November 6, 2013
PRICKLY ROSE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Rose Alleva goes after the puck in recent action. Senior defenseman Alleva totaled three goals and an assist last weekend as Princeton lost 5-4 to No. 3 Cornell on Friday and then rebounded with a 6-2 win over Colgate a day later. The Tigers, now 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PRICKLY ROSE: Princeton University women’s hockey player Rose Alleva goes after the puck in recent action. Senior defenseman Alleva totaled three goals and an assist last weekend as Princeton lost 5-4 to No. 3 Cornell on Friday and then rebounded with a 6-2 win over Colgate a day later. The Tigers, now 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey action, play at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University women’s hockey team fell behind visiting No. 3 Cornell 5-0 in the first period last Friday at Baker Rink, it looked like the Tigers were in for a long weekend.

But encouraged by Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, Tiger senior star Rose Alleva and her teammates believed they could get back into the game.

“Coach just said that we can skate with them,” said defenseman Alleva. “He was positive, he always is. He always has our backs. We just needed to backcheck and protect our house.”

Showing a positive mindset, Princeton exploded for three goals in first three minutes of the second period and added a fourth midway through to make a 5-4 game heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.

Alleva, who scored the third goal of the second period flurry, acknowledged that she was taken aback by the team’s outburst.

“I think our team just believed in ourselves,” said Alleva, a 5’3 native of Red Wing, Minn.

“We knew we could do it. Once we got one in, we just  kept on going on our momentum. We were surprised, I have to say.”

While Princeton didn’t pull off a surprise win against the Big Red as it fell by that 5-4 margin, Alleva was proud of the way the Tigers tightened up after their shaky start.

“I think we were just playing with our hearts,” said Alleva. “We were stronger in front of the net, we got our heads up. We looked where the people were coming from. They were trying to fly a person from the weak side and also the defense crashed in like forwards. We were just more alert.”

Alleva showed some alertness on her goal. “I saw the forwards are rushing in and during practice we are always like the defense to sneak in,” said Alleva, who also had an assist on the evening.

“Every time I wouldn’t get the goal because the puck wouldn’t come to me. It came right there and I was like, it can’t be this easy.”

A day later, Alleva tallied two more goals as the Tigers rallied from a 1-0 deficit against Colgate, erupting for six goals in the third period on the way to a 6-2 triumph.

As a battle-tested senior, Alleva has made it her goal to help the team’s seven freshmen get the most out of their potential.

“We have so many freshmen,” said Alleva, who now has 27 points in her Tiger career on six goals and 21 assists.

“We just try to give them what they need, guide them through classes, guide them through what they need to do in the ice, what the coaches like, and what our team atmosphere is like here. We want to just get them integrated into the Princeton culture. We really rely on them as freshmen. The depth really helps us; we have fresher legs.”

Alleva’s partnership with classmate and fellow defenseman Gabie Figueroa has also helped the Tigers.

“We first met during national camp in high school,” recalled Alleva.

“She was already committed and I didn’t know where I wanted to go. She said come to Princeton and I said I will look, I’ll give it a shot. I came on my official and I decided to come here. We have always loved playing with each other on the ice. We just work really well together.”

Princeton head coach Kampersal liked how his team worked its way back into the game against Cornell.

“It was definitely a rocky start,” said Kampersal. “After that we just decided to focus on five minutes at a time and try to win four-five minute periods in the second. We did a good job of doing that. We just couldn’t get it in the third. We were in good shape, we kept bringing it. We played with a lot of heart and soul; We could have easily folded the tent at 5-0 no question so it was a good battle back.”

Kampersal credited Alleva with bringing it all night against Cornell. “Rosie is one of those kids who can skate all day,” said Kampersal, who also got goals from Jaimie McDonell, Olivia Mucha, and Ali Pankowski in the battle with the Big Red.

“She is in great shape. She worked really hard this summer. She has good skills so she can get herself out of trouble and then she has good speed so if she were to get beat someone has to beat her twice and that usually doesn’t happen. She is definitely a leader back there.”

Junior Ashley Holt definitely gave Princeton a lift as she came on for starter Kim Newell in the second period of the Cornell game.

“Ashley played great,” said Kampersal of Holt, who went on to make 20 saves in the win over Colgate as the Tigers improved to 2-2 overall and 2-2 in ECAC Hockey play.

“Kim is a great goaltender but it wasn’t her night. I was thinking of putting Ashley in after the fourth goal and I should have but there was 40 seconds left in the period  and I thought we could get out of it and that ended up being the winning goal which is a bummer. The defenseman played really well in front of her and she made that penalty shot save.”

Princeton got good play all weekend from sophomore McDonell and freshman Cassidy Tucker.

“We missed Jamie McDonell last year,” said Kampersal, who got a goal and an assist from McDonnell in the win over Colgate with Tucker chipping in a goal.

“It is a bummer that she got injured but she is just a gritty, tough kid, she plays hard. Tucker is a young kid but she is so savvy and so smart. The defensemen played solid in general.

With increased depth this winter due to the influx of the freshmen, Princeton should be tougher to beat.

“We are usually the team that is shorthanded and fighting it through the third period and we were able to keep throwing people out there,” said Kampersal, whose team plays at Yale on November 8 and at Brown on November 9.

Alleva, for her part, believes the Tigers have a fighting chance against any team in the country.

“We obviously showed a lot of heart in the second period and also the third,” said Alleva.

“I don’t knew where we were in the first. We just proved to ourselves that we can be with the top girls. We are gong to prove that when we go up to Minnesota over Thanksgiving.”

While the Princeton University men’s soccer team may have won ugly in posting a 2-1 victory over Cornell last Saturday, the triumph left the Tigers in pretty good shape in the Ivy League title race.

The Tigers are now 6-7-1 overall and 3-1-1 Ivy, tied with Penn (6-8-1 overall, 3-1-1 Ivy) for second place and trailing frontrunner Harvard (5-7-2 overall, 4-1 Ivy).

In reflecting on the win, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow acknowledged that his team wasn’t at its sharpest.

“It is funny we didn’t think we were playing that well but we got two goals,” said Barlow.

“We thought we got off to better starts against Dartmouth and Columbia but they got the first goal. That was not one of the best games soccer-wise from beginning to end but we got those two first half goals.”

The Princeton tallies came on good individual efforts by junior star Cameron Peter and senior standout Patrick O’Neil.

“Cameron did a good job on that play,” said Barlow. “Thomas Sanner made a play in the midfield and then Brendan McSherry got it to Myles McGinley and he sent it up the field. Cameron was in a wrestling match with the two center backs and was able to score. O’Neil came in at left back due to an injury to Joe Saitta. We like our backs to come up wide and he scored that goal from left back.”

Barlow didn’t like what he saw in the second half as Cornell put Princeton on its heels.

“We had a good opportunity to get a third but Thomas Sanner hit the post,” lamented Barlow.

“They had a player seriously injured, he got tangled with Chris Benedict and his head hit Benedict’s knee. They thought there might be a neck injury; he was immobilized and taken off by an ambulance. The game was delayed for 25-30 minutes. When it restarted, they threw the kitchen sink at us. They scored on a corner and we had to hold them off.”

In Barlow’s view, the Tigers have a good opportunity to come out on top in the Ivy dogfight.

“I have been saying all along that we have a good team,” said Barlow. “It was good to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Harvard; we had our backs to the wall. We are focused on the league right now. We hope Columbia can beat Harvard so our game with Penn will be for first place. It is wide open with two weeks to go, we think if we play our best we can win the title.”

The Tigers will have to be at their best to pull out a win over the Quakers. “They have one of the best attacks in the league,” asserted Barlow.

“They have four special players in Duke Lacroix, Alec Neumann, Sam Hayward, and Stephen Baker. They are also not conceding many goals. We will have to keep track of those four going up the field. We need to win the midfield, that sets the tempo. It is going to be a really good game.”

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

GLORY DAY: Players on the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team celebrate in the wake of beating Hopewell Valley 2-0 last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. It was the first-ever MCT crown for the program. A day later, PDS fell short of a title double as it lost 2-0 to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game. The Panthers finished the fall with a 17-2-1 record. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

At around 6:30 on Saturday evening, the players on the Princeton Day School soccer team were crying tears of joy after their dramatic 2-0 win over Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament championship game at Rider’s Ben Cohen Field.

“That was huge; I don’t know if there was one dry eye on the team after that,” said PDS senior star Lilly Razzaghi, reflecting on the emotions triggered by the program’s first-ever county crown. “We were all so happy.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happiest about the character his team displayed in its rise from a 4-9-4 campaign in 2012 to the MCT title.

“You know what it is; it is a team that is resilient,” said Trombetta. “The whole thing started last season when we finished with only four wins. It was a bad taste in our mouths and those girls remember that. I said it is unacceptable. I said you have got to come back and bounce back and that is exactly what they did this year.”

The first-seeded Panthers had to bounce back in the second half as No. 2 HoVal had them on their heels in the early going.

“I said you didn’t play well and it is 0-0 right now, you start making things happen and we are going to win this game,” said Trombetta, recalling his halftime message.

“Hopewell had the better of the play  But if you look at our back four, I will put them up against any back four in the county, with Stef Soltesz, Brit Murray, Erin Hogan, and Lily Razzaghi, That it is a strong four. I thought Rory Finnegan played excellent in goal today.”

In the the second half, PDS got goals through its strong play on set pieces as Eloise Stanton scored on a corner kick from Alexa Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from Brit Murray.

“We have been working on that in practice over and over and I told the girls this is how games are won or lost right here on this stuff,” said Trombetta. “I said  you guys need to be the aggressive team inside the box and they did it.”

In Trombetta’s view, pushing his players to come together as a team was a key factor in PDS’s title win.

“The chemistry is great,” said Trombetta. “If you look at the makeup of the team with underclassmen and upperclassmen, it is about 50/50. What I had the upperclassmen do is for each to take an underclassmen under their wing and just mentor them all season so that tightens the bond and it just grew and grew. It is a real close-knit group and, you know what, it means a lot in games when the players are playing for each other. It has been an amazing journey.

Utilizing that camaraderie, PDS struck a blow for the underdogs. “This is for all the teams out there, the small schools that nobody looks at,” said Trombetta, with his voice rising.

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

At around 2:30 the next afternoon, however, the PDS players cried tears of frustration as their hearts were broken in a 2-0 loss to Morristown-Beard in the state Prep B championship game played on their Jan Baker Field.

The top-seeded Panthers got off on the wrong foot against No. 6 Mo-Beard as they surrendered two goals in the first 13 minutes of the contest and then had a player sent off with a red card minutes later.

“It is bad enough playing less than 24 hours after the county game and then you get dealt a red card,” lamented Trombetta.

“That was an unfortunate situation, playing a man down for three-quarters of the game. The girls competed right to the end, they never gave up.”

Trombetta acknowledged that team’s grueling schedule, which saw it play six tournament games in nine days, may have caught up with the players on Sunday.

“We were flat off the bat,” said Trombetta. “It is tough. I have been coaching this game a long time and trying to play six games in nine days is tough. Fatigue was a factor, we were running on fumes to be honest with you. To have a game like last night with that kind of emotional game and that hard-fought battle and then to come back the next day and play in another championship game is a tall task.”

Razzaghi, for her part, liked the way the Panthers kept on task despite tired legs.

“We definitely have had a lot of games and it catches up to us sometimes,” said Razzaghi.

“But I don’t think we ever gave up. We kept playing. They may have scored on us but we came back and fought hard. Even when we switched up our formation, we played really hard. I am really proud of the girls.”

The loss to Mo-Beard didn’t diminish the pride that Razzaghi feels over what the Panthers accomplished this fall.

“In the four years I have been here, I have never seen a team of girls work so well together towards such a common goal,” said Razzaghi.

“We played so well. We have these (holding up county champion t-shirts) which is the first time we have these and I am pretty proud of the girls for having done that.”

Trombetta, for his part, won’t soon forget what his team did in 2013. “We couldn’t be more proud of the performance of these girls and the team as a whole and the way they stuck together,” said Trombetta, whose squad posted a final record of 17-2-1.

“I told the seniors, regardless of how this stings, what you did this year, no other PDS team did. I am very happy for the seniors to go out this way. Obviously they are upset and I told the other girls, take a look at the seniors right now.”

Things are looking up for PDS in the wake of its historic run. “We had a very good eighth grade team that didn’t lose a game,” said Trombetta.

“The junior class has been the warriors in this group. I think next year we are going to hopefully be up there again.”

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON TARGET: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Eloise Stanton dribbles that ball last Saturday in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Senior midfielder Stanton scored the game-winning goal as top-seeded PDS edged No. 2 Hopewell Valley 2-0 to win the program’s first MCT title.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As Eloise Stanton waited to get back on the field midway through the second half of the Mercer County Tournament girls’ soccer title game last Saturday, the Princeton Day School senior midfielder was confident she could make an impact.

With top-seeded PDS locked in a scoreless tie with No. 2 Hopewell Valley, Stanton trotted onto the field at Rider University and got into the fray.

“I came off from outside mid and I was pretty tired and just got a quick drink,” said Stanton. “Everyone on the bench cheered me on and I went in and when I was on the field everybody was really helpful.”

With 11:21 left in the half, Stanton got her teammates cheering as she headed in a soaring cross from Alexa Soltesz to give PDS a 1-0 lead.

“It was perfectly placed and I just looked up and hit it,” said Stanton, recalling the goal that proved to be the game-winner in a 2-0 victory for the Panthers as they won the program’s first county crown.

“It was easy for me, she did all the work. As an outside mid, I am told to go on the keeper and I tried to do that. Alexa has amazing crosses. She has a great foot and her corners are always beautiful.”

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta was happy to see Stanton’s work pay off with the decisive tally.

“Eloise started the season off great,” said Trombetta. “I had a conversation with her the other day and I said ‘Eloise you have had a little bit of a lull here in scoring. This is your last week as a PDS Panther, go out and make something happen.’ That was a beautiful header.”

Just over a minute later, Stanton and her teammates experienced another beautiful moment as junior Kirsten Kuzmicz headed in a free kick from senior star Brit Murray to give the Panthers some insurance.

“It felt really good; getting the first goal is good but you know it can easily be tied up,” said Stanton, reflecting on Kuzmicz’s tally.

“Getting the second goal is really nice, especially since there were only about 10 minutes left in the half. I think that is when we knew we had it in our grasp.”

With the game tied at 0-0 at halftime, things weren’t coming easy for PDS as it battled a tough HoVal squad that had knocked off powerful Pennington on the way to the title game.

“We were concerned,” said Stanton. “We knew how to play it, especially from the PHS game when we were down 1-0 at the half. We have a lot of heart.

“We knew we could do it. We all have faith in each other. I think that is the main thing, we have confidence in our teammates and that is what makes us good.”

Coming together as a team paved the way to PDS’s championship breakthrough with the squad bouncing back from a frustrating 4-9-4 campaign in 2012.

“I think a lot of it is that we have been working on team chemistry,” said Stanton.

“Last year, we had all the talent but the seniors have been working on bringing that together because we kind of played individually. We did have the talent but we didn’t really work together as well. So this year the seniors tried to get the team to have one goal and one big picture in mind for what we wanted in the end.”

In Stanton’s view, winning the county title was not only a great way to end her career, it should serve as big inspiration for the program going forward.

“It means so much especially for the seniors and this being our last season,” said Stanton.

“It is a great way to end. I think for the incoming freshmen it is a great way to start because it shows them how much everything means to us and that getting this far, it gives them something to shoot for in the future.”

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

JOLLY ROGERS: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Ally ­Rogers eyes the ball in a recent game. Last Monday, senior forward Rogers scored two goals as third-seeded PHS topped No. 14 Jackson Liberty 6-0 in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional. PHS, the defending sectional champions, will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the quarterfinals on November 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After suffering a disappointing 2-1 loss to Princeton Day School last week in the semis of the Mercer County Tournament, Ally Rogers and her teammates on Princeton High girls’ soccer team were excited to get things started in the state tourney,

With third-seeded PHS hosting No. 14 Jackson Liberty in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III sectional last Monday, the Little Tigers were looking to make a statement.

“This is a new tournament, this is a new start,” said senior forward Rogers. “We want to just show everyone what we have because we didn’t do that in the county tournament so we are going to do that in this tournament. We are going to come out strong.”

PHS certainly came out strong against Jackson Liberty, scoring five unanswered goals in the first half on the way to a 6-0 victory.

Rogers, who scored two of the first half goals, said that the Little Tigers showed progress from the PDS setback.

“We learned from it; we know we didn’t play our best in that game,” said Rogers.

“We could have won, I think. We just lost the momentum a little bit and stopped winning the 50/50 balls, which was a big problem. We just focused on that in our practices and we focused on that in this game and I think we did fairly well.

“Placing the ball and just calming down when you are in front of the goal are two of our other biggest things.”

In blasting in her tallies, Rogers showed clinical precision. “On my goals personally, I just made sure I took a breath before I shot,” said Rogers, who now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season. “I just saw the goalie and saw where she was and just placed it in the space.”

The productive partnership between Rogers and junior Shannon Pawlak was on display as Pawlak contributed two goals and an assist in the first half onslaught.

“Shannon uses her foot skills in the middle and I use my speed to get up the side and cross it to her,” explained Rogers.

“We just work very well with each other and we have learned to play off of each other and we talk to each other and make sure that we are on the same page.”

PHS head coach Greg Hand thought his players were on the same page Monday as they bounced back from the PDS loss and started the defense of their sectional crown.

“We were disappointed there, we were not dejected,” said Hand, referring to the team’s mood after the PDS setback. “We had been focusing on training well and wanted to come out and be sharp on attack and on defense. Today was a good start.”

In Hand’s view, Rogers and Pawlak were particularly sharp in the win over Jackson Liberty.

“Ally is so dynamic; she does some surprising things in every game,” asserted Hand, whose team will host 11th-seeded Hightstown in the sectional quarterfinals on November 7.

“She is always working hard. She has developed a great ability to hold the ball under pressure and to get behind people and get in serves from really difficult angles. Shannon always works so hard for us. She did a great job of finishing off that early goal in the game.”

Rogers and her classmates, for their part, are determined to produce a big finish to their PHS careers.

“All of the seniors are so stoked that this is the team that is going to be our last team for the high school,” said Rogers.

“We just know that we are so strong that we can go all the way if we connect and play our game the whole time.”

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ON THE BALL: Princeton High field hockey player Julia ­DiTosto controls the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star DiTosto scored a goal in a losing cause as fifth-seeded PHS fell 3-2 to No. 4 Warren Hills in the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals. The defeat left the Little Tigers with a final record of 13-4-2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As the Princeton High field hockey team battled Warren Hills last Saturday in the first half of the North 2, Group III sectional quarterfinals, it was clicking on all cylinders.

Looking strong at both ends of the field, fifth-seeded PHS took a 2-0 lead over the No. 4 Blue Streaks into halftime.

“We played the way we play best with a quick passing, possession game,” said PHS head coach Heather Serverson, reflecting on her team’s first-half performance.

“We have been working on pushing harder to the goal and playing tighter defense and we did both of those in the first half.”

But midway through the second half, a hard six-minute stretch doomed the Little Tigers to a 3-2 defeat.

“About 15 minutes in, we were still ahead 2-0 but then they scored three goals in six minutes, it was a wave of intensity,” said Serverson, who got goals from Julia DiTosto and Trish Reilly in the loss. “We had trouble responding and we had a couple of injuries in that stretch.”

In addressing her players in the wake of the defeat that left PHS with a final record of 13-4-2, Serverson saw parallels to the team’s heartbreaking loss on strokes to Hopewell Valley a week earlier in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

“It was sort of the same as after the Hopewell loss in the Mercer County Tournament,” said Serverson.

“I told them they have to be able to respond and adjust to the other team. It is the little things that make a difference at this level.”

In Serverson’s view, while her team played high-level hockey all fall long, it could have reached even greater heights.

“It was an excellent season,” said Serverson. “We had a great record even with the two late losses. I feel that they didn’t reach their potential, they were capable of more.”

The team’s core of seniors did their best to help the team maximize its potential.

“Our captains [Emilia Lopez-Ona, Merritt Peck, and Gennie Quinn] helped provide stability and calm in the postseason games,” said Serverson. “Breanna [Hegarty-Thorne] did a great job in the cage.”

Welcoming back such talented players as DiTosto, Reilly, Lucy Herring, Elisa Kostenbader, Campell McDonald, Jordyn Cane, and Georgia McLean, Serverson believes PHS can do some great things next fall.

“I think the experience they got in this postseason will be drawn upon next year,” said Serverson. “We are returning more than half the starters.”

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURPRISE ENDING: Hun School girls’ soccer player Ashley Maziarz tracks a ball in a game last season. Junior captain Maziarz scored the lone goal last Thursday as sixth-seeded Hun upset No. 2 Peddie 1-0 in the Prep A semifinals. The Raiders, who are now 6-11-1 after starting 0-7 this fall, will play at top-seeded Pennington on November 6 in the Prep A championship game. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The mood was solemn as the Hun School girls’ soccer team headed to Peddie last Thursday for a state Prep A semifinal clash.

”We had to prepare ourselves for this game,” said Hun junior star Ashley Maziarz.

“We were really focused on the way here. We were very quiet and focused on the game when we got here. We paid attention to what we were doing in the warm up. We really worked hard.”

Once the game started, a business-like sixth-seeded Hun team controlled possession, generating a number of corner kicks and putting the second-seeded Peddie defense under pressure.

On one of those corners, defender Maziarz got on the end of an Olivia Braender-Carr volley and headed the ball in for a goal.

That combination has been the blueprint for several Hun goals this fall. “Usually that is how we set up the corners; we like to get me to the far post,” said Maziarz.

“Olivia likes to take the kick, she has a really good strike. She always know swhere to hit it and knows where I am. A lot of time it falls into place. It was a really lucky goal. The goalie came out and I think she might have gotten a tip on it and the ball fell right on my head.”

Maziarz’s goal proved to be the lone tally of the contest as Hun prevailed 1-0 and booked its spot in the Prep A championship game at top-seeded Pennington on November 6.

After the final whistle below, the mood around the Hun squad was joyous as the players hugged after the game and then jogged to the cheers of their fans on the post-game warm down.

A smiling Maziarz acknowledged that there were some anxious moments as Peddie battled hard after intermission.

“It was definitely a different feel in the second half, they were pressing hard,” said Maziarz. “They came out strong. We had some rough moments but we pulled together.”

The victory was another step forward in a surprisingly strong late surge which has seen Hun rebound from a 0-7 start to make its first appearance in the state Prep A title game since 2009.

“We started off weak,” said Maziarz, noting that she was sidelined in the early going due to a partial tear in her patella.

“Now is the time that really matters; we seem to be pulling together and peaking at the right time. We are working as a team and we are working hard, especially in practice, getting what we need to do.”

As a team captain, Maziarz has felt the need to be extra supportive of Hun’s large contingent of freshmen and sophomores.

“I like to keep them focused and positive,” said Maziarz. “In the beginning of the season when it wasn’t going  the way we wanted it to, I tried to build them up.”

Hun head coach Joanna Hallac points to the return of Maziarz as a key factor in her squad’s strong finish.

“Getting Ashley back from injury as well as Jess Sacco has really changed the dynamic on the team,” asserted Hallac.

“The two of them not only possess the ball well, but they calm things down, they control things out there. Now that these freshmen have had all of this experience and you are getting veteran players back, it is really a good time to start jelling and we are.”

In Hallac’s view, Hun got off to a really good start in the Peddie clash. “I told the girls at halftime this was the best 40 minutes of soccer I had seen them play all year,” said Hallac.

“They were doing everything right other than one little missed communication in the back. We really possessed the ball, we were moving it around. We were getting good looks at it and all it takes is that one opportunity that you capitalize on.”

Hun had to hold the fort in the second half as Peddie looked to equalize. “I thought we handled it well,” said Hallac.

“There are always going to be those scary moments, a couple where we got lucky. I told the girls that you make your own luck. We took care of our chance and then we did what we needed to do to solidify the win. We were able to hold on and I was proud of them.”

Hallac is proud of the resilience her players have shown in battling back from their rocky start this fall. “These girls have been working hard and getting better every time they step on the field,” asserted Hallac.

“Even when we were 0-7, they were showing such improvement every game. It was just a matter of keeping them positive and keeping them hungry. They kept showing up every day and working hard and doing every thing I asked and I told them it is going to come together you have just got to believe me. They saw it and kept working.”

Beating Lawrenceville in the opening round of the Prep A tournament and in a regular season contest in the same week helped propel Hun, now 6-11-1, into the title clash with perennial power Pennington.

“They gained a new kind of confidence that is allowing them to really reach their potential and playing the kind of soccer I know they have been capable of the whole time,” said Hallac, whose team battled hard in losing to Pennington 4-2 in a regular season contest and 2-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament. “I  think they feel they can beat Pennington if they play their best soccer.”

Maziarz, for her part, believes Hun will give Pennington all it can handle. “I think right now we are focused a lot more and that is really helping,” said Maziarz. “Once we won those games against Lawrenceville, it definitely gave us confidence. We want to keep playing and play hard.”

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAMMER TIME: Hun School boys’ soccer player Bailey Hammer heads the ball during Hun’s 2-0 loss to Hightstown last Wednesday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals. Sparked by senior star Hammer’s fiery play, the 11th-seeded Raiders upset sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the MCT opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 2 Hightstown. The Raiders, now 7-11, will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When Bailey Hammer joined the Hun School boys’ soccer team as a freshman in 2010, he soaked up some important lessons from the squad’s veterans.

“Three of us were on the varsity team our freshmen year, Andres Gonzalez, Chris Meinert, and me,” recalled Hammer.

“We had a phenomenal group of seniors, a lot of them went D-1. Guys like Julian Plummer who played at Lafayette. There were a lot of great kids and we were learning from them. Thank God for them because they taught us so much at a young age.”

Over the last few weeks, senior midfielder Hammer together with classmates Gonzalez, Meinert and Felix Dalstein applied those lessons as they led 11th-seeded Hun on an improbable run to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.

The Raiders came together as they stunned sixth-seeded Princeton High 1-0 in overtime in the opening round and third-seeded Allentown 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing 2-0 to Hightstown last Wednesday night in the semis.

“It would be our leadership, the four senior captains,” said Hammer, when assessing what made the difference for the Raiders in its MCT run.

“A lot of guys listened to us, they looked up to us which helped us out a lot and definitely our coaches. They were there for us no matter what, academically, anything so it was nice to have that friendship and bond where you could bond off the field. You could go out for pizza but at the same time, battle on the field together like brothers. It was really nice.”

The Raiders brought a battling spirit into the postseason. “Our whole motto is if you don’t believe us, we’ll show you how we do it,” said Hammer.

In the loss to Hightstown, Hun showed plenty of skill and fight, generating some good chances as the teams were knotted 0-0 at halftime. In the second half, Hun kept pressing forward, just missing goals on a header attempt by Hammer and a point blank volley by Alex Semler off a corner kick. Hightstown broke through with a goal on a penalty kick with 19:09 left in regulation and then added a second score on a free kick some seven minutes later.

“Coming off of two overtime wins, we were hyped, we were ready to go,” said Hammer.

“We had a light practice yesterday and we knew what we had to do coming into the game. I just wish we could have come out with a win but I thought we battled to the end, everyone hustled. It was a really good game.”

Hammer’s fiery presence helped spark Hun to give its all against Hightstown. “I like being loud, I am competitive and everything,” said Hammer, who also stars for the Hun baseball team.

“It was definitely a blast being out there and getting the team fired up. I think we battled and it was just really nice to see everyone leave it out on the field.”

Hun head coach Pat Quirk was likewise proud of Hun’s effort. “We created a lot of good opportunities for ourselves,” said Quirk.

“We couldn’t finish but we never gave up and that’s been the story of this team all season. There were times where they could have packed it in but they never do. They are always trying to keep scoring.”

Even though the Raiders brought a losing record into the MCT, Quirk sensed that his team could pull off some surprises.

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

Quirk credits his quartet of seniors with holding things together for the Raiders.

“Bailey, Felix, Andres, and Chris have all shown some great leadership,” said Quirk, whose team topped Peddie 3-2 last Saturday to move to 7-11 and will play at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on November 9 in its season finale. “They are lead by example players.”

Based on the team’s late surge, Quirk is confident that his younger players will follow the good example set by the seniors going forward.

“We have guys coming back that are part of this,” said Quirk. “Two freshmen are on the field the majority of the time in the game for us. We have a bunch of sophomores and some juniors. I think it looks good.”

Hammer, for his part, believes his class is leaving a good legacy for the program.

“We are going to be ready for next year,” said Hammer. “We got a lot of young kids so hopefully this is a good learning experience for them.”

October 30, 2013
OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OVERACHIEVERS: Princeton University linebacker Jason Ray heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Ray made 12 tackles to help Princeton top Harvard 51-48 in triple overtime. The Tigers, now 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are tied for first in the league standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy) and will look to keep on the winning track when they host Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) on November 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Christopher Eisgruber is a busy guy these days as he settles into his new role as the president of Princeton University.

But last Saturday afternoon, he took the time to send a message to mark a bit of school history.

Eisgruber was one of the many well-wishers who contacted Princeton University football coach Bob Surace in the wake of the Tigers’ epic 51-48 triple overtime win at previously undefeated Harvard.

“I am lucky it was a road game,” said Surace, a former Tiger football star reflecting on the marathon which was the first triple overtime game in program history.

“I had 70 e-mails and texts waiting for me when I got on the bus, from the president of the school, to alums, to my college roommates. That’s what happens when you coach at your alma mater.”

The congratulations were certainly justified as Princeton achieved a second straight win for the ages over the arch rival Crimson, matching the drama of last year’s triumph which saw Princeton rally from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to stun a then-undefeated Harvard squad 39-34.

For Surace, it was special to simply be on the sideline of a second straight classic. “We are just calling the plays, it is the players who are out there executing and playing their hearts out,” said Surace, whose team piled up 520 yards of total offense and exceeded 50 points for the third time this season in improving to 5-1 overall and 3-0 Ivy League while the Crimson dropped to 5-1 overall, 2-1 Ivy.

“It was a beautiful thing to be part of a special game between two such historic schools. It gives you chills.”

Like Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier to push him to his limit, Princeton and Harvard bring out the best in each other.

“I think it was two really good teams playing against each other,” said Surace.

“It was like a pay-per-view boxing match; sometimes you get a dud and sometimes you get a classic where you keep the ticket. It was two teams where there was going to be a wave of points each way.”

Like last year, the decisive blows were landed by the passing combination of Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson. In 2012, Epperly hit Wilson for a 34-yard touchdown that provided the margin of victory. On Saturday, lefty junior Epperly floated a six-yard pass to senior Wilson in the third overtime to clinch the win.

Epperly ended the day with personal records of 37 completions (37-for-50 for 321 yards) and six touchdown passes. He was later named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and has now accounted for 15 touchdowns in the air while rushing for 11 more. Wilson, for his part, made nine catches for 76 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score.

“They both continue to work hard and lead the team,” said Surace, reflecting on what Epperly and Wilson have meant to the Tigers this year.

“They are cool, they don’t flinch. Quinn made a fumble earlier in the game and came right back on the next drive.”

Epperly helped Princeton jump out to a 13-0 first quarter lead as he hit Connor Kelley with a five-yard touchdown pass on Princeton’s initial possession and then found Des Smith on a six-yard scoring strike later in the quarter.

Harvard battled back in the second quarter as quarterback Connor Hempel hit Ricky Zorn for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson then forged ahead 14-13 after a 60-yard scoring gallop by Paul Stanton.

Epperly found Kelley on another 5-yard touchdown pass as the Tigers regained the lead at 21-14.

Running back Stanton scored again, this time on a two-yard plunge as Harvard knotted the game at 21-21 in the waning seconds of the first half.

As his players assembled in the locker room for halftime, Surace kept it short and sweet. “I told the guys to leave it all on the field and they did it in bucketfuls,” recalled Surace.

“Our locker room was in a trailer under the stands and when we came out there were parents, friends, and students cheering us, it was a wall of sound. It gave me goose bumps.”

Riding that emotion, Princeton scored on its first possession of the second half as Epperly hit Matt Costello for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 28-21. Harvard responded with a 23-yard scoring strike from Hempel to Tyler Ott and the teams headed into the fourth quarter knotted at 28-28.

The Tigers regained the lead as Epperly hit Seth DeValve with a touchdown pass to make it 35-28. Capitalizing on a Princeton fumble which gave it the ball at the Tiger 19, Harvard tied the game at 35-35 with 2:50 left in regulation on another Hempel scoring strike to Ott.

The contest headed into overtime and Harvard executed well on the first possession as Hempel found Ott in the end zone to go ahead 42-35. With Wilson scoring on a nine-yard reverse aided by a big block from Epperly, the Tigers evened the contest at 42-42

The teams traded field goals on their next two possessions to make a 45-45 game. Making a fine defensive stand, Princeton held Harvard to another field goal and took over trailing 48-45.  Epperly hit Costello with an 18-yard pass to get the ball to the Harvard 6. Two plays later, he lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone which Wilson snared to clinch the win and end the 3 hour, 59 minute saga.

With Princeton hosting Cornell (1-5 overall, 0-3 Ivy) and its record-setting quarterback Jeff Mathews on November 2, Surace is hoping that his team can build on the dramatic win over Harvard unlike last year when the Tigers fell 37-35 to the Big Red.

“We didn’t let down last year, they just beat us,” maintained Surace, reflecting on the game which saw Mathews pass for 525 yards.

“We have to execute against a quarterback of that caliber. They have 25 guys returning with starting experience. They nearly beat Harvard (a 34-24 loss on October 12). There is such parity in the league. You take 200 plays in a game and flip three and things would be different. We have to be more exact.”

In Surace’s view, the character his team has developed in going through the ups and downs over the last three seasons could make the difference.

“I told them I am proud; they are such a tough group,” said Surace, whose team is tied for first in the Ivy standings with Penn (4-2 overall, 3-0 Ivy).

“I have been using a saying I got from Jason Garrett’s [former Tiger quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys head coach] camp this summer and that is ‘hold the rope.’ If a call doesn’t go your way or there is a fumble, you don’t give up; you just keep playing.”

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton University men’s hockey player Tyler Maugeri, right, battles a Dartmouth player in a game last winter. On Friday, junior forward Maugeri helped Princeton edge Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener in the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark. A day later, Maugeri added a goal in a losing cause as Princeton fell 3-2 to defending NCAA champion Yale. The Tigers are next in action when they play at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University men’s hockey deadlocked 2-2 with Dartmouth in overtime last Friday in the season opener, Tiger forward Tucker Brockett found the puck on his stick in the crease.

Taking advantage his scoring chance, junior Brockett rifled the puck into the net to give Princeton a 3-2 victory and tally his first career goal.

“It was Tucker’s first goal but if you saw the goal you would never know it,” said Princeton head coach Bob Prier.

“He did a good job of getting his hands free and showed tremendous poise putting it on the top shelf. It was a goal scorer’s goal.”

The Tigers showed poise throughout the weekend as they hosted the 2013 Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, following the win over Dartmouth with a tough 3-2 loss to defending national champion Yale.

“We were playing good systematic hockey for the first weekend,” said Prier. “The resilience is good. We are playing shift to shift, that is the sign of a veteran team. It is a game of momentum and the key is how you react when you don’t have the momentum. We are showing more poise when the other team is on the power play or gets a goal.”

In the win over Dartmouth, Princeton seized the momentum, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by senior captain Jack Berger and freshman Ben Foster.

“Berger’s goal was huge for us; it was a power play goal,” said Prier. “The special teams were good all weekend, we were 5-for-5 on the kill and the PP was 38 percent and we can clean up things even more.”

More importantly, Prier liked how his team responded when Dartmouth scored two third period goals to force overtime.

“I think the advantage of being a veteran team and having gone through the ups and downs is just that,” asserted Prier, whose roster includes nine seniors.

“They had an unflappable mindset, it is what it is. It is bonus hockey and it is still our game. We scored early in OT.”

While Princeton fell 3-2 to Yale on Saturday, Prier liked the mentality exhibited by his players.

“We are breaking down the film and we played really well,” said Prier, who got goals from Tyler Maugeri and Andrew Ammon in the setback. “Yale had only three odd-man rushes and scored on two of them. They have a bit of a swagger. We played desperate in the third period when we needed to. We are resilient.”

Senior goalie Sean Bonar displayed some resilience over the weekend, making 38 saves in the win over Dartmouth and recording 27 saves in the loss to Yale.

“I was really happy with Bonar; he was unflappable,” said Prier of Bonar, who has a save percentage of .929 on the season.

”When your goalie is playing loose and controlling his rebounds, that goes a long way in making the whole team feel loose. Sean has matured tremendously.”

“There were flashes from everyone, everyone was trying to make plays,” said Prier.

“We didn’t play nervous. We didn’t dump the puck and when we had time, we handled it well. We need to play quicker out of our zone when we have possession of the puck.”

Princeton will be looking to make some big plays this weekend as it heads north for games at 19th-ranked Cornell on November 1 and at Colgate a day later.

“Every weekend is tough,” said Prier. “You look at the results from last weekend and hands down, we have the best league in the country. Cornell is really strong, they swept Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and they will be flying. We need to put pressure on them and really go after them.”

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

OPENING LINE: Princeton University women’s hockey player ­Denna Laing looks for the puck in a game last season. Last Friday, senior captain and forward Laing tallied a goal as Princeton edged Dartmouth 3-2 in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers, who fell 4-0 at Harvard on Saturday, host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the opening weekend of the season, Jeff Kampersal believed that the arrival of seven freshmen to the program would make a difference for his Princeton University women’s ice hockey team.

The new faces didn’t waste any time making an impact as the Tigers played at Dartmouth last Friday in the first game of the 2013-14 campaign.

Freshman Cassidy Tucker notched Princeton’s first goal of the season late in the first period and then classmate Hilary Lloyd tallied the game-winner early in the third period as Princeton skated to a 3-2 victory.

“Cassidy’s goal got us going,” said Princeton head coach Kampersal, who also got a goal from senior captain Denna Laing in the win.

“She stripped a Dartmouth player of the puck when we were shorthanded and then got a 1-on-0 and roofed it. Jaimie MacDonell made a nice play on the wall and got the puck to Gabie Figueroa who found Lloyd on a back door.”

Kampersal liked the way his team battled collectively as it fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

“We were a little nervous in the first five minutes against Dartmouth but we pulled it together and played,” said Kampersal. “We were down a goal twice and we came back.”

A day later, the Tigers came out firing at Harvard, outshooting the 7th-ranked Crimson 44-30. But Harvard’s excellences on special teams, going 3-for-4 on the power play, combined with some stellar goaltending by Emerance Maschmeyer resulted in a 4-0 triumph for the Crimson.

“The girls were pumped up by the win over Dartmouth and played really well against Harvard in the 5-on-5,” said Kampersal. “They got some power play goals, a couple that were a little flukey. We had a lot of quality chances, we just couldn’t put any away.”

In Kampersal’s view, his squad produced a quality effort in its first weekend of action. “We had a lot of positives from the way we played,” said Kampersal.

“We learned where we are; it was good to play two Ivy League teams who were in the same position. I think just the fact we could roll lines and show our depth and conditioning made me happy.”

The Tigers will need to utilize that depth when they host their first home weekend at Baker Rink, welcoming third-ranked Cornell on November 1 and Colgate a day later.

“Cornell lost two big defensemen to graduation and another player to the Olympics but their cupboard is still loaded,” said Kampersal.

“They are one of the best teams in the country, for sure. We have played them tough the last few times we have seen them so maybe this is the year we can break through. Colgate will be neck and neck with us all season so that is a very important game.”

Noting that his players will be getting some extra ice time this week since Princeton is on fall break, Kampersal is looking to fine-tune things.

“We need to work on special teams and conditioning,” said Kampersal. “We did have some power play chances and we didn’t put any away. It wasn’t from lack of effort, we had some shots.”

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DOUBLE THREAT: Whitney Hayes heads to goal during his career with the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team. Hayes, a 2007 Princeton alum, was a hometown hero before heading across town for college, starring at lacrosse and soccer for Princeton High as he produced one of the most decorated two-sports careers in school history. This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the PHS Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Whitney Hayes focused on soccer as a grade schooler but he found a new sporting love by middle school.

“I played soccer a lot as a kid,” said Hayes. “In seventh grade I stopped playing travel soccer and switched to the lacrosse side, playing on select teams.”

Entering Princeton High in 1998, Hayes decided not to put all of his eggs in one basket, playing soccer as well as lacrosse. That move paved the way for one of the most decorated two-sports careers in PHS history.

As a soccer player, Hayes scored 26 goals and had 16 assists over his career, getting honored as a two-time All-State and three-time All-CVC performer.

On the lacrosse field, Hayes set a new standard, scoring a school-record 397 career points on 169 goals and 228 assists. He was a two-time All-American, a three-time All-State performer, and the N.J. Attackman of the Year.

This Saturday, Hayes’ excellence on two fronts is being recognized when he will be inducted into the Princeton High Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its eighth class of honorees.

Joining Hayes in the class will be John Friel ’36,  August Friel ’37, Joseph Friel ’38, Tom Friel ’50, Rich Volz ’67, Craig Rendall ’76, Patricia Dinella McMillan ’82, Lamont Fletcher Jr. ’82, Alec Hoke ’83, coach Frank Francisco, and the 1966 boys’ track and field team.

Hayes, for his part, was surprised to get the call to the PHS Hall of Fame. “I thought it was for a crowning achievement for a person, I thought I was too young to be a part of it,” said Hayes, 30. “It is great to be asked.”

In assessing his PHS career, Hayes acknowledged that he was not a great soccer player.

“I didn’t play varsity until I was a sophomore,” recalled Hayes. “In freshman year, I dressed for a few games at the end and got exposed to it. For me, the challenge was a skill level. I was a much better athlete than a soccer player. I could run with everybody but couldn’t always finish. I had to work harder to make more chances.”

Hayes enjoyed working with PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe. “Wayne was a tremendous coach,” said Hayes, who also relished the chance to play with older brother Dixon in both soccer and lacrosse.

“He was very much a players’ coach. He developed them as people as much as players. He listened to the leadership on the team. It was not just about being a successful team; he made it fun. He adapted strategy to the team that he had.”

In lacrosse, Hayes enjoyed success from the beginning, working his way into the starting lineup as a freshman.

“It was a step up in competition but I have always enjoyed that,” said Hayes. “I wanted to play against the better players. I had played with guys on the weekends and in their yards so I knew them.”

PHS did well against some of the better teams in the state during Hayes’ career. “My sophomore year, we ran the table in the regular season and lost to the eventual champion Delbarton in the playoffs,” said Hayes.

“My next year we beat the No. 1 seed AL Johnson in the tournament and coach [Peter] Stanton broke his hand celebrating.”

Like Sutcliffe, Stanton had a big influence on Hayes. “Coach Stanton was fantastic, he has a strong personality that you can’t help but like,” added Hayes.

“Like Wayne, he was interested in your development as a person. If you scored 10 goals but were a jerk to your teammates, the latter was something that he would focus on as being more important. He was a great mentor.”

Stanton, for his part, lauds Hayes’ special on-field focus. “Whit has remarkable awareness,” said Stanton. “Lacrosse is a one-on-one game but on the offensive side it is six guys against seven guys and he had a sense of playing the game within the game.”

Hayes’ game sense resulted in an understated style. “He made the game look so easy; he would get five goals and it would look so smooth and easy,” said Stanton of the 5’10, 175-pound Hayes.

“He had the gifts of perception, timing, and awareness. Those are skills that are virtually impossible to teach. They are innate gifts. He made his teammates better.”

In developing his gifts, Hayes utilized a fierce competitiveness. “He was exceptionally tough and I know how hard he worked at it,” said Stanton. “I saw him do the most amazing things on our Saturday practices when he was going full speed and he didn’t have to do that as our best player.”

That work paid off as Hayes went on to star for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team, helping the Tigers reach the NCAA Final 4 in 2004 and tallying 69 points on 32 goals and 37 assists in his Tiger career.

“It was great to be home for college, that enabled people I knew to see me,” said Hayes, who graduated from Princeton in 2007 with a degree in politics and a finance certificate.

“My parents came to every game. I got to play with both of my brothers [Dixon and younger brother Sam]. I was sure I would have at least three fans at the home games with my parents and Peter. I grew up watching games on the soccer and lacrosse fields at Princeton and I thought that was a higher level so it was great to play on those fields in college.”

Stanton certainly enjoyed watching his former star excel at the college level. “It’s funny, Bill Tierney [former Princeton University coach] said Whitney was one of the biggest surprises he had in his career,” said Stanton.

“He was unheralded as a recruit. I was really happy to see him get the chance to play at Princeton. I know it was a dream come true for him.”

It is no surprise to Stanton that Hayes is achieving another dream this Saturday with the Hall of Fame honor.

“The Hall of Fame is for a select few; from the years I coached, he is the first person I would put in,” said Stanton.

“He was outstanding for four years. He did some awesome things. He still holds the school career record for points. When he graduated, he held New Jersey records for career assists and assists in a season.”

For Hayes, it is an awesome feeling to be singled out as a Hall of Famer. “There have been a lot of tremendous people who have gone through Princeton High and to be considered along with them is an honor,” said Hayes.

As Hayes reflects on going through PHS, he considers the bonds he made with his peers to be one of the lasting benefits of his high school experience. “I got to know a lot of great people; I developed friendships that I have to this day,” said Hayes, who currently works as an investment baker in New York City for UBS.

“Some of my best friends in the world are the guys I went with to Princeton High. I have been in their weddings and I still see them. It is something that lasts a lifetime.”

And having produced a once in a lifetime PHS career, it is fitting that Hayes is being recognized this Saturday as one of the best athletes in school history.

FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FEELING LOW: Princeton High field hockey senior star ­Emilia Lopez-Ona takes the ball upfield in recent action. Last Thursday, Lopez-Ona and her teammates played their hearts out as they fell to Hopewell Valley on strokes in the Mercer County Tournament semifinal in a game that was scoreless through regulation and 20 minutes of overtime. PHS, now 12-4-1, will start action in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional where it is seeded fifth and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The Princeton High field hockey team didn’t produce its best effort when it played Hopewell Valley in mid-September.

Coming out flat offensively, PHS dug a 2-0 hole on the way to a 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs.

When the teams met in a rematch last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, the Little Tigers gave extra effort from the opening whistle, battling HoVal tooth-and-nail all over the field.

After teams fought to a scoreless draw in the first half at Mercer County Community College, PHS turned up the heat after intermission on the chilly evening, controlling possession and generating several good scoring chances.

Neither team, however, was able to break through and the game headed into overtime.

PHS head coach Heather Serverson had a good feeling as her team got ready for the extra session.

“I think it really got the girls’ intensity and energy up,” said Serverson. “I think they had a great talk about specific things to do like quick passing and less dribbling and getting the ball in behind their defense.”

During the 20 minutes of overtime, PHS made several forays into the HoVal defensive end but couldn’t hit the back of the cage and the game was decided on strokes. The Bulldogs managed to convert three strokes to PHS’s one in order to survive and advance to the MCT title game.

With her players walking away teary-eyed from the MCCC field, Serverson lauded their effort.

“I think they played a great game, they played as well as they could,” said Serverson, whose team moved to 12-4-1 with the setback. “They left it all out on the field, I don’t think there is one more thing that they could have done.”

Serverson tipped her hat to HoVal and its play. “It is just tough to get through their defense, they were double and triple teaming us,” lamented Serverson. “It was just little things they took advantage of to win the game. You have to be prepared for everything at this level and they were better prepared.”

PHS got high-level play all evening long from junior Lucy Herring and senior Emilia Lopez-Ona.

“I think Emilia and Lucy really stood out,” asserted Serverson. “Lucy has been playing some great offense and defense all at the same time. Emilia is Emilia, she is a competitor.”

In Serverson’s view, her team’s effort in the MCT should serve it well as it competes in the upcoming state tournament.

“I said to the girls if you don’t learn from a loss it wasn’t worth it,” said Serverson, whose team was seeded fifth in the Group III North Jersey, Section 2 sectional and will play at No. 4 Warren Hills on October 30. “Hopefully we learn from it and we are able to move on.”

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

FINAL SPRINT: Princeton High boys’ cross country runner Conor Donahue sprints down the final stretch in a recent race. Last Friday, senior star Donahue placed ninth at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park, covering the 3.1 mile course in a time of 16:21. Sparked by ­Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S, runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Conor Donahue wasn’t just racing against his foes when he competed last Friday in the Mercer County Cross Country Championships at Washington Crossing Park.

“I didn’t run too well when we came here for the dual meet,” said Princeton High senior Donahue.

“After the dual meet, I talked to coach [Mark] Shelley and asked him when is the next time we are doing the Washington Crossing because I really want to work on this, this, and this. We did a really good run here with 800 meter repeats on the hill. I think I found out more about the course. Before I had this mentally if I was in a race here, oh it is this course again.”

Donahue’s hard work paid dividends on Friday as he placed ninth overall in a time of 16:21 over the 3.1 mile course.

“I am extremely happy,” said Donahue. “I finally beat the course. With the workouts we did here, I was able to put that aside and work through everything.”

Sparked by Donahue’s heroics, PHS placed fourth of 18 schools in the team standings, trailing just champion WW/P-S,  runner-up Robbinsville, and WW/P-N.

For Donahue, running with junior teammate Jacob Rist, the 16th-place finisher on Friday, kept him in contact with the front pack.

“It helps so much,” said Donahue. “Jacob did well today. I think he wanted to do better but he is having some problems with his Achilles heel right now. He is great. Every single dual meet, we have had, when were together, we have been able to pull off countless strategies. We work together very well.”

Over the last quarter-mile, Donahue produced a blistering sprint to pull away from Rist and get himself up into the Top 10.

“I love kicking; I picked off a couple of guys,” said Donahue, who won the 1,600-meter run last spring in the Mercer County Track Championships.

“I was working on that last stretch before the final straightaway because I think that is where I failed in my past races so I passed a couple of guys there and I passed a guy near the end. I am happy with that.”

Donahue is happy to assume a leadership role in his final campaign with the Little Tigers.

“First there is organizing the guys which is fun,” said Donahue. “I would like to think that when I am working hard and the younger guys see that, they get influenced by that hard work. I know that happened to me when I was going through my sophomore year, I looked up to the older guys, I saw how hard I am working.”

In excelling so far in his final cross country campaign, Donahue has combined racing savvy with work ethic.

“I always have worked hard, it is experience,” said Donahue. “I am just seeing the results. One of my favorite things about running is when you work hard and you see the results of hard work directly in the race.”

In Donahue’s view, the Little Tigers have the potential to get a good result at the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe.

“I think we are a contender for the Group III state championship,” said Donahue.

“If we get everybody together. I am starting to see some clear lines. I think we have a really good chance.”

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place  with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton High girls’ cross country star Lou Miahle heads to the finish line in a race earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore Miahle led the way for PHS as the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually. Paced by Miahle, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Miahle for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Mialhe

Even though she is just a sophomore, Lou Mialhe has emerged as the frontrunner this fall for the Princeton High girls’ cross country team

“It is lovely; it feels great,” said Mialhe, reflecting being at the front of the PHS pack. “I feel kind of like a role model. It is the first time I have ever felt that.”

Last Friday at the Mercer County Cross Country Championships, Mialhe
handled her leading role well, clocking a time of 19:42 over the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing State Park to take ninth individually.

Paced by Mialhe, PHS finished second of 15 schools in the team standings, trailing only WW/P-S. Following Mialhe for PHS was Mary Sutton in 14th place with Julie Bond finishing 15th, and Paige Metzheiser taking 16th.

On one hand, Mialhe was pleased with her effort. “Timewise I am happy,” said Mialhe. “I wanted to break 20 and I did.”

But befitting her status as a team leader for PHS, Mialhe wasn’t satisfied with her place.

“I was shooting to beat at least two South (WW/P-S) girls, I didn’t quite accomplish that,” lamented Mialhe.

“I let them go at the very beginning and I wasn’t able to catch up. I ran with the fourth South girl for half of the second lap. She got me up on that hill so I was behind all four South girls.”

Mialhe acknowledged that she is still working on developing her mental toughness.

“I am not confident enough in myself which is what coach [Jim] Smirk says as well,” said Mialhe.

“He thinks that since I am younger, I am not confident enough in myself to push harder and go to the top of my ability. He says I should be more confident. I need to improve my mental approach.”

With the Central Jersey Group III sectional meet slated for November 9 at Thompson Park in Monroe, Mialhe is confident that PHS can produce a top performance there.

“I think we really need to run as a pack; our top three or four runners really need to stick together,” said Mialhe.

“We need to really learn to push each other together. I thought it would come faster but obviously it takes a lot more work; it should be coming soon. I am waiting for us to get that mental strength.”

As Princeton Day School runner Ian Moini competed in the freshman race at the Mercer County Championships last Friday, he enlisted an unlikely partner in crime.

Moini found himself in lockstep with the Hun School’s Alex Ill at the front of the pack at the Washington Crossing State Park course.

“I knew the guy from Hun,” said Moini, referring to Ill. “We were pacing together. We were looking to run the race smart. We were running as a team. In the backwoods, we said we are going to take over now.”

Coming down the stretch, the pair staged a mano a mano battle for the title as they sprinted to the line. Ill edged Moini out by an eyelash, clocking a 17:30.16 over the 3.1-mile course with Moini coming in at 17:30.41.

Knowing that he gave everything he had, Moini was able to live with the narrow defeat.

“With that sprint, it is just whoever got there,” said Moini. “We were within 0.5 seconds of each other so it is not really a big deal getting second place. I am not disappointed with that.”

Moini was joined at the top in the freshman race by classmate Sam Noden, who took fifth. A depleted boys’ varsity team took 18th in that race while the PDS girls’ varsity team placed ninth in their competition. Freshman Morgan Mills set the pace for the Panther girls’ team, taking 35th individually in 20:59 with senior Abby Sharer placing 45th and senior Liz Gudgel finishing 49th.

Moini acknowledged that he might have taken first if he had started his kick earlier.

“Alex was a little bit winded by the hill; I have been training hills all summer so I was ready for the hill,” said Moini.

“If I had started the kick as I got out of the hill and got 10 yards on him, I probably could have been able to win. Being in the top two and both of us being from private schools, that is really good.”

For Moini, his running career took off at another local private school, the Chapin School.

“I started in seventh grade at the Chapin School,” said Moini. “I didn’t like it right away, I didn’t start liking it until eighth grade. I had always run around 6:30 a mile and in this first race there was a kid who had won Junior Olympics the year before. I went out and beat him. I ran a 5:55 and it was the fastest I had ever done. I went on that year to run a 5:34 which was my fastest. Last year I got second for my age group at the New Jersey Junior Olympics. I have all the records at the Chapin School for running.”

Adjusting to high school competition, Moini has proved to be a fast study. “I am very happy,” said Moini.

“Sam Noden and I have been training together all year. I had two injuries and I am wearing an ankle brace. I missed some races because of that. My first race back was the Newark race and I ran my second fastest time all year.”

Buoyed by his good showing last Friday, Moini is hoping to end the season with a bang as PDS competes in the state Prep B championship meet on October 30 at the Blair Academy.

“We are looking forward to the preps; it is a tough course,” said Moini. “This is more than looking for a time as a freshman. I think that this is more about getting a top 10.”

SERVING UP A REPEAT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Renee Karchere-Sun pounds a serve in recent action. Last week, sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles to help PDS repeat as state Prep B champions. The Panthers got individual Prep B crowns from junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SERVING UP A REPEAT: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis player Renee Karchere-Sun pounds a serve in recent action. Last week, sophomore Karchere-Sun took second at first singles to help PDS repeat as state Prep B champions. The Panthers got individual Prep B crowns from junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles.
(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ed Tseng knew that his Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team faced a major challenge in its bid to win a second consecutive state Prep B title.

“One of the things that make it hard to repeat is that there are a lot of good teams and players out there,” said PDS head coach Tseng.

“You are facing the unknown and that can be scary. The girls were excited. I thought we had a good chance if we played pretty well and gave a good effort.”

Gill St. Bernard’s put a scare into PDS as the two teams were tied for first place coming into the championship round last Thursday.

“I was glad to see us do well on Sunday,” said Tseng, whose team advanced to the finals in four of the five flights of the event.

“We were tied with Gill for first although I would have like to have been in the lead. We knew we had to come out on Thursday and play well.”

The PDS players were anxious about their prospects as they headed into the last day of the competition.

“I was getting all the questions from them about how many wins did we need to get the title,” said Tseng.

“I told them there were so many different combinations that they just need to go out and play a good match and see where the numbers fall.”

The numbers ended falling PDS’s way as the Panthers tallied 11 points to Gill’s 10 in winning their second straight Prep B crown.

Wins by junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles made the difference for PDS. Martinovic topped Sharon Jin of Gill 6-2, 6-0 while Dyckman defeated Stephanie Fuentes 6-3, 7-5.

“Maria and Emily were on courts right next to each other so I was able to watch them both,” recalled Tseng.

“They both got off to similar leads. I think Maria had some confidence going into the second set; she got into a zone. Emily was up 5-4 and serving for the match but lost that game. She is a fiery player and she was able to win those final two games to get the win.”

PDS got some fiery play in defeat on Thursday as first singles player Renee Karchere-Sun fell to Krishna Patel of Gill, 6-1, 7-5 while the second doubles team of Hope Boozan and Touria Salvati lost in three sets, as Nikita Isrania and Caroline Friezo of Montclair Kimberley prevailed 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.

“Renee had chances to pull out that second set but the Gill player was able to win it,” said Tseng.

“If it had gone to a third set, anything could have happened. The second doubles won the first set and then lost the second. I think they were deflated coming into the third.”

At the end of the day, though, everyone on the PDS squad was pumped up. “Once we won, it was awesome,” said Tseng.

“It is great to see Maria and Emily win individual titles but it is so much more special to win as a team. Samantha Asch [former PDS star and current Wake Forest player] won a lot of individual titles but she said she enjoyed the team titles a lot more. It was a good show of mental toughness, going into the final day we were tied and anything could happen. They need to give a full effort and they did that.”

In Tseng’s view, an all-for-one and one-for-all attitude helped pave the way to victory.

“I think one quality that made this team special is that we have a lot of players with experience, either in tournaments or for the school team,” said Tseng.

“They are used to pressure and playing in big matches. The more experienced players can help the younger players. The younger players bring a fresh approach and excitement and they help the team with that attitude. It is a nice big family. As a team, we would do anything for each other.”

TITLE SHOT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior star and Princeton University-bound Brennan scored two goals to help third-seeded PDS top No. 6 Newark Academy 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The win earned the Panthers, now 9-9, a berth in the Prep B semifinals where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

TITLE SHOT: Princeton Day School field hockey player Sarah Brennan prepares to shoot the ball in recent action. Last Wednesday, senior star and Princeton University-bound Brennan scored two goals to help third-seeded PDS top No. 6 Newark Academy 3-0 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament. The win earned the Panthers, now 9-9, a berth in the Prep B semifinals where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Over the last year, Sarah Brennan has put in extra effort to make herself a better field hockey player.

“I play year round with Mystx club, they are based out of Feasterville, Pa.” said Brennan, a senior midfielder for Princeton Day School.

“Mrs. Reinprecht [club coach Tina Reinprecht] and Mrs. Arndt [PDS coach Tracey Arndt] said I needed to work on my ball control and my hit; those are the two things I worked really hard on in the off-season to try to get ready for this high school season. I am much more comfortable handling the ball and taking a leadership role on the team.”

Last Wednesday, Brennan showed her comfort level and skill, scoring two goals to spark third-seeded PDS to a 3-0 win over No. 6 Newark Academy in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament.

As Brennan and her teammates hit the field, they were determined to keep their season going.

“Our mindset was just to win; everyone was going to do whatever they could to win,” said Brennan, reflecting on the win which earned PDS a berth in the Prep B semis where they will play at second-seeded Morristown-Beard on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 3.

“This could be the seniors’ last game on Smoyer. Winning was our only option basically.”

Brennan took matters into her hands, scoring off a penalty corner 2:15 into the game and then adding another tally late in the first half as PDS took a 2-0 lead into intermission.

“We have practiced corners a ton,” said Brennan. “Mrs. Arndt was practicing with me, Mary [Travers], and Emma [Quigley] a lot yesterday; it was insert, hit, insert, hit. It is just a routine. On the second goal, I had an open shot. You look at the black and you try to hit it.”

The Panthers tacked on their third and final goal when Quigley scored early in the second half as they improved to 9-9 and won their third straight game, outscoring their foes 11-0 in that stretch.

In Brennan’s view, the Panthers have been playing their best hockey of the season over the last week.

“We are all working as a team; there is not much individualistic work, there is more passing and give-and-goes,” said Brennan.

“We do know how to come from behind. We know we are never out of a game, we can always come back because we have been on both ends of it just in this season. We play until the final whistle.”

Brennan is going to be playing beyond the final whistle this year as she has committed to Princeton University, the alma mater of her mother and father.

“My parents left the decision entirely up to me; they were great,” said Brennan.

“They were so supportive. It is just really exciting to be right down the road playing for Kristen Holmes-Winn. I couldn’t be luckier. I did my official visit this fall and I saw Andrea Jenkins [former PDS star] a bunch there. I am so excited to be playing with her again; she is a great player and a great friend.”

PDS head coach Arndt believes that Brennan has taken her game to a higher level.

“Sarah was on today and when she is on, she is on in terms of her hit and her finishing,” said Arndt.

“She has really stepped her game up since the beginning of the season but even from last year. She is ready for what college is going to bring. There are just little details that we want to get but she is really becoming a finesse player and doing exactly what she needs to do for us.”

In Arndt’s view, PDS did what it needed to do in the win over Newark Academy.

“Today was important, it was a win or you are out type of game so we needed to get on the board early, which I think we did and that was important,” said Arndt.

“Some of the game plan we were looking to accomplish was achieved. We got a lot of shots on goal which was great but as a coach I certainly want more to go in.”

Arndt knows her team will have to put in more work if it is to accomplish its goal of playing for a start title.

“So we’ll go back to the drawing board and make sure we are ready for Morristown-Beard,” said Arndt.

“We are in a lucky position because we have a week before the game and some other teams have a bunch of games in between the state game. We have got time to heal any injuries, refocus, and make sure that our next goal is to be the best we can against Morristown Beard. They are a great team so we have to be ready for them.”

PDS seems to be playing its best heading into the final week of the season. “We have been finishing; I really focus on winning each half,” said Arndt.

“If we think of it as 60 minutes, it gets long. I think it is better to focus in on a few minutes at a time and they have been winning those little battles so that’s been important. I think we have been finding our niche of who is playing in the positions that we need them to. I hope we are peaking at the right time but there is still stuff to do. With one game, anything can happen and so we just have to be focused on that game.”

The quartet of Panther seniors, Brennan, Quigley, Travers, and Emily Goldman, are ready to go out with a bang. “They are great friends and teammates,” asserted Arndt. “They knew this could be their last time together and they did everything.”

Brennan, for her part, vows that she and her classmates are going to leave it all on the field.

“This is the seniors’ last year, we are going to finish it,” said Brennan.

“It is a really special group of captains. I think that this team obviously means the world to us. We will do anything for them.”

SURVIVAL MENTALITY: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Lilly Razzaghi clears the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior defender Razzaghi and her teammates survived a major scare in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday as top-seeded PDS edged No. 16 Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to improve to 14-1-1 and set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2. PDS is also competing in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31 with the victor earning a spot in the championship game on November 3.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

SURVIVAL MENTALITY: Princeton Day School girls’ soccer player Lilly Razzaghi clears the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior defender Razzaghi and her teammates survived a major scare in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament last Saturday as top-seeded PDS edged No. 16 Hamilton 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to improve to 14-1-1 and set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2. PDS is also competing in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31 with the victor earning a spot in the championship game on November 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With her right thigh heavily taped, Brit Murray struggled as the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team hosted Hamilton last Saturday in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.

The PDS senior defender repeatedly misfired as the top-seeded Panthers found themselves in a battle with the upset-minded 16th seeded Hornets.

“I was having a horrible day with my free kicks,” said Murray. “I have a little hamstring injury but it is fine, it is getting better. I didn’t let it bother me.”

The scrappy Hamilton squad certainly bothered PDS, fighting back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the contest 2-2 late in regulation and force overtime.

In the waning moments of the second overtime and the game apparently heading to a penalty-kick shootout, the Iona College-bound Murray had one last chance to find the back of the net as she lined up a free kick from 35 yards out.

“With 38 seconds left, I knew I had to show something,” said Murray. “I was really nervous because they have been really bad all day.”

Harnessing her nerves, Murray launched a soaring volley that flew over the Hamilton goalie into the back of the net, giving PDS the win and triggering a raucous celebration as Murray’s teammates mobbed her.

“Our mantra for the whole game was to never give up,” said a beaming Murray, reflecting on her moment of glory.

“We kept trying to score. I never gave up on that and just kept trying to get it in the net.”

Murray credited the Hornets with trying hard all game long and pushing the Panthers to the limit. “We knew they could come back at any time,” said Murray.

“They were really good on their free kicks and their corner kicks and in the air with the ball. We knew if we gave up any of those, they could come back which they did.”

The Panthers came back on Monday and topped ninth-seeded Robbinsville 3-0 in the MCT quarterfinals to set up a semifinals clash with fourth-seeded Princeton High on October 30 with the winner advancing to the title game on November 2.

PDS head coach Pat Trombetta wasn’t surprised at how hard Hamilton played. “We knew going into this game that they had nothing to lose,” said Trombetta, who got goals from Allison Klei and Erin Murray in regulation in the win over the Hornets.

“Any CVC team on any given day can beat anybody, that is how strong the county soccer is here.”

Trombetta lauded Murray for her display of skill and mental strength. “I give Brittany a lot of credit because her free kicks were off today but it is all about battling back and launching the one that counted the most,” said Trombetta. “That was a beautiful kick.”

The battle was even harder for PDS as two of its key players, Alexa Soltesz and Kirsten Kuzmicz, left the game due to injury.

“I thought we had control of the game but when one of your defensive forces Kirsten is not out on the field the tide starts turning,” said Trombetta.

“On that corner kick where they got the second goal, she is one of our girls that clears it and so we had a void there and they took advantage of it so I give them credit for keeping pressing the whole game.”

With the Panthers also competing in the state Prep B tournament where they are seeded first and hosting fifth-seeded Rutgers Prep in the semifinals on October 31, Trombetta is hoping that the win over Hamilton will spark his squad to a big postseason.

“The way I look at it, the girls know right now that there are no games that are going to be easy to win,” said Trombetta, whose team improved to 14-1-1 with the victory over Robbinsville.

“Each game is going to get more difficult. When you survive a game like this, you can go on a roll. It can be a momentum build-up for us as we go from there.”

Murray, for her part, is confident that PDS can keep rolling. “I feel like if we all work together we can get the job done,” asserted Murray.

“We need to play for each other and play for the people who are injured. We all want to win. There is a lot of pressure because everyone wants to beat us. Honestly, we just have to keep moving forward and keep being strong.”

October 23, 2013
CAPTAIN JACK: Princeton University men’s hockey star Jack Berger goes after the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Berger will be counted on for production and leadership as the Tigers look to improve on the 10-16-5 record they posted last season. Princeton opens up its 2013-14 campaign by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

CAPTAIN JACK: Princeton University men’s hockey star Jack Berger goes after the puck in a game last winter. Senior forward and two-time captain Berger will be counted on for production and leadership as the Tigers look to improve on the 10-16-5 record they posted last season. Princeton opens up its 2013-14 campaign by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Coming into the 2013-14 campaign, the Princeton University men’s hockey team is in search of consistency.

Last winter, the Tigers went 10-16-5 overall, showing flashes of good play but then taking steps backward. In regular season action, the Tigers swept Cornell, Harvard and Cornell but, in turn, were swept by NCAA champion Yale, Quinnipiac, and Clarkson. Princeton ended the season on a down note, losing 2-0 to Cornell at Baker Rink in a best-of-three opening round series in the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

As Princeton head coach Bob Prier looks forward to his third season at the helm of the Tigers, he wants his players to be sharper on a daily basis.

“It comes down to routine and habits,” said Prier, whose team opens the season by hosting the Liberty 2013 Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark where the Tigers will play Dartmouth on October 25 and Yale the next day. “We need to practice with a purpose and when we are starting to divert, get back to what we need to do.”

In Prier’s view, the Tigers need to enjoy making that effort. “We are fortunate to be part of this process,” said Prier. “We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”

Prier certainly feels thankful to nine seniors on his roster. “We need to use experience to our advantage,” said Prier, whose team posted 6-3 and 4-3 wins over Ryerson University in exhibition games last weekend at Baker Rink.

“They have been here for a while, they have seen almost everything. They have come back from three goals down to win and they have seen other teams do that to us. They know how to hang on and win games. They know that they need to stick to the process.”

There is plenty of experience at forward where Princeton welcomes back leading scorer, senior Andrew Calof (14 goals and 24 assists in 2012-13) along with senior captain Jack Berger (3 goals and 9 assists), senior Andrew Ammon (8 goals and 8 assists), junior Tyler Maugeri (9 goals and 14 assists), sophomore Mike Ambrosia (5 goals and 6 assists) and junior Tucker Brockett.

“Calof has got to be the best player on the ice every night for either team,” asserted Prier.

“He has the ability to do that. When you have the best player, that puts you in a good position. Berger had a lot of weight on his shoulders as a junior and being the team leader. He has had that experience and he knows that he can’t put too much pressure on himself. He was making plays this weekend. He looked more comfortable with the puck and was playing more relaxed. Ambrosia is far more healthier this year. Maugeri has another year under his belt. Ammon works hard all the time, he is learning to pull up some of the time. Tucker played well over the weekend.”

A pair of freshmen, Ben Foster and Ryan Siiro, are already pulling their weight.

“Foster and Siiro are older kids who were seasoned in junior hockey,” said Prier.

“Ryan does a good job of protecting the puck and Ben is one of those really good all around players. He can be physical, but he can also skate and shoot.”

The Tigers figure to boast a well-rounded unit of defensemen, led by junior Andrew Ave, senior Jeremy Goodwin, together with freshmen Quin Pompi and Marlon Sabo.

“Ave looked really good over the weekend, he is playing with more jump,” said Prier, who will also use senior Kevin Ross, junior Tom Kroshus, sophomore Kevin Liss, freshman Tommy Davis, and freshman Hayden Anderson on defense.

“Goodwin had a strong weekend, he was really physical. Pompi did well, he is real mobile and really responsible with the puck. Sabo is a big body and we need those.”

At goalie, Princeton is hoping for strong play from senior Sean Bonar and freshman Colton Phinney.

“We hope Sean has a big year, he was worked on things that he needed to improve on,” said Prier of Bonar, whose posted a 3.24 goals against average and a save percentage of .901 last winter as he went 2-5-1.

“He is playing with poise and is doing better controlling rebounds. He wants to win, he wants to do well. Colton had a strong game on Saturday. He has a good compete level, he never gives up on the puck. Once he adjusts to the speed of the shots, he is going to be fine. We think both goalies can be really good. We are going to start Sean and see how he does.”

The Tigers are fired up to be starting their season at the 17,625-seat Prudential Center, the home of the New Jersey Devils affectionately known as “The Rock.”

“We are really lucky to be playing at a venue like the Rock,” said Prier, noting that the games don’t count towards the league standings and a champion of the event will be determined based on wins and goal tiebreakers.

“It is close to home and should be an exciting tournament. Dartmouth is returning most of their guys, so they shouldn’t be different from last year. They are big and skilled. It is nice to play a defending national champion like Yale so early in the season.”

The weekend will give the Tigers a chance to start developing the consistency they will need to be a force in the ECACH.

“Our league is so strong, every night is a battle,” asserted Prier. “We are a better team at this point than we were last year.”

ROMAN CHARIOT: Princeton University football star Roman Wilson races upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Brown, senior receiver Wilson made 6 catches for 63 yards to help Princeton overcome a 17-0 first half deficit on the way to to a 39-17 win. Princeton, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, heads back to New England this weekend for a critical league clash as it plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on Saturday.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

ROMAN CHARIOT: Princeton University football star Roman Wilson races upfield in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at Brown, senior receiver Wilson made 6 catches for 63 yards to help Princeton overcome a 17-0 first half deficit on the way to to a 39-17 win. Princeton, now 4-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, heads back to New England this weekend for a critical league clash as it plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) on Saturday. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

When the Princeton University football team fell behind 17-0 at Brown in the first half last Saturday evening, some of its veteran players could have started feeling an uncomfortable sense of deja vu.

After all, two years ago, Princeton dug an early 17-0 hole at Brown on the way to a discouraging 34-0 whipping at the hands of the Bears.

But as Princeton head coach Bob Surace surveyed the scene, he didn’t get any sense that history was about to repeat itself.

“I looked at the guys on the sideline and they weren’t dismayed or shocked or awed,” said Surace. “I felt confident that we could get things together. I was thinking we have to get some things fixed and get back to playing good football.”

Surace’s confidence was increased when junior quarterback Quinn Epperly led the Tigers on a 15-play, 88-yard scoring march that culminated with an 8-yard touchdown run by Brian Mills with 2:05 left in the second quarter as the Tigers narrowed the gap to 17-6 at halftime.

In the dressing room, Surace reinforced his view that the Tigers were very much in the ballgame.

“At half, I went in and grabbed the guys and said we can’t score 20 points on one play, it is one play at a time,” recalled Surace. “I said keep executing and keep fighting and we will be OK.”

After the break, Princeton played a lot better than OK as it reeled off 33 unanswered points on the way to a 39-17 victory.

“The second half was about as well-played as it could be for us,” said Surace, whose team improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League.

“We came out and got a score and we made one play after another. I think there were about 20 plays in a row that were executed well. On defense, we got some big three-and-outs. We had some great tackling. By the end of the third and into the fourth, we were able show depth and use our strength and conditioning.”

Epperly is showing that he may be the best player in the Ivy League as rushed for 99 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 233 yards in the win over the Bears. The  6’1, 220-pound native of Knoxville, Tenn., who has now rushed for 11 touchdowns and thrown for nine on the fall, was named the Ivy Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks.

“He is playing at a high level,” said Surace of Epperly, who ran for all three of his touchdowns in the second half, highlighted by a scintillating 39-yard scoring gallop early in the fourth quarter.

“His game management and decision-making have been great. He runs the play that is called. He is so big and strong that he is a force when he runs the ball up the middle. But you don’t realize how fast he is in the open field, he is very elusive.”

While some big plays went against Princeton in the first half as John Spooney sprinted 71 yards for a touchdown and Michael Walsh returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a score, Surace looked to his veterans to right the ship.

“We have a really good group of leaders,” asserted Surace. “Last year Mike Catapano and Andrew Starks were such great leaders. When people asked me who were going to be the leaders this year, I said ‘who isn’t a leader?’ We have such a good group of guys, they have been through ups and downs. They held steady and stuck together on Saturday.”

The Tigers will need that leadership this weekend as the team heads back to New England for a battle of Ivy leaders as Princeton plays at Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy) in a critical game this Saturday with Penn the other league frontrunner at 3-2 overall and 2-0 Ivy.

In Surace’s view, Harvard poses a formidable obstacle for the Tigers in their drive for an Ivy crown.

“They haven’t lost and there is a reason why,” said Surace, noting that the Crimson have won 15 straight home contests.

“You look at the statistics and they are great. When you watch them on film, they live up to the statistics. They have two quarterbacks and one is completing about 68 percent of his passes [Connor Hempel] and the other is completing 70 percent [Michael Pruneau].  Their tailback [Paul Stanton] is tremendously explosive and they are balanced at receiver. They have some big tight ends and their slot receivers are very good. They have a very good offensive line. On defense, they are in attack mode. They have forced 19 turnovers and have made 20 sacks. Zach Hodges reminds me of Javon Kearse [former NFL star], he is so long and so athletic; he is tough to block.”

In order for Princeton to prevail, the Tigers will have to be mentally tough. “They are going to make plays and we can’t make silly turnovers to help them,” said Surace, whose team stunned Harvard last year in a game for the ages, rallying from a 34-10 fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 39-34 victory.

“We have to do a good job of possessing the ball and make big plays when we have a shot. We have such high respect for them. We have to be focused for four quarters and 60 minutes. We have to make sure that we are exact in our alignments and assignments. We have to be focused on detail.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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