December 4, 2013
BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball player Josh McGilvray looks to to pass the ball in a game last season. The 6’8 senior center figures to be a key player for Hun as it looks to build on last winter’s success which saw it win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and post a 20-6 record. The Raiders tip off their 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BIG MAC: Hun School boys’ basketball player Josh McGilvray looks to to pass the ball in a game last season. The 6’8 senior center figures to be a key player for Hun as it looks to build on last winter’s success which saw it win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and post a 20-6 record. The Raiders tip off their 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming together at the right time, the Hun School boys’ basketball team produced a memorable stretch drive last winter.

The Raiders won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament and advanced to the championship game in the state Prep A tourney, ending the winter with a 20-6 record.

As Hun gets ready to tip off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at The Phelps School (Pa.) on December 5, Raider head coach Jon Stone is seeing some carry over from last year’s success.

“I think some guys got good experience last year and they will be taking it into this year,” said Stone, who welcomes back six returning players. “We did some good things last year and I think we can build on them.”

A chief building block for the Raiders this year will be senior Josh McGilvray, an imposing 6’8 center.

“Josh is doing well, he has continued to grow and develop,” said Stone, who is in his 14th year at the helm of the Hun program. “He is strong on defense and I think we are really going to need that.”

The Raiders have some other strong options in the frontcourt with post-graduate forward Remi Janicot, senior David Li, and senior Taylor Heilman.

“Remi is going to have a big role,” said Stone. “David Li continues to grow. He brings energy and he has the ability to score. Taylor didn’t get a lot of minutes last year, we are looking for him to play a bigger role.”

Hun boasts plenty of ability in the backcourt with the quartet of senior Michael Bourke, senior Jason Geter, junior Eric Williams, and post-grad Daniel Osley.

“We are looking for Bourke to be a mainstay for us,” asserted Stone. “Geter had been a starter for a year, he is a glue guy for us. Williams has improved a ton. Osley should help a lot. He is 6’3 and a slasher. He is long and can be a playmaker.”

Stone is confident that his squad can improve as the season unfolds. “We have good balance and good depth; we have a different personality than last year and that is fine,” said Stone.

“We are competing at a high level, we always play a tough schedule and I think it is even tougher this year. Like other years, I think we have a lot of potential, we have a lot of nice pieces. We need to bring it together and develop chemistry and see leadership.”

UP-TEMPO: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown races up the court in a game last season. Senior forward Brown gives Hun versatility in the frontcourt with her speed and inside-out game. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

UP-TEMPO: Hun School girls’ basketball star Erica Brown races up the court in a game last season. Senior forward Brown gives Hun versatility in the frontcourt with her speed and inside-out game. The Raiders start their 2013-14 season by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The hurry-up offense has become the rage at all levels of football and the Hun School girls’ basketball team is planning to take a page out of the gridiron playbook this winter.

“I want us to really push the ball and try to score a lot on transition,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup, who guided the Raiders to a 14-11 record last year and is entering his 15th season at the helm of the program.

“We have a lot of girls who can handle the ball and run the court. We have speed and we need to utilize it. We have girls who can get up and down the floor.”

Holup is looking for senior guard Anajha Burnett to be a floor general for the Raiders.

“Anajha is a leader by example,” said Holup, whose team tips off its 2013-14 campaign by playing at Friends Central School (Pa.) on December 4.

“She had games last year where she really stepped up. She had a big game against Mercersburg where she had 12 assists. She is accepting of her role, whether it is coming off the bench or starting.”

A pair of juniors, Erica Dwyer and Janelle Mullen, should play a big role for the Raiders this winter.

“Erica is a three-year starter; she has really matured over the last two years,” said Holup.

“She has started since she was a freshman. She has the ability to hit shots. She is unselfish. She has a lot of experience. Janelle has ability on offense and she causes matchup problems on defense. She is long and can guard either small or big guards. On a zone, she causes problems with her long arms. She has the ability to get set and hit long shots.”

The Raiders has three sophomore guards with ability in Amber Bourke, Jess Johnson, and Maura Kelly along with senior Bella Cura.

“Amber played for Mt. St. Mary’s last year; she can push the ball up the floor and attack the basket,” said Holup. “She can shoot the 3. She will be seeing stronger competition than she has in the past so she will have to get used to that. Jess is coming off a good soccer season. She has a fractured wrist right now and is seeing the doctor on December 1 or 2 so we hope she gets cleared then. Bella is in her fourth year and she is much more aggressive. She is putting up her shot.”

In the frontcourt, Robert Morris University-bound Johnnah Johnson will provide plenty of aggressiveness in the paint.

“Johnnah is all set for college so she can go out and just play basketball,” said Holup. “She has more of a midrange jumper this year. She is a senior and has been has been working out for four years; her strength is  tremendous. She is a legit D-1 basketball player. She is more aggressive on rebounding and she is smarter on the fouls. Last year, she realized that it was better for her to be on the court and she was much better on not getting in foul trouble.”

Senior Erica Brown will give Hun’s foes plenty of problems with her all-around game. “Erica Brown has the ability to put the ball on the floor,” said Holup. “She can really run the floor in transition and lead the fast break. She has an inside-out game and she is versatile. She is also unselfish. She is a smart player with a high basketball IQ.”

Hun has two other inside options in 6’3 freshman Clare Maloney and sophomore Maura Kelly.

“Clare Maloney has talent right now; she gives us good size,” said Holup. “She is raw but she has played AAU ball so she has experience. She gives us a lot of size, she will help us a lot. Maura Kelly is coming off of field hockey; she is an athlete. She will complement the other girls, she will get on the boards, both offensively and defensively.”

In Holup’s view, the Raiders can have a good winter if they complement each other across the board.

“The girls need to be on the same page,” said Holup. “We have talent but they need to stick together and play together. I am very optimistic that we can have a strong season. I am happy with the kids we have; they are working hard. We need to use the talent that we have in the best way.”

November 27, 2013

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 21-0 at Dartmouth last Saturday, it wasn’t fazed.

After all, Princeton had rallied from a 17-0 deficit at Brown in October and roared back for a 39-17 win and had dug a 16-0 hole against Penn at Franklin Field in early November only to thump the Quakers 38-26.

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SLIPPED UP: Princeton University receiver Seth DeValve gets tackled in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DeValve caught nine passes for a career-high 115 yards but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 28-24 to Dartmouth in its season finale. The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Tigers’ ability to score in bunches through its hurry-up, no-huddle offense had thrust Princeton into the limelight as it had already amassed an Ivy League record 413 points and clinched a share of the league crown coming into the contest against the Big Green at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H.

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, for his part, was confident that another eruption was forthcoming.

“We had our best Wednesday of the year,” said Surace, whose team came into the game ranked 19th nationally among FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs.

“As the week progressed, I thought we were really peaking. We were hoping to play our best game of the year.”

Sure enough, Princeton started to chip away, narrowing the deficit to 21-14 at halftime as junior quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Roman Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter and then did a one-yard quarterback plunge for a score in the waning seconds of the half.

On the Tigers’ second possession in the third quarter  Epperly found Matt Costello for a 30-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 21-21.

Surace had a sense of deja vu at that point. “We needed to get moving forward; we were off on third down conversions,” said Surace. “But like the Brown and Penn games, we got on a roll. We got it to 21-21 and it looked like we were going to do it again.”

But this time, Dartmouth stemmed the tide, regaining the lead late in the third quarter as quarterback Dalyn Williams raced 17 yards for a touchdown. Princeton responded with a field goal midway through the fourth quarter but as a snow squall hit the field, the Tigers went cold and ended up losing 28-24.

The defeat combined with Harvard’s 34-7 win over Yale left Princeton as Ivy League co-champions as it ended the fall at 8-2 overall and 6-1 Ivy while the Crimson went 9-1 overall and 6-1 Ivy.

In analyzing the defeat, Surace said it came down to big plays. “They had four really long explosive runs; they had 150 yards on four runs,” said Surace whose team was outgained 239 yards to 140 on the ground.

“They also had a 56-yard TD pass. We had 55 plays of terrific defense, a few decent ones, and five bad ones. Offensively, we struggled to get chunk yardage plays. We had bad field position. We grinded out a lot of first downs.

On Princeton’s last possession, the Tigers couldn’t overcome bad field position as an Epperly pass was intercepted with 24 seconds left in regulation to seal the win for the Big Green.

“We had punted it to them deep in their territory,” said Surace. “They hadn’t gotten a first down in a while but they were able to get it to our 20. We got it at the 20 and there was a blizzard at that time. We needed some luck; it was tough sledding with the weather.”

While the defeat was a tough way to end the fall, Surace went out of his way in his post-game comments to focus on what had been accomplished in a special season as the program won its first league crown since 2006.

“We gathered them together and told them how proud we were of the season,” said Surace, a Princeton alum who became just the third person to ever win an Ivy League title as a player (1989) and a head coach along with his counterpart on Saturday, Buddy Teevens, who accomplished the feat for Dartmouth as a player in 1978 and as the Big Green’s head coach in 1990 and 1991, and Dartmouth’s Jake Crouthamel, a player for the 1958 championship team and a head coach with three Ivy championships for the Big Green from 1971-73.

“We thanked the seniors for all that they have done. They will never play for Princeton again and it was the last football game for most of them. It is a disappointing way to end but we came into the season with three goals to win the Big 3 (beating Harvard and Yale), win the Ivy, and get nationally ranked. The last one might be hard now but we accomplished the other two. We had two tough losses but we had eight wins in between and we have to remember those games. It is a long time since we have won the title and we have to be proud of that.”

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s success this fall came down to a collective effort.

“For me, what sticks out is how many people contributed to this,” said Surace.

“We have some players like Caraun [Reid] and a few others who are going to get some accolades but there were so many guys who stepped up. It really was a team thing. They do things the right way.”

With a good foundation in place, the Tigers are headed in the right direction. “Last year, all the games were battles that went down to the wire,” said Surace.

“This year we were lucky enough to get some separation in some games. We showed that we could compete with the Browns, Penns, and Harvards, week in, week out. We will give the players a week off and then after Thanksgiving, we will start getting ready for 2014. It is great to get this title in a league that is so good where there is such parity.”

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SAVING TIME: Princeton University men’s hockey goalie Colton Phinney makes one of his 31 saves in a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Quinnipiac last Friday. A day later, the freshman netminder made 32 saves to earn his first college win as the Tigers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Bobcats in a home-and-home series between the ECAC Hockey rivals. Princeton, now 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECAC Hockey, plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Colton Phinney faced a big challenge last Friday as he made the third start of his career for the Princeton University men’s hockey team.

The freshman goalie was between the pipes as the Tigers hosted a No. 5 Quinnipiac squad that came into Baker Rink riding an 11-0-1 unbeaten streak.

The Bobcats put Phinney under the gun from the opening face-off, generating 13 shots in the first period. The 6’1, 175-pound native of Chatham, N.J. was up to the challenge, turning away all the shots as the teams headed into the second period knotted in a scoreless tie.

“I was definitely excited,” said Phinney, reflecting on his mindset heading into the contest. “We were ready to go. We came out well, it was a 0-0 game. It was tough but we battled. I felt more comfortable as the game went on.”

In the second period, Phinney and the Tigers had a bad 30-second stretch as Quinnipiac scored a power play goal with 11:38 left and then added a second tally with 11:08 left. Princeton kept battling but ended up falling 3-0 as the Bobcats added a third period tally.

“You can’t be giving up two in a row,” said Phinney, who made 31 saves on the evening.

“We did a good job of settling down and keeping it 2-0. We had a good third period and they just had a another power play goal, I thought we battled hard.”

A night later as Princeton played at Quinnipiac in the home-and-home series between ECAC Hockey rivals, the Tigers showed a battling spirit, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to pull out a dramatic 4-3 win and snap the Bobcats‘ unbeaten streak. Phinney stood tall in the net again, making 32 saves to earn his first college victory.

“The whole game is a battle, every single play,” said Phinney in assessing the biggest challenges he has faced in moving up to the college level.

“Anything can happen. You blink once and it is in the back of the net. It is battling from the first minute to the last minute; you have to keep focused.”

Princeton head coach Bob Prier liked the way Phinney stayed focused against the Bobcats.

“Colton had a good game; he was composed,” said Prier. “I thought he held on to a lot of the pucks that were shot from the outside. I thought he kept it simple. He didn’t have to make too many big saves; I thought he controlled his rebounds pretty well.”

The Tigers kept Quinnipiac under control for most of the contest. “We got better defensively through the week and tonight,” said Prier. “Our defense did a good job of protecting the middle of the ice. It is something to build on.”

In the wake of the loss on Friday, Prier was optimistic heading into the Saturday rematch.

“I was proud of the way the guys battled and hopefully we will continue to make strides here; I thought that was one of our better games,” said Prier, who got goals from Eric Carlson, Jack Berger, Mike Ambrosia, and Andrew Ammon in the triumph on Saturday as the Tigers improved to 3-8 overall and 2-6 ECACH.

“We just have to have a good practice in the morning and make a couple of adjustments and get after them tomorrow night.”

In Prier’s view, Princeton needs to keep getting after it. “The guys are playing hard; we still have some instances where we overskated pucks and didn’t stop the puck,” said Prier, whose team plays at Michigan State (3-7 overall) on November 29 and December 1. “Things like that have to be sharpened; those habits have to be constant.”

Phinney, for his part, is getting sharper through competing on a daily basis against senior goalie Sean Bonar.

“It definitely makes me better, having to go hard every day in practice,” said Phinney. “He is unbelievable, so trying to compete with him has made me better. It makes it fun too.”

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAZEL EYES: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ben ­Hazel heads to the hoop in recent action. Junior guard Hazel played a key role in two wins for the Tigers last week, scoring a career-high 14 points in an 81-80 overtime victory against Lafayette on November 20 and then chipping in 11 points and seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 last Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ben Hazel and the Princeton University men’s basketball team got off to a slow start last Wednesday against visiting Lafayette.

Princeton trailed the Leopards 36-31 at halftime as junior guard Hazel was held scoreless in 12 minutes of action with only a turnover and a missed shot on his stat line.

Hazel acknowledged that it wasn’t the best half for the Tigers. “I definitely feel like we were sleepwalking, especially in the first half,” said Hazel, who was making his third career start after taking a year off from Princeton in 2012-13.

“We weren’t talking, we had missed communication and mental lapses, giving up open shots. That is more stuff that we need to correct than our offense. They made shots but we didn’t make it as tough as we should have.”

Hazel and the Tigers woke up in the second half. The 6’5, 181-pound native of Bowie, Md. scored 11 points in a 2:29 span to help the Tigers go from trailing 45-43 to up by 54-51.

Princeton built its lead to 66-57 before Lafayette rallied to force overtime with the teams knotted at 68-68 at the end of regulation. In the extra session, the Tigers forged ahead 77-72 and were able to hold on for an 81-80 win.

Hazel, who ended the evening with a career-high 14 points, was more focused on the team’s success than his breakthrough performance.

“I don’t really think it means so much for myself; it was a good win,” said Hazel, who produced another good effort last Saturday, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds as Princeton topped Rice 70-56 to improve to 3-1.

“My team called on me to make a few more shots so that is just what I tried to do in the second half. It is more of a team win than  just me shooting the ball. Guys contributed throughout the second half.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson wasn’t surprised that Hazel made a big contribution in the win over Lafayette.

“In all the shooting stuff that we do in practice, Ben is one of our top guys,” said Henderson. “He’s got a good feel for the game. I think that going forward, this is the third game in almost two years. Unfortunately I am not cutting him any slack for that. I have high expectations for Ben, I think he can be a very good player. I expect to see improvement game to game.”

Henderson expects to see the Tigers bring more passion to the court than they displayed in their uneven effort against Lafayette.

“I think we were very fortunate tonight,” said Henderson. “That’s a huge understatement. I think we were a little bit happy with the way that we played on the road against a Butler team. A really good Lafayette team had us and we were very fortunate to get the victory. That’s where I am going to leave it. There were some positives on our end but for the most part, we just didn’t approach the game the right way.”

Princeton is getting a positive contribution from freshman Spencer Weisz, who had 14 points in the win over Lafayette and then chipped in eight points and six rebounds in the victory over Rice.

“I think Spencer has an understanding, a feel for the game,” said Henderson.

“We really work hard on that and Spencer does that naturally, making reads, making the right plays. I like the way he talks, he can talk to these guys and tell them what he thinks and what he sees. That is important for us and I don’t care if he is a freshman. There are freshmen all over the country playing well. If he is good enough, which he is, he is going to play.

With senior guard T.J. Bray having been sidelined for the first three games due to a hand injury, other players have gotten the chance to show their game.

“It is a huge opportunity; I see it as a huge positive for us,” said Henderson, whose team plays at Bucknell on November 30.

“T.J. does so many things that we rely on and that’s taken away from you so what are you going to do when you really need a basket or you really need to come together and you really need someone to step up and say this what we are doing and this is how we are going to do it. I’d like to think there have been some really good positives from it.”

Hazel, for his part, has honed his shooting touch so that he can do well when offense is needed.

“I have been working pretty hard on it in practice and the offseason so when the time does come I am able to step up and do what I have to do to help the team win,” said Hazel.

It didn’t take long for things to go awry when the Princeton University women’s hockey team hosted No. 8 Clarkson last Friday.

The Tigers yielded a goal 29 seconds into the contest and found themselves trailing 4-0 after the first period. Things didn’t get much better after that with Princeton falling 7-0 as their five-game unbeaten streak was snapped.

In reflecting on the setback, Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal didn’t mince words.

“We didn’t show up to compete whatsoever,” said Kampersal. “We were bugs and Clarkson was the windshield. They basically crushed us from the opening shift on.”

As a result, Kampersal viewed the game against visiting St. Lawrence on Saturday as a referendum on his team’s character.

“Today was a test to see if we could bounce back and I think we did play hard,” said Kampersal.

While the Tigers trailed the Saints 1-0 in the early going on Saturday, they fought back to knot the contest at 1-1 on a goal by freshman forward Cassidy Tucker with 11:26 left in the first period. But St. Lawrence responded with a go-ahead goal 10 minutes later and went on to a 4-1 victory.

Although Kampersal was happy with the resolve shown by his team, he was disappointed to see his players whistled for seven penalties on the afternoon.

“We showed heart today,” said Kampersal, whose team was outshot 31-28 by the Saints.

“We need to play a little bit smarter; we need to be better disciplined. We had too many penalties.”

The Tigers surrendered two power play goals as playing shorthanded seemed to wear them down.

“The penalty killing was not good so we need to figure that out,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who dropped to 5-4-1 overall and 4-4 ECAC Hockey with the loss to St. Lawrence.

“Most teams score on scrums in front of the net on us. Somehow the puck ends up in the back of our net. We need to do a better job of clearing out and just being tough in general.

Princeton also needs to do a better job on the offensive end. “We had a couple of good chances here or there,” said Kampersal.

“I don’t know what happened; we just need to be a little bit stronger on the puck and more opportunistic.

As the Tigers look to get back on the winning track, the focus will be on being strong mentally and physically.

“They have to be tough, they have to be disciplined and they have to be competitive,” said Kampersal.

“So today, we were competitive but we weren’t very tough or disciplined. Yesterday, we were none of the three.”

Next weekend, the Tigers will need to display all three qualities in abundance as they play a two-game set on November 30 and December 1 at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (15-1).

“They are incredible, they had an incredible streak there (winning 62 straight games) and it should probably get more publicity than it did,” said Kampersal.

“They are obviously very well coached and they have great players. It will be a great rink with great fans. It will be a fun atmosphere to play hockey in.”

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BURNING DESIRE: Princeton University field hockey star Kelsey Byrne, left, battles a Duke player in a game this fall. Senior midfielder Byrne helped the Tigers go 14-5 this fall on the way to a ninth straight Ivy League crown and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the Princeton University field hockey team had a bull’s eye on its back this fall as defending national champions, the players didn’t view that as a burden.

“They are not fazed by pressure; they have so much pressure in the classroom that field hockey is an outlet,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“They have the right perspective, they are into it but they are not consumed by what other teams are doing. They go on their own path and it doesn’t seem to be important what’s happening externally.”

While that path included ups and downs this fall as the Tigers dealt with injuries and struggled to find the best combination, the players kept on task as the program won its ninth straight Ivy League title.

“They kept working throughout the process,” said Holmes-Winn. “We had injuries and other things that didn’t allow us to put our best team out there. It is about playing your best hockey at the end of the season. You have to be rested and ready to put everything into it.”

Riding a seven-game winning streak coming into the NCAA tournament, Princeton started its title defense facing a Penn State team that handed the Tigers a tough regular season loss.

Showing skill and resilience as Princeton All-American senior star Julia Reinprecht got knocked out of the game with a head injury, the Tigers prevailed 5-4 to avenge the regular season setback.

“As we prepared for the second game against Penn State, we realized there was nothing we could extract or gain from the first one because we had totally changed,” said Holmes-Winn, who got two goals from senior star Amanda Bird in the win over the Nittany Lions with Allison Evans, Cat Caro and former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland adding one apiece.

“We were able to put out our very best lineup. We thought we would match up well and we did. We peaked at the right time. We really improved in the front third, that reflected the work of the girls and the coaches.”

In its quarterfinal matchup against host and top-ranked Maryland, the Tigers fought hard to overcome the loss of Reinprecht but fell just short. Princeton led the Terps 1-0 and 2-1 before falling 3-2.

“When you take Julia out, we had to move a striker into the midfield; she is so influential at both ends of the field and on our corners,” said Holmes-Winn, who got goals from Evans and Sydney Kirby in the defeat as the Tigers ended the season with a 14-5 overall record.

“The team really rallied. I think the girls were inspired to get through the weekend so Julia would get to play again. Julia talked to the team and told them to believe, that they could do this. It is a marker of her character and who she is as a sportsman that she put the team first even though she was suffering. In order to compete effectively against Maryland, every single player had to lift her game.”

Holmes-Winn was proud of how her team lifted its game as it dealt with a regular season schedule that included eventual national champion Connecticut along with such other national powers as Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse, Penn Sate, and Maryland.

“The season put us in a position to play our best,” said Holmes-Winn. “They were focused at each phase and stayed in the moment. Every player gave her best effort in practice and in training.”

Princeton’s group of seniors, which included Allegra Mango, Michelle Cesan, Kelsey Byrne, and Christina Maida in addition to Bird and Reinprecht, gave a great effort over their stellar careers.

“They are irreplaceable in many ways, as a class they balance each other positionally and from a leadership perspective,” said Holmes-Winn.

“Each handles a different piece. Some are more off field leaders, others lead by their work rate on the field, others raise their voices, and some are more connected to the freshmen. It was great that the underclassmen got to learn from such a special group.”

In the view of Holmes-Winn, her group of returning players has the chance to do some special things.

“I think we have a lot of exciting playmakers; we have speed from top to bottom,” said Holmes-Winn.

“They just need to be more comfortable with the ball. When that happens, they can take information under pressure and assimilate it in games. If we can get that taken care of over spring and summer, we can be up at the level we want.”

STROKES OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand on the way to taking the title at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore Rosca went on to win the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship, earning the first state singles crown in program history.

STROKES OF BRILLIANCE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Christina Rosca hits a backhand on the way to taking the title at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore Rosca went on to win the NJSIAA girls’ singles championship, earning the first state singles crown in program history.

Christina Rosca made quite a splash during the fall of 2012 in her freshman season on the Princeton High girls’ tennis team.

The precocious Rosca placed second at first singles in the Mercer County Tournament and advanced to the semifinals of the NJSIAA state singles competition. Along the way, she led PHS to the state Group III team championship match.

Rosca’s accomplishments during her debut campaign, though, were only a harbinger for things to come this fall.

In late September, Rosca rolled to the MCT first singles title without losing a set. In the championship match, Rosca posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S.

Rosca was thrilled to reach the top of the singles ladder in the county.

“Last year, I was a little disappointed that I lost but there was no shame in losing to Sam [former Princeton Day School star and current Wake Forest player Samantha Asch] because she was an exceptional player,” said Rosca. “I am definitely happy that I was able to play well and do it.”

Three weeks later, Rosca proved that she is exceptional in her own right as she rallied from a set down to defeat Fair Lawn’s Valerie Shklover  3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the NJSIAA girls’ singles final to earn the first state singles crown in program history.

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 rallied after losing the first set in the semifinals 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.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert lauded the skill and attitude that Rosca brought to the court.

“Chris has continued to work hard,” said Hibbert, whose team again advanced to the state Group III team championship match.

“She has really upped all aspects of her game. She can put a lot of pace on the ball but she does have other options to fall back on as well. She is a team player as well. She enjoys being out there, rooting for the other girls. She wins her matches and she doesn’t take off. Instead she goes around and sees who else is playing which is really nice.”

For rising to the top of both the county and state singles ladder and making history in the process, Rosca is the choice as the Town Topics’ top female performer this fall.

Top Male Performer

When the Willingboro High band accidentally left its banner on the field after performing at halftime of the Princeton High-Willingboro football game in mid-October, PHS star Liam Helstrom gathered it up and ran it over to the musicians.

That moment was emblematic of a fall during which senior receiver/linebacker Helstrom did everything for the Little Tigers.

The 6’2, 190-pound Helstrom stood out on both sides of the ball even as PHS struggled to an 0-10 campaign.

On offense, Helstrom, grabbed 50 receptions for 853 yards and seven touchdowns. He was equally dominating on defense, making 110 tackles with four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

While Helstrom was disappointed by the steady diet of losing this fall, he never lost his hunger to perform.

“I am out there to play football; it is my senior year,” said Helstrom. “Even when I am down, I am still busting hard.”

Things were made harder for Helstrom as he switched positions on both offense and defense, going from tight end to wide receiver and from defensive end to linebacker.

“Playing tight end taught me a lot about using my hands, plus going into the weight room and thinking about going up against these big 250-pound guys, I had to lift a lot more,” said Helstrom, noting that he bench presses 285 pounds.

“Now I am out here against 150-pound kids running track. I have what they call deceptive speed.”

Helstrom also utilized his power and speed on defense. “They moved me to linebacker,” said Helstrom.

“I always thought of myself as more of a defensive end. So there are holes and cutback lanes that I find. Sam [Smallzman] is telling me what to do; he is a real good linebacker.”

Helstrom produced some monster games as the losses piled up. In a 27-14 loss to WW/P-S, he made seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown to go with 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Helstrom exploded for eight receptions, 185 yards, and two touchdowns in a 57-14 loss to Trenton. Against Lawrence, he made six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. In his career finale in a 28-21 loss to Marlboro in an NJSIAA consolation contest, Helstrom ended on a high note with five catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.

PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher noted that Helstrom turned a lot of heads this fall.

“You look at a kid like Liam Helstrom, he is out here having fun, he is out here playing football,” said Gallagher.

“I keep getting complimented by the refs, saying my God, your guys are fighting. Liam is a great football player, he loves playing football.”

For providing such production and spirit in the face of a winless campaign, Helstrom gets the nod as the top male performer this fall.

Top Newcomers

Before Princeton Day School cross country coach Merrill Noden even met freshman runner Morgan Mills, he had the feeling she might be something special.

“Morgan Mills moved here from London,” said Noden “She ran for a school there, St Paul’s, and the Thames Valley Harriers. I knew that if she ran for Thames Valley, she must be good.”

Mills turned out to be very good this fall for the Panthers. With Mills asserting herself as the team’s top runner from day one, the Panthers 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. Mills placed 18th in the Shore meet, clocking a time of 21:55 on the 3.1 mile course at Holmdel.

Mills then placed 35th in the Mercer County Championships with a time of 20:59 to help the Panthers take ninth in the team standings. The precocious Mills ended the fall by placing 10th in the individual standings at the state Prep B championship meet, posting a time of 20:40.50 over the 3.1 mile course at Blair as PDS took third overall.

“She is very competitive; she does most of her training with our boy runners,” said Noden of Mills. “She is also a very good competitive swimmer.”

For utilizing that competitiveness to get PDS on the right track, Mills is the pick as the top female newcomer this fall.

As he took the helm of the Princeton High boys’ cross country program this fall, Mark Shelley exercised caution with his freshman runners.

“I am really focused on daily development,” said Shelley. “We really, really try for a developmental approach: we try to not put pressure on the runners.”

One of Shelley’s freshmen, Alex Roth, though, proved to be up to the pressure of running near the front of the varsity pack.

Roth took 18th in the Varsity C race at the Shore Coaches Invitational held in Holmdel in a time of 17:37 in early October as PHS placed third in the team standings. He took 16th with a time of 17:11 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help the Little Tigers place second. Roth ended the season by finishing 51st at the state Group III in 17:16 as PHS took 11th overall.

“Alex has taken off tremendously, he has been in the low 17s,” said Shelley.

“He is so unflappable. He works hard and doesn’t seem to get too excited. We have been careful with his mileage and training.”

Roth’s instant impact for PHS makes him the choice as the top male newcomer.

Top Coaches

For the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer program, the 2012 season proved to be a nightmare.

Hampered by injuries and internal dissension, the Panthers slipped to a disappointing 4-9-4 record.

As a result, PDS head coach Pat Trombetta concentrated on getting the players on the same page.

“The team chemistry is excellent this year; that is due a lot to our leadership from the captains and the upperclassmen,” said Trombetta.

“Overall we have a strong upperclassmen group and they know with nine freshmen on the squad, they are taking them under their wings and being very good mentors and so forth. I like the way the girls are working together. It is a very close-knit group.”

As PDS got off to a sizzling 11-0-1 start, senior co-captain Britt Murray attributed the turnaround to team unity as much as skill.

“I think last year, our chemistry was not there,” said Murray. “We have tried to do a lot of team bonding; we are all just on the same page I think. On the field we always want to work for each other and not individually. No one is fighting or arguing; we just want to be like one team.”

Playing together, PDS proceeded to produce a dream run in postseason action. Getting seeded first in both the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney, PDS lived up to its billing.

In the MCT, the Panthers survived a scare in the first round, topping 16th-seeded Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. PDS gathered momentum from there, topping ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the quarters and then rallying for a 2-1 win over fourth-seed Princeton High in the semis to earn a shot at second-seeded Hopewell Valley in the title contest.

Before an overflow crowd at Rider University on hand for the championship contest, PDS broke open a scoreless nailbiter with two late goals to earn a 2-0 victory and the program’s first-ever county crown.

“This is for all the teams out there, the small schools that nobody looks at,” said Trombetta, during the raucous on-field celebration after the title game.

“The girls that might not be academy-type players but if you have a bunch of girls who have great team chemistry, it goes a long way. They have got so much heart and determination.”

In the Prep B tournament, PDS topped Rutgers Prep 3-0 in the semis. Facing Morristown-Bread less than 24 hours after their MCT triumph, PDS ran out of gas and just missed a title double as they fell 2-0 to the Crimson.

While Trombetta was disappointed by that result, the pluses far outweighed the minuses.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the performance of these girls and the team as a whole and the way they stuck together,” said Trombetta, whose squad posted a final record of 17-2-1.

“I told the seniors, regardless of how this stings, what you did this year, no other PDS team did. I am very happy for the seniors to go out this way.”

For getting his players on the same page and guiding them to a reversal of fortune that resulted in a championship campaign, Trombetta is the choice as top coach of a female team this fall.

Even after the Hun School boys’ soccer team fell 3-2 to Pennington in late September to fall to 1-4, Pat Quirk saw cause for optimism.

“I thought we played extremely well; it was a well-played game of soccer,” said Hun head coach Quirk.

“We did what we have been preaching to them which was to get creative around the goal and not just trying to settle on long balls. This is a team that is never going to give up and that stems from the seniors in the middle, Felix [Dalstein] and Bailey [Hammer].”

As Quirk left the field that day, he asserted his belief that Hun had the potential to do some damage in the Mercer County Tournament.

When the MCT rolled around in late October, not many shared Quirk’s view as his team was seeded 11th.

Getting matched in the opening round against No. 6 Princeton High, the defending Group III state co-champion and a perennial MCT finalist, it looked like the Raiders were headed for an early exit. But showing its grit, Hun prevailed 1-0 in overtime on a goal by Alex Semler.

In the quarters, the Cinderella ride continued as Hun edged third-seeded and eventual 2013 Group III state co-champion Allentown 2-1 in overtime on goals by Patrick Nally and Felix Dalstein.

Facing second-seeded Hightstown in the MCT semis, Hun was in position for another upset as the game was knotted in a scoreless tie at halftime. But the Rams were able to score two late goals and the Raiders’ valiant run ended with a 2-0 defeat.

“We couldn’t finish but we never gave up and that’s been the story of this team all season,” said Quirk, whose team ended the fall with a 7-12 record.

“I had a good feeling coming into the tournament. We started playing well together. We started making some combinations and we had that whole never give up thing. The first two games in the tournament we won in overtime. No one really expected us to do anything and we were able to prove some people wrong.”

Quirk’s role in driving his team to exceed expectations makes him the top coach of a male team.

PASSING LANE: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to pass in a game this fall. Sophomore Beamer made a lot of progress as he moved into a starting role, hitting on 73 of 165 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING LANE: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer gets ready to pass in a game this fall. Sophomore Beamer made a lot of progress as he moved into a starting role, hitting on 73 of 165 passes for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost all nine regular season games and getting outscored 373-79 in the process, the Princeton High football team could have been discouraged as it prepared for an NJSIAA consolation contest.

But as PHS got ready to play at Marlboro High for the finale on November 16, the Little Tiger players were upbeat.

“The kids had a good week of practice,” said PHS first year head coach Charlie Gallagher.

“They were still having fun playing football and the morale was still high. They were still excited to be out there.”

The Little Tigers produced an exciting performance, building a 21-7 lead over the Mustangs. Unfortunately, PHS couldn’t hold on as Marlboro rallied for a 28-21 victory.

“We unraveled in the fourth quarter,” said Gallagher. “The football gods weren’t looking out for us. We turned the ball over a couple of times. We struggled to run the ball. We didn’t have our fullback, Colin Buckley, and that hurt us.”

While the Little Tigers struggled this fall, Gallagher believes the program has a good foundation in place.

“The biggest positive is that we are young,” said Gallagher. “The quarterback (Dave Beamer) is a sophomore, all the defensive backs are sophomores. We have some sophomores on the line. We have some nice juniors.”

A big positive for PHS this year was the two-way brilliance of senior star receiver/linebacker Liam Helstrom.

“Liam has a lot of fun on the football field,” said Gallagher, whose group of seniors also included Tom Forrey, Chris Harisiades, Will Harrison, and Papakojo Kuranche in addition to Helstrom.

“He is a free spirit and he just enjoys playing the game. He gives his all and he is a coachable kid. He wanted to win but he took the season in stride. The kids carried him off the field after our last game. It was his team and I think the kids took on his personality; they went out there and had fun playing football.”

Gallagher acknowledges that the program needs more kids to get on the winning track.

“We are having a football interest meeting this week; we do need to get the numbers up,” said Gallagher.

“I think that would cut down on injuries. We could give guys playing both ways some rest so they are fresher at the end of games. I want to keep football in the foreground, not the background.”

As Gallagher looks ahead to next fall, he is depending on rising senior Sam Smallzman to bounce back from a knee injury and take a leading role.

“Sam Smallzman went out with an ACL, he will be a leader of the program next year,” said Gallagher. “He is a determined individual and I want the team to take a little of his personality. We have an opportunity to win some games.”

In the meantime, the players are going to get the chance to lick their wounds before starting their off-season program.

“We are going to give the kids some time off to enjoy the rest of the fall,” said Gallagher.

“The offseason is going to be more structured. We are going to get into 7-on-7s, which we didn’t do last summer. We need to give Dave the opportunity to throw the ball more.”

For Gallagher, getting the opportunity to be head coach has been something he has relished.

“I was learning everyday on the job,” said Gallagher. “It was a great experience; it was very humbling. I loved being there for the kids everyday and developing relationships. I never looked at it as a team that didn’t win a game. We prepared hard each week and the kids were focused. As an assistant you have ideas and sometimes you get to try them. As a head coach, you can make that happen.”

MAKING A JUMP:  Hun School football senior star Colton Jay Jumper gets ready to charge through the line in a game this fall. Jumper’s contributions at linebacker and running back helped the Raiders finish 2-6 under new head coach John Law as they bounced back from an 0-4 start.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING A JUMP: Hun School football senior star Colton Jay Jumper gets ready to charge through the line in a game this fall. Jumper’s contributions at linebacker and running back helped the Raiders finish 2-6 under new head coach John Law as they bounced back from an 0-4 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Hun School football team built a 21-0 lead in the second half of its season finale at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) earlier this month, the Raiders appeared to be cruising to victory.

But nothing came easy for Hun this fall and the Blue Waves scored 14 unanswered points to turn the game into a nailbiter. Coming up with a late turnover, the Raiders were able to hold on for a 21-14 win and end an up-and-down fall on a high note.

Hun head coach John Law was relieved to see his team escape with the win.

“That was a great ending; we went in a little banged up and it was a little more of a challenge than usual,” said Law, who guided Hun to a 2-6 record in his first year at the helm of the program.

“We had control of the game for three quarters. They scored in the fourth quarter when one of defensive backs slipped on a play. We were sputtering on offense and they scored. We were taking on water. Brendan Black intercepted a pass with 50 seconds left when they were driving. It was good to see one of those plays go our way.”

The Raiders faced challenges even before the first game as longtime head coach Dave Dudeck was placed on administrative leave by the school in early September due to ongoing litigation in connection with his tenure as Princeton police chief.

Veteran assistant Law was handed the reins and the Raiders proceeded to lose  their first four games, getting outscored 119-61. Hun broke through with a 41-0 win over the Hill School (Pa.) and played well down the stretch, losing two tight games to Lawrenceville and Peddie before edging Mercersburg.

While Law would’ve liked to seen the Raiders get more wins this fall, he had no qualms with the character shown by his players.

“I was proud of the kids and the way they fought through a tough season, they competed every week and showed a lot of guts,” said Law.

“It was a little discouraging because of the record, we are not used to that. We knew how close we were in a lot of games. We really matured mentally as a football team. If we take any lesson from this season, it is that we have to stay mentally focused for all four quarters and handle the intensity and ebbs and flows of the game.”

With junior quarterback Donavon Harris triggering the offense with his passing and running and tailback Christopher Sharp racing through and past opposing defenses, the Raiders offense got into a rhythm down the stretch, scoring 119 points in their last four contests.

“We had firepower on offense and defense,” said Law. “We were confident, especially in our offense. We had new kids playing new positions and it took time for them to get used to that.”

Law credited the team’s seniors with helping the young kids stay on track.

“In a such a tough season, we had to lean on our leadership,” said Law, whose Class of 2014 included Cameron Dudeck, Kamerin Thomas, Zack DiGregorio, Kyle Drayton, Muhammad Wainwright, Corey Reynolds, Colton Jay Jumper, Andrew Foster, J.T. Bucsek,  Ryan Anderson, Jess Coleman, and Raymond Pfundt. “Through everything, they kept us together.”

For Law, moving up to the head coach role proved to be a tough challenge. “The crazy thing is that when I started I thought I have been doing this 23 years and I was thinking how much different can it be,” said Law.

“There was a lot new and I still need to learn more. It is quite a responsibility and I am humbled by it. The biggest thing is that you don’t get any rest. As a position coach, you get a break at times. As a head coach, you have to be in it the whole way. There are administrative and outside things that you have to deal with.”

In Law’s view, the program is in a good position going forward having undergone this fall’s travails.

“I am really excited,” asserted Law. “We have some good players who got some great experience this fall. The kids are competitors, they love the game and that is what drives them.”

With a roster that didn’t include one senior, the Hun School girls’ tennis team faced an uphill battle this fall.

But with its young players fighting hard and showing growth, the Raiders enjoyed an encouraging season as they went 6-7 in dual match play and placed fourth in the season-ending Mid-Atlantic Prep league (MAPL) tournament.

“I was very happy, each of the girls gave their all,” said longtime Hun head coach Joan Nuse.

“Even in the matches we lost, they fought to the end and that is all you can ask.”

Nuse was happy with the work she got from junior Steph Taylor at first singles, freshman Paige Braithwaite at second singles, and junior Rachel Heller at third singles.

“Steph had an unenviable position at first singles going against the best players, she worked hard and did her best,” said Nuse.

“Paige played second singles as a freshman and was fourth in the MAPL. Rachel played third singles and always gave her all.”

The pairs of sophomore Caroline Wilkinson and freshman Tali Prozementer at first doubles along with junior Olivia Hartman and sophomore Olivia Kotler at second doubles gave Hun a lift.

“I think they did a good job of coming together,” said Nuse, reflecting on her doubles teams.

“The Olivias definitely put in some effort. Caroline and Tali had some great matches. No matter what the situation, they gave their best effort. In their last match, they lost in a tiebreaker in the third set after winning the first set in a tiebreaker and losing the second in a tiebreaker. It was as close a match as you could have.”

With all seven varsity players slated to return, Nuse believes Hun has the chance to win a lot of matches next fall.

“When you have a situation where everyone could be back, there is potential for growth,” said Nuse.

“They should all be as good if not better than they were this year. We had one of our better seasons in recent years and we have a good opportunity to do even better next year.”

November 20, 2013
BULL RUSH: Princeton University football player Max Lescano battles some Yale defenders on a punt return last Saturday. Sophomore defensive back Lescano and the Tigers enjoyed a big day, topping the Bulldogs 59-23 to win a share of the Ivy League title and earn a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season. Princeton, now 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, can secure the league title outright by winning the season finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BULL RUSH: Princeton University football player Max Lescano battles some Yale defenders on a punt return last Saturday. Sophomore defensive back Lescano and the Tigers enjoyed a big day, topping the Bulldogs 59-23 to win a share of the Ivy League title and earn a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season. Princeton, now 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, can secure the league title outright by winning the season finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Prior to the kickoff against visiting Yale last Saturday in their final home game, the 20 seniors on the Princeton University football team were introduced one by one to the cheers of the throng on hand.

About three and a half hours later, those seniors were hugging their teammates and fellow students on the field as they basked in the glow of Princeton’s 59-23 rout of Yale before a crowd of 14,824 at Princeton Stadium, a win that capped one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the annals of Ivy League football.

Two years removed from a second straight 1-9 campaign, Princeton improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 Ivy, clinching a share of the league crown, its first title since 2006. The Tigers, who earned a second straight bonfire celebration emblematic of beating Yale and Harvard in the same season, can secure the outright Ivy title by winning their finale at Dartmouth (5-4 overall, 4-2 Ivy) on November 23.

For senior safety and co-captain Phillip Bhaya, the glorious Senior Day scenario was hard to believe, considering that the class started its career with a 2-20 record.

“It was more than I could ask for, especially with my teammates in the senior class,” said Bhaya, who had nine tackles in the victory and made a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter.

“Obviously we didn’t have too much success in the beginning but we have come a long way. We stayed together as a group. I am so proud of my teammates, so humbled to be part of this class. To go out like this is really something special. We came to this school to win a championship and we got it done today. It is special and we are going to carry this for a long time.”

Princeton head coach Bob Surace, who took the helm of the program when the seniors were in their freshman season, beamed as he reflected on the team’s accomplishment.

“I just told them in the locker room that I am proud of them,” said Surace, a 1990 Princeton alum who was a star center on the 1989 Ivy championship squad.

“They work so hard. They work hard from the day the season ends all the way through. A lot of it is on their own. You are just proud, they earned this. We are going to get back tomorrow and get ready for the next game. We are going to celebrate this one. I hope they have fun tonight and enjoy it, it has been a long time.”

Surace tipped his hat to the seniors and the leadership they have provided in helping the program ascend to the top of the Ivy heap.

“When somebody said who are your senior leaders going to be and my response was is who aren’t they?” said Surace, noting that the bonfire is slated for this Sunday evening.

“You can go down that entire list. Malik Jackson, who signals our plays, gets into the game and our sidelines is going nuts for Malik. He comes in everyday and works as hard as Quinn [Epperly], he works as hard as Connor [Michelsen], he works as hard as Kedric [Bostic], he works as hard as Chad [Kanoff]. The guys love him. That whole group, they all share in the success we were having.”

That success was also due to some players who kept the Class of 2014 on track during some lean times.

“What was even more exciting is when you are in the locker room and Steve Cody is in there, Andrew Starks is in there, Andrew Kerr, on and on,” said Surace, referring to stalwarts for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 squads.

“There is a whole group of guys that you are celebrating with that are part of it. When you are not winning games and the results are not what they are supposed to be, your team is either going to pack it in and fold or they are going to buy in. Those guys bought in every day and that allowed these guys to carry the torch and have some success.”

The Tigers produced a performance to be proud of in dismantling Yale as the archrivals met for the 136th time.

After falling behind the Bulldogs 6-0, the Tigers jumped into the lead when sophomore running back Dre Nelson juked his way 42 yards for a touchdown to help Princeton take a 7-6 lead.

“I can’t wait to see his first touchdown. I don’t know what he did, you are watching and the next thing you know coaches are going he is going to score,” said Surace of Nelson, who ended up with 77 yards on five carries and another touchdown.

“It was like Dante Hall of the Kansas City Chiefs, he is spinning, he is moving and the next thing you know he is out. He is a ball of excitement and he works really hard.”

The excitement was just beginning for Princeton. Tiger quarterback Quinn Epperly hit Connor Kelley for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:08 in the quarter to extend the lead to 14-6.

Yale then responded with a touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Logan Scott to Morgan Roberts. The Bulldogs tried to catch Princeton off guard with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff but the gamble backfired as Tiger junior defensive back Jakobi Johnson scooped up the loose ball and bolted 46 yards for a touchdown to put Princeton up 21-13.

“Coach Aurich [Andrew Aurich, Princeton’s special teams coordinator and tight ends coach] has been messing with us a long time; he pretty much made us paranoid of an onside kick on every play,” said Johnson. “We just had to be ready for it. The ball popped up and I saw an opportunity so I just took it.”

The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 10-3 in the second quarter to take a 31-16 lead into halftime.

The third quarter started with a bang for Princeton as Epperly ran for a 4-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the half to make it 38-16. Minutes later, Bhaya made his interception return to break the game open as the Tigers went up 45-16 and never looked back.

Epperly, for his part, viewed the early sequence in the third quarter as pivotal.

“The pick six by Phil was a huge turning point in the game,” said Epperly, who passed for three touchdowns and rushed for one to give him 23 TD passes and 17 rushing touchdowns on the season.

“We had just scored. We felt we needed a stop to get right back on the field and to get a pick six like that was huge. To play in this offense and to engineer it, is just a dream come true and it is a blast to be a part of.”

Bhaya was the beneficiary of some good play by Princeton’s front seven on his interception.

“I didn’t notice at the time because I saw their tight end tip it but Jason Ray was coming off the edge and he got his hands up and actually tipped it the first time so I have to take my hat off to him for that one,” recalled Bhaya, referring to his classmate and star linebacker. “It just fell right into my hands so I didn’t do too much on that one.”

In Epperly’s view, the Tigers still have more to do as they go after their first outright Ivy crown since 1995.

“I think everyone is very well aware that we don’t want to share this title in any way or form,” said Epperly, whose brilliant play had helped Princeton score a program and Ivy record 413 points this season as it has hit the 50-point mark five times.

“I think there would be no better way to send these seniors out on top of a senior day like this. That has been the goal since day one to win a championship and I think it would leave a very bitter taste in everyone’s mouths if we had to share that. Tomorrow we are going to come to work, just like we have all year, and we are going to take this next game seriously because we want to get a win.”

Surace’s vision for the program extends beyond the championship. “We are building something and hopefully building something that is strong with the way we work, the way we operate, and the way we function,” said Surace.

“We want smart, tough, disciplined, team-oriented guys. If we have smart, tough, disciplined, team-oriented guys and they have enough talent, that is really fun. I have been places where you have guys that are selfish and have ego and you are dealing with that kind of stuff. I get to deal with great kids.”

Bhaya, for his part, believes he and his classmates have held up their end of the deal.

“With Princeton football, there have been thousands of student athletes who have come before us,” said Bhaya.

“There are going to be thousands more after us. We are really just one small part of a bigger program here and I think our duty is to leave the program and this university a better place than when we found it and I think, especially for our senior class and this team in particular, we have done that.”

NEW DYNAMIC: Princeton University women’s basketball player Vanessa Smith dribbles upcourt last Sunday as Princeton topped Marist 81-58 in its home opener. Freshman guard Smith made an impressive Jadwin Gym debut, scoring 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist to help the Tigers improve to 1-1.  Princeton plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NEW DYNAMIC: Princeton University women’s basketball player Vanessa Smith dribbles upcourt last Sunday as Princeton topped Marist 81-58 in its home opener. Freshman guard Smith made an impressive Jadwin Gym debut, scoring 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist to help the Tigers improve to 1-1. Princeton plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Vanessa Smith experienced some jitters as she made her debut for the Princeton University women’s basketball team when it played at Rutgers in its season opener earlier this month.

The 6’1 freshman guard scored seven points with a rebound as the Tigers fell 79-65 to the Scarlet Knights on November 10.

Last Sunday, Smith showed an increased comfort level in just a week as she tallied 11 points with six rebounds, two steals, and an assist as the Tigers pulled away to an 81-58 win over visiting Marist before 712 at Jadwin Gym.

“We are just trying to push forward everyday and get better,” said Smith, a native of Twinsburg, Ohio, reflecting on her progress.

“We definitely improved on the rebounding. We were more in the groove today, playing our game and we are really happy about that. I think it was just the home environment. We just were all feeling comfortable in our own skin again, playing together as a team really well. Everyone contributed.”

There was a special environment at Jadwin on Sunday as updated banners including last year’s fourth straight Ivy League title and NCAA appearance were unfurled prior to the game. At halftime, the program’s storied Class of 2013, Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, and Meg Bowen, were honored.

The celebrations inspired Smith in her first Jadwin outing. “For sure, it was really humbling, almost a majestic moment, seeing the banners come down,” said Smith.

“I am humbled by the work that has been done in the past, I am just looking to continue that tradition and work hard everyday to get better.”

In reflecting on her progress, Smith knows she has to get better at both ends of the court.

“I would say one adjustment is getting used to playing defense against people that are D-1 athletes,” said Smith.

“It is definitely different than high school, it is a faster pace defensively,

Offensively, it comes down to knowing what to do and how to work with your team and knowing how to contribute.”

In Smith’s view, Princeton’s work on the defensive end helped spark a 23-10 run over the last 10 minutes of the first half as the Tigers seized control of the contest and built a 41-32 lead by halftime.

“We had a lot of hustle plays in the first half and I think that contributed to the momentum,” said Smith. “So our defense pushed our offense and we were able to convert that into points.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the defensive effort she got from the Tigers in the win over Marist

“I would say the growth that we have made on the defensive end in the past two weeks has been pretty spectacular,” said Banghart. “What I am pleased about is that they were able to adjust through a timeout. Defensively, we needed to get through screens, we needed better ball pressure. We had to have urgency. They were making a lot of shots; I thought we stayed poised for a young team through that.”

The Tigers also showed urgency on the boards, outrebounding the Red Foxes 49-23.

“We were great on the glass; Annie [Tarakchian] had eight boards in 13 minutes,” said Banghart.

“Rebounding is important to us, it shows that we have a blue collar and it shows that we are willing to gut out and play with toughness.”

Banghart also saw progress at the other end of the court. “I thought in the Rutgers game we lost poise with our offense part way through the second half and so we really worked hard on diversifying our looks and sticking with our system and I thought they showed that over 40 minutes.” explained Banghart.

“When we share the ball like that we can score. We didn’t share the ball really well against Rutgers. We did a lot of standing around as we got fatigued. I thought we were able to use more poise today. People are getting more and more ready. It is a young team and we’ll get more and more ready as we go.”

Freshman Smith has already shown that she is ready to be a big contributor to the Tigers.

“Vanessa can a do a little bit of everything; she gives us a unique dynamic to our game,” added Banghart. “She is a willing rebounder, tough off the dribble, and can score. She is long so she can guard. When she is adjusts to the college game, she is going to be really special.”

Senior star Kristen Helmstetter gave the Tigers a special effort on Sunday, scoring a game-high 18 points with  with five rebounds and two assists.

“I think Kristen is Princeton basketball right now,” asserted Banghart. “Her versatility and how much she has developed here has been pretty remarkable. She is a leader, we have to give her some blows so she can get some rest. All she cares about is winning and I am glad she contributed to it today.”

In Banghart’s view, her callow squad has the potential to pile up a lot of wins this season.

“It’s just a team that is still playing a little inexperienced,” said Banghart, whose team plays at Georgetown on November 23 before hosting St. Joseph’s on November 26.

“They are ahead of where I thought they would be defensively and they are about where I thought they would be offensively. I told them how much better they got in one week; get that much better again in one more week. Princeton basketball has been about the process and I think you are seeing that with this young team.”

Smith, for her part, is determined to get better and better. “I will do anything they need me to do,” said Smith.

“I am just going to work hard, hustle and get rebounds and anything I can do to help us win.”

LEADING ROLE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing, right, crashes the boards in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Laing has provided leadership and production as Princeton has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games. In upcoming action, the Tigers, now 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22,  St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

LEADING ROLE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Denna Laing, right, crashes the boards in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Laing has provided leadership and production as Princeton has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games. In upcoming action, the Tigers, now 5-2-1 overall and 4-2 ECACH, hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22, St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Denna Laing, serving as the captain of the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team for a second year is proving to be a pleasure.

“It definitely makes a difference coming from last year to this year; I definitely have a better handle on things,” said senior forward Laing.

“Honestly, the team is making it easy for me. Nobody is disappointing me and it is making it really easy for me and very enjoyable. I am very proud of everyone.”

Laing certainly enjoyed herself last Friday, tallying a goal and an assist to help Princeton top University of New Hampshire 3-1.

The senior line of Laing and classmates Olivia Mucha and Sally Butler sparked the Tigers, generating a slew of chances and accounting for two of Princeton’s goals as the Tigers broke a scoreless tie by scoring three straight goals in a two-minute span from the end of the second period into the start of the third.

“We definitely know what is at stake,” said Laing, reflecting on the connection between the trio of classmates.

“We know if we are working hard out there, then everyone else will see that and follow our lead. That’s not to say that other lines are doing the exact same thing.”

Laing helped Princeton open the scoring as she fed Mucha for a goal with 1:06 remaining in the second period.

“It all started when we were forechecking down low and we put a lot of pressure on them and things kind of worked out for us,” said Laing.

“We were working hard so we were hoping that one would go in, Mucha had a couple of chances before that were so close. I am glad that she did get that one in and got us rolling.”

The Tigers kept rolling after the second intermission as they scored two goal in the first 59 seconds of the third period as Ali Pankowski and Laing found the back of the net.

“It definitely picked up the momentum for us,” said Laing, reflecting on the third period flurry.

“We were up 1-0 and it is easy to come back on that so we knew to come out hard for the third period.”

On her goal, Laing went hard to the net. “We were working hard down low and the puck was just sitting there for me on a rebound,” said Laing, who now has two goals and five assists in the season. “It was nice work by my linemates to get it there.”

Laing likes the way the Tigers are handling their work this season. “I definitely would say this year compared to other years, everyone is buying in,” asserted Laing, a 5’9 native of Marblehead, Mass. who has 57 points in her Princeton career on 24 goals and 33 assists.

“Everyone is following the rules. Everyone wants it, from the freshmen who came in here and have really made a difference to our sophomores who really worked hard over the summer and have picked it up. The junior and seniors have come back off of injuries and we are really firing. Everyone is working hard from the freshmen up. I think that is really making a difference.”

In the view of Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, the senior line made a huge difference for the Tigers in the win over UNH.

“They worked so hard; they got it done,” said Kampersal. “All year,
they are going to get it done for us. We are going to rely on them to come up big at the big times. They have been together for the most part for four years and there is some familiarity, no question.”

Kampersal is placing heavy reliance on Laing to spark the Tigers. “Denna brings a lot of heart and soul every time,” said Kampersal. “She did a good job on the penalty kill. She has always played super aggressive. She is strong. She is a workhorse for us.”

Princeton was strong defensively in the victory over UNH. “I thought our defense played well in the absence of Gabie [Figueroa] so it was good that they stepped up in her absence,” added Kampersal, who got another good defensive effort on Saturday as the Tigers tied No. 5 Boston College 1-1 to move to 5-2-1 overall.

“I thought Brie Mahoney was really good in the back as was Pankowski. They did a good job. Kim Newell was really solid in goal, she was solid physically, and solid mentally.”

Having gone 4-0-1 in its last five outings, Princeton is playing some solid hockey overall.

“I think we just focus on the conditioning and the practice,” said Kampersal of the Tigers who are fourth in the ECAC Hockey standings with a 4-2 league mark. “We are working on playing hard for five minutes at a time and restarting the next five minutes. I think that has been a good focus for us.”

The Tigers will have to keep that focus as they are facing a challenging slate of games over the next two weeks.

“We have a tough stretch coming up,” said Kampersal, whose team hosts Clarkson (10-3-2 overall, 3-2-1 ECACH) on November 22, St. Lawrence (5-7 overall, 4-2 ECACH) on November 23, and Quinnipiac (10-1-3 overall, 3-1-2 ECACH) on November 26 before heading to the midwest for two games at top-ranked and defending national champion Minnesota (13-1 overall) over Thanksgiving break. “This is the heart of it. We have to prove our worth in the next five games.”

Laing, for her part, believes that Princeton has the heart to compete with the toughest foes.

“I honestly feel really confident with this team, more so than I have in past years,” said Laing.

“It is a great feeling to be a senior right now. Hopefully, we continue our path. It has only been seven games; we haven’t done anything yet. We are not satisfied yet. We are still looking to make a big impression and hopefully we can keep rolling like we are rolling.”

QUALITY AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Ammon scored two goals, including the game winner, last Friday as Princeton overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Dartmouth 5-4 in overtime. The Tigers, now 2-7 overall, 1-5 ECAC Hockey, host No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

QUALITY AMMO: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Andrew Ammon heads up the ice in a game last winter. Senior forward Ammon scored two goals, including the game winner, last Friday as Princeton overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Dartmouth 5-4 in overtime. The Tigers, now 2-7 overall, 1-5 ECAC Hockey, host No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Having lost six straight games and trailing Dartmouth 3-0 in the first period last Friday, it would have been easy for the Princeton University men’s hockey to get discouraged.

But Princeton senior forward Andrew Ammon and his Tiger teammates were unfazed by the situation.

“We just kept working,” said Ammon. “We knew we were never out of it. It was early in the game there. We knew we had a lot of time; we weren’t going to panic.”

Princeton got itself back in the game, narrowing the gap to 3-1 late in the first period on a goal by Ryan Siiro and then getting two unanswered goals from Tyler Maugeri and Mike Ambrosia in the second period to knot the game at 3-3.

Ammon got the Tigers ahead, scoring 1:06 into the third period as Princeton took a 4-3 lead.

“We came into the zone; Mike [Ambrosia] took a shot and it ended up behind the net,” said Ammon.

“[Jonathan] Liau picked it up and I had no one on me and I was calling for it. He made the pass and I just had all day and took my time with the shot.”

Dartmouth, though, made a comeback of its own, scoring midway through the period to force overtime. With just seconds remaining in the extra session, Ammon scored his second goal, deftly deflecting a Tommy Davis shot into the back of the net to give the Tigers a win and snap their losing streak.

“It came in the zone and squirted out to Tommy,” said Ammon, reflecting on the game winner.

“It was a broken play. I saw him winding up for the net and I just went to the net. I didn’t even think I would be there for a tip but I just stuck my stick out and tipped it and I saw the back of the net.”

After finding the back of the net in dramatic fashion, Ammon was mobbed by his teammates behind the goal.

“It was just exciting, nothing feels better than scoring an overtime game winner,” said Ammon. “I had my whole team come out there. It was an awesome feeling.”

While Ammon now has a team-high five goals on the season, his focus is more on effort than finishing.

“My role is not necessarily scoring but just being there all 60 minutes, bringing the energy and burying the chances that we get,” said Ammon, a 6’0, 185-pound native of Aldie, Va. who has 46 points in his Tiger career on 27 goals and 19 assists.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier was not surprised that Ammon came through in the clutch for the Tigers.

“Ammo is just a warrior; he has been playing so hard, so well,” asserted Prier.

“He has learned to control his game yet still play hard. He is going to get a lot of hard-working, ugly goals but that first one was pretty. He caught it and went top shelf there on a nice play from Liau. The OT winner was just great; he crashed the net and it hit his stick. It was a great tip and he just willed it. He is as hard a worker as you will come across and he earned it.”

In Prier’s view, his players showed an iron will collectively in rallying for the win over the Big Green.

“The guys battled as hard as they could,” said Prier, whose team fought hard a night later but came up short in losing 5-3 to Harvard to move to 2-7 overall and 1-5 ECAC Hockey.

“They stuck to the process. They kept above checks. There were a couple of times it took funny bounces and the next thing you know it is on their stick somehow. We battled through a lot of that. There was a lot of resilience out there.”

Freshman forward Siiro is battling hard on a nightly basis for the Tigers.

“Siiro is big, tough, and skilled,” said Prier of Siiro who has two goals and two assists in nine appearances.

“He is a gem; I just love him. He is as coachable as they come. He is a great kid to be around; a great kid to coach. He is always positive. He is high energy. He is only going to get better every single day.”

Junior forward Tucker Brockett, who had three assists in the win over Dartmouth and then added two more helpers in the loss to Harvard, has gotten markedly better this year.

“Tucker has improved tremendously, he is playing with more confidence,” said Prier of Brockett, who has 11 points this season on two goals and nine assists after totaling just two points in his first two seasons.

“He is also not banged up. The poor kid has had some sort of nagging injury ever since he has been on campus and now he is healthy. He has got skill, he has got poise and he is starting to use it.”

Prier is hoping his team uses the win over Dartmouth as a springboard to more success.

“You want to start winning but then this one is behind you and you move on,” said Prier, whose team hosts No. 4 Quinnipiac (11-1-1 overall, 5-0-1 ECACH) on November 22 before playing at the Bobcats the next day.

“That is kind of what we did with our start tonight. We said hey, it’s behind us. The record tells us where we have been, not where we are going. Let’s stop talking about it and try to get it going here.”

Ammon, for his part, believes the win over Dartmouth could get Princeton going in the right direction.

“That is huge,” said Ammon. “It feels like it has been a while so this is big for us. We try not to look at our record. We try to improve everyday. It is about where we are going, not where we are at.”

Q-FACTOR: Princeton Day School field hockey player Emma Quigley dribbles the ball in a game this season. Recovering from an early season thumb injury, the Brown-bound Quigley returned to action and helped PDS post a 9-10 record and make the state Prep B semifinals.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Q-FACTOR: Princeton Day School field hockey player Emma Quigley dribbles the ball in a game this season. Recovering from an early season thumb injury, the Brown-bound Quigley returned to action and helped PDS post a 9-10 record and make the state Prep B semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton Day School field hockey team faced Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B semifinals, its resolve was severely tested.

“Mo-Beard played a different style; they were very aggressive and there was a little more physicality,” said PDS head coach Tracey Arndt.

“We had to stay with what we know. When you go against an aggressive team like that, you rise up or fall back. We rose up. The girls tried to keep possession; people stepped up. We showed versatility and commitment.”

While the third-seeded Panthers ended up dropping a 2-1 nailbiter to the Crimson, Arndt had no qualms with her team’s intensity.

“They put together a tremendous effort,” said Arndt. “If you give your best effort, you have to be OK with that no matter what the result is. I don’t think we played our best but we tried our hardest.”

Fittingly, senior star and Princeton-bound Sarah Brennan notched the lone tally in the finale as the Panthers finished the fall with a 9-10 record.

“It was great that Sarah got our goal,” said Arndt. “She ended up as our second leading goal scorer. We looked for her to do a lot of things for us. She showed such a dedication to improve individually, to help the team and continue her career at college. She did positive work.”

The team’s core of seniors, which included Tufts-bound Mary Travers, Brown recruit Emma Quigley and Emily Goldman in addition to Brennan, set a positive tone for PDS.

“They had some great leaders before them and they used what they learned from them,” said Arndt. “They brought their own qualities to that. They gave us a great example of hard work, practice, commitment. They have such great passion for the game and three of them are going on to play in college. Emily gave us great balance.”

PDS certainly needed that leadership as it endured a topsy-turvy campaign this fall.

“It was a rollercoaster,” said Arndt, whose team got off to a 2-4 start. “We had a big win early against Stuart, they are always well coached and come out hard against us. We lost Emma in that game and we had  definitely had a lull, figuring out what we were going to do when she was out. The Peddie game was a hard hit. I told them that it is not who we are or who we were going to be. You have to get up or get out.

The Panthers responded by figuring out the combination that worked the best, winning seven games down the stretch and playing well in a pair of 2-1 losses to county champion  Lawrenceville and a 2-1 loss to Princeton High.

“We made some changes,” said Arndt. “We adjusted positions. The girls really showed versatility. We moved Nikki van Manen to center back and she did really well. We moved Morgan back to left back which was a more familiar position for her. Mary Travers moved up front. Rowan Schomburg moved to Mary’s spot in the midfield and was our link at getting the ball from defense to offense and also had to mark some of the other team’s best forwards.”

Arndt is confident going forward about the program’s prospects. “We lose four, which is tough, but we have seven to eight varsity starters coming back,” said Arndt.

“We had three sophomores who saw a lot of varsity action and they know the ropes. Katie Alden [this reporter’s daughter] had a great year at goalie and we have the whole defense coming back.”

The PDS players have shown a great attitude that bodes well for the future. “It is so nice working with a group of kids when it doesn’t matter who is playing where,” said Arndt.

“They are going to give their best wherever they are on the field. We don’t have a lot of numbers and I told them that the more positions you know how to play, the more chance you have to play.”

BELLOWING OUT: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello, right, goes after the ball in action this fall. Senior Bello provided offensive punch for Hun as it went 6-14 this fall.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BELLOWING OUT: Hun School field hockey player Francesca Bello, right, goes after the ball in action this fall. Senior Bello provided offensive punch for Hun as it went 6-14 this fall. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Hun School field hockey team, its season finale against Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) turned into a microcosm of an uneven campaign.

Hun fell behind 2-1 at halftime only to forge ahead 3-2 after the break. Mercersburg, though, reeled off three unanswered goals to pull away to a 5-3 victory.

“We did OK in the first half and then we took a 3-2 lead but I don’t know what happened after that,” said Hun head coach Kathy Quirk, whose team finished with a final record of 6-14. “It was a frustrating year, it was up and down.”

The Raiders did produce some good hockey along the way. “We had highs and lows; we had games that we should have won,” said Quirk.

“We held Lawrenceville scoreless for 51 minutes but lost 2-1. We played the game of our lives. I wish we could have played every game like it was Lawrenceville. We lost in the county opener and consolation and then came back and beat George, that was a nice win.  We played Hill tough, they were beating up on everybody but we only lost 2-0. We couldn’t seem to capitalize.”

Hun’s group of seniors, Francesca Bello, Alex Kane, Courtney Faulkner, Liz Mydlowski, and Brianna Barratt, showed toughness.

“When Francesca Bello was on, she was on,” said Quirk. “Alex was solid in the back. We moved Courtney from the line to defense to give us a spark there. Bettner came in and did a good job, she was very coachable. Mydlowski was a four-year player. She never missed a practice or game in four years, that really says something about her. Bri Barratt did a nice job in the midfield.”

The Raiders have a nice foundation in place with such players as junior Vicki Leach, junior Julia Blake, freshmen Julie Fassl, and junior Reina Kern.

“Vicki Leach has really come on strong,” said Quirk of Leach, who tallied 10 goals and five assists this fall.

“She is putting the ball in the cage, she is carrying the ball up the field and she is getting into the right place at the right time. Julia Blake played well in the midfield. Julie Fassl did a quite a bit of scoring for us. Our goalie Reina Kern returns.”

Quirk is hoping that her returners will be strong competitors. “We have a good group of kids who will be stepping up and getting their chance,” noted Quirk. “They need to play hard every game.”

STICKING TOGETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah controls the ball in a game this fall. Hannah was one of several sophomore standouts who helped Stuart show progress this fall as the Tartans posted a 7-14 record, doubling its win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING TOGETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Tori Hannah controls the ball in a game this fall. Hannah was one of several sophomore standouts who helped Stuart show progress this fall as the Tartans posted a 7-14 record, doubling its win total from 2012 when it went 3-14-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team edged Pennington 1-0 in overtime in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament, it symbolized how far the squad has progressed this fall.

“That was a great win for us,” said Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik of the October 23 contest.

“We had lost to them 4-0 earlier in the season. They had talent in the midfield. By the time we saw them again, we were doing a better job taking what we were working on in practice and applying it in the game.”

In the second half of the Pennington game, Stuart applied those lessons with aplomb, as it held the Red Raiders scoreless and got the game winner on an overtime goal by sophomore Sam Servis.

“At halftime, it was 0-0 and we were doing a lot of things right,” recalled Bruvik.

“Margaret LaNasa was rock solid in the goal and that ignited the rest of the team. The kids felt they had to play well. Amy Hallowell was out with an injury and they dug deep to win for the seniors so that they would have another game to play. We won in overtime; we were 3 for 3 in OTs.”

While Stuart ended up falling to eventual champion Montclair Kimberley in the Prep B semis to end the season at 7-14, Bruvik believes the program is headed in the right direction.

“We went from three wins to seven so we doubled what we did last year,” said Bruvik.

“The overtime games were huge for us, it showed we could persevere and had the talent to execute for 70 minutes or more.”

Bruvik credits her core of seniors with setting a positive tone. “All four of the seniors were leaders for the kids,” said Bruvik, whose Class of 2014 includes Hallowell, LaNasa, Meghan Shannon, and Sarah Barkley.

“They always focused on what they could do not only to help the team but to help the program. Three of the four of them played in JV games when we needed enough players to go 11 on 11. It was never about them, it was always what could they do to help the program.”

Senior midfielder Hallowell was a huge help for the Tartans over her career.

“Amy was the heart and soul of the program the last two years,” said Bruvik. “She was out three weeks with a high ankle sprain and she was great on the sidelines. She came back for the last two games. She sees the field so well and has a great way of communicating with the kids. She was really the quarterback of the team on the field.

Shannon, LaNasa, and Barkley helped spearhead the Stuart defense. “Meghan dropped to the back line and she was very in tune with wanting to know what she could do to help the team every game,” said Bruvik.

“For Margaret LaNasa, working with Gia [assistant coach and former star Princeton goalie Gia Fruscione] the last two years really helped her. She finished 17th in the state in saves, she had around 225. She was really tested this year. She kept us in all the games we won in overtime. Sarah was a good leader for the team; she was really a committed player to the program.”

The team’s core of sophomores showed plenty of game, led by Servis and Tori Hannah.

“Sam has really improved. Her stick skills and timing are much better. She is finding the back of the net. Tori was very good for us, she filled in for Amy, she played in the midfield and she went up on the line to help our offense.”

Four other sophomores, Julia Maser, Elena Bernewitz, Kate Walsh, and Cate Donahue, also made valuable contributions this fall for the Tartans.

“Julia Maser can run the field for 60 minutes, she never stops,” added Bruvik. “She was playing left mid and went against a lot of good players. Bernewitz has exceptional speed and she is becoming more self-confident. Kate Walsh is very versatile and will help wherever you need her. Cate Donahue had a concussion and was out for a while. She played some of her best hockey when she came back near the end of the season.”

The Tartans also got some good hockey from a number of other returning players.

“The dedication, versatility, and improvement of Izzy Engel, Fayette Plambeck, Asha Mohandas, Madison Kirton, Nneka Onukwugha, Harlyn Bell and Rose Tetnowski were critical to this team and to the future of the hockey program,” said Bruvik.

“Their contributions were pivotal in what defines teamwork in both practice sessions and games.”

Going forward, Bruvik believes Stuart has the potential to be a formidable team. “Knowing that we are still young has the girls excited,” asserted Bruvik.

“The sophomores were all very versatile and we played a schedule that was much more competitive than last year.”

November 13, 2013
CRUNCH TIME: Princeton University defensive stars Philip Bhaya, left, and Anthony Gaffney, right, help corral a ballcarrier in action earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior safety Bhaya had a team-high seven tackles while sophomore cornerback Gaffney made a key interception as Princeton rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat Penn 38-26. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, host Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CRUNCH TIME: Princeton University defensive stars Philip Bhaya, left, and Anthony Gaffney, right, help corral a ballcarrier in action earlier this fall. Last Saturday, senior safety Bhaya had a team-high seven tackles while sophomore cornerback Gaffney made a key interception as Princeton rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat Penn 38-26. The Tigers, now 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, host Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Connor Kelley hasn’t forgotten how much it stung when the Princeton University football team was crushed 52-10 by Penn in 2010 as the Quakers rolled to the Ivy League title.

“I was there in Coach [Bob] Surace’s first year back when I was a quarterback and so I felt a pretty good beating that year and we have all taken it these past three years,” said Kelley.

Surace, for his part, still feels the pain from that dark afternoon. “They were kind in the game, it was 52-10 and they took it easy,” said Surace. “It could have been a lot worse.”

But when Princeton found itself trailing 16-0 at defending champion Penn last Saturday, it wasn’t about to take another whipping in a series which had seen it lose six straight.

“I think our guys believe if we just keep playing and playing, that eventually we can get this game back to where it is manageable,” said Surace.

“There is no panic, there is no infighting. We use that phrase, ‘hold the rope.’ Our guys hold the rope together, coaches and players. Penn is a really good team, they have won three of the past four championships. You are not going to walk in and put up 35 at halftime, especially at homecoming and all week long they are getting corrected on mistakes they made the week before. We knew we were going to get a championship bout.”

Getting off the canvas, the Tigers delivered some knockout blows to the Quakers as they rallied and pulled away to a 38-26 win over Penn before 21,214 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

In so doing, Princeton kept its place atop the league standings, improving to 7-1 overall and 5-0 Ivy to stay ahead of Harvard (7-1 overall, 4-1 Ivy) while Penn’s title hopes were dealt a serious blow as it dropped to 4-4 overall and 3-2 Ivy. The win helped the Tigers break into the national polls as Princeton is ranked No. 25 in the Sports Network’s FCS College Football Poll, its first ranking since being voted as the No. 18 team in the final 2006 poll.

The high-powered Princeton offense sputtered in the early going, as its first five possessions resulted in three punts, a safety, and an interception.

Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly acknowledged that the Tiger offense was out of synch.

“I think that was the worst display we have had passing the ball,” said Epperly.

“We have got a lot of corrections to make. Yeah, credit to them but I think also credit to our guys, especially the guys up front on being able to grind some things out. I think it just shows our effort and our work ethic. It was definitely not a pretty game on the offensive side but we were able to get a win.”

By contrast, the Tiger defense produced some beautiful moments, generating six turnovers, including three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. The critical turnover was a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter by senior defensive back Elijah Mitchell that put Princeton ahead 17-16.

“We blitzed on the play and fortunately we got a really good amount of pressure and I felt what I thought was the running back releasing or a screen of some type and I pulled up a little bit and that just put me in position to make the play,” recalled Mitchell. “I got the ball and tried to do something with it.”

When Princeton surrendered a touchdown just before the half to go into intermission trailing by 23-17, Mitchell inspired the team by his words as well as deeds.

“I didn’t have to say much at halftime,” said Surace. “Elijah took over the halftime speech. Sometimes these guys are a little shy about those things. He got the guys up; I had chills. He had the guys rocking and rolling and bouncing off the walls as we went out for the second half.”

The Tigers proceeded to control the second half. They regained the lead at 24-23 as Epperly scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 6:52 left in the quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Epperly found the end zone on a one-yard plunge as Princeton went ahead 31-23.

After a Penn field goal narrowed the margin to 31-26 with 9:37 remaining in regulation, converted senior receiver Kelley came up big, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown pass as Princeton increased its advantage to 38-26 and never looked back.

In Surace’s view, Princeton’s victory came down to a willingness to mix it up physically with the Quakers.

“I felt it was two really tough teams,” said Surace, noting that the Tigers had to battle to get 98 yards rushing in 44 carries.

“This is the least we have rushed for this year. They rushed for 60-70 more yards (161 yards on 32 carries) than us. They pressured our quarterback; we pressured their quarterback at times. It was a good football game. The thing you have to do is to match their toughness. From 1987 when I first played them through now and probably before then, they have been a tough, physical team. You can’t go and allow them to push you around. I felt, especially in the second half, we at least held our own.”

Epperly showed his toughness as he overcame a hard hit to his throwing shoulder in the first quarter to hit on 32-of-45 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

“He didn’t come back in the next series and the trainer said he was fine,” said Surace, referring to Epperly’s temporary absence from the contest after he was  slammed to the ground after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Sam Chwarzynski,

“You look at him, that one touchdown run he had at the end where he is hit at the line of scrimmage and just fights his way into the end zone. He is another 220-pound guy and for all the good touch and accuracy he has as a quarterback, there is a physical side to him that is pretty impressive.”

While Princeton’s turnaround from back-to-back 1-9 seasons in 2010 and 2011 is certainly impressive, Mitchell and his teammates aren’t satisfied yet.

“First off, I think it is a testament to every single player that we have and the  job that has been done recruiting but also the coaching,” said Mitchell, who will try to help Princeton stay on the winning track as it hosts Yale (5-3 overall, 3-2 Ivy) on November 16.

“We feel like we are trying to rise from the bottom and we are not done. It definitely feels amazing, I am not going to lie to you. But we also feel that what we are still trying to accomplish has not been done yet.”

Kelley, for his part, basked in the glow of finally beating Penn. “Right from the beginning, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Kelley, who ended the day with six receptions for 75 yards.

“We knew that coming in. We had a similar experience at Brown where we were down at the beginning (overcoming a 17-0 deficit to win 39-17 on October 19) so we just kept battling. Everybody on the offense knew that it was coming and that we just had to keep doing what we do and how we practice. It really feels great.”

REPEAT BUSINESS: Princeton University field hockey star ­Michelle Cesan controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Cesan tallied two goals and an assist to help Princeton top Penn 5-1 to clinch outright the Ivy League title. It was the ninth straight Ivy crown for Princeton and the 19th in the last 20 years. Defending national champion Princeton, now 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy,  will begin its quest for a title repeat when it plays Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in an NCAA opening round contest on November 16 in College Park, Md.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

REPEAT BUSINESS: Princeton University field hockey star ­Michelle Cesan controls the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, senior midfielder Cesan tallied two goals and an assist to help Princeton top Penn 5-1 to clinch outright the Ivy League title. It was the ninth straight Ivy crown for Princeton and the 19th in the last 20 years. Defending national champion Princeton, now 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy, will begin its quest for a title repeat when it plays Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in an NCAA opening round contest on November 16 in College Park, Md. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While the outright Ivy League title was up for grabs as the Princeton University field hockey team played at Penn last Saturday, the Tigers maintained their business-as-usual approach coming into the contest.

“For us, every league game feels similar,” said Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

“Our preparation and mentality never wavers and that is a reason why we have been so successful. We take the single-game approach.”

Showing its championship mentality, Princeton pulled away to a 5-1 victory over the Quakers, winning the program’s ninth straight Ivy crown and 19th in the last 20 years.

The game was tied at 1-1 midway through the first half but the ninth-ranked Tigers seized control after that as senior star Michelle Cesan scored one goal and assisted on another to help Princeton take a 3-1 lead into halftime. In the second half, Cesan added another goal along with Allison Evans as the Tigers moved to 13-4 overall and 7-0 Ivy.

“There was never a point in the game where I felt Penn had control,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team outshot the Quakers 28-6 and built a 13-4 edge in penalty corners.

“The teams in the league play a very direct game. It is a lineal game and not a lot of transfers. There can be random chances. I thought we played our lines well. We got a tip or touch on every one of their outlets. It was a very controlled game for us, we were able to dominate. You look at the league stats, we gave up five goals in seven league games and had more than 20 shots in each game.”

Now the defending national champion Tigers will get a chance to defend their title as they face Penn State (13-5 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at College Park, Md. with the victor likely facing host and top-ranked Maryland (20-1) on November 17 for a spot in the Final Four.

Princeton will bring a special motivation to the clash with Penn State as it fell 4-3 to the Nittany Lions on September 15 to snap a 17-game winning streak.

“From my perspective, the one game I would like to have back is the Penn State game,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We are a very different team now. We have grown and evolved since September. We are playing great hockey. We are going to attack the match.”

Senior midfielder Cesan has been on the attack recently, tallying five goals and two assists in her last four games to give her a team-high 10 goals and nine assists on the season.

“Cesan is getting good looks,” said Holmes-Winn. “We changed up our press and we are opening up space in the midfield. We are getting more depth from our forwards.”

Princeton is getting contributions from a variety of players and has overcome some health issues and is riding a seven-game winning streak coming into the NCAA tourney.

“Annabeth Donovan has grown massively, she is marshaling things from out of the back field,” said Holmes-Winn, noting that such stars as Kate Ferrara, Amanda Bird, Sydney Kirby, and Teresa Benvenuti are all at 100 percent after dealing with various ailments over the fall.

“It helps that she has two of the best midfielders in the country in front of her in Julia [Reinprecht] and Michelle. Anya Gersoff in goal is playing well, she has been communicating so well. We are at full strength for the first time this season.”

The Tigers will have to play strong hockey in order to survive the weekend and advance to its third Final Four in the last four seasons.

“It is a classy bracket, the teams and coaches have a lot of experience,” said Holmes-Winn.

“We are grateful to have this opportunity. To me, when it’s hard, its better. It will be a huge challenge for us. We are a team of winners. I said to the girls last week that in every aspects of their lives, they are hard working, detailed, and accountable. They put everything out there and from a coaching standpoint, that is a good feeling.”

Holmes-Winn is feeling good about her team’s prospects. “We played the third strongest schedule in the country and that underpins the disciplined approach we take every day,” said Holmes-Winn.

“It adds a rawness to the environment. You are going to elevate and rise to it or crumble under it. We have done the right thing to this point. I think we are coming together at the right time. Everyone is healthy and we are in a great spot as a team. We are absolutely committed and focused on the moment. Each player is prepared to do what she is asked under pressure. Physiologically, we are in a taper phase, the girls are very fit. We are very excited for Saturday.”

HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAPPY RETURN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jimmy Sherburne heads upcourt last Sunday in Princeton’s 67-50 win over Florida A&M in its season opener. Senior guard Sherburne, who was sidelined all of last season due to a shoulder injury, scored a career-high 13 points in his return to action to help the Tigers pull away from the Rattlers. Princeton is next in action when it plays at Butler University on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After more than a month of preseason practices, the wait was over for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Florida A&M last Sunday to tip off the regular season.

Two of the Tigers, though, had to exercise some extra patience in connection with the opener.

Senior guard Jimmy Sherburne was returning to action after being sidelined for a year due to a shoulder injury while junior star Denton Koon was utilized in a sixth man role off the bench.

Looking like he hadn’t missed a beat, Sherburne scored a career-high 13 points with Koon producing a double-double on a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds as Princeton cruised to a 67-50 win over the Rattlers.

Sherburne, for his part, enjoyed his return to action. “It feels good to be back, it has been a while,” said Sherburne, a 6’3, 197-pound native of Whitefish Bay, Wisc. who also contributed five assists and four rebounds.

“I was just telling the guys before the game, we have waited a long time for this, some of us longer than others. I fall into that category. It was everything I thought it would be. I took that year off for a reason and this was it. It definitely feels good.”

While the sixth-man role was an adjustment for Koon, who made 24 starts last winter, he made the most of the assignment.

“It was a little different,” said Koon, a 6’8, 210-pound native of Liberty, Mo. who averaged 10.5 points a game last winter.

“I just think it is about, especially early in the season, just getting things moving. We got a lot of new pieces this year, a couple of new freshmen in the lineup with Pete [Miller] and Spencer [Weisz] so I think it is just important to play the right way and get a new flow. We have a new look, a new lineup, and a new way that we are playing things.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson liked the way the Tigers handled their business on Sunday.

“It is a nice opener for us and I just told the guys that I think there are a lot of positives and some things to work on,” said Henderson, whose team jumped out to a 38-23 halftime lead and cruised to victory over the 0-2 Rattlers.

“I really liked some of the things that were happening on offense. We had a little bit of a slide there on defense but they do that to you. They spread you out, they are very fast. Overall, I am fairly pleased and I think there are a lot of positives for us to work on.”

Henderson pointed to the play of Sherburne and Koon as two of the major positives on Sunday.

“I am really happy, Jimmy made his first three, that was good,” said Henderson, whose team went 12-of-31 from the three-point range in the victory.

“I will say that it is really important that our program is defined by the way Denton did things today. I am pleased and proud of the way he played because he made other guys better. He got two assists, a big one in the corner to Jimmy. I am putting a little less stock in who is starting right now and more about the way we are doing things.”

Freshman Spencer Weisz started his Princeton career in style, scoring five points with six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of action.

“Spencer is really advanced for a freshman in terms of the game,” said Henderson, who also got 12 points from senior Will Barrett in the victory.

“He had consistently been one of our top rebounders in scrimmages and practices and he gets six tonight which I think is important for us. He sort of plays the game like a 40-year old man, unfortunately he also moves like a 40-year-old man sometimes. He really knows how to play.”

With Princeton heading to Indiana on November 16 for a game at Butler University, an NCAA finalist in 2010 and 2011, Henderson is looking for his team to build on its promising start.

“We are going to a really tough place to play in a week,” said Henderson, of the contest which will be a homecoming for him as he was a three-sport star at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. during his high school days.

“We appreciate things like that. We feel that Jadwin is a special place to play so we are really excited getting out there. It is just about the day to day and getting better. It is process coaching. We have an opportunity to be very balanced and I think that is the emphasis.”

Koon, for his part, appreciates the chance to get on the court, no matter what role he assumes.

“It’s more just game by game and being where the team needs me,” said Koon.

“I am just looking to contribute in any way I can, help the other guys get better,  and help us win.”

Hosting defending national champion Yale last Friday, the Princeton University men’s hockey team dug an early hole.

The Tigers yielded two unanswered goals in the first period and trailed 5-1 after two.

Princeton senior captain Jack Berger acknowledged that the Tigers put themselves behind the eight ball with their early lapses.

“We weren’t real happy with our start unfortunately,” said Berger. “We have been working on our first periods, we still have some work to do.”

Berger did put in some good work in the second period as he assisted on a goal by Alec Rush.

“[Ben] Foster and Ambro [Mike Ambrosia] were working hard and won some battles in the corner and I ended up with it behind the net,” recalled Berger.

“I got it to Rushie and he just let a bomb go and beat the goalie. It was a great shot.”

While Princeton ended up falling 5-2, Berger liked the fight the Tigers displayed in the third period.

“We just really wanted to come out and show them what kind of team we were,” said Berger.

“We didn’t think we had done that. We picked up the physical play. We wanted to take it to them and win that period. I think we did a great job responding.”

The Tigers got off to a better start a day later against Brown as they knotted the game at 1-1 early in the first period. Unfortunately, Princeton gave up four unanswered goals after that on the way to a 6-3 defeat as it dropped to 1-5 overall and 0-4 ECAC Hockey.

Princeton head coach Bob Prier noted that making turnovers has been an ongoing problem for his squad, which has lost five games in a row since a 3-2 win over Dartmouth on opening night.

“It is troubling,” acknowledged Prier in the wake of the Yale loss. “There were far too many unforced turnovers. They are a team that isn’t overly physical; they don’t cause you to throw pucks away. I think that we just tried to pass it into traffic instead of skate it a few times and that was probably the biggest difference in the game. We had far too many unforced turnovers where we just gave them the puck.”

Like Berger, Prier took heart from how the Tigers played in the third period against Yale.

“We didn’t hunt them down hard enough until the third when we decided to play a lot harder,” said Prier, whose team outshot Yale 11-8 over the final 20 minutes of the contest.

“I thought we hunted them down and were taking the time away. After the game, I said we didn’t have any lulls; we didn’t have any momentum swings in the third period at all. It is the sign of a team that is going hard all of the time.”

Prier saw some good signs in defeat. “I think there are a lot of bright spots there,” said Prier, whose team will look to get on the winning track in ECACH play this weekend as it hosts Dartmouth on November 15 and Harvard a day later.

“I was really impressed with the way a lot of guys played. I thought Ben Foster was playing really well. Tucker Brockett worked really hard. I thought Mike Ambrosia had a good game, he had a lot of chances. Tommy Davis played well, he plays with heart. He has tons of passion. Ryan Siro is as consistent as they come. We have to build off it and inspire each other. You see what works and you have to play that way.”

Berger, for his part, believes Princeton still has a chance to enjoy a big season.

“I am really lucky to have such a big senior class,” said Berger. “I think everyone as a group has done a great job. We are just trying to stay positive; there is lot of season left and we are confident with the group that we have. We just need to turn it around here and get it moving forward.”

TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.(Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

TITLE CHASE: Princeton High boys’ soccer player Chase Ealy controls the ball in 2012 state tournament action. Last Thursday, junior star Ealy scored two goals to help fourth-seeded PHS top No. 5 Hopewell Valley 3-0 in the Group III Central Jersey sectional quarterfinals. The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15. (Photo by Stephen Goldsmith)

Over the last two seasons, Chase Ealy has been a threat from left back for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

But with senior midfielder John Blair getting sidelined for the season due to a knee injury and the team struggling to score goals, the PHS coaches decided to move Ealy up the field.

Putting junior star Ealy at striker paid immediate dividends as he scored a goal in a 1-1 tie with Pennington in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game and then chipped in two tallies as the fourth-seeded Little Tigers topped No. 13 Neptune 4-0  in the opening round of the Group III Central Jersey sectional.

Last Friday in a sectional quarterfinal contest against fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley, Ealy gave further evidence of his finishing prowess, scoring two more goals as the Little Tigers topped the Bulldogs 3-0.

The win earned PHS a shot at top-seeded Allentown in the sectional quarters in a game slated for November 12 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 15.

Ealy is relishing the chance to have a bigger role in the PHS attack. “I have had a lot of good looks in the state tournament,” said Ealy.

“Coach put me up at striker and obviously that puts me in front of the net a lot more and I have been hitting the shots.”

The loss of Blair left a void that Ealy is trying to fill. “John was definitely a big part of our offense and now that I am up at striker I do feel as if I can really help Kevin [Halliday] and Zeno [Mazzucato],” said Ealy.

“The other two have been at the forward positions all year to get the goals. I have been working here a long time; I know the team.”

In the win over HoVal, Ealy benefited from being a bit of an unknown quantity. He scored on a penalty kick midway through the first half and then tallied on a point blank blast as he converted a feed from Kevin Halliday with 24:01 remaining in regulation to put PHS up 2-0.

“They knew to mark Kevin, I don’t think they had much of a report on me and I took advantage of that,” said Ealy.

“I hit my corner every time on the PK, I don’t change it. That was a great play by Kevin on the second goal. No one stepped up to him, he had all the time in the world to find his pass. I just knew if I posted up, he would hit me and off the six I can hit my shots. It was a nice tap-in.”

The PHS defense also put in a great effort against HoVal, stifling the talented Bulldogs throughout the contest.

“I was so impressed with our defense today,” asserted Ealy. “They held down that line. They did what they needed to do. Whenever they did get back there, Laurenz [Reimitz] was a wall. It all went well.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe knew that Ealy’s skills could be put to good use up the field.

“We weren’t really in a position to really use him as a striker in the first half of the season,” said Sutcliffe, who also got a goal from freshman Andrew Goldsmith in the win over HoVal.

“We worked to slot him in there. John is out for the season, Chase characteristically can play anywhere. He is a flank left player but he is pretty threatening so what a day for him. These moments are scripted for guys like that.”

With PHS having lost 2-1 to HoVal in the rivals’ regular season encounter, Sutcliffe knew that his team had to flip the script through better ball possession.

“In the middle third and the front third, we wanted to hold it and let the ball move in different ways because Hopewell has such a big, fast, athletic team,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 10-5-2.

“Our goal is to make them chase and to try to keep it, build from there, switch the point, and get it in to Kevin and Chase who can put pressure on them there and hold the ball up.”

With a playoff pedigree that features a 16-2-1 record in state tournament play over the last four years, including three sectional titles, a state title in 2009, and state co-championship last year, the Little Tigers have proven they can thrive under postseason pressure. As a result, PHS was not fazed when it struggled down the stretch, going 1-4-2 in its last seven games before the state tournament.

“We lost 12 guys from last year so we knew we had to rebuild,” said Sutcliffe.

“So during the season we are going to have some ups and downs. We are either going to bow out in a bad way or we are going to be where we are now and credit to the guys for doing it. I think there is a lot of resilience in the group, there is a lot of quality with eight sophomores and three freshmen. But then we have guys on this team who have been around for three or four years, and in the last two years, we have won 10 state tournament games.”

Ealy, for his part, believes that the program’s tradition of tournament success drives the Little Tigers.

“We just have a legacy here where we are a championship team,” said Ealy.

“We know that no matter what we did in the regular season we are always expected to contend for every championship. No one wants this to be that year that we didn’t win anything. No matter how we did in the regular season, we want states and we want the MCT. We can do it, we always have the skill for it.”

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GROUNDED: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Dana Smith slides to the ground after a ball in the midfield in recent action. Last Thursday, senior midfielder and co-captain Smith saw her high school soccer career come to an end as third-seeded PHS fell 4-1 to No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 14-4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Dana Smith expected her career with the Princeton High girls’ soccer team to extend beyond last Thursday when the third-seeded Little Tigers hosted No. 11 Hightstown in the Central Jersey Group III sectional quarterfinals.

But PHS fell behind the Rams 2-0 by halftime and, despite some valiant play, couldn’t overcome an inspired Hightstown squad, falling 4-1 to end the fall with a final record of 14-4.

While star midfielder and team co-captain Smith desperately wanted the Tigers to keep going in the states, she has no regrets when looking back at her four years with the program.

“I am so happy with what I have done and what I have gotten to be part of at Princeton High School,” said Smith, a key performer last fall in PHS’s run to its first-ever sectional title.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better second half to finish with. Every single girl on the team was giving her all. Our fans were here. It just wasn’t our day. We gave it our all and did the best we could.”

The day got off to a rough start for PHS as Hightstown scored with 25:21 left in the first half to take the lead and then added a critical tally just 4:22 before halftime.

The Little Tigers came out firing in the second half, generating several corner kicks but just couldn’t cash them in. The Rams tallied with 24:56 left in regulation to go up 3-0 and then PHS senior Ally Rogers found the back of the net to narrow the gap to 3-1. The Little Tigers kept pressing forward but got burned on a counter attack in the waning seconds as they lost 4-1.

“We never really put our heads down,” said Smith. “We were really focusing on coming back and trying for that goal. Even when they scored that third goal, we were still fighting. We thought we still had time; there was about 20 minutes left at that point. We never gave up; we played to the last second all the way to the last kickoff with seven seconds left. We were still going to goal.”

Although PHS fell short of its goal to win a second straight sectional crown, Smith believes that the pluses outweighed the minus of the finale.

“This whole season has been really great,” said Smith. “We have had so many great wins, beating Hopewell at night was a really good one. Starting the season with two close wins set the tone for the whole season. We knew we were going to fight until the end in every single game. We were never going to give up. I don’t think we did, not for a minute.”

In Smith’s view, the tone set this season will benefit the PHS program going forward.

“We have six sophomores and a freshman so they are going to come back so strong next year,” said Smith. “We have built off of last year’s success. We are going to build off of this year’s successes.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand viewed the season as a success despite the sour ending.

“I was so impressed with the quality of the soccer we played this season,” said Hand. “Sometimes it was a little sporadic and we hoped that we would be more consistent over the course of a whole game. It was some of the best soccer that PHS has played over the years. We became a better defensive team as well as the year went along.”

The Little Tigers displayed that quality game in the second half as they tried to overcome the deficit.

“It was tough falling behind,” acknowledged Hand. “We worked so hard in the second half to try to get it back. We played some terrific soccer and we found a way to get one. It was too much to get back.”

In Hand’s view, the team’s group of seniors, which includes Kaity Carduner, Emily Costa, Krysta Holman, Jordan Provorny, and Eve Reyes in addition to Smith and Rogers, has shown the way for the younger players.

“What a terrific group, they are really great role models for what you need to do to be successful,” said Hand.

“Regardless of the record, I think this was a very successful team. Certainly by external measures, they were successful as well.”

While Smith also stars in lacrosse for PHS and has committed to play for the Lafayette College women’s lax program, soccer isn’t truly over for her.

“I am going to focus on lacrosse but it is going to be sad to end my soccer career,” said Smith. “It will always be a part of my life. This is definitely not going to be the last soccer game. I will definitely find a way to get a ball and kick it around. It has been such a huge part of my life and this team has been such a huge part of my year so far. We are going to wake up tomorrow and still be a team. We’ll be hanging out in the halls together.”

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JACOB’S LADDER: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Jacob Rist heads to the finish line in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Rist placed 12th individually at the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet to help PHS take second in the team standings. Senior Conor Donahue led the way for the Little Tigers, finishing eighth as he clocked a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Monroe. PHS will compete in the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mark Shelley liked what he saw from his Princeton High boys’ cross country team as it got ready to compete in the Group III Central Jersey sectional meet last Saturday.

“I felt like we had trained and tapered appropriately,” said first-year head coach Shelley.

“When you are working with your top 10-12 runners, you can really get in some great workouts.”

The Little Tigers proceeded to put in some good work in the meet held at Thompson Park in Monroe, placing second of 18 teams, trailing only champion Middletown North.

“We knew how good Middletown North was and that we were going to be in a dogfight for second place,” said Shelley, whose team trailed Middletown North 40-88 with Northern Burlington taking third at 95 and Middletown South coming in fourth with 109. “It was good to see us come through.”

Senior star Conor Donahue came through in a big way for PHS, placing eighth in the individual standings, clocking a time of 16:33 over the 5,000-meter course.

“Conor was actually a little sluggish in the first mile,” said Shelley. “He had a super last mile. He had a great kick, he passed some guys who have finished ahead of him before.”

The next Little Tiger finisher, junior Jacob Rist, showed some great character as he battled through injury to finish 12th in a time of 16:48.

“Jacob looked great in the first two miles but he had an issue with his foot over the last mile,” said Shelley.

“His kick wasn’t there. He gutted it out and that’s what you want from your top runners. You don’t drop out, you keep running and do as well as you can.

Freshman Alex Roth is emerging as a top runner for PHS, taking 16th at the sectional with a time of 17:11.

“Alex is so unflappable,” asserted Shelley. “He works hard and doesn’t seem to get too excited. We have been careful with his mileage and training. We have been working on getting him to race more aggressively. He tends to start a little slowly, relatively speaking. We want him to be quicker at the starts. We have been doing some interval pacing with him, trying to cut 10-15 seconds from his time.”

Two PHS juniors, Alex Harvey and Karl Bjorkland, had a good time at the sectional meet. Harvey placed 24th in 17:30 with Bjorkland taking 28th in 17:32.

“They were both fighting a cold,” said Shelley. “Harvey ran an exceptional race. I give the runners goals in each race based on the course and how they are running and he hit his goal exactly. Karl had a good race, but not his best. He is usually closer to Alex Roth. Karl has been a good surprise, he is a transfer from Pittsburgh.”

With PHS competing at the Group III championship meet on November 16 at Holmdel, Shelley knows his team faces a challenge as it shoots to stay around the front of the pack and earn a spot in the season-ending Meet of Champions.

“I like where we are at,” said Shelley. “It depends on being injury free and running our very best. We have some injuries to work through but that’s why you run the race. We are going to continue our tapering. We try to do more speed work at this time of the season to keep them sharp as we are cutting the mileage.”