton University women’s soccer due to a knee injury, Melissa Downey has been out of sorts this fall.

Coming into last Wednesday’s game against visiting Lehigh, Downey hadn’t tallied a goal, mirroring a team-wide slump, as the Tigers were scoreless in their first three games of October.

Falling behind Lehigh 1-0 early in the second half, Princeton broke the ice as Jessica Haley scored with 33:12 left in regulation.

Then some 30 minutes later, Downey came through in the clutch, blasting home a rebound off a Tyler Lussi shot to provide the margin of victory as Princeton prevailed 2-1.

Downey was in the right place at the right time in finding the back of the net.

“It is very slick and the keeper has been coughing it up all night,” said Downey.

“It is something we talked about at halftime, to just keep following and following. We wanted to put a lot of pressure on them to make mistakes. I didn’t even think about it. I just reacted; it still hasn’t hit me.”

For Downey, her first goal was worth waiting for. “Better late than never; it has been a tough season personally coming back from having almost a year off,” said Downey, who scored a second goal on Saturday as Princeton tied Columbia 3-3 to move to 5-4-4 overall and 0-3-1 Ivy League. “Finding myself has been elusive; that felt really good.”

It was good for Princeton’s confidence to battle back from the Lehigh goal as it had gone 0-3-1 in its last four games coming into the contest.

“I am really happy with how we responded, we didn’t let down,” said Downey, a native of McLean, Va. who now has four goals and seven assists in her Princeton career.

“Of course, that was a tough counter, no one likes giving up that kind of goal but we kept creating tons of chances and I am proud of the fact that no one let down.”

The goal by Haley proved to be a turning point for the Tigers. “It definitely lifted us; it definitely gave us some hope,” said Downey. “I am glad we got that.”

Princeton head coach Julie Shackford was proud to see Downey experience her moment of glory.

“I am happy for her because she has been so frustrated in terms of trying to get her game back,” said Shackford. “She was dangerous tonight so that was nice.”

Junior Haley looked dangerous all night around the box. “What a beautiful goal from Jess Haley,” said Shackford. “Jess played well tonight, she has played well the last few games actually.”

Shackford sees the win as a potential turning point for Princeton. “I hope it gives us a little confidence going forward,” said Shackford, whose team is next in action when it plays at Ivy frontrunner Harvard (8-3-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy) on October 26. “You play spoiler and see what happens.”

Downey, for her part, believes the Tigers can do well going forward. “I think we are looking to finish really strong, we are not looking to slow down,” said Downey.

“The Ivy League is so even this year, people are winning we don’t expect to. It could be that a lot of teams drop games so you never know. You can never stop playing in the Ivy League, even if there is a clear better or worse team. I am just really happy that we got this win; we needed this lift.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PINPOINT AIM: Princeton Day School boys’ soccer player Marco Pinheiro aims a free kick in recent action. The play of junior star Pinheiro has been a bright spot for the Panthers as they stood at 3-7-3 after a 1-0 loss to Lawrence High last Friday. PDS starts postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It has been mix-and-match for the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team this fall as it has dealt with a series of injuries.

Last Friday as PDS hosted Lawrence High for its Senior Day, two of the honorees, Culver Duquette and Tom Hagan, were sidelined by injury while junior Oscar Vik was in a sling due to a shoulder problem.

During the second half on Friday, the Panthers dealt with some more misfortune as goalie Aaron Gold left the contest due to a knock and Christian Vik had to move from midfield to the keeper spot. Undeterred by the upheaval, PDS battled the Cardinals tooth-and-nail, dropping a 1-0 decision.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy was proud of his team’s resilience. “I thought the first half, I thought we did very well, considering that we have so many injuries,” said Murphy, whose team fell to 3-7-3 with the loss.

“I thought they played well, composed and kept the ball like we like them to do.”

Murphy acknowledged that his team didn’t do enough with the ball, getting held scoreless for a fifth straight game.

“We didn’t do enough in the final third; that’s what we struggle with even when we have a full team out,” said Murphy.

“We can get the ball up there, we just can’t manage to keep it up there with enough effort on goal.”

The change at goalie didn’t faze the Panthers as they pressed forward until the final whistle.

“With the injury we had to switch the midfield around but by now they should be used to it,” said Murphy.

“They never know who they are playing next to. We overcame what happened and they have finally become immune to it. It is just a case of going out and seeing what they could get. I think the last 10 minutes, they put something together.”

PDS got some good play from several individuals, including junior midfielder Marco Pinheiro, senior Sean Hudson, and senior Gabriel Vazquez.

“There is always Marco, he is out there playing well, “added Murphy. “Sean Hudson at the back was excellent again. Vazquez did a lot of work up top and it is not easy for a forward in this type of game. When you are looking to keep possession like this you look for more technical players, but they work hard for us.”

With the Panthers entering postseason play next week as it plays at Newark Academy on October 30 in the opening round of the Prep B tourney and then travels to Allentown on Saturday for a first round contest in the Mercer County Tournament, Murphy is looking for more flexibility from his squad.

“We’ll just have to look at the tactics, especially the Prep B, to see if there is anything where we can take a little bit maybe from the back four and give to the forwards,” said Murphy, whose team is seeded sixth in the Prep B tourney and 14th in the MCT.

“Each game is a one-off and you have to go out and play to win. We have just got to make sure and see if we can switch a couple of players around and out them higher up the field.”

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BREAKING THROUGH: Hun School football player Andrew ­Foster, left, breaks through the line in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Foster helped Hun top Hill 41-0 as the Raiders earned their first win of the season and gave new head coach John Law the first victory of his tenure. Hun, now 1-4, plays at Lawrenceville on October 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

It may be early October but the Hun School football team didn’t hesitate in celebrating its 41-0 win over the Hill School (Pa.) last Saturday by dousing head coach John Law with a bucket of water.

After losing its first four games under new head coach Law, the Raiders had plenty of reason to treat the victory like a championship effort.

“We were so hungry for this win,” said junior running back Christopher Sharp. “At 0-4, we needed this win. This is a great game, a great feeling right now.”

Even though Hun jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the coaches didn’t want the players feeling too good about themselves.

“In the locker room, everybody was happy but the coaches came to us and said we have got to play like we are down 14-0 right now so we have to come out stronger than we did in the first half,” recalled Sharp. “That really helped us.”

The Raiders produced a strong second half, scoring 14 points in the third quarter and tacking on 13 more in the fourth while stifling the Hill offense. Hun’s final score for the day came on a four-yard touchdown run by former Princeton High star Zack DiGregorio.

“We have come out strong in the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter this season and then we just die off,” said Sharp.

“This past week of practice, we conditioned and worked and worked. It is really paying off now, we are finishing.”

Sharp played a big role in finishing off Hill, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel as though I had a good game but it is all due to the line,” said Sharp. “They played a great game.”

It was a very good feeling for Sharp and his teammates to get that first win for their coach.

“I love Coach Law, personally I feel like he is one of the greatest coaches in New Jersey,” asserted Sharp.

“He is great and this win for him feels great. I know that there is a lot of talking, people thinking it is his fault that we are losing but it really is not. I am so happy we got this win for him.”

Coach Law, for his part, was more happy for his players than he was for himself.

“I have been at it a long time and it does feel good,” said a beaming Law.

“It is never about me in my 24 years here. I am absolutely thrilled that we got a win but it is about the kids for me. I just love that they were so happy today. I have been looking for that. We kept believing in them. We kept grinding and I told them if they do the basics, this game will be good to them and I thought the game was good to them today.”

The Hun players put their noses to the grindstone last week as they looked to break their losing streak.

“On Monday, we said we were going to strip the bus down and then rebuild it,” said Law.

“The biggest thing was their mental approach in how to play the game for four quarters. That was the focus on Monday, just having them be mentally tough and handling the pressure of the game; handling the ebbs and flows of it and not crumbling and not get down. That is what it is all about and what we have been fighting for for four weeks.”

Law liked the way Sharp handled things as he not only paced the Hun rushing attack but played well at defensive back.

“He is learning and learning fast, now he gets it,” said Law, noting that Sharp was moved to running back this season after playing receiver last year.

“This is what we expected out of him and I am real proud of him today. He played both sides of the ball, he put a lot on his back today and I am so happy for him.”

The play of the Hun offensive line also made Law happy. “We got back to the old fashioned Hun way to play,” said Law. “If you can control the line of scrimmage, you can control a lot of other things.”

The Raiders also dominated in the trenches on defense, getting after Hill quarterback Matt Foltz all game long as they picked up five sacks.

“The big thing was that we wanted the quarterback uncomfortable and I think that was the key,” said Law.

“I ran a three-front and I never had to get to a four-front. We were putting on pressure that way. Our goal was to keep a quarterback like that uncomfortable and they did and it worked for us.”

Hun can’t start feeling comfortable about things as it plays at high-powered Lawrenceville (3-2) on October 26.

“We know we have a test against Lawrenceville, that is going to be a major emotional game for us,” said Law.

“We are going to use this as our foundation to move forward. I have a lot of confidence now that they will compete. If they compete and they take the right mental approach to the game, we are going to show up and that is all we can do.”

Sharp, for his part, believes that the Raiders will compete very hard against the Big Red.

“We are going to practice harder than we did this past week,” maintained Sharp.

“It was a great confidence builder but we are staying humble and we are not going to get too cocky with it. We are just going to come out strong.”

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19.(Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

LONG TERM SUCCESS: Former Hun School football head coach Bill Long, center, holds one of the mementos he received last Saturday when he was honored for his outstanding tenure guiding the program. Pictured with Long, from left, are Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk and school Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. Long, who retired from Hun this summer after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean, guided the football program from 1987-1997 and posted a record of 79-19. (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

As Bill Long enjoys his first fall in retirement after a distinguished 27-year career as a teacher, coach, and dean at the Hun School, he and his wife, Nancy, are heading west this week to start a six-week trip to Calgary, Seattle, and Arizona.

But before he left for that journey, Long was honored last Saturday by Hun for his success in heading the Raider football program from 1987-1997.

The school held a ceremony for Long at the halftime of the Hill-Hun football game, where he was introduced by Athletic Director Bill Quirk and given an ‘H’ made out of wood from the old gym floor and painted red and black.

After the game, a reception was held in his honor on campus, which drew numerous former players and his coaching staff. He received a lamp made out of a Hun football helmet and signed by former players along with a book of letters from players who couldn’t make it back for the evening.

Long, who retired after the 2012-13 school year, was moved by the outpouring of affection.

“What was particularly nice is that the impetus came from past players,” said Long, a 2004 inductee to the Hun Athletics Hall of Fame who guided the Raiders to a 79-19 mark in his 11 seasons at the helm.

“They talked to Nancy, they wanted to surprise me at the Nassau Inn during the summer camp. Nancy contacted Bill Quirk and he suggested that we do something at Homecoming so others could come.”

While Long enjoyed the mementos he received, the biggest gift he got on Saturday was the presence of so many former players and his assistant coaches.

“There were 80-100 people at the reception with around 40-50 players and all of my assistant coaches,” said Long, who was the Dean of Students at Hun upon his retirement and now lives on the Jersey shore.

“I had 12 minutes to speak. I worked three hours in Ocean County Library on Friday preparing the speech, making sure I mentioned all of the people that were going to be there. The main thing I said was that it was my honor and privilege to work alongside every one of the players and coaches.”

For Long, it was his work ethic that helped set him apart as one of the top football coaches in the area.

“I would work all day Sunday on football and I would be thinking about it 24 hours day,” recalled Long, whose teams won more than 20 games in a row during a stretch from 1989-1991 and had three undefeated seasons with five state Prep A crowns.

“I would wake up thinking where a guy could be better on punt coverage than someone else we were using. It was all consuming.”

Spending all that time on football was a labor of love for Long, who is legendary for his positive influence on his players.

“It was the relationships with the players and the assistant coaches that meant the most,” said Long, noting that one of the highlights of his tenure came in 1994 when his son, Bill, served as a team captain.

“I thank my wife Nancy for being a great mother and raising our kids while I was raising other people’s kids.”

October 16, 2013
TURNING IT ON: Princeton University defensive back Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, former Pennington School standout and sophomore star Gaffney contributed a key interception and four tackles as Princeton rallied from a 20-11 deficit to defeat visiting Lafayette 42-26. Gaffney’s interception was one of three turnovers produced by the Tiger defense in the second half. Princeton, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, plays at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TURNING IT ON: Princeton University defensive back Anthony Gaffney surveys the action in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, former Pennington School standout and sophomore star Gaffney contributed a key interception and four tackles as Princeton rallied from a 20-11 deficit to defeat visiting Lafayette 42-26. Gaffney’s interception was one of three turnovers produced by the Tiger defense in the second half. Princeton, now 3-1 overall and 1-0 Ivy League, plays at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton University football players arrived for work last Saturday before their game against visiting Lafayette, they were greeted by a message from Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book, David and Goliath.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace hung a quote in each locker indicating that courage is not something that makes you brave when the tough times start, it is “what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they are not so tough after all.”

Having gone 1-9 in back-to-back seasons before posting a 5-5 record last fall, the team’s veterans weren’t fazed when they fell behind Lafayette 20-11 in the first quarter last Saturday. Picking up the intensity on defense and finding a rhythm offensively, the Tigers pulled away to a 42-26 win before a crowd of 7,494 at Princeton Stadium.

Afterward, Surace credited his team with displaying the character it has developed in working through the program’s recent struggles.

“I told the guys in the locker room how proud I am of them,” said Surace, whose team improved to 3-1 overall with the victory.

“That was kind of exciting going into halftime. This is the type of football that you play, with two good teams and for us to play that well in the second half, as a football coach, you are proud in how you finished the game. In that fourth quarter, some of things we did in running the clock out, just those gut check drives, those are the things you work on from spring ball, December, January, and February, all the way through to the summer time. The work that these guys put in, you want it to pay off. That was a really hard fought win and I am proud of them.”

The Tiger defense fought particularly hard as it rebounded from a shaky first quarter that saw it get burned by local product Ross Scheuerman, a former Allentown High star, who scored on touchdown runs of 69 and 18 yard in the first 10 minutes of contest.

“I think they really came together,” said Surace, reflecting on the defensive effort. “It is a mix of veterans and young guys. I thought once we started humming up front and the pass rush got better, it really helped us get off the field. I thought we did some different things in our scheme and our coaches in general made some really good adjustments.”

Sophomore defensive back Matt Arends said the Tigers made an attitude adjustment to slow down the Lafayette offense. “I would say the biggest thing is that we weren’t gap responsible for the first quarter,” said Arends, who ended the day with a team-high 10 tackles and one pass breakup.

“We weren’t being as physical as we could have been. Once we decided we could just take it to them up front and at the second line, we hit it. The big cutbacks and the gap responsibilities that we didn’t have in the first quarter, we fixed, and I think that is what made the difference.”

In the second half, the defense made a big difference through forcing turnovers as John Hill and Anthony Gaffney came up with interceptions while Mike Zeuli had a fumble recovery.

“I think the biggest thing is that we knew they were coming, it was just a matter of when they were going to come and they came today,” said Arends, referring to the caused turnovers.

“They came in bunches which is what we have been talking about. We have been close. In practice, we are always working on stripping the ball. Today it finally hit. It was great to see and I think what we saw was just keeping the defense motivated and that we could just pound them.”

While it almost seemed like a quiet day offensively after exploding for 53 and 50 points the prior two weeks, Princeton pounded Lafayette into submission with its multi-faceted attack.

Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly had another productive day, hitting on four touchdown passes and running for another as Princeton rolled up 447 yards of total offense.

But it was junior receiver Connor Kelley who was most emblematic of Princeton’s versatility, producing a career game with eight receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.

“I think the way our offense is designed, a lot of guys are contributing,” said the 6’2, 220-pound Kelley, who started his Princeton career as a quarterback before getting moved to receiver.

“We are working extremely hard all week long in practice. That is just how it works. Anybody can have that kind of game at any time, that’s what makes our offense great. Up front, those guys are workers. If the running game is not really working, we have other options. People are stepping up all over the field. I think this game is big evidence of that.”

Princeton certainly stepped up after the rocky start against the Leopards. Epperly hit Roman Wilson with a two-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter to cut the Lafayette lead to 20-18. With seven seconds left in the half, Nolan Bieck hit a career-long 40-yard field goal to give Princeton a 21-20 lead at intermission.

In the third quarter, Princeton cashed in on the Gaffney interception to extend its lead. Four plays after former Pennington School star Gaffney returned the pick to the Lafayette 20-yard-line, Epperly found Kelley in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass as Princeton went up 28-20.

Lafayette answered with a touchdown pass from Andrew Dzurik to Mike Duncan on a flea flicker to narrow the gap to 28-26 with 9:03 remaining in the third quarter.

Later in the quarter, the Tigers put together another scoring drive as a 29-yard pass play from Epperly to Kelley on a fourth down and five kept the march alive. Epperly hit tight end Des Smith on a five-year scoring strike as Princeton got its lead to 35-26.

The final score of the day came when Epperly rushed for a one-yard touchdown with 9:02 remaining in regulation.

Princeton was able to run out the last 5:50 of the contest, rushing the ball eight times in nine plays as the clock hit 0:00.

Surace enjoyed watching the Tigers close the deal with the display of power running. “Will Powers and different guys just ran the ball so hard at the end; our line came off the ball so well,” said Surace, whose team heads into the thick of its Ivy League campaign by playing at Brown (3-1 overall, 0-1 Ivy) on October 19.

“We come into tomorrow with a good feeling, this is what it is going to take to beat other Ivy teams. I know how physical Brown is; I know how hard they play. We need to be like that every drive if we are going to have success. The last time we played them there, it was one of the ugliest losses. That was a 34-0 loss, that  was a really hard feeling, that was a long bus ride.”

In Surace’s view, the earned courage from that experience will help the Tigers this Saturday and beyond.

“I don’t see a blowout left on the schedule,” maintained Surace. “If it happens, I hope it is in our favor. If we are going to get through these games, we need a thick skin. In those gut check moments, you have got to get the first down on third and one and run through things.”

HEADS UP: Princeton University men’s soccer player Chris ­Benedict, left, battles a foe in action earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior back Benedict helped key a superb defensive effort as Princeton tied Brown 0-0. The Tigers, who moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play with the draw, host Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HEADS UP: Princeton University men’s soccer player Chris ­Benedict, left, battles a foe in action earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior back Benedict helped key a superb defensive effort as Princeton tied Brown 0-0. The Tigers, who moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play with the draw, host Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Jim Barlow, seeing his Princeton University men’s soccer team achieve a 0-0 draw at Brown last Saturday provoked decidedly mixed feelings.

“We played really well against Brown; it was disappointing not to win,” said Princeton head coach Barlow, whose team outshot the Bears 21-10 as it moved to 4-5-1 overall and 1-0-1 in Ivy League play.

“I thought we were on top of them for most of the game. We had more chances and more possession. In the second overtime, Brown picked it up; they had two really good chances so we could have lost the game.”

Senior goalie Seth MacMillan stood tall for the Tigers as he made a career-high six saves in the stalemate.

“MacMillan played well,” said Barlow. “He was in control of the box, he did well on restarts and crosses.”

In Barlow’s view, his team played well collectively in the draw. “The two center backs, Billy McGuinness and Josh Miller, were really good,” said Barlow.

“You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t play well, everyone who got in did well. Myles McGinley played well and had a lot of chances. Thomas Sanner had four good chances. In the OT, he had a one-on-one and he kicked it into the goalie instead of finding the corner like he usually does. He was definitely a presence up front, he got on the end of a lot of balls.”

In Barlow’s view, Princeton has definitely picked up the intensity since a 1-0 defeat to Florida Gulf Coast University on September 29.

“We were really disappointed with that loss,” said Barlow. “From that game on, we have been more consistent and more solid. We are healthier and the guys have figured out their roles and responsibilities.”

A come-from-behind 2-1 win at Dartmouth in early October got Princeton headed in the right direction.

“We had a good first half and they had one shot and scored,” recalled Barlow.

“We were down 1-0 at halftime and the guys stuck with it and had a really big win. To start out with road games against Dartmouth and Brown, who are usually title contenders, and not have a loss is good. We feel good about where we are; we are in control of things.”

Barlow feels good about how his defense is playing as it has given up just one goal in its last three games.

“The defense had been good. In addition to the center backs, Joe Saitta has played real well at left back, the two Ivy games were his best games of the season,” added Barlow.

“Chris Benedict was really solid against Drexel [a 1-0 win on October 8] at right back and did well again on Saturday.”

With the first six teams in the Ivy League closely bunched, Princeton will need to be at its best as it hosts Columbia (5-2-2 overall, 0-0-2 Ivy) on October 19.

“We scrimmaged Columbia this year and we know them well,” said Barlow, noting that the program will be holding a ceremony at halftime of the game to honor its 1993 NCAA Final 4 team. “They are a very solid team, they are very good.”

ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROARING ALONG: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Rory Lewis slams a backhand in a match earlier this season. Last Monday, junior Lewis posted a straight-set win at second singles to help Princeton top Steinert 5-0 and win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While Rory Lewis is affectionately known as “the machine” by her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team due to her unyielding work ethic, she views the time spent on the game as a labor of love.

“It is not really training to me, it is just fun,” said junior Lewis, who plays second singles for PHS.

“It is a break from school and all those other things. I love to do it and you get better if you work at it so that it is a good by-product. It is just about loving to do it.”

Last Friday, Lewis had plenty of fun as she posted a 6-1, 6-1 win over Artemis Tapliga of Wall as the Little Tigers posted a 5-0 win in the Central Jersey Group III sectional semifinals.

On Monday, she defeated Rachael Peters 6-0, 6-0 as PHS topped Steinert 5-0 to win its third straight sectional title and earn a date in the state Group III final four, which is slated to take place on October 17 at Mercer County Park. The Little Tigers, now 15-0, will face Chatham, the North Jersey Section 2 champion, on Thursday morning with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon against the victor of Montville-Moorestown semi.

In reflecting on her win in the Wall match, Lewis credited a positive approach with helping her prevail.

“I just came out aggressively; I was confident in my strokes,” said Lewis. “That is the most important thing in tennis and it was working. I played well.”

For Lewis, moving up to singles from doubles this year is a reflection of her increased confidence.

“It was a big change but last year I got a lot of confidence,” said Lewis. “My doubles partner, Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas], was great. She really helped me build my confidence. In the beginning of preseason, I really wasn’t sure of my strokes. She helped me gain the confidence needed to play in any spot. When I got second singles this year, I was glad and I decided I had to step it up and I was able to.”

In order to step up in her new spot, Lewis has learned to deal with the solitary nature of singles.

“You have to pump yourself up more, especially if you are down,” said Lewis, who took third in second singles at the Mercer County Tournament last month.

“You don’t have somebody out there giving you advice. At the same time, you get used to it. Obviously, it means you moved up, and you have to stay focused and not feel alone and just enjoy it. I have been through a few rough patches where I am not so sure but I have been able to pull through most of the time.”

Lewis was pumped up to see PHS pull through in the state tournament. “It is awesome; it is a great experience,” said Lewis. “We all love tennis and it means we get to play more. It is fun, it is great.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert loved seeing her team advance. “Any time you are able to get to a sectional final you are pleased with the result,” said Hibbert, whose first singles star Christina Rosca is in the running for another title as she will play in the state singles final on October 16.

“I knew we had a lot of potential this year and it would come down to how we could get the doubles players fitting into their roles. We obviously have strength at the top of the lineup with Chris and Katelyn [Hojelbane] returning and Rory making the jump up from doubles. One of the things we do best is carry depth through our lineup. I knew that the doubles [Zhenia Dementyev/Gillian Samios at first doubles and Allison Hubert/Nikhita Salgame at second doubles] would be a key to our season and they have come together really well so far.”

A key to PHS’s success this fall has been Lewis’ development into a singles star. “I think the biggest thing she has improved on this year is her confidence,” said Hibbert.

“She has really been able to play up to her level. Last year, she came in and she didn’t play as well during preseason because of the nerves and the pressure she puts on herself. I think partnering with Maddie helped her. Maddie was such an outgoing aggressive, terrific person that it kind of pulled Rory along. She has more confidence and belief in herself. She has really been able to translate that into winning matches. She still puts pressure on herself and she still wants to win and work as hard. She is the first one there; she is always willing to work harder and do more. She is a good asset.”

Hojelbane had to work hard in her match at third singles as she rallied from an early deficit to pull out a 6-4, 6-1 win over Shaina Donner.

“I went out there when she was down 4-1. I could tell it was just nerves and not tennis right now so I said you just need to relax, move your feet, hit your shots and play your game and don’t look at the scoreboard and you will be able to come back,” recalled Hibbert.

“She won 12 out of the next 13 games so she listened quite well and got herself relaxed and was able to play her game. It is nice to have that taken care of because doubles is funny, the better team doesn’t always win. You always want to have confidence in your team but it is always nice when you can just watch.”

Hibbert is confident her team can take the final step in the state final four, having fallen in the semis in 2011 and then in the finals last year. “It depends on matchups; we were hoping it was a possibility,” said Hibbert.

“We take it one match at a time and see how it goes. Five of these girls played in the states last year and I think having that experience and being as close as we were last year and we just missed out on it. I know they are going to want it just as much, if not more. It may or may not happen. There are a lot of strong teams out there. We want to get there and see what happens.”

Lewis, for her part, believes that the strong bonds the team has developed this fall lead the players to compete harder for each other.

“It is support all around; we give each other a lot of support,” said Lewis, noting with a smile that every player on the team has a nickname.

“That is part of it, you have to feel like your team has confidence in you, and that win or lose, they are not going to care. It is just about friendship and being really close. We have gotten closer with each match and it is great.”

 

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PAW PRINTS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Shannon ­Pawlak goes after the ball in recent action. With junior star Pawlak having scored 21 goals, PHS has produced a 9-1 start. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track as they host Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Shannon Pawlak and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ soccer were frustrated as they found themselves locked in a 1-1 halftime tie at WW/P-S last week.

“For some reason, we got off to a really slow start,” said PHS junior forward Pawlak.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on. We knew coming off the field that we were better than how we were playing and we can do better than this.”

Midway through the second half, Pawlak got PHS feeling a lot better as she slotted home a feed from Ally Rogers to give the Little Tigers a 2-1 lead.

“Ally Rogers hit a really good cross to me and luckily I was just running in the middle and got in front of the defender and was able to play it in,” recalled Pawlak.

“It was a simple pass in. It was a really good play by Ally and a good possession by us. It gave us hope because we kept breaking their defense and we kept getting shots and we knew it was coming and to finally get it was definitely satisfying.”

Minutes later, Pawlak enjoyed another satisfying moment as she buried a penalty kick to give PHS a lead of 3-1, which turned out to be the final score of the contest.

“Usually I go low right but now my strategy is to look and see what direction the goalie leans in right before I kick it,” explained Pawlak. “It is kind of how I feel.”

With 21 goals in this season and 13 in the team’s last six games, Pawlak feels good about the way her teammates are setting her up.

“I have been having a lucky season but along with that, the way we play as a team is helping me,” said Pawlak, who chipped in an assist last Thursday as PHS topped WW/P-N 2-0 in improving to 9-1.

“It is not just me who is making the goals; it is the whole team as a collective unit. By building through the defense and building through the midfield and Ally giving me great crosses, that is mainly where my goals are coming from. It is the work of everybody else.”

Pawlak, though, acknowledges that she has taken a more cold-blooded approach this fall around the net.

“I think I am just creating a lot more opportunities than last year,” said Pawlak.

“I am a little bit more selfish in front of the net, which just comes with the position.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand believes that Pawlak’s diligence alone has helped to create a lot of scoring chances for the Little Tigers.

“Shannon never stops working, she is in a spot where you are going to fail a lot more than you are going to succeed; I think she knows that,” said Hand.

“She is intense on the field. She is terrific, she makes great decisions. We just need to have one or two players there that she can play to if she doesn’t like where she is. She paid a lot of dues since last season. She has worked very hard to become stronger, more agile, and develop every dimension of the game of soccer. Everything we are seeing this year is a product of that hard work since last year.”

Hand liked the good work he saw from his players in the WW/P-S game as they picked up their intensity after the sluggish first half.

“Several kids just really stepped up in the second half and really had an impact on the momentum of the game in the first few minutes,” asserted Hand.

“Haley Bodden was a great ball-winner in the midfield. Dana Smith was just really organizing things throughout that second half and finding players and relieving pressure. Ally Rogers had some fantastic crosses, she has shown us a knack for getting around players and getting crosses in. The quality of the crosses that she served today is something that any forward would like to have.”

With the county tournament starting later this month, Hand believes his squad has the quality to be a title contender.

“We’ll be in the mix; the one-goal games that we have won we could have lost had luck gone the other way,” said Hand, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 17 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 22.

“I love the fact that we seem to be able to compete with everybody and at least make a game of it and find ways to create against them. We are still working on our defensive team concept.”

Pawlak, for her part, is confident that the team can emulate last year’s stretch run which saw the program win its first sectional title.

“We have been playing similarly to last year, I think we have the same amount of talent,” said Pawlak.

“I think as we keep progressing through our games, we can go as far hopefully.”

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAC ATTACK: Princeton High field hockey player Campbell McDonald goes for a hit last Thursday against Princeton Day School. Junior star McDonald scored the winning goal in the contest as PHS rallied to edge PDS 2-1. The Little Tigers, now 10-3-1, host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament where PHS had been seeded third and will host No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High field hockey team fell behind 1-0 at Princeton Day School midway through the second half last Wednesday, Campbell McDonald and her teammates weren’t about to back down.

“We were concerned but I think in moments like that our team steps up and plays the best game they can,” said McDonald.

“It does wake us up a little bit. It woke us up and I think that is what inspired us to push even harder than we already were.”

Moments later, PHS was able to push in two goals as Lucy Herring scored with 12:21 left in regulation and then McDonald found the back of the cage with 3:17 remaining to notch the game-winner as the Little Tigers pulled out a 2-1 victory.

“I was thinking when the corner went off that we have to get it in this time so I knew my job was to get to pads and Elisa [Kostenbader] was getting to post,” said McDonald, reflecting on her tally.

“We had perfect passing in the end and all that passing added together and we got that clean first shot.”

In McDonald’s view, the first goal from Herring proved to be the turning point for the Little Tigers.

“It was a big spark,” said McDonald. “At that point we were just hitting it into the pads and we didn’t know what was going to happen and to see it go through and Lucy get that touch was just so exciting. It just sparked everything for everyone.”

Even though the Little Tigers had only lost twice this fall with PDS having six defeats as the teams hit the field, McDonald was expecting an exciting game.

“We came into this game knowing that it was going to be tough and we were going to go back and forth,” said McDonald.

“There was no outcome that we could predict at that point because either team could have won.”

With the teams knotted 0-0 at halftime, PHS knew that it had to pick things up to avoid an upset.

“We communicated a lot better, which was one of our goals,” said McDonald. “We were just getting passes off and we were being clean and crisp, which was exactly what we needed to do.”

Having tallied two goals and an assist in the three games leading up to Wednesday’s clash with the Panthers, McDonald has been playing crisply.

“I know that sometimes it is hard because when you play for a club team you need to learn to adjust and change,” said McDonald, who competes for the Princeton field hockey club which is headed by Princeton University head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“I think when I feel like I am ready, I just start playing and everyone starts playing with me. I fit everyone’s mold and then they fit mine.”

PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that it took a while for her team to start playing well against PDS.

“Every year it is a challenge for us to get past PDS,” said Serverson. “I don’t think this year was that much different. They played a really tight game, they have very good sticks, and they stop everything. We had to adjust to that. We weren’t playing our game at first. We were kind of reacting to them as opposed to doing what we know we do best and we finally got our act together.”

Showing its maturity, PHS reacted well when it fell behind. “I think that ability to come back is something I have been working on with this program over years,” said Serverson.

“I think it is finally at the point where I don’t have to prompt them or get them excited. They just know we need to respond to that now, we need to turn it on right now.”

It was not surprising to Serverson that Herring and McDonald tallied the PHS goals in the rally.

“Lucy is a scrappy player, I love it,” said Serverson. “She is always there when she needs to be there with the proper execution. I couldn’t ask for more from her. I think Lucy and Campbell are very similar. She is usually on, they rarely have a bad game. When they are on together, it is wonderful.”

Junior forward Elisa Kostenbader, who assisted on both Little Tiger goals against PDS, has been on in recent action.

“Elisa definitely has been contributing more and more in terms of scoring and assists,” said Serverson. “She has been working hard at it and it has been paying off.”

With PHS seeded third in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and hosting No. 14 Notre Dame in the opening round, Serverson is hoping her team’s hard work collectively will pay off with a deep run in the tourney.

“We have two losses to two very strong teams in the area,” said Serverson, whose team picked up a third defeat on Monday when it fell 2-1 to Hightstown last Monday to move to 10-3-1 and will host Hamilton on October 16 before starting play in the MCT.

“I think we have learned lessons from those losses because they were early on and we have made the adjustments. If we are playing the Princeton game, we are going to be hard to stop. We need a tight defense with quick, crisp passing.”

McDonald, for her part, believes PHS will be hard to beat in tournament play.

“We are very excited; I think the postseason is something we look forward to from the beginning,” said McDonald.

“We think about the season as preparation for postseason because every year we want to get farther and farther. I think we improve more and more every year and we have successfully gotten further so hopefully we can get one more step or a few more steps in the right direction.”

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON PACE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Mary ­Sutton heads to the finish line in a recent race. Junior standout Sutton helped PHS take fourth last Saturday in the Fall Classic Varsity A race at Thompson Park in Lincroft. Sutton placed 11th overall, covering the 3.1 mile course in 20:09. Sophomore Lou Miahle led the way for the Little Tigers, taking 10th in 20:06. In upcoming action, PHS competes in the county meet on October 25 before starting state competition with the sectionals in early November. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High girls’ cross country team won the Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational earlier this month, it gave a potential preview of things to come.

“All season we have been talking about gearing up for some of the bigger meets,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk.

“Everyone is talking about South (WW/P-S) but we think we can make a name for ourselves. The Shore race was an example of that; we want to race tough courses to show that we are tough runners.”

Last weekend, PHS learned that it has to be tougher as it took fourth in the Varsity A race at the Fall Classic at Thompson Park in Lincroft.

“Middletown South looked good, they have a lot of juniors and seniors,” said Smirk, referring to the second place team in the race won by Jackson Memorial. “We showed our youth yesterday. We need to be ready to risk more in the middle of the race.”

Smirk is looking for his top runner, sophomore Lou Miahle, to risk more at the head of the PHS pack.

“Lou ran really well at the Shore meet, she has taken a big step” said Smirk. “There are parts of her racing strategy that she needs to execute better so she can get to an even higher level and she knows that.”

Junior star Mary Sutton has steadily worked her way to a very high level. “Mary Sutton has talked about how the next two years are going to be her time,” said Smirk. “Over the summer, the team worked out together and took the initiative to get better and Mary was doing things on her own to improve. She has been patient in getting better and that goes hand in hand with her durability. She is not forcing the issue. At the end of last season she was a little impatient and she didn’t do as well as she would have hoped. We have talked about that.”

Former soccer player and 800-meter specialist, junior Paige Metzheiser has shown marked improvement at the longer distances.

“One of the great things about Paige is that we had Libby Bliss, the best 800 runner in PHS history, and I can say to Paige this is what she did in cross country,” said Smirk.

“Libby’s role was not to be our No. 1 but to be a solid third which is what we want from Paige. We want her to be within 15-20 seconds of the top two. We have had a couple of races where she has been right on Mary’s shoulder and they ran well together.”

The team’s top returning performer, junior Julie Bond, is racing well as she works to get up to full health and full speed.

“Julie Bond has been working through some inner leg injuries,” said Smirk. “We want to give her an opportunity to get back to full strength. We have been racing her in big races so she doesn’t get rusty. We want her to be right when it means the most.”

PHS has gained additional strength from the contribution it is getting from freshmen Maddie Whaley and Izzy Trenholm.

“It is no surprise that Maddie Whaley is doing well, not just because of her older sisters but because she is also a competitive swimmer,” said Smirk.

“Izzy has been a little bit of a surprise. She ran a 20:40 at a race and I asked if she had ever run before and she said she had done track and her best time in the mile was 7:40. She reminds me of Elyssa Gensib [former PHS star and current Penn runner], she comes to the mile marker with a smile on her face, she is happy being out there racing. She has a joy in getting better. It can get serious so that is good to see.”

Another pleasant surprise for the Little Tigers has been sophomore Emma Eikelberner.

“Last year, Emma ran a 19:25 in a 2.5 mile race; on Saturday, she ran a 21:17 in 3.1 mile race,” said Smirk. “She is phenomenally fast compared to last year. She was the quintessential person who had never run before and then came out to race. She worked through the winter and spring to turn herself into a varsity runner. She is blossoming into a varsity runner.”

In Smirk’s view, PHS can blossom into something special as it competes in the county meet on October 25 and then starts state competition with the sectionals in early November. “I think our depth is really going to come through,” said Smirk.

“Of our top 12 runners, the only senior is Belinda Liu. They are eager and focused. If we run the way we did at Shore Coaches, we can give South a run for its money at the counties. I think the 4-5-6-7 runners could make a difference in a meet like that where the top runners are going to be separated.”

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ALL IN: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Allison Klei chases down a ball in action earlier this season. Last Wednesday, freshman standout Klei scored a goal to help PDS top Peddie 2-0. The Panthers, now 11-0-1, host New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Determined to rebound from a frustrating 2012 campaign, the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team got off on the right foot this fall.

PDS opened the season by edging a powerful Wardlaw-Hartridge squad 1-0 in early September and hasn’t looked back, notching one big win after another.

Along the way, PDS has posted victories over such formidable foes as the Hill School (Pa.), Hun School, and the Lawrenceville School.

Last Wednesday, the Panthers took one of its biggest scalps so far as it posted a 2-0 win over the Peddie School.

“The girls were really excited,” said PDS head coach Pat Trombetta. “That was a very big win for us. I was told that we haven’t beaten Peddie in 15 years.”

It was exciting for Trombetta to see the PDS goals in the win come from a pair of freshmen, Allison Klei and Alexis Davis.

“Allison is a solid player, Alexa Soltesz missed four games and Allison has stepped up to striker,” said Trombetta, whose team topped Villa Victoria 5-0 last Friday to improve to 11-0-1.

“I can play her anywhere on the field. Davis had been getting a lot of opportunities early on but things weren’t going in for her; she scored a huge goal that put the Peddie game away. She got a good cross from Kirsten and stuck her foot out and hit it with confidence.”

Trombetta has certainly gained a lot of confidence in his team as the season has unfolded.

“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Trombetta. “The seniors are all having their best years and that is nice to see. The juniors have matured a lot, there is a big difference between the way they were as sophomores and how they are now. We have two sophomores who are playing well. We have nine freshmen and six of them are seeing a lot of time.”

Stingy defense has been making a big difference for the Panthers as the team has surrendered only two goals so far this fall.

“The defense has been great, everyone playing in the back has been very good,” said Trombetta. “Steph Soltesz has been great at sweeper, Brit Murray at left back has been great attacking up the field. We moved Erin Hogan to right back and she is doing the same things that Brit does. Lily Razzaghi has been at stopper and center mid; she battles every minute she is on the field. Kirsten Kuzmicz always gives 110 percent. She battles in the air and you really need a player like that. She had a beautiful header for a goal against Lawrenceville.”

At the offensive end, PDS boasts a variety of weapons as Alexa Soltesz, Eloise Stanton, Murray, Kuzmicz. and Klei have all proven to be threats around the net.

“We are a well-balanced team,” said Trombetta “We have a lot of players who can find the back of the net. We have a bunch of girls with five or six goals.”

As Trombetta looks ahead to the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney, he believes his team can get a bunch of wins. “We are hoping to get a high seed and take it from there,” said Trombetta, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 18 and Pennington on October 22.

“We are happy with the development of the players and the team chemistry is the best I have seen since I have been here.”

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING OUT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan looks for the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star midfielder Brennan scored a goal to help PDS upset South Hunterdon 5-3 as the Panthers improved to 6-7. In upcoming action, PDS hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Tracey Arndt realized that her Princeton Day School field hockey team faced a major challenge when it hosted cross-town rival Princeton High last Wednesday.

“We knew Princeton was going to be a great team, they always are,” said PDS head coach Arndt, whose team entered the day with six losses on the year while PHS had only two defeats on its ledger.

“We saw them in the summer when we were training and then we saw them in the preseason so we just knew that it was going to be a battle.”

PDS showed its fighting spirit against the Little Tigers as the game proved to be a taut contest from beginning to end. The teams were knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime. The underdog Panthers took a 1-0 lead midway through the second half on a goal by senior star Mary Travers. The Little Tigers, though, responded with two goals down the stretch to pull out a hard-earned 2-1 victory.

Afterward Arndt spent extra time consoling her disappointed players, lauding them for their effort in a losing cause.

“One of our focuses was to keep possession and do what is best for each other, make each other look good,” said Arndt.

“Except for the result, I am really proud of how our girls played. It was a matter of pulling it together and making it really cohesive. I think they kept possession so well. We were knocking on the door and we got one in during the second half, which was awesome.”

A day later, the Panthers broke through with a signature win, posting a 5-3 victory over a South Hunterdon squad that brought a 12-1 record into the contest. Senior star Emma Quigley scored two goals in the victory while classmates Emily Goldman, Sarah Brennan, and Travers added one apiece with junior goalie Katie Alden making 10 saves.

In Arndt’s view, the skill and leadership of her quartet of senior captains, Brennan, Goldman, Quigley, and Travers, has held the team together through the ups and downs of a fall that has seen the Panthers go 6-7.

“The four of them have been tremendous,” asserted Arndt. “I think they all have great skills and leadership on the field. I have asked so much of them. I have asked them to play several different positions. I have asked them to do things off the field because I am not in the building. I think the world of them. They have been great athletes and people.”

With the county and state Prep B tournaments around the corner, Arndt believes her team can do some great things in the postseason.

“I say we are in a good situation,” said Arndt, whose team hosts New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on October 16 in its regular season finale before starting action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded ninth and will be playing at No. 8 and defending champion Lawrenceville.

“As a coach, you always want to peak at the right time. I absolutely think we tried our best today and we had really awesome moments of hockey so I am really proud of the girls and I am looking forward to the games to come.”

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING HIS WAY: Hun School boys’ soccer player Felix ­Dalstein dribbles the ball up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Dalstein and the Raiders fought hard but came up short as they lost 2-1 in overtime at the Blair Academy. Hun, now 4-7, hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 19 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep A tourney. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Showing its potential, the Hun School boys’ soccer team recently reeled off a three-game winning streak as it bounced back from a 1-4 start.

But in the last week, Hun has slipped, losing three straight games with its latest defeat coming when it fell 2-1 at the Blair School in overtime last Saturday.

Hun head coach Pat Quirk acknowledges that he has been frustrated by his team’s failure to build on the run of good form. “It was a confidence builder,” said Quirk, referring to the winning streak. “We were taking so many steps forward and now we took a step back with the Blair game.”

While Quirk had no qualms with his team’s effort against Blair in its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) opener, he noted that Hun wasn’t sharp when it needed to be.

“It was not the result we wanted,” said Quirk, who got a goal from Andres Gonzalez in the loss to Blair which left the Raiders at 4-7.

“We got off to a slow start, they got a goal in the first two or three minutes.  We were able to tie it but we couldn’t convert our chances later on. We hit a post and we hit some wide. There was a mix up on a free kick at the end which led to their goal.”

The Hun defense has been unsettled as senior goalie Chris Meinert was sidelined after a 5-1 win over the Princeton Day School on October 2.

“Chris Meinert suffered five fractures in his face in the PDS game,” said Quirk.

“We brought Taylor Heilman in because had played some soccer before. He made 20 saves against St. Benedict’s in his first game. He is still learning the position. Chris is hoping to be back in a week or so. He should be back just as we start the county tournament.”

Quirk is confident the Raiders can get back on the right track. “I think we just need to regain some confidence,” said Quirk.

“We have a week off before our next game against Hill on Saturday. We have a few things to work on, starting with our finishing. We will be working on conditioning until Thursday. We need to work on defending free kicks and corner kicks.”

The team is relying on its trio of senior stars, Bailey Hammer, Felix Dalstein, and Gonzalez, to give it some good work.

“Bailey and Felix need to step it up, they have to realize that they are seniors and this is it for them,” said Quirk.

“They have the ability to play at an exceptional level. When they elevate their game along with Andres Gonzalez, the rest of the team does too.”

With the Raiders competing in the upcoming Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep A tourney as well as going for the MAPL crown, Quirk knows that his team has plenty to play for.

“I am getting excited about the county tournament,” said Quirk. “I think we could get a seed in the middle and we have a chance to win some games. I tell the guys they have three opportunities to make a name for ourselves with counties, Prep A, and MAPL.”

October 9, 2013

sports1Things didn’t start off well for the Princeton University football team last Saturday as it hosted Columbia in the Ivy League opener for both squads.

In its first possession, Princeton went three-and-out with two incomplete passes and a three-yard run. Minutes later, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot as they had two touchdowns called back due to penalties and then missed a field goal as the game remained scoreless midway through the first quarter.

But those early stumbles seemed like ancient history by the end of an afternoon that saw Princeton roll to a 53-7 rout of Columbia, piling up 629 yards of total offense in the process as it improved to 2-1 overall while the Lions dropped to 0-3.

In so doing, the Tigers made history as their 53-point output was the second straight game in which they hit the 50-point mark in the wake of a 50-22 win over Georgetown on September 28, marking the first time the program has scored at least 50 points in back-to-back games since the 1907 campaign when it did so against Bucknell and Wesleyan.

While junior quarterback Quinn Epperly, who triggered the onslaught as he threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more, was proud of the team’s historical accomplishment, he doesn’t think fans will have to wait for a century to see more such offensive fireworks.

“It is what we have been practicing for,” said Epperly, who connected on 19-of-25 passes for 272 yards and rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries.

“We knew what we were capable of. We knew this is what should be the usual and we haven’t been performing up to the standard in years past. This is really just the beginning of what should be a very high scoring offense.”

In Epperly’s view, the team’s offensive prowess comes down to a simple formula.

“I think it is just hard work,” said Epperly, who was later named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

“We have been up here, not just me, but almost all of the guys have been up here all summer, working and throwing multiple times a week and working out everyday. I think the work that we have put in is finally starting to pay off. It is not finished nor have we done much so far you are starting to see a little bit of what it is about and how it is paying off.”

A beaming Princeton head coach Bob Surace was pleased with the second straight 50-point outburst but sounded a cautionary note.

“I told the guys I was proud of them,” said Surace. “You can’t take anybody lightly, especially us from what we have been through. We need to continue to practice well, we need to practice with effort and play focused football. I told them that I am going to watch that video and there are going to be as many corrections this week as there have been. We got a punt blocked; we had scores called back because of penalties. Our kickoff coverage was inadequate so we are going to work on some things and we have to keep improving. The teams we play week to week are going to be quality opponents and we have got to get better.”

Although the Tiger offense turned heads, Surace was quick to credit the defensive effort as Princeton held Columbia to five first downs, -6 yards rushing, and 139 yards of total offense.

“It is a team thing, it is not just the offense.” asserted Surace. “When we struggled and had an early drive and didn’t get much and then we had two scores taken off the board and then missed a field goal, we just kept playing. The defense kept getting the ball back so I do think there is a team concept to that. I think they really complemented each other well. It seems like that is the best we have played since I have been here in forcing three-and-outs.”

Senior linebacker Jason Ray, who had five tackles on the day, said the defense did gain strength from offense’s dominance.

“When they have long drives, we have more time to rest,” said Ray. “Since Lehigh, we really had a focus of getting off the field on third down. When we are fresh coming out there after the offense scores on a 12-play drive, it makes a big impact on us because we are able to give it all we have on those three downs and get off the field.”

The first of those long scoring drives came late in the first quarter when Princeton marched 85 yards on seven plays to go ahead 7-0 after Epperly hit Roman Wilson with a 13-yard touchdown pass.

The Tigers ended the quarter in the middle of a drive which culminated with an Epperly touchdown run of three yards to make it a 14-0 game with 14:26 left in the half. That march covered 62 yards on nine plays.

Princeton increased its lead to 22-0 when it went 80 yards on 10 plays as Epperly hit Seth DeValve for a 20-yard scoring strike. Tyler Roth hit Joe Bonura with a pass for a two-point conversion.

Epperly ran and passed the Tigers down the field on its next possession. The junior lefty rushed for 19 yards and threw for 30 more as Princeton marched 63 yards in 13 plays, scoring on an Epperly pass to Wilson to put the Tigers ahead 29-0.

After Columbia struck for its only score of the game on a 70-yard pass play, the Tigers were on the move again. With Epperly finding Matt Costello for a 39-yard pass play, Princeton got to the Lion 20. For the third time of the half, Epperly  chucked a TD pass to Wilson, this one covering 20 yards as the Tigers took a 36-7 lead into intermission. Senior Wilson ended the day with  nine catches for 144 yards and those three touchdowns.

In the second half, Princeton pounded Columbia into submission, scoring on an Epperly one-yard TD run and a Nolan Bieck field goal in the third quarter to make it 46-7. Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore Dre Nelson got loose for the Tigers, racing 55 yards to the Columbia nine and then sprinting to paydirt on the next play for the final score of the day as Princeton eclipsed the 50-point mark to go up 53-7.

Basking in the glow of the win, Surace pointed to the team’s unity as a key factor in its success.

“Everybody is together in the locker room after a game or a practice. That is the only way you can work with multiple quarterbacks, multiple receivers, multiple running backs. You really see a true team. Alex Ford is getting a pick at the end and the guys are going nuts. Having played on some good teams and having coached some good teams, that camaraderie is important. They are not all going to be like this. There are going to be a lot of tough, tight games.”

With Princeton hosting a tough Patriot League foe Lafayette (1-3) this Saturday, Surace is determined to keep his team from resting on its laurels.

“There is that phrase, you are either coaching it or allowing it to happen,” said Surace.

“Last week, everybody is patting our guys on the back and everybody is telling them how good they are. I know the errors that we made. You are not going to win games against certain teams if you have a blocked punt. If you can’t execute field goals better, that is not going to happen. When you get points taken off the board twice in a series, that is a hard thing. So we have corrections to make if we are going to play better against Lafayette.”

Epperly, for his part, believes that Princeton is primed to play better and better as the fall unfolds. “I definitely think that we are all very confident and know what we can do,” said Epperly.

“I think now it is just going out and proving it and with every win, I think more confidence is going to come.”

 

sports2Cassidy Arner has been around the Princeton University field hockey program for nearly half her life.

As a middle schooler, she watched her older sister, Candi, a star for Princeton from 2005-09 who was a two-time All-Ivy League performer.

The younger Arner kept the family’s Princeton tradition alive, joining the Tiger program in 2011.

After making 31 appearances off the bench in her first two seasons with the team, junior Arner has worked her way into the starting lineup this fall.

“I have been coming to games for so long and I always wanted to be part of it,” said Arner. “It is a great thing for me to finally be on the field. This feels awesome.”

Last Friday against visiting Columbia, Arner did some great things for 11th-ranked Princeton, scoring two first half goals as the Tigers overwhelmed the Lions 5-0, improving to 6-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

In reflecting on the tallies, which were her first two scores of the season, Arner said she was in the right place at the right time.

“It happened really quickly; Amanda Bird just gave an amazing aerial over to me,” said Arner, assessing her first goal, which came just 24 seconds into the contest.

“I could not have asked for a better pass or a better set-up. I was just lucky to be there. That play on the second goal was just an amazing give and go from Allegra Mango. Again, my teammates just set me up perfectly. That is the great part about being on Princeton field hockey.”

A recent change of position from defense to midfield has helped Arner take a bigger part in the Tiger attack.

“This is my second game playing midfield; I was defense before at the beginning of the year,” said Arner.

“I am really liking it. It has taken some getting used to, hopefully this trend continues. I think it definitely helps my confidence; it is always nice to score. It was just getting used to the position and getting used to taking shots, which is not something I have been doing in the past.”

In the win Friday, Princeton peppered Columbia, building a 31-4 edge in shots on the evening as it scored its five goals in the first half and cruised from there.

 “We did a really good job of clicking and persisting in the circle, which is what we talk about a lot in practice,” said Arner.

“Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] always says be strong on the ball in the circle, don’t let it out. I think tonight we were really threatening in there for the first time.”

Holmes-Winn, for her part, liked the way her team attacked the game. “We just wanted them to be really decisive within the parameters of the game plan,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from junior Allison Evans in the win over the Lions with freshman Cat Caro also scoring as defending national champion Princeton won its 16th straight Ivy contest.

“I think we did a very good job of stretching Columbia out and playing the simple ball, which is something we have been talking about, and training on a lot. I thought they performed well, especially in the first half.”

Arner’s performance certainly gave the Tigers a lift. “Cassie has been playing halfback for us and she has been working really hard since moving to that wing position,” said Holmes-Winn.

“She was very threatening, which is something we have been asking that position to be. She delivered so that was really good to see.”

Princeton also played some really good defense in the victory over the Lions.

“It starts with the strikers and goes through the midfield and the backs,” said Holmes-Winn.

“When you defend, it is absolutely a team effort and every single line is responsible for getting good pressure on the ball and making sure that we are layering in behind. I thought that was a real highlight.”

While Princeton has been under pressure, having lost three of its last five games coming into Friday, Holmes-Winn believes her squad is heading in the right direction.

“We haven’t turned the corner yet but I think we are getting closer,” said Holmes-Winn.

“This team has a major upside, which is so encouraging. We just have to keep prioritizing and just kind of tic-tacking our way through the things we know we need to do better to get to that next level. We are nowhere near our potential, which is really exciting. We have to keep making progress, though.”

Noting that the team’s losses came to Top-10 teams (Penn State, Syracuse, and Connecticut), Holmes-Winn believes those setbacks could sow the seeds for  success later in the season.

“I never like to lose and I don’t think you have to lose to learn lessons,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team is next in action when it plays at top-ranked Maryland (10-0) on October 11 and at Delaware (8-3) on October 13.

“You play those teams so you can learn about yourself. It’s not about where we are now; it is about where we are in November. We need those games so we understand what we can do and what we can’t do. Then we can kind of create around those boundaries so we are playing within our means because that is critical in terms of long term success.”

In Arner’s view, the win over Columbia is a harbinger of good things to come.

“I think this was a step forward for our confidence and just knowing that we are able to be scrappy like that,” said Arner.

“It is really going to count in the games coming up. I think all the pieces are definitely there. It is just about coming to the game with the mentality we had in the first half here, attacking, threatening, and playing with confidence.”

 

sports3As the Princeton High boys’ soccer team has dealt with losing 12 seniors from last year’s state championship team, the defense has been a particular area of concern this fall.

The Little Tigers, who tied Ramapo 1-1 last December in the state Group III finals, lost their whole starting backline to graduation.

For Dalton Sekelsky, who moved into the starting center half position this fall for his senior campaign, there were some nervous moments early on.

“I thought there would be a little bit of trouble,” said Sekelsky. “We saw that in the first week of preseason in the summer but we have pulled it together and we are pretty solid.”

Last Thursday, Sekelsky and the PHS defense showed that it is becoming more than solid as the Little Tigers blanked Steinert 2-0. It was the fifth straight shutout of the Little Tigers, who last surrendered a goal against Hightstown on September 10 in the first half of a 2-1 win.

In Sekelsky’s view, the clean sheet against Steinert was another step forward in the growth of the new defensive unit.

“It has been a good development for them coming into this season,” said Sekelsky.

“They are pretty big kids. They are pretty good with the ball, they don’t lose it too much.”

As the veteran member of the backline group, Sekelsky has taken extra responsibility on his shoulders. “I try to keep everybody focused in the midfield and the back,” noted Sekelsky.

The Little Tigers had an extra motivation to win the game in the wake of PHS christening its new turf field in late September.

“We wanted to win this game and keep a tradition going on this new turf,” said Sekelsky. “None of the soccer teams or field hockey has lost on it yet.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that his team faced a fight with the Spartans as the teams have traditionally played hard-fought battles.

“It is always a good test, always a very close game,” said Sutcliffe.

“Last year, I think it was 1-0 us in the second overtime. Credit to Steinert and their play, I just thought we found a way to win today.”

With the game knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime, PHS ratcheted up its intensity over the last 40 minutes of the contest.

“I felt like we got a little more familiar with things as the game went on,” said Sutcliffe.

“We pressed on; we were able to find one another better. We were able to get into the front third and hit the final pass a little better and find one another a little better.”

PHS broke the ice when freshman Andrew Goldsmith tallied his first career goal with 16:50 remaining in regulation.

“There was a good bit of play that preceded the goal,” said Sutcliffe. “Nick Halliday hit a good square ball to him and credit to Andrew for hitting a first-time, left-footed shot off the post. He will remember that for a long time.”

The combination of seniors Kevin Halliday and John Blair produced some good play in tallying the second goal as Blair chased down a ball and then Halliday volleyed a shot that deflected off a Steinert defender and found the back of the net.

“Kevin’s mentality in and around the area is to let it fly and take some chances and that is what happens sometimes,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped Ewing 4-0 last Thursday to improve to 7-1-1 with Blair contributing a goal and two assists and Halliday adding a goal. “But credit to John Blair for really doing the hard work prior to that, that really put us in a good spot.”

Sutcliffe likes the mentality his rebuilt defense has been showing as it has now gone nearly a month without yielding a score.

“We keep working hard to improve on that; we are fine-tuning things,” said Sutcliffe. “I am very proud of another clean sheet. It is a lot of progress.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, Sekelsky’s improvement is a big reason for the success of the defense.

“Dalton has been fantastic, he just keeps getting better and better every week,” said Sutcliffe. “His feet are getting better, his touch is getting better. He is just reading the game and the little nuances of the game.

Junior goalie Laurenz Reimitz has also been a bright spot, getting better and better with a year of starting experience under his belt.

“What a great stride Laurenz had made; all credit to him, he has worked so hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“In training, we have really emphasized hitting a lot of flighted balls into him and putting him under pressure. He is doing well in commanding the box and communicating with the back four. He has put himself in a position where we not only trust him, but we can relay on him in a big game. I am so happy about that.”

With his team riding an 8-game unbeaten streak, Sutcliffe is very happy with how things are going.

“We are so focused on the little things on the field,” said Sutcliffe, whose team plays at WW/P-N on October 12 before hosting Nottingham on October 15.

“The record is one thing and that is the most important thing in the end. In terms of our quality, we are playing better soccer. We have been able to keep the ball primarily and have been better in and around the penalty area.”

Sekelsky, for his part, believes things are going to end well for the Little Tigers this fall.

“I am pretty sure we can go for a state championship again,” said Sekelsky. “This is how we started out last season and we are going in a good direction.”

 

Start of boys raceWhile Mark Shelley is hoping for good results in his first year guiding the Princeton High boys’ cross country team, he is more focused on building the foundation for success.

“I am process-oriented,” said Shelley, who joined the program as an assistant coach last year before replacing John Woodside as head coach this fall.

“I don’t talk about beating WW/P-S, for instance, I talk about running the best race possible. I am really focused on daily development. We really, really try for a developmental approach: we try to not put pressure on the runners.”

Last Saturday, PHS handled the pressure of the Shore Coaches Invitational with aplomb, taking third of 24 teams in the Varsity C race.

“We had a lot of guys set personal bests at Holmdel and others got their first experience. Our No. 3 runner [Kevin Vahdat] dropped out due to a leg problem, which was smart. If he had run his regular race, we could have won.”

Junior star Jacob Rist ran a terrific race, taking fifth overall in a time of 16:53.

“Jacob is very coachable,” said Shelley. “He listens carefully and asks good questions about training. He has perfect running form. Last year he was in the high 18s at the Shore meet and was at 17:30s in the state meet so he improved by 30 seconds. Breaking 17 at Holmdel is legit.”

PHS boasts another legit star in battle-tested senior Conor Donahue, the eighth-place finisher at the Shore meet in a time of 17:04. “Conor is very knowledgeable about the sport,” said Shelley.

“He understands his body and the difference between being sore and injured. He struggled with quad tightness and Jim Smirk has really helped him with that. Conor has been a leader for us, not just in running. The seniors have done a very good job working with the younger runners and setting a good example. Cross country is a sport that requires a lot of self-discipline.”

Freshman Alex Roth has done a good job of following the example set by the PHS veterans, taking 18th last Saturday in a time of 17:37.

“He has taken off tremendously, he has been in the low 17s,” said Shelley, noting that the program has a good group of freshmen, including Ty Watsky, who ran an 18:15 time in the JV race at the Shore meet.

“We are trying to keep him within the process. He was hurt a little bit and we had him ride the bike for a few days so he could get his legs back. Alex has been humble; he doesn’t say a lot, he just goes about his business.”

With the county and sectional competitions coming up in a few weeks, Shelly is hoping that his team can take care of business when it counts most.

“I want them to be fast at the right time,” said Shelley, who hopes to have Vahdat and senior Anders Berg at full health in time for those events.

“We have the potential to be competitive in the big meets. To win an elite race, we have to have all our key runners do well on the same day. We want to run our best races at the right time; that is the goal going into the counties and sectionals.”

 

sports6When Neeraj Devulapalli started doing volunteer work five years ago for the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton (NJTLT), his focus was local.

“I liked the experience and what I started to realize is that the kids at NJTLT only played once a week when they were there,” said Devulapalli, a senior at the Princeton Day School and a boys’ tennis star for the Panthers.

“They had no opportunity to carry it on outside of that, like they can with a sport like basketball. They have the tennis courts at Cadwalader Park but they didn’t have the equipment. They couldn’t just go across the street and get a tennis racket. I wanted to make tennis more accessible. I wanted it to be a more common sport in the area.”

As a result, Devulapalli started gathering tennis equipment for the Trenton youths, putting out collection boxes at the Garden State Tennis Academy in Edison where he trains.

But as Devulapalli got involved in that effort, he realized that the needs stretched far wider than the Trenton area.

“I did a lot of research online and found others doing the same thing,” said Devulapalli.

“I didn’t want to send the equipment to one place,
I wanted to make it a broader, more global thing.”

As a result, he created “Game Set Health!,” a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and donating used tennis rackets, balls, and equipment across the globe to those in need.

To date, Game Set Health has donated over 1,000 tennis balls, 150 rackets, and other equipment such as shoes, clothes, and strings to New York, Florida, Kenya, India, and Canada in addition to New Jersey.

“The first shipment went to New York, Florida, Canada, and Kenya,” said Devulapalli. “It was 40 balls, 40 rackets, other equipment.”

In order to make that donation, Devulapalli had to navigate through logistical and financial issues.

“I went to UPS in North Brunswick and the first shipment was going to cost $2,000 if they shipped it,” recalled Devulapalli.

“They agreed to pack it for free and then I took it USPS in Kendall Park and we sent it at the less expensive USPS rate. It is a drill now.”

Getting the 501(c)(3) charter status for his organization was another challenge for Devulapalli.

“In the summer after my freshman year, the organization was formally started,” said Devulapalli.

“The 501(c)(3) process takes a while. There is a lot of paper work and it is hard for an underage person to get it started. I needed five adults over 21 who weren’t family to support me.”

Devulapalli has found support for his efforts across the world. “We have formed a network of tennis charities,” said Devulapalli, whose group is global partners with the Victoria Tennis Academy in Kisumu City, Kenya.

“We will have 4-way Skype conference with one guy in Italy and another in Atlanta to talk about ways to increase shipments and figure out more organizations to get involved.”

The recipients of the equipment have shown their gratitude in a number of ways.

“The most prevalent follow-ups are in the form of pictures,” said Devulapalli. “The guy from Kenya is really good about that. The kids are really underprivileged there; they are not only getting rackets and balls, they are getting clothing. I have pictures of kids wearing the clothing to school. The places in Florida and Toronto send me letters; the kids thank you so much.”

Devulapalli is thankful for the equipment donors who have stepped up. “It is a really good feeling, it is great to see how willing people are to help,” said Devulapalli, noting that he has received equipment from as far away as Arkansas and Ohio. “I can see that people care so much.”

While Devulapalli is heading off to college next fall, he is more than willing to maintain the organization.

“I am 100 percent planning to keep this going when I am in college,” said Devulapalli, who is opening a website, gamesethealth.org, and hopes to organize a tennis/soccer tournament at PDS to raise money for the effort.

“My parents and family have really helped a lot. My mom knows the shipment drill. I am trying to recruit members by trying to get local involvement in schools.”

For Devulapalli, managing the organization has definitely been a labor of love.

“It is a year-round enterprise,” said Devulapalli. “I spend 15-20 hours in a tough week and 6-8 hours in other weeks. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to have a global impact. It is fulfilling; it is fun.”

 

For much of the first half last Wednesday, the Princeton Day School boys’ soccer team held its own as it hosted cross-town rival Hun.

After surrendering a goal at the 12-minute mark, PDS tightened up defensively until the waning moments of the half when Hun tallied with 3:20 remaining to take a 2-0 lead into intermission.

The roof fell in for the Panthers in the beginning of the second half as they surrendered two goals in the first three minutes on the way to a 5-1 loss.

PDS head coach Malcolm Murphy acknowledged that it was a tough day for his side.

“It was one of those games, the changes of circumstance hurt us,” said Murphy.

sports5“We tried to play out of the back and I thought for 15 minutes we were keeping the ball very well. One thing happens and because of the youthfulness of the side, they panic and can’t settle down any more.”

The combination at forward of junior Marco Pinheiro and senior Culver Duquette were on the ball as they put pressure on the Hun defense.

“I think Marco and Culver certainly led the line,” said Murphy, who got a goal from Pinheiro in the second half of the Hun game on a penalty kick.

“They were enterprising, they were creative. They brought a new dynamic. They went at them and did not let the opposition settle. They kept the speed of the game up; the tempo was tremendously high. They brought in a lot of subs by then but it still didn’t change the dynamic. They were keeping their back four honest certainly.”

Along the backline, junior Christian Vik provided some dynamic play for the Panthers.

“We took one of the forwards, Christian Vik, and put him at central defender,” said Murphy. “He played extremely well back there.”

With PDS hosting Rutgers Prep on October 10 before playing at Pennington on October 15, Murphy is hoping that his squad will show some forward movement.

“Now with the accumulation of injuries and just moving people around, we have got last year’s midfield and forwards playing in the back,” said Murphy, whose team was missing five players due to injury last Saturday as it fell 5-0 to the Lawrenceville School to drop to 3-5-2.

“It will work itself out and if it doesn’t this year, it will give them some experience for next year. They are a young squad. There is still hope. You play it as it goes.”

 

sports7Even though the Hun School girls’ soccer team lost 4-2 to Pennington School last week in falling to 0-7 on the season, Joanna Hallac liked what she saw from her players.

“We came out playing real hard,” said Hun first-year head coach Hallac, whose team led 2-1 at halftime against Pennington. “We didn’t hold on to the lead but it gave the girls hope and motivation.”

Last Friday against visiting Springside/Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.), Hun came out hard again and took a 1-0 lead at intermission. This time, the Raiders built on the halftime advantage and pulled away to a 4-0 victory.

“We were really due for a win and the girls were convinced that it would come on Friday,” said Hallac, who got goals from Marleigh Nociti, Ashley Maziarz, Jess Johnson, and Tanya Clark in the triumph.

“We put it all together for 80 minutes. We were playing well from the start but at halftime I told them we were letting Springside hang around and we needed to play even better. We played a great second half and really took care of business. It was really nice to see.”

Two of the team’s veterans, senior tri-captain Olivia Braender-Carr and junior tri-captain Maziarz, have been doing well for the Raiders.

“I have tried Braender-Carr in the midfield but she makes such good runs out of the back and distributes the ball so well that I am keeping her on defense,” said Hallac of Braender-Carr, who tallied two assists in the win on Friday.

“Ashley Maziarz has come back and having her out there is a calming presence; she settles things through the back and the midfield.”

Some of the squad’s younger players are calming down on the field. “Abby Gray has been close to scoring, she is really coming along,” said Hallac of the freshman, who picked up an assist against Springside.

“Marleigh Nociti has been playing well.  She is really fast and she is using her speed to her advantage. She is not just firing shots, she is combining.”

Hallac and her players were fired up to break into the win column. “It was a relief,” said Hallac, who previously served as a head coach at Weston High (Conn.).

“It is hard going into a new situation and knowing what they have done in the past and what the expectations are. The girls really needed this. They have been playing well but they needed validation in the form of a win.”

In the wake of the victory, Hallac is hoping her team can start rolling as it opens its Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) campaign this Saturday at the Blair Academy.

“I told them I would rather peak in the middle and at the end; we are heading into the meat of our schedule,” said Hallac.

“We need to work on consistency of effort and consistency of play. We need to play the ball on the ground and possess it offensively. We have talked about capitalizing on opportunities, both on mistakes by our opponents and when we get a shot. We also can’t make lapses that give the other teams chances.”