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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodriguez credited Pawlak with spearheading a solid defensive effort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MULTI-TASKING: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Laurenz Reimitz follows through on a kick in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior Reimitz came up big as second-seeded PHS topped third-seeded Steinert on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals after the rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes. Reimitz made some key saves in the first overtime and stopped a penalty kick in the shootout before booting in the clinching PK himself. On Saturday in the MCT title game, he made four saves as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in another shootout as the teams were tied at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MULTI-TASKING: Princeton High boys’ soccer goalie Laurenz Reimitz follows through on a kick in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, senior Reimitz came up big as second-seeded PHS topped third-seeded Steinert on penalty kicks in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals after the rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes. Reimitz made some key saves in the first overtime and stopped a penalty kick in the shootout before booting in the clinching PK himself. On Saturday in the MCT title game, he made four saves as PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in another shootout as the teams were tied at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Laurenz Reimitz prefers a minimum of drama when he is playing goalie for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

“I usually like a quiet game, it is the one most goalkeepers like,” said senior Reimitz.

But last Wednesday when second-seeded PHS battle third-seeded Steinert in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, Reimitz emerged as the protagonist in an epic drama.

The rivals battled to a 1-1 tie through regulation with Reimitz making some key saves to hold the Spartans at bay. In the first overtime, with Steinert applying intense pressure, Reimitz made a leaping stop and then kicked away a shot seconds later to keep the Little Tigers alive.

The contest remained deadlocked through 20 minutes of overtime and went into a penalty kick shootout. On Steinert’s first attempt, Reimitz came up big and punched the shot away. Then, producing a Hollywood ending, Reimitz volleyed in the penalty kick that clinched the win for PHS.

Reimitz kept a clear head in making the point blanks saves in overtime.

“It is just kind of reactions I guess, there is not much going through a goalkeeper’s mind on a shot like that,” said Reimitz.

In the shootout, Reimitz battled through some nerves. “Inside your head is going crazy but on the outside you have to act calm and that is just what I tried to do,” said Reimitz.

In taking his penalty kick, Reimitz calmly bounced the ball into the back of the net.

“In practice, we have taken them,” said Reimitz. “We have never been to a penalty shootout before so I haven’t been in that situation. Coach trusted me, he asked me before the PKs if I want to take one and I said yes. It wasn’t a great penalty kick but it worked.”

Over the last three years, Reimitz worked hard to improve technically. “The big thing was crosses,” said Reimitz, who made seven saves in the win over Steinert.

“In sophomore year and even last year, big guys would just bully me around. I have worked on my physique. Every practice and every time before a game we do crosses. I have been working on them a lot.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe has seen great improvement in his senior keeper.

“Laurenz was just terrific tonight, he has just worked so hard,” said Sutcliffe.

“He put together all the experience that he has as a three-year starter. He played in the state final when he was a sophomore. He found a way, credit to him. He leads the CVC in shutouts and we know why.”

In reflecting on his star turn, Reimitz agreed that experience made the difference for him.

“It helped me tremendously,” said Reimitz. “I got a little bit lucky sophomore year with one goalkeeper deciding not to play who would have been starting. That gave me so much experience, it is unbelievable.”

BACK ON TOP: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after they beat Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Second-seeded PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a penalty kick shootout after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through regulation and two overtimes. It was the first MCT crown for PHS since 2010. The Little Tigers will now look to add a state title to its county championship. PHS is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BACK ON TOP: Members of the Princeton High boys’ soccer team celebrate after they beat Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Second-seeded PHS edged top-seeded Allentown in a penalty kick shootout after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 through regulation and two overtimes. It was the first MCT crown for PHS since 2010. The Little Tigers will now look to add a state title to its county championship. PHS is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

While going into overtime in a championship game can be a nerve-wracking proposition, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team was undaunted as it faced that prospect against Allentown last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament final.

In mid-October, PHS had edged Allentown 1-0 on double overtime on a Chase Ealy penalty kick in the foes’ regular season meeting.

Last Wednesday evening, the second-seeded Little Tigers edged No. 3 Steinert on PKs in the MCT semis after the teams played to a 1-1 stalemate through regulation and two overtimes.

On Saturday, when PHS and top-seeded Allentown found themselves deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of regulation at Ewing High, Little Tiger head coach Wayne Sutcliffe felt confident.

“I felt great that if we had to go through the overtime and see PKs again that we were going to be in a terrific place,” said Sutcliffe, whose squad had taken a 1-0 lead on a first half goal from Dwight Donis.

Neither team could score in OT and a shootout was necessary to determine a winner.

Drawing upon the experience from the win over Steinert days earlier, PHS senior star and co-captain Chase Ealy wasn’t fazed by going into a shootout with the title on the line.

“It was everything; we were able to experience it without the intensity of the final,” said Ealy.

“We had already had a round of PKs. We knew who our shooters were and we were going in confident after coming off a PK win earlier.”

Ealy proceeded to bury his attempt with teammates Cole Snyder and Andrew Goldsmith following suit. With Allentown missing all three of its attempts, PHS clinched the title, its first MCT crown since 2010.

For Ealy, earning the county title was a crowning achievement. “We’ve had other big wins,” said Ealy, who helped the Little Tigers earn a share of the state Group 3 title in 2012. “But this is the first time I have won it. For the senior class and everyone who is with me, it means everything to bring that back.”

In Goldsmith’s view, it meant even more to beat Allentown to get the title. “It was really tough,” said Goldsmith.

“They are a very good team; starting with [Will Sjaastad] he is very dangerous on all set pieces. We just needed to keep our composure which is why I was trying to be as vocal as possible, leading our team with our captains, Chase and Chris [Harla], so we could get through the game.”

Sutcliffe tipped his hat to Ealy and Harla, praising their positive influence. “We have some good leadership; Chase Ealy and Chris Harla have done many of the things the way they should be done in training and even more importantly during the matches,” said Sutcliffe. “Chase has so much experience at this point. He’s played in a state final and semis.”

Topping Allentown added special meaning to the championship. “The rivalry has been terrific,” said Sutcliffe. “I just think it has been good for Mercer County and good for the game. We have each won a state championship and that is good for Mercer County soccer.”

As PHS goes after a state crown, it will draw on the chemistry that spurred its MCT title run.

“It has been rare that I have had a team that was as close as this team,” said Sutcliffe, whose team is seeded first in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional and topped No. 16 Hamilton 2-1 last Monday in an opening round contest to improve to 14-2-2 and advance to the quarters, where it will host ninth-seeded Hopewell Valley on November 6.

“There is a great spirit. We have had some great teams. This team, on the field and off the field, is a closer knit group and that has transcended to our quality and our spirit and our vitality. All of which helped us tonight and in the semi. And helped us close out the Colonial Division of the CVC. We had to win the last two games to win that and we beat Allentown and Hightstown.”

Ealy, for his part, believes that team spirit has been a key factor in PHS’s success this fall.

“We have a lot of young guys,” said Ealy. “At the beginning of the season we might have been a little bit worried. But these guys have shown more heart than we could ever expect. We have operated as a team this year. Everybody is friends. The team chemistry has worked out so much better than anyone could have expected.”

BEAMING IN: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer lofts a pass in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Beamer threw three touchdown passes as PHS rolled to a 43-0 win at Robbinsville. The Little Tigers, now 7-1, play at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BEAMING IN: Princeton High quarterback Dave Beamer lofts a pass in recent action. Last Thursday, junior Beamer threw three touchdown passes as PHS rolled to a 43-0 win at Robbinsville. The Little Tigers, now 7-1, play at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Cruising past Robbinsville 43-0 last Thursday evening, the Princeton High football team posted its second rout in a matter of days.

The previous Saturday, PHS rolled to a 50-0 victory over WW/P-S, posting its first win over the Pirates since 2009.

While the two laughers could seem ho-hum to some programs, David Beamer and his Little Tiger teammates savored the one-sided victories.

“Last year we went 0-10 so we never had games like this,” said junior quarterback Beamer. “We didn’t really expect to come out this big but it happened and it’s great.”

While things went smoothly for PHS as it jumped out to a 29-0 first half lead over the Ravens and never looked back on the way to improving to 7-1, there is room for improvement.

“There are still some things we have got to fix, penalties especially and turnovers,” acknowledged Beamer.

Although PHS didn’t need to pass much with such a large cushion, Beamer had some good hook-ups with senior Joe Hawes, who just took up football this fall after previously playing soccer.

“Joe Hawes was big,” said Beamer, who went 4-of-6 passing for 60 yards and three touchdowns with each of the scoring strikes going to Hawes. “When we were throwing it, it was pretty good. Joe is a great addition, he really transitioned well to playing receiver.”

This fall, Beamer has been transitioning into one of the top quarterbacks in the area.

“I think mostly my decision-making and just with completing the passes,” said Beamer, when assessing his progress from last season.

“Last year most of my yards came on big plays. I am working on just getting the ball to the receivers. I definitely feel more confident with everything with one year of experience.”

The team’s offensive
balance, which was reflected by junior star Rory Helstrom’s 176 yards rushing in the win over Robbinsville, has helped increase Beamer’s confidence.

“Last year we didn’t have much of a running game,” said Beamer. “This year, we have got the running game and a pretty good passing game. Not many teams can say that and we can rely on either one to get the job done.”

After not getting the job done in 2013, PHS has applied the lessons it learned from the winless campaign.

“Most of the guys who played last year are still starting this year so a lot of us had a lot of experience,” said Beamer.

“Last year was a train wreck. This year we got to really focus and use the experience to our benefit.”

For PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher, seeing his team bounce back from last year has been an enjoyable experience.

“I think the confidence level for everybody is good,” said Gallagher. “It was less than a year ago that we were trying to get our first win. It was really, really hard, we had a rough year. I have a lot of confidence in our guys; they play great football, try to be humble, and enjoy the wins.”

Gallagher liked the defensive effort he got from his squad against Robbinsville.

“They made a couple of big plays but for the most part the defense bottled them up,” said Gallagher. “It made some big sacks. We had some picks and a
fumble recovery. It is definitely good for these guys. We are trying to build momentum for the next two weeks.”

PHS is trying to build up Beamer’s passing efficiency all over the field.

“We are trying to give Dave an opportunity to throw the ball even down close,” said Gallagher.

“We know that there are people keying on [Colin] Buckley and that people will be looking at Rory. We have a lot of talented guys on the outside. We have got to be able to make those throws in tight quarters and score some points besides just running the football.”

Despite the 7-1 record, Gallagher knows that his team has to clean up some things as it plays at WW/P-N (5-3) on November 7.

“I think we still have to limit the penalties,” said Gallagher. “We are making some turnovers. We can’t get away with that next week and the week after.”

In order to get a win over the Northern Knights, PHS will need another big defensive effort.

“They put up some points, they have a great rusher (C.J. Markisz) and a really talented QB (Kevin Murphy), everybody knows about him so we are going to have to try to bottle him up,” said Gallagher.

“The running back is good too. He is a shifty kid and he is quick and fast, he has a lot of intangibles. We will have to have a great week of practice.”

Beamer, for his part, is confident that the Little Tigers will put together another superb performance.

“They are a pretty good team and their quarterback is good,” said Beamer. “It is going to be a big test but I think we can pull it off.”

RISING TO THE OCCASION: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Madison Coyne, right, goes up for a header in recent action. Last Sunday, freshman standout Coyne tallied the lone goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers ended the fall with a 12-4-3 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

RISING TO THE OCCASION: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Madison Coyne, right, goes up for a header in recent action. Last Sunday, freshman standout Coyne tallied the lone goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Morristown-Beard 1-0 in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers ended the fall with a 12-4-3 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Abby Atkeson acknowledges that the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team wasn’t on the same page early this fall.

“In the beginning of the season, we had a hard time being positive,” said sophomore midfielder Atkeson, reflecting on PDS’s shaky 2-2-1 start.

But after PDS topped Robbinsville 2-1 in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game last week, Atkeson believed the Panthers were poised to make a run for the state Prep B title.

“This is exactly what we needed,” said Atkeson, who scored a goal in the October 28 contest with the Ravens. “I definitely think we will carry this energy over into the rest of the week.”

After top-seeded PDS defeated No. 5 Newark Academy 3-0 last Thursday in the Prep B semis, the Panthers earned a title game rematch with second-seeded Morristown-Beard last Sunday.

With Mo-Beard having topped PDS 2-0 in the 2013 Prep B final, Atkeson and her teammates were determined to turn the tables on the Crimson.

“As our coach [Pat Trombetta] said, they rained on our parade last year so there was a little bit of a grudge,” said Atkeson, noting that the prep game last year came less than 24 hours after PDS had won the Mercer County Tournament championship. “I think we can do it.”

Playing with energy and a chip on its shoulder, PDS avenged that loss, edging Mo-Beard 1-0 to earn its third Prep B title in the last seven years and finish the fall with a 12-4-3 record.

But in a microcosm of the fall, things didn’t come easily for the Panthers. “Alexa Soltesz went down with a concussion in the semis,” said head coach Trombetta, referring to his star senior striker.

“It was hard to regroup. We had a walk-through on Friday to go through our game plan.”

Part of the plan involved giving sophomore Allison Klei more of a role in the attack.

“We pushed Allison Klei up top, she became the offensive threat,” said Trombetta.

“She created a number of opportunities, one of them hit the post and another went wide.”

Although the teams were locked in a scoreless tie at the half in the title showdown, Trombetta liked his team’s chances.

“The message at half was that we were playing well and keep it up,” recalled Trombetta.

“Mo-Beard had the wind in the first half and that was a big advantage. We thought that since we held them scoreless with the wind, we were in good shape.”

A key factor in shutting down the Crimson was the play of freshman goalie Grace Barbara.

“Grace played out of her mind,” said Trombetta of Barbara, who made 12 saves in earning the shutout. “She made some elite saves, three times she leaped and punched balls out over the bar.”

Another freshman standout, Madison Coyne, provided the margin of victory for PDS with a second half goal.

“We moved Madison to defense and she attacked from the back,” said Trombetta.

“From playing on an elite club (YMS) she has a good understanding of the game. She saw space and made a run through seam and Kirsten [Kuzmicz] got her a through ball and she stuck it from 25-30 yards.”

The pair of Atkeson and freshman Rebecca Kuzmicz, made a vital contribution along the back line.

“Going into game, they had big offensive threats we were concerned about,” said Trombetta.

“Kristy Cotter had 24 goals and is an All-American and Dani Kabat, who is getting recruited by D-1 teams. We put Abby on Dani and she did a great job. Rebecca Kuzmicz ended up playing the All-American and she really stepped up.”

Two key seniors, Stef Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz, also stepped up big time in their final appearance for the Panthers.

“Stef did her job in the back, sometimes you take her for granted but she was the savior several times,” said Trombetta. “We pushed Kirsten up to attacking midfielder and she got the assist on the goal.”

Once PDS took the lead, it was determined to hold on and avenge last year’s title game loss to Mo-Beard.

“It was a great defensive effort,” said Trombetta. “After we got the goal, we turned it up a couple of notches. We knew what happened last year, we were coming off of the MCT win and we lost. You never want to lose a game like that at home. We didn’t want that to happen again.”

Trombetta was thrilled to see his group of seniors prevail in their final game. “I am so happy for the seniors,” said Trombetta, whose Class of 2015 includes Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, Erin Murray, Kelly Tarcza, Jamie Thomas, and the Soltesz twins, Alexa and Stef.

“The group gave us an unbelievable effort over the last four years. Erin Hogan, Kirsten Kuzmicz, and the Solteszs got quality experience as freshmen and things got progressively better. The MCT win was historic. For the seniors to go out with the MCT and a state title on their resume is great.”

In order to make history in the finale, the PDS players had to get on the same page.

“I think what happened is that we came together as a team,” said Trombetta. “The training sessions got more competitive. Girls had to step up with the injuries that we had.”

Atkeson, for her part, saw a tight bond develop as the fall unfolded. “As the season went on, the team chemistry went up,” said Atkeson. “The positivity has improved over the season.”

In Trombetta’s view, the squad’s ability to come together when it counted most is a testament to PDS’s improvement over the years.

“I think the program has grown to be one of the most competitive in the area,” said Trombetta.

“We didn’t lose to a Prep B team this year. We played a lot of Prep A teams and that helped prepare us for the tournaments. As I told the girls afterward, it is not where you start, it is where you finish.”

TITLE CHASE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz, left, chases down a ball last Thursday against Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Maziarz contributed a goal as top-seeded Hun topped No. 5 Peddie 4-1. Hun, now 12-4-1, hosts second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington in the title game on November 5.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE CHASE: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz, left, chases down a ball last Thursday against Peddie in the state Prep A semifinals. Senior star and Lehigh-bound Maziarz contributed a goal as top-seeded Hun topped No. 5 Peddie 4-1. Hun, now 12-4-1, hosts second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington in the title game on November 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ashley Maziarz and her teammates on the Hun School girls’ soccer team were determined to leave it all on the field when they faced Peddie last Thursday in the state Prep A semifinals.

“We knew this was our last chance to win something,” said senior star and co-captain Maziarz, noting that Hun came into the contest having lost to Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and Lawrenceville in a regular season contest in its last two outings.

“We just wanted to go out there and give it all we got and show them the team we can be.”

Top-seeded Hun didn’t waste any time showing fifth-seeded Peddie that it meant business as Jess Sacco and Maziarz found the back of the net early in the first half to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.

“We knew we couldn’t come out flat because we have done that before and gotten ourselves into a hole,” said Maziarz, reflecting on Hun’s quick start. “We tried to come out as strong as we could and get a couple of goals early.”

Showing her strength in the air, Maziarz’s tally came on a header assisted by freshman Nicole Apuzzi.

“It was great service by Nicole, I was lucky because I almost second-guessed myself,” said Maziarz. “Luckily I went with my gut. I thought the ball was going to drop sooner so I almost didn’t head the ball.”

While Peddie narrowed the gap to 2-1 early in the second half, Hun added two unanswered goals by Kennedy DeBow to post a 4-1 win in setting up a championship game against second-seeded and perennial Prep A champion Pennington on November 5.

“I was a little concerned, they came out hard as we knew they would,” said Maziarz.

“We seemed flat in the beginning. I was happy that we were able to pull it together and continue to work as a team and get a couple of more goals.”

Although the Lehigh-bound Maziarz has distinguished herself as a skilled defender for Hun over her career, she has been taking a greater role in the Raider attack as she heads down the homestretch of her senior campaign.

“The last couple games coach [Joanna Hallac] has put me at outside mid so I think she is trying to get me more involved in the offense,” said Maziarz. “I enjoy going up.”

Maziarz is enjoying her senior year, savoring the team camaraderie as much as the wins.

“We are trying to get as many games that we could,” said Maziarz. “It is sad that the season is coming to the end. It has been a great team and I love playing with each and every one of them. I am going to miss them a lot next year.”

It is fitting that the season will end with an appearance in the Prep A title game.

“It feels great to be back there, especially our senior year with this being our last shot at it,” said Maziarz. “We are really excited being home and having all of our fans here. Hopefully we can win this one.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac was excited by the way her squad started against Peddie.

“I felt we had a lot of the good pressure in the first half,” said Hallac. “In the first 10 minutes of the second half it was a little panicky. I think Peddie got a little tired after the first 10 minutes or so of the half and we just turned it back on and kept the pressure on.”

Hallac liked the way junior goalie Courtney Arch held up under the pressure.

“Courtney had a great game, she needed it,” said Hallac of Arch, who made five saves in the win over Peddie.

“She had a tough couple of games and I think her confidence was down a little bit so this was a nice game for her.”

The pair of senior co-captains Sacco and Maziarz inspires confidence in Hallac, “They have been just so instrumental,” asserted Hallac. “They wanted so badly to get back to that championship game and have another shot in their senior year.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun has a good shot at breaking Pennington’s 11-year Prep A title streak.

“I think it means a lot to us, it was one of our goals,” said Hallac, whose team improved to 12-4-1 with a 4-3 win over Peddie last Saturday in the regular season meeting between the rivals.

“I think this time around we know what to expect. They have a confidence this year that I don’t think we had last year. I think when we beat Pennington the first time (2-1 on September 30), they truly believed they could do it. I think they know when they play the way they are capable of, there is no other team they can’t beat. I think we have a good shot this time.”

Maziarz, for her part, believes the Raiders will have to produce another all-out effort to dethrone Pennington.

“The mindset is going out there and playing them the way we did the first time,” said Maziarz.

“We know they are a great team so we just have to keep our focus and just because we beat them once doesn’t mean it is definitely going to happen again. It definitely gives us confidence to know that we can play with them and beat them. We just need to make sure that we go out there and work hard.”

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Members of the Stuart Country Day School tennis team showing off pink socks for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Featuring a battle-tested lineup, the Tartans went 4-6 this fall in dual match play. The team included Maya Huang, Julia Rourke, Caitlyn Delaney, Mia Austria, the McGowen triplets, Natalie, Pamela, and Juliet along with their younger sister Alaina.

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Members of the Stuart Country Day School tennis team showing off pink socks for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Featuring a battle-tested lineup, the Tartans went 4-6 this fall in dual match play. The team included Maya Huang, Julia Rourke, Caitlyn Delaney, Mia Austria, the McGowen triplets, Natalie, Pamela, and Juliet along with their younger sister Alaina.

Katherine Stoltenberg had a comfort level with the Stuart Country Day School tennis team right from the start this fall.

“We didn’t graduate anybody,” said Stuart head coach Stoltenberg. “Everyone had experience, it was good.”

One of the better experiences for Stuart this season came when the Tartans recently beat Nottingham 5-0, winning each match in straight sets.

“Everyone played well and stayed focused on the task,” said Stoltenberg, whose team went on to fall 3-2 to Pennington on October 28 and 4-1 to Peddie last Thursday to end the season with a 4-6 record in dual matches.

“It is towards the end of the season and they are sore. I wanted them to focus on winning each game and each set, it was a good way to start the end of our season.”

Senior co-captain Maya Huang displayed good focus at first singles for the Tartans.

“Maya climbed up the ladder from first doubles to first singles last year,” said Stoltenberg.

“It is a challenging spot, you are at the top of the ladder but you are playing the best players from the other team. Maya rose to the occasion when playing the really good players. She works hard; she puts her heart into it.”

At second singles, senior co-captain Julia Rourke gave Stuart some good work.

“Julia has been a rock at second singles for us,” said Stoltenberg. “She has helped with the other singles players. She has been a force this fall.”

Stoltenberg is expecting sophomore and third singles players Caitlyn Delaney to be a force over the rest of her Stuart career.

“Caitlyn has a ton of potential; we are excited to have her for another two years,” said Stoltenberg.

“From day one, she has been a fighter. She will go to three sets, most of which she has won. We talk about conditioning and training in the offseason and through the season, she did that and it that showed in her three-set matches.”

The McGowen family dominated the Stuart doubles lineup as juniors Natalie and Pamela McGowen played first doubles while sophomore Alaina McGowen played at second doubles with senior Mia Austria.

The all-McGowen first doubles team predictably showed a special chemistry to go with their skill.

“They are sisters, they are two of three triplets,” said Stoltenberg. “They played last year at first doubles as well. Not only are they sisters, but they complement each other on and off the court. They have developed traditions and routines as a team.”

At second doubles, the younger McGowen made a good team with senior Austria.

“Mia had been a captain on JV and a swing player in the past, it was good to have her full-time,” said Stoltenberg.

“Ali is a sophomore but she had varsity experience and Mia stepped right in. They started to jell; they really showed how they would play to the end of any match.”

While Stuart is saying goodbye to Huang, Rourke, and Austria, Stoltenberg sees good continuity going forward.

“We are graduating three seniors but have some good JV players coming up and hopefully all four McGowens plus Caitlyn,” said Stoltenberg, noting that one of the triplets, Juliet McGowen, was sidelined with injury this fall.

HEAD FIRST: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) women’s youth 8 enjoy the moment after taking second in their class at the recently-held Head of Charles regatta in Boston. It was the highest finish ever for a Mercer boat at the event. The boat included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

HEAD FIRST: Members of the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) women’s youth 8 enjoy the moment after taking second in their class at the recently-held Head of Charles regatta in Boston. It was the highest finish ever for a Mercer boat at the event. The boat included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

In crew circles, the venerable Head of Charles in Boston is one of the premier events on the calendar, often called the biggest regatta in the world as it annually attracts around 10,000 rowers and more than a quarter million spectators over its two days of competition.

This year’s event, which marked the competition’s 50th anniversary, proved to be a platform for the Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) to solidify its standing among the elite youth programs in the country.

The club’s women’s youth 8 took second while its men’s youth 8 placed seventh to highlight Mercer’s performance at the regatta. Showing the club’s depth, the men’s youth 4 placed 10th, the women’s youth 4 took 12th, and the second varsity women’s 8 came in 35th.

Ted Sobolewski, Mercer’s head coach and manager of rowing program, was justifiably proud of his team’s showing.

“All of our juniors qualified so we have five automatic entries next year,” said Sobolewski, referring to the requirement that a boat finish in the the top 50 percent of its class to earn an automatic entry to the next year’s race.

“The varsity 8s had their best placings ever, the guys’ best had been ninth and the girls’ best had been seventh.”

The women’s 8 showed pluck and skill, starting 10th and passing a number of boats to earn its second-place finish.

“It is definitely something we have been building toward,” said Sobolewski of the boat which included coxswain Kate Edmondson, stroke Rena White, Haley Bork, Alex Natale, Kate Hickey, Kelly Fischer, Caitlin Cleary along with sisters Laila and Badia Shehab.

“There were 85 boats so the starting order is a big deal. When I started we were in the 40s.They worked hard from last spring to the summer and to the fall; five of the eight rowers are seniors so there is a lot of experience.”

The men’s 8, which was comprised of cox Matt Perez, stroke Elias Abilheira, Aaron Goodman, Kevin Borup, Alex Levine, Mark Hayton, Griffin Petri, Scott Hanks, and Dan Gleim overcame some adversity this fall in making the top seven.

“They did really well, they have gained a lot of speed this fall,” said Sobolewski.

“They lost some key rowers, we graduated some guys who have gone on to D-1 programs. There was a coaching change and a transition. I am happy with how they stuck with it. They put a lot of time in, it was a work-based approach. I am happy with how Justin (new coach Justin Ochal) prepared them.”

The work ethic of the club’s veteran rowers is being passed down through the ranks.

“The athletes at the top of the program are putting in a solid volume of training,” said Sobolewski.

“We have some good young rowers coming in, they have watched the seniors and what they do and they have an idea of the training it takes to do well. They have started at a higher level. It all goes back to work piece, we have asked more of the athletes in the last couple of years in terms of time, effort, and daily work in practice.”

Sobolewski, for his part, sees the club becoming a fixture at the highest level of youth rowing in the U.S.

“We want to be a top-5 program nationally in any given year,” said Sobolewski.

“We realize there are going to be up and down years but with the number of athletes we have, the varsity is capable of a top 5 finish at the youth nationals. We see ourselves as a pretty big program. Since we are a club, we can draw from a number of schools and areas.”

October 29, 2014
COMING ON: Princeton University men’s soccer player Brendan ­McSherry, left, comes after a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, junior midfielder and former Peddie School standout McSherry contributed a goal and an assist as the Tigers edged Harvard 3-2. The Tigers, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games, improved to 7-3-3 overall and 2-1-1 Ivy League with the win. Princeton plays at Cornell (9-4-1 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on November 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

COMING ON: Princeton University men’s soccer player Brendan ­McSherry, left, comes after a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, junior midfielder and former Peddie School standout McSherry contributed a goal and an assist as the Tigers edged Harvard 3-2. The Tigers, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games, improved to 7-3-3 overall and 2-1-1 Ivy League with the win. Princeton plays at Cornell (9-4-1 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on November 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After starting the first 12 games of the season, Brendan McSherry found himself on the bench for the Princeton University men’s soccer team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday evening.

With the junior star midfielder and former Peddie School standout bothered by a nagging ankle injury, the Princeton coaches weren’t sure how much he could help the Tigers in the vital Ivy League clash.

But at the 17-minute mark, McSherry entered the fray and immediately made his presence felt in the midfield. Late in the half, McSherry looked perfectly healthy as he lofted a free kick into the top corner to give Princeton a 1-0 lead.

“The goalie was off on the back post and they didn’t have too many guys on the wall,” said McSherry, recalling his tally.

“I thought I could dip it over the wall and beat the keeper and that worked out.”

Princeton had to put in some extra work as it went down one man minutes later when junior star Thomas Sanner was sent off on a red card. Undeterred, the Tigers took a 2-0 lead late in the first half on a penalty kick by Cameron Porter. Early in the second half, senior star Porter struck again as he scored to make it 3-0. From there, Princeton hung on for dear life as Harvard scored two unanswered goals.

In the end, McSherry left the field with his hands raised in triumph as the Tigers pulled out a 3-2 thriller, improving to 7-3-3 overall and 2-1-1 Ivy League.

“It was a classic Ivy League game, two teams battling it out,” said McSherry, who was credited with an assist on Porter’s second goal.

“It was really intense with the nerves and everything. It was not as sharp as we would all hope but it was just a great effort all around.”

Princeton produced a superb effort offensively, generating offense despite being shorthanded.

“You think that we would be defending for our lives,” said McSherry. “We managed to score two more goals a man down, which is really impressive. It shows a lot of character out of our attack and out of our guys.

The Tigers showed character in holding off a Crimson team that came into the game riding an 8-0-1 unbeaten streak with a 2-0-1 record in Ivy play.

“We get that third goal and at that point we just have to defend,” said McSherry.

“It was a little nerve-wracking. I am really proud of the guys that we pulled that one out.”

The win extended an unbeaten streak for Princeton, who is 4-0-1 in its last five outings.

“We are playing well, we are moving the ball around,” asserted McSherry.

“We are confident and that’s a big key, being confident going into these games.”

McSherry, for his part, has gained a lot of confidence with two seasons at Princeton under his belt.

“I think college soccer as a whole is an adjustment, the more you play, you just get used to it,” said the 5’9, 160-pound McSherry, a Freehold native who now has two goals and three assists this season. “It is more physical, it is faster. I think I am slowly adjusting.”

In assessing his role on the Tigers, McSherry looks to bring speed and skill to the midfield.

“I think they have thrown me in there to generate some chances and set other guys up,” said McSherry.

“I am not the most natural goal scorer but I am good at setting other guys up and they just want me to be hard to play against in the midfield, defensively as well.”

Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that losing Sanner made things hard for his squad.

“The thing that is different about it is losing a guy midway through the first half,” said Barlow.

“You have a lead at that point so we knew we had to keep ourselves organized and keep things tight but the guys responded with so much energy that we went out and got two more goals. We knew at some point that Harvard was going to come at us and throw a lot of numbers forward. Fortunately, we were able to hang on and the clock ran out.”

Barlow was surprised at how much energy he got from the gimpy McSherry.

“He wasn’t even going to play tonight,” said Barlow. “He didn’t train yesterday, he couldn’t kick a ball yesterday. His ankle was killing him from an injury in training. We didn’t start him because we didn’t think he would be able to give us much tonight and he wound up being great. He had a great goal to get things started.”

The Tigers got great contributions from a number of players, including senior striker Porter and sophomore midfielder Brian Costa.

“Porter was clutch,” said Barlow of Porter, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. “Brian Costa had another good effort in a game that required so much defending.”

Princeton’s clutch win kept it alive in the Ivy title hunt as it locked in a three-way tie for second with Penn (6-6-1 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) and Harvard (8-4-1 overall, 2-1-1 Ivy) behind frontrunner Dartmouth (8-4-1 overall, 3-1 Ivy).

“We are still in the hunt; we knew if we lost tonight we were out of the race,” said Barlow, whose team plays at Cornell (9-4-1 overall, 2-2 Ivy) on November 1.

“It says a lot about how much these guys put into it. They knew it was a really, really important game and they responded.”

McSherry, for his part, believes that Princeton has a lot going for it.

“We are excited about where we sit in the Ivy League,” said McSherry. “I think looking past the Ivy League we are excited about where we stand in the overall picture.”

CAUGHT IN A BIND: Princeton University receiver Matt Costello makes a catch in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star ­Costello had a game-high eight catches but it wasn’t nearly enough as Princeton fell 49-7 to Harvard. The Tigers, now 3-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, will look to regroup when they play at Cornell (0-6 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 1.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAUGHT IN A BIND: Princeton University receiver Matt Costello makes a catch in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star ­Costello had a game-high eight catches but it wasn’t nearly enough as Princeton fell 49-7 to Harvard. The Tigers, now 3-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League, will look to regroup when they play at Cornell (0-6 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the third straight season, the Princeton University football team scored a touchdown in the waning seconds of its annual showdown against Harvard.

The last two years, those touchdowns came on circus catches by Princeton star receiver Roman Wilson ’14 and they provided the margin of victory in two famous triumphs over the Crimson.

Last Saturday, when the Tigers scored on a two-yard TD run by Joe Rhattigan with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter, it was meaningless window dressing that prevented a shutout as Harvard rolled to a 49-7 victory over Princeton before 12,164 at Princeton Stadium.

A grim Princeton head coach Bob Surace didn’t mince words as he assessed the damage afterward.

“There are not a lot of positives when you look at the stat sheet,” said Surace whose team was outgained 698 yards to 244 in dropping to 3-3 overall and 2-1 Ivy League.

“We are going to have to find our way and come back tomorrow and move forward. That is what you have to do in life and it is what we have to do in sports. I am very confident that the leaders on the team will do that and we’ll come back and we will find a way to be a better team and better coaches. I am confident of myself and my coaching staff will do the same thing. Our butts are going to be sore because they got kicked.”

Senior running back Will Powers and his teammates had the sense early on that they had run into a buzz-saw in Harvard, which improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 Ivy with the victory.

“We could tell that we were in a dogfight from the very beginning, they were a very physical team,” said Powers, who was Princeton’s leading rusher in the defeat with 26 yards on six carries.

“They just out-physicaled us today and exposed some weaknesses. It is something we are going to remember but we will move forward and start working tomorrow.”

Senior quarterback and co-captain Quinn Epperly acknowledged that the Tiger offense misfired all afternoon.

“We couldn’t get anything going in the running game, we didn’t make any big plays in the passing game,” said Epperly, who went 12-of-20 passing for 66 yards. “Hats off to their defense as a whole for the fact that they did stop us.”

The Princeton defense, meanwhile, couldn’t slow the Crimson juggernaut.

“They are good,” said senior linebacker and co-captain Mike Zeuli. “We just needed to play more physical and get in our gaps but we didn’t and they were able to push us around and get some good runs.”

Princeton started getting pushed around in the first quarter as Harvard jumped out to a 7-0 lead after a 39-yard touchdown pass from Conner Hempel to Joseph Foster.

Hempel was a one-man wrecking crew in the second quarter, accounting for three touchdowns, one on a 49-yard aerial to Seitu Smith and two on scoring runs of one yard and 14 yards. Sparked by Hempel’s heroics, Harvard took a 28-0 lead into halftime.

Having rallied in its wins over Harvard in 2012 and 2013, there was no comeback for Princeton on Saturday. The Crimson got the lone score of the third quarter on a 33-yard run by Paul Stanton to extend their lead to 35-0.

In the fourth quarter, Hempel got his third TD pass of the afternoon, hitting Anthon Firkser on a 42-yard scoring strike as the lead increased to 42-0. Hempel’s back-up, Scott Hosch, got into the act as he found Matt Brown on a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 49-0 midway through the fourth quarter.

Showing some pluck, Princeton did put together a 60-yard scoring march late in the quarter, culminating with the Rhattigan touchdown run.

Surace tipped his hat to Hempel, who hit on 35-of-31 passes for 382 yards and rushed for 52.

“Their quarterback player played terrifically,” said Surace. “I don’t remember one guy impacting a game against us like that, maybe the Lehigh receiver (Ryan Spadola) a couple of years ago. It was probably one of the two finest performances against us.”

To compound matters, it was also a Murphy’s Law kind of day for the Tigers.

“It just seemed that whatever it is, everything that could have went wrong, went wrong and it went wrong against a team that was going to make you pay for every mistake,” lamented Surace.

“Our margin for error is a lot slimmer. It is probably slimmer right now than any time I have been here just because we do have to grind out drives more than we ever had.”

Epperly, for his part, vowed that the Tigers are going to keep grinding as they prepare to play at Cornell (0-6 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 1.

“We just have to work as hard as we can,” said Epperly. “As much as this one tastes bad, we have to move on. It is only one loss, there is still a season to play. I know the guys in the locker room are not going to back down and it is not going to be a quitting situation. We are going to come out and we are going to be ready to play down the road. You can just draw on the fact that we are going to fight. I think all you can do at this point is to come back and prepare as much as we can next week and just be ready for a fight next weekend.”

FRESH START: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Jonathan Liau goes after the puck in game last season. Junior forward Liau and the Tigers will be seeing their first regular season action under new head coach Ron Fogarty this weekend when they head to the Prudential Center in Newark to take part in the Liberty Hockey Invitational. Princeton plays Yale on October 31 and will then face either UConn or Merrimack on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FRESH START: Princeton University men’s hockey player ­Jonathan Liau goes after the puck in game last season. Junior forward Liau and the Tigers will be seeing their first regular season action under new head coach Ron Fogarty this weekend when they head to the Prudential Center in Newark to take part in the Liberty Hockey Invitational. Princeton plays Yale on October 31 and will then face either UConn or Merrimack on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ron Fogarty is not making any bold pronouncements or predictions as he prepares to start his first season at the helm of the Princeton University men’s hockey program.

With Princeton coming off a rough 6-26 campaign in 2013-14, Fogarty sees rebuilding morale as job one.

“Team cohesion, team chemistry, and team unity are the keys right now,” said Fogarty, the former head coach at Division III Adrian College in Michigan and the replacement for Bob Prier, who resigned in the spring after a three-year tenure at Princeton that saw him compile an overall record of 25-58-12.

“We have agreed on our mission and that is to get better every day and be prepared for the playoffs.”

So far in the preseason, Fogarty is seeing daily improvement. “It is good, we are progressing,” said Fogarty, who posted a 167-23-10 record in seven seasons at Adrian, guiding the Bulldogs to four appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament, advancing to the championship game in 2010-11.

“It is different for everybody, both players and coaches. We are seeing what each player brings and they are learning our systems. It is going to take some time for us to go from average to good to great. We haven’t had any competition against us so it is hard to know how things are working.”

The Tigers will get into regular season competition this weekend when they head to the Prudential Center in Newark to take part in the Liberty Hockey Invitational. Princeton plays Yale on October 31 and then will face either UConn or Merrimack on November 2.

“The players are looking forward to seeing a different color jersey,” said Fogarty. “They are eager to get started, they are enthusiastic.”

Fogarty is enthusiastic about his core of veterans, noting that junior forwards Mike Ambrosia (4 goals and 7 assists in 2013-14) and Kyle Rankin (3 goals and 3 assists) along with senior forward Tyler Maugeri  (5 goals and two assists) have made a good early impression as well as a pair of defensemen, sophomore Quin Pompi (3 assists) and junior Aaron Ave (3 goals and 6 assists).

“Mike Ambrosia is doing a good job, he is showing some chemistry with Kyle Rankin and Tyler Maugeri,” said Fogarty.

“On the other end, Aaron Ave and Quin Pompi have done well, they are picking things up.”

At goalie, sophomore Colton Phinney (3.56 goals against average and .901 save percentage in 18 games in 2013-14), freshman Ben Halford, and senior Ryan Benitez (4.80 goals against average in one game) have all done some good things in the preseason.

“Colton is looking solid,” said Fogarty. “Adding Halford is good, he is pushing him. Benitez is first on, last off the ice. I am not sure who we will be starting. It will sort itself out.”

The Tigers aren’t sure at this point what they are going to get out of their crew of freshmen.

“We’ll bring the freshmen along slowly and let the upperclassmen take them under their wing,” said Fogarty. “Eric Robinson is playing well, we will give him opportunities with a top line.”

The new coaching staff plans to give the players every opportunity for success.

“It is up to them, we are laying the tracks for them to be successful,” said Fogarty.

“Each player on the ice has to do his job and trust that the other four guys will also do their job. We want it to flow but it takes time to do that. They have to invest trust in the team.”

Fogarty acknowledges that it is going to take time for Princeton to rise up the ranks of ECAC Hockey.

“We are going to be patient,” said Fogarty. “We are indifferent to results at the outset, that is not going to impact how we prepare for each game. We are going to be a solid team that plays all 60 minutes and looks to eliminate mistakes.”

OVERDRIVE: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly follows through on a hit last Thursday night in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior midfielder Reilly scored the winning goal in overtime as second-seeded PHS edged No. 3 Robbinsville 3-2. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 in the title game on Saturday to fourth-seeded and four-time champion Lawrenceville. PHS, now 17-3, will start play in the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where it is seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OVERDRIVE: Princeton High field hockey player Trish Reilly follows through on a hit last Thursday night in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Junior midfielder Reilly scored the winning goal in overtime as second-seeded PHS edged No. 3 Robbinsville 3-2. The Little Tigers went on to fall 3-1 in the title game on Saturday to fourth-seeded and four-time champion Lawrenceville. PHS, now 17-3, will start play in the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where it is seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton High field hockey team met Lawrenceville on September 24 in a regular season contest, the rivals battled to a 0-0 stalemate at halftime.

In the second half that day, PHS faltered as the Big Red pulled away to a 3-1 victory.

Having won 11 straight games since that setback, the Little Tigers were looking to flip the script when the teams met for a rematch last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) championship game at Mercer County Community College.

“We definitely need to be focused and go into the game ready to play,” said PHS senior star Julia DiTosto.

“I know with Lawrenceville that we didn’t really set the tone, that is one of our big issues, setting the tone.”

In the early going on Saturday, the Little Tigers showed focus, thwarting the potent Lawrenceville attack as the teams headed into halftime locked in a scoreless tie.

Unfortunately for PHS, history repeated itself as the Big Red got untracked in the second half, scoring two goals in a one-minute span on the way to a 3-1 triumph and the program’s fourth straight MCT title.

A somber PHS head coach Heather Serverson acknowledged that Lawrenceville set the tone in the title clash.

“We just didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to make; they stepped up to every free ball and we didn’t,” said Serverson, whose team dropped to 17-3 with the loss.

“We didn’t pressure in the center as well as we should have, which could have made a big difference in this game.”

Lawrenceville’s hustle to the ball took its toll in the second half when it took a 2-0 lead on goals with 24:44 and 23:51 left in regulation.

“I think we started playing more reactive,” said Serverson. “We didn’t continue to play our aggressive game.”

While PHS answered quickly with a Lucy Herring tally just 32 seconds after the second Big Red goal, it couldn’t find the back of the cage again and Lawrenceville tacked on an insurance goal with 9:50 left in the second half.

While Serverson was disappointed by the outcome, she was happy with her squad’s run to the title game.

“It is the first time a PHS team has made it here in a long time so we are definitely proud of that,” said Serverson of her team’s achievement, the program’s first county championship game appearance since 1998.

In Serverson’s view, the experience should help the Little Tigers as they head into the North 2, Group 3 sectional, where they are seeded third and will host No. 6 Middletown South in a quarterfinal clash on October 30.

“It is definitely something that I am glad they have under their belts at this point so that the pressure won’t have the same effect on them in the state games,” said Serverson.